“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


The hand that raised me

My handprint painting is under way. This is a shot of my mother's hand after she plunked it down on the canvas. I am so loving this photo. I am also loving the painting - right now it has 3 handprints & one cat paw print - for which I received a gashed knee, and which is making me rethink the other cats I'd like to participate.

The in-progress painting is propped against the wall in my living room & I can't stop smiling when I look at it.


The scared girl

I dream all the time of almost traveling, of almost walking through doors. But I never do. I pack my luggage, I count the days on my calendar, I see in my dream-mind's eye the blue, blue water of my almost-destination, but I never go. I am always scared. The planes are always too big, and they always fly at night, and I never go. I get to the airport, I get on the plane, but I never go. It is always a place over the ocean, I will always be gone too long, and I always want to go, but I never do. I am always scared. I am the scared girl.

And so it is in life. I am the scared girl. I have always been the scared girl. I have always been afraid to open those doors. But those doors beckon. And some of them have windows & I can see what's behind them, and it's fabulous. I have to say goodbye to the scared girl, but when I do, who will I be? It's a struggle to let her go - she's been with me all my life - but she feels tired & ready to rest. Can I be brave? Can I just keep her with me, let her see all those wonderful things beyond those doors? Can I hold her close & whisper that it's okay, that I'm safe? Can I be brave? Can I fly?

"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."
                                   ~ Amelia Earhart


And the winner is . . .

Not unexpectedly, Mary. This kitten has been hanging around our neighborhood for a week or so. Actually, just around our block, our corner. 4 houses. Amber wanted him, but wanted an outdoor cat. He hung around on her porch & she fed him for a couple of days & then he disappeared. He showed up again last week - the 2 kids & I found him lurking around the creek area in Mary's yard. They wanted him. No can do. They wanted me to take him. No can do - Maggie will not abide another cat in the house. They wanted me to bring him here to work, to live with Lily - a tempting idea, but he's a kitten, and this is a workplace, and, well, I just didn't want to, so no can do again. The lovely Katie decided she wanted him. No, no said Robert. "He's got odd markings."

Okey dokey, but Robert then leaves for 10 days, and Katie & I are thinking that this cat will be well & truly settled by the time Robert gets back, because this cat was going nowhere. This cat had found a sweet spot. He put up with Maggie's hisses & Miss Kitty's stares & played in our yard & Amber's yard & Mary's yard & even the yard next door to Mary. That's when the woman who rents the garage apartment there decided she wanted him. Named him Oreo. Too late - Katie had already named him George. Too late. The kids had already named him Domino or L.K. (little kitty). Yesterday, he seemed to be Amber's & her hubby named him B.B, describing certain anatomical parts this kitty owns. (Which I will delicately refrain from describing.) Oh, they were all after this little guy - enticing him here, tempting him there, and yet . . .

Lyndi-Linda shows up at my door today to inform me that Mary has taken him in. Mary? She wasn't even in the running. She didn't even want to see him. Charlie was plenty cat for her, even though she still misses Bob terribly. No kitty please. But there he was, fed, fat & oh-so-happy. Mary too. Charlie isn't quite sure what to make of this little guy who has waltzed into their lives, but he gets to be top cat this time around. Bob would be proud of him.

So let me introduce you to Buddy. He knew his name all along, and was just waiting for someone to say it.


What I did this weekend

I'm not sure words are necessary.

It was supposed to be so relaxing. A weekend at a local hotel. I wouldn't have to leave town; I could still take care of Maggie, I could hang out at the pool. No worries. Be happy. And it was already paid for - back in March, the ever-wonderful Michael bought this weekend at a golf tournament auction. We figured we'd use it when we didn't have time to get away, but needed to get away. It came with breakfast. What a deal. And it was perfect timing. He was spending time at the lake helping a friend build something - a pier, a lift for jet-skis, something - I'm not really sure what it was. But something. He could come & go, and I could come & go. I could lay out by the pool & read & be alone for a bit. Sounds so easy.

Late Friday afternoon/early evening. After 3 or 4 tries, my key finally lets me in the room. All I want now is a coke, my swimsuit, a pool, the book my niece loaned me. A bucket of ice. Cokes are $1.25. Except that the machine won't accept any dollar bill. I tried every one I had. I'm annoyed, but I've been more annoyed in my life, so I figure I'll try the floor below. The elevator is slow - so slow that I was wishing I'd brought my book with me in case it got stuck - but I finally make it to the 5th floor. Here cokes are only 75 cents, and the machine takes my dollar bill! It's like a whole 'nother world! Things are looking up. The coke tumbles out, I pick it up, and realize - too late - that it's covered with brown gunk. Sticky brown Coca-Cola gunk. Which is now on my shirt. Okay, I think, a can has obviously burst inside the machine - try again. 2nd Dollar bill goes through with no problem & the 2nd coke tumbles out a little less covered with gunk. My annoyance level rises, but I take my 2 cokes, get back on the slow (did I mention also warm?) elevator, and head back to my room on the 6th floor. My key won't let me in. My key won't let me in ! My key won't let me in! I start to swear, which oddly enough, must be the abracadabra the door needs, because it finally accepts my key & I'm in. I wash the cokes, I change into my swimsuit (which does nothing to help my mood), put on a tshirt & skirt as cover, decide against a coke, and taking a cup of ice I head down to the pool. Back on that slow, just-a-tad-too-warm elevator. At ground level, I follow the sign to the pool. Or I try to. It takes me to the fitness center. I walk back to the sign - the arrow for the fitness center points up, the arrow to the pool points up. I walk back down to the fitness center. I walk back to the sign. I study it. Could it possibly mean to follow the bottom line of the arrow & just head to my right? Yes, it possibly does. I find the pool. Which requires my key to get in. You know where this goes from here.

