Monday, May 11, 2009

I read a quote in the latest issue of New Mexico magazine that said something like "what I like best about New Mexico is that the pictures are all there - all you have to do is show up with a camera." I'm discovering that to be very true.

My favorite room in my house is the dining room because there's a huge picture window that looks out onto a horse pasture (above). It's sometimes action packed as there are about 15 horses out there and someone has to be the boss; ever-changing as the seasons bring on different portrayals of the same view and ever beautiful because - well, there's really no way a pasture of horses can NOT be easy on the eyes. Consequently, we have some great photos of these guys in all sorts of weather - sunshine, fresh grass, fresh snow and mist. It's like having a huge painting that changes with the seasons. Very nice.

Today was a long busy day. Mike is working non-stop to finish his latest assignments from Leanin' Tree - and they're turning out so nice! He's got two more paintings to start when these are done - then he'll have to devote some serious time to finishing the fence in the yard and getting a storage unit built for the shop tools that are now filling his studio area.

Thanks to Obama's stimulus money, I've had to cancel our looong planned vacation to Washington state in order to write the capital improvement grant for our health clinic. This is a tremendous opportunity for our facility to get some very much needed equipment but the grant is due on June 2nd. So, our vacation will have to wait a few weeks!

It's all good though - they say keeping the mind busy keeps it healthy and we know physical activity keeps the body healthy. Between writing these grants and putting up a pretty huge fence project, we should be in fighting style by the first of June!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Semi-Deceased Artists circa 1982

We've established a rather aggressive deadline for getting our book outline done which means we've had to spend every spare minute going through old photos, notes, quotes, articles, etc. I came across this old photo from 1982 and a flood of memories came rushing back to me.

That's Mike loading some artwork into the 1962 Hearse we drove from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Houston, Texas for an art show. The young girl behind him is our daughter, Christi, who is now 34. Across the back of the rig was a huge sign, made by fellow artist, Boots Reynolds, that read SEMI-DECEASED ARTISTS.

At the time, Boots, another artist, Bonnie Shields, and Mike, all lived in the hills of northern Idaho. They were all full time, starving artists and often did art shows together.

This photo was taken in front of the offices for Western Horseman magazine in Colorado Springs, one of several stops we made on the way down to Texas. The show we were going to was arranged by a Texas oil man and coincided with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

That was a wacky year, a wacky trip and a way rickety old car. We made it to Houston okay and got the show all set up. Then, three days later, when we arrived to take down the show, we discovered two large paintings had been stolen (we later learned the guy who put the show on took them).
On the way home, the old hearse broke down in Parks, Arizona, where a very friendly though insanely stoned shade-tree-type mechanic methodically disassembled the car and ordered parts that took two weeks to arrive.

Meanwhile, we stayed overnight in the goat barn he claimed he was converting into living quarters. Mike and I and our two young daughters slept on the floor of the front room while Mr. Marywanna Mechanic drank beer with two hitchhikers he'd brought home for the evening. Actually, the girls slept but Mike and I were pretty much awake all night.

The next morning, we convinced our host to drive us to Flagstaff where we got a motel room and he checked on parts for the hearse, something they had to order from Heaven apparently. Fortunately, Mike's cousin, Chuck, drove over from Las Vegas and picked us up a couple of days later and we stayed with him until the hearse was ready. (There's more to this story but there's not room here to tell it - so you'll have to wait for the book.)

So goes the life of an artist, I suppose. You get a break for a big show; someone cons you into driving a really old, gas guzzling novelty vehicle clear across the country to get to the show where you make a little money but have two of your best paintings stolen. Then on your way home, the novelty vehicle breaks down and you get to spend the night in a goat barn with a friendly, shade tree, pot smoking mechanic and finally, manage to spend what little profit you managed to get in your pocket on a motel room.

Writing this book is going to be more fun than I originally thought.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Different Spirit but a Grand Lady

I spent the day unpacking my aunt's things and arranging her furniture in her new room at Crestview Nursing Home in Waco. It's hard to believe that just two years ago, she was getting around every bit as good as I do and probably had more energy.

