Sunday, February 28, 2010

it was good

Last night's sunset was pretty nice.

But the full moon rising over the cornfield was pretty awesome too. I took several pictures of it from the backyard, the sunset in front of me, the moon behind.

Today we had an honest-to-god real spring day. Clear blue sky, temps in the 60s, a gentle breeze from the south.

A pair of blue jays are engaged in nest building. They keep breaking small twigs off my crepe myrtle trees and then flying across the road to the pine tree with them. I never was able to get a picture of one of them but while I was waiting, I noticed these little yew tree berries sprouting at my feet.

This cardinal was a little more cooperative. He was perched in the yew tree singing his little heart out.

I noticed this rose bud.

And saw that the ginkgo tree is covered with very fat buds.

I decided to work in the back yard and get the rest of the cannas dug up from around the peach tree. The ornamental peach tree is in full bloom.

Finally, at the end of the day I wandered over to the confederate rose to see how it was doing. It was 10 feet tall last year and froze to the ground with our 20˚ weather last January. I'm happy to see that it is already coming out from the very bottom.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

the time I didn't meet Mick Jagger

In 1965, when I was 15, my parents had some friends who lived in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. The father was in the service, the Navy more specifically. They had four kids in the same age range as my parents who had three kids and so that summer, my family went to Hawaii to stay for two weeks with my parent's friends. It was (and still is I'm quite sure) an exotic and beautiful place. My parents took us on many excursions on Oahu and the island of Hawaii.

We walked across the lava field of Moana Loa. This was a few years after it had erupted after a long period of dormancy.

We walked right up to the rim of Kilauea and peered down into the smoky sulfuric depths and looked for Pele's tears.

We saw black sand beaches.

We stopped on the road side on our way to Hilo to look at the wild orchids growing there. I heard laughter and pushed into the undergrowth a little ways and saw some teenagers swimming in a natural little spring fed pool. They called to me to join them and I did.

We went to all the famous beaches. I went surfing and quickly realized I was out of my depth.

We drove up to the mountain pass where King Kamehameha forced his enemies off the cliff and where the wind was blowing so strongly that it literally blew me over backwards (I was a scrawny kid and my calves were up against the parking rail).

I ate pineapple picked fresh from the field and it was so good that I have never been able to eat store bought pineapple since.

My mother and sister and I bought bikinis! This was before bikinis were de riguer for beachwear and were considered quite scandalous. We weren't actually allowed to wear them on the beach in Galveston when we returned but we could wear them at home around the swimming pool.

It was a most wonderful vacation.

You're probably wondering right about now what the hell this has to do with me not meeting Mick Jagger.

For some reason, my parent's friends invited me back the following summer, the summer I was 16. My parents allowed me to go, said they would pay my air fare but that I had to earn my spending money by doing the filing for my dad's lab for the nearly two months in the summer before my trip. When the time finally came, I was looking at a long plane ride from Houston to Los Angeles, a short lay over and an even longer plane ride to Honolulu. Coach class boarded first in Los Angeles and once we were all aboard, the curtain was unceremoniously closed between coach and first class and it stayed closed the whole time. I had flown several times before but not enough to think it strange that the curtain was kept closed.

Once we landed on the tarmac, we waited and waited and waited to disembark and then we waited some more. Finally, the curtain was opened and we were allowed to get off the plane. I was met by the family and a huge crowd of people. The tarmac was packed. Back then, the plane taxied near the concourse, a stairway was rolled up and you disembarked on the tarmac and walked into the terminal.

Immediately, the family, the kids who came to meet my plane bombarded me with questions.

Did you see them?”

Did I see who? And what are all these people here for?” I wanted to know.

The Rolling Stones! They were on your plane! You didn't see them?!”

Yeah right.” I responded.

No really, the Rolling Stones were on your plane!” they insisted.

No way, you're pulling my leg.” I refused to be taken in.

I didn't believe them until they dragged me over to where all the instruments and amps were being unloaded and they told me we all had tickets for the concert the next day.

So now all the delays and the closed curtain made sense. And, no, I didn't see them. At least not on the plane. But I did see them in concert the next night.

