At least we were laughing by the time we got home. It was nobody’s fault. (As Nixon would say, “Mistakes were made.”
After a month of singing the praises of our new hometown, I found some flies in the ointment. Or rather fire ants. And that was the least of our Fourth from Hell.
Not knowing exactly what the setup was or what to expect, we got to the Robert Earl Keen Kerrville Fourth of July celebration early enough to park fairly close, west (upstream) from the event. Fireworks at 9:30; arrival a bit after 6. That’s a lot of time to kill in high 90s heat. And we had the dog.
Chloe, Junior and I took a walk to the river below the dam, where it’s easy to wade and Junior could plunk himself down to cool off. Not having suits, Chloe and I sat on a little ledge near some rapids. I assured her we’d dry off quickly, and anyway having wet shorts would be cooler.
This killed maybe 30 minutes. There were musical acts during this time, but the setup was such that, unless you were within the actual audience seating area, you couldn’t see the stage. There were vendor trucks, beer tents, sound trucks, trailers, amp towers totally blocking views to people outside that small perimeter (and this was a free event in a huge park).
I took a very long time walking to the rest room (rather than using a portapotty) and filled the water bottles, during which I heard the National Anthem. I missed Keen’s intro and had no idea who was performing when I got back to our blanket.
I hadn’t heard Robert Earl Keen for at least 30 years–my late friend Sunny was a big fan and she took me to see him in the late ’80s. I don’t know if he’s deteriorated with age, but I kept wondering who this guy with the awful voice was. His vocal delivery is flat, bordering on musically flat, and his range is tiny. The band–mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar etc.–was fabulous, and he should just shut up and let them play.
Finally, after an encore/singalong of “This Land is Your Land,” every verse, at half-tempo (Woody Guthrie was spinning in his grave), it was time for the fireworks–9:35.
We took Junior because he gets hysterical when he’s left alone too long, and I thought he’d be ok if we held him tight during the fireworks. And he was, for a couple of minutes. Then he just wanted out. Chloe and I hugged him and held onto the leash for dear life. In addition to hurting all over from being on the hard ground, I was besieged by fire ants up my right arm.
We decided to head out after about 15 minutes of this torture. Got yelled at by a cop for crossing the street in front of traffic (the light changed quickly). I said to him, “Please don’t make my day any worse than it already is.” We found the way to the car and pressed on, realizing that we were going directly toward the fireworks (upstream, remember?), with Junior pulling as hard as he could in the opposite direction.
It was like being in a war zone, with an audience along the sidewalk watching us. I felt like Wonder Woman crossing No Man’s Land, but without a shield.
We reached the car before the fireworks ended and hightailed it home. Gary and I were laughing by the time we reached Goat Creek Rd. (a great place to laugh) and he missed a turn and nearly put us in a ditch.
Chloe had a bowl of cereal and Gary and I each had an adult beverage. Junior slurped up a bowl of water (we had been giving him water all evening) and went under a table.
Gary insisted on what I called a “post-mortem.” I insisted there was nothing to discuss. He needs to make friends between now and July 2018. Until Congress moves July 4th to October, when it’s cooler and gets dark early, I’m done with the Fourth.
* David Foster Wallace, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” an essay collection.
I love yanking crabgrass. This surprises me. I’ve never been much of a gardener or yard-work person, and 18 years in a condo seemed to prove that. But now that we have a big yard, I find it deeply satisfying to pull up great lengths of nasty crabgrass, and it’s great exercise, too, while I toss tennis balls for the dog.
Today I hung hummingbird feeders near the pool. (Some previous owner was really into wrought iron, and there are places to hang things all over the property, some not suitable for plants because of the difficulty of watering them.)
I also planted red flowers for the entry to match (kind of) the red front door. (When we first looked at this house, that door was a good sign.) I checked to make sure deer don’t like them. Front yards are a midnight grazing ground here.
My gardening gloves smell like the rosemary. The only rosemary I had at the condo was a sad little potted one that never thrived, so I appreciate this giant.
Next project is the corner of the yard behind the pool. It’s weedy and bare, and I want a meditation garden in that space. I know it needs seating, a table, flowers, maybe a wind chime. I welcome ideas and suggestions.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I turn 72, I am so grateful for good health, family, friends, and our new adventure.
