Strange summer, and where did it go?

School has started. It’s been the wettest year on record in Austin. Everything is a bit out of sorts, and our odd summer is behind us.

The best news is how different life is after a year with the granddaughter. She’s happier, more confident, more fun and much more cooperative. We laugh more than we yell, for which I am grateful.

Chloe had a week of art camp at her school, then Girl Scout camp on Lake Travis, South Padre Island with relatives, and we took both grandchildren to north-central Arkansas.

For our 20th anniversary at the end of May we visited friends in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, then headed northeast to Hot Springs and Fayetteville, Arkansas. We “took the waters” in Hot Springs at the one bathhouse still open, Buckstaff, in the same manner as it was done 100 years ago: bubbly hot mineral water, hot-towel wrap, steam bath, sitz bath, needle shower, all the while drinking the natural mineral water the area is famous for. If I lived there I do it once a month.

Stained glass ceiling in Buckstaff Baths, Hot Springs

Stained glass ceiling in Buckstaff Baths, Hot Springs

We also discovered the most beautiful gardens near Hot Springs, Garvan Woodland Gardens, with a fairy garden, meditation spots, art installations and breathtaking blooming hydrangeas. It was a perfect way to celebrate our anniversary.

garden water fall

Meditation spots


Garvan beautiful


Garvan bell tower sunny

Fay Jones bell tower (He was the patron saint of Arkansas architecture, and is best known for his design of Thorncrowne Chapel, near Eureka Springs.)


Garvan hydrangeas





Garvan fairyland 3

Garvan fairyland 6


After a long, wet drive through the Ozark National Forest, we spent a couple of pleasant days in Fayetteville. The Botanic Garden of the Ozarks also boasted hydrangeas, as well as poppies, nasturtiums and whimsical sculptures.

Jill BGO

Me at lily pond in the Botanic Garden of the Ozarks

Lily pond

pink foxglove closeup


kids on bench sculpture

We had to ask a worker to remove his jacket from the bench to take the picture.

boy handstand sculpture



I love poppies

I love poppies

We visited the downtown Farmers’ Market, the bookstore that goes on forever (Dickson Street Bookshop), ate great Mediterranean food at Emelia’s Kitchen, walked around the U of A campus, and toured the very odd Terra Studios, with even more whimsical sculptures and art, plus the ubiquitous glass bluebirds of happiness, made on site, cranked out all day long by some poor glassblower.

U of A clock tower

U of A clock tower. The campus is in the heart of downtown Fayetteville.

Another work by Fay Jones, who established the school of architecture at the U of A.

Another work by Fay Jones, who established the school of architecture at the U of A.


Terra wall

Terra Studios

Terra sculpture wall

Terra entrance

Bluebirds of happiness

Glass bluebirds of happiness, which are sold by the gazillion and apparently what keep Terra Studios running.

Wanting a more woodsy getaway, we booked a cabin on the Little Buffalo River in July and took both grandchildren. The Ozarks are incredibly beautiful and we had some good hikes. We spent a morning touring Mystic Cave and Crystal Cave. (I learned after we returned, I did all this with a broken toe. On July 17, playing with Chloe in the condo pool, I kicked against her and hurt my toe. After we returned from Arkansas–two weeks later–I had it x-rayed and found out it was broken. With proper care it’s almost healed.)

Our "cabin," Arkansas House, in Jasper.

Our “cabin,” Arkansas House, in Jasper.


Exterior of the Museum of Junk in Jasper

Exterior of the Museum of Junk in Jasper


Beautiful Ozark woods

Beautiful Ozark woods


Gary, Chloe at swimming hole

Gary and Chloe at our swimming hole on the Little Buffalo River

Chloe in Jacuzzi

The kids discovered the combo of shampoo and a Jacuzzi in the cabin.

The kids discovered the combo of shampoo and a Jacuzzi in the cabin. (Chloe above, Bryan below)


Bryan's head above water

Bryan’s head above water


Standing in the drips at Natural Bridge cave.

Me standing in the drips after a hot hike to Natural Bridge cave.

