Friday, November 10, 2006

Okay, so I missed some days . . .

Hmmmm....maybe a month. Geez, where does the time go? Seriously, we’ve had some major stuff going on and consequently, a few things fell through the cracks!

Our dining room looks like a warehouse with Y-ME Ranch Hand figurines, t-shirts and mugs covering the table, sitting in the chairs and stacked on the floor. Tucked nicely in there somewhere is a box of brochures and price sheets for a marketing client who wants a sales letter generated, printed, stuffed, addressed and mailed sometime in the next 3 weeks!

My office is a shambles with Y-ME Christmas catalog pages marked with corrections strewn hither and yon, waiting for the final touches before going off to the printer. Framed prints line the walls while a stack of recently printed posters wait to be matched with foam core backing and slipped slickly into plastic sleeves before going into the print bin. We do this every year when we get ready for the annual Cowboy Christmas show (held during the National Finals Rodeo) in Las Vegas.

It’s the only show we do but we think about it all year long. We leave shortly after Thanksgiving and don’t get home until mid December – long show – but well worth it.

This year, we’ve added even more excitement to our chaos because we've decided to open a storefront shop. As soon as we return from Vegas, we’ll begin work on a downtown shop that will carry all Mike's art, licensed products and design pieces, a few antiques and collectibles and most importantly will feature a gourmet coffee bar. Unless something miraculous happens before the first of January, we will be the only coffee bar in town.

Yep, that’s right. In this town of, oh maybe 7,000 people, there is no place to buy a latte or cappuccino – except a couple of convenience stores that sell automatic machine produced cups of scorched mocha. So we’re pretty excited about that new adventure. I go back and forth between being excited as hell and worried as hell. It’s a big investment financially. But, we’ve always taken risks and in the end, always felt the risks were worth it.

I've spent hours “running the numbers” and trying to formulate a reasonable business plan based purely on speculation and Mike just keeps telling me we need to do it. Through all the chaos, Mike keeps his sense of humor in tact; tipping his hat and grinning all the way. He is the sunshine that keeps my world turning around!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Day Five - Brown County, Indiana, my heart's desire

We met the folks at ProLogic around 9:30 a.m. at their office in Uniontown, PA. It's funny to think that it took Mike 4 months to sculpt this piece, four days to drive it to Uniontown and all of 45 minutes to install it. But that's the way it is.

Everyone was thrilled with the way it looks in their lobby. The patina is a perfect contrast to the light colored wall and the size of the piece was just right. They toook photos and I'm waiting to receive copies so I can post some here.

We took off around eleven and headed toward Indiana, hoping to make it there in one day. The weather was beautiful all the way through Pennsylvania, highlighting the fall colors on the rolling hills. I'd never seen that part of the state - every other time we've been there, it's been rainy or foggy or gloomy - so that's been my recollection. It was nice to see it in the sunlight.

We rolled into Nashville, Indiana, around 9 p.m., cleverly outrunning a serious thunderstorm right at the Indiana border. Some of our fondest memories were made in this quaint little community and definitely some of our closest friends are here.

First stop of the night was at George and Jack Slaybuagh's, two of the best human beings God ever put on this earth. Jack is a retired lawman who has enough undercover stories to fill a very fascinating book though he claims a lot of folks would have to die before he could actually write it! It's his wife, Georgianna, who is the real jewel of the family and Jack knows it. Single handedly, Georgianna, recently organized a reunion of the 83rd Airborne unit from WWII. It was a huge event with people flying in from all over the world including diplomats from several countries. She also received letters of honor from several former presidents as well as GW himself. There was a parade, interviews, school visits and a multitude of events honoring these men. It was really something special and the men who were honored made memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

It's been over ten years since we moved from Nashville but even in the dark of night, it felt like we'd never really left. There's just something about that place that makes me feel good about being there.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Day four - Falling Water

Anyone with the slightest appreciation for classic architecture, fine art, mother nature, genius design or unusual living spaces really should see this house. We're both Frank Lloyd Wright fans, maybe not so much of his home designs - the ceilings are too low and the hallways too dark for my taste - but his quest to quietly, almost stealthily, blend his architecture into nature changed everything about design.

It's amazing how ahead of his time this man was. I've always heard how this house makes you feel as if you're one with the water and figured it for a clever description - but it's actually true. When they were building the place, if they ran into a boulder, they incorporated the rock into the house design. Consequently, one of the fireplaces is built into the rock that lived there for centuries before the house and another room is home to a natural spring fed pool, also native.

Many have tried to write about the house, and done a fine job, but nothing beats standing in it, daydreaming about living in this masterpiece - or maybe to have just been a dinner party guest. I kept forgetting that the house was actually owned by the Kaufman family because to most of the world, the house always belonged to Wright. It was his nemesis.

The countryside surrounding the area is breathtakingly beautiful. No one could walk through the vibrantly colored maple forests, inhale the sweet smell of moist pine needles and listen to the roar of the water falls and not thank our loving God for this magnificent creation.

It was an awesome day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Day three - Elkview, West Virginia

I'm so glad we routed ourselves through West Virginia. Driving through the heavily treed mountains, I can only imagine how spectacular the colors are going to be in the next couple of weeks. There are hints of electric oranges and soft pinks on the sugar maple trees but they're just the precurser for the impending fall color show.

We're only about 3 and a half hours from Uniontown so we have time to stop today and go through some antique shops and act like tourists. Once we get checked in to our room there, we'll drive over to the actual office where the sculpture is to be installed, so we'll know where we're going in the morning. It's always interesting to show up to install a major piece of art in a place you've only seen in photographs! There are so many factors that have to be considered like wall construction, color and material, etc.

Then there's that awkward moment when we haul power tools into a strange place in front of the office staff and start drilling into the wall. The interesting part is when the two of us unload a 6' tall sculpture that looks like it's solid bronze - but is actually fiberglass based - and start lifting it into place. I can only imagine what the staff says about us after we leave, especially since this commission was initiated from their home office in Manasses - so most of them probably have no idea we're coming. I have to admit that most of the time - I love our life.

After the install, we're hoping to head down to Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Waters house - something I've always wanted to see. Actually, Mike (who is a closet architect/landscape designer) has always wanted to see it too. Then we'll start heading toward Indianapolis to see Mike's sister, Bobbi, before heading down to Nashville, our old stomping grounds, where we have a bunch of friends to see.

