Friday, June 29, 2018


because all the news is bad and fucking depressing and all I can say is America has some pretty shitty karma...

the plumerias

star of india

rock rose which isn't a rose at all but a mallow

the crinum lilies

black and blue salvia

the first bloom on the white orchid tree

texas star hibiscus

mexican bird of paradise

Thursday, June 28, 2018

belated spring reading list

Getting back and catching up and writing the trip posts and time slipped away.

Future Home Of The Living God by Louise Erdrich - Cedar, a woman who believes she is the natural child until she learns she is adopted, decides to meet her birth family, native Americans, just when civilization is breaking down due to evolution deciding to go berserk. Nothing is reproducing to kind and Cedar is pregnant though she hasn't told anyone yet. The story isn't really about what the break down is as it is never revealed. The story is about Cedar as she confronts her other family, confronts her pregnancy. Mostly I guess the story is about Cedar and her relationship to her developing baby in a period of time when she has no idea what she is giving birth to. Pregnant women are supposed to turn themselves in to, basically, a prison existence in order to monitor the pregnancies to save the human race. There is no happy ending but this is the first book that has engaged me from the beginning in a long time.

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land - Annie's mom is a serial killer who targets small children, mostly boys, and abuses her daughter. Child #9, Daniel is the straw because Annie knows this child. That and the party her mother is planning for her upcoming 16th birthday, a party for the several adults her mother is inviting, so Annie finally goes to the police and her mother is arrested. Annie gets psychological help, a legal liaison, a new temporary foster family, a new school, and a new name, Milly, while she waits for the trial when she must testify against her mother. Only her foster parents and her legal liaison know her true identity and all Milly wants is a normal family. Mike, the psychologist who has taken Milly under his wing until after the trial, his wife Saskia, and Phoebe, their daughter, have family problems of their own and so Phoebe starts to bully Milly at school while Milly struggles with her relationship with own mother, her fear of her and her longing for her, and her uncertainty about herself and her own secrets. And then Phoebe learns Milly's true identity. Like the previous book this one got my attention right away. It's a good story and well written I think, kept me reading.

City Of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – in the newest book in the FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast series the headless body of the daughter of wealthy tech billionaire Anton Ozmian is found and Lt. D'Agosta of the NYPD is put in charge of the investigation. Pendergast is sent by his superior to help the NYPD solve the crime and in quick succession 5 more extremely wealthy people are beheaded regardless of their state of the art security systems with the heads never recovered. It's a perplexing case with no apparent motive and Pendergast figures out who the perpetrator is just a bit too late and finds himself facing his most able adversary in a fight for not only his life but Lt. D'Agosta's life as well.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – four siblings aged 13 to 7 sneak out to visit a gypsy woman they heard could tell you the day you would die. Each with her/his secret, only the older two divulged their dates, the youngest would only say 'young', a decade later after the unexpected death of their father. They become obsessed with their knowledge and as their lives unfold it is uncertain if the gypsy woman was right or if their knowledge of a particular date compelled them to make it real. The story is told in four sections plus the prologue, one sibling after the other. This was a good book, a good story well told, about not only their own particular lives but their relationships with each other, their pride and vanity, so I don't want to say too much.

These three I read on my sister's kindle during my plane rides:

Bleeding Hearts by Susan Wittig Albert – China, a lawyer who quit law to open an herbal tea shop, is asked to investigate the accusation of improper sexual behavior by the very loved high school coach on the quiet by the school principal and a stolen quilt is investigated. A China Bayles mystery, one of a series.

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton – private detective Kinsey Milhone witnesses a woman shop lifting and alerts security. Days later the woman is thrown off a bridge and the police call it suicide. The woman's fiance contacts Kinsey to investigate and prove that she was quite innocent of the charges against her but Kinsey finds that she was in fact part of a huge shoplifting ring that turned over millions of dollars in stolen goods every year. Other characters are a dirty cop, a likable repeat offender who gets hold of damaging photos, and the guy behind the shoplifting ring.

Death At Bishop's Keep by Robin Paige – set in Victorian times, an American 'spinster' Kate, who supports herself writing penny novels, finds out she is not the orphan she thought. Well, she is an orphan, raised by her maternal aunt and uncle but she discovers that she has two paternal aunts in England, one of whom has asked her to travel to England and be her companion and secretary which she does. The other aunt, a mean spirited dried up old woman who manages the household of the estate that belongs to her sister due to a bit of blackmail, objects to her niece's presence. A man is murdered at an archeological dig who seems to be related to her aunt's spiritual group and Kate sets out to solve the murder as fodder for her own writing and then both her aunts are poisoned and it is up to Kate to solve those murders.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

little things

I'm guessing the dead critter is a vole as the smell has already started to decrease and this morning I found another dead one laying on the floor in front of the refrigerator. Emma the cat doesn't bother birds but she is hell on those poor little voles and anoles. She must have brought them both in but how the one got in the cabinet and behind that board, obviously mortally wounded, is a mystery.

