Monday, July 30, 2007

Bob and I got a great three mile park walk in Monday night at McKinney Falls ending as a beautiful lemon drop moon began to rise. It is still bizarrely green out there for almost August and rich in wildlife. We saw the same doe and fawn we saw last week, another rabbit, heard active chorus of bird song as well as loud roar of falls. We also saw a large rattlesnake -- not until bikers had startled it into leaving the trail so not scary -- at least four feet long and thick (I think thick as my forearm but Bob wasn't sure) quite imposing visually at any rate. We're doing better at our walking for exercise-walked our neighborhood three miles Sunday night and again last night with Lobo and plan four to five tonight since I get off in time for an earlier supper and start. We hope to visit the Gila Wilderness during Thanksgiving week and Bob, especially is inspired to have increased fitness for great hikes there. I am piggy backing on his enthusiasm, one of the many benefits of marriage.
I'm surprised that so many adults say "I don't read kid's books." I get so much from kid's books. My friend Bill is right, I think when he says that the main difference between the best youth fiction and adult fiction is that the characters in the first are younger. I also think that emphasis on growth, learning, and hope in youth fiction appeal to me more than the cynicism and sensationalism which sometimes mar fiction written for adults. Of course I want to and do read both.

Right now KK and I are loving a book called Silk Umbrellas, a very complex and moving story about a young artist growing up in a Thai village at the brink of industrialization and westernization. The life style and circumstances of daily living in the story are so different and the love between grandmother and grandmother so similar. I think both KK and I are drawn in both by the similarities and the differences. I plan to look up Thailand on the internet with her the next time she, I and online access are together, to see pictures of the temples, jungles and people we're reading about - also a map since I am embarrassingly vague on exactly where Thailand is and she is even less sure. We know its somewhere in the general direction of China. duh! I also have some Thai foods and recipes so KK and I can prepare and share a sort of Thai meal next week at the beach. One little thing I learned in the book is that omelets with chillis are a traditional Thai food - makes sense since village people all over the world keeps chickens and have eggs, but I didn't know it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

This afternoon the boys, Sammi the pup, and I played at the park while Bob and KK chose books at the library - a typical event rendered magical when a downpour caught us. I had the choice of trying to keep dry by taking shelter in the bathrooms or just letting us enjoy the crazy opportunity to get soaking wet. I chose the latter and it was wonderful, a delightful release from boundaries and restrictions for all of us (except Sammi who instinctively tried to dig a hole to stay dry and then took shelter happily in my arms). The boys loved the extra speed that wetness gave the slides and they thought it was a hoot to be encouraged by an adult to jump and splash in puddles as much as possible. I thought it was a hoot too.

I also had a nature and language lesson, an in depth experience with the concept of "sheltering oaks". The live oaks over the bench where I was sitting kept me dry well into the downpour. I sat, perfectly dry, watching a curtain of rain drench slide and boys, watching the circle of dry ground surrounding me slowly shrink.

Eventually torrents of water saturated the leaves and poured through branches, soaking me and Sammi too. When the rain stopped, and we walked home, all of us were intrigued by seeing the flood prevention system in action, with water rushing down various channels, through drains, down creek beds whose levels had been low half an hour before.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bob and I walked at McKinney Falls at sunset and were pleased by the lush green woods- usually dried out by this time in July - wild flowers still blooming, unusual numbers of fruit on prickly pear pants, vines laden with muscadine grapes tart on the tongue, last persimmons clinging to trees, more on the trail and more still, devoured by park wildlife. We saw more mammals than usual, six deer including a buck and a fawn, a rabbit, a skunk, and numerous kinds of wild flowers which don't usually last through June. I got a fleeting glimpse of an owl. Onion Creek is high and flowing hard and foamy over the falls. We are still under a flash flood alert of some kind, and, seeing the creek, I understand why. Rain is in the forecast every day for the next week and not a single high is predicted over 90- truly odd for Texas in July. KK said recently that "something is wrong with the weather. It doesn't feel like summer." I wonder if this is just a fluky wet summer or a sign of climate change. I do like the cooler temperatures.