Hopefully, this perfect weather will hold out for that leg of the trip.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Day two - Benton, Kentucky

What a beautiful drive! We crossed the Tennessee border into Kentucky about 4 yesterday afternoon and the beauty of the land got even more majestic. We drove as far as Benton - a sleepy little town just inside the state lines.

The weather has been perfect, the Holiday Inn Express here is very nice - clean and comfortable - and filled right now with fisherman. Today, we travel through an area called "land between the lakes," an island recreation area this looks like it sits literally in the middle of a gigantic lake. We're guessing they must be having a fishing tournament going on soon or something since the parking lot here looks more like a marina than a motel.

We finished our James Lee Burke book yesterday morning and started a new one by James Patterson, "Lifeguard" which is terrific. It sure makes traveling this far more enjoyable to have a good suspense thriller to listen to along the way.

It's nice not having to rush on this trip . . .

Saturday, September 30, 2006

On the road again . . .

Gosh, it's been a while since I posted here. What can I say? It's been busy around the ranch!

Mike finished the sculpture for ProLogic - "Forces of Mercy" and we're on our way to Uniontown, PA, to deliver it. Thankfully, it's only about 6 feet tall so, with the back seat folded down, we were able to put it in the Avalanche - no trailer required! This is an awesome vehicle for artists. Anyway, we finally got everything packed and hit the road about noon.

Because ProLogic decided they wanted this piece in early fall, we had to cancel our summer travel plans so Mike would have the time he needed to finish the piece. To compensate for vacation time forfeited, we decided to take some extra time during this trip to relax and do some sight seeing. I've always wanted to see Nacogdoches, Texas, because it's the oldest town in Texas, so the first leg of our trip was routed through this historic community. What a treat!Downtown has wonderful brick paved streets - rich red bricks. Full grown trees grace the outside of many of the nostalgic looking buildings and the whole downtown is framed with the majestic tall pines East Texas is so known for. It was even more than I expected it to be.

We're listening to a great book - Pegusus Rising by James Lee Burke -this is the third book of his we've listened to - and we wanted to finishthe chapter so we drove on to Marshall. Got a room at the LaQuinta and had a glass of wine and the taco salad dinner we'd brought from home. We have no idea how far we'll make it tomorrow but that's the beauty of this trip - just taking our time to enjoy the scenery along the way.

more tomorrow. . .

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A mountain cabin and hairy legged chickens

We've always been mavericks to some degree. If our kids ever told us they were about to do some of the things we did when we were their age, I'd be mortified! We took risks we weren't even smart enough to know were risks and just forged ahead. Whether elated with triumph or miserable in failure, we always felt alive and if we ever got in a rut, we just climbed out and took off.

We moved from state to state, experienced different cultures, met new people, bought, remodeled or restored some very interesting pieces of property. Some worked out great - others not so great. Either way, we moved on to the next dream.

One of my personal dreams was to move to a cabin in the mountains, raise hairy legged chickens (feather footed bantams), tend to a small garden and write whatever my heart told me to write. Mike would continue to do the artwork he's so genius at and life would be quiet and good.

Well, times have changed and our dreams have too. I've shoveled all the snow I care to in our thirty years together and having to drive more than 20 miles to get groceries or go to Wal*Mart is out of the question, especially with gas prices where they are. As long as someone is bringing organic veggies to the local farmer's market, neither of us feels compelled to bend over to weed a garden, fight the insects or run up our water bill.

I have the hairy legged chickens and love watching them take off in that hysterical chicken dance, legs splaying out from side to side as their fat little bodies run across the yard trying to catch a bug out of mid-air. And the grandkids love collecting the eggs, at least one of which always ends up on the driveway on its way to the fridge.

We're both dedicated and loyal to our artform because without it, we would shrivel, but we're finding there's so much more we want to do. Our new line of products, featuring the Y-ME Ranch Hands are being released this month and we have two small gift books and two calendars to finish in the next few months. All of which is very exciting - but we're ready to expand the dream.

So, we've been looking for just the right place to open a storefront - an actual physical Y-ME Ranch Company Store. The store would have all the Y-ME products along with some very cool western and cowboy decor PLUS a funky cowboy wine and gourmet coffee bar. It may take us a few months to find the right place and another month or so to get it ready - but that's okay - it will all come together.

Perhaps it's because we're both in our 50's and we want to make this second half of life full of everything meaningful. We're anxious to learn, eager to experiment and willing to listen. We're much more aware of what we love, what we loathe and what we can and can't live without. We ask more questions now, run the numbers and determine how it will impact our quality of life.

But when it comes right down to it, we still get a rush out of standing on the edge of a dream, holding hands and jumping in.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Everything's a buzzzzz....

Oh yeah, I was right about change being on the horizon. We're discussing a couple of different adventures - but we have to do our homework and decide which direction to go.

We've never been very good at just standin' still and even though we have lots of "stuff" going on, it just feels like we need more to keep our blood pumping.

We've got several little "field trips" planned over the next couple of weeks to do the necessary research and when we have a better idea about what this next adventure will be, I'll let you know.

The Cowboy Cartoonists are having a show and sale at Southwest Galleries in Dallas on September 27th through October 1st. The reception is the evening of the 27th and you're all invited. We'll be there as will our favorite funny man, Ted Foulkes (a.k.a. ToJo O'Malley) and friend, Madge Reid, Ace's widow from Kerrville. There will be lots of great art to see and from the sounds of it, some great entertainment so if you're in the area, do plan to come by!

Mike's sculpture for Pro-Logic is coming along nicely. I do believe it's one of the best pieces he's ever done. The detail is amazing! It's taking longer to complete than he expected but it's going to be well worth the wait. We'll leave the 28th of September headed to Pennsylvania to deliver it on October 2nd.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Could it be the rain?

It finally rained today! Okay, it was only for about 7 and 1/2 minutes but we'll take every ounce we can get! It smelled glorious and the coolness afterwards was delightful. We so need about a week's worth of good rain!

It feels very much like change around here - which is particularly wierd since we were going to move, then we decided to wait a while - so everything that was changing is slowly shifting back to normal again.