Friday, February 26, 2010


(This is a re-post from last year. I don't think I had much of a readership then, having only had my blog for a month or so, so I feel fairly certain that most of you haven't already read this.)

Put on your boots and hat and fancy duds because today is Go Texan Day in Houston. For the uninitiated, this is the day all the trail rides end and come into town for the start of the rodeo. They all end up at Memorial Park and party hearty all night. For those of you who don’t know what a trail ride is, it is a week or two of following one of the old trails for getting your cattle to market. Participants truck their horses and wagons to whichever starting point and then spend the next however many weeks riding those same horses and wagons back to town. I had a friend in high school who would get a leave of absence from school every year so she could participate. I think the one she went on was only a week long. Back then, schools would let you do that.

The rodeo and livestock show start tomorrow preceded by the parade downtown. There’s also a carnival that sets up and a huge vendor show as well. Houston has one of the largest rodeos with associated events in the country. Maybe the largest. The livestock show (we called it the fat stock show back when) is the competition, exhibition and auction of the animals that kids from elementary school through high school raise and groom through the Future Farmers of America programs at the schools. Mostly the rural and suburban schools now. I don’t know if the schools in the city still sponsor these programs.

I haven’t been to the rodeo in many years. I guess the last time was when the kids were small. Marc and I tried to go a couple of years ago. A friend gave us a pair of tickets. We got there in the afternoon, took our time looking at all the animals, browsed through the vendor show and then headed over to the stadium since the rodeo was getting ready to start. Well, it wasn’t getting ready to start, it was ending. We had never looked at the tickets and turned out they were for the afternoon show. So we went over to the carnival and Marc tried one of those fried twinkies. Gross.

The thing I remember most about Go Texan Day is that it was, when I was growing up, the only day of the year that girls could wear pants to school.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

the first thing you do is sue somebody

While in Austin this past week, a guy who was totally fed up with the fucked up system of taxes in this country, the protection of the richest 10% of the population by the government at the expense of everyone else and about to lose everything (again) decided to put a permanent end to the screwing he's been getting by flying his small plane into the IRS building. Before his fatal connection with said building, he posted his assessment on his website and while I don't agree with his final solution (the poor slobs who work in that building were not at fault), his essay or 'suicide note' as the authorities termed it is in no way an unintelligible rant. In fact it is quite lucid. The powers that be had it removed promptly, of course. God forbid that anyone should read this man's writing that so well points out the extreme inequity in this country that the government continues to support (and I don't mean either political party here or rather I mean both). Before it could be shut down, however, it was archived on the smoking gun website. I encourage everyone to read it.

So now, the widow of the one person who died in the attack on the building has decided to sue the widow of the perpetrator. Really? She's going to sue someone who had nothing to do with it, was totally shocked at what her husband did, whose life is totally destroyed because of it. How is it even possible that widow A can be allowed to sue widow B? Her (widow A) reasoning is this...widow B should have warned people about her husband's state of mind. I'm thinking widow B had no idea her husband was about to commit suicide by flying his plane into the IRS building. I think that's a pretty safe assumption. So what was she supposed to do? Take out an ad in the paper that her husband was a little depressed, that he was angry about his situation? Has widow A warned everyone every time her husband has been depressed, stressed out or angry? The saddest part about all this is that widow A will be allowed to pursue this lawsuit, will probably win because in this country, nothing just happens. Someone is always at fault and it is always someone else's fault. And that someone needs to pay. If that person isn't available to sue, then sue everyone who knew that person.  Never mind that widow B was not at fault and her life is in shambles around her. She hasn't quite been ground completely into the dust yet.

This, the system that will allow widow A to grind widow B into the dust, is just one more example of what's wrong in this country, the very reason widow B's husband chose to die in such a dramatic way. To try to get people to think and act and refuse, instead of being sheep.

The thing that really outrages me though is not that widow A will be allowed to pursue her lawsuit, but that she thinks she should, that her sense of entitlement is such that it even occurred to her to do it. Really, widow A? Will it really help you, or anyone, to further destroy widow B's life? Isn't she just as much a victim of her husband's actions as you are?

