June 2009

I was sitting in Subway yesterday, having lunch, and watching people. Watching their feet, actually… it must be an unspoken rule for women to paint their toenails in the summer time.
I do not subscribe to that rule, nor to the rule that says sandals are warm-weather shoes, for I’ve worn them in the snow.
I’ve worn them with socks.
I would recommend layered socks if you’re going to wear them in the snow.

Every woman who walked into Subway – from the 9 year old girl in flip-flops, to her 60+ year old grandmother in orthopedic sandals, and the high-powered exec in a suit and open-toed high heels… they ALL had colored polish on their toenails.

Why on earth would a person want to spend 20 minutes or more, spreading paint on their toes while breathing in toxic, gagging fumes? Waiting for each toe to dry….waiting….praying you don’t bump it, smear it, have to re-paint it again.

Is it for some kind of ritual? Mating? Bonding?
Does it give you confidence in the boardroom?
Does it make you feel thinner?
Does it give you something pretty to stare at while you’re walking with your head down?
Do your toes feel sexy under the sheets, like they’re wearing latex lingerie?

I don’t get it.

I don’t wear fingernail polish either, although I occasionally did in high school.
I’m trying to recall why. For glamour, I suppose.
For parties, I chose a color to match my dress.
Green…… Purple……. Blue.
I guess I should have painted my toes also, but the lights were low, and if you stare at people’s feet in the dark, you’ll trip over something.

Now people want to feel glamorous with toenail polish, even if it doesn’t match their clothes. All the better if it doesn’t match! It’s gotta be bright red or pink, to really draw someone’s eyes – in case they weren’t watching feet like myself.
I shouldn’t be complaining, honestly. There could be much worse things to have my attention drawn toward.

My feet felt naked inside my shoes… however, I decided against purchasing a tube of polish. I know what happens to things containing brushes in my family.
It’s a tradition actually… coded into the genes… it cannot be helped.

When I was seven or eight, I stole a bottle of White-Out and wrote my initials on all the furniture, and then got creative, stood on a tall stool, and doodled in the top corner of my father’s bedroom door.

At the very least, nail polish is a nauseating (yet – oh so shimmery!) way to decorate surfaces like VCRs, computer monitors, and book covers. It has a stained glass appearance on window panes, and also works excellently well as a permanent fabric paint.
Oh, the fun 2 children could have with nail polish!

If I couldn’t get remover to take it off the walls, I could always duplicate the effect across the entire room, and tell our landlord I was going for “Tropical Passion” treatment I saw on HGTV.
I’ve even painted the curtain fabric to match.
It’ll help sell the apartment!

I wonder if I could paint wall murals with nail polish?
… they have so many shades to choose from, it’s almost like shopping at A.C.Moore.

But back to people painting their toes…
If painting your toenails is becoming de rigueur, I think men should be required to do it as well.
Some crafty people should invent male nail polish, in shades of navy, hunter green, or burgundy. …Don’t get me started on why 8 out of 10 men would decorate their entire homes in hunter green/burgundy combinations if left to their own choosing.

I’ve tried in vain to steer many a man away from those colors, while working in Domestics, attempting to broaden their scope of color… But I might have fared better just by surrendering and building a mock-up room with the drapes, valance, tie-backs, comforter set, sheets, dust ruffle, throw rug, and chair cushions… all in safe hunter/burgundy shades. (Okay, I got started on it anyway)

Men should paint their toes.
Do it because it attracts women… (does it? I have no clue)
Do it because it makes you perform better in bed…. (again, I have no idea)
Do it because you’ll look smarter…
Talk sharper…
Get a promotion…
Get less speeding tickets…
Win any argument…
Have the last laugh…
Earn the respect of everyone around you…
Oh, yeah, and you’ll feel glamorous, too. Like a rock star.

