Friday, February 28, 2014

winter reading list and a selfie

My shortest list ever! Well, since I've been posting my reading lists anyway. Could not find the time or the attention to read much this winter. Of course, I was pretty busy what with the holidays and work.

The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - This book took me forever to read and not because it is an epic as it is only 320 pages but because I really don't care for her writing style.  I found it tedious, incomprehensible at times, and there at the end was scanning through whole paragraphs, whole pages.  Lots of phrases as sentences.  Lots of Capitalized Words.  Lots of references to the Event where Things Can Change in a Day.  Her timeline starts at the present and jumps around in the past and then the present and so forth until the story is finally told.  And the story is a tragic one involving loving the wrong person resulting in deaths and banishments and destroyed childhoods.  Set in India, it is tale of a family...two-egg twins who are spiritually attached, their mother divorced from her drunken abusive husband, their uncle divorced from his American wife, their grandmother, and their grand aunt...and the event that destroyed them all and what and who drove it.  Now that I have finally finished it, I have to admit that it is a good story and well constructed.  It would have been easier for me to read and perhaps more enjoyable if it had been 'cleaned up a little' for lack of a better way to put it.  But that says more about me than the book really.

The Hiding Place by David Bell – A 7 year old girl, Janet, is sent to the park with her 4 year old brother by themselves for the first time ever. When Michael, the boy she is enamored with, also shows up she is distracted and loses sight of her brother who goes missing. His body is discovered weeks later and a man is accused and convicted of his murder. Twenty five years later, the man who has always denied his guilt, is out on parole and a stranger shows up on the doorstep of the now grown Janet claiming to know what really happened on the day her brother disappeared. The detective who worked the case and Janet are no longer so sure that the man convicted of her brother's murder is guilty especially when Michael returns after being gone for 15 years asking Janet if she remembers what really happened that day. She begins to question if her brother actually died but was perhaps spirited away. When the boy's body is exhumed and a DNA test shows that it is indeed her brother she also learns that her father is not his father. Armed with this information, she confronts her father and then Michael's mother and the story of what happened that day and how her brother died finally comes to light.

And The Mountains Echoed... By Khalid Hosseini - A convoluted tale of a family of poor Afghans living in a small poor village. We are introduced to 12 yr. old Abdullah and his 4 yr. old sister, Pari, whom Abdullah has raised and cared for. Their mother died in childbirth so Pari's care fell to Abdullah, their father being too tired after a day of hard labor to do what needed to be done. Eventually, their father remarries and starts a a new family and while their step-mother treats them well, her love is reserved for her own child. Soon, Abdullah and Pari are permanently separated. Pari is sold, cutting off a finger to save the hand, to a rich woman, Nila, who cannot have children and who thinks a child will fill the emptiness in her heart. Pari is young enough that she eventually forgets her birth family but the event puts a permanent hole in Abdullah's heart and he eventually runs away, abandoning his father and step-family. The tale marches forward through time as each character's story is told...Nabi, the step-uncle who brokers Pari's sale for his employer and his wife in Kabul; Parwanna, the woman who becomes step-mother to Abdullah and Pari; Pari with her mother after they move to Paris never to return when Nila's husband has a debilitating stroke; the two young cousins who lived across the street from Pari's house in Kabul and who fled Afghanistan during the war times and then return to try to re-claim their family property; the Greek doctor who now lives in Pari's old home and works with a relief agency to help repair the wounds of the wars; and others. Finally, the story circles around to another Pari, Abdullah's daughter whose parents made their way to America, who receives a call from her namesake. The elder Pari is in her 60s with children and grandchildren of her own before she learns the true story of her life before Nila and reaches out to try to finally reconnect with her brother, to fill the hole in her own heart that had no name.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I had no idea what this book was about when I asked the library to put me on the wait list. All I knew was that there was a lot of chatter about it and it had been made into a movie. It's a very good book. It is the story of a young German girl whose mother is turning her two children over to child services because she cannot care for them though we learn later that she is being taken away as a communist. Liesel's brother dies en route, he is buried and upon leaving the grave, Liesel picks up a misplaced book off the ground, The Gravedigger's Handbook. She is eventually delivered into the hands of her new family that live on the poor street in the small town on the outskirts of Munich in Nazi Germany. It is the story of her life from the time she arrives at 9 until the events that precede her 14th birthday. She makes a life for herself and indulges in her passion for books and reading by stealing as many as she can get away with. But the story is also about her relationship with her new family and with the young Jew who shows up at their house one night, the result of a promise made by her foster father during his service in WWI, asking for help. It is also the story of Liesel's friendship with the boy her age that lives next door and the one that develops between her and the mayor's wife. It is a story of love set in the middle of one of the worst expressions of human behavior in history. Given that it is a story narrated by Death, I should not have been surprised when I realized the ultimate end of things but somehow I was.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – a Japanese businessman is lured to a poor South American country in the hopes of getting him to build a factory there by throwing him a lavish birthday party which he only grudgingly attends because the entertainment is his favorite opera singer. Halfway through her performance at the vice-president's house where the party was being held, a small revolutionary group consisting of 3 men and a cadre of young people including two girls, burst in with the intent of holding the president hostage in order to obtain the release of political prisoners. Only the president declined to attend at the last minute because he preferred to stay home to watch his favorite soap opera. Instead of making an escape while it was still possible, the generals decide to take all the men and the opera singer hostage instead. As the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, the story turns around the opera singer and her effect on the entire group and the relationships that develop between the hostages and their captors. The end is predictable, of course, and the story is really about these relationships instead of whether or not the revolutionaries succeed but quite a bit of the story is about the glorification of opera and this particular soprano which I found a bit tedious.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

