Friday, July 24, 2009

What I Did for Twenty Years ! ! Conclusion

Why did I close my shop? The main factor was an unlikely occurrence on May 5, 1997. On that Sunday my mother decided to get overly busy and she broke her right ankle running down her downstairs staircase. As a matter of fact she broke both of her ankles in two separate incidences on that same day. My part was in taking her to Kaiser with the first one and getting her back home through the Cinco de Mayo traffic- which was horrendous in that decade in Denver!

After the shock of the second break and two ambulances later it became imperative for me to be close at hand in order to be of any help at all to her. She wound up in a nursing home for a short period of time but the house had to be made wheelchair accessible and it forced me to take time away from my shop. The only other instance in which I took that much time away from my shop happened when I was called in for Jury Duty during a Christmas season. It clearly was a hardship in both instances but in one I had no choice. When it came to my mother I wouldn't have chosen any different.

As a result, I closed my shop permanently, moved my business into hers ( home Beauty Salon) and stayed on because I felt it was necessary- even after she got back on her feet and went back to working in her salon. The down side to this was that I watched my business dwindle down slowly over the years. I had never found anyone who could take over my salon in my absence. This was the only negative factor of salon ownership during those seven years. Finding good, steady employees was always elusive and very frustrating. I don't feel I ever found a co-worker or employee that came even close to my standards. Most of the technicians I hired didn't have enough knowledge (a rather common occurrence because of the high burnout rate for this profession.) My goal was always to service a client according to their needs and objectives.

Apparently the different (and geriatric) atmosphere at my mother's salon was not conducive to my business which thrived at a storefront. Quite possibly, I had made an error in closing the prime location shop but I wouldn't have chosen any different given the circumstances. My family was first and there was no discussion. I hope I receive the same consideration someday when my time comes. Time will tell.

In 1999 I had two more life changes. One was positive and other was a learning experience that I'll not soon forget. That summer I sat down and wrote an inspirational book which practically wrote itself. If I have ever had an automatic writing experience I believe this was it, however, I was fully conscious of what I was writing. The result is a book about praise and worship titled, "In Spirit and In Truth". Once it was written I immediately started to try to find a publisher or agent. I met up with almost total silence and even in some cases hostility toward the ideas I presented even though every word of this book is scriptural and I supported it only with scripture. The response from publisher and agents was surprising and disappointing to say the least. Many did not bother to read it. Good reactions to the book came from ordinary church people. My only aim was to reach church-going Christians and so I view this book as a success. I still desire to get it published.

That same year, shortly after my birthday, I saw that my dwindling clientele was creating a financial hardship for myself and I decided to take a job in a bank as a teller. What started out as pleasant, menial work turned into a nightmare when I saw that the workload was being shunted my way too much. Within a year I quit because I started to develop stomach ulcers. I learned something about working in a corporate environment that I'll never forget and I don't believe I want to repeat the mistake because I believe that many of my clientele were put off by my irregular hours. I worked only evenings and Saturdays in my mother's salon at that time. This episode was debilitating to my spirit and created another hardship that I've never known. Taking in only half the pay I normally made in the past along with incredible amounts of stress was demoralizing.

When an opportunity to take a trip to see castles came along in 2001 I realized I was being given a chance to to make a long time dream come true. I have been interested in castles since I was a teenager- even before I took any trips overseas- my first in 1977 when I went to London for the first time. The Tower of London was my very first castle, which was a good place to start.

I seized the ring and set out for Paris- our starting point for the 2 week tour- on August 31st. To see castles in photos, diagrams and lithos in a book are great but it can't compare to being present to view them personally, walk their floors and study the individual architecture. I wouldn't trade the experience for any other trip I've ever taken. We took in seventeen castles in five countries in that span of time! In addition, it sparked a passion for architecture of which I had not been fully aware until I was there to see the castles for myself. I want to share this passion and I can truly say that my books will be those which I would want to use myself.

I hope you have enjoyed getting some details of my life which heretofore have been unknown to the internet reading public. If you still believe me to be a bit of a mystery all I can say is that each person must keep a certain amount of their lives in a strictly personal state. I share my feelings and hopes and dreams with those who don't mind getting close and sharing those details. This is why we have friends.

A friendly kiss and hug from

The Castle Lady !

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I Did for Twenty Years ! ! ! Part Two

Four years prior to that I had been working full-time and had almost full-time college course work in musical flute performance on my schedule plate, too. During the years between 1984 and 1987 I had played as third flute on what was then the Denver Symphony Orchestra stage (now the Colorado Symphony) on numerous occasions, sang and played for weddings and funerals and formed a flute/guitar duo with a Denver Public School teacher. I had started taking lessons when I lived in San Diego back in the early 80s and felt that I wanted to master my sound on it. This led to college even though I wasn't really looking to get a degree. My musicianship blossomed with every course I took whether it was theory, lab or an ensemble. It was a busy and exciting time for me but I always managed to find time to write poetry and composed my own songs.

