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.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wrinkles in my elbows?

That's Calin, one of our seven grandsons. Calin spent a few days with us last week because he had a week between getting out of school and the start up of camp.
It was a great opportunity for some one on one conversation with this seven year old wonder, who like most kids his age, holds nothing back.
One morning he was passing through the kitchen and came across some hand cream I keep on the counter. "Sugar," he asked, "do you put cream on your face to make the wrinkles go away?" Thinking I must be looking too young to be his grandmother, I said, "yes, I do and I think it's working, don't you?" "Yep, I think it is . . . but I think you need to put some on your elbows cause you're gettin' lots of wrinkles there!"
Later that night, I wondered into the living room to put him to bed and found him watching a murder/detective show. As he reluctantly left to go brush his teeth, he announced, "I've never been murdered in my whole life!" "Well, as a matter of fact, you haven't," I said. "Because if you had, we wouldn't be having this conversation." "No, I'm not kidding," he insisted. "In my whole life, I've never been murdered!" Rather than scare him with the realities of murder, I just agreed, kissed him goodnight and thanked the good Lord I am alive and able to enjoy conversations with a 7 year old.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The realities of renovation - crunching the numbers

And so . . . we made the trek over to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where our oldest daughter and her family live to take a look at the grand old house she'd sent us photos of. And believe me, she was a grand lady in her day. A big Spanish style home with a red tile roof and a lovely litle courtyard out front (where the chimney was falling away from the house). Years of neglect have taken their toll and while she's still very much redeemable, the purchase price doesn't support the redeeming.

In the beginning, we made up our minds to forge in, rip and snort and bring everything up to date. It's what we do, what we've done for years and what we love. It's easy to get caught up in the fever of breathing new life into a place until you start looking at the numbers. When the cost to make a house merely inhabitable combined with the purchase price equals an amount greater than the overall value of the property - well, you have to draw the line.

We had to draw the line. As most renovators know, older architecture quite often translates into huge expense when it comes to modernizing an older home; like putting in a central heating and air conditioning unit. Because of the partial flat roof, the cost to add CH/A to this place was nearly $15,000. All new wiring and all new plumbing were another $15,000. Then and only then could we start the new floors, paint, new kitchen, etc. You get the point. We'd be in so far over the value of the property that it just wasn't a good financial decision.

We were so bummed. The owners live out of state and purchased the property as an investment - they're not motivated to sell and since they can't see the deteriorating condition of the home, they're not willing to budge a dollar on their asking price. While we could afford it - it wouldn't be smart so we had to decline.

So with our house sold and scheduled to close on July 30th, we're on the hunt again. We've got our eye on a couple of nice places around here and will take a look at them tomorrow afternoon and Friday morning.

We would have loved to have moved closer to Staci and her family but at the same time, we would have been sad to leave the lush beauty of the hill country. We were deflated for about fifteen minutes; we got a glass of elderberry wine, sat on the big old porch and drank in the beauty that surrounds us here. Then, we were over it and ready to move on.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Renovation of Us - a clear new day

I picked up a book a few weeks ago called "Gringos in Paradise" by Barry Golson. Golson wrote an enchanting article for AARP about the many boomers who are moving to Mexico where their retirement dollars handily provide for a much richer lifestyle in a laid back, climate friendly area. Golson and his wife fell in love with a little village on the Pacific coast of Mexico while doing the research and ended up moving there in their own journey of reinvention.

The book appealed to me because I'd read Golson's AARP article and was intrigued that so many fellow boomers, now in their fifties, were on a quest for a simpler lifestyle, re-inventing themselves, so to speak. It's a topic Mike and I have discussed repeatedly over the last few months.

We've really struggled with finding a new home; one with ample space and at least some character. We're hopelessly addicted to home renovation so if it needed work and the price was right, all the better! However, in our part of Texas, everything in our price range needed a fair amount of work and the price was never all that great. The payments and reno costs were manageable on our income but only if we kept up our current workload so we could afford it long term.