We, the people, wonder why this country is circling the drain. Well, I don't wonder at all. I think it's pretty damn clear.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

teaching experience

We're back. These workshops are six days long, the first three days 9 AM to 5 PM, the second three days 10 AM to 5 PM eating lunch in 5 out of 6 days. The studio that brought us in is Helios in Austin TX.

These are six intense days. We are 'on' all the time. The students make two pieces, a 4” tile and a 4” diameter cup. For the work to be out of the kiln before the end of the class, the first project has to be in the kiln by the end of the first day and the second by the end of the third day. The last three days are showing off while we wait for the castings to come out. We do a slide show and talk about our work and demo some reproduction molds with some hands on. And the last day we do cold work, finishing techniques.

We just started teaching workshops, doing one or two a year. I didn't think I would like it and so I dragged my heels for a long time. But you can only resist so long. I got so many requests for classes that I (and by I, I mean we) finally started about three years ago.

Turns out, I kinda like doing these workshops. I like helping people make a couple of things they are really happy about making. It's fun. All the classes we have done so far have been different, but they have all been fun. And tiring.

This last one, I was going to try to take pictures every day. I was real good the first two days. The third day, didn't take a single one. After that it varied. I think I missed another day as well and the days I got were sparse.

Anyway, here are some pictures.

Day 1, they make a clay model (the tile) and invest it, fill it with frit and it goes in the kiln at the end of the day.

making the model

making the coddle

the model invested

the model encased in the mold

filling the mold

Day 2, they make a wax model (the cup) and make the bottom part of the mold.

working on the model

the finished model

mixing the mold material (investment)

pouring the mold material

the model encased in the mold

Day 3, I didn't take a single picture. That's the day they make the second half of the mold (the core) and fill the mold with frit (crushed glass) and glass powders.

Day 4, they get their tiles out of the kiln and demold them, cleaning them up.

We also do a slide show on our work and how we got to point 'b' from point 'a'. Oh, and there is some math and firing schedules involved.

Day 5 I also, apparently, didn't take any pictures. We do reproduction molds and Q & A and the students can make another clay model and mold on their own if they want.

Day six we demold the cups, clean them up, do a critique and then finish work.

removing the core

demolding the cups

the tiles

the cups

I always enjoy seeing what is produced in the classes. People are so creative.

Monday, February 15, 2010

workshop week

We're headed back to the city today and then tomorrow to Austin to teach a 6 day pate de verre workshop. I find this to be a bit ingenious since I haven't personally done any, with two small exceptions last year, for about a year and a half. I did get some stirring going on in the studio last fall and have several models I started on but never finished. The back room here which is my model making studio is really cold in the winter and the wax is too difficult to work with, especially with the arthritis in my thumbs. I'll have to get a little electric heater I guess. Our plan is to devote our attention to this last big job and after it is finished, get back to work in the studio on a new body of work in the pate de verre.

In this workshop, the students make two projects...a 4” tile and a small cup which is 4” in diameter using two different types of molds. The picture above is one of the sample tiles I made for the class. It looks mostly the way it did after being broken out of the mold and cleaned up, although I have demonstrated some finishing techniques on parts of it.

We also demonstrate, with some hands on, different types of reproduction molds.

I'm borrowing my BIL's laptop to take with us, but I doubt I'll be doing much posting while we are gone. I know, I know, what will you all do? I'm sure you'll find ways to occupy your time while I am out of pocket and it will only be a week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

spring hopes eternal

a story in 12 sentences...

Winter came early and has been much colder than normal.

On February 12, 2010 there was snow on the ground in 49 of 50 states.

We used the same amount of propane at the country house in the last 6 weeks that we used for the previous 8 months.

The weather prognosticators are saying this weather might last for another 4 weeks.

I saw two pear trees and a japanese magnolia in full bloom yesterday, but then they have always been eager.

The birds are having territorial issues.

The cat went out today and didn't want back in after 5 minutes.

The weather prognosticators are often wrong.

Today was warm and sunny, warm enough to go barefoot and dig weeds out of the garden.

Alas, they are sometimes right.