Several months before we decided to move, I told my therapist I wanted to destroy my old journals. “Burn ’em,” was her response. I burned a few outside in the grill, and quite a few more in the fireplace during the winter, but shredding was more efficient and environmentally friendly. I’m finally done shredding about 20 years’ worth of spiral binders.
Some were writing journals and many had dreams, so I tried to salvage poems, writing ideas and dreams for future use, especially for a long-planned (but sidelined) book of dream poems, titled either “Nightly Visits to Other Worlds” or “Skating Under the Aurora.”
I couldn’t take time to read everything so I skimmed randomly. One thing that struck me was how much pain I was in during the late ’90s and early 2000s: back pain, stomach pain, severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome, headaches, vertigo and ear problems.
Like many people I journaled to rant and unload pain and unhappiness, but this was real suffering, and I’d almost forgotten about the dizzy spells, about the time I visited my brother shortly before he died, and I was afraid I’d miss my plane because I couldn’t get out of bed. I underwent treatment for allergies and ear problems, including years of allergy shots.
The stomach pain turned out to be a huge mass on my pancreas. Thanks to good medical care, I’m alive and pain-free. Good chiropractic care has made my back more stable and less likely to give out without warning. Retirement has helped with the IBS–one thing I noticed was that I had bad episodes on days the Medical Board met. I loved my job and it wasn’t always stressful, but board days were hard work and very busy, and it was no coincidence my body responded. I also manage my diet better and have learned the array of irritating foods to avoid, including apples, oranges, pears, lettuce, seeds–I just can’t digest a lot of fiber.
The biggest differences, though, I attribute three or four factors:
First, getting on Prozac in 2012. I’ve covered this in several blog posts, but I can’t say enough about how it changed my life.
Second, acupuncture has helped reduce allergy symptoms and has virtually eliminated my headaches. It’s also just made me feel better all over; I sleep better and generally feel better. Along with chiropractic care, my body feels strong and balanced.
Third, self care. Since my granddaughter moved in with us and I’ve moved into my 70s, I need to be more careful with my body, my diet, my sleep habits and how I spend my time. An afternoon nap isn’t just a treat; it’s essential.
Fourth, spiritual awareness, or wisdom of age. I’m more patient, open-hearted, generous and joyful. Two years ago, when we were trying to decided whether to ask the granddaughter to come and live with us, I was anxious that it would make my life so stressful and difficult that I would mourn the loss of my free and easy retirement. And I did. It’s been hard.
But when I take the dog out before dawn on these soft spring mornings, I actually enjoy being awake. I’m grateful for the sweet dog (which we wouldn’t have if we didn’t have the child), for good legs, a strong heart and all the other parts that still work pretty well. When I take Chloe to school (on time or early, not late every day like last year) I enjoy greeting friends and walking on the greenbelt during doggie morning happy hour.
I’m excited about the upcoming changes in our lives and the opportunities to keep making art and to create a beautiful new home for our family.
Part 2: Where We’re Going and Why
As I explained in my last post, we’ve thought about leaving Austin for quite a long time, as traffic worsens and housing becomes less affordable.
Our criteria for our new home were these:
- Smaller city; not a small town and not a large urban area
- Within a few hours’ drive of my daughter (Chloe’s mom), and fairly close to other family in the Austin area
- Good medical care
- Good schools
- Art, theater and music
- Geographically attractive
- A Unitarian-Universalist congregation
We believe we’ll meet all those needs in Kerrville. It’s two hours southwest of Austin, two hours south of Chloe’s mom, less than an hour from San Antonio if we need a big city. Of course there are concerns, primarily that it will be more conservative than Austin, but there are liberals everywhere, especially in arts communities, and I’m teaching Chloe to revel in her quirkiness so she can stand up to people who might tease or bully her.
Here are the highlights:
- Small size and little traffic make it easy to get around
- Beautiful setting on the Guadalupe River, much of which is fronted with parkland
- Good schools
- In addition to the river, there are beautiful parks, a great recreation center and other recreational attractions
- A UU congregation where we’ve already made friends, and it’s a short drive to the UbarU retreat center
- Other new friends, because everyone we know knows someone in Kerrville
- A fairly large regional medical center (and we can go to San Antonio or Austin if we need specialty care)
- Good restaurants
- Beautifully restored and vibrant downtown area with a great used book store
- Art center, performing arts center, theater companies, music, even the Hill Country Chorale when I’m ready to get back to singing
- Near beautiful Hill Country state parks: Enchanted Rock, Lost Maples, Garner
- Near Fredericksburg, Boerne, Comfort, Bandera, many wineries and other tourist attractions
- Chloe’s other grandparents used to live there so it’s familiar to her
- There are not one but two HEBs. (There is a J.C. Penney, but no Target or Michael’s. The nearest are about 30 minutes on I-10 on the outskirts of San Antonio.)