And speaking of poor little dead things, apparently the last time anyone went in the shop before I left on vacation, a wren got trapped in there because when I went over there the other day I found it's poor little skeleton amid a pile of feathers at the bottom of one of the roll up doors. They can get in and out of our garage when it's closed up but I guess the roll up doors at the shop fit much tighter. I did retrieve it's little skull and added it to my collection. 

from left: seabird in Scotland, seabird in Galveston, blue jay, cardinal, mockingbird, wren, finch, warbler

When I picked it up I noticed an unattached dark ring nestled in the space between it's eye holes. I've never seen this in any other bird skull I have collected.

you can see it better from underneath

And speaking of birds, I don't know if I mentioned that I took down both bird feeders, the one hanging from the shepherd's crook and the teacup, because the squirrels just dominated them keeping the birds away. When I would wait a couple of weeks and put the teacup back out, the squirrels would find it before the birds so in it would come again. Yesterday, a female cardinal was sitting in the shrub outside the window where the teacup used to hang giving me the stink eye so I set it back out. This young male made several attempts to land on the teacup but he didn't quite have the courage and would bail at the last second seeing me sitting so close through the window.

I decided to move the teacup and put up a shelf bracket under the eave on the other side of the door to the little backyard. I can see it through the glass from where I sit but I won't be able to take pictures because from this angle, it's all glare in the camera. It didn't take the young male long to take advantage of it's new location but so far he's the only one I've seen on it. And the best part is, I don't think the squirrels will be able to get to branches close enough to launch from (I hope) and I don't think they can access it from the roof. It's hard to foil a squirrel though so we'll just have to wait and see but so far, so good.

Not a vole or a bird but it is a little thing, this jumping spider was making a complete exploration of my computer the other day.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

the ends of things

There is something dead in the kitchen. It is out of sight and out of reach but by way of odor that is where it must be, behind a wood panel in the cabinet that creates an empty space in the corner that is open to dying vermin. We have no recourse but to suffer through its decomposition. I have no idea why the people that built this house did many of the things they did but Rocky and I marvel at it all the time and by marvel I mean shake our heads in mystification.

I planned to empty the cabinet tomorrow and clean it because it smelled funky but by early evening there was no mistaking that odor and so I emptied it looking for the offender to no avail but it was also the source of the smell so I can only surmise that the little stinker is behind that panel.

It’s not the first time we’ve had to live through a decaying mouse or rat. One died in the wall between the kitchen and my studio and more recently somewhere in the little bathroom since it’s been torn out (never did find it or pinpoint it).

I've given up on the garden. We're nearing the end of June and it is just so hot out there and the garden is across the street in the back and what with my guest and the week of rain and the heat things have gone unharvested...tomatoes rotting on the vine, jalapenos turning red, banana peppers turning orange and the bell peppers never did all that well. I went over yesterday and picked all the corn about a week or more too late, husks drying out and kernels wrinkled and turning brown, 

they all went to the neighbor's chickens 

as well as the last bag of stink bug damaged tomatoes in the refrigerator. It was just too much work cutting out the damaged parts to salvage less than half in some cases. The tomatoes are still edible but the enzyme that stink bugs inject makes them taste sour. Also picked two enormous zucchinis, also chicken food. Probably the last ones I'll get as the plants are starting to succumb to the squash vine borers. Pulled up all the onions which barely got as big as a golf ball and only a few at that. 

The only things still going are the green beans that have put on a new round of blooms but when it gets this hot, they don't really develop well, we'll see, and the japanese eggplant which looks like it is putting on new blooms after I finally took the last three fruits that were not getting bigger, only grayer. I should go over there and pull everything out and give the dirt a rest.

Rocky showed up yesterday and together we worked out the placement of the hex tiles and the blue border because I tend to obsess about tiny details and wanted the pattern to be symmetrical up and down, side to side. 

Took us about three hours, arranging them this way or that way, marking and cutting tile. It's a good thing I got two extra sheets. Not perfect but good enough. And omg that bathroom is little and cramped and hard to work in and hot! But even with all that, I did enjoy working with Rocky on the tile. He got the blue border set before he left yesterday and is here now doing the final trimming on the hex tile and getting it set. 

all set

Then it's finish the grouting and all the tile work will be done and then it's back to finishing out the walls and trim and installing the door, setting the sink and toilet, installing the mirrored cabinet which I have and light fixture which I still need to buy.

This bathroom may just get finished yet.

Friday, June 22, 2018


Anyone who thinks Trump's latest EO means anything is deluding themselves. It said nothing about reuniting these already detained children with their families and his order only protects children and parents for 20 days and included language that gives them excuses to continue with the status quo. This was a photo op and a speech, a deflection because the opposition was too intense and growing and the bad press was coming from all quarters. It did not bother him to see pictures of these kids. He ordered it, him and Sessions, they cooked this up to force Democrats to vote for funding his wall and as a supposed deterrent to people coming for asylum. He said as much. Which is why this EO was completely unnecessary. There is no law forcing separation of children from their parents. The one they refer to allowed unaccompanied minors or accompanied by a non-relative to be housed to protect them from predators. This is not a practice that has been going on for 18 years. This is not happening because of anything the Democrats did. This is solely to be placed at the feet of Trump and Sessions. And for Sessions to quote the Bible to justify his complete lack of compassion, I mean, has he ever read about Jesus? Does he know anything about the man he calls his savior?