So I head to the bar. (That would be a great ending, but I actually went to the bar to see if the ever-wonderful Michael might happen to be there & I needed to vent. Really vent.) He was & I vented. I say several times "I am SO blogging this!", which, I find out later, upsets the bartenders (who did offer me a coke & help me get into the pool area) - later they asked Michael if he knew me, and who was I? He replied, as he is wont to do "She's my artist." Artist? Huh? As in "What that"? His answer? "You know, art and s**#t"?" He's still laughing about it.

I get to the pool about 30 minutes before the kiddie-movie-at-the-pool begins. But 30 minutes is 30 minutes is 30 minutes. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to get out of there.

Saturday, I took my camera. Scared the guy at the front desk when I was taking a photo of the pool sign. I get to the 6th floor, and yep, my key will not work. No matter what. The elevator & I are becoming old friends by now. I head back to the lobby, where I'm told I've been keeping my key too close to credit cards or my cell phone, which demagnetizes it. Never mind the fact that Michael's key acted the same, and he, too, had to take it to the lobby to be "reset". (They wouldn't reset his unless he showed picture i.d. - I coulda had it worse.)

This morning we had the free breakfast. Buffet. Make your own toast. Guess what didn't work?

What hotel you ask? I'm not saying, but it's initials are H.I. and it ends in the word Select. I say don't.

UPDATE: I just this very minute realized that the 6th floor cokes are bigger! Only after looking at my photos close up! A moot point, since you can't get one, but one more laugh to tag onto this confusing weekend. :)

Award time

Presented to me by San. What a cool award. I think I'm supposed to name others & send this little goodie off to them, but here's the deal. Y'all are all just plain fun to read. If that's a copout, forgive me. I just cannot choose. I read you all for different reasons. So what I want you ALL to do is just grab this thing for yourself & know that I mean it. Because I do. I hereby award you all. Did you feel my magic wand over your head?

Just copy the award & post it on your site. C'mon. You know you want to. :)


Handprints, footprints, pawprints

Footprints in the sidewalk near my house. How can you not smile at this? How can this not tug at your heart just a wee bit? Because there it is. When his or her best friend is gone, here is a place to come to - a place to lay his or hand on that little pawprint & remember. A physical place in addition to that place in the heart.

I want the handprints of those I love. Will they think me even more silly than they do already? When I show up at my Mother's house and Mary's house with canvas & paint, will they smile or will they shush me away with those hands? Will Maggie the cat find it degrading? Do I care? Not at all. A canvas it will be, sectioned off for all the hands of those I love. Hands that will push into somebody else's section, as they should. Just like real life.

Mary first. And Maggie.
It'll take a week. Maybe less. Look for it here.


The day of small things

But that was before we looked for owls . . . and discovered the small black & white kitty (not an extra-small, he said, not a medium, and definitely not a large) . . . and climbed the spiral staircase all the way up to Katie & Robert's 3rd floor . . . and spied behind the leaves of the cherry laurel tree the empty robin's nest from this past spring. That was before he stood in the front yard & sang the blues at the top of his lungs . . . "gonna lock you in your house . . . gonna lock you in your car . . . gonna lock you on your motorcycle . . . oh YEAH! gonna lock you on your motorcycle . . . " That was before she & I discovered that neither of us like sausage or cheese enchiladas. It was before we discovered that Robert's outside thermometer must surely be wrong (78 degrees!) & agreed a new one would be the perfect Christmas gift for him . . . it was before we looked both ways before crossing the street to Mary's house. It was before the heat drove us inside, before I accidentally ordered navy beans instead of lima beans with my lunch, before they both agreed the mashed potatoes weren't nearly as good as Meemaw's. The corn was close, but the potatoes? No way.


Where the butterflies grow

Lately I dream of the night. Of walking through fairy rings of breast high cannas, the flowers not yet fully opened, each bud actually a candle - the hidden candlelight escaping from the tip of the yet-to-be blossom. The yard is full of these rings & I wander from one to another. The round white glow of the flower-tips mimics the stars in the black sky. There are red dragonflies moving around me, the candlelight from the cannas illuminating them in the darkness. It's a dream of circles.

When I was a child I once dreamed of the woods next to my house. I followed a path through the trees & there were flowers everywhere. Ankle high baby flowers, flowers towering over my head, flowers growing on rocks, circling the trees, hanging from trees, flowers glowing with a thousand colors. Even the air glowed. A breeze moved through the woods & the flowers began to sway & I realized they weren't flowers at all, but butterflies of every color. And I thought aha! This is where the butterflies grow.