I can't exactly put my finger on it but something is in the air. . . something different.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Happy Birthday to ME!

Isn't it wierd how things work out? The couple who had the offer in on our house ran into a snag with their lender and couldn't get the necessary financing to go through with the purchase so (dangit!) they had to go with their second choice!

I can hardly stand the joy I feel in replacing the kitchen decor and putting my dining room back together. Even Mike is relieved at not having to tackle physically moving from this place. We had two back-up offers waiting but we decided against calling either potential buyer. It just feels like God isn't ready for us to move yet. And boy, am I glad. I got just as excited about "moving" back in today as I did when we first moved in almost three years ago. For now, at least, this is just home to me and I'm damn glad to be here.

Tomorrow, I turn 56. They say you're only as old as you feel and to be honest, I feel about 40. I've managed to take off about 11 lbs. through diligent dieting and exercise but will take a break tomorrow since my grandchildren will be here to help me celebrate another wonderful year of life. We just must have cake! And maybe chicken enchiladas and chips and salsa and maybe even a margarita. Yep, it's a day for celebrating!

I'm havin' a party and everyone is invited to my new old home!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

. . . and another chapter begins

Whew! I can finally say we've found a house and I'm genuinely excited about it. It's about 5 miles outside of Wimberley and sits on a little over 4 acres. The front yard is full of live oaks and the views from the long front porch are awesome! We have a lovely pasture that will make a great home to something - not sure yet what.

The house needs some work but that's what makes it so enticing. When we first started looking around, we hoped to find a place with a big open great room, a nice fireplace, good work space for both of us and of course, a nice porch. This place has all of that.

We've got all our painting, remodeling, kitchen/bath design books together and we're ready to get this place whipped into a showplace. There are some minor repairs that will need to be done immediately but after that, it's mostly all cosmetic and updating stuff. A new kitchen - new floors - removing a few walls and lots of painting. The bathrooms need updating and the big old porch will get a quick fix-up - all projects we just love to do.

So now, the serious packing has started. Mike will focus all his attention on finishing the sculpture for Pro-Logic while I pack our lives up around him. Everything goes into storage for a few weeks while we get the preliminary stuff done at the new place in early September with plans to move in around the second or third week.

Oddly, several family members are moving or thinking about moving. Daughter Staci and her family are moving to Fort Sumner, NM, from Gardner, KS - Christi and her partner, Tina, just moved into their new house a few weeks ago - daughter Hillary is preparing to move back to Northwest Arkansas from Missouri and both my sisters are contemplating a move as their husbands switch careers.

I'm glad these new beginnings are still fun and adventurous to me. It would be plain awful if it wasn't!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The clock is really counting down now. Our closing on this house is set for August 30th and we still don't have a definite place to go. I'm sure we should be more concerned than we are but for some reason, I'm not, though Mike has his moments. . I just have a feeling the right deal is going to happen and everything will work out fine.

We made an offer on another Wimberley house - the one we both liked despite all the repairs it needs. The owner lives out of state and hasn't responded to our offer yet. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, Mike is applying the clay to the sculpture for Pro-Logic and it's looking really good. I've got one client project to finish this week along with coordinating with licensors to get the t-shirt line going and two other product lines to complete.

Packing for the upcoming move is going painfully slow. It sure is tempting to sell the house with all the stuff in it. We've got some BIG stuff.

Funny thing - as much as we like this house and Wimberley and hope the deal works out, we still think about the Brownwood place and wonder if we made the right choice not to go ahead with it. hmmmmm.....

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"I will lead them in paths that they have not known. . ." Isaiah 42:16

I spent a fitful night tossing and turning, reviewing real estate we'd looked at, bouncing back and forth between fantasies and troubles. Fantasies about staying in this house and not having to orchestrate the monumental task of moving or on the other hand, finding that perfect country place and transforming it, albeit slowly into our dream home and staying there forever. Real estate contracts, inspection reports and mortgage broker details kept the wheels turning long after midnight.

Add to that, the typical worries about children sprinkled here and there and . . . well, sound sleep is not going to happen.

Weeks ago, I told God I was taking my hands off this deal. It was up to him – whether or not our current home sold; where and what we’d find to move onto and how the whole bundle would fall together. I also prayed for strength to resist the urge to take over the process (my tendency) and wisdom to recognize his directives.

Before I went to bed last night, I read from the Guideposts Devotional book, just like I do every night. The scripture was Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead them in paths that they have not known . . .” It felt like reinforcement to me that God was leading and I just need to follow. This morning before we headed out to Wimberley to look at one more house, I opened the book to re-read last night’s passage, to bolster my confidence before we struck out again - except the book fell open to a different passage: “That they may dwell in a place of their own . . . II Samuel 7:10.

Sure enough, the last place we looked at was great. It’s on about 4-1/2 acres, has a beautiful view, plenty of room – all on one level – a separate studio/workshop – beautiful rock fireplace, real wood accents and a long shaded porch.

It also has major electrical problems, a long list of plumbing issues, a metal roof that leaks and to the best of my memory, no real dining area AND it’s priced far too high. But for some reason, we still like it. Of course, if we can’t get the price down far enough to compensate for the repairs, we’ll have to pass and I’m okay with that. I know now that we’re on a journey but we’re not on it alone.

Tonight, I plan to sleep like a baby.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

. . . and the deal unravels

Today seems surreal. The inspection on the Wimberley house revealed even more serious issues than the Brownwood house had so that deal went out the window, sending us each to our computer to do more home searches.

The inspectors for this house were here this afternoon, along with the realtor and the buyers, so the place was buzzing with folks. Our house passed with flying colors - wouldn't you know it. Then our mortgage broker came over with papers for us to sign for the next house, which looked like a catalog it was so thick. By the time he left and we closed the door, we were drained.

Tomorrow we head out again to look at several more homes. I can hardly wait.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's a done deal . . . :(

It's been less than two weeks since we put our house on the market and gosh dangit - it sold. I thought I was ready to leave it and maybe part of me is but the part that weeps obviously isn't.

I cried when we signed the contract; cried every time we looked at another house and had to leave the realtor's office when we signed the offer on the new place (pictured above) so I wouldn't embarrass us all by leaving tears on the paperwork.