Another week of cold wet gray days is currently blowing in.

It's not warm enough to go barefoot any more.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

murder and mayhem

Marauders have been in the chicken yard.

My sister and brother-in-law have been having trouble with the chickens for some time now. The newer (blue egg) hens never did lay as well as the older (brown egg) hens and the older hens pretty much just stopped laying and then the newer hens basically quit laying as well. They were getting 2 or 3 eggs every other day from about two dozen chickens. Or none at all. They seemed to be in continual molt. I mean, there is something seriously wrong when you have two dozen hens you are feeding and still have to go buy eggs.

The whole no egg thing was bad enough and though they had lost an occasional hen now and then (including all Ethyl's little ducklings), the violence started to escalate as the weather got colder. They’ve lost half their hens since winter set in. And Gorgeous George the rooster and poor Ping the duck.

Every three or four days, they would lose a hen. Usually at night. They surmised that they had a coon or a possum living somewhere nearby. Their duck and chicken pens had high fencing but no cover. But now and then they would find evidence in the form of feathers or a carcass during the day.

Then one morning during the arctic blast in January, their two little terriers bolted out of the house at dawn barking madly. Upon investigation they discovered that poor Ping was woefully injured and Ethyl was missing. They brought Ping in afraid he would not recover from his injuries and left for the day. When they got home that afternoon, Ethyl was there waiting for them so they brought Ethyl in too since the water in the pond was frozen over and she had no safe haven from the assailant. The chickens were being closed up in the coop at night.

They acquired a live trap and caught a very large possum which they dispatched immediately. I asked her why they didn't just take it elsewhere and let it go. She said she didn't think it was fair to send their problem to someone else. I can understand that. Country life can be cruel.

Ping was recovering from his injuries and they had started leaving him out at night. One day soon after though, they came home to find Ping dead in the duck yard. Their neighbor behind them has two miniature dachshunds that they surmise have been getting in the chicken yard and doing the killing that occurs during the day, but although they have found places where holes have been dug under the fence, they have never caught them at it. Ping was the last straw. They finally confronted their neighbor and threatened harm to those little dogs if they are caught on the wrong side of the fence.

And poor Ethyl is so traumatized that she stays on the ramp to the pond, ready to swim to safety if need be.

This has been enough for my sister who hasn't lived in the country long enough to be inured to the death of the 'livestock'. So the chicken keeping is over. She'll keep the ones she has until they are gone but she's not replacing the ones already lost.

That means no more fresh eggs for me and no more chicken stories.

Friday, February 12, 2010

photo finish

Not to brag or anything, but damn, this looks mighty fine.

glass wall in the chapel of the Oklahoma Heart Hospital, Oklahoma City OK

You may remember that this is the project I documented from beginning to end. If you are a new visitor, you can read all about this project here but remember to read from the bottom up for chronological order.

Here's another job that we did at the end of 2008 but I just now got a photo of it.

private residence, Houston TX

And finally, here's the best picture I have so far of the chapel window with all the jewels (even though you can't really see them well in this picture, they show up brilliantly in person) that we worked on all last week.

window behind the altar in the chapel at John Wesley United Methodist Church; Houston TX; 10' x 13'

outside view

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

dream vignette

There was a group of about 10 of us sitting on the floor in the dining area of the city house where the table ordinarily is.  They were all people I seemed to know, some thought of as friends, others just acquaintences.  We were having some sort of a class and we were told to partner up.  I looked at the woman sitting next to me who was a friend from junior high school days.  We had been working pleasantly side by side but she declined to be my partner.  The second and third women I asked to be my partner also refused until there was only me and one other woman on the other side of the group whom I did not know well.  I looked at her, she looked at me, neither of us interested in the other, perhaps feeling like I did that I didn’t want to be the Loser in the group, having to settle for the other left over person.  I wandered off and sat on the couch to talk to a man, part of a visiting group or team of some sort.  The conversation became charged with subtle tension of the sort that happens between men and women.  He excused himself for a moment and I began conversing with another man who walked up.  This other man seemed interested in whether or not there was something going on between me and the first man.