C’mon guys, let’s see some happy, smiley, painted feet.
Don’t disappoint me; you know I’ll be watching you from my corner booth. 😉

A comment made on Twitter today, regarding people who spam you with links being likened to insurance salesmen (which is annoyingly true, BTW).. had me chuckling over an old memory involving my personal experience with a salesman. It inspired me to write a blog to share the story with my three loyal followers. 🙂
A few years ago, when I was married to my first husband and living in the mountain country of West Virginia, a salesman for Aflac insurance came to my humble door. I was the only human at home, but I took pity on him and let him in.

“You what?!” my trio of readers gasp in alarm.

Yes, yes, ’tis true. I let the strange man into my house. Now, granted I would never consider doing such a brainless thing these days, with two toddlers in the house… especially in the city, where our neighbors just had a shoot-out yesterday evening, leaving our parking lot crawling with police cruisers. (Perhaps being evicted would be a blessing!)

But then, I wasn’t thinking as a mother, but rather as an independent young adult woman who feared no man… who was willing to fly halfway across the world (by herself) to spend a week in Europe with a “friend” she’d met on-line. Who turned out to be very pleasant, and not at all like the lascivious murderer my mother imagined (when I left her the address and phone number where I’d be staying).

We lived in a small, rural community with very inquisitive neighbors (the kind who call you ten minutes after seeing an “unknown” vehicle leaving your driveway, to say “I was fixin’ to bring y’all over some home-made apple pie, but I seen y’all had guests.” hint hint.)

Plus, it was raining heavily that day, and we didn’t have a roof on our front porch. It was the charitable thing to do.

When I mentioned that I was “the only human home”, I should’ve added that my then-husband and I shared our home with 16 cats. Not strays, mind you. They were all named and accounted for: The original trio – Barnabus, Collin (who turned out to be female), and Keiko.

And their 12 offspring from 3 litters (before they were fixed, they had a manage-a-trois) : Akila, Nemo, my beloved Dominic!, Dimitri, Aeris, Pemberley, Jake, Arthur, Lancelot, Jenny, Fluffy-Poof, Dartagnan, and Rankin… Rankin was named thus because he had horribly foul gas. (Yes, we were hill-billies who identified our cats by their farts!)

So I wasn’t really “alone”, due to the torrential downpour, all the cats had decided to remain indoors. They were a very curious bunch.   I have a few old photographs showing them clustering around the front door when Rich was returning home from grocery shopping. He had difficulty opening the door, because the huge cat mass was pressing against it from the opposite side.

Anyway… I invited this Aflac salesman in, and he proceeded to lay his briefcase on the couch – dig out some paperwork showing insurance rates and crap, launching into his spiel about the possibility of my future non-work-related injuries preventing me from getting compensation.

Meanwhile, the cats had detected a visitor, and we making their way into the living room, in small groups… to check him out.

His prepared, very-well-rehearsed sales pitch started faltering once his eyes began flickering over the heads of cats…everywhere… attempting to do the math in his head. Losing count and having to start over, as they jumped onto the couch to sniff his briefcase, and wrapped around his legs.

Finally he stopped speaking altogether and just stared at them all. I took that opportunity to half-heartedly thank him for his trouble, but that I wasn’t interested in purchasing additional insurance.

“B..bu…but wh..what if…. What if your cats ATTACK you… and you go the hospital from severe scratches and infection.. and are laid up for weeks without work??”

I laughed out loud at his creativity. Or was it fear?

“That’s ridiculous.” I replied. “They would never hurt me.”

I couldn’t resist adding,

” …They’d only attack strangers.

Needless to say, he left abruptly. Almost RAN across our muddy, gravel driveway to his vehicle.

Hopefully, he informed all of his buddies not to bother knocking on the Crazy Cat Lady’s door, unless they wanted to test the reliability of their own insurance claims.

We got the shock of the month when we came home yesterday to discover a ReMax Sale sign on the front porch of our building.