I have never forgotten that dream. I can still see it in all its detail. I tried to dream it again many times - in those dreams I would be calling the butterflies, I would be looking for them. They never returned, but I always felt like I'd seen the real world, the real woods.

These are the feelings I want to paint. I don't want to paint the places, I want to paint the feelings. When I grow up I tell myself, I'll know how to do that. But will I still want to do that when I grow up? And so, I agonize. Because I haven't yet figured out how to paint the shimmery feeling under my skin, or the silky/velvet feel of a blue butterfly wing, or the tickle of candlelight on my face. Today I began a painting that I hope will rustle like silver leaves in the breeze of a hot night - I want you to feel the owls looking over your shoulder when you look at it, I want you to know they're there even if you can't see them. How do I do that, I wonder, and so . . . the wandering in circles begins. The coming back to the beginning, the starting over, the agony, the joy. The tips of my fingers will glow with paint.


Shelter for my soul

The heat is almost too much for jewelry. Earrings grow hot against complaining, sunburned lobes, ankles protest the pearls that keep away once-in-a-while breezes. I see this picture of my hand embracing the hot day, and I try to follow my lifeline, to see where I'm bound. I see my age here, the skin that isn't as firm as it once was, but I see a hand that is happy. How strange. I wouldn't have said that had I given it thought, but happy it is. Can't you see that? Life seems so overwhelming, so full of closer-than-I'd-like endings, and yet . . . I am able to hold a much loved cat who will be gone too soon, to feel her constant purr; I am able to erect shelters for my soul with a paintbrush & canvas. To offer help if needed, to reach for help when I feel I can't go on. It's a powerful hand.

And so a prayer of thanks for that hand. And the other. And for feet that keep me pointed in the right direction, for legs that take me there, who dance on the way. For eyes who see where that place is, who can follow that lifeline, and for a heart who knows I'll get there.

Thank you all you pieces & parts of me. Thank you Life. Thank you Heartache & Joy, thank you Sadness & Happy Times, thank you Sunrise & Owls, thank you Darkness & Fireflies, thank you Silence, thank you Music, thank you Stillness, thank you Love, thank you Love, thank you Love.

Can I get an amen?


75 things about my mother

Tomorrow is my Mother's 75th birthday. This is a long post. Settle in.

1. Best fried apricot pies EVER.

2. She taught me - inadvertently - to be fearless about painting. Old metal teapots were not off limits; if it sat still, it was just asking to be decorated with daisies.

3. She has had & still has a life full of pets: Cherie, Citrus Sue & Martin, Noop, Deanie, Coco, Sparkle, Shadow, Angelina, Miss Kitty, Old Joe, Tom Tom, Skye, Ike, Miss Buster, Reggie the Blue Jay who had his own room, Martha, Gray Boy, and thousands more.

4. She is the 16th child in a family of 16 children.

5. She moved - with my father - to a new state, leaving behind friends, family & the only life she'd ever known, dragging 3 kids to an unknown future. No job waiting on either of them, very little money, not knowing anyone, knowing only that the health of my brother - and his life - was at stake if the move was not made.

6. She's a writer.

7. Her gardens were organic before organic was cool.

8. She is overly prepared for any possible emergency. Stuff is in the car in case she & Skye the cat have to quickly evacuate, emergency rations are under the bed. :)

9. When my father died, she put aside her own grief for an hour & came to my house to make sure I was okay, to feed me baby bites of cold sandwiches. (Thank you Kay for those sandwiches.)

10. She has a Sweet Tooth. Capital S. Capital T. I've seen her eat an entire peach cobbler in one evening.

11. Yet she stays thin.

12. She has great eyebrows. (Seinfeld fans will appreciate this observance.)

13. She loves Lyle Lovett.

14. The first tree she plants at any house is a fig. She never has extra figs to give away because she will stand at the tree & just eat them all.

15. She is a lover of all wildlife - birds, beasts, insects, reptiles. Even the snake brought into her house by the ever vigilant Skye - the one Michael had to capture because she had barricaded herself in another bedroom. When he told her he'd caught it, she yelled through the closed door "Well, don't kill it".

16. She once lived in a haunted house.

17. She always has her hair in curlers during any disaster or family emergency. If her house is ever hit by a tornado, no doubt her hair will be in curlers & she will be interviewed by CNN reporters & will be broadcast nationally, to the amusement of all her relatives.

18. She is funny - sometimes on purpose.

19. She's afraid to fly - or at least she thinks she is. She's never flown, so there's no way to know for sure.

20. She tithes, but not necessarily to her church. Sometimes the Salvation Army receives her 10%, sometimes the Humane Society. Once it was a neighbor who'd left an abusive husband, but needed temporary help feeding herself & her kids. She didn't ask, but my mother knew.

21. She is not easily bored - a trait that, thankfully, she passed on to me.

22. She loves my blog - this very thing you're reading. When she first read it, she was so moved that she wrote me a little note telling me so.

