Yesterday it finally snowed after an entire December bereft of a single snowflake. It made me think of this entire year in retrospect. This year really didn’t impart much of a solution for any problem I faced. Not a single chronic problem was solved or real progress where it was almost essential that it must. Talk about a voice calling out in the wilderness ! I know I would like to see a real difference this coming year but I don’t think the changes foisted on me are the answer at all.
During the five years that I’ve kept this blog I’ve never published a past year retrospective or sent out the proverbial Christmas newsletter. Being overly chatty about myself or my day-to-day existence is just not me. With a big decision coming up about this WordPress business, perhaps it’s time to clear the air. This has been an unusual year, hasn’t it ? For one thing, my entries on castles were sparse but I have a good reason. Shropshire has been a problem only because I’ve taken half a year researching and writing about this county with many other onerous tasks to do. It’s difficult to believe that I slated a plan, late in 2009, to cover most of the west midland counties (Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire) besides what I did cover plus I wanted to finish off the rest of South England ( twenty-two counties in all ) before 2010 was over ! I only managed to cover two small counties (Coventry and West Midlands) and Shropshire but I also didn’t know I would be sidetracked and distracted for months, either.
The beginning of the year started out on schedule. While writing all the text for Cumberland County in England to put up on my official web site I also wrote and put up a brief bio on Lady Anne Clifford, an heiress and restorer to many castles in Cumberland and Yorkshire. While still working on the Cumberland text, I also researched and wrote blog entries for Coventry and West Midlands counties and posted them early this year. I sent the text and photos to my web master in February for her to lay out and put up the pages and by the middle of February the pages were online but needed lots of correction. That was done over a Sunday afternoon and I sent along a correction e-mail to my web master with spelling corrections and removal of duplicated photos. Then her billing statement came. Talk about March Madness ! !
Well, the most positive statement I could make about the sticker shock moment is that it made me come to a decision concerning my lack of income. I decided to sign up to sell Avon on the strength of my experience so many years ago when I lived in California and sold to my nail clients. However, the difference this year was an attempt to re-build a manicure/nail clientele by finding Avon customers first. I did pick up quite a few customers but very few became consistent buyers. A few came for manicures and rebases but didn’t seem to become consistent patrons. From the middle of March until very recently I have tried selling Avon without making much money and I wouldn’t recommend any person to try to build up a service business off of sales customers. It has worked one way for me (sales from service clientele) but not the other (service business from sales customers.) In short, it was a time-consuming experiment that failed. I have come to the conclusion that in this economy it would be difficult to sell a raft to a drowning person. This is quite a comedown considering that I was a salon owner in the 1990s and was quite successful.
As a result, research on Shropshire started in March and continued through July. By July fourth I was exhausted from heat and just plain old worn out. I am relentless when it comes to research so when I am slowed down it is excruciatingly frustrating. It’s possible that I’ve never done as much painstaking research on a single county as I have with Shropshire but time is also of the essence. I have a tendency to work until midnight on the strength of momentum. I don’t know how many times I stopped to sleep and the next morning, looking through my work, find I had to try and figure out where to pick up again where I left off. My first finished entry was finally put up late this past August and put up my last Shropshire entry yesterday. I am nearly as drained as when I did Northumberland in 2008 on seven separate entries- but that was all castles and I researched, wrote and posted it all in less time than I have taken for Shropshire. Thank goodness the 289 castles and fortified manors that existed there did not survive !
and after three hours of distractions….
Through all that I also did the usual machinations it takes to sell Avon door-to-door and online which is very time-consuming. Brochures have to be stamped and passed out plus delivered to new addresses. Delivering orders takes a lot of time and is only beneficial if your customers reorder. I think I ran my legs off ! Then there was CBT in selling Avon which was actually quite helpful in certain things but the way the online training is set up you can spend hours and hours trying to get through it all. I put in a total of 24 hours worth of it and never finished ! I’m sure my readers have received my Avon e-mails but my own sister blocked them. Does that tell you anything?