Mystic cave pool

Mystic cave 10


Mystic and Crystal caves

Mystic and Crystal caves (the “squid.”)

Iconic Arkansas image, Hawksbill

Iconic Arkansas image, Hawksbill

Now we’re getting back into the rhythm of early rising, dog walks after taking Chloe to school, and dedicated art days for me. I have paintings and other projects that have been dormant all summer.

I’m also singing the Mozart Requiem Undead with Panoramic Voices and Room Full of Teeth. Performance is Friday, September 16 at Bass Concert Hall in Austin. So the next few weeks will be crunch time with lots of rehearsals. The world premiere was in April, 2014, and was spectacular. Tickets are going fast and it will probably sell out. Don’t miss it!


Of Lost Items and Burning Beds

The fact that I keep losing things–keys, shopping lists, mail, phone, glasses–I attribute to the distractions of being a parenting grandma. But nearly setting Chloe’s bed on fire rests solely on me.

It wasn’t even forgetfulness or lack of mindfulness. I knew the iron was on the bed.

After stitching around the edge of a piece of needlework, I decided it needed pressing. When I iron a single piece, rather than drag the ironing board out I use the nearest bed. I plugged it in, rested it on Chloe’s bed, and while waiting for it to heat up popped into her bathroom, telling myself the whole time to remember the iron was on the bed in case I got distracted or interrupted. By the time I stepped back into the room–no more than half a minute and 10 feet–I could smell it. The iron burned through the sheet and left an impression on the mattress pad.

Sheet with iron-shaped hole.

Sheet with iron-shaped hole

Mattress pad with sheet imprint

Mattress pad with sheet imprint






I went to Target to get a new pad and bottom sheet, knowing they sell open stock linens, and of all the colors that would have gone nicely with the remaining bedding–aqua, pale blue, yellow or paprika–Chloe chose gray. I still can’t bear to look at it, an ugly reminder of my stupidity, but she likes the gray, and maybe the reminder is not such a bad idea.

New gray bottom sheet, which I hate.

New gray bottom sheet, which I hate.

In my defense: the printed sheets, purchased at JC Penney, are a polyester/cotton blend. They’re soft and silky and comfortable, but I strongly suspect if it had been cotton it wouldn’t have burned through so quickly.

Let’s Do It In The Road

I almost never reblog but Nancy hit another home run and I want to share this with more people.


Not literally of course.

But this week, I read yet another article about things you should not do in public. Obvious stuff – like texting in a restaurant, letting your kids run wild in the grocery store, talking loudly at the movies.

I agreed with everything on the list.

But I thought it was a shame that all I read and hear is about the shit you shouldn’t do in public.

Someone should compile a list of shit you really should do in public.

I think it should be me.

Here’s a start:

Talk to strangers.  OK, so maybe not if you are eight. But adult to adult? My husband always talks to the people in front and behind him in line at the supermarket. And everywhere really – at the post office, at the bank, at the gas pump. You know what he gets out of it? All…

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And My Little Dog Too?

I’ve been over-committed much of my life. When my kids were small I did room mother, PTA, neighborhood association, League of Women Voters and sang in the Springfield (VA) Community Chorale, now known as the Northern Virginia Chorale.

Now that I have a school-age grandchild, guess what: PTA and school events, condo board, church board, and I sing in Texas Choral Consort (however, for only one program this year, the Mozart Requiem Undead on September 16.)

Yet I consider myself an introvert and crave time for my art and craft work–painting, making postcards, knitting, stitching, as well as always being behind on my desired reading, journaling and movie-watching.

But if I have more than a day or two of unexpected “free” time I get restless. Obviously I need to find a balance between “doing” and “being.”

The last couple of weeks of the school year are especially nutty. There are a several occasions that I need to be two or three places at once and I’ll have to split the time in order to cover everything. Oh, and my birthday is this week and one of the busiest days. This is what it looks like:


Chloe added the birthday greeting to the dry-erase board.

Chloe added the birthday greeting to the dry-erase board.

I’m working with a therapist to figure out this apparent need to be needed, to lower my stress and increase satisfaction with my life.