One morning a few weeks ago, our discussion came down to the bottom line. What, exactly, did we each want in a lifestyle. After a contemplative silence, our unrehearsed and candid answers surprised us both. It was an epiphany, of sorts.

We admitted that we wanted a nice home with room for visiting friends and grandchildren sleepovers and one with ample space for each of us to work. But the prospect of taking on another long term mortgage, not to mention the ever escalating Texas property taxes, was daunting. Stifling and stagnating, actually. The more we talked, the more we realized we needed to make a major change in our home search.

We both longed for more time to stretch ourselves creatively and tackle projects we'd stuffed away, shoved to the back burner for lack of time. For instance, Mike has some awesome outdoor sculpture designs that live in his sketch book for lack of time to do them. He's also been dreaming of painting a few oversized, really large paintings and has great ideas for some innovative home decor lines he'd like to develop.

I have all kinds of articles and book ideas shoved to the back of my brain like a squeezed shut accordion just waiting to be released. So many that it would take me a week of frantic pondering to figure out where to start if I actually had a week to ponder.

Mike has written a wonderful children's book, "Gimli," about a young Canadian goose with a broken wing who is cared for by a multitude of delightful farm animals over the winter. It sits waiting for me to edit and for Mike to illustrate - for several years now.

The reality is, right now we must commit to a certain amount of commissioned work in order to pay the mortgage, the utilities and property taxes, which leaves no time for the heartfelt creative work we long to do. Make no mistake - we're both enormously grateful we have the long standing, active contracts that do pay the bulk of the bills. However, what time is left from those commitments ends up dedicated to other jobs, both large and small, to supplement our income.

Suddenly, it seemed so clear to us; we're actively selling ou r house so moving on is a given. But, we don't have to jump right back into the same situation we're in now -a big mortgage and high maintenance house. We started rethinking our strategy and ended up with a major overhaul. A reinventing of us with new priorities . First, we would look for a place with lower property taxes, lower monthly maintenance (payments, insurance and utilities) and something reasonably near family. Because I was raised in a children's home, having a home, not a mansion or a castle, but a nice home is important to me. A fixer upper is fine as long as it can honestly be fixed up!

So okay . . . I think we found it. Or actually, it found us. It's a lovely old Spanish house (which was secretly what I had been hoping for), complete with a red tile roof, a large courtyard, an extra building for a studio and a detached garage. It's been vacant for a few years so it's in dire need of serious fixin' up but that's okay. It's so affordable, we should have enough left over from the sale of our current house to totally gut and renovate this place with very good quality materials. It's 2200 sq. ft with an additional 918 sq. ft. basement (wine cellar) AND even with our modified, conservative housing budget, we can pay it off entirely in 7 years.

We're headed out Tuesday to take a look see in person - and no, it's not in Mexico, but this photo of it sure makes it look that way. We also have photos of the ceiling falling in, the wood floors buckling and a ton of peeling plaster - but I'll save those for a renovation blog post, should this all work out. It's bad but believe it or not, we've renovated much worse.

We're excited - every bit as excited as we were about the Mullin place. And that feels so good.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A new idea for finding Shangri-la

The hut in this painting is looking pretty darned good about now.

After two months of house hunting, we sometimes find ourselves fantasizing about selling everything and moving to a remote little hide-away somewhere. A simple, little cabin in the hills or a hut on a private beach is sounding better every day. I mean, why the heck do we need all this stuff anyway?