That's her - in the photo - with her beloved Santa Gertruda herd in the background. Aunt Mary is one of the most remarkable people I've ever known. She spent most of her life teaching school and her students truly loved her, many of them keeping in touch with her decades after she entered their lives. All the while, she also ran a successful cow/calf operation on her ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Two years ago, shortly after this photo was taken, she suffered a minor stroke. In the last 20 months, she's had repeated strokes that have left her weak and frail, crippled and bent in body - but her spirit soars with the eagles. She has absolutely no bitterness about her declining physical abilities and seems to have no fear about what the future might hold in that regard. She has mastered every walker she's had to graduate to and is getting the hang of the scooter chair pretty fast.

Aunt Mary's room at the nursing home is complete with her big screen LCD flat screen TV, her complete computer set up with high speed internet connection, a fax machine and shredder. She had me decorate the room just like her assisted living apartment had been before she had to move because she was quickly becoming non-ambulatory. Dave Ramsey would love Aunt Mary. She writes down every penny she spends every single day. She pays cash for everything and has for many years. She's had the same financial manager all her adult life and she pays attention to what he does with her investments.

She's everything I ever hope to be one day - financially responsible, fiercly independent, outrageously optimistic and spiritually brave about what the future holds for me. Do I think I'll ever be there? Not really. I'm far too emotional, take too many risks and live a little more on the edge than Aunt Mary ever has.

I don't think I'll ever change that much because my spirit is different than hers. But I have to admit that I have unbelievable admiration for her. So, at least for today, Aunt Mary is my hero.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My own style of Leap Year

Every year, Mike and I seriously collaborate on a new calendar design to take to the Cowboy Christmas show in Las Vegas. It's our biggest show of the year and we try to take several new products or at least, updated products for it.

The calendar has become fairly popular. In fact, we get a lot of repeat orders every year so we work hard to create something truly usable and special.

Well, this year we outdid ourselves. The calendar was designed after an old 1944 Meeteetse Mercantile calendar from Meeteetse, Wyoming. We've had the old calendar for years and have always loved the richness of it's yellowed pages and the large old fashioned lettering. So we used it as a guide for making our new "old looking" 2008 calendar PLUS we added some favorite recipes and put all kinds of funny stories and photos in it. It took over 70 hour to layout and design but it was well worth it. The calendar was a big hit in Vegas and we sold out before the show ended. In fact, we're about to place a small reorder because we still have orders to fill.

Then yesterday, the phone rang. On the other end of the line was Doc Rhoads, Mike's good friend from Afton, Wyoming. Now, Doc is a dentist, chuckwagon cook and champion BBQ'er so naturally, I asked him for a recipe to go in the calendar and he graciously obliged (he's Mister June). He asked me if I had a calendar handy - and I did. Then he asked me to check out January 27th.

My calendar has no January 27th. I leaped all the way from the 26th to the 28th . . . seamlessly. And, I managed to have February start on exactly the right day so basically, what we have is a totally free, non-assigned Thursday at the end of January. It's not on my calendar so you could say, I'm pretty open for anything that day.

I wish I could say I was horrified - or mortified - at my mistake. But, I wasn't. I've learned to embrace and even adore the quirky imperfections old comfortable things in my life - so what better way to start this year than with an slightly incorrect but still usable recipe calendar.

And one more thing . . . apparently Tillie Jane's Fish Chowder recipe in May is missing a key ingredient - FISH! I reckon Tillie Jane figured most folks would just know to add fish to fish chowder. You would, wouldn't you?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Just a little bit of Grace

I'm not sure I'll ever understand why he loved her so much - but he did. Even as a child, I saw the way he looked at her and knew he was hopelessly smitten by this tiny lady who fussed at him but never over him. In fact, it never crossed my mind that she loved him at all but I'm sure she must have, in her own way.

I don't know when he realized something wasn't altogether right about her but I've heard stories that make me think her bizarre behavior began when her daughters were very young. Perhaps it was an extended, unchecked case of postpartum depression following the birth of four babies in eight years. I don't suppose we'll ever know what triggered the breakdown but we do know she had one.

He took her to doctors, got her treatment - including shock treatment at one facility (something he always regretted) - and brought her home where she would have periods of normalcy sprinkled with episodes of wacky behavior that become more frequent and eventually more wacky as the years passed.

