Thursday, May 19, 2011

Life in the Village and Beyond

Lovely rusty garden art for sale in Serenbe

Serenbe, Palmetto, Georgia

Today is the day I start house- and pet-sitting for Sarah, who is leaving for a bike trip in Italy. I've been here in Serenbe for a full week. I came early in order to enjoy the past weekend's May Day celebration and to get acquainted with my duties and the community. Today is when I actually start walking Buddy and Skipper several times a day through the woods that surround the residential area, village shops, stables, and organic farm, as well as care for the two cats that live here, Lily and Cousteau, plus my own kitty Sonja and the home we are all living in.

It's been great to have this sort of mini-vacation in one place, without the usual questions I have while traveling as to where to go, where to stay and how much is all of this costing me. When I stay in one place, I get to focus on me for a while--my health, my business, my finances, and my thoughts and plans about the future.

Regarding my health, I've been to four AA meetings in the past few days and have gotten some phone numbers of local sober ladies. I'm looking for a dentist I can see while here for a teeth cleaning, and I'm going to go get my blood pressure checked and see if I still need to be on medication for that. I'm walking daily and eating really clean. I'm attending a weekly meditation class, and I'll be seeing the teacher for a few individual counseling sessions while I'm here. I bought two new pairs of skinny jeans in the smallest size I've worn since before giving birth to my son almost 19 years ago. (Oooh, I should've had a pic taken of me in my tight-ass jeans to put here! Well, then, you'll just have to come back for the next installment.)

As for business, I've just completed an inventory, so now I know exactly where every item is for easy retrieval when it sells on eBay, and I'm ready to donate a lot of unsold items back to charity. I'm also preparing for the upcoming farmers market, where I'll sell my quilts. Unfortunately I can't sell them this coming Saturday because I've been having too much fun here in Serenbe to finish enough quilts yet, but I'll still be here for two more Saturdays after that.

I'm also beginning to focus on my business goals for when I move to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in the fall following the completion of my travel commitments this year. I have a vision for my mosaic art beyond what I've tried before.

When I first started doing mosaic artwork a few years back in Edmonds, Washington, I was blessed with instant success. My work was well received and I got my first solo gallery show immediately, besides selling online and through the studio where I made tiles for my mosaic installations.

Then I left my husband and my home in Washington State and moved to Eugene, Oregon, where I stayed for one year. Eugene is very saturated with artists, but there's a dearth of places to show your work, so it was a struggle to get a toehold in the art scene there. That's part of what excites me about TorC. From all reports, this little spa town is having some economic recovery largely because of an influx of galleries and artists. To become involved with this community at the beginning of this recovery is a great opportunity.

Because of its many hot springs resorts and proximity to several cities with larger populations and international airports (El Paso and Albuquerque), TorC has the potential to host art-making spa retreats. A few other organizations in town, including a yoga studio, are already succeeding with this business model.

Mosaic artwork is a perfect draw for weekend and longer retreats because mosaic is fun for everyone regardless of artistic ability. It's also a hard type of artwork to do in your home unless you're willing to devote a lot of space to a studio, which most people aren't. So offering a place where people can come and do artwork in MY studio, with instruction by other artists and myself, in a town that offers cheap lodging and relaxing spas seems like a real winner of an idea to me and every other artist/entrepreneur I've talked to about this.

During my time here in Serenbe and my summer in the Midwest, I'm going to lay the groundwork for this to happen. It won't be an instant thing--I'm going to have to break a lot of plates and get some artwork on display before I can open my studio doors to folks who come from far away to learn and play. But it can definitely be done, and I have everything it takes to do it, except perhaps a personal assistant with better administrative and people skills than my own.

As far as finances go, I've got to retire some debt. I used to pay off my credit card bills at the end of every month, but this past year-and-a-half since I left Washington, that's changed. I already had some existing debt when I started my trip, and the engine fiasco in San Francisco about doubled that. But when my divorce was final six months ago, I got a little settlement that should carry me through indefinitely as long as I continue to live the practical, frugal life I've always preferred and continue to work my eBay business. To get my credit cards paid off, I'm going to rob one of my retirement programs and pay the resulting tax penalties, and then switch over some investments from really safe annuities to riskier stocks and mutual funds now that the economy isn't quite as scary as it was a few years ago.

But it's not all work and serious planning for the future while I'm here in Serenbe. Roxanne and Annie came to visit me! They're a lovely couple I met through this blog and the WomenGoSolo RVing group on Yahoo. They've been boondocking in a national forest a couple of hours from here, and they came to have lunch with me at the Blue Eyed Daisy Bakery. Here's a photo of my new friends, sitting on the swing on Sarah's front porch.

And here's a picture of Cousteau the next day, checking out what Roxanne had to say about this visit in her blog, The Good Luck Duck.

As Roxanne observed in her last blog post ("Social Moths"), I have a strong will to live. I'm beginning to realize that I also have a strong will to settle back down in a community again. I think I'm really geared more toward traveling about three months at a time. By that point (which is now in my current travels), I'm ready to go home and do mundane things until the urge to hit the road overtakes me again, as I know it will. Another reason for New Mexico being a good choice for me--there's still so much of it I haven't seen yet, and it will be a good jumping off place for meeting up with VanDweller friends in Quartzite and other Southwestern locations.

But first I'm going to Minnesota to hang with my family for the summer, while my 93-year-old mom is alive, my siblings are all still above ground, and some of my nieces and nephews haven't yet gone off to make their own lives away from home yet.

So, that's my story, and at least for now, I'm stickin' with it.


  1. Hmm, I'm really good at that admin stuff - remember, I'm a production manager at heart. Let me know how I can help - even from here I might be able to. Then we could justify me coming to TorC every once in a while. Love you, miss you more than words can describe - but you know. YBF

  2. OMG yes, Helen, and of course your people skills are really shiny, too!

  3. Loving on you, too, Helen, and I'm heading into town now to mail eBay stuff, so I will call you!

  4. I for one would love to take a class at your studio. I love all things crafty ;-)

  5. I just love your blog! Wishing you all the best in building your new life.


  6. Great the positive and upbeat feeling and really like your work!!! Keep it up!

  7. Thank you for the great feedback! I really appreciate it.

  8. Consider carefully your idea of raiding a retirement account. If the numbers add up then do it but the penalty you will pay will be a killer.

    Maybe your other creditors will work with you? I happen to work for one of the best non profit Credit counseling services in the USA. They may be able to help?


  9. Thanks Kenny. If I had some sort of regular income, I would work out a plan with my creditors. However, I won't have any significant income for some time, so I'm going to bite the bullet and use assets I already have to get the bills paid off. I've calculated the penalties into the decision.