Honestly, I think house hunting is about to get the best of us. We keep hoping to stumble onto another Mullin house (the one we lost to another bidder) and frankly, that's going to be hard to do.
In the last two weeks we've looked at two houses we like. One in Wimberley, a wonderful, laid back community with an artsy fartsy energy that we both really like. That place is at the top of our price range and will still need some work to make a studio in the garage, update the kitchen and tone down some of the teal paint. It's also on a smaller lot than we have now but the entire backyard is enclosed with a tall privacy fence. We lived in Wimberley for seven months before we bought this place and we really liked it.
The other house is a little less money and has almost the same square footage but it's on a bigger lot than we have now. It's out in an older, well maintained country neighborhood near Marble Falls, just 10 miles from here. The house reeks of smoke and cat litter boxes but is still quite nice. It would take some new paint and carpet and the studio building there would also have to be insulated and air conditioned. It's an older ranch style home, rock and wood, with nice patios and gardens and very tall pine trees on two sides.
Its a hard call. We love the Wimberley area but we also like the country environment.
I'm seriously thinking of just putting everything in storage for the summer and renting a cabin on a lake or in the trees somewhere - no remodeling, no nesting in, just flitting around from one place to another every month until we find our own Shangri-la. We could stay on a lake in Texas in June, maybe something in the mountains of New Mexico in July and Wyoming in August. Then come back here in September. Of course, with gas prices continuing to skyrocket, it would take all our down payment money to do that much traveling but it would sure be fun.
Maybe we'll realign our priorities and decide all we really need is a little cabin with high speed Internet, a few things to make it look homey and the plasma TV.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

House hunting is for the birds

How cool is this? We forgot to bring this hat in off the porch and a passing swallow or wren decided it looked like a good place to start a family. This picture is from a couple of years ago but it still makes me smile.
In a way, it reminds me of our own hunt for a new home. On Monday, we got a contract on this house; a fine young couple with four little ones from Cedar Park. It's contingient on them selling their home so we probably have a good two months before we have to move. It's a good thing too since A) I just had pretty major surgery and can't lift anything over ten pounds for another four weeks and B) we haven't found a new home yet.
We've looked at quite a few, fromWimberley to Bandera to Brownwood and back to Marble Falls. The one in Marble Falls is in the lead at the moment. It's only about 20 years old - which is young compared to what we usually look at - and has been somewhat abused. It's the product of a divorce settlement and once the split took place, it was left to fin for itself. There are broken windows, curling laminate floors, funky stuff on the ceilings, some brutal black and blue paint and zero landscaping. The reason it's in the lead is because there's a wonderful fishing pond in the front field plus it's just around the corner from a good friend of mine. Did I mention that it needs a LOT of work!
We're still lurking around the real estate sites hoping the perfect place leaps off the page at us soon. We've seen several that were just perfect - but either not in our price range or not in the right location. Oh well, something will come along just in the knick of time - or we'll get warmer on the Marble Falls place.
It's raining again today. We've had one wonderful rainy spring and the vegetation (including our yard) is lush and green and beautiful. I can't remember when the wildflowers were this beautiful. The lakes and ponds and streams and creeks are filling up again and it's glorious.
I just love spring.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Aba Ca Dabra Dabra Do!

Isn't modern medicine a marvel? In less than an hour, I'll leave for the hospital to have a new fangled surgery done that will, in essence, give my insides the equivalent of a face lift.

Seems that no matter how gracefully we approach middle age on the outside, our insides tend to take their own route. And, for women who have borne children . . . well, let's just say that time and gravity pulls stuff down where it needn't be.

But never fear, modern medicine has found a way to open you up, lift everything back where it belongs and tack it up using a new kind of mesh. My doctor assures me that as an active woman, this is the best solution for me. They will simply open me up, pull all my stuff back up where it belongs and tack it to my sacral muscle using this revolutionary, new kind of mesh (that hardly anyone has had a reaction to so far).

I know, it's not a pretty picture, is it? I keep having visions of Mike digging through his tackle box for fishing line and a vinyl patch kit to repair a drooping awning. Of course, Mike uses a lot more gorilla glue for stuff these days so the vision is only fleeting.

Seriously though, wouldn't it be nice if we all had fairy godmother who could just wave her wand over us and everything would leap back into place? And even better would be a virtual PhotoShop fairy godmother who could run her wand around our waists and erase what we didn't want, add a little here, take a bunch away there, fix the bump in our nose and clone in some extra hair on our heads? No scalpels, no stitches - no catheters!