In April I had a brief shining stint with the Colorado Welsh Society when I rehearsed and sang with the Chorale on the 24th for Gymanfu Ganu at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Denver. We sang many of the songs in Welsh and it was a real language learning experience for me. I have always learned languages easier by singing them than by any other means so it was sheer and clear fun and a great way to utilize my singing talent. Then on May 29th I had another date to sing with them at a soccer match here in Denver at the Infinity Stadium between the Welsh Warriors and the Colorado Rapids. We sang the Welsh National Anthem which I have known quite well for many years and I was able to see my first professional soccer match, ever. It was a really fun and interesting day ! !
In August, my sister Susan came to Denver to see the family even though she was pressed for time. Because of lots of circumstances she hadn’t gotten a vacation so it was a short but sweet rendezvous. We had a women’s night out with a manicure party and then we all went to see the movie Salt which was pure fiction. It was Lara Croft all over again but the studio work was pretty impressive. I was just happy to spend some time with my sister, from Illinois, who I don’t get to see often enough because of the physical distance.
During the summer, a friend with whom I share a birthday (September fifth) Bernard (one of my many good poet friends on Live Spaces) sent me his latest poetry book, L’Arc et Le Papillon and I sent him my Seasons of the Heart. It was so fun to spend my leisure time in summer reading and translating (one-by-one) his wonderful poems which reflect many of my similar feelings and thoughts. Now I have a clear sense of what it means to have a birthday twin. I have had only a few friends in my life who also were birthday matches but only one other birthday twin and our experiences and lives were quite different. With Bernard I have felt a new kind of attachment that is rather liberating, self-affirming and just a real joy to experience. Chatting with him on Messenger at the end of September was really wonderful. I didn’t have time to chat with anyone on Messenger while selling Avon so it was a real joy to get back in contact with a friend and it really made my year ! ! Bisous a` toi, Bernard !
As if there wasn’t enough to do, I got a bumper crop of grapes on the vines that practically covered my yard. So I picked grapes from the last week of October clear into the middle of November ! I sold some of the grapes, which I have never done before but plan to do in the future, and then donated more than 20 boxes to charities and organizations in need. I may invite a winemaker to pick grapes next year if it’s another large crop. It’s just too much work for one person. I’m still achy from it ! Ouch !!! My mother has made juice and jelly from the grapes I kept and it certainly is delicious.
One of the weirdest episodes this year was having an e-mail address of mine hacked and stolen by some Turk ! Discovering some very strange messages welcoming this guy to Facebook and invites to add people- all in Turkish- about the end of March, got my attention. I almost deleted them but it’s a good thing I did not. Suddenly, in the summer, I couldn’t get into the e-mail because this slime had changed the password ! I changed my password twice and then reported him to MSN and the CIA. Well, to make a long story short I finally got control of the e-mail account in October ( ! ) and put safeguards up so that spyware cannot be used to hack it. If you haven’t upgraded your personal information security settings yet I urge you to do so. I suspect that anyone doing this would try to steal vital financial information. Luckily, the e-mail he hacked is not used in this way. This could easily have been avoided if Facebook made their adherents go through an e-mail verification process.
If you look forward to my castle entries you will be glad to read that I have officially quit selling Avon door-to-door and online. I’m sure I have battle scars from trying to do so much without a monetary return, but I am going to be forging ahead to finish the south England and Wales castles with a gusto you haven’t seen in my work for quite some time. Tomorrow I will let you know if I am going to continue this blog with WordPress or move blog operations over to my official web site. I wasn’t exactly happy with the Live Space Team when they decided to take away statistics on one of their so-called upgrades in June of this year, anyway. That, along with a few other features, will be reacquired if I migrate my blog to WordPress ! If I start a blog on my web site it won’t be for quite some time yet. I will have to learn how to develop an independent blog but it will be fun to do if not possibly be a little time consuming. For my readers it will be something new, a great surprise and an experience of erudition for myself. There’s a win/win situation !
We got our first snow of the season yesterday and I need to go out and enjoy it !
Tomorrow I have a choice to make and it’s not going to be easy to decide. Maybe if I find a little bit of fun out there I’ll make a better decision. You know what they say….
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. – John Lennon
Big kisses and hard, slushy snowballs from
The Castle Lady !