Her girls grew up and left home, each taking their own emotional baggage to deal with in the coming years, as we all do. Then it was just the two of them again, Graham and Grace. He, a dawn til dusk, no nonsense, hard working farmer who worked his land and his brother's land, a cross he almost let break him. She stayed home, a confused and anxious housewife whose mind was slowly being seized by schizophrenia.

Her signature stunt was her "trip to Fort Worth." Every so often, he would come home from the cotton fields to find a note on the fridge that said simply, "Gone to Fort Worth to visit Lucille", her sister. But she wasn't gone at all. She was upstairs in the attic room. And the only access to that room was via the very narrow pull down staircase in the hallway. It was so narrow in fact that he couldn't maneuver his 6'2" 275 lb. frame up them.

He was rarely surprised to find the note because on his way home, he had passed her car parked several blocks away, usually in front of the same abandoned house he passed everyday on his way home. They'd lived in this small Texas town for over forty years so even if she chose a different house to "hide" her car in front of, it would take no more than five minutes to discover it. She would stay upstairs for days at a time, watching soaps during the day, sewing on the portable machine in the closet and cooking her food on a hot plate. She used a bucket for a toilet and according to him, would sneak down to clean it during the day when he was gone.

She was odd. She loved dolls. I had a few but she kept most of them put away so I wouldn't ruin them. She spent hours happily humming while she sewed the tiniest little dresses for my Barbie doll, dresses with perfect collars complete with intricate tatting - yet she never hugged me once that I can remember. In fact, she didn't like me much and I always knew it. He knew it too and protected me when he could. She pulled my hair a few times and made me wear clothes that embarrassed me at school. She hid my ironing in the freezer and told Daddy Graham I did it - but he knew better so I really didn't get in trouble for it.

She put padlocks on the cabinets so Daddy Graham couldn't get food from the cupboards because she claimed he was too fat - but spent hours baking individual coffee cakes and crocheting lap blankets for every single resident of the local nursing home.

The disease ravaged her mind over the years and eventually they had to take her car keys away. She forgot about Fort Worth and became much more concerned with the fireflies who were dying and having funerals in her sweet pea bed. They were dragging their little coffins over her sweet pea vines and that made her very angry. She would stand at the back window and peak out at the garden, watching closely hoping to catch them in the act.

We all told him it was time to find a place where she would be safer but he wasn't ready. He was retired and convinced he could stay home and care for her himself. Then one Thanksgiving, we were all home and out she came to serve Thanksgiving dinner - in the short, pink baby doll pajamas she'd made for herself some time before. In her 80's now, the outfit looked hysterical on her, pantie style bloomer bottoms and a loose fitting top that was almost too big. Her ever present hairnet sat like a rat's nest on top of her head with the knot threatening to fall onto her forehead Ruth Buzzi style. It was funny, memorable and sad.

Within a few years, my grandmother was moved to a nursing home and eventually, he joined her there. She still talked to fireflies and forgot who most of us were - but she always knew who he was. To the end he was her protector. It broke his heart to see her deteriorate but he stayed right there with her.

They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the nursing home. When my cousin stood back to snap a picture of them, my grandfather reached across their wheelchairs and tenderly laid his large hand over hers, now drawn up and useless.

H was clearly still just as smitten as he'd ever been.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Blank Blog

It seems that topics to write about occur to me all day long - good, thought provoking topics that make me want to sit down and expound on them right then. But, I have other work to do so the writing gets pushed off til later.

Well, it's later and here I sit - blank as a white wall - again. I could say I'm just tired. I mean, it was a long, busy day. I spent about 4 hours tweaking the final brochure layout for a Phoenix client and finally got it submitted to a new online printer I've found. Their prices are better than my old printer and the product is just as good. The proofing process was a little frustrating but I'm hoping it goes smoother next time. Then I went over a huge mailing list checking it for errors until I was nearly cross-eyed, answered emails and phone calls about Mike's stuff and spent about 30 minutes chatting with a sales rep from about their services.

So maybe I'm not all that tired. Its just that my head is too full of the nitty gritty graphic-admin-secretary-shipping department stuff to write anything remotely interesting. Or maybe its that article I read tonight in MORE magazine by Molly O'Neill. I'm feeling intimidated because the article was awesome. Molly's a food writer and though I've never read anything by her before, this article was touching, funny and eloquent. I may read it again. I mean . . . really! I should have plenty of topics to choose from. We had our Open Studio/Housewarming party on Saturday and it went very well.