I recognize some of this.  In junior high and high school, I did not fit in with the other girls, didn’t belong to a ‘group’, was always one of the last to be chosen for teams but that was so so long ago.  So long ago that I never ever think about it.  I have some girlfriends at this point in my life, women who seem to genuinely like me (though why, I’m not exactly sure).  In fact, I am leaving in a few hours to drive into the city to get together with them for one of our ‘on again, off again’ weekly yoga sessions.  They are on again after a break of a couple of months.  I’m not looking forward to the long drive in and back (and I’ll take care of some other stuff in the city while I am there) but I do want to continue getting together with these women.

So I’m a little mystified, wondering why this drifted up from my subconscious.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

short stories 3

This is Autumn on the couch with her blanket and her old lady face because only old ladies crochet.

Tradition - 

My grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was a kid and now I’ve been trying to teach my own g’girl Autumn how to crochet.  She received one of those little craft kits to crochet a shrug.  The yarn was ridiculously hard to work with even for me and I know how to crochet.  She did a valient job of trying to learn how to do it but I ended up finishing it for her.  A while back, I got a skein of plain regular yarn and we sat down again and within a half hour or so she was diligently practicing away by herself.

Party Dresses -

January was mostly day after day of overcast skies.  Typical for January.  Then, at the end of the month we had several days that cleared up just in time for a glorious sunset.

The Lost Boy - 

A cat has been hanging around.  I first started seeing him a month or two ago when he would cross the yard.  I looked out one day and saw him curled up asleep in some plants at the base of the oak tree on the side of the house.  I went out to shoo it off.  He just looked up at me and meowed.  Wasn’t the least bit intimidated by my fierce behaviour.  What was I to do?  He was this big beat up tom, ragged but not scrawny, been in many a fight by the scars on his head and looked to have some fresh scratches, he smiled at me and meowed again.  I leaned down and scratched his head.  Then he purred.  Go home, I told him.  The next week I was calling for my cat Emma and he kept running up to the door.  Go home, I told him.  Weekend before last he made himself at home one cold wet day in the open garage.  I’m not accepting ownership of this very sweet boy.  Not yet.  We’re already schlepping one cat back and forth from city to country and she does not play well with others.  The g’boy found him curled up asleep in the 13 acre field behind us last weekend.

Monday, February 8, 2010

looking for spring

confederate rose

Still cold out, still overcast and the wind is still from the north but I was out looking for some signs of spring this weekend on our one warm(er) blue sky day Saturday.  I used the nice day to prune back all the dead foliage and branches from the things that froze to the ground during our arctic blast last month.  So many things are gone now...the hummingbird bush, the yellow bells, the ginger.  Both clumps of butterfly iris are gone and I don’t think they will be back.  Worst of all is my confederate rose which was easily 10’ tall.  Scraping a little nick in the trunks with my fingernail, I finally found some green about an inch above the ground.

I had intended to prune the roses back, conventional wisdom being February 14th.  It was already too late really.  They have come out robustly and I even saw a small bud or two forming.  With so many other things gone out of the landscape, I decided to let the roses be.

There were some small signs like the ground orchids emerging

and this small clump of daffodils sprung up from one week to the next.

The rogue peach tree had a few flowers open and was busting with ripening buds.

The mock orange has tiny little green leaves emerging on delicate thin stems.

The birds are getting all stirred up.  The male cardinals have been singing, the mockingbird is staking out territory, two little birds were having a mid-air battle, thumping chests and pecking.  Some new little birds have shown up, migrating from futher south, but I haven’t been able to identify them.  It’s lively out here in the mornings.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