on speaking without thinking...

something I seem to be good at.

Last December it has been 3 years since my brother-in law-died. When he was sick, well, we didn't know he was 'sick' then, only that he was having some problems that were getting increasingly worse, and he was not being pro-active about his health and condition, and again we didn't really know yet what was going on and things that we thought were willful were not because he was actually far worse already by then than what we and he knew.


He was dying of cancer and we, he, didn't know it yet. Didn't know he had cancer because they had no insurance and the small town doctor kept blowing him off. My sister maybe suspected but she hadn't shared this fear with me. Or I don't know, maybe she had. I can be pretty insensitive. Not on purpose of course, but I say stuff nonetheless.


He started out with shoulder pain which spread to his arm and other shoulder and other arm and then down his back and then his legs. Over the course of about 9 months his activity slowly dwindled, he started needing a cane to walk around, and finally stopped being able to move at all without intense pain. I'll spare you the whole story. 

Eventually we got him to an emergency room where he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic lung cancer and he died two weeks later. I wrote about it extensively once we knew.*

But back before we knew how bad it was, before we knew he was dying, my sister and I were talking and she was feeling very frustrated with her husband because, well because a lot of reasons. I don't remember exactly how the conversation led me to say what I said, something about his apathy, nor do I remember my exact words but I do remember saying it. Something to the effect of...

'well, if he's going to let himself die he should at least have the good grace to do it quickly instead of dragging it out for a couple of years'.

And a couple of months later we are sitting in the hospital cafeteria, my sister and I, and I am apologizing to her for my flip remark.

It was not one of my finer moments.

I think though, that it is better to go out quick than to linger on the edge for a long time.

* there were 8 posts in December 2010 starting with 'several things...' and ending with 'close encounters of the dying kind'.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturdays on the square

Some of you may remember that I work at the local antique store in this little town on Saturdays. Well, all but the first Saturday. Plus I pick up occasional other days when I don't have any work.

Before this last Great Recession, it did OK for itself with buyers from other antique stores coming from the city and a small 'shop Wharton antiques' billboard on the highway before the first exit to town but the last hurricane blew it down and TxDoT won't allow it back up. The store hasn't really recovered. Same story for most the other shops on and around the square.