23. She successfully threw my father a surprise 65th birthday party. No mean feat - we have a huge family & they all showed up.

24. She hangs my artwork all over her house. Bad high school & early college drawings & paintings that she nonetheless loves. She even has my very first drawing (I was about 2) framed. It's not too bad, if I do say so myself.

25. She has only one grandchild, but that child is a doozy - the joy of her life.

26. When she was 16 she got married. (Not my father.) She was a carhop, he was a cool, unemployed guy on a motorcycle. One day while she was at work, he drove by & waved & that was it. She got divorced & told me that as she was walking down the courthouse steps, she felt free!

27. Her favorite song is Summit Ridge Drive by Artie Shaw.

28. She has a yard full of turtles or tortoises or terrapins or whatever they are. She knows. They're all named & she recognizes them immediately by sight.

29. Her grocery lists are unbelievably indecipherable & written on the teensiest bits of paper imaginable.

30. Because she recycles everything.

31. She can sew or upholster anything. Except for that Halloween witch costume I wore one year.

32. She cannot, however, spell just anything.

33. For this she blames her father, a Hungarian immigrant who could speak 7 languages & even invented a traffic control device that was used for jillions of years until computers came along, but who spoke with an accent. This accent, she claims, is the reason she mispronounces & misspells words. He taught her to speak with a Texas/Hungarian accent. :)

34. In addition to great eyebrows, she has great fingernails, and lives in constant despair of mine.

35. Have I mentioned her Thanksgiving dressing?

36. She can't swim.

37. She loves to limit our Christmas spending, and 5 or 6 years ago, that limit was $5.00! She says she enjoyed that year's shopping more than any other year because it was such a challenge.

38. When she was young, she was a jitterbugger.

39. She has a provision in her will to make sure her cat will be taken of.

40. Speaking of cats, she believes they cannot find their way down or out of a tree, which has led to the climbing of a ladder more than once by yours truly, the cajoling of cats, the pleading. The begging. This usually takes place after dark.

41. She cannot sit still. She is always busy - in the yard, at her computer, in the house. It made my father crazy.

42. She will loan me money if I need it. I try to not need it.

43. She has, in the last 5 or 6 years, survived a broken sternum (car accident), a heart attack, a severe staph infection, several cases of bronchitis, a broken shoulder & hip (at the same time), heart arrhythmias, reactions to medicine, colon cancer, ischemic colitis (necessitating firemen breaking through her back door). I have come to know my way around emergency rooms & hospitals.

44. She knows about plants & flowers - she knows when to trim them back, she understands deadheading, when to plant tomatoes, how to prune azaleas.

45. She has a fireplace that she has never used. She has firewood in case of an emergency (see #8), but did not consider a 3 day power failure a few winters ago emergency enough to light a fire - she just stayed cold. (See #43.)

46. She is a bath person & doesn't understand how people don't drown in showers.

47. She cries very easily. She will cry when she reads this.

48. Despite the fact that my father was a sports nut, was the head of the Little League association when my brothers were young, that he was always glued to tv football & baseball games & attended as many high school & college events as possible, and despite the fact that my brothers & I grew up to be sports nuts, she just doesn't get it. Except for last year's Dallas Cowboys season.

49. She likes Julia Roberts. She especially liked her when she married Lyle Lovett.

50. She sings all the time - it's one of my big memories of her as I was growing up. I remember her singing while washing dishes, or sweeping floors (which would sometimes elicit a jitterbug move or two), or gardening.

51. Deep in her heart, she believes the Harry Potter books promote witchcraft. She denies this to me, but I know it's true.

52. When she was a child, one year for Christmas she received a doll with no hair. Her sister closest to her in age, however, received a doll with beautiful hair - Hildegarde. In a fit of jealousy, my mother cut off all of Hildegarde's hair. When she retells this tale, it never fails to make me laugh & it never fails to make her mad all over again.

53. Great shoes.

54. When she married my father she wore a black dress. I have no idea what she wore when she married the cool motorcycle guy.

55. She became friends with her oldest sister's nursing home "roommate" & when her sister died, she continued that friendship with the roommate until the woman died several years later.

56. She has met Dolly Parton & Henry Kissinger & the cast & crew of "Bonanza" - she & my father happened upon them while they were filming in the Arizona desert. My parents were looking for gold.

57. She was a smoker from the time she was a teenager (again, see #43) until just recently. I suspect she still sneaks a cigarette every once in a while.

58. She loves my sister-in-law like a daughter & tells me quite often how glad she is that my brother married such a wonderful woman, and how lucky she considers herself.

59. She says she will not drive in bad weather, but I know this to be untrue, having shown up at her house during a freak heavy snowstorm to find that she was visiting someone who lived an hour away.

60. She worries a lot.

61. So her house is like a fortress. I've mentioned this before. Multiple locks, tall fence, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms. She is armed. Do not mess with her.

62. She is a die-hard Republican, but she voted for Ann Richards when Ann ran for governor against Clayton Williams. Don't tell anyone.