It’s a weird feeling for me. This is what we do and what we've always done. We buy homes, improve them and sell them when the market is right, a process that has afforded us the opportunity to live all over the country. Changing surroundings has been a huge part of what feeds our total creativity and keeps us motivated. We enjoy the joint collaboration of transforming a new place. Truth is, I don't want to lose that sense of adventure because that, it itself, is revitalizing for both of us.

There have been other special places, like Indiana and Reagan Wells but I don't remember feeling this way about leaving those. Mike tends to look at our homes as new canvases, fresh fields to plant with color and stone and stagnant spaces to breathe new life and light into. For me, it's another chapter in a book already filled with adventure and heartfelt memories.

I know it's time to sell this house for a lot of reasons but I am certainly going to miss it. The door frame inside my dressing room has eight of my ten grandchildren’s growth chart penciled on it. They love backing up to the wall, standing tall, tall, then jumping away to see how much they’ve grown (and who they’re catching up to).

The saving grace for me is that I just adore the couple who are buying the place. They have twin 3 year old girls and a 3 month old baby boy and they're going to make some wonderful memories here. (I must confess, however, that secretly I've imagined that for some bizarre reason, their loan falls through and we decide to take the house off the market for another year or so). I don't wish it on them, I just imagine what I would do if that happened. They're way too nice and I like them too much for that.

So, after spending a small fortune in fuel driving around the hill country looking for that perfect "next" house, we've made an offer on one in Wimberley. We rented a place in Wimberley a few years back for about seven months while we were house hunting. Wimberley is a wonderful little bustling art community with Cypress Creek and the Blanco River running through it. It is almost always alive with an atmosphere static with creative enegery fueled by a steady stream of tourists and a variety of cultural and festive activities.

An added bonus for me is the church in Wimberley. I missed going to it after we moved and never found one here that was comparable.

The house we're buying is a diamond in the ruff - typical for us. It's large and has an attached workshop that will become a sculpting studio, a wonderful north facing painting studio and a large office. It sits on cliff overlooking Cypress Creek and has sweeping views of the hill country. Our plan is to take the first six weeks off after we move to gut and remodel what will become the kitchen/great room. Tracy, our contractor, will be there part of the time but Mike and I will do a good portion of the work, which is something we truly enjoy and haven’t had time for in the last two years. I’m sure by the time Vegas rolls around, we’ll be very ready for a break!

I'm starting to feel some excitement about the move but it's going to take some time to get over this place and grow affection for the new one.

At least the house hunting part is over. While it's normally fun, this time it was a chore! The upside was we made a great new friend in Beverly Hohertz in Brownwood, who is hands down the best realtor on the planet!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Faith, Trust and a U-Haul Truck

We finally did it. We put our beautiful home up for sale. The truth is, if it doesn't sell, I won't be heartbroken - even though I'm completely ready to go on to the next chapter, take on the next home improvement challenge and bring new life to a house that's fading into the shadows. I guess its the creative nature in both of us that makes those projects so inviting and so much fun.

If God is ready for us to move on, the pieces will fall into place just as they should. It's always been that way for us and this time will be no different.

Twenty seven years ago, we lived in a crowded stuffy subdivision in Houston. More than anything, Mike wanted to move back to the mountains of Idaho but times were hard. Supporting a family on a secretary's salary and the income from the art we sold was a challenge, to say the least.

One day I came home from work to find Mike working on a HUGE painting. It was 5' x 8' and took up the entire loft wall where he had his studio. We had an art show coming up and he decided if he could sell this huge painting, we'd have the money we needed to move.

He also decided, after working in acrylics for 3 years, to try his hand at oils - on this big painting! For those of you not familiar with the difference, you can basically blow on acrylics and it dries while oils must be mixed precisely right if you want them to dry in less than a week.

The painting was awesome but after 3 weeks, the oils were still not drying which meant we wouldn't be able to take it to the show. It would get destroyed in transport.

Two days before the show, one of Mike's customers came over to preview the art and lo and behold - fell in love with the huge painting. Mike told him the price was $8,900 - and he said SOLD! The look on Mike's face was priceless. As the customer was leaving, he picked out two more paintings bringing the grand total of his purchase to $13,500.

Two weeks later, we delivered all the paintings to the customer's business and collected our check. We stopped on our way home and cashed it, pulled in and reserved a big U-Haul truck and within a week, were on our way to Sandpoint, Idaho, where yet another adventure awaited. Not only did we get the money we needed to move, we had enough to tide us over until we got re-established.

Not in a million years could we have predicted the way God would get us out of Houston . . . and not in a million more could we have known the kind of adventures we were about to have.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Their first place - and ours

Our daughter, Christi and her partner, Tina, signed the papers on their first home last week. They're just thrilled and we're thrilled for them. It's a nice home in a quiet neighborhood in Austin - which is saying a lot because you almost have to be a gazillionaire to afford to buy a house of any kind in Austin these days.

They looked at many homes - oh, thirty or so - and made offers on at least ten but the real estate market in Austin is hotter than ever so each time they made an offer, theirs was just one of many other offers the sellers were considering. Inevetibably they would lose out to a buyer who was willing to pay significantly more than the asking price. It was a long, hard battle but thanks to an innovative real estate agent, they finally "won" one!

Going with them to Home Depot and ReStore, the scrap building supply store run by Habitat, was a toot. They were like kids in a candy store, scrounging through cabinet door knobs, pedasal sinks and light fixtures. They're on a mission to update the place as much as they can afford to in the next couple of weeks while their kids are gone. Something tells me their weekend golfing trips may be replaced with weekend warrior home improvement projects.

I remember the first house Mike and I bought when Christi was about 6 and Staci was 8. It was a very old farm house in the northern most part of Idaho, near Sandpoint. It came with 5 acres and had a barn and a "guesthouse" that was really a travel trailer that was permanently planted about 75' from a railroad track. The weeds were about to take it over when we got there but Mike cleared them out, aired out the old musty tin can and turned it into his first official "studio." He thought he was in high cotton.

The first night we were there, Staci went in to take a bath and when she turned on the tub faucet, mud came out. It seemed there was something seriously wrong with the well casing. After several days and some help from one of our friends who knew a little something about wells, we started getting clearer water but it always came with a little sand.