Oh yeah, that would be awesome!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Farewell to a faithful friend...

Today was a tough day for us. We said goodbye to Fester, our beloved cocker spaniel.

It's true what they say, you know. Dogs really are man's best friend, in the truest sense of the word. In the last 14 years, we've had many friends but I'm certain they all saw every flaw we have. Fester never did. He thought we were just great - all the time, everyday. He liked hanging out with us no matter where we were and was always there to greet us when we came home. I know he adored my cooking because except for spinach and brussel sprouts, he'd eat anything I gave him.

Fester was there to toast every grandchild's birth. He watched patiently while we changed diapers, burped babies and put them back in their cribs. Then he climbed up on the nearest high point so he could see inside the crib to watch the baby sleeping. Later, as they grew up, he ate cocoa puffs with them as they watched Saturday morning cartoons and then went fishing with them in the afternoons. At night, he slept soundly (and I mean soundly like in snoring) at the foot of their beds. They crawled on him, pulled his ears, rode him like a pony and dressed him up in funny clothes and he loved every minute of it.

I can't count the number of times people asked us if he and Murphi could have more puppies because they all wanted a dog with just that kind of temperament. For years, Mike and I traveled with Fester and his cohort, Murphi, all over the country. He loved to travel and saw more of this country than most humans do.

Time marches on, however, and it finally took it's toll on Fester. It was one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make. He was dying and we knew it but we kept hoping we could make him more comfortable and everything would be okay. Down deep, however,we knew that wasn't true. We said we'd never let him suffer and today, he was suffering. It was time.

Having one daughter who is a nurse and another in the veterinary industry was a life saver. They both took him to the vet and Christi held him, wrapped in his blanket while he went peacefully to sleep.

I comfort myself with images of Fester - running and playing with children somewhere in Heaven. And I hope the angels have an endless supply of gooey pastries (Fester's favorite!)that they freely hand out to fat, sassy, happy dogs.

Fester touched our lives with absolute unconditional love and forgiving grace and we're infinitely better people as a result.

Someday, we may get another cocker spaniel but we'll never find another Fester. He was one special little buddy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Porch side seat to the Marshall Tucker Band

It figures. We had been so sure (and so ready to make an offer) on the neat old house in Bandera. It had most of the things we were looking for and what it didn't have, we could add. So away we went yesterday with every intention of sealing the deal.

We're not home inspectors but after all the money we've invested in them, we're pretty danged close. As we walked through the house one last time, Mike ran water in the bathtub - which took a very long time to drain. Not a big deal - that can be fixed. He ran water in the kitchen sink to check that drain and discovered it drains fine - right outside the kitchen window. A new pipe had been routed through the cinder block wall so it runs along the side of the house at about waist level, wraps around the corner of the house and deposits itself on the ground just by the driveway. Weird, especially since there's a septic tank right there. Still, that too could be dealt with.

Next, we ran down the the breaker box. We found it. Not good. Not good at all. In fact, if it is indeed, the main box for the entire house, it would take almost half our remodeling budget to rewire the place, which would pretty much eliminate either the kitchen or the master bath project.

As we stood out in the front yard discussing the issues, we realized we were raising our voices to be heard over the noise traveling up the creek canyon from Highway 16. We could hear motorcycles and 18 wheelers speeding up as they headed out of town. It was pretty loud.

The backside of the house has a beautiful pastoral view of horses grazing near an old barn and just beyond that, the lights of downtown Bandera. We asked the realtor if she thought the noise from the community's many cowboy festivals and parades would echo as much as the traffic did. Her reply was, "I'm not sure but this would be a good weekend to find out. We have a huge bike rally coming to town because the Marshall Tucker band is playing at the new outdoor amphitheatre downtown."