It was a pretty ordinary day - good work day - highlights were the walk and a short photo session with Ruth, thrilled to have her replacement camera operative. Bob and I are taking turns with Harry Potter. Obviously his turn right now!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bob is home! Bob is home! Bob is home ---which means I may not write much else for a while. (He's in the shower at the moment.) He got in about 1:30 this morning, safe and full of stories - good to get my arms around that man and hear the stories first hand. I'm so glad I'm off on his first day home. Well - he's in the kitchen, clean and dry and ready to go to lunch so, enough already for now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is a procrastination post. Bob will be home late tonight and I have the house almost ready - just odd bits and pieces yet. I'm reading the new Harry Potter book - getting happily caught up in that world - and at the moment taking a break between both of those ventures to check in here.

My online chat group has been discussing Mt. Rushmore (because one of the members saw it recently) and I realize both how strongly I feel about that monument and that many people actually like the work and think it appropriate. That surprises me. What I wrote and feel about the monument is thus.

I haven't been to Mt. Rushmore and my at a distance opinion has been "Why mess with a perfectly good mountain? " Not only has such an effort seemed excessive and expensive to me, but it has seemed offensive, like official graffiti . The monument seems to scream "We're here and we're important. We're Americans. We can do what we want. Look at us!"

I know humans will always change the earth to inhabit it (at least as long as we can get by with surviving here). We will use Earth's resources to support life. Building homes, roads, offices, factories, mining, farming, drilling - all of these kinds of things I believe we should do these things ways that are as sensitive to the earth's well being as practicable - but do it we must and will. Building art, beauty, monuments to human actions even also pleases me. I also love sculpture. But sculpting the faces of national heroes into a natural feature as big and striking as a mountain feels like hubris and overkill. I'm uncomfortable with the reworking of a mountain as a symbol of national pride. I believe our attitude toward the natural features among us should be more we than pride and domination..

Friday, July 20, 2007

Early to bed tonight I think. I'm weary and will be up early tomorrow for tree work, I think. Shawn and his friend Dan are coing to cut down heavy dead branches, and also to mow. I'm so relieved.

Ruth and Chris and I went to an in house Shabbat service, mostly singing, in a beautiful home in the hills. The focus on connection with God through meditation and music is beautiful, and our host, a brilliant former math prodigy who is recently divorced - shared some of his trnasformative poetry with the group - more with Ruth and me. I hope the group can have meetings in which more of us can share our art - especially growth and spirit related art - like a salon of youre.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Our travelers have been enjoying Atlanta's many entertainment options. They did natural history museum (with HUGE dinosaur skeleton and age matched learning and discovery areas) and the aquarium yesterday. The beluga whales were courting - something I would have loved to have seen but Bob and KK were especially blown away by the huge whale sharks, which they say are beautiful and elegantly proportioned as well as just impressively big. Hard for me to think of a shark as beautiful, but I believe them. Today at the zoo the highlight was the panda family. The baby was active, and tiny - just a little bigger than Sammi. KK says the mother disciplined the baby, preventing it from climbing steps off which it might fall. She picked it up in her mouth like a mother cat does with a kitten. Our family group was lucky enough to be stranded in the panda house during a thunder storm at a time when the baby was active - (right before climbing onto a branch and sleeping for at least four hours)

