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Ups and Downs in the Hill Country

Moving is never pretty. This one was especially ugly. Short version: it was a comedy of a too-small truck, surly crew, items left behind, plumbing problems at both houses.

Then there’s the pool (a white elephant, an extra pet, another child?). It was sick, and it took many phone calls, waiting, draining, refilling to get it sparkling and inviting. We now have reliable service. Yard care is another matter, but I leave that to Gary.

My view as I sit at the dining room table. I never noticed till now how the trees form a heart-shaped arch beyond the pool.

One thing we’re finding in our new home town is how hard it is to get services. Businesses take days to return calls, if they do at all. It must be small-town standard time.

We still need the basics of everyday living. My mantra has been “EAT. SLEEP. BATHE.” As long as we can get food, have beds and have a bathroom, we’re fine. But being surrounded by boxes gets old, and we still have a lot of unpacking to do (art, books and knickknacks–unnecessary items you wonder why you have so many of).

Boxes. Art. Stuff.

Mostly books. We purged hundreds of books but still have many to unpack.

The living room from the dining room. The large painting had some damage so I need to put on my art restorer’s hat and fix it before we can hang it.

These are of course so-called first-world problems, and we love it here. We have met neighbors while walking the dog; some have knocked on our door. One neighbor helped us hook up the washer, another has offered iris plants when she splits them. People everywhere give me tips on local shopping, swimming holes and other treasures.

Some of my Austin friends connected me to people they know here in Kerrville, so I already feel like we have friends here. One invited me to a Pink Power Democratic Women’s mixer, which I really enjoyed. On the next street we met a couple whose daughter goes to our UU church in Austin. They are into theater and we’ve already had them over for drinks.

The best thing is that, despite the slower and quieter pace, there is a wealth of things to do here. The beautiful Guadalupe River provides walks and swimming spots. There are several art venues and theater companies and a small UU congregation. I’m finding poets and knitters. When we can pull ourselves away from home, there’s a multitude of choices.

We have small mall, a large regional medical center, two H-E-B groceries, a Wal-Mart (to which I have made more visits in the last three weeks than my previous lifetime total–it’s five minutes away). If Wal-Mart or H-E-B doesn’t have it, Gibson‘s, a local hardware-hunting-fishing-dimestore-discount place probably does. And I won’t miss Michael’s, because Home Town Crafts has everything–it’s Michael’s, Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s mashed together. There are Home Depot, Lowes, and local home and garden supply stores. About the only thing missing is a Target, which I can manage without.

Even though most of the art remains boxed, we have hung curtains in our bedrooms, acquired (and assembled) dining room and patio furniture, and have functioning spaces to eat, sleep and bathe.

One side of the nicely organized kitchen.

More kitchen.

My studio is the last thing to be unpacked and set up before we hang art. I want to get back to doing art, but I’m having trouble. I have broken it into stages: unpacking, sorting, organizing and putting away. I’m still in sorting phase, and it’s so overwhelming (why do I have so much STUFF?) that I have to break that up too.

My unpacked and unorganized studio space. Where to start?

Progress? At least there are books on shelves.

We had to go to Austin last week to close on the condo, and we went to San Antonio yesterday. Each time I couldn’t wait to get back home. I’ve told my kids my next move will be to either the nursing home or the funeral home.

When we have our coffee on the patio in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening, or when I float in our private pool surrounded by pecan trees, I feel like we won the lottery.

Wall-e the Polaris robot doing his job while I chill after a hot day of unpacking.


Goals at 70

The previous post was reflective. Now to look forward to what I hope will be an exciting and productive time.

I’d never imagine quoting someone involved with boxing, but I like this, from Steve Hanley, “C.E.O.” of Evander Holyfield’s team: “…there’s these overtones in society that refer to … the struggle. But we’re all about the glory, which is aspirationally looking forward, and doing the right things in the right way.” I can only hope. So here are my aspirations for the coming year(s), also in top 10 order:

10. Read. Keep up with periodicals and my never-ending book pile. Always have a small book of poetry or essays with me so I can read instead of diddling on my phone when I have a wait.