No offense to Marshall Tucker (I was a huge fan back in the day) or to the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. In fact, if we move to Bandera, I'm sure we'll shuffle across the dance floor a few times since they have some of our favorite entertainers booked there. However, when it's time to go home, it's time to go home and if the concert is in your backyard, that could be a problem.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's all about porches

The first thing that captured us about the house we live in now was the porch. It's a lovely lazy wraparound porch that spans the full length of the house and is deep enough to hold all kinds of porch seating. Two dirty white ceiling fans with blades gracefully bent from Texas humidity provide the ambiance of a summer breeze when the air is thick and hot and vintage light fixtures cast a sultry romantic glow in the night hours.

It will come as no surprise then that as we search for our next home, finding one with the right porch was imperative. After months of looking and having survived a serious letdown with what we thought was the perfect property, we came across just the right porch.

The porch is in Bandera, and is attached to an old Mediterranean style home with lots of vintage windows, wood floors and a view that looks out over a creek and the town of Bandera. It sorta reminds me of something you would find in the south of France or in San Miguel, Mexico. You might not be able to see it from this photo but it's there.

Moving to Bandera would be a little like going home. I "grew up" not far from there, at Medina Children's Home which is about 16 miles away and I graduated from the Medina High School (I was even Homecoming Queen!). Mike has always loved Bandera and when his Wyoming buddies come to visit, that's the one place they always want to visit. It must be something about the Cowboy feeling the town exudes.

Since moving back to Texas in 1999, we've looked many times for a home in Bandera but have never found anything that suited us . . . until now. The possibility of moving back seems almost natural to me.

I've been to a couple of high school reunions and discovered that several of my old classmates and roommates have also moved back to the area, too. What fun it would be to have the Bakers over for dinner some 40 years after we all lived together at the children's home. I wonder if Della remembers the night we helped hoist a girl we didn't like over the fence so she could run away. She was caught about 14 minutes later and we all got in deep doo.

Or those late nights just before Christmas when we put Della, who was really tiny, in the laundry bin. Then we'd sneak the gifts from our sponsors out from under the tree and slip them to her to carefully open. If there was money inside, we took it out because if we found it on Christmas morning, we had to turn it over to the houseparents. Della was a real pro at re-wrapping.

This particular house is going to need a lot of work. We will rearrange rooms, create a modern kitchen in the center of the house and bring the laundry room inside to where the kitchen is now; turn the small 3rd bedroom into a master bath and build a pergola along the entire backside of the house to take advantage of the view. The front of the property will become a small, personal vineyard and a privacy fence will define the front yard. Yep, it will be tons of work but that's the part that excites us the most.

And everyday, when we've finished with our work, we'll meet on this fabulous porch and plan our tomorrows . . . and maybe share a glass of wine with our neighbors, one of whom, I understand, is a budding author. Or maybe we'll just sit and share stories with the Bakers, our Wyoming friends or whoever else ambles in.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Meet Scribble Boy

One of Staci's four year old twins, Creed, came home from preschool a little downhearted last night. When Staci asked them how school was, Creed replied, "Not so good." He explained. "My teacher told us to color but we had to color in the lines and I just like to scribble."

Amused, Staci tried convincing the little guy that sometimes it's more important to follow instructions than to do what we want to do. Of course, the four year old couldn't let it lie. "But I just like to scribble and it's my picture!" he demanded. "But, your teacher is trying to teach you, Creed -, so stay in the lines on the picture you're doing for her and then scribble all you want on your own stuff at home."

I had to laugh when Staci told me the story. Scribble boy and I have a lot in common. If I was going to have to stay in the lines, I was going to make new lines. Even subtle new lines would make my picture different enough to satisfy my own creative need. I can't say that approach really worked all that well for me in school because back then, defying authority in school would get your butt whipped, sometimes both at school and again at home. And I lived in a children's home where the lines were embedded in stone and nothing outside of them was ever, ever tolerated.

Once out on my own, I discovered that just as often as not, coloring outside the lines, even drawing new lines served me well. With time, I learned to better calculate the risks, deal with the results and learn from the experiences. It took me half a lifetime to embrace that particular quality about myself and realize it was a very important part of who I am. Only then did I find my true creative core and learn to enjoy it.