Our dog Junior is so sweet and gentle that someone recently suggested he’d make a great therapy dog. And he would–he never barks, never shows aggression and senses when someone needs to sit quietly and stroke him. He’s the most loving and well-behaved dog I’ve ever had.

So I looked into therapy dog certification, which takes both time and money just to get certified, not to mention the commitment to provide the service (as a volunteer) once he’s certified.

Then I decided not to turn Junior into a furry version of me, and just let him be his sweet self.

He's perfect just as he is.

He’s perfect just as he is.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Junior face

Can’t Believe I Pulled This Off

People often tell me I’m a hero for what I’m doing with my granddaughter. I don’t feel heroic; I’m just doing what needs to be done and grateful I have the wherewithal to do so.

But yesterday was so above and beyond I’m a little stunned myself.

We had planned for weeks to have a smaller dinner party last night. Chloe was going to go to her mom’s, but she wanted to stay and we agreed if she (a) helped and (b) was unobtrusive.

I planned to make Rachael Ray’s chicken thighs marinated in red wine, and had the chicken in the marinade Friday night.

I had a brunch to attend Saturday morning. When I left Chloe with Gary, she said she had a headache and was back in bed. I thought maybe she was tired because she was up at 5:30 a.m. I went to the brunch, which was lovely. It was a member appreciation event for KMFA classical radio. There were mimosas, crepes, flowers on all the tables, a panel Q&A with the announcers, and a short recital by a pianist who was quite the showman, Michael Schneider. I chatted with some people I knew afterwards and headed home.

I could hear Gary talking to Chloe as I walked toward the front door: “Can you make it to the bathroom? Here comes Grandma,” and as I walked in the door she threw up all over the bedroom floor.

I gave her sips of ginger ale and coke, which she kept throwing up, and she had a 102F fever; before the day was over diarrhea hit. About 1 o’clock I told Gary we should postpone the dinner, for obvious reasons, but also because I didn’t want to expose our guests to whatever she had. One in particular has had severe digestive problems and this was the last thing she’d need!

He agreed and made the calls, asking for callbacks to confirm. One couple did so, but he didn’t hear back from the others.

Wondering if these folks might show up, and needing to cook the chicken anyway, I proceeded on the notion that we may still have guests. The house was fairly picked up, but I hadn’t set the table. I had on shorts and a t-shirt, but at least I had on makeup since I had gone to brunch.

As 6:30 neared and still no word, I started fixing kale to go with the meal, not knowing how much to prepare. At about 6:40 the phone rang at the gate and Gary went out to greet them and explain the situation. I told him to make sure it was their choice to come or go, and scrambled around clearing up clutter and putting (thankfully clean) place mates and silverware on the table, telling myself “be gracious no matter what, be gracious,” but feeling very ungracious after spending the afternoon caring for a sick child.

The guy hadn’t looked at his phone all day. When he pulled it out, sure enough there were two voice mails and a text from Gary. We didn’t have their home number. How anyone could not look at their phone all day long, especially when you have dinner plans, is a mystery. They did repeatedly insist they would be happy to reschedule. I said they needed to help us eat up the food and, after pouring some wine I went back to tearing up kale, putting it and bread in the oven. (The recipe calls for cooking the chicken on bread but I’ve made it on a bed of brown rice and I like it better, and serve bread on the side. Problem was, it had been awhile and I couldn’t remember how I prepared the rice, so it was a little soupy, but as my mother used to say, “it’ll eat.”) Chloe went into the bedroom with headphones and a laptop.

It turned out to be a pleasant evening. I liked the couple very much. Gary plays golf with the man, and he discovered they met the other couple, old friends of ours, on a cruise, so he had cooked up this sort of “reunion.” The woman was very kind, and when the guys were talking golf and she asked if she could do anything to help, I said “No, but come and chat with me while I finish up,” and we got to know each other a bit. She is a former teacher, and he, I learned, was born in the Soviet Union, both topics for further inquiry. They loved Junior, which makes them fine in my book.

When I checked on Chloe during the evening she was asleep with headphones on. I did slip out for a few moments while the others visited because the poor neglected dog hadn’t been out since about 3 p.m.