9. Knit and stitch. I have yarn, pattern and project stashes, as well several works in progress. It keeps my hands busy while watching TV, at meetings and on long trips (when not driving!).

8. Keep up with both my blogs. The other one has been a bit neglected, which leads me to

7. Continue with postcard art and other artistic work, which leads to

6. Plan a gallery show at church. At my birthday party, the gallery director asked to see my work, and we agreed on an exhibit for the fall. I have at least 30 pieces–acrylics, watercolors, drawings, sculpture and some postcards that I couldn’t bear to mail.

5. Continue to write poetry. Complete a book of dream poems that’s in progress, tentatively titled “Skating under the Aurora.” I also want to submit more poetry for publication. One of my poems will be published in the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar, and I’m about to submit another to Postcard Poems and Prose.

4. Keep up with fitness and health. Up the intensity and reps in weight workouts, and add a little more cardio time. If I must get older I want to be as strong and healthy as possible.

3. Be a conscientious and effective member of the church Board of Trustees. Beginning in June, this will be my primary volunteer activity, and it’s important that I give it my best efforts to deepen an already deep commitment to my spiritual community. One other involvement, the Citizens Climate Lobby, will also get attention because the issue of climate change is so important.

2. Stay connected to friends, extended family and be the best wife and mom I can be.

1. This may be the biggest challenge I’ve faced since I became a parent. Granddaughter Chloe, 8 1/2, will be spending her weekdays with us so she can go to our nearby elementary school, eliminating a long bus ride to a relatively rural school. The challenge–in addition to the time and energy–will be to balance the “parental” role of supervising homework and bedtime against being the indulgent granny. I have several neighbors with children at that school, a willing “step-grandpa” and an excellent support system. I feel strongly it’s the best thing for her, which is why we’re doing it.

I’m optimistic.

I don't expect to kiss any more skeletons.

I don’t expect to kiss any more skulls.

After school activities will be no problem during warm months.

After school activities will be no problem during warm months.

Untouchable Tuesday

Tuesday has turned out to be my day. A few months ago I noticed I rarely have appointments or obligations on Tuesday. I work out and do errands and other chores on Mondays. I go to the gym when the cleaning crew arrives every other Wednesday, and Thursdays and Fridays often fill up with social engagements or appointments.

So I decided to keep Tuesdays clear, with the only rule that I do whatever I damn well please. That may mean a chore I’ve postponed, like cleaning the refrigerator, but usually it’s something fun: art, knitting, taking a walk, reading or, when the weather allows, sitting by the pool reading. It’s kind of an all-day artist’s date as proposed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.

We had one or both grand-kids for much of last week’s spring break, so this is my first free full day in two weeks. Granddaughter had a cold and cough so we stayed in and made art. We used toilet-paper rolls and paper towel rolls for some of our creations.

Chloe making paper towel roll bunny

Chloe making paper towel roll bunny

Tall, thin bunny ("Harvey"?)

Tall, thin bunny (“Harvey”?)










Bryan drew me a plane; when I asked where the bombs were going, he said "into thin air." 

Bryan drew me a plane; when I asked where the bombs were going, he said “into thin air.”

Both kids are into Minecraft. This is "Stampy Longnose" and "IBallistic Squid." Really. She posted it on Stampy's fan page.

Both kids are into Minecraft. This is “Stampy Longnose” and “IBallistic Squid.” Really. Chloe posted it on Stampy’s fan page.

My paper towel roll hanging decoration.

My paper towel roll hanging decoration.

With wet weather and Chloe being under the weather, we watched several movies and I knitted–so much that my hands were sore. After the kids were gone we watched “Birdman,” and in order to rest my hands I gave myself a manicure to keep from knitting.

Here are my current WIPs (i.e. works in progress).

