A judge of character

I received a phone call yesterday that I referral I gave took advantage of my referral partner.  I knew the person I referred a little longer than my referral partner, but not much.  We had worked together briefly on a project for a mutual client and he had offered to use my services for other clients, which fell through.  Six months later he called in disarray asking me to help him and his wife sort through their finances and get to the bottom of arguments over spending.

I’m in the accounting business.

Flattered that he felt comfortable enough with me to ask for help with his marital strife, I gave him and his wife a two hour consultation at no charge.  Normally, I offer a free one-hour consultation.  In their case, a good part of the conversation involved emotional distress.  They were contentious with each other at first and by the end of the conversation, where he seemed vulnerable and exposed, she seemed more relaxed.

I put about 16 hours of work into their account after that first meeting.  Once the work was complete, we had a one hour conference call from California, since he was working in Texas.  I followed up with an invoice I sent only to him from my accounting program, primarily because I didn’t know how to add a second email address.  He is the breadwinner, so it made sense.

It’s been almost a month and they have not paid.  Then I get this call from my referral partner that he asked a million high priced questions over more than an hour of meeting time and asked for it free.  My referral partner agreed to honor my referral, then called to tell me what happened as a warning that it could also happen to me.

So my question to myself and God is, was this foreseeable?  Should I have seen a red flag in someone shifting from a professional to an emotional position rather than being honored that he felt so comfortable with me?  Hell, if that’s the case I’m in trouble.

I’m emotional and professional and right now. I’m in a creative block that’s wrecking havoc on my ability to give a dollar about my accounting work.  Instead, I’m right about at two cents.  Still hanging in there, but sloppy and unmotivated, at least on the first pass of a project.  By the final draft all is good, but I’m in need of client coaching.  The only thing I’m proactive about right now is getting out of my block.

Do I take advantage of people?  No.  Am I unreliable?  Not yet.  I manage my creative block by responding quickly to clients’ needs.  Deadlines, phone calls, emails, texts.  I’m on it.  Long term projects, low priority projects, not so much.  In that area I’m backlogged.

In terms of screening clients though, if someone comes to you and says, “I’m terrible at paying my bills.  I don’t even know what I have.  Please help me.”  Should I have said no?  I’ve learned this lesson before, in fact I’ve blogged about it on my business blog.  If someone says, “This is all I have,” they will not have the money to pay you.  In the case of this miserly client, he has money he’s just not managing it well.  Could I have known that he was someone to take advantage of services without being willing to pay because he shops at Goodwill when he could shop at Macy’s?  I don’t know.  I shop at the 99ct Store and I shop at Whole Foods.  I could relate to him on that.

I don’t know that there’s an answer here.  I’ve been feeling unreliable because I don’t know where recovery from this creative block will lead me.  I wonder if feeling vulnerable and exposed is directly related to letting people down.

Revelation 2:01

I’ve been looking for apartments lately.  The pounding of pavement was brought about by the feeling that the creative voice inside of me was being silenced, stretched and twisted like a kneading bag for dough.  My accounting business just became overwhelmingly busy and my life objective of becoming more me as an artist was getting snuffed out.  I need to move closer to a creative community and/or free up some money to rent studio space in a community of artists.  Without it I am lost.  Aside from art in an educational setting it is something I’ve only encountered from time to time, but I know it’s where I need to be.

My life story at this point is a long one, so I will skip to the signs that elude to the past.

1240295_10201577525867460_64712191_nWhen considering a new home, I make several premature visits and try to picture how my lifestyle would change.  Upon one of these visits, the address of the prospective apartment caught my eye.  On the paperwork it was simply referred to as Building 9 – Unit 201.  The street address was 4777 Rossini Lane #201.

My current apartment is 1741 Fisher Drive #201 (at Fisher Court).  For 15 years I lived at 770 W. Imperial Avenue #70.  I always liked that there were three sevens in my address in the background with the separation of zeros.