Later that first night, as Mike and I were just drifting off to sleep, the activity in house picked up. There were mice living in the wall behind our bed and they were apparantly having a hoe-down! I never heard so much racket, running back and forth, even knibbling sounds. I was mortified. Mike had moved me from a nice apartment in Houston to what might as well have been the other side of the earth and there were RODENTS living in the my house! At least in Houston, we only had to deal with cockroaches (though they were almost as big as the Idaho mice).

The next day, Mike went down to the Colburn Store and bought 5 mouse traps. He set them up in the basement and within 3 minutes, they all went off. We spent the next several hours setting the traps, coming upstairs and literally waiting by the basement stairs for a few minutes - Whap, Whap, Whap, until all five had gone off. Mike would trek back down, empty the traps and start over. That went on for several hours. It was gruesome. Eventually, the mice population dwindled but not enough to stop the activity in the wall, just enough to slow it down a little.

At somewhere around 2:00 a.m.every single morning, an Amtrak train came blaring through the intersection on the track in front of our house - the same track the realtor said wasn't in use anymore - and scared Staci out of her bed. She would leap up and run through the house, still unfamiliar to her, screaming for one of us. We took turns catching her as she ran through the dining room.

We were pretty poor but we did decide to do a little remodeling of our own. I'd like to say there were lovely wood floors in the house but the truth is, there were just damaged wood floors under the old, ragged, stinky carpet. We pulled up the carpet and I decided to sand the floors of the dining room so I rented a big, heavy duty, upright sander. It was winter and very dark outside the night we cleared the room to tackle the task. I turned the monster machine on and it immediately threw one of the two electric breakers and there we were in total darkness. Mike fumbled around and found a small flashlight and went to the basement to flip the breaker back on. Suddenly, the lights came on and the heavy sanding monster took off across the floor, dipping and weaving in every direction as I tried to grab it. It was so powerful that when I grabbed the handle, it just took off sideways, dragging me with it, screaming and stumbling. Like a determined bull rider, I hung on, while it veered from one side of the room to the other, dragging me with it all the while. Staci and Christi screamed and ran to another room afraid for their lives. Finally, Mike ran in and pulled the plug from the wall and it was over. We stood there looking at each other for about 10 seconds before we collapsed on the floor, laughing so hard we cried.

It wasn't a perfect place but it was our place and looking back, it made for some wonderfully funny memories. As Christi and Tina relace faucets, paint walls and lay a wood floor in their new place, I do hope they have at least a few of those magical moments that make first places so special.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Days gone by...and Days yet to come

It's the first day of July and I have no idea where June went! Gracious me, time sure flies by these days. Deadlines, road trips, grandbabies and property hunting must have consumed it.

The last few days have been interesting. I got a call from one of my oldest and dearest friends from college. He's struggling with the aftermath of divorce with children and I've spent several hours on the phone with him. Regardless of how bad a marriage is, the finality of divorce is still a foreign feeling and requires a lot of adjusting. It takes a lot of prayer and good portion of time before the road gets smoother.

We're headed back to Brownwood tomorrow - this time with Tracy, our contractor. Before we totally walk away from this place, we decided to get a professional opinion about what kind of potential this place really has. We see the potential thankfully, Tracy can usually see what we see. The difference is, he sees it in real dollars and real time. We're dreamers and always have been. We see a grand old lodge of a house, plenty of room for all our kid and grandkids, space for our artist friends to come stay for a spell and let Mike mentor them as they start their careers and a place where we can sit on the porch in the evenings and listen to the sweet sounds of nature. We also see the perfect place to have an annual Chuckwagon cook-off and cowboy cartoonist show one day. The setting is perfect and it would be great fun for us and the community. I suppose we see another Y-ME Ranch Guest Lodge or Retreat kind of place - provided it doesn't drain us financially, that is.

Sometimes I wonder where we would be without dreams. I could probably live without my hearing and though it would be awfully hard, I could live without my sight. I could even live if I couldn't walk - but if I lost the ability to dream about the future and all the wonderful things to come - well, I just don't know if I could survive that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ah . . . the glories of being self employed

When I tell people we both work at home, they often say, "how wonderful for you!" or "well, it must be nice!” My gosh ,if they only knew!
Years ago I read a quote that said, "The only thing more overrated than being self employed is natural childbirth." How true, how true!

Here it is after 9:00 p.m. and I'm still sitting at this computer, working - and waiting for information from a client so I can finish their business proposal. They informed me this afternoon - LATE this afternoon - that their CFO is coming in tomorrow morning and wants to take a look at the first draft.

This situation isn't all that unusual. A couple of weeks ago I worked late into the night getting artwork ready for a t-shirt company and a few months ago, we spent many hours designing dinnerware for a presentation in Atlanta.

The life of a freelance writer is never dull, that's for sure. The upside is that you really can work in your pajamas and every day is different with new challenges and Heaven knows - all kinds of different topics! Interior designers one day, high tech medical software the next and property rights advocates on a different day - all with a little cowboy humor sprinkled around the edges.

However, I'm making an executive decision today. Whenever possible, I'm going to work a 4 day work week. Yep, I'm taking Fridays off. I'll work Monday through Thursday for as many hours as it takes to get the tasks done and (try to!) take Fridays and the weekends off. I worked a good part of last Saturday evening, all of Sunday and have been steadily at this proposal project for the last two days. It’s a nice thought but I won’t hold my breath.

Besides, I need more time to write the stories I want to write. The stories that feed my soul and crowd my mind - the stories that get backed up in my head until they start to tumble out, like hot popcorn gushing over the kettle at the movie theatre. I have to write them when they present themselves or they'll just drop over the edge and get buried amongst all the other popcorn . . . until I simply can't find them anymore.

Monday, June 26, 2006

New babies and old friends

The miracle of birth never ceases to amaze and thrill me. Kevin and his girlfriend (no they're not married and I can't say they're going to get married but that seems to be the way of the world these days) had a beautiful and perfect little boy last Tuesday. They named him Talon Douglas - the middle name after Mike - and he's just precious. I spent several days with them after the birth, thinking I would jump in there and do the grandmother thing but truthfully, they didn't need me. Mandy is breast feeding so I was no help with midnight feedings and Kevin was waiting anxiously to take Talon afterwards, for his own bonding time. I managed to elbow in and spend a little quality grandmother time in with the new little guy and then headed home on Friday.