Serpentine scarf just begun; thin yarn on tiny needles--yikes!

Serpentine scarf just begun; thin yarn on tiny needles–yikes!

Lace cotton scarf; love the paprika color

Lace cotton scarf; love the paprika color

One square of a multi-colored sampler blanket for Chloe. Have about a dozen squares done, probably about half of what's needed

One square of a multi-colored sampler blanket for Chloe. Have about a dozen squares done, probably about half of what’s needed

Cotton triangle scarf, nearly done

Cotton triangle scarf, nearly done

This Untouchable Tuesday has been a catch-up day, but it was what I was damn well pleased to be doing. And there’s still a lot of day left.

Radical Retirement Review

Since I started this blog, I’ve mentioned more than once that someone told me it takes about five years to settle into a rhythm in retirement. Before I retired I was sure I’d nail it from day one, but my friend was right.

Today marks the end of year five. I think–although I’m not so smug about it–I’m finally getting it right. Not doing too much, not bored. The days are still not long enough, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s better to have a never-ending to-do list than to be bored or idle. I am NEVER idle. A neighbor says I’m “driven.” Maybe so, but the older I get the more aware I am of time running out, and there are so many things I still want to accomplish while I can.

Today I’m looking back over the five years. I’m not re-reading blogs or pulling out diaries. This is just what pops into my memory as I look back.

Year One, 2010: I had the privilege of serving on the search committee that recommended Meg Barnhouse as the settled minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin. If it’s possible, her ministry has even exceeded our hopes; the congregation is growing and a capital campaign is raising money to expand the physical space.

2011: Traveling with Texas Choral Consort to Uruguay and Argentina; singing Faure’s Requiem in Montevideo and Colonia, Uruguay, and Mozart’s Requiem in Mercedes and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eating empanadas and drinking malbec. Making new friends, especially my Montevideo Posse.

2012: A chilly spontaneous spring art trip to Washington and Baltimore. Taking the then-five-year-old granddaughter on a road trip to Carlsbad Cavern and San Diego. I became nearly ill from the stress of nine days 24/7 with a young child. My doctor eventually diagnosed me with anxiety disorder and put me on Prozac. That trip made me discover I had been suffering from severe anxiety all my life, so I’m grateful for the trip, and we did have a good time in Coronado, La Jolla, Sea World and the Zoo.

2013: Our four-week tour of England and Scotland was the highlight of the year. Seeing “Matilda” with my New Zealand cousin and her husband, who were in London when we were; visiting the Yorkshire cousins and their families; Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Inverness; Bath; Cambridge; Newmarket (my birthplace) and a very warm London, including museums, galleries and more shows.

2014: Singing Mozart Undead with Texas Choral Consort at the French Legation, and the Beck Song Reader at the Blanton Museum, were peak experiences. A week at the coast with the grandchildren. A week in New York in November.

Most of my creative output has been been writing poetry and blog pieces. It was cool getting a poem and painting in Postcard Poems and Prose this month.

But I’ve mostly just dabbled in art, using my graphics skills for things like the condo association newsletter and publicity materials for my husband’s theater company.

In April I got into a postcard swap and something about the format lit my fire. I have mailed more than 70 cards in a variety of media including water color, marker, collage, monoprint, acrylic, photography, poems and quotes incorporated with art. I have a million ideas I want to try. I launched a second blog solely to show my art.

Newest postcard, "Monkey Shines." I can get silly and whimsical with the small format. (Water color, metallic marker, sticker)

Newest postcard, “Monkey Shines.” I can get silly and whimsical with the small format. (Water color, metallic marker, sticker)

I’ve also been knitting quite a lot, but I’m not good about keeping photos or records, and I give most of it away.

Current project, a sampler blanket for Chloe, trying out stitches from a book I got at a garage sale.

Current project, a sampler blanket for Chloe, trying out stitches from a book I got at a garage sale.