I can’t say “shock of our lives” or even “shock of the year”, but it ranks up there alongside receiving a $500 electric bill for a neighbor’s usage.
The landlord actually stopped by yesterday morning (sans sign) to deliver a storm window that was missing and needed to be replaced. He never mentioned anything to us. But everything about this move seems a bit backwards… from not allowing us to move in until the former occupants (who were squatters at this point) vacated, to not having the building inspected prior to our moving in. We had to repaint any exposed wood and have electrical wiring replaced AFTER we’d settled here, because an inspection failed.
(He actually may have gotten into some hot water with the state for allowing the building to be occupied in it’s condition)

We had so many plans to renovate this place – from building a floor-to-ceiling bookcase in the dining room, to a bathroom storage unit, and decorative radiator covers – but now we’re sitting in the twilight zone, waiting to see who buys the property and what their intentions are.
If they decide to raise the rent, we’ll leave… and most likely, the couple upstairs will too. Joe doesn’t want to continue painting or even consider installing new carpeting solely for the new landlord’s benefit. I’m worried about what will become of our security deposit, because we can’t really afford to cough up 2 months worth of rent on short notice, if we decide not to stay.
I try not to dwell on negative outcomes… after all, there were 50 pages of rental properties for sale in Hagerstown, according to ReMax’s website yesterday. I think many landlords are trying to cut vacant property losses, and I seriously doubt a new landlord would want to jeopardize his steady income by pissing off the current tenants. Would he?

We had discussed, at one time, our desire to purchase the building ourselves… and perhaps The Fates overheard us and decided to grant us the opportunity. However, we are nowhere close to being ready for such a large investment, unless She decides to grant us a generous amount of money as well.

My third portrait in the Regency series is almost complete – I should have her done by tonight and listed, kids’ willing.
I have two other projects with deadlines to finish before this weekend is over. A customer’s custom portrait (that I’m waiting on the photograph to be sent) and a personal gift to Joe for FD.

I don’t typically celebrate holidays, except for the benefit of our kids – who are young enough to get a kick out of fireworks, Christmas trees, Easter baskets, and all the hoopla.
I recall getting into an argument with a friend (whose religion forbade holiday celebrations) and defended the traditions by saying that our interpretations and intentions of said traditions were the most important part; the decorations themselves held no special significance. I.E. bringing a Christmas tree into the living room didn’t automatically make you a devil worshipper..
Now if you also erected a Satanic altar beneath the tree and chanted some anti-hymns in ghoulish Latin… One of these days, I actually will paint my vision of what a Satanic Christmas tree would look like (and post it somewhere anonymously of course) 😉

Anyway… I wasn’t intending to veer off onto a tangent, but now as I look back and recall how passionately I fought to keep traditions in my home without sacrificing my former morals (along with the goats, babies, cats…) it seems funny that after all these years, I’m no longer interested in participating except in spirit. I believe now, as I did then, that the importance lies in honoring our families, our deities, our patriotism, our freedoms… every day, and that these calendar holidays simply call into focus these things we may have taken for granted throughout the year.

I have decided to paint a portrait for Joe as a gift… even though he knows how deeply I appreciate him as a partner and father to our beasts. They would appreciate him too, if they understood the meaning of the word. They do know that he provides their food, diapers, toys, television, and plenty of hours of attention, bath-times, and hugs. They probably aren’t aware of how drastically their lives would be affected if he weren’t with us, and hopefully they can grow up in ignorance of that possibility.

So I plan to paint a portrait… which will serve as a tangible reminder that I’m thinking of him, always, even if I seem to take our lives together for granted. In the back of my mind, I’m ever conscious of the fact that Joe is the reason we’re all here as a family. He is the captain guiding our ship towards whatever future The Fates have in store, and he’s the source of the hope I carry with me – that wherever we lay down our roots, will be our Home, and my heart will reside there.

So I’m planning to paint a portrait… of Dominic dressed as Admiral Adama, leader of the orphan fleet, from the extremely popular remake of Battlestar Galactica. (Joe’s favorite show) I have him drawn up and ready to paint. This will, naturally, be considered “fan art” as the show is obviously copyrighted…. so no prints for sale; this is strictly personal.

We’re still searching for our Earth.