12. and bust again

Alix over at Casa Hice asked me this after one of my more recent posts on this thread and I’ve decided to answer it here:  Do you love what you do? Or do the deadlines and demands stress you out?...I’d have to say that mostly I love what I do.  Although there were several years in there (as described in this post and the previous installment) that I pretty much hated it.  It was nothing BUT stress during those years.  Now, though, now I do love it.  I love to make things, to work with my hands, to have an idea and construct it.  Mostly I am happy with the result, sometimes all I see are the flaws and sometimes I amaze even myself.  But it’s not usually the end result that I work for.  It’s the process.  That said, it can get stressful when I have more work than I can do and make everybody happy about how long it takes them to get their job.  It is also stressful when we don’t have enough work...will a job come in before our meager savings run out?  When I was younger and we didn’t have any work, I would make cold calls to designers and architects to sell ourselves.  I really hated that and eventually quit doing it.  If things got desperate, then I’d just go out and get a job.  Haven’t ever had to do that yet but there was a year or two when I actually applied for a job.  Funny thing though, when you have been self employed doing something so specialized for as long as we have, you basically become unemployable unless, of course, you want to work at Walmart or a fast food joint.

My friend John Kurman’s recent post on Random Walks is sort of about this same fun.  While working this past week, spending the last four days laminating about 550 jewels (of which a little less than half had already had dicroic glass glued to it and ground smooth) to the window behind the altar of a chapel we had lots of visitors pop in when they would notice us working.  At one point during the week, a lady came in and asked me if it was fun.  Fun?!  Lady, this is work, I'm up on a friggin' 12' ladder!  But now that it's done?  Yeah, it was fun.  Well, maybe not fun exactly, as Reya said (see comments below) satisfying.

so, continuing (and as usual, if you are new here or haven’t yet read the whole story, click here and read from the bottom up)...

By 1992 (our kids were 15 and 13 by then), the bottom was falling out of our lives.  Our first employee, the one who had taken over all the actual sandblasting, and Marc never did really get along and the tension between them became worse and worse over the years until he finally quit in the middle of a big job, 5 floors of an interior wall system that surrounded the central elevator shafts.  And on top of that the stress was doing both of us in.  One day I found myself yelling at one of the local designers who had come by to talk about a job we had done for her that had a small problem.  Marc and I were constantly at each other’s throats, were on the verge (maybe even over the line a little bit) of the three ‘Ds’...drink, drugs and divorce.  We were taking weekends away from each other (this is when I started the river guide gig). As soon as we finished that last big job with the help of a friendly competitor, we basically quit.  We let our other two employees go and took a year off while we repaired our lives.  That year turned into nearly two before we were finally able to go back to work in earnest.  Every penny we had left from the big money days, we spent those two years and in the ensuing years while we started our business back up.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


The jewels and colors are much more apparant in person than in a photo.

I am woefully behind on my reading and may not catch up, rather I will join up further downstream.  This has been a killer week.  Our estimate of three days to finish the altar window for JWUMC was so wrong.  Actually, it took us two days to apply the jewels.  The first day we did the bottom two quadrants and only needed to use the 8’ ladder for some of it.  The second day it was supposed (key word here as the weather was better yesterday than it was today) to rain so we did not come prepared to do the two upper quadrants and we worked on cleaning off the excess adhesive and did not finish.  Today we did the last two quadrants working on a 12’ ladder the whole time.  The tube of adhesive was being balky (something kept stopping it up), the patterns were a pain to get up.  We finally ran out to get some sandwiches and a new tube of silicone and eventually finished about 7 PM.  Needless to say, I’m tired.  Tomorrow we will go back and finish cleaning up the bottom two quadrants which shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours (she says cause she is so good about estimating the time it takes to do ANYTHING).  Then we are going to try to beg off til after Easter so we can get going on the next job that we are already behind on.  

I hope tomorrow night finds us at home for the weekend.  Saturday we will have the g’kids.  We may stay at the country house next week while I get the full size art work for the next job finished. 

It hasn’t been all work and no play though.  Last night we had an evening out.  We went to a friend’s for dinner and socialzing with another couple, the two couples being some of our favorite people to hang out with and because of the different streams of our lives last year, it’s been quite a while since we all got together.  We had a really good time.

So, here are a few pics of the first two quadrants of the job.  Today was the perfect day to get some pictures of the reflected light colors from inside because we were there after dark, but Marc turned out the lights before I got the pictures and I was putting stuff in the truck and I was ready for home.  Oh well.  Here’s a few pics of the first two quadrants at the end of the first day.

transmitted light colors

reflected light colors