We’re going to try scheduling a lunch next time and hope we can get all six of us together, with all our travel schedules and responsibilities.

After they left, Gary and I cleaned up (and I took the dog out again). I put a futon mattress on the floor next to Chloe. She was up all night with diarrhea, but I got nap this afternoon. Chloe’s fever is down and she’s eaten a bit today. I’ve changed the sheets, and both the washer and dryer are full. I just realized I haven’t showered since Friday afternoon so that’s next on my agenda. After I walk the dog.

I will consider that medal now.

I even remembered to put flowers on the table.

I even remembered to put flowers on the table.

Leaps forward, hops back

Short update on granny parenting: It gets easier, it gets harder, we make progress and we fall back.

The school counselor and Chloe’s teacher give me good reports. We’re doing better with sleep and getting to school on time. The therapist is helping a lot with dietary advice and supplements. Chloe is making friends and seems more confident and happy.

Overall I’m optimistic that we’re on the right track. But it’s still a struggle; I’m often irritable and exhausted and Chloe gives way to much lip (although probably not an unusual amount for a smart 9-year-old girl).

I could ramble on for a while about how hard this school year has been, but y’all already know that. So I’ll just post a few photos and say that we have registered her for school here next year, and I’m going to be secretary of the PTA board, which I think will be a manageable way for me to be involved, get to know school staff and other parents, and keep up with what’s going on at the school.

Chloe’s doing art camp the first week after school gets out, which should be fun because she loves the art teacher. After that summer’s open–time with other family members, exploring the nearby creek, and lots and lots of pool time.

Chloe and friend, first pool day of 2016 (April 20).

Chloe and friend, first pool day of 2016 (April 20).

With our beloved dog, Junior, acquired in October as a rescue.

With our beautiful blue heeler, Junior, acquired in October as a rescue.

Junior enjoying Chloe's blankie.

Junior enjoying Chloe’s blankie and his favorite toy, a ball. He goes berserk for any kind of ball.

She loves manga, anime and fantasy. Sometimes she's a witch, sometimes a werewolf.

She loves manga, anime and fantasy. Sometimes she’s a witch, sometimes a werewolf.

Unnecessary Losses

Debit card, driver’s license (twice), shopping list, wedding ring. What do these things have in common?

All have been lost in the past seven months, since my granny-parenting gig began, which has apparently affected some of my cognitive abilities, or at least my ability to focus.

I left the debit card at the grocery store, which, thank heavens, had it in their safe when I called the next day, with no unauthorized charges. I remember checking out that day with Chloe wanting to buy something frivolous (with her own money), then informing me she needed to go to the restroom as we checked out.

The driver’s license, which I lost the first time on a walk in the park near Chloe’s school, was returned to me by mail a few days later, but in the meantime I had gone to the DPS office and requested a new one. Probably for the best, because the old photo was at least 15 years old.

This was helpful when I lost it the second time, in line for primary voting, because the person who found it went through the line looking for the person in the picture.

I know exactly where the shopping list was lost: in the restroom at Spec’s liquor. It happened to be a very complicated list with many, many items, plus a $3 coupon for probiotics tucked into it. I wasn’t about to go back to Spec’s when I got to the grocery store, so I relied on the mere fact of having made out a list to shop by memory, managing to remember all but a few items (showing I do still have some brain cells). One forgotten item was a special kind of detangler someone had recommended for the granddaughter’s Rapunzel-like tresses, for which we made a special stop at CVS later.

This stuff is like gold so it had better work.

This stuff is like gold, so it had better work.


Guess it's worth it

Guess it’s worth it


The last straw (I hope) was misplacing my wedding ring. I was sure I took it off when I put hand cream on at bedtime, but it had vanished. So I took a nap, telling myself that when I got up I would go straight to it. And I did: it had fallen off the nightstand and was on the floor near the bedroom wall.

The gold band was my mother's. The emerald ring, which was lost, is my wedding ring.

The gold band was my mother’s. The emerald ring, which was misplaced, is my wedding ring.

I recommend naps for finding lost things, more focus for not losing them in the first place. Good thing for naps.



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