Several area artists rsvp'ed that they were attending but none of them actually showed up. Too bad. We were looking forward to meeting some kindred spirits. Our friends from Austin, one from Burnet and several other local friends and neighbors did show up and we had a grand time. What a diverse group they all are! I've not seen that much food in my kitchen in years

Now that the party is over, Mike and I are kicking into overdrive. We have one month exactly until we leave for the Cowboy Christmas Show in Vegas. We have a recipe calendar to finish, several new images to print, posters to frame and inventory to order. Plus we both have other obligations to other entities that must be done in the next couple of weeks.

So, why can't I write about that? The incredible pressure to get it all done - while looking as if it's perfectly natural to keep so many balls in the air. *yawn** I suppose everyone has down days - artists have days when they can't create, writers have days when they can't write. I wonder if plumbers have days when they can't face another toilet. **yawn** I better quit while I'm ahead.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Me? Stressed? Oh Heavens no, I'm just fine.

Really, I'm going to be just fine . . . maybe.

We're having our annual fall Open Studio show this Saturday afternoon and that evening we're having a house warming party and southern style BBQ.

I love entertaining and in my book, the more the merrier. And that's where it gets tricky. I do dearly love the entertaining part - eating, drinking and visiting with new friends and comfortable old ones. But all the tasks involved in preparing - which for me is always up to the last minute - now that part just flat stinks.

The menu planning isn't too bad and Mike will cook most of the meat, which really helps. And he may even do the grocery shopping if he has wet paint on his canvases and can't work on them.

In the meantime, I have toilets to scrub, baseboards to clean, windows to wash and the porch to sweep. I'll need to give the dogs a bath, give myself a manicure and a pedicure because there's no way in hell I'm going to make it to a salon between now and then. The palm plant on the front porch has to be re-potted because the wind keeps blowing it into one of the areas where guests will be sitting. I still need to get all the new products and new paintings out to display and put together party favor grab bags. All the while, I have a list of assignments from my favorite client - tasks that will take several hours a day to complete. Nah, I'm not really stressed - just a teeny bit anxious maybe.

In all honesty, I've decided that worrying about trying to make everything look perfect is just plain silly. I have great friends who are bringing great side dishes and one friend who is sending yeast rolls even though she can't be here. Now, that's a real friend!

Ya know . . . our friends and family will enjoy the food and company regardless of how clean the baseboards are and they certainly can prop up the palm if it blows in their lap. Its supposed to be a beatiful, cool fall day and we'll probably spend most of our time outside anyway. Oh yeah, I think its going to be just fine.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Life as we know it...

It's been a hectic week around here. I can't remember when Mike has done so many paintings - one right after the other! A couple were paintings Leanin' Tree asked for but all the rest were just inspirations he had and they're all terrific!
While he was on a roll, I asked him to make me a tiny painting of our new house that I could use on the Open House invitations. It turned out better than I hoped for.
I've spent the better part of three days working on note card designs for Healing Reigns and finishing a story assignment for Living Cowboy Ethics, a new magazine being published by the Paragon Foundation. The story deadline was today so I've been getting by on very little sleep. Writing in the middle of the night is always better than trying to do it during the day. There are too many distractions - like the carpet layers who turned absolutely everything upside down yesterday! I worked at the laptop in Mike's studio but it just wasn't the same.
The weekend will be dedicated to finishing our taxes - argh! It's a chore I loathe so much it makes my stomach ache. Once they're done and mailed, I'll be a much happier person!
This has been one of those ordinary, back to the grindstone working weeks. It's been grueling but productive but I'm definitely ready for a Saturday break!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ranching, writing and painting the town

I'll be traveling to New Mexico next week to take photos and interview the Steele family on their working cattle ranch just outside Fort Sumner. It's fall work time at the ranch and everyone pitches in to help with moving and shipping the cattle.

The ranch has been run by the same family for several generations and they're doing a great job of it. The interview is for a story I'm working on for the winter issue of Range Magazine, ( -You can visit their site to see what they're all about.)

There aren't that many big, functioning family ranches left these days so getting to be a fly on the fence post during this fast paced annual event will be priceless for me.