63. She wants to be an archaeologist when she grows up.

64. She can say the word "panties" without blushing. I, who cannot, find this amazing.

65. Her kitchen is painted bright Granny Smith apple green. And surprisingly, it looks terrific.

66. The last movie she saw in a theater was "Poltergeist".

67. She has a cast-iron stomach. She can eat anything without getting sick. (I sometimes wonder if I am, in fact, her biological daughter.) Many years ago she had a kidney infection, was feeling pretty bad & had, in fact, decided to just go on to the emergency room. But first she had to cook a big supper & eat -she was hungry!

68. Back to motorcycles. When she was a young wild teenager, she liked those guys on motorcycles, and she liked it when they would lean the bikes over & make sparks fly when the footpegs scraped the road.

69. She does not & never has cooked on Sunday.

70. She has a huge, huge, huge collection of depression glass & carnival glass - mostly in storage.

71. She knew my father was the one when she first met him.

72. She once, in a fit of self-pity & anger, referred to herself as old "Mule Jean". Unfortunately, that nickname stuck. I am trying to convince her to start a blog under that name.

73. She likes a lot of lights on in the house during the night. If you're spending the night, take a sleep mask.

74. She expects you to be punctual, even if you've not set an exact time for something. If you say I'll take care of that next week, she expects you to take care of it first thing Monday morning.

75. She is the best mom in the world, and has 3 children, a daughter-in-law & a granddaughter who love her dearly. Happy birthday!

UPDATE 10:30 PM, 7/16/08 - According to one of my commenters, I am incorrect in stating that my mother never cooked on Sunday. I assume this commenter to be one of my brothers, probably the one with the computer. He's younger than I & no doubt has a better memory - I've been old a lot longer - but I have no recollection of Sunday meals.


I will not talk politics

The lovely, lovely Katie and I discuss politics all the time. We're very political people, as are the ever-wonderful Michael and the usually-packing-heat-especially-while-naked-in-the-yard-at-5 a.m.- looking-for-a-prowler Robert. (Whew!)

But we're also girls. We want things to be pretty. To be soft. This doesn't mean we won't kick your behind if you threaten us (of course, I don't mean you - I mean someone else, someone up to no good), but it does mean we'll try to look good while doing it. So last week, while she & I were discussing Robert's new blog, she mentioned that he hadn't yet put in background colors, or designed a cool header. (Actually, she didn't say cool, but I knew what she meant.) I didn't say anything at the time, but I thought he's not gonna do that - he's got a different kind of blog than I do. My blog is a haven, a nest, a place I come to where no politics are allowed. The only complaining I do is on a personal level - it's about art, or getting older, or bad service at restaurants, and even then I don't name the restaurants. Robert's blog is a soapbox - full of political opinions, funny stories, sad stories, guns, great photographs. It's a whole nuther animal. He pulls no punches - I respect that & I read his blog every day & laugh & disagree or agree with him about things. I like seeing his take on the neighborhood - he drives through the streets & photographs a cannon parked in front of a friend's house; I drive through the streets & photograph a tree bursting with baby-girl pink flowers. (Doesn't that even sound pretty?) And sure enough, yesterday Katie mentioned to me that he was going to leave his blog as is. We both laughed. Cause she wanted to decorate it - I totally understand. I decorate this one.

And that's what the above photograph symbolizes. I made it part of my sidebar last week & it will stay there. I will not talk about politics. I will not talk about politics.

This is my place away from all that - it's in my face the rest of the day, and that's okay; I believe in being aware & informed. But here? No way. This is an escape - this is my rabbit hole to a magical place full of colors & amazing creatures & silliness & fun. It's my secret diary, but I've made copies of the key & given each of you one to call your own. It's a pale aqua diary with a silver lock & a bookmark made of pressed white flowers & I use pens with different ink colors when I write in it. Cause I'm a girl. Cause this is mine. Cause I can.


Owl of the morning

This is this morning's owl. I find that my first thought is to offer an apology for the poor quality of the photograph, which is something I've sworn to no longer do. So I take it back. This is this morning's owl. His existence has become part of my morning routine. My morning meditation. It's a standing meditation - I slow my breathing to match that of the trees, and I become still. I watch. I look. I focus. Each leaf, each limb, each shadow. No thinking. I just look, and if I'm lucky, there he is. Sometimes there's more than one, but one is enough, one is plenty. I feel quite privileged, now a part of his world. A part of his morning meditation. So I stand and we breath the same air and we both pay little attention to the cardinal flitting through the trees while paying total attention to the cardinal flitting through the trees. The robins are everywhere, flying from limb to limb and then to the ground, a mockingbird is singing from the ginkgo tree, and they are all background, but they are also all there is. When he's done, the owl flies farther back into the cherry laurel stand & disappears from my sight. I stand for a few minutes more and now the cardinal is no longer a part of me & the owl & the trees - he's a cardinal. But for those few moments I knew the connection between us all. I take that feeling with me & head back home.


98 degrees of hotness

I used to be such a summer baby. I think I've mentioned this before. I think I've mentioned before how the heat is changing this. I think I've even mentioned mentioning it before. This is what happens when you hit your 50s - they hit back. With a vengeance.