Wharton residents don't exactly support the small businesses in town, not with a Walmart in town and a major shopping plaza 30 minutes away so most our business comes from day trippers or from the other small towns around us.

During the week there are days when no one comes in. Since I work on Saturday, that doesn't happen to me very often though I do have days when just a few people come in. The owner sometimes talks about closing Miss Hattie's as she is supporting it with her day job but so far it's just been talk.

Mostly Saturdays are a day of forced inactivity for me. I play a lot of spider solitaire, shell pecans, read. Sometimes I bring other stuff to do. I chat with the people who come in.

The shop is on the courthouse square which is the center of activity for a lot of events. I got to work one day last month to see the Martin Luther King Day parade was assembling but by the time I got the shop open and came back out to get some pictures, they were already marching on down the street so all I got was the tail end.

Across the square from us is the veteran's memorial and so I see ceremonies going on over there sometimes too.

Also on the square is the gazebo which is not directly across from the shop but a little caty-cornered and it is a popular place for weddings and photography. I've seen several weddings and lots of photo sessions for weddings or quinceneras or proms.

I try to sneak my own pictures, shooting from the door or through the shop window on zoom but occasionally I get caught like during yesterday's Quincenera photo shoot.

This bride was wearing cowboy boots.

It's a nice window on life in a small town.

Friday, February 21, 2014

work, spring, selfie, and a funeral

The window I face in the morning at my computer faces east and for certain months of the year for an hour and a half or so, the sun blazes in between the top of the shrub and the top of the window.

This is me trying to read.

We got home last night about 7PM and I was wrung out after three days in the shop, fingers numb and hand and arm achey. This new stencil material that we switched to about a year and a half ago is much stiffer than what we had been using, harder to cut which doesn't help the arthritis in my thumb joints and the last joints on the fingers of my right hand are swelling and getting knobby. Ugh and ugly. I hate that.

I still have some full size art work to do, the drawings for the third job and the last half of the second job, but I probably won't get to those until we get the fabrication done on the glass and drawings we already have in the shop.

It's very busy around here what with spring and all calling me outside and the current commissions and getting some cast work ready to submit two works for an invitational museum show. I've decided to finish 3 of the small Botanica Eroticas and one large one and send those as a grouping as one piece which means finally deciding how I am going to mount them for wall hanging. I have some custom sheet metal mounts being made and also a shallow wood shadow box prototype to compare.

When we left the city last week, a neighbor's japanese magnolia was covered with buds. This is what we saw when we arrived back in the city last Monday.

I seem to be stuck in two subject and nature. I actually have several posts partially or mostly written of completely different natures but they tend to peter out instead of finishing with a bang.

Well, one of the three remaining matriarchs of Marc's family died last night and I just got notice that the funeral is today at 2:30PM. Just what I wanted to do today after spending three days in the city and getting home late last in today for a funeral.

But drive in we must.

edit: All dressed up and no where to go. We were 20 minutes on the road when Marc's sister called. Turns out the funeral isn't until Sunday. In her earlier text to me she failed to mention the day so I assumed it was today, because, well, the jews like to get them planted quick. I did think that this was exceptionally quick, but what do I know?

So we'll go in for out work week a day early and leave a day early.

Monday, February 17, 2014

being outside

I wish I didn't have to work this week.

The weather is going to be wonderful, which is good for work too, but I need about a week in the yard.

My giant 'bonsai' redbud tree (it's been in a pot all it's life, is at least 14 years old) is budding out and they grew visibly today.

Today was overcast mostly, but warm with a nice breeze and the sun poking out now and then. Puttered around in the yard all day. Just little things, just being outside. I couldn't settle on any one major task with so much to be done so I just flitted from one little thing to another.

I finished the little bit of pruning I missed Friday and hauled two cart loads to the burn pile.

I raked the leaves that had collected on the driveway and around the gate to the Little Backyard and out from around the rocket larkspur that has jumped out of the bed and into the grass and bagged some up to mulch the future tomatoes in the garden and hauled the rest to the compost pile.