Speaking of writing assignments, I got a call from the associate publisher of one of the major western magazines last week. He's recently taken on the editorship of a new publication for the Paragon Foundation, also out of New Mexico, and asked me to take on one of their regular features. How cool is that?

Mike finished a long overdue painting this week for our framer friend in Snyder. It's a painting of Danny's favorite cow, the Queen Bee. She's half Brahma and half something else - I can't remember what - and Danny has wanted a painting of her for years. It turned out really nice - for a painting of a cow standing next to a pond in a west Texas pasture.

The next painting Mike has going is one he's doing because he wants to. He has a couple to do for Leanin' Tree but he's still waiting for the go ahead on the sketches. In the meantime he's working on a darling painting of Bea Dunbar, an longtime family friend. Bea is in her 80's and has the most infectious laugh in the world. She lives in Clinton, Mississippi and is still as fiesty and funny as ever. She spent a week with us a couple of years ago and we took a slew of photos of her having a glass of wine on the porch. I think she's going to like the painting a lot.
Seems like suddenly we both have a ton on our plates! But then it's that time of year again. I'm working on a new calendar for Healing Reigns ( and will start on our calendar in the next day or so. We have an Open Studio and a house warming party planned for October 20th that we're really looking forward to but the invitations have to get out this week.
Mike is doing a special historical painting of downtown Bastrop to be printed into holiday cards to benefit the local Crisis Center and I've volunteered to help with their annual gala, the Festival of Trees. That event is in mid November, just about the time we have to wrap up all the doings for the Vegas show before it opens on December 6th. There's inventory to put together, posters to print, and all kinds of last minute details to cover regarding the booth.
Christi and Tina, our daughter and her partner in Austin, are ramping up their services as their business, the Lavaca Street Deli, in downtown. Since they're on a budget, Mike is helping with their remodeling project and I'm doing their holiday marketing collateral (probably at midnight!).
Kevin is thinking about moving back home for a spell while he switches from young-man-with-no-purpose to young-man-with-one. He's 25 and it's time. One thing is for sure. He can never look back and say he didn't have a chance to live wild and free after high school - because he did it and did it well. Now, it's time to get down to reality of life. It's either back to college or stepping up his profession from waiter/bartender to something with a more solid future.
As usual, fall is out of the gate at full speed and we're running to catch up. It can be overwhelming at times but we love it. Our butts may be dragging but we're draggin' them double time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Please listen carefully, our options have changed...

What has happened to plain old competency in this world? And how in the world do folks find the time in their workday to straighten out all the gi-normous problems some of these companies stir up? It's a full time job!

This is how my day went. The IRS mistakenly thought we got to keep all the proceeds from our house sale back in 2004 (instead of having to pay off a lien) and sent the Veterans Administration a form saying so. The VA then re-evaluated Mike's medical benefits and informed us we would be billed for co-pays for his medical care from 2005 until now. We already have a co-pay but apparantly they think we should be paying more.

First I called the VA and waited on hold for about 10 minutes; then explained the situation and was told to call the IRS. Okay. I call the IRS and am on hold for another 15 minutes and was told to call the company that generated the 1099B. Okay . . . but I never got a copy of that form so I need the IRS to fax it to me. As luck would have it, our fax line is not working. I go online and file a repair report with Verizon - for the 4th time in two months - same line.

I call the mortgage/insurance company and they tell me I need to have the account number off the 1099B that I don't have. Okay. Another call to another agent at the IRS (you have to give them your life history each time) yields the account number. A second call to the mortgage/insurance company where I'm put on hold for 25 minutes (thank the good Lord for speaker phones) and finally after four calls to four departments, get a person who can find our account. She explains that we benefited from the sale of the property so the 1099B is correct and with that, she's gone. I dig around and pull out the actual documents from the mortgage/insurance company that clearly state that 95% of the funds dispersed were sent to someone else - not us. By this time, its too late to call her back so I get to start this whole thing over in the morning.

The whole process took me over 3 hours. What a pain in the patooty. Most of it would have been so much easier if a person had answered the phone to begin with rather than an automated woman who demands that you listen to all the options because they've changed. Ever notice that everyone's options have recently changed? It takes valuable time to navigate all the options and I have yet to hear my option actually listed. If only a human had answered, I could explained the issue and been transferred to the right department the first time.