I have gotten some tasks done around here in the absence of family, but not as much as I expected - still feel pretty good about progress. And work is good, satisfying - wonderful to see people grow and change.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bob's birthday. He and James and the kids made it to Atlanta. Bob wanted to hike up a mountain in North Carolina for his birthday but it was too hot. They took a short hike around a lake instead and saw little tiny toads. I miss them all, especially Bob, more tonight. Neither Lobo nor I slept much last night, both of us missing Bob I think. I hope tonight is more peaceful. Bob did find out today that Anderson High School, the last local option, didn't hire him. Silly Austin schools. They don't know what they are missing. I wish he could live at home and teach here, but I have to trust Menger is the right place for now and work to make our year good. One thing I don't have to work to feel good about is the whole week off at Thanksgiving. We will go birding again for the first half of the week. Last year's trip to see the sand hill cranes was magnificent.
Today was good. I pulled weeds (barely made a dent but did it) I figure every time I go out in the yard and work I am reclaiming my hope that I can regain a decent yard space - that it isn't hopeless. I am empowering myself just a little and that feels good. I also had help Saturday. my friend Shawn, who is an arborist, came over and looked at the towering half dead tree that is scaring me that it might fall on the house or on someone and he offered to do the cutting down work as a gift - so that we will only have to pay a manageable sum to his assistant. He went a step further and asked if we had a lawn mower - we don't have a working one - real comedy of errors with family lawn mowers this summer) He said he had seen a lawn mower at a garage sale down the street and we walked down together to look at it. He bought it himself for $20.00 and said his assistant would use it to mow our lawns once before he took it for the use of a nonprofit agency he supports. This takes a huge load off my mind and also reaffirms my faith in human goodness (though I've long respected Shawn's goodness).

I also cleaned bathrooms today and felt good to be able to make surfaces sparkle. I have neglected so much.

Tonight Ruth and Chris and I had supper with Marie and Bill (in celebration of her birthday) . Food and conversation were rich and sustaining as I expected and drew strength from. It was fun to see Marie's recent painting projects - and especially her first original - not based on another work - painting in progress. It makes me smile every time Bill describes his wife as a painter - and it's the truth. This is a side of her she has development since our friendship started almost thirty years ago, and I love to see her delight in it. I just realised our friendship is older than either of us was when it started.

Marie did something really great regarding birthday presents. She suggested that friends make donations of cash to The Capital Area Food Bank, which has been stressed because of a need to feed both victims of recent hill country flooding and aid workers. She, and all of us, are impressed that the food bank can convert each dollar into 5 meals - so our gifts go a long way. For more about the food bank see

Looking up food banks I found this quote "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you Marie for offering us an opportunity to serve and to celebrate you at the same time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tonight was a blending of histories and family threads. Ruth and Chris and I joined Kerry's brothers and wives to celebrate the twenty first birthday of Megan, the niece born days after Kerry's death. Her Dad died in 2001, so it seemed good to be able to write a journal for her of Kerry's memories , and mine, of him and the family in early days. Writing, and being with these people, brought back many memories. They are good and interesting people. I wish on nights like this though, that I did have a blood sibling of my own. There is a connection - the looking alike and sharing memories thing - that means something and is something to fall back on in terms of comfort. Inlaw relationships and friendships can be just as rich - and higher quality even if you work at them, but they have to be earned in a way that I don't think sibling relationships do.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Joanna engineered getting herself, Jean, and me to a Martina Mcbride concert tonight. Besides really enjoying relaxing, the change of pace, and the company - WOW! I haven't been listening to the radio and had no idea the intensity of the performance I should have expected, the talent level, the positive message. The opening song was the now apparently very popular "Do it Anyway.", based on a quotation I read at Daddy's funeral. And she sang songs by old favorites Kris Kristoferson and Loretta Lynne, and a poignant song about a child who dies of abuse ( complete with posting of Child Abuse Hotline number. She sang with such pure talent, energy, passion - said it was the only thing she had ever wanted to do. It has to be incredible to be that good at anything. Thank you Martina. You really stirred up my heart and gave me a great evening. Thank you Joanna for getting me there.

On this day of Lady Bird Johnson's funeral, it seems appropriate to post some of her notable quotes here.