Now I’m excited about… drum roll… stitchery! I have several pieces working, one of my own design, in a postcard-size format, so someone may get a stitched postcard. For a person who is constantly moving, I find needlework to be calming and meditative (yet productive!).

Sampling stitches from another garage sale book, painting with stitches and cloth.

Sampling stitches from another garage sale book, painting with stitches and cloth.

The best use of retirement has been being able to spend time with the grandchildren, especially the now-eight-year-old, Chloe. She is a ball of fire, light of my life, force of nature. I adore her and she exhausts me. I  pray for the stamina and energy to keep up with her as long as she needs me to.

I haven’t come up with any new year’s resolutions, but I hope to laugh a lot, meditate a bit, get enough sleep, and keep living a healthy and active life. I’m getting a new laptop, replacing my reliable workhorse seven-year-old Dell Inspiron with a Dell Latitude; the only other thing I want now is Google Fiber in the complex–a real possibility this year.

With gratitude, wishing everyone a beautiful, healthy, joyful and richly rewarding 2015!


New York, Part II

After MoMA and Brooklyn, we were ready to devote a day to the Met (as if a day could be anywhere near enough!). First was a Cubist exhibit of the collection of Leonard Lauder, of Estee Lauder fame. The exhibit included more than 80 works of Picasso, Braque, Leger and Gris. Eighty was more than enough Cubism for me.

Next was a collection of portraits of Madame Cezanne by her husband. Cezanne is one of my favorite artists and it was wonderful to see the many different ways he painted his wife over the years. Several pieces done around the same time, in the same dress, didn’t look like the same woman.

From the Met's web site

From the Met’s website

After an overpriced but hearty lunch in the Met’s cafeteria, we inquired about getting to The Cloisters, which was included in Met admission fees. We were told we could get a bus on Madison that would take us right to the door in about an hour, so we walked the few blocks to Madison, waited a few minutes for the right bus, and climbed aboard for a two-hour ride not quite so excruciating as the Super Shuttle ride, and far cheaper, since we had Metro cards. It was around time for school to get out, so kids and nannies and parents were commuting home. One very dignified African-American lady fussed loudly about the lack of manners among the young men who were not giving up their seats for ladies, so it was at least entertaining.

We toured Harlem and Morningside Heights and saw the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Columbia University. When we finally arrived at The Cloisters, we had 45 minutes left before closing, much of which we spent outside in the gardens and on the balustrade overlooking the Hudson at sunset.

Hudson River sunset with the George Washington Bridge, from the Cloisters

Hudson River sunset with the George Washington Bridge, from the Cloisters

Cloisters Interior

Cloisters Interior

Winter-bitten garden at The Cloisters

Winter-bitten garden at The Cloisters

We decided not to brave another two-hour bus ride and took the bus to the first subway station. We were able to actually take the A-Train, which was fun just to say. Planning to get off and walk through the park back to the Met, we didn’t realize the A-train was an express until it sailed through several stations. We finally got off farther downtown and got on an uptown train to the park and walked across to the museum. We saw several photography exhibits: remarkable early photos of Yosemite by Carleton Watkins and photos by Thomas Struth, about which the only thing I could say was that the photos were large). Finally, Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague, which was more splendid than erotic. Our paths never took us to the newly restored Lombardo “Adam,” but what can you do with so much to see and so little time?

We had arranged to meet a friend in Queens for lunch Saturday. Before getting the train out to Astoria, we browsed a Christmas market at Grand Central Station. Most booths displayed pricey jewelry, knitwear, toys and other geegaws, but in the booth for the Transit Store I found this bag, which I’m using as a purse.

My new bag

My new bag




The gorgeous interior art at Grand Central

The gorgeous interior art at Grand Central








We took the N train to Astoria,  where our friend picked us up and took us to MoMA PS1, an outpost of MoMA, housed in an old re-purposed school, which shows only contemporary art. The most compelling exhibit was “Samara Golden: The Flat Side of the Knife,” a large installation that skews vision and imagination through mirrors, shimmer and illusion. It’s impossible to describe and fascinating to view from various angles.