So, how do you fix your chibbif? And which is better: butter or margin?

These are questions that I have pondered since leaving work today. Yes, I have returned to my former place of employment on a very part-time basis.
I relinquished my position as grocery manager to a new sucker, and have gladly taken up the glorified mantle of in-stock associate, so that I can bring home my 50¢ every two weeks… my 16-hour per week schedule allows me to play “stay at home mom” and forgo daycare.
I enjoy spending a few hours stocking shelves these days, knowing the weight of the “world” (or at least, the skid of tuna fish) isn’t resting solely on my shoulders anymore… I can now sit back and observe the store’s operations with a detached curiosity, and of course, continue to find new fodder for my warped amusement. 🙂

Such was the case today, with the chibbifs and margins. The answer to those questions can be found at the bottom of this blog. 😉

Now, I will be one of the first people to acknowledge there are some totally clueless associates working retail these days… I’ve worked with a few myself, and I sincerely do feel your pain. However, speaking as one who doesn’t employ a local translator or carry a pocket guide to “foreign” languages in my back pocket… the next time you receive a vacant stare or confused response from an employee trying to help you – take my advice:

Listen to yourself. Evaluate how clearly you are pronouncing your words.
Be specific. Just saying “Where the beans at??” (in your best redneck interpretation) doesn’t cut it these days, when most grocery stores sell a variety of “beans” in different areas: canned beans, dried beans, fresh beans, even candy beans.

For example:

A few months ago, I was approached by a woman who (I could have sworn) asked me,
“What aisle are the chili beans in?”

Although I’m not a chili expert, I do know that a variety of beans can be used to make chili. Kidney beans seem to be the most popular with our customers, with Hanover being the best seller of the canned beans; Hormel is a favorite in the ready-made “chili with beans” group, and still others – the “purists” – purchase dried beans to make chili from scratch.

So, in my effort to be helpful by narrowing the field, I asked:
“would you like canned beans, or dried beans in a bag?”
To which she replied, “in a bag.”
Ah, a purist, I thought – leading her to the Aisle marked “Pasta and Rice” in large signage.

At this point, I should have taken her directly to the beans and placed the bag in her hands, but I guess my customer service skills don’t extend that far, or else the aisle was crowded… I do remember giving her explicit directions:
“Halfway down the aisle, on the left… the dried beans are beside the boxes of Uncle Ben’s white rice.” She nodded with understanding, and made her way through the crowd.
I returned to my aisle, and resumed my boring job, assuming the interaction was over…. however, shortly thereafter (30 seconds? 2 minutes? I couldn’t tell you now…) the woman returns shaking her head.
“I wanted candied chili beans.”


Candied chili beans?

What the he–

OH! Okay. *without my pocket translator, I’m clueless*

She wanted JELLY BEANS! … Candy Jelly Beans.

So, of course, as I take her by the hand to the Candy Aisle, I’m kicking my own butt… until it occurs to me,
“Why am I blaming myself for the miscommunication?”
After all, I did ask – “Do you want canned beans or dried beans?”
56% of customers would have stopped me and replied,
“No, you misunderstood me.”
Secondly, I led her to the Pasta aisle, and guided her to a location beside the rice. 43% of customers would have stopped me at THIS point to say,
“No, you misunderstood me.”
Another .9% would’ve stalked off grumbling about my stupidity, and questioning their own intelligence for assuming I would “know anything”.
And that leaves the final .1% of customers like this lady of mine – who actually believe that jelly beans might come in cans, and may possibly be found displayed with pasta and rice.

Answers: I personally don’t “fix chibbif” (cook chipped beef); I prefer my beef “fixed” as huge slabs of steak. And although popular consensus believes that “margin” (margarine) is healthier than butter, doctors recommend using olive or canola oil instead. Personally, give me butter! Arteries be damned.:P

Or so my Astrology sign claims… it seems that whenever my life begins to get easy, I throw a wrench into my own wheels.