I spent Friday night with my sister, Cindy, in Abilene which is always fun. She's a real riot - we always laugh a lot which is a great stress reliever. She's been on weight watchers for about 3 months and is losing down to toothpick size - actually, she looks really good.

On my way home, Saturday morning, I had the good fortune to lunch with Beverly, our realtor in Brownwood, and got to meet her brand new granddaughter, Henslie, cute as a button!

After lunch, I told Beverly that even though we chose not to respond with a counter offer on the Blanket Creek house, we still find ourselves remodeling parts of it in our heads all the time. Our evening Porchtime always seems to drift back to the "what ifs" about that place. We've continued to look for something else but so far, nothing has had the potential and charm of that one. It's funny how a particular piece of property seems to just get a hold on you and won't go away. The damp basement issue . . . is an issue though. I can't help but think that a remedy is out there for that without taking out a second mortgage!

Just because I was gone didn't mean things slowed down here, for sure. Mike's new sculpture is taking shape nicely. It sounds like the installation date might loosen up by a few days which would be nice since there was a real push to have it completed by the third week of August. In the meantime, Leanin' Tree found one more painting they want by the 10th of July and luckily, it's one Mike has really wanted to do anyway so that canvas is prepared and ready to go.

Our contractor friend, Tracy, is using the rest of the rocks we had left from our patio to rock up part of the back side of the house. Our house has a small turret shaped room off the den that gets a lot of high exposure from the sun, which bleaches out the paint. Tracy is rocking over it and it is really looking sharp!

We got a glimpse of the first line of T-shirts being released by Wyoming West Designs and I have to say, they look pretty darned good. The shirts actually come out in the fall so we'll have some at the Cowboy Christmas show in Vegas this year.
The Mountain is also putting out a line of shirts - a larger line - but I'm not sure exactly what their release date is.

Had friends in from Arizona this morning - Kathleen and Ray Schott. She is a firecracker and has some great ideas for turning some of Mike's work into quilted throw pillows so she left armed and ready to tackle that project. I can't quite envision it yet but she's all fired up and plans to bring some samples to the Vegas show so we'll see. They were property shopping down here - looking for a cowboy town. We sent them straight to Bandera!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Lazy summer days

Thank goodness for summer cool fronts! We woke this morning to the sweet melody of rain blended with gentle rolls of thunder that were far enough away to be soothing but not threatening. It was great and Heaven knows we needed the moisture! It was in the high 80's almost all day and the summer breeze quickly cleared up the humidity. All in all, it was just a beautiful day in Texas and we spent every minute enjoying it.

Mike wondered out and took a photo of his table grape arbor. They're ripe early this year but it really doesn't matter. They make the arbor look pretty but the birds enjoy the grapes more than we do. The new vines won't produce any usable fruit for another year or so. It's quite the process but one Mike loves.

The Farmer's Market opened a little late, which was fine. We got what we needed, then went baby shopping for the new grandson we fully expect to be born this week. By the time I leave for Amarillo, I'm going to need a u-haul to take all this stuff up there! We're on the final stretch and very excited about his arrival.

The rest of the day we were basically lazy, lounging on the porch reading, talking to people on the computer and having occasional useless conversations about life in general. It's not something we do very often so it was really nice.

It was an absolutely perfect do nothing day -

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Daddys and daughters . . . Jesus and Guitars

My dad's been gone five years now but I still find myself wanting to call him. Sometimes, I can hear him laughing and often feel his spirit around when I hear a Kris Kristopherson song.

My daddy was special to me but but not in the way most little girls feel about their daddys. He was a musician at heart and a traveling salesman by trade. My parents divorced when I was 12 but they were apart for most of my life so my time with him as a child was very limited.

By the time I was grown, Daddy had developed into a full blown alcoholic and lived with me off and on for over 10 years. When Mike and I moved to Paradise, Montana in the late 80's, Daddy went with us. Once there, he bought a travel trailer and proceeded to make a home for himself in the mountains. In record time, Daddy became one of the tiny town's most colorful and beloved characters. He was a fixture at the Pair-a-Dice Bar where he cooked almost every piece of BBQ they served for the next 12 years.

The folks in Paradise were so fond of him that two years after he died, they held fund raisers to buy him a headstone, something we hadn't been able to afford when he died but always planned to get one day. They got it too. - a huge gray granite headstone with the drawing Mike did of him engraved on it and his favorite saying, "Hello, Darlin'" right underneath it. He would have gotten such a kick out of that!

One of my friends lost her Dad last week. He was a great man too - but much different than mine. He was practically a national icon; a powerful, politically involved man who owned a huge ranch in the Nevada mountains. His memorial service was attended by many well known people and took a week to plan.

We couldn't afford to have my Dad embalmed so his funeral was held within 24 hours after he died. We always laughed about it saying he practically embalmed himself with beer. Besides, there's something icky about the whole embalming process so I don't think he minded.

My friend's heart is hurting now - and I feel sad for her. I've been where she is and it's hard. Little things bring on crying spells, in the grocery store, reading a magazine, cooking dinner, holding the phone realizing you can't call him anymore - all kinds of sneaky situations that catch you by surprise. It's hard but it gets better with time. I miss singing with my dad, nagging him about his drinking and discussing religion with him - but I miss laughing with him the most. Sometimes, we'd laugh so hard we couldn't catch our breath! It was splendid fun.

My daddy died a pauper - no land, no money, no nothing really - just me and my sisters and all his friends in Paradise - but I believe the last fifteen years of his life were by far and away his happiest. We buried him there, in the little Paradise cemetery, in a peaceful plot with a perfect view of the mountains he grew to love so much.

I miss him still but I know he's good now. Just think - in Heaven, Daddy can spend time with Jesus ( and that man loved Jesus!) and won't ever have to hock his guitar again!

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. . .

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Following your gut...

The Brown County property was great and we loved the area. The land was beautiful and the house had great potential - but in the end, we decided that investing the time and money it would take to fix and update the place might not be worth it in the end. That's unusual for us because we usually have great vision, even when faced with water and mildew problems. In this case, however, there were simply too many issues to deal with so we decided not to answer the seller's counter offer but to keep looking. How does one ever know if they made the right decision? Gut feeling, I suppose and for the moment, our guts are okay. We may feel different next week but for now, we're good.