I traveled extensively for years after 1983 attending trade shows for my profession in California, Arizona and even Massachusetts adding new services to my menu with each class. Very few nail technicians offer as many different mediums as I do so I took my artisanship in nails to the highest level. ( I know every type of artificial application whether it is acrylic extensions, gel, silk, linen, fiberglass or paper overlays (the latter of which is very passe'.) To this day I maintain my inventory to offer everything that is in my scope and capability. My vacations usually coincided with shows and classes but one year I really took a "time-off" vacation to Jamaica in 1989 which I found intriguing but also beguiling. Perhaps relaxing vacations were meant for other types of individuals. I remember renting a car and gallivanting all over the island!

A fond memory of learning about airbrushing comes to mind from the originators of the practice of doing this medium on nails. The people collectively owned a company called Colormist ( TM) and they developed the special airbrush stream to be 1/100th the usual width especially for nail art. The designs below show how muted and elegant the designs were and you could make your own templates to create the unique designs. We were only limited by our imagination. Imagine my dismay at what passes for airbrushing designs today. I don't care for most of them because they don't appear elegant to me. They get paint all over the fingers which has to be wiped off. The designs look crude and ostentatious. It may be a matter of taste but the designs below speak for themselves. Today I still do all my nail art with individual brushes to do hand-painted art and I have had many people tell me that my work is unsurpassed. I enjoy doing it my way and not the cookie-cutter method which prevails now.

After eleven years of working both in Colorado and California as an independent contractor (primarily) I took a month off from my daily schedule for a writing sabbatical to set about the business of getting my first book of poetry published. I'll never regret the time I took to find out what the life of a writer entails. The work is very solitary but quite fulfilling. I'll have to say that it is not the life for a loquacious individual unless you become a journalist. Otherwise, it is quite a bit of isolation combined with the fortitude of a nun and a very exacting business as well.

My book Seasons of the Heart was published in July and I did several poetry readings. When I went back to my work as a nail technician I found that my nail clients were the people most keenly interested in my book of anyone. They made my sales phenomenal for a first run book by an unknown poet. (For people outside of the literary world, poetry is the least money-making of all books published and they rarely print more than a few thousand copies even for well-known poets. My book paid for its own printing with the first one hundred sales!)

A little more than a year later, (1990) I decided to get serious about starting my own salon and I found a storefront in which the location was virtually untapped. There were no nail salons in the area and it was a prime business location. Two minutes after signing the lease contract with the owner of the strip mall I had a deja vu moment that told me I had made a decision that would change my life.

When I opened my doors on the first day half my clientele dropped off, telling me that they wouldn't drive as far as my location even though they all had followed me around a ten or more mile radius away from the location I'd started working when I returned to Colorado in 1983 ! I was a little stunned because it was obvious the snob factor had set in, of course. However, I rebuilt the missing clientele within a short time, due to constant prayer on my part and a faithful fortitude that I attribute to being the offspring of a long line of entrepreneurs and business owners.

After three successful years my lease was up and I started looking for a new location since my landlord decided to triple my rent! The only negative factor that I had experienced with salon ownership at that point was finding good, steady employees. This was very frustrating but I found that with being in charge I could make up for the lack of their standards with my own. Since I set the standard there was no one over me with any inhibiting factor of lack of expertise affecting the clientele. It was a great position for someone of my professional stature to keep.

Sure enough, I found a new location only three blocks away and I expanded my service and added a boutique. My biggest profit year occurred at that second location and I enjoyed it more as well. Because the space was quite small and cozy I felt it was necessary to completely redecorate it and I watched my clientele increase. I learned more about my capabilities in those seven years than at any other time of my life. If you want to build your character ( or test it!) start a business !

All during the years that I owned my salon, which was during the years 1990 to 1997, I used my flute playing skills by going back to a church I had attended many years before, on the strength of my mother's preference for the pastor's wife's teachings, to play in their orchestra. This is Marilyn Hickey's home base (ORCC) where I played flute or sang for their church for more than thirteen years! I also involved myself as an actress in the plays the director, Scot Aspromonte, ran from 1998 and really found my niche, I believe. For an interlude during the years '95 to '97 my flute playing and singing took a detour to a little church not far away from my relocated salon which was called "Good News". I was able to utilize my session playing very well there and had a very appreciative crowd for my solo singing, too.

More to come from The Castle Lady ! ; )