I’ve finally finished my Mr. Darcy Dommie portrait, and he is listed in my shop,
www.taraflyphotos.etsy.com. My next project in the Regency Cat series will be this beauty, shown above in the rough beginning stage.
It’s based on a piece of my own modelling stock from our regency photo shoot. You can view the original on my Deviantart account www.tarafly.deviantart.com . My plans for this piece include handmade bookmarks, using my heavy decorative paper (and possibly the satin ribbons I’ve utilized for my greeting cards). That’s one the main reasons why I chose the reading pose.

The bookmark concept came to me while I was trying to brainstorm ways to promote my artwork offline. Aside from the usual ways: business cards, door magnets, T-shirts, postcards… I’ve done all that. I’ve even purchased a nice travel mug for my French Vanilla coffee addiction, with my signature Fire-Breathing Dommie printed onto it, in the hopes that someone might comment on it.
However, artwork isn’t like jewelry or fashion, craft categories that are easily marketed. Countless times in the forums, I’ve given the advice to jewelry and accessory artisans: wear your stuff! Give your necklaces as gifts for friends to wear!
But how do I market my own stuff? I considered pendant jewelry… even though I don’t normally wear necklaces and such (they get in the way – anytime I bend down, they’re hanging in my face). I could cope with the inconvenience if it meant showcasing my work for potential customers. Artwork printed on pendants and earrings is small and difficult to see.
Although I’m still looking for viable ideas for self-promotion, the one thing I realized is that I normally carry a book with me. I’m considering book covers as well, however my books are various sizes – from paperback pocket-sized to large hardcovers – so creating templates to fit all possible books might be time consuming. In the meantime, I’ll begin with beautiful, eye-catching, hand painted bookmarks! That way, I can lay it beside me on the table while I’m reading or eating my lunch. When I get the first prototype designed, I’ll begin selling them too. 🙂

Which leads me into another heavy decision, one that I’ve been pondering over for months now. I began my business selling photomanipulated artwork – hence the “TaraFlyPhotos” moniker. Actually, I began with custom portraits, but expanding on my artwork under the title wasn’t difficult. I’ve been gradually phasing out the fantasy portraits, although I still occasionally do them for people. I was content to focus on manipulations and expand my knowledge of Photoshop, making fine-art Giclee prints of my finished pieces to sell.
However, in the last few months that I’ve spent on Etsy, and conversing with traditional artists on other forums, it leaves me with an unfulfilled feeling that can only be satisfied with a paint tray and some brushes of my own. I stayed away from traditional art for so long, because it’s difficult to paint around my children without them interfering or making a mess. A simple project like Darcy Dommie takes days to finish, because I’m forced to put everything away when the kids wake up.

I’ve started feeding the beast, now, and I feel I should continue … but it leaves me wondering where my business is headed. I suppose I can do a combination of both – manips and traditional – or else I’d have to reinvent my entire structure, including my business name (as “photos” doesn’t seem to imply what I’m creating anymore). I have alot of money, time, and legal crap (such as licenses) already tied up in “TaraFlyPhotos” so scraping it completely doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps …and I’m just brainstorming out loud, so excuse me… if I created a subsidiary called “TaraFlyArt” – “a division of TaraFlyPhotos”. ??? I had considered phasing out my entire Giclee collection (of photomanipulated pieces) to replace with hand painted works as I create them, but what if instead I open another shop devoted to traditional art, and keep them separate in the future?
*sigh* Just when I thought I could concentrate on one branch and scale back… I somehow talk myself into even MORE WORK!!! Why do I do this to myself? Why????
I can answer that. It’s because I’ve known since childhood that I would eventually manage my own business (someday…) and coupled with this Capricorn-esque curse to over-work myself and micro-manage every detail, I can’t allow myself to step back and let someone else do all the work. So, I become a self-promoting artist… instead of opening a normal business (i.e. a craft store or bookshop) and hiring employees, I want a career where everything from start to finish depends on ME!

I will most likely drive myself and my family nuts before this is over… unfortunately, my family will probably succumb first.