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The Enigma of Chaos

Christmas 1989, Austin, a southern city that does not handle cold well, had an extended hard freeze. Pipes froze and burst, rooms were flooded, water was turned off. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment with my younger daughter, then a teen. Pipes in the next apartment burst, flooding my daughter’s walk-in closet. We moved everything into the living room, hauled water in buckets from neighboring buildings that still had water, and made the best of it during the holiday break.

After a few days of living in the mess, I got my paints out. I had graduated from St. Ed’s the previous spring with my art degree, but I was working a full-time administrative job and sharing space with the daughter, not an arrangement conducive to making art. But I set up an easel on the dining table and painted away.

This move has again proven what I learned then: I’m an obsessive control freak who feels a constant need for order, yet when everything falls apart I tend to fall into the flow and let creativity take over. It seems like a paradox, but it really isn’t: when control becomes simply impossible, I relinquish the need for control.


Living room shot for the real estate listing (credit AustinRealPros).


Our living room yesterday (that is not an assault rifle; it’s a water blaster used in one of Gary’s plays, and it’s on its way to Goodwill now).

Last week I had some panic: “There is no way we’ll ever get all this stuff cleared out and packed.” But  things got moving, a friend offered to help me pack art, and now, just over two weeks before Moving Day, I’m relaxed enough to sit here blogging. This afternoon I’m having a massage and acupuncture.

Tomorrow is my birthday and we’re having our traditional lunch at Chez Zee with an old friend, with whom I share a birthday, and her husband.

Three weeks before the end of school I decided to knit washcloths for my granddaughter’s teachers; they make nice gifts wrapped around a bar of fancy soap.

And still I knit.

As I turn 72, I am so grateful for good health, family, friends, and our new adventure.



Life as Participatory Performance Art

I am not a card player. As a team-building exercise at work some years ago, I had to play a card game in which I was given a sheet of rules and told to play with the others at my table. Each table’s loser was moved to the next table. Already anxious because I seldom play cards, my anxiety level rose as the game became more chaotic and confusing. I told the facilitator I was having an anxiety attack and had to quit.

Afterwards I learned that everyone had been given different rules. Essentially nobody was playing the same game–thus the chaos.

In a recent dream, I entered a sort of amusement park made up of different people doing performance art. As I proceeded from group to group with the expectation of interacting, I realized there seemed to be no standards or rules. I quickly played along, just enjoying the interactions, moving on when I was ready. One tall, rather imposing man (British–as was everyone else) was having trouble with his sleeves and his cuffs. I sorted it out for him, fixed his cuff-links and helped him on with his jacket. He then kissed me gently on the lips. It was neither sexy nor romantic, just very sweet. He looked like Michael Caine.

In other scenes there were babies and little children. Everyone was having a good time, and I just flowed with it.

What an empowering dream! Unlike the card game, either because of maturity (or Prozac) I was at ease with not knowing the rules or expectations.

As I awoke I thought about applying this to my waking life. I realized that everybody is operating on a slightly different set of standards and rules, and we have no idea exactly what they are.

As long as I act with a good heart, humor and integrity, it will be all right.

We are getting ready to move, and the process is overwhelming after 18 years in this house. This dream was so freeing because I contemplate the zillion tasks that need to be done–getting this house ready to sell, finding a new home, making the actual move–and it seems impossible.

So I remind myself to follow my own rules with a good heart, integrity and (this is hard) humor. Our agent tells us to do certain things to make the house sell quickly, and I’ll do my best with the resources I have.

In the meantime, we took a spring break trip to Jefferson, in East Texas, a historic Victorian town near Caddo Lake. Everything was blooming: azaleas, wisteria, dogwood, wildflowers, and we stayed at a beautiful B&B, the Azalea Inn, along with a couple of dear friends, so I’ll leave you with a few shots from the trip.

Our B&B, with its namesake azaleas in full bloom.


Wisteria in the Azalea Inn side yard.


Us in a park with the wisteria, which grows crazy wild in East Texas. It was actually cool enough for jackets!


A quilt in the Jefferson historical museum.

Watch for an upcoming post with details of our moving plans.



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.


Has it been only four weeks since Labor Day? It feels like six months.

September was jam-packed with projects and activities, after a summer of mostly grand-kid stuff.

I finished the infinity scarf (it’s wet and blocking at the moment). Sixty inches (an actual pattern, the cartridge belt rib, not straight garter stitch) in less than a month is probably a record for me, but about eight or 10 hours of it was done in a two-day racism workshop at church (which was enlightening and possibly fodder for a future blog).

finished but not blocked

finished but not blocked

But I have some hand pain from too much knitting and should rest a bit. (Hah. I have a sampler blanket going for the granddaughter.)

I kept up pretty well with jillybeans and mail swaps.

My husband needed post cards and a poster for his upcoming show at Paradox Players, so that was a quick turnaround project, and we now have cards in hand.