Any committee is only as good as the most knowledgeable, determined and vigorous person on it. There must be somebody who provides the flame. Lady Bird Johnson

Become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid. Lady Bird Johnson

Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them. Lady Bird Johnson

Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor. Lady Bird Johnson

It's odd that you can get so anesthetized by your own pain or your own problem that you don't quite fully share the hell of someone close to you. Lady Bird Johnson

No news at 4:30 a.m. is good. Lady Bird Johnson

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. Lady Bird Johnson

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom. Lady Bird Johnson

The First Lady is an unpaid public servant elected by one person - her husband. Lady Bird Johnson

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thanks to the generosity of our community - and one humn angel in particular - Ruth has now ordered her bare bones restart photo equipment. There are a few holes in what she has, but she can work as soon as one order comes in. This kindness is remarkable and I am so thankful.

I have heard that the travelers enjoyed their "cave day" at Mammoth cave and that KK and Danny delighted in the kids only rough caving tour and KK earned her Jr. Ranger badge. They will make it to Blacksburg late tonight for the family part of the trip.

Bob doesn't know yet about the second high school job. It will be nice to have the job hunt issue settled one way or the other.
It really is a broad band world. People can be so kind and so cruel - s well as everything in between. I am touched that as news spread about the loss of Ruth's cameras spread people have rushed to try to help - a lot through Spike Gillespe's amazing Office of Good Deeds, but also through other channels. Amazingly Ruth has a good chance of being up and running quite quickly. And a sweet benefactor has also offered Joanna financial help replacing the wedding rings. People are as good as they are bad.

Our travelers are faring well - sleeping a short drive from Mammoth Cave where all will take a tour - then KK and Danny a special rugged exploration tour for kids only. I can't wait to hear about that. Danny is hoping to see a bat. The only bad news today is that Bob was not chosen for the Round Rock job - disappointing to him since he felt a real connection with the team out there. Tomorrow is the absolute deadline day. If he isn't offered the job and Anderson he will go back to Menger and teach fourth grade. It will be a relief to know one way or the other..

And if I don't get some sleep I'll be absolutely useless at work tomorrow, but still satisfied to have caught up on my blog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bob had two interviews at two high schools - a poor high school in Round Rock which needs a lot of innovative problem solving in its math department and Anderson, an affluent, close to the house high school with a well established math department. He feels he did well in both interviews and is hopeful he will be offered one or both. He wants this to work out so badly. I admire his perseverance and realise I'm a bit of a coward. I don't want to care that much about an outcome. Disappointment hurts too much when you care that much. I used to care like that about getting parts in shows. I realise its been many years since I've really competed for anything - really laid myself on the line - have to think about whether I need to practice that some.

Bob and James and the kids left on their vacation through Tennessee and Mammoth cave to family in Blacksburg and home through Atlanta with its zoo and aquarium (with whale shark) and a swamp tour in New Orleans. I miss them already but know this time I'm better off at home making some money, taking care of clients and having some evening solitude and a weekend to deep clean the house. I've really let it go.

Ladybird Johnsn died this afternoon. Her death seems like the end of an era of strong Texas wmen of a certain generation. We already lost Mary Nell Connoly and Ann Richards, and Molly Ivins, though she was younger. I think Liz Crpenter is still alive and kicking. She may be the last. Myparents, especially my mother knew so many of the great Texas personalities of that generation.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Somebody broke into our office building and stole from Bill's cash box- also wedding and engagement rings and checkbooks from Joanna's desk - and worst of all, Ruth's cameras and professional lenses. They left her lights but so many of the tools of her trade are just gone! We've spent the afternoon talking to police and various people to insurance people - getting locks changed. One of the things they stole was Joanna's house key and they have her address. My personal office was messed up but nothing was stolen. These people wanted cash and pawnable stuff and left my art alone. I think I'm most upset in mother bear mode. My daughters work for or with me and the space I've set aside for them was not safe and they were violated. I'm irrationally angry at myself for not having been able to keep them safe. I know its not my fault and they're grown women but.... I'm also distressed with the attitude of the police, like this isn't a big deal. Thousands of dollars of things (including cash from one partner's box) were stolen. I know nobody was hurt or killed but I still wanted more attention. I believe there is a chance some of Ruth's things will show up in a pawn shop or on Craig's list or EBay, so she is checking. She seems pretty shaken - not at all sure she will get her business running again, and Joanna is so sad about the rings. I tell myself the thieves were drug addicts, crazy for a fix, bereft of the empathy to know what suffering their act caused - the possible death of a young artist's dream, the loss of symbolic as well as valuable jewelry. I think that, even with our losses, we are in much better shape than they are, but I still feel violated and hurt - also angry.
Bob had been waiting for his score on the high school math supervision test and it was available last night when we got home - an 88 I think, scaled score 93 - quite good. He worked all morning getting resumes and letters distributed to three high schools and five elementary schools. Now the wait for interviews begins again.He wants so badly to come back to Austin and I hope it works out for his sake - and of course life would be easier emotionally and financially if he lived here - but I get scared that it is hubris and dangerous for me to think I know what is best for us in this regard.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