I'm sure scribble boy will do fine because he's a strong minded little dude and schools are so much better these days about nurturing the creative child. I reckon as I grow into my golden years and my vision begins to fade, I'll be very happy. I may not be able to see where the lines are anymore so I can just scribble away!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our perfect plan vs. His perfect plan

Yesterday was a stressful day around here. Our friend and realtor called to say another offer had been presented and accepted on the property we so wanted in Mullin. We knew it was a possibility because our contract had a contingency attached - that we must first sell our existing home before we could close on the new place. That's certainly not an uncommon practice, especially these days. But it does create a problem when another offer comes in that doesn't have a contingency.

It was sad news. In the last few months, we've redesigned that house a hundred times and a hundred ways. Moved the staircase, rebuilt the kitchen, shopped for ceiling fans - all that fun stuff that makes your heart swell with excitement.

We've walked the land in person but mostly in our dreams, planting grape vines, taking grandsons fishing and relaxing on the porch at the end of a busy day. We were so sure it was where we'd spend the next many years.

It broke my heart when Bev called with the news but I had to admit that if I were the seller, I'd have made the same decision. They are going through their own pain and heartache with a family member who is dying from cancer and they desperately need to get this sale done and out of the way. How selfish I felt for thinking my heartache even remotely compared to theirs.

Last night, before I went to sleep, I read this (with a small edit of my own) in a Guideposts Daily Devotion book:

"Father, may I not doubt Your ability to answer my deepest prayers in Your way, in Your time and for Your purposes." (My insertion:"in Your time.") His plan, whatever it is or wherever it takes us - is always perfect.

By the way - the cloud formation in the photo today is one we took in 2003 when we went on a cruise up the Mississippi on the Mississippi Queen. Is that awesome or what?? Proof positive that God is the master artist.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The second round - Chasing a Dream

Okay, so here' s the deal. Mike wants to grow grapes so he can try his hand at making some "estate" wine and that requires more land than we have here. Plus it needs to have some type of water nearby, like a creek or a pond.

Last year, we started scouting around for a suitable piece of property in the hill country; something within an hour or so from where we are now. After looking at dozens of properties in Wimberley, Bandera and Lampasas areas, we saw an ad for a place in Mullin, near Brownwood. A few phone calls later, we had an appointment to see it plus a couple of others in that area. But, when our realtor (and now good friend), Beverly, pulled up to the gate, we knew this was it - even though we couldn't see the house from the road.

At the end of the winding driveway sat a very large barn style log and brick house that had been painted white. The house was vacant except for scads of house spiders and a swarm of gigantic bee looking things that weren't too thrilled to see us. Blanket Creek runs on the far side of the yard - just within eyeshot of the porch.

The place needed lots and lots of work but we didn't care. We thought it was perfect. Long story short - we made an offer, had a contract - then had an inspection. After much discussion, we decided the place needed too much work so we withdrew our offer and resumed our search. The problem was, nothing we've looked at since could compare to the house on Blanket Creek. We were always going back to our photos of this place and wondering why we walked away.

So, some eight months later, we were elated to find the place still available and this time, we're going for it. The owner has done a few major repairs, based on our inspection, which is good. However, just as we were preparing to make an offer, several other potential buyers found our little piece of paradise so there were other offers on the table. So, we made our offer more attractive by agreeing to take the place "as is" and do the majority of the work ourselves. After several anxious days, we finally got word that our offer was accepted. We know what we're up against - pretty much - and we're as ready as we'll ever be to tackle this thing.

Our kids think we're just bored and don't realize how much work we're getting into and the truth is, they're probably right. But they also know we're not happy without a challenge to keep us inspired and physically busy. This place has a host of challenges that will have us using muscles we haven't heard from in years.

We think it will be grand fun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Designed to sell - almost!

Getting your house ready to put on the market is pretty much a full time job, for crying out loud. I need a maid, a gardner, a house painter and oh, a cook would be nice too. Fortunately for us, we only work a few feet away from the house so we're sort of blending our daily work and fixup schedule.