- And the biggie: more affordable housing
For what we expect to get for the Austin condo (nice complex, near downtown), we’ll get the house below, plus we should cover all our relocation expenses.
It’s a little less than 2,000 sf, in a settled neighborhood .6 mile from an excellent elementary school. There are two nearby parks, one at the end of the street and one around the corner. When we were there last week I walked the dog so I could try to meet some neighbors, and I talked to one nice fellow who told me there are lots of kids on the street. Our new house has a pool,which will be great for entertaining.
Here’s the house that will be our new home after we close at the end of April:
(Not showing the three bedrooms because of previous owners’ possessions.) There is also, adjacent to the laundry area and between the garage entry and the kitchen, a bedroom-size space, well-lit and with large double-doors to the front courtyard, that will be my studio. The third bedroom will be Gary’s office and the guest room, so we’ll want our old friends to visit.
Of course we have hurdles between now and then: getting the condo ready to sell, going through both closings, having a place to stay until school is out if it sells quickly, making some trips during May to paint Chloe’s room (she wants it purple; the rest of the house is fine), taking some carloads and keeping an eye on the pool. Then the big move after school gets out.
I haven’t moved in 18 years, and haven’t moved inter-city for 35. I think I’m still pretty good at it, but it’s going to be challenging with a kid, a dog and a four-hour round trip.
I want this to be our forever home. I hope Kerrville will be as welcoming as it’s been so far. Our ReMax agent, Brian McCarty, has been my therapist and hand-holder these past few weeks, as is our Austin agent, Bill Evans, as we proceed with selling our home of 18 years.
Part 1: Why We’re Moving
We’re heading west. After 35 years (me) and 26 years (Gary) in Austin, we’re ready for a change. We have loved living here, but now that we have the granddaughter living with us, we’re feeling a little crowded. The Austin real estate market is so hot that we couldn’t buy a bigger place for what we’ll get for the condo. Chloe will be going into fifth grade, the last opportunity for her to develop a cohort before hitting dreaded middle school. After talking about it for several years, considering other locations–for a while we were set on Fayetteville, Arkansas–and a few trips, we recently decided to sell the condo and look for a new home in the Hill Country.
There are many things I’ll miss, but first here’s what I won’t miss:
- SXSW (see above)
- ACL Festival (ditto)
- Republic of Texas Biker Rally (ditto)
- So many interesting things to do: probably sold out, where to park, too crowded. (We used to love going to the Kite Festival, but haven’t gone for years because it got too hard to get there and back.)
- Did I mention traffic? The two main north-south arteries, MoPac and I-35, are parking lots much of the day.
Some of the many things I will miss:
- Travis Heights Elementary School, a diverse and welcoming community for Chloe and me
- Stacy Parks (Little and Big) and the Blunn Creek Greenbelt, where Junior and I walk every morning after dropping Chloe off, and all the friends I’ve made (human and furry) while walking Junior
- Our beautiful condo community–good neighbors, quiet surroundings, pool, hot tub, our fabulous handyman Chris
- Our First UU Church of Austin community–but we will be back to visit often
- Friends–but we’ll stay in touch and welcome visitors when we’re settled
- Great restaurants, but they have them where we’re going
- Blanton Art Museum
- Zilker Park and Barton Springs (but we’ll have the Guadalupe River!)
- South Austin Community Acupuncture–I can’t say enough about how much acupuncture has helped me. It’s been for my body what Prozac is for my psyche. But I can’t make the trip every week.
- Dentist, doctor, chiropractor–but we may come back, at least at first. Especially Dr. Jerel Wottrich at First Chiropractic.
- My fabulous computer guy, Tom Adams
- Doug at Massage Harmony Westgate. I still have three or four in my series and hope to use them all up! (If not, some lucky person may get a gift.)
- KMFA and KUT radio, but I can still listen online
- Not my hair stylist, the amazing Cesar Perez, because I plan to keep him. He told me he has other clients in the Hill Country. I’ll make a day of it, have lunch, do some shopping, see friends and get a trim.