I know automation is here to stay and I understand that in many cases it saves money and time. But most of the time, it's just frustrating.

My favorite one is when the internet is down and you call your internet provider to get to tech support. First thing out of the gate is a recording telling you the website to visit to get more immediate help. Call me crazy but if I'm calling tech support for my internet provider, chances are good I don't have INTERNET!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stepping out of the Boat

That's Peter and Jesus over there to my left. The other Apostles are in the boat, flabbergasted to see Peter step out of the boat and into the turbulent waters of a raging storm to prove a point. I can't even imagine doing such a thing.

A few years ago, a friend took us out on his very large, very fast cigarette boat at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. As the speed of the boat picked up, I sunk down further and further in my seat and pulled my jacket up over my head. I was so scared! Finally, another friend graciously led me to the cabin below thinking I might feel safer. It was a nice gesture but I didn't feel much better down there.

Life is a little like that. The older we get. . . the faster we get older. The faster we get older, the more critical it becomes to step out of the boat and do those things we've always wanted to do; go scuba diving, visit a foreign country, go back to school, start a new career, just spend time with your grandchildren - join the Peace Corps! There are millions of people with all kinds of dreams. If we can just resist the urge to sink down into our seats or pull our jackets up over our heads - we can experience all kinds of new things.

I want to do it all - get my real estate license, write books, articles and columns, design new products for Mike's paintings, open a neat little store front with all our products and a quaint coffee and wine bar nestled in the back where folks can stop by any time of the day. I may not get to do it all but I'm definitely ready to get out of the boat and go for it.

If I just stay focused on God, whatever happens between the boat and Him will be perfectly fine!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Getting Down to Business

We finally have most of our boxes unpacked and both our work spaces set up.

I have to admit I was a little more than worried about the space Mike was going to convert to his studio. It's a nice big room the previous owners used for a game room. The deal is, for a painting studio, Mike likes tiny, claustrophobic cubicle places to paint in. It's weird.

When we lived in Indiana, he pitched a tent behind the garage and painted in there for about two months while the studio was being built. He absolutely loved it. I couldn't stand to be in it longer than fifteen minutes - it was simply too small and cramped.

His initial idea was to close off a small area toward the back wall of this great big room and make that a painting studio. However, with new assignments from Leanin' Tree and an already strained budget from the kitchen remodel, he decided to wing it in this big room. His solution? He set up his easel in the very back of the room and when he's working, he turns off all the lights except for those right at the easel. Since his back is to the door, he can't see the expanse of room behind him so he feels comfortably confined.

If he went to a shrink, I'll bet they'd tell him this strange need to burrow in to get creative has something to do with trauma while he was in the womb. He likes low slung roof lines on tiny cabins and compact recreational vehicles. I like tall, tall ceilings in big rooms and nice spacious motel rooms. Somehow, we manage to compromise and work it out though.

For now, my office is in one corner of our guest bedroom - at least until next spring when we'll build another room out in the garage or down at the barn. For now, this is just fine. The ceilings are high, there's a wonderful window right next to my desk that looks out on one of the ponds so I have a nice view.

The guest room/office also has an over-sized walk in closet that was perfect for my filing cabinets and sewing machine. It's tiny and darkish with no windows or air circulation. The dark green carpet make it seem smaller than it actually is.

I think secretly Mike covets my walk in closet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Living in the moment . . . and loving every minute

The older I get, the more beauty I see in everyday scenes. Last Friday, I left the lush green hills of Bastrop county and headed west to Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Staci had surgery on Tuesday and needed some help with the kids while she recovered so I siezed the chance to be that extra hand. I was due for a break from kitchen remodeling (and I think Mike was ready to tackle some creative construction without my valuable input) so the timing was perfect.

The weather was ideal for traveling and the audio book I was listening to (the Memory Keeper's Daughter) was great. The fields and hills between Lampasas and Brownwood still held their green from the summer rains. The windmill farms on the west side of Abilene, up around Sweetwater, looked like a majestic, kinetic sculpture garden that went on and on until they disappeared into the horizon. They have a sort of mechanical awesome look I like. The fact that they generate energy is a bonus.