Play poster

Play poster

post card

post card

Several plays and concerts took up some evenings, including the surprisingly funny “Urinetown,” a terrific one-man production of “Henry V,” a terrible puppet show, a Gilbert & Sullivan musicale/parody of Downton Abbey, and a wonderful recital by our dear neighbor and fantastic pianist, Rick Rowley, at UT’s Bates Recital Hall. Seven other evenings were well spent on Ken Burns’ excellent series, “The Roosevelts.”

The courtyard and patio are cleaned up and freshened with new plants and pottery. I turned Chloe’s abandoned sand table into a small writing/drawing table so I can get out of the garret on pleasant fall days.

Table before


Before and after











collapsed sand table, before



after, a needed bit of color 












I also got the garret (studio) reorganized once again, and went through years’ worth of writing, organizing it for rewriting and finalizing. I shouldn’t start a new piece until I’ve cleaned up that huge backlog. (Hah, once more. That’s like having only one knitting project going.)

Clear art space

Clear art space

A couple of weekends with the granddaughter (including one with her friend from next door) ran me ragged, so I gave myself this weekend off. I did go to a Texas Choral Consort retreat yesterday, but I was so tired from Friday’s hauling concrete blocks and bags of pea pebbles the notes swam before my eyes.

I was feeling at loose ends for a little while, wondering what to do next. Then I decided “fallow” is a good concept, and it’s nice to take some time off, watch a movie, read.

October will fill up quickly, starting with a long-overdue condo newsletter. Now I’m going to finish reading the Sunday paper and have leftovers for dinner.

Sacred Spaces

What are your sacred spaces? In a recent sermon, the minister asked that question, so I got to thinking about the places that nourish my soul. Certainly churches, cathedrals and shrines can nurture the spirit, but my favorite places for peace and meditation are outdoors. As I mentioned in an earlier post, water in some form is a necessary feature, especially salt water. Here are some of my favorites, although there are many others.

Tell me about your sacred places.

My meditation altar, with a Buddha, photos, shells, incense and flowers.

My meditation altar, with a Buddha, photos, shells, incense and flowers.

Our condo pool and hot tub have provided many hours of sweet relaxation.

Our condo pool and hot tub have provided many hours of sweet relaxation.

McK falls

McKinney Falls State Park, about 15 minutes from our house.

The new boardwalk trail along Austin's Lady Bird Lake

The new boardwalk trail along Austin’s Lady Bird Lake

View from the trail.

View from the trail.

My "secret" meditation spot along the trail.

My “secret” meditation spot along the trail.

View from my special spot.

View from my special spot.

Visit my art blog at


My favorite beach shot, no makeup and all. Flagler Beach, Fl, 1995.

My favorite beach shot, no makeup and all. Flagler Beach, Fl, 1995.

School’s In

All summer I have been compiling a list of things I wanted to do when school started and the grandchild schedule eased up.

I’m finishing up tasks that have dragged on for some time, one of which was scanning old photo albums. The photos are fantastic–many were taken when my dad was in the Royal Air Force in Karachi (then India) from 1928–but the scanning was tedious, and I still have to organize the scanned images to share with family.

Dad's albums, dating back to the 1920s

Dad’s albums, dating back to the 1920s

Sample page, with Dad's inscription in white ink

Sample page, with Dad’s inscription in white ink









The summer was fun with the kids, going to the beach and spending time at our condo pool. But having a kid (or two) every other week meant I spent the other week recovering. I’ll have Chloe some weekends, and I have to get used to the idea of having this week free, next week free…

… to fill up with appointments, to start with. Dentist, gynecologist, eye and so on. Lunches with neglected friends.

We closed out a bank safe deposit box, which contained only our wills, so we’re going to update the wills and powers of attorney, financial records etc. and provide to my older daughter. It’s so much easier to do it now, when we don’t actually need it. I’m also going to take pictures throughout the house for an inventory of our worldly goods.

Chloe hasn’t played in the sand area in the courtyard for many months, so when we get some cooler mornings I’m going to clean it up (again).

Saggy sand table

Saggy sand table

Too hot to sit out here anyway.

Too hot to sit out here anyway.









It’s way past time for a condo newsletter. There is lots of news and many new neighbors.

I’ve created a template for Christmas cards. This year I’m going to do a small piece of original art on each one, similar to my Jillybeans postcards.

I have several craft, knitting, sewing and other projects hanging.

An infinity scarf, a gift

An infinity scarf, a gift

I want to refinish my old desk, which I had as a child. It’s too precious to neglect, and Chloe has put permanent marker and wite-out marks on it.

My beautiful old desk.

My beautiful old desk.

I can work on poems, journals and book ideas(and read books) any time.

There is always postcard art, which feeds my soul. That’s my default, every day.

Workouts. Errands. Household chores.

A neighbor recently described me as “driven.” I know I am incredibly blessed. Soon after we moved into the condo and I was feeling overwhelmed, I told an elderly friend I had too much to do. She said, “Be glad you have too much to do.” She has since passed on. I am glad I have too much to do.


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