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Just keep swimming....just keep swimming....I drove to Baltimore, my hoopdie deluxe packed to the gills with all kinds of baubles and bangles from my studio, rattling around as I navigated around potholes the size of a dinner plate. Ding dong drivers, stoned wackadoodledoos, old people all squinty when they should have pulled their licenses at 90, oh, the usual fruit basket. Whit knuckling and praying to all that is holy that I get from point A to point B without losing body parts or my mind. Finally, I got to the convention center, which is your typical cement behemoth, plopped unceremoniously in the middle of an ancient part of town before there were regulations I suppose.

The union guys were all decked out in their Kevlar finery and looking like shepherds from Mars, gently guided us artists, in various vans, crammed hatchbacks, rented U-Haul's, and dented trailers, into the bowels of the hall. I parked, saw some familiar faces, waved, hugged, and dragged all my crap to my booth space. We checked in at the desk, and not seeing our signage, nor anything resembling a welcome basket of snacks and water, usually given to us at other shows.

This show, The American Craft Show, which no one calls it, is otherwise known as the ACC Baltimore, put on by the American Craft Council, an old outfit out of St. Paul, MN. Our usual coterie of well fed hotdish middle aged gals, were no longer there. In their places, were um, "young" people, none of whom I knew, and most of them burying their noses in their phones. Welp, such is life. I kind of missed the long winded yap from the old promoters, warning of this and that, and handing us packets with a smile. Midwestern Nice, I guess, flew away, for cheaper versions.

After my ride and schlep, I had to survive the ordeal of setting up an entire jewelry booth, complete with curtains, lighting, this monster Abstracta setup which is like tinker toys designed by some sadistic Swiss perfectionist, and then attempt to make the whole thing inviting to potential customers. Not. Easy. Plus I was running on caffeine and not much sleep. I broke out in some stress related rash, and that was super fun. But plod on I must.

I got the shebang up and running, more or less, then ran outside to meet my pals, real honest to goodness Baltimorons ((affectionately, please), and we headed out to our favorite authentic Greek feedbag, Samos, in, of course, Greektown. Which is half Hispanic these days, Latineek? Leek? Gratino?

We got seated in the super casual place, greeted by a surlyish yet friendlyish and largish waitress who has been part of the place as old as the wallpaper pealing from the bathroom walls. Nothing ever changed, and I guess she likes her job enough. We ate tasty Greek food, my fave, and yes, I know how to pronounce everything as I am friends with a ton of Greek folks, and kind of picked up the lingo slightly. On of the pals at the table is my friend who no longer does craft shows, nor wholesale shows, but has become the Baltimore queen of famers markets. Her husband is an old time guy in the catering world and knows probably every single person in Baltimore, and tells me all the gossip of people I dont know nor will never meet, but it is interesting nonetheless. We chowed down and they dropped me off at my hotel. Before I left, they warned me that Baltimore was quite crazy at night with all kinds of riffraff. I guess the police have been defunded to the point that they would rather hang out at donut shops instead of rounding up the merrymakers and pranksters that poison the cities today for nice orderly law abiding folks like myself, the epitome of the what they love to hate.

The good news is they care, the bad news, is that once I have been warned, I am always looking around the corner, hustling out of the way of the homeless that are all over the shopping areas, and decided that it was not worth the risk, since, ya know, I had to return home in one piece. Paranoia Big Destroya, as Ray Davies of the Kinks wisely crooned.

End of Part 1/2

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Sometimes, we get gifts plunked in out laps when we least expect it. Well, the fact that my father was not well enough to travel 3000 miles away on a bumpy airplane ride was not the gift. However, he and mom could not get out of a lease on a condo they had rented , so we took over part of it. They were grateful that we were able to use the place they rented, to get out of the cold brr and ice of Pennsylvania. We were grateful to have a spot in the sun, as unexpected as this gift was. Our kids were jealous, but as I told them, we paid our dues for 19 years, and now it was our turn to go live life and have fun. We really worked hard to shovel our kids into college, right? So away we flew.

Our destination was Palm Springs, California. I am a seasoned mellow traveler. Hubby, not so much. However, without him, I'd probably forget my purse, my glasses, my money, etc. So we make a great team. We got to the airport in Philthy, which is true to its name, then off we went to our first stop: Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the land of pretty, sporty people, and Mormons with straight white teeth. Everyone was smiley and why not, they are surrounded by gorgeous mountains and ski to breakfast I suppose. They are looked too healthy and everyone seemed to favor hiking boots and knit beanies. I sashayed through in my black puffy Calvin Klein coat, and clogs. I just read NYC, what can I say. Got a coffee, and then bingo! we were delayed 4 hours. Maybe it had something to do with getting their teeth whitened.