If you don’t follow Christian symbolism, three sevens are the sign of God. Man was created on the 6th day and influenced by Satan (666), and the Lord’s day is the 7th, with the Holy Trinity the sign is 777.  Then Jesus multiplied the fish in Galilee to feed the people.  From just a few fish, he created an abundance of fish.

I think it’s important to understand and appreciate the symbolism of Christianity.  It’s a means of celebration and communication with God. It’s an identification guide for miracles and blessings. Literal translation, is a human way of thinking because humans enjoy the power of knowledge and admiration of and from each other.  But faith is about believing in the supernatural and understanding that it is not meant to be understood nor taken literally because a literal translation to the natural world does not exist.  In other words, just because I live on Fisher doesn’t mean that I will have truckloads of fish show up at my door.  We listen to the voice of God as it presents in the nonsensical part of our mind that speaks deeply to our soul.

I sat in my car at the prospective property and on my iPhone began a Google search for 2:01.  This passage from biblegateway.com came up:

Revelation 2:01-7
New King James Version (NKJV)

The Loveless Church

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,

‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’

I also Googled “Rossini”, who I found was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas starting when he was 18, including Cinderella and William Tell.

Sometimes I encounter God’s sense of humor.  It might be one of his angels, but it’s definitely someone up there messing with me and laughing in fun.  Come to think of it, it could be my Grandpa Pete.  He was an ornery stinker.  Anyway, the next morning I turned on Clairice’s classical music that she listens to every day and what was on queue?  William Tell’s Overture.  From rags to riches, full speed ahead.

Come to Me

Last weekend a friend called for the third time to ask me to come down to LA for a visit and she gave me the list of events happening.  At first I wasn’t really up for it.  I can only handle about one trip to LA per month, and my max had already been reached for the purposes of tending to myself and my family.  Additionally, she lives 20-45 minutes South of other family and friends on the Westside.  Nonetheless, I’ve been appreciative that she’s kept in touch and when I’m in town I try to see her.  The other part of this is that she refuses to visit me in my new home that is hour and a half North of West LA and an hour and forty-five minutes North of her home.

Saturday, it was hot and humid.  I was tired and lethargic and tired of being so.  For a change of pace, I decided to look at new cars, something I’d been considering for awhile.  I left the dealership with a new perspective and went back Sunday morning to make my purchase.

It was an extremely stressful morning.  I felt nauseous as I signed the paperwork and the finance manager explained to me that because the banks were closed on Sundays, I wouldn’t have an answer as to whether I qualify for a loan until mid-week.  The car was being prepared for me to take that day, which I did.  Trying to maintain a level of optimism, I decided that an impromptu trip to LA to join in the fun already underway would be a great way to get acquainted with my new car and share the excitement with my friends.

It took me two hours to drive to Hermosa Beach.  Before I left, I called my nagging friend who gave me a list of what I needed to bring.  As I thought this was a simple concert on the pier with loads of restaurants and bars nearby, I was comfortable just bringing myself.  Instead, I turned the car around, went home and packed a picnic basket, bathing suit, sun hat, beach mat, and changed my workout clothes to picnic attire – a long sundress and sandals, which was my commentary.

When I arrived it was a full on beach blonde bikini party with hundreds of people and my friends were no where in sight.  I felt like Mary Poppins exiting the Titanic in my long dress, woven picnic basket, floppy hat and sandals.  Bumping into people as I made my way through the crowd, I remembered again why I hate it here.  Sure, I enjoy Hermosa Beach restaurants and bars.  I enjoy roller skating on the strand and watching the sunset.  I enjoy going in the water in the less crowded areas by the breakwater or the intersection of Manhattan Beach.  That being said, I have never been the tanned blonde beach bunny that hops around the sand with a red solo cup and swats a volleyball as the sun glistens off my abs.  It would have been grand, but it never happened.  I have never been that person.