Samara Golden installation (from PS1 website)

Samara Golden installation (from PS1 website)

My own shot of a similar view. Everything doubled is seen in a mirror.

My own shot of a similar view. Everything doubled is seen in a mirror.

We picked up friend’s husband and daughter, the most beautiful and amazing 14-year-old I have ever seen (the last time we saw her she was three) and had a delicious Queens-style lunch (meaning at least some part of it was Greek–I had spanokopita and Greek salad) at Igloo Cafe, and caught up with our friends’ lives.

We headed back into Manhattan to catch the Guggenheim’s “pay what you wish” rate after 5:30, astonished that the line was already a block long. But it moved fast (thank heavens–it was freezing) and we took the elevator to the top in order walk all the way down this fantastic Frank Lloyd Wright creation. The building is the art as much as anything on the walls. The exhibit all the way down the ramps was “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s and 60s,” about an art movement that used light, movement and space as artistic material. Several side galleries had works of more traditional paintings, including an exhibit by another of my faves, “Kandinsky: Before Abstraction.” It was Kandinsky’s abstracts that first taught me how to appreciate (and love) abstract art.

Landscape near Murnau with Locomotive, Kandinsky (from the Guggenheim website)

Landscape near Murnau with Locomotive, Kandinsky (from the Guggenheim website)

The only photos permitted were in the lobby.

Dizzying Guggenheim atrium

Dizzying Guggenheim atrium

Sunday, our final day, promised to be warmer (50s), perfect for our plans for an outdoor day, starting with the 9/11 Memorial, World Trade Center and the High Line. We ended up doing even more, so I’ll save it for the next and final episode….



Best of everything

Break I did: Four days in a little blue beach cottage on Aransas Bay, doing as little as possible, and it rained. This would normally go on my jillybeans site, since it’s a post card, but it sums up the week.

Poem, "Idling in Neutral," and photo of rain through the kitchen window

Poem, “Idling in Neutral,” and photo of rain through the kitchen window

For a complete change of pace, we hosted a birthday party for the eight-year-old granddaughter the day after we got home. It was more fun than I expected, with all of her cousins and grandparents and a few friends and neighbors. Gary wrangled the kids in a treasure hunt and some other games.

They left the 8th off and spelled Chloe "Choe," so they squeezed in the fixes. It tasted good, anyway.

H.E.B. bakery left the “8th” off and spelled Chloe “Choe,” so they squeezed in the fixes. It tasted good, anyway.

Gary herding the kids on a perfect November Saturday

Gary herding the kids on a perfect November Saturday

Chloe stayed overnight. The last thing she said before she fell asleep: “Today was really fun. Thank you.”

Chloe shares a moment with friend Laci.

Chloe shares a moment with friend Laci.

Best birthday ever, especially for Grandma.

Break Time!

With the big push after school started, the past two months have been full. The photo albums are scanned and sent back to my niece; the condo newsletter is published. I had the remarkable experience of singing in a program of the Beck Hansen Song Reader at the Blanton Art Museum last month, in a gallery displaying the drawings of James Drake, an exhibit that hadn’t yet opened. I plan to return and spend more time with the Drake show.

The run of the Paradox Show “Stella and Lou” is ending as I write this, and I’ll be off to the cast party. The coming week will be downtime for us, a welcome break for rest, relaxation, conversation and quiet. As is my wont, I would be stockpiling laptop, journals, art supplies for sketching, painting, zentangling or making post cards, and of course knitting.

I’ve had tendinitis in my hand ever since the marathon scarf knitting in September and decided to make this truly a restful time. The only things I plan to do are read and, if the weather cooperates, swim.



Next weekend we host a birthday party for the soon-to-be eight-year-old granddaughter. Once I’ve ordered a cake, I’m doing as little as possible until then!

Coffee on the porch as the sun rises.

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