I have a sheet that I use for that. For hauling leaves to the compost pile.

I moved all the cold sensitive plants out of my workroom and back outdoors and gave them all a good watering. The plumerias were already green at the tips and starting to sprout and the desert rose got fat.

I did fire ant remediation in a couple of places (soapy water with orange oil).

I planted seeds for love-in-a-mist in 4 places in the yard and planted seeds from the candlestick tree and the mexican bird of paradise in trays for sprouting.

I noticed that a shrub that grows by the front door is blooming and the flowers smell really sweet. This is the first time I have ever noticed it bloom. The flowers are very small, maybe 3/8”.

I tidied up, emptying and gathering up stray pots.

I raised my little wrought iron work station up off the ground before it sank further into the ground and rusted away by putting bricks under the feet.

I had a very good enjoyable day just being outside and breathing in those little bacteria that make us feel so good. It sounds like I did a lot but it was mostly just putzing around

I'd have more pictures to show you but I dropped my camera last Thursday and it mostly doesn't function. It is stuck in AUTO mode and none of the other buttons work and it has gone silent. It will take a picture but the focus is squirrelly. It's still in warranty so I have to send it off for repair. Good thing I still have the old camera, well, Marc has the old camera, or I might have to fall back on my iPad for my Friday selfies.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

warm blue sky barefoot day

10 petal anemone

Yesterday was the garden club meeting. I'm still a member but my enthusiasm has waned since the whole library etched glass gift fiasco. I've been to a couple of meetings this year. Missed last month because I completely forgot about it. And I would have missed this month because we were in the city this week but not being as prepared for our work week as I thought I was, we came home a day early.

So, I could have gone to the meeting yesterday but it was cold out I just wasn't ready to get dressed and leave the house in time to get to the meeting. The social part starts at 9 AM with the business part starting at 9:30 and then the program.

The club has doubled in size since I joined which is good, and I have made some friends, or I guess I should say friendly acquaintances as we have never socialized outside of club activities, but I am a stranger to most. I am, after all, still a small town newcomer having only lived here for four years.

I know, I get out of it what I put into it but yesterday I didn't feel like putting anything into it.

So instead I stayed on task and did the pattern I had thought I wouldn't need and made a few changes to the finished art work for next week's work because today was expected to be a gorgeous day, and best of all...warm.

Hmmm. Let's see, all my work done, warm outside...

time to cut back all the winter casualties.

the second of about 5 cart loads

I worked out in the yard all day. The wind was howling from the south til about mid-day, 24mph with gusts up to 33mph. I did eventually shed my long sleeve shirt as it got up to the mid-70s, and I was barefoot all day.

I have dirty feet!

I am a happy girl.

Monday, February 10, 2014

and just like that the wheel has turned

Yesterday morning, the house was cold and I was cold. By the time I finally braved going outdoors after piling on the clothes, I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually kind of nice out. Overcast still but brighter than it had been and warmer out than it was in the house.

I heard the geese before I saw them heading northwest and there were signs everywhere.

these little blue flowers are tiny, not even 1/4” across

henbit, also very small

daffodils putting up bloom stalks

Big Mama was enjoying the more temperate day

the bluebonnets are growing big and thick

the promise of an azalea blossom

the native peach tree

tiny green tips coming out all over the mock dogwood

I had two small work tasks to take care of which I did promptly, changed into gardening clothes, and worked on a spot just outside the Little Back Yard creating a new section of the new flower bed I started putting in last year and finally put my Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow in the ground. Poor thing has been in a pot for almost three years. We have a beautiful one of these at the city house and this is a runner I had dug up early on.

I dug up grass and the wild onions that are coming up everywhere, filled a 5 gallon bucket twice from the compost pile and dumped that in there. Added the half bag of dirt I had left over from last year, laid the brick border, and got her in.

We will still get some cold weather, and the first half of this week will make me doubt its demise but now, I do believe, winter is on the run.  