I used to head for the lake or a pool at the first hint of spring & sprawl there for the entire summer, and even well into fall. Not an unthinkable thing in Texas - it stays hot, the kids go back to school, and the lake becomes almost your own little private oasis. But now? Now? Now I'm starting to have these little hot "episodes". When I get really hot, I don't cool down as easily. Or I cool down & a few minutes later I feel the heat again - usually slapping me right across my face. So now I'm a baby. Now I have to be at the lake by early morning or I don't go at all. Now I don't stay long if I manage to actually make it there. Now the 3 or 4 minutes it takes the car a/c to really get going seems like an eternity. Now a trip to the store is a mental toss-up: should it be a quick in & out & back to the car before some of the coolness inside the car fades, or should I stay long enough to get really cooled off in the store's frigid air, only to face the incredible heat inside my vehicle when I climb back inside? And should I leave my sunglasses in the car, where they, too will become incredibly hot? Or shove them on top of my head while in the ice-cold store, knowing they'll steam up when I get outside again? Oh, the decisions I have to make. All of which seem so important. Your 50s take so much seriously.

Today was hot. The photo above was taken when I left Barnes & Noble, about 4 o'clock this afternoon. I'd been miserable when I got there. I was going to go to Target, but it's another 10 minutes down the road & those 10 minutes seemed just not worth it - not worth the hot, hot car that would be waiting for me when I finished shopping. Because Target is my favorite store - because it is impossible for me to not look at everything in the store while I'm there. That takes a while. I may not make it back there until fall.

But I digress. I'd stopped at Barnes & Noble instead - bookstores are my cure-all for whatever is ailing me. 45 minutes later I stepped outside, new books in hand, and thought "Whew! It's so much cooler than it was." And the thing is, it was. I took this picture out the car window, waiting for the a/c to kick in.

~ On a different, way more fun note, I've received this award from Valaine at Silent Dreamer:

Rules are to show the award on your blog, link to the person who gave it to you, and then pass it along to 7 others & let them know by commenting on their blogs. Also link to their blogs. I hereby, in no particular order, award the following: Robin, Jaime, Jolachka, Robert, Cookie, Paula and, of course, Bridgette.


Summer tree

Put on some slightly rose-colored glasses - maybe round ones, maybe some that look like they're left over from the 60s, maybe put a flower in your hair, also - and you'll get a truer idea of the color of this tree. Maybe even listen to this song to get you in the proper mood. It's summer out there & this is my very favorite summer tree & the color isn't quite right when I post it here, but I know that y'all understand this tree even so. It's a summer tree. A crepe myrtle. There are others all over the neighborhood, all over the area - dark pink, white, fuchsia, purplish, even true lavender. This tree is on the block behind my house. I wait every year for it to bloom, then backtrack around the block just so I can see it. My friend Theresa lives next door to this tree, which shares its yard with hydrangeas, moonflowers & a darker pink crepe myrtle. The tree's owner once expressed to Theresa that perhaps she (the owner) was owed a little something in exchange for having such lovely flowers for Theresa to gaze upon, so Theresa promptly baked a batch of brownies & offered it as a fair exchange. It was accepted.

I have another 3 days off this weekend. I am hoping to not think about art, which no doubt will insure that I do. I want to just eat some cherries (thanks Robin!), lay at the lake & read a fun novel, drive around NE Texas on a photo safari with no time when I have to be anywhere. I need a break to feed my inner artist, to give her some time off, to let her just look at things without feeling she has to do something with those things. To just put on some rose-colored glasses & dance in the street. You may hear an anklet or two jangling.


Hot fun in the summertime

The 3 kids spent Monday with us. 2 of them are pictured above. I'm not sure any words are needed.

I am way too old for this stuff. Or maybe it's just that, having never had children of my own, I have no experience with the craziness that 8 hours of kids (I cannot even begin to imagine 24/7 of kids) brings with it. Or maybe it was just yesterday's heat. We had Michael's 2 with us again yesterday (they were so disappointed that Emma wasn't here to help in their bedevilment of us hapless adults). At some point after lunch, after Maggie's daily injection, I had the brilliant idea to walk them to The Children's Park. Brilliant. Not too far of a trek, involving an exciting (if you're 4 years old) under-the-road tunnel, a little bit of water to wade in, just something new to see, a cool place to wander in for a bit. Except that it's July. In Texas. It's hot in July in Texas. I forgot. But there we were, and there were goldfish & tadpoles & a couple of little waterfalls & I only had to rescue another woman's baby once. Okay, rescue is perhaps not quite the right word, perhaps a bit grandiose, but the woman was not paying attention to this barely-a-toddler, she being too busy posing for a photographer in a teeny bikini (she had on the bikini, not the photographer) up on some rocks in front of one of the waterfalls. While baby boy headed for the water & was in it up to his waist before I got there. His mother/sister/baby-sitter (whatever she was) laughed & laughed - oh, she said, we brought him yesterday & let him wade, he thinks it's okay now, tee hee, ha ha, & back up to the rocks she went, leaving baby boy to wander about. This same woman/child broke the full length mirror she'd dragged into the park (to check that the bikini was covering everything it was supposed to cover) & left the jillions of little shards & bigger pieces laying about in Section 16 - the Story Ring. (I should've picked them up, but to be honest, I forgot about the mirror until after we'd left.)