Mike started his sculpture today. At this point it's a flat piece of plywood with pink foam leaning up against it. Tomorrow, the plywood will start to wear the foam board as he builds the armature that will become the second in the Never Alone series. This one is called Forces of Mercy and the central figure is a female soldier coming out of a jungle carrying an injured child. Behind her are all kinds of rescue vehicles and aircraft. It is truly going to be a dynamic piece.

We're both working on major projects at the moment so our days are long but we do manage to steal away for a few hours on the weekends to spend some quality time together and we both look forward to that. Today, Saturday seems far away...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Where did the weekend go?

What a weekend! Saturday was a bust after running errands, finishing the porch painting project and spending a couple of hours getting more images sized and emailed to one of Mike's agent in Virginia - another of those last minute issues that makes me crazy! The day ended well though when a long time family friend who was in the area for a family reunion, came over for a visit. We hadn't seen Barbara in over 25 years though we'd kept in touch via other family members. It was a great visit. She looked great and was just as much fun as we remembered. The visit was just too short.

Today was an eventful day. We went to Brownwood one more time to look at the "house", this time taking Christi and her partner, Tina, with us to get their opinion. Of course, their opinion is weighted by the fact that they don't want us to move that far away. It is so convenient to be only an hour apart now and putting another hour and a half between us does seem a bit much.

They agreed the property was beautiful, though Tina thought the dirt roads bordered on barbaric (remember though, she grew up in Vegas!). They've looked at enough properties with us to see the potential in the house but also recognized the scary things like moisture in the basement and a curious water system that could present problems down the road (that's what home inspectors are for). And then there's the cost of actually updating the house, which is also a concern. BUT, after all was said and done, we made an offer with contingencies. So, we wait and see. If it was meant to be - it will be. If not, we'll keep looking.

Tomorrow, I expect Mike will delve into the sculpture project that will dominate his life for the next 80 days. I've seen him do this before. He will build, research, sculpt, eat, sleep, sculpt. It's a process that engulfs him. If I'm lucky and things move along nicely, he might take a Saturday off here and there but I won't count on it. It's okay, because I have writing projects to finish, a Dallas workshop to plan and several press releases to get out in the next three weeks.

AND, I need to get ahead with my workload because we have another grandbaby due anyday and I want to be able to spend some time with him too. Life is so grand!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Work, Tshirts, patio rocks and loin cloths

Phew, it's been a day. I'm writing a business proposal for a new software company in Austin and this morning I interviewed one of their key executives. Sometimes these interviews can be dull and boring . . . but not this one! It was lively, enthusiastic and full of good information. It was a great, productive two hours.

Bev, the Brown County realtor we're working with, called with answers to many of our questions about the house and most of what she found out was good. We'll go back over tomorrow to take a second look, this time at the critical areas that will determine our decision about going further.

Mike' agents have been busy and have two t-shirt deals working which is a good thing, but one of them wants to move forward at high speed for a third quarter release. That means we have two weeks to finalize twelve designs! Nothing like a little (more) pressure.

We got our patio rocks delivered this afternoon and they're really nice. After over $500 of grass seed in the last two years, we've decided the one area is just a dead zone for grass. We plant it, feed it, water it and it grows just high and green enough to tease us about what a beautiful grassy yard would look like . . . then it dies deader than a door knob. So we finally threw in the towel and decided to lay down slate pavers for a nice patio area in that spot. Looking at that pallet of rocks gives me a wierd feeling of vindicated reward - like we're gonna show that stupid grass seed that costs $35 a bag! Just see what $200 worth of slate feels like. Just try and grow up and die on us now!

Our 6 year old grandson, Calin, is with us for a few days and that's been fun. He's been watching George of the Jungle and Tarzan and tonight he asked me if I could make him a pair of those short things that Tarzan wears. Last year I made him a Batman cape and this year it's a loin cloth. I can hardly wait to see what he wants next summer!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ghosts and goblins ... I'll miss those

Boy, it's obvious we've both got "selling the house" on the brain. We spent the day mowing the grass and painting the fence and the porch - the two latter projects have been on the to-do list for ages but suddenly, we were merrily painting away, visions of moving to the Brown County House spurring us on.

There are still many questions to be answered about that place - like how high was the highest electric bill and have the wells every run out of water, etc. And we still need to make that second trip through to look with a more discerning eye - and not eyes that are totally awestruck. We've learned the hard way that it's always better to make that second trip and play the devil's advocate, asking all the question you hate to ask but know you must and weighing everything equally. We've jumped into home purchases too quickly and ended up with an albatross that made us miserable. It's not a mistake we want to make again.

We'll see what answers we get this week and decide which way to move from there. THEN, comes the big challenge - selling this place. This wonderful old home that has been lovingly restored, to perfection, I might add. Rarely, and I do mean rarely, does anyone come into this home for the first time and not say "Wow, this place is beautiful!" That's something we all hope for when we buy a house - that and finding one that suits us well. We found it here and I've loved it, absolutely loved it.

It's the most beautiful home I've ever owned or lived in and I've been so very proud of it. Even the trick or treaters at Halloween tell me how pretty my house is. Ah, but, it's in the middle of town. Fine for most folks, and actually okay with me, but Mike longs for the quiet and solitude of the countryside.

If we do move, I'll be fine. We can make the Brown County house a showplace, something very special. But it's 15 miles from town. Funny, I'll miss a lot of things but probaby I'll miss the trick or treaters the most. We went through 60 lbs. of candy last year and had a ball. I started buying it in August. Yes, I think I will miss that the most. I just love seeing all those happy, shy, funny little children in their cute costumes. Something tells me Halloween at the Brown County house is very quiet and boring.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Falling in love with the land

As soon as we started down the winding driveway, I could tell we were going to love the house. Our realtor in Brown County Texas was a delightful lady named Bev who has a radiating smile and infectious laugh. She had shown us two houses prior to this one that were nice but just didn't have that zing we were looking for. This one, however, did.

The big old log and brick house sits on 10 very secluded acres of rolling hills and has a year round creek running through it, right next to the house in fact. There are tons of huge mature trees and huge boulders scattered willy nilly around the entrance and in the front yard. And up on one of the hills where the views go on forever, there's a huge in-ground pool with diving boards and a slide that's just begging to be cleaned up and used for summer fun.