Friday, February 7, 2014

is that the wind or me moaning?

It is cold, wet, and drippy outside. The birds are emptying the tea cup and the bird feeder daily. When the tea cup gets empty, they come perch on it and give me the stink eye.

We've already had 2 1/2 months of winter. That in itself is not unusual. We generally have 2 1/2 months of winter. The problem is not that we have had 2 1/2 months of winter. The problem is that it started in mid-November this season instead of January. It should be over now! Over!!!

me, in the house, tired of being cold, in the house

We usually have enough warm days in winter and it is short enough that it really doesn't impede the progress of our work much. Not this winter. Stencils are harder to cut as the plastic material gets stiffer when it is cold. And shivering in the sandblast booth is not the most effective way to get the work done.

Next week we start fabrication on two jobs. It's supposed to be warmer but every time I see a weather forecast, it's a little less warm.

In the meantime, I still have art work to complete.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

belated birthday

My blog birthday was a week ago last Sunday. Had it marked on my calendar and everything. This is my sixth year. Early on, I read somewhere that most blogs last only about 3 years. I'm still here but looking over the archive I see I have posted less and less as the years have gone by.

A sincere thanks to those regular readers, the not so regular readers, the once in a blue moon readers, and for all the comments that let me know I'm not just whistling into the wind.

I started this is 2009 before I realized just how much I was going to be affected by the stock market crash, the investment ponzi schemes, and the resultant recession.

Things still looked bright and rosy. Life was exciting, full of adventure, and I had lots of stories to tell about our hopeful rise in the gallery world, the transition from city life to country life, family life past and present.

The previous year we had had our first solo show at our local gallery, our third year at SOFA Chicago, and a year of commission work ahead of us. We had bought the country house in 2007, spending long weekends while we made changes...took down all the heavy drapes, pulled up the carpet, had the wood floors refinished, put up wainscoting, painted. We had plans for building a new shop and even got the slab poured. We were spending more and more time at the country house and getting ready to start moving some of the furniture.

By early 2010, with all the commission work completed, no new gallery work even started, the move complete (or, as it turned out, as complete as it would get for the foreseeable future), the landscape around me had changed considerably.

We had little to no work for the next two years while we depleted our meager reserves, the gallery world was no longer welcoming as it struggled to survive, all work on the new shop after getting it framed and clad halted, and still no new gallery work was being done.

All that changed again mid 2012. Suddenly we went from no work to lots of work, I had started working on new gallery work again, and the land the city house sits on is getting ridiculously valuable. close to being the offer you can't refuse perhaps and if that is so, then some big changes might be coming.

And I wrote about all of it.

The reason I started this blog was because I wanted to leave a record for future generations. My sister does genealogy work and for most of the people stretching back, even the nearer generations like our great grandparents, we really know nothing about them, their daily lives, beyond when and where they were born and died, military service, legal documents, that sort of thing. So, since I have never been able to keep a journal beyond about a half a dozen entries, I thought I would create a blog to chronicle my life.

Why I find it doable on-line instead of writing in a book, I don't know.

I get each year in electronic form and eventually, I'm going to get them in book form. Who knows how far or even if they will get passed down but it's fun to think about it. Regardless, if what they say is true, that nothing on the internet is ever really deleted, the record of my life will be here for some future genealogist to find.

Maybe this will be my immortality. Or maybe my work will be my immortality even though I don't sign the architectural work, just the 'gallery' work. Glass is a very strong material and unless it gets broken somehow, it will remain. Lots of ancient glass has been dug up. If any of my work survives for thousands or even hundreds of years, it will say, by it's very existence, that I also existed even if they don't know my name.

So, while my blog has never been wildly popular and it has struggled to get over 200 'members' in 5 years, I guess I'm going to bore you hanger's on faithful for another year at least with my activities, and my work, and my environment, and my opinions, and whatever else catches my attention.

I mean, I have the whole selfie project to complete for one thing.