KK and her friends Allison and Miranda have been planning a birthday camp out for KK's eleventh birthday for the past six months (Really, I swear!) They made snack and supply lists, activity lists, seating charts - the works. Bob, though , is the one who got the campsite reservations at Pedernales Falls and made it happen - even figuring out how to put up tents and a tarp shelter for our first meal in a downpour. I would have quit. I apparently wailed bit that I wanted to quit. I deny wailing. But Bob is amazing - competent, calm, persevering, creative about solutions to spatial problems, positive in attitude. I felt anxious throughout the camping trip and not like much of an in charge grown up. Somewhere in the middle I realized that he could handle all the logistic needs even if I couldn't - hard on the self esteem but reassuring - and I fall more in love with that man all the time.

I really like KK's friends - smart, verbal, respectful, funny, lively, helpful, playful, self revealing. Miranda loves to hike and camp and especially swim in the river. Allison is KK's BEST FRIEND in the classic sense - hugs and phone calls and knowing each other's needs and thoughts - balancing each other in vulnerable moments. She made KK a book of "KK's favorite things" started with a rhyming poem (really good!) of her own creation, and gave her two mysteries KK had coveted at the book fair as a gift. They love each other so. Miranda is a good friend but not as close. She seemed comfortable being a third - and loved taking camp responsibilities, especially using her Camp Fire fire starter badge to get our fire going for S'mores - Danny's trip highlight. Allison and Bob had an unusual highlight - long conversation about school and life while the rest of us swam in the river.

The boys enjoyed the camp out immensely I think. Zach experienced the common camping phenomenon of immense appetite, eating surprising quantities of food. He and Danny spent hours collecting pill bugs in paper cups. They were cheerful cooperative campers - even with rain and heat and a crowded van, and they especially enjoyed the camp showers. All five kids were interested in birds, animals, water falls, trees, bugs, flowers - full of observations and questions.

Joanna, Ruth, and James came out on Saturday for birthday cake - a wonderful family interlude.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Royal Ballet Company danced The Sleeping Beauty Ballet in San Antonio last night and KK and I were in the audience - what a dream come true. Both the company and the ballet have strong family connections. The Royal Ballet Company is the first major company I ever saw dance and The Sleeping Beauty Ballet is the ballet that transfixed two year old Joanna - to the point that she stood perfectly still, close to the TV, barely breathing, moving ever so slightly to the music. Its also the first ballet she saw live - the day before our major house fire when she was in second grade. KK's seen lots of ballet live and has already performed on the big stage in The Nutcracker twice, but this performance - just days before her eleventh birthday, was one neither her Mama nor I wanted her to miss - or to miss ourselves. Unfortunately Joanna had to work at Sears. We missed her presence.

But watching the Sleeping Beauty - with close reproductions of the lush, exquisite 1940's sets and costumes - with KK was an amazing treat. She was fascinated by all the countries the dancers came from, (listed in the program) and thought it would be cool to dnce with people from all over the world like that. I asked her, before the curtain went up if she would be more excited to be out in the audience or behind the curtain waiting to dance. She thought a bit and answered "Behind the curtain." Ballerina that she is, KK sat rapt, alert, leaning forward, every second the curtain was up. She surprised me, during the introductory act, by making a quick, quiet inhalation during one of the fairy's solos. I looked at KK questioningly and she whispered quietly " She made a mistake!" She also practically lifted out of her seat clapping at the Prince and Princesses amazing solo leaps and spins. Her favorite dances though were those of the hilarious cats, and Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf in the wedding scene at the end.