They are tearing nursing babies from the arms of their mothers, toddlers who have no comprehension of what is happening to them and they are sending them to secret 'tender age' facilities. They are sending these children as far away as NY. They aren't even keeping track of which child belongs to which parent having to resort to DNA testing to match them up in the unlikelihood that they will ever be reunited. The Texas Tribune (and now CNN) posted an article about a facility in Texas that is drugging the kids in their care.

Trump has no intention of offering asylum to any of these people. He wants zero immigration from south of our border and is busily deporting as many latinos as he can including veterans, doctors, business owners leaving families torn apart and remaining spouses suddenly thrust into single parenthood (while he ignores the millions of white illegal residents who have overstayed their visas). He has repeatedly called them all criminals, rapists, drug dealers, and most recently, animals. Pre-Trump, people asking for asylum were allowed to stay in country for a year while their requests are processed keeping families intact. Trump takes their children away and throws them in jail for a misdemeanor when they could just as easily send them back across the border but there is too much money to be made in the private prison industry in which several of the people in his administration and his friends are involved or have ties, all paid for by our tax dollars. It is infinitely cheaper to just apprehend them and send them back regardless of how many times they are caught. But then Trump's buddies wouldn't get richer.

And then there is this on her way to see the children's detainment facilities firsthand...evil, stupid, or just plain clueless?

In the meantime Trump has withdrawn us from the UN Human Rights Council because they are hating on Israel for committing genocide and the Republicans have released their proposed budget for 2019 cutting Medicaid, Medicare, and SS by trillions combined over the next 10 years because, of course, the young, the ill, and the elderly will be made to pay for the trillion dollar plus shortfall caused by their tax cuts to the ultra wealthy.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

rain, yay! rain, boo!

I dropped my friend Helen off at the close airport, the one that's only an hour away, yesterday. It was a great visit though we didn't do much besides just hang out for a few days; 

nosed around a couple of the shops, bought the paint for the little bathroom, rented a movie, played with the dog, made a pie.

We are finally getting some rain! In fact it rained lightly off and on the whole time she was here. It's hurricane season once again and I still haven't got all the repairs done from last year. There's a storm system in the Gulf which was supposed to bring us 4 to 5 inches of rain over as many days which didn't happen so now they are saying 8 to 10 inches over the next several days and yesterday the general area between Houston and us just got pounded off and on. Drove through some of that heavy rain on the way to the airport, you know, the kind where even the fast speed on the wipers are useless and you can barely see the car in front of you and just forget about the lane markers. Fortunately it was only about 10 minutes or so. Well, at least until the drive home. Didn't hit any hard rain coming back and stopped at Costco for a few things and gas and they had a great recliner for the back bedroom for just $200 but I'm not buying any furniture for there until all the work is done and then between there and home through Fort Bend county which is under heavy construction with those barriers on both sides that give you zero wiggle room and 18 wheelers hauling ass beside you it was mostly through that heavy blinding rain. But I made it home safely and Marc came out to the car with the umbrella to get me. Hopefully we are getting all this rain at the right time to ensure a good pecan crop this fall since the last three years have been pretty pitiful.

So now I'm sitting here wondering where the hell Rocky is. He was going to work Saturday and Sunday and this week too if I didn't mind while my guest was here (I didn't). He did work on Saturday but was gone by the time I got back from the airport with Helen. He had finished everything he could do til I got back and I haven't seen him since. Well, it was Father's Day on Sunday so I guess he gets a pass for that but I'm ready to be done and I think it would only take a dedicated week. OK, so I talked to Rocky and there's not much he can do with this high humidity since grout or thin-set or texture won't dry properly and everything that can be done involves one of those three so as soon as we have a dryer day he'll be here.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get my studio room straightened up, things hung like this sweet little watercolor Helen did and gave me 

and birdhouses repaired (they all need perches) and hung, 

but it's one of those days that makes me just want to sit around and read. Not currently raining but totally overcast and heavily humid and wet outside and the couch looks comfy and I have two books on my side table.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

progress on several fronts

I'm heading out in a little while to pick up my friend Helen from the airport. She's visiting for a few days. I spent the day yesterday cleaning the newly re-done back bedroom and cleaning the futon frame which had been over at the shop and then stuffing the new mattress into the cover which I think shrunk some when we had it laundered and setting up the bed and moving one of the night stands in and cleaning one of the lamps and while the rest of the house is questionable, the back bedroom is clean if sparsely furnished. I'm not moving anything else in because we still haven't done the punch list and the paint needs to be touched up.

Rocky has been working on the shower in the little bathroom