But dramas aside, it was still hot. And very little shade, at least where the kids wanted to be. I lasted about 30 minutes, then called the ever-wonderful Michael to come get us. And I was done, as they say. Cooked. Never recuperated - required a early shower & bedtime when I got home.

All in all, though, the last 2 days were really fun. Noise & heat notwithstanding.


Sunday's almost-painting

Sunday is the most stressful day of the week for me. Makes no sense, I know, but there it is. It's just waiting for me at the end of all those other days, chock-a-block full of stuff I'm supposed to do, stuff I need to do, stuff I never actually get to, stuff I stress about. A large part of that is art stuff. I feel so pressured to get so much done that I do nothing. 2 days a week off, year in, year out, leaves very little time for actual art. I once dated a guy whose brother is now a hot shot artist (did 2 Christmas cards for the Clintons while they were in the Whitehouse). This brother used to be head of the art department or advertising or something at one of the biggest national magazines around - it will remain nameless, but trust me, you've read it. He would always plan to paint on the weekends, but he eventually realized he didn't paint on the weekends. He wanted to relax on the weekends. He wanted to be still. Me too. Making art is not & never has been relaxing for me - it wipes me out emotionally, mentally, physically. I want no contact with anyone else. I don't want to worry that someone will drop in & I'm wearing pj bottoms & a muscle shirt. I'm a mess. But that doesn't happen - the phone always rings, there's laundry to deal with (and here I will mention that the washer & dryer are part of my "studio" so dealing with the resultant noise, heat & humidity adds to my aggravation, adds to my not wanting to do it), people to see. It stops me, and I'm not a fast painter to begin with. I'm an agonizer, I'm a "I-don't-know"-er, I have to stop & rethink & redo & rethink again. It's a complicated, totally intuitive process that requires aloneness & silence. It's a lot of pressure to put on one day of the week. I kind of feel sorry for Sunday. (Saturday's job is run errands; if I paint on Saturday, that just delays those errands to Sunday, adding more pressure to an already stressful day.)

The little gessoed canvas pictured above is all I got done yesterday. It was to be a painting for a friend, who's just been diagnosed with a very serious illness. I wanted to paint something for her that would be calming. So I tried. And tried. And tried. And tried. You can see where the ginkgo leaf was - ginkgo for longevity. There was a bird there at one point. It was silver, blue-green, pearl white, then silver again. Nothing worked. I finally pulled off the ginkgo leaf & gessoed over the thing again. I work like this a lot. It's part of what gives my work the texture it has. It's a lot of indecision. No, strike that. It's actually quite decisive - I know something's not going to work, so I don't use it. I go on. Anyway. I so wanted to post a photo of the finished painting - I was so sure it would be easy, it would be done. But Sunday had its say. I agonized, I sweated, I said no to everything. Then this morning I had a conversation with this friend, and during the conversation she mentioned an experience she'd had a few years ago - and I knew where this painting is supposed to go. The ginkgo leaf will still be there in the background.

PS - My ex-boyfriend's brother? He quit his extremely high-paying, stable, prestigious job at that magazine & began to paint full time. He got famous - he made lots of bucks. I hope he got happier.


Neighborhood magic & cheshire owls

My neighborhood is full of magic. You can almost feel it up against your skin - little nibbles & sparkles bouncing off your arms & legs & face, little flashes in the air - there! See it?!

This morning I had a double shadow. You can see it above, if you look closely. Only the color has been changed. I thought it looked like a painting; I couldn't resist; Van Gogh would've understood - the blades of grass look like brushstrokes. (In fact, if you let your inner pagan out for a moment, you'll realize they are brushstrokes painted by mama nature.)

And then there were 3 owls, later 4, sitting all in a row on a cherry laurel limb. I am now of the belief that Lewis Carroll based The Cheshire Cat on a owl - first one, and then suddenly another appeared sitting quite still right next to the first, and then a 3rd. Then a 4th. Instead of a smile, I'm sure their eyes must appear first.

Red dragonflies in the front yard, redtail hawks nesting down the street. A perfectly perfect neon-green lizard against the white belly spots of the hackberry tree. A raccoon with 4 babies all-a-tiptoe behind her - a private performance for the lovely Katie.

The next-door neighbor had a small get-together with another neighbor last night - comparing photos & tales of their vacations in Greece & Paris. I felt not one whit of jealousy.

And PS - My 1ooth post. Today. Thank you.