I can' believe we've done this so many times before and often with me working away from home plus managing kids, dogs and sometimes horses, all at the same time. How in Heaven's name did we do that? And this house is in pristine shape compared to most of the other homes we've sold.

We've lived in this wonderful home for over three years, quite happily, I might add. I love it and have taken great pride in the care and outdoor dressing we've given it. In fact, the latest "improvement" is rather unusual.
When the giant elm tree in our side yard was struck by lightening, it started falling toward the driveway, almost exactly where everyone visiting us parks their cars. The tree had a large rock flower bed around the base. When the tree was gone, Mike and his friend/partner in crime, Tracy, decided it would make a nice fountain. Three months, a load of rocks, and many porchtime wine-sipping design sessions later, we had an 18' round limestone fountain that would do any federal building proud. I'm serious. It even has lights in it at night. It's awesome - a teeny bit out of place perhaps - but oh what fine craftsmanship! Now the challenge is to bring in enough landscaping to make it look like it's part of the overall theme. I put seven koi in there that will eventually be as long as one of Kevin's size 13 shoes. The birds are ecstatic. They think they've died and gone to the Washington DC.

We are very excited about our new adventure (more on that later) so we're forging ahead to get this house ready to sell, a task that has evolved into an obsessive compulsion for both of us. There's the little paint touch up here that leads to even more touch up there which means multiple trips to the hardware store for matching paint (an experience I loathe and so do most of the clerks mixing the paint, I've noticed). Scrubbing baseboards, teetering on stepstools to swish the cobwebs off the vaulted ceilings, (bobbing all the time to avoid falling spiders which is a cartoon it itself) and renting what looks like an iron lung to clean the carpets.

AND, cleaning the carpets worked so well in the house, maybe we should drag the machine out to the studio and clean the rugs in our offices. How insane is that? Mike's rugs are in a working studio! He CUTS WOOD in there so there's sawdust in those rugs. Think about it. A mere vacuuming would be just fine but the urge to clean a corner to see just how dirty they are is too great. Damn. The corner looks good. Have to do the whole rug.
Then there's the whole spring thing. The huge trees that gracefully embrace this home are naked right now. So, we're thinking a few annual flowers might dress it up some. Oh, if only we could go to the nursery at Home Depot and just grab a few petunias - not going to happen in this lifetime. By the time we get to the checkout counter, we've got three nice flats of petunias, a few creeping junipers, a couple of shrubs to replace the pine trees we moved and several brightly colored geraniums we were sure we could find a good place for.
I'm thinking around the federal building fountain might be good.
Just in case a potential buyer is lurking in here . . . I've posted a page about our house. You can read more about it here:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Laughing horses, peach blossoms and big old dreams!

Good grief, I’m terrible at keeping this blog current! Let me see . . . what’s been going on around here. . . besides spring trying to pop out everywhere! The peach trees and red buds are days away from being in full bloom. Yippee!

Mike just finished producing twelve illustrations for a wonderful project in Phoenix called "Reflections" for a great company called Healing Reigns. Meloney Nunez is a equine assisted therapist who founded and owns the company and she came up with the idea to create a feelings chart featuring a lovable stable horse she named Dakota. We met with Meloney on our way home from Vegas last December and once we heard her plan, we were in with both feet!

Meloney and her young son, Skyler, have started a non-profit called Chance’s Fund which will be usedto pay for rescuing abandoned and neglected horses and to provide scholarships for troubled teens whose families can’t afford equine therapy. Part of the Reflections poster sales will be go to the fund. It was a project right down our alley so Mike did the illustrations for free and they are absolutely adorable! Check out the new Reflections poster (a feelings chart as seen through the eyes of a horse) at Go there and buy one. The poster is way cool and you’ll be helping a very good cause!

Along with the twelve illustrations, Mike also finished six new paintings for Leanin’ Tree and we’re working on a new veteran’s memorial sculpture proposal that’s due next month. Never a dull moment around here.