Another part of this story is my appreciation of Bob and his willingness to drive us to San Antonio and take care of the boys - feeding them supper and playing with them in a park, while we attended the ballet. It read a quote tonight in Denzel Washington's book A Hand To Guide Me which applies to my appreciation of Bob and all the people in my grand kids' community. (It's a wonderful book of stories of prominent adults takes on the people who steered them toward directions in which they are glad their lives moved. Colin Powell ( paraphrasing Hillary Clinton's "It takes a village to raise a child) writes that "it takes a tribe to raise a child. It takes people who are interacting with each other to raise a child, people who are connected to that child." I think that's true, and the tribe with which these children are blessed is a rich one.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Perfect family celebration yesterday ( 0nly would have been better if Jean and Mark had been in town and Joanna had been there for the whole thing, not having to work at Sears during the afternoon. But pretty darn close to perfect. Ruth is so funny with her perfectionist hosting behvior. She and Chris simply throw great parties, whether formal or informal. It is so amazing to have access to the pool at their house again - such a good idea they had for entertaining, though I didn't understand at the time how great it would be. The landscaping is growing up to make wonderful alcoves. Ruth's signature artistic touches peek out unexpectedly around corners and between cracks. And the kids are at more independent ages - really able to delight in the pool with less intense supervision. Danny has joined KK in the ranks of real swimmers. This time last year he was still afraid in the water. So much progress and growth in all of those kids! And it was a special treat to watch James and the kids playing in the pool with the water guns - so into each other. I especially liked watching James have so much fun. The inflammatory process in his eyes has been really bad this summer and I have trouble staying in the here and now, not worrying how he will be in the future. Yesterday he was just having fun and that was enough.

Those kids have such wonderful men (women too, come to think of it) in their lives. The other day KK and I were making jewelry and talking about life. She said the man she wants to marry someday should be as playful as her Daddy, know how to be Tickle Monster like Uncle Chris, and plan trips like Grandpa Bob. She also said when she grows up she hopes she can sing like her Mama, be as playful as Auntie and make things like I do.

A real asset for me this year at the party was KK's puppy Sammi. SHE IS SO CUTE! KK had her dressed up for the Fourth in a bright red bandanna that used to be my Daddy's - a sweet touch. Sammi slept much of the afternoon in my lap and I just loved the smooth warm weight of her and her sweet puppy trust. I'm not even a dog person but this one is precious. I'm glad KK lobbied so hard to become a doggie mommy.

It was also good yesterday to get to know Chris' friend Dave a little better and to spend time with Marie and Bill and Monica. Monica is supposed to be younger than KK is now - not all grown up with a high tech job I don't even begin to understand. Never could have guessed or fathomed so many of the things about her life. Makes me wonder how much and what) we can't figure out or predict about the grandkids' futures. Lots.

So I'm a happy Grandma today, enjoying being off - looking forward to seeing the Royal Ballet Company's Sleeping Beauty tonight in San Antonio with KK - and to the birthday camping weekend. Life is good.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I'm on my way to the store to buy a few ingredients for dishes to take to Ruth's for our family Fourth celebration - fun even if rainy. I'll be glad to get back into her pool. But I want to post something first - a quote that suits the way I feel about Fourth of July sentiments today.

"Americans" are born everyday everywhere in the world. They are born in Bangladesh. They are born in Morocco, they are born in Brazil and in China and in England, and in Mexico and Peru. Many just don't get the chance to actually get here. Being an American is so much more than just having citizenship. It's that beat in your heart to be free, to be your own man, to have control over your own destiny. America has always been an idea. It has nothing to do with papers, documents or immigration laws. It has a lot to do with ideals and dreams. And our country needs Americans like these.

Paul Cuadros from A Home on the Field