Finally, we got onto our next leg and flew to Palm Springs. I felt so uber glam, getting off the plane onto the tarmac, the 70 degree heat thawing my bones and my face sponging up the Vitamin D. And the palm trees swaying in the breeze as you march over past the hideous bust of Sonny Bono and collect the luggage and rent the cars. They are very smiley in Palm Springs. Their accents are super cute and they were thrilled that we were there renting a car. "Does everyone enjoy their jobs here?" i thought. The answer is yes.

We drove our behemoth SUV to the gated communities of Palm Desert, which are basically suburban sprawl California Style. I think the middle aged me likes the safety and carefree lifestyle there. The gas and the groceries are horribly expensive, but we still managed to have a great time despite our wallet becoming lighter. We ran to Trader Joes, got some overpriced organic crap, and some ready made dinners, and plopped ourselves into the arms of our landlord, who stopped into make sure we were alive. And let us in! No names, but he is a script writer for many reality shows in Hollywood, and of course did we hit it off. He was so cool that we decided to have breakfast with him and yap about the area etc.

We went to a cute Belgian Spot called, Si Bon, and of course, I ordered the "wrong" thing. StillI, I did not care, and I was just dealing with the time change, or so I thought. I was not feeling well. Then I was sick with RSV for about 2 weeks, coughing my lungs out, and having to go to a walk in clinic. Not a great start to it all, but I used the time to get my book together, and feed our ducks, who I accidently trained to love Cheerios, and catch them mid air. Apparently, I can train animals too. Hubby loved this. He was thrilled to have me by his side, and was very understanding. For our first stop we went to Shield's Date Farm, for date shakes, a movie entitled (I kid you not) " The Sex Life of The Date", and of course the bible park in back, with a café and statues of Jesus and his pals, frozen in plaster, in situ acting out carious scenes from the New Testament. I walked through all of the flora and fauna, fish, birds, citrus trees (which came with a stern warning that we might be arrested for picking the fruit! How biblical!) All whilst noisily slurping a coffee pre date shake.

I dragged myself out of bed to enjoy the nearby Desert Swap Meet, which is sort of like a flea market with new merch and food trucks. Many of the trucks looked less than appetizing, but I did manage to wait for a very long time for some meh tacos. Half of Winnipeg was there, sitting in chairs, sipping on date shakes, and just looking really really old. It is a thing for Midwestern Canooks to drive down to PS. You see all the plates with "Friendly Manitoba," Alberta, and tons of Saskatchewan folks, all bearing down the gas pedal to escape the frigid Great white North. Look. If you don't want to be a shut in, or having your hip replaced from a fall, or dealing with crippling arthritic joints, you MUST leave. Hence why I was looking at half of the population with walkers and canes. These are are the golden years I suppose. Personally, I would decorate my walker with stick on jewels and a mickey mouse bell, ya know, just cuz.

Still feeling like xxt, Bruce took me to Handel's ice cream stand, which supplied us with 4 kids of ice cream in a plastic tray, and I literally worked on that for the month. He ordered a pizza from Stuft, which was the best pizza have EVER eaten. My scale was losing its mind. I think my husband is actually a Jewish mother in disguise.

End of Part 1/2

We also managed to go to a pilgrimage of In and Out Burger, which is strictly a West Coast thing. And it .is. so. good. Get the burger, fries and shake, and throw your scale out the window.

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We look at each other and can hardly believe we successfully launched twins into the world! They are both away at college. All of a sudden, I have retired somewhat from being the cook, the cleaner, the psychologist, the stylist, the captain of the hoopdie deluxe, the social director, oh the list goes on and on. So what does this mean? This means that we finally got a new car so my hubby and I are not attached at the hip, and I can still do craft shows. I can go to the flea markets to source cool stuff at 5:30 in the morning, without worrying about waking everyone up. If I feel like cooking a healthy stuff, I do not hear a raft of complaints. If I feel like having a glass of wine, I can. It also means that we can actually take a vacation and not worry too much. I can work in the studio and really work on some new pieces.

For hubby, it meant buying some exotic fish and adding to our fish tank collection, which is ridiculous, but heck, it keeps him happy, and I love to talk to the fish every morning as I have my coffee. Our gold fish are doing nicely in our greenhouse pond, and all is right with the world.

I still worry! I still miss them, I wish they could be here, and I wish I could solve every mystery and issue for them, but I am learning how to let go. Hubby and I are learning who we are to each other (again) and it is honestly fun and weird all the same time.

In the meantime, the Abra Couture show list has altered significantly! A lot of shows are now gone post pandemic, or they were swallowed up by a few hardy companies. Wholesale shows are shrinking more and more each season. The well loved original Buyers Market of American Craft, went through several iterations, before taking its last gasp, and was canceled by their newest corporate holding company. It was a slow death, and painful for all of us who literally grew up together, in this crazy business.

Change can be good honestly. It has propelled me to reinvent the business side of things, and pushed me to try new shows, new designs and trim down things I feel are dated or are just not my thing anymore. You will see a lot of streamlining here! Many items will be One of a Kinds or limited to my current stock. The plan for now is that all of our wholesale business will be online, in a new site yet to be built. Onwards!

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