The house needs serious updating - all the flooring has to be replaced. The current array of patterned vinyl is pretty unsightly. The kitchen cabinets need to be overhauled and all the walls need to be painted. The ceiling in the kitchen has some wierd figure 8 pattern that will have to go along with the crystal chandelier looking light fixtures. There's a basement that appears to have had a water leak at one time and a rather sloping floor in one of the upstairs bathrooms. Most everything can be fixed okay I think. The most immediate project would be transforming the barn/storage building out back into a sculpting studio for Mike. All it will take is $$$ and there lies the potential problem. Will just have to put a pencil to it I suppose and see where we come out.

It is a most wonderful, quiet, peaceful setting but it is also 20 miles from a grocery store (we'll have to change our buying habits) and that many miles from medical facilities (we'll have to be very careful too). It's also an extra 2 hours from our dear grandchildren in Austin, which is a concern because they're the two closest grandchildren to us and provide us with the "fix" every grandparent needs on a regular basis.

The home we're in now is simply perfect - just the right amount of space, beautifully decorated and updated, charming and comfortable. Its only fault is that it sits right in the middle of town and we really miss living in the country.

We have many questions about the Brown County house, like can we get high speed internet service way out in the boonies. So I suppose we'll pursue the answers and decide whether or not to go for it. It's sort of a scary proposition.

Moving - the very thought of packing up this house makes my stomach hurt - until I look at the wonderful photos we took of the Brown County house. Hmmmm.....have to see how I feel in the morning. I think Mike would have written them a check on the spot if he could have. He loved it!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Brown County - reclaiming the magic . . .

I just know we must be Gypsies. We've lived in so many places in our 30 years together - 8 states and many cities - but we've met some of the most wonderful and interesting people along the way. I wouldn't have missed a single place.

Almost everywhere we went, Mike found new inspiration for paintings or sculpture and often, I found opportunities to fine tune my writing or marketing skills. One of our favorite places on earth is Brown County Indiana. We lived in Nashville, Indiana, for several years and have always cherished those days. We made many lifelong friends there that are still very dear to our hearts.

When we were in Nashville, we opened and ran a small western themed guest lodge. It was the most fun ever! Lots of work but also lots of fun. I think we've been looking to recreate that atmosphere in every place we've moved to since.

It was a wonderous enchanting place with stables, a summer house and three ponds. You know what I mean - the sort of place you read about but never really get to live in. It was truly divine intervention that landed us there and I'm not sure I'll ever understand how we pulled it off because it was way out of our price range. But thanks to a lucky house sale and a creative financing genius, we did.

We boarded horses, had lots of get togethers and even held a huge chuck wagon cookout to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. It was 30 acres of lush green pastures, big red barns and miles of white fences. Simply awesome. Even now, some ten years and five moves later, when we speak of the "ranch," we all know which place we're talking about.

And so tomorrow, we're traveling to another Brown County - this one in Texas - to look at a couple of places we think might have the same potential our old Y-ME Ranch Guest Lodge had. Who knows, maybe we'll find it there or maybe we'll realize we have to just keep looking. I guess as long as we have those magical memories to inspire us, we can enjoy the journey.

I'll take pictures.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

This man killed my fish!

This is my sweet and talented husband, Mike. He's the kindest man alive but yesterday, he filled my koi pond to overflowing and this morning, three of my beautiful fish were floating amongst the lily pads - the victims of over clorination. The other two are missing in action. Oh well, I have to go to Austin tomorrow so I'll pick up five more.

Today was busy - even after discovering the dead bodies in the pond. We've been working on a design concept for a large sculpture commission for over a week now and finally got the go ahead from the Sr. Vice President today. While it will be a fun project for Mike, the timeline is critically short. In order to make the delivery date, he'll have to work overtime all summer. After 30 years together, I can tell you he works better under pressure so I'm really not that worried. The sculpture is a relief piece, out of mixed media, that is going to be awesome. It will depict our soldiers doing humanitarian work. We're both pretty pumped about it. Now I have to get in gear and get some press out about it.

We also finished the POP (point of sale) display design for the new line of figurines scheduled for release in a few weeks. We are very excited about this new line since it's the first new product release since we signed with the licensing agents last year. We've seen the prototypes and they are adorable.

The line is called the Y-ME Ranch Hand series and there's been a helluva lot of work put into getting them ready for market. Neither of us realized what it takes to take a new product from concept to completion - it's a lot! BUT, we had an enormous amount of creative control and that was great! The folks at Westland Giftware have been fabulous to work with. Shortly after the figurines are released, a new line of cowboy mugs is scheduled for release by the same company.

Next on the agenda is nailing down some t-shirt licenses (two in the works) and finishing the writing part of the Y-ME Ranch Handbook in time to get it published before Christmas.

In between those projects, I have two writing projects for clients that will have to be done in the next 30 days. It sounds much more overwhelming than it is.

Sometimes, when I look at our project list I'm amazed at the breadth of topics we cover. I might be writing ranch humor in the morning, heralding an awesome new software later in the day and advising an interior designer about marketing in the afternoon. Talk about different hats!

A typical day for Mike includes tending to his wine making, a hobby he's absolutely passionate about, researching military dress for the new sculpture and touching up a painting of a toothless, laughing woman for the greeting card company.

So when we get together at night for Porch Time, we have lots to discuss!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Living the Creative Life

I am a writer married to an artist, so to say we have an unconventional lifestyle is an understatement. My husband, Mike, has been a full time artist for nearly 30 years. Mike produces humorous paintings for a greeting card company part of the year and life size and larger sculpture for Veteran's groups, private foundations and coporations the rest of the year.

Mike and I are a team. Along with writing and designing Mike's marketing collateral, I also collaborate with him on product designs for his licensing agents, which is frustrating but fun. I have several other clients, mainly creative professionals who can't afford a big ad agency but desperately want to promote their work, who keep my work week diverse. And, when I can squeeze it in, I present half day and full day workshops specifically for my creative friends who, bless their souls, are fantastic at their craft but lousy at selling themselves.

This blog is about our very unconventional, sometimes frustrating but often fascinating daily life as two creative professionals who happen to work together, live together and love together.