Cold fried okra & 5 owls

I know! It sounds like some weird southern delicacy, doesn't it? But never fear - one thing has nothing to do with the other. Except that they both make me feel very happy & summery & relaxed & childlike. Very summer vacation, very out of school, very "look at this!". Remember that feeling? Bare feet on oil topped HOT, HOT, HOT roads, but never mind - we ran. We ran to the park down the street - back then, we stayed outdoors all day, and the park was the place to be. We were there from morning to night, running home for lunch to houses without air conditioning, and running back to the park where we stayed until suppertime - until the bats were flitting around the telephone poles & mothers were calling us in. There were swings & merry-go-rounds & monkey bars & tether ball & baseball & 4-square & even board games. It's where I learned to play chess. There was a giant sandbox & each year the city parks would hold a competition for best sandbox sculpture - I remember building a sand octopus & dying it green. There was also an annual "circus" - each park, under the supervision of the park's director, would perform a circus act. We'd practice all summer, and at the end of the season, the local baseball field would open its gates for this city-wide celebration. (One year we were acrobats, performing our tricks while hanging from ladders.) Each park would also choose a princess, and she would ride in a float built atop a wagon, decorated by us kids, and pulled by a chosen few. A queen would then be chosen from amongst these lucky princesses. I know, I know - it sounds horrible & sexist, but it was fun! It was a big deal! One year I was the princess, and my mother made my dress - orange & tangerine with flowers. I remember being disappointed that it wasn't blue, but it didn't matter - I was a princess! But my very, very favorite thing was The Puppet Truck. Oh, it was MAGIC! The city had a truck that was a marionette theater - painted bright red, with a stage built into the side. It would perform at each park 2 or 3 times during the summer. It would appear about sunset, but the performance wouldn't begin until after dark. And, oh! The agony of waiting! My house was on the same street as the park, and the truck would pass by on its way, and it was all my mother could do to keep us inside until after supper. But she would, and after supper, the whole family would walk (or in our case, run) to the park, joined by all the other families in the neighborhood, to see that night's show. The darkness would surround the truck & the only light would be the stage light; the marionette costumes were the most magnificent magical colors, shimmering & glowing & absolutely intoxicating! I've tried to paint this scene many times, but can't come close to the enchantment of those evenings. I don't even remember the plays - I just recall the colors & the warm night air & the escape into fantasy.

But what about the okra, you say? My very favorite vegetable (well, maybe a 2nd to brussel sprouts). Childhood memories there, also - when relatives would descend on my grandmother's house in the summer, we'd have fried okra & boiled new potatoes & home grown tomatoes & fried catfish & cream peas. Sweet tea. Served on tables set up all over her house & backyard, fans set up to keep the summer air moving. It's still about the extent of my cooking ability. When I fry okra, I slice it & just wet it with water, then toss into a frying pan with hot olive oil, then sprinkle quite liberally with salt & peppered cornmeal. Keep turning it until the cornmeal is crisp, and be sure to fry more than you can eat. Because you want to be able to have plenty of this goody cold, which you then douse with Worcestershire sauce. Maybe mix it up with diced home-grown tomatoes. Always my breakfast the next day. It just doesn't get any better!

And the owls? 5 of them. This morning. At the back of Mary's driveway. My smile hasn't faded yet. I don't have the camera equipment and/or expertise for this situation, but this time you don't have to just take my word for it. Robert now has a blog (which means from now on, between the two of us, nothing in our neighborhood is safe from scrutiny) , and you can check 3 of them out here. Be sure to click on the photo & enlarge it. It's way worth it!

Meanwhile, the hammock & the lake are my places of choice for the weekend. As I told Christy this morning, just visualize yourself laying there in the morning sunlight. If you're nice (and I know you are), I'll bring you a glass of sweet tea - heavy on the ice. Happy, happy Independence day to you all!



These 2 sweeties belong to the ever-wonderful Michael & have been with us on & off for the last couple of weeks. All day Monday & all day today & just ½ day last week. Monday found us geocaching, finding treasures that were, alas, full of ants & rainwater. Great kids that these are, however, it made no difference. The hunt for the treasure was the fun. We turned a curve on the trail & came upon a bunny - big & brown & contentedly munching the grass, and absolutely not bothered by us. Sarah thought it would be quite wonderful if suddenly 5 snow white baby bunnies appeared, following their mother, and we looked (truly, we did!) but none showed up. Jace was quite mesmerized by the one-armed female jogger who passed us, and was disappointed when every other jogger who passed us had 2 whole, healthy arms. We walked the trails & came upon the Cancer Bell, a memorial & place of honor for cancer victims, their families & caregivers. Beneath the bell was a stepping stone, inlaid with mementos of victims - a spoon here, a piece of jewelry there, marbles & beads & other keepsakes. The kids think they need one in their back yard. Burger King & Chick-Fil-A have been the eating places of choice & I live in fear that today may be Chuck E Cheese! :) Nickelodeon is on the laptap computer in the front room & my door is closed against the sound - being over 10, I can only take so much. Sarah has written a story about Ham the Pig (LOL!) & Jace has illustrated it with pig pictures, or so he says - I assume he knows what he's talking about. Lily is in my office, sleeping in the chair behind me, having made her escape from being forced to play. A pretty relaxed day all in all.

Summertime. And the perks of owning your own small business. Kids & animals & work-a-day life all underfoot. I like that.