And Happy Birthday to Mike! He turned 58 yesterday though he's always looked younger than he is. It wouldn't matter to me as I still see the same tall, gorgeous cowboy I met over 30 years ago in Houston’s Winchester Club. He and his redheaded friend, Lee Mack, were holding up the jukebox and flirting with all the girls that walked by. They thought they were pretty cool – and they were.

As you may have guessed, we nixed the whole coffee shop/store idea after many long nights with the calculator and the advice of several friends. The idea was good – the location was not and there was simply no getting around that. However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t chasing other dreams because we are. They’re big, wonderful fun dreams that we have no business even considering at this stage in our lives but if not now – then when??
And even if they don’t come to fruition, the joy we’ve had planning and dreaming them will have been well worth the journey. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Snow Day!

Well, winter finally found us. It was a brutal attack of ice and snow that closed roads, schools and businesses for three days. The ice is what really kept us at home. The snow was just a bonus treat for the kids.

There was plenty of warning about the approaching storm so we were prepared. You know, with things like chili meat, popcorn and hot cocoa mix. Oh yeah, and a few extra batteries for the flashlight, just in case. It was a perfect time to flip through gardening magazines, watch some HGTV or read a good book.

We spent one whole day in our sleep shirts, sweat pants and sock feet. With a fine blaze in the fireplace (it’s gas so it was painless), a yummy pot of Chicken Tortilla soup and popcorn backup, we snuggled on the sofa and had our own little movie marathon.

I know what you’re thinking. But you WORK AT HOME! You’re right, but one of the advantages of working for yourself is being able to look outside and marvel at God’s grand handiwork and declare it "Snow Day." Everyone needs at least one Snow Day to stop and do absolutely nothing, even work at home artists and writers.

We toyed with working but took one look at the icy path to our studios and decided nah, why risk our lives crossing the icy driveway - it's definitely a bonified, qualified Snow Day.

It was awesome - almost as nice as Christmas.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dieting stinks

So, here it is, the middle of January already and I haven't managed to lose a single pound. What's up with that?

I cut out the daily gi-normous cookie with the milk chocolate coating on the bottom as soon as the holidays were officially over. I've only had one order of french fries and it was a small order. No more buttered rolls or pumpkin pie. hmmmm.... Maybe it's the chips and salsa I still indulge in every now and then or maybe that extra glass of wine with dinner.

Of course, it could be the exercise program I'm not on that's the culprit. Or the gym membership I paid for three weeks ago and have yet to use. It's time to get serious though because next month, we're expecting several visits from out of state friends - and they're all disgustingly thin.

I reckon it's time to hunker down and get serious about getting in shape. Does anyone know if they make a patch for chips and salsa addiction? It would make losing weight a whole lot easier for me!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ah, another chapter begins. . .

Good grief, what has it been . . . almost two months since I updated this blog?? Okay, for one of my 2007 resolutions, I vow to try to update our blog at least twice a week. And I thought I could write a regular column! hmmmm....

Spending nearly three weeks in Vegas for the Cowboy Christmas show took a huge chunk out of our lives. Then we got home and hit the ground running getting ready for Christmas with all the kids coming in. We had a steady stream of people from the 23rd to the 31st and while it was absolutely fabulous, I have to say getting back into the mainstream has been something of a relief!

The Vegas show was really great this year - better than ever, in fact. It's success is largely because of a rather tasteless painting Mike did of a drunk cowboy standing at the urinal and missing it completely. We sold more of that one poster than all the others combined by about 5 times! I have to admit - it's pretty funny. PLUS, that painting took the People's Choice Award and the CCI Peer Award so there you go. As humans, we can find humor in self humiliation.

Mike has new wine making, new paintings on the easel and some surprising new sculpture projects going. I'm working with two new marketing clients and will be introducing a new website this month along with a fresh look for Mike's site -so stay posted. 2007 is going to be one heck of a year!