I never found my friends. The one who nagged me down to the party, decided it wasn’t worth her time to try and find me. She was busy dancing and that was that.  I needed to come to her and according to her, it was my fault I couldn’t find them in a mass of hundreds jumping up and down in the sand at a live concert.  I ate dinner by myself at a restaurant at the beach.  In a sea of aggressive texts, she called me a “frint” which I found on Google to mean “stuck up bitch” or “bail out”. I later found out that she wasn’t even in the dance area while most of the texts were coming through.  She was in the water. After driving 2 hours to meet a friend who couldn’t take 5 minutes out of her fun to find me, I ended the friendship.

Her relentless need for “more” that extended far beyond that day, but hadn’t pushed me to my limit before then, got me thinking about the “come to me” attitude or feeling.  I thought of a couple instances in myself where I expected something to happen.  I expected someone would want me so much that they would react or respond the way I wanted them to or hope they will.  I don’t really know where it comes from because in those circumstances I also felt that going to them would be inappropriate or invasive.  It’s an experience that takes me back to childhood.  The experience of being adored and vulnerable, completely out of control.

As a child you haven’t developed the ability to navigate relationships.  I think it’s the feeling of safe powerlessness that makes me want more.

Goodbye, Heartbreak Bench

Goodbye, Heartbreak Bench.  We’ve seen so many.  It’s time to start anew.  Goodbye, my old friend and confidant.  The cigarettes have been extinguished, the smoke has dissipated, the dust of loves lost has been swept away. You’ve been disassembled.  All that is left is this photo and your memory.  In your place is a newly restructured and cleanly painted balcony with an expanse of possibilities.  It is light and bright, spacious, attractive and peaceful.  Your warmth and comfort will forever be remembered.  Rusted from teardrops it’s time to retire.  Goodbye, my friend.

Problem Solving in Painting

I think the most important thing I learned from John Zarcone at Santa Monica College was problem solving in painting. I whined to him one day with bitter frustration that my watering can had problems. His response to me was, “Then how are you going to solve them?”

Yesterday, I grumbled into the painting to the right. Acrylic paint and I have an ongoing power struggle for control over drying time. It requires more planning whereas oil lets you work through your problems actively, change your mind, create as you go. Acrylic asks you to consider making a decision before applying the paint. I hate that.

Part of me wanted to punch a hole in something when I added the transformer in the foreground. Adding detail with an unsteady hand in the foreground of a celestial painting can make a masterpiece look rudimentary.  In my head I could hear my dad saying, “When am I going to start seeing some transformers with the sky in a landscape. Jeez, Andi you’ve got the material right there.” This is the view from my studio in my condo/apartment. He knows it because we picked it out together for me to live in. Well, I picked it out, upon first walk through we instantaneously agreed and he signed the papers. It was one of those moments, like countless we’ve had where we connect like lightning without a word. This time it was a good thing.

I guess like everything in life that which causes you the most pain can also provide the greatest joy. As I stomped around the house yelling obscenities under my breath only because I have a contractor working on my balconies, I heard Zarcone’s words again. “How are you going to solve the problem?”

I took a break for the evening. This morning I sat down and started painting between the lines of the transformer. It looked like shit before; a thick weight of detail crowding the celestial skies. I was mad at myself for not leaving the flow of the clouds and water for the sake of serenity. I kept working at it, trying to solve the problem. I surrendered to imperfection and applied color with more intent to block and less intent to flow. I ignored my inner protest so that I could focus on the fat lines I was eliminating, solving the problem. I tried to ignore my parochial pessimism that I was also causing more problems.

This image is slightly out of focus, but I also left the transformer imprecise to add depth justified by it’s middle ground position in the painting.

In the end, I am satisfied.  The problem was for the most part solved.  It’s just not the way I’m used to doing things, but I suppose something new goes with a familiar view, a borrowed idea and blue paint.  Maybe this is the direction I need to paint in…