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 . . .