The long desolate drive from Clovis to Fort Sumner was even pretty with an arid display of browns, lavenders and pinks that I found particularly pleasing. My friend, Sue, who lives near Austin is from Clovis and says she misses the wide open spaces of her hometown. I couldn't imagine missing the flat, sparse, desolate plains when you live in the gorgeous green hills of Texas - but I have to admit, the area is growing on me.

Saturday afternoon, I watched from the window in Staci's family room as the ranch horses lazily trailed in from the pasture to get food and water - cottontail rabbits scampering from sage brush to sage brush at the invasion. The cloud formations at sunset were too spectacular to photograph. The colors were amazing and moved like a giant kaleidoscope of brilliant yellows and pinks against steel gray, silver lined clouds. It was impossible for this amateur photographer (not to mention complete clutz) to get the right settings on the camera in time to catch the grandeur . . . so I just enjoyed it.

I did manage to capture a shot of the moon ascending over the livestock pens late yesterday afternoon though it still doesn't do the moment justice. All in all, it was a lovely trip. Staci is recovering very well, the twins were a delight to be around and the older kids broke my heart with their rapid maturity.

I'm so glad I took the time to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Choosing the Country

Fifteen miles from town and almost a mile down a gravel road, you'll find a tree lined, grassy lane that leads to our new front porch in the country. The house is smaller than the one we sold in Burnet, but comfortably so.

There's a large pond in the front yard that spills over into another pond on the side of the house. Calin and Codi Ann have already caught countless sun perch (that they dutifully threw back) in both ponds. A rather large community of turtles inhabit both ponds.

At night, the frogs provide wide range of unusual songs. At times they sound like an auditorium full of cuckoo clocks out of control and other times it sounds like hundreds of tech devices on the blink. We enjoy sitting on the porch with a glass of wine and listening to them while fireflies flit here and there on the warm summer night. It's simply wonderful.

This house and this place are just exactly what we were hoping for. The postmaster in the Red Rock post office knows my name. That's nice. On our first night in the house, we had nothing to cook so I ran into the little Red Rock grocery store to pick up something and found one of Mike's Leanin' Tree posters tacked above one of the doors.

Yes, we must drive 16 miles to do big grocery or hardware shopping but it's okay. We're learning to shop better. We had to tear out the kitchen and are in the middle of putting in a whole new one and yes, it's back breaking work. But when I stand back and look at the transformation, it brings me great joy. Joy to see our vision slowly coming to life and pride in knowing we did it ourselves. There will be more remodeling down the road as time and funds allow but for now, we're thrilled with our new home.

It's amazing what can come about when we let go and let God lead the way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Another porch . . . another chapter

When I opened the email from realtor Linda Beber last Monday, I expected to see the standard automated display of new listings in the Bastrop area. This one, however, was different. There was a note from Linda that said, "We need to schedule an appointment to see this one ASAP!" And she was right.
What I saw was a lovely, southern style home with a wraparound porch perfectly situated to view the large pond in the front yard over a glass of sweet tea or dry merlot. There's another pond along one side of the house, just outside the guest room window.
The whole peaceful setting is at the far end of a long, tree lined country lane and sits on 5.5 acres of wooded land. The inside of the home is as charming as the outside plus there's an extra large bonus room in the garage that's been finished out into a rec room. It will make an ideal studio for Mike! The oversized garage is plenty big enough for us to enclose another separate office for me. It is almost scary perfect.

Only once have we looked at a place one time and gone straight to the office to write an offer and that was the ranch in Indiana. This was the second time. And it's a good thing we did. Our offer went in on July 3rd and was accepted late on the 4th. By Friday morning, there were 5 back up offers - all at full price. God is good and we feel incredibly blessed!

We've been so happy in this house. The act of packing it up has been so depressing to me because I haven't found anything that warmed my heart like this one does. Now I have, so packing will be a joy.
Knowing the family that bought our home is equally enchanted with it makes that transition even better. They have four children who will enjoy the pool, the chickens, the playscape and the big clawfoot tub. The house will develop that rich patina that comes from laughing, loving children as they grow up. And we'll move on to another porch and another chapter.
Sometimes I wonder if we really pick houses . . . or if they pick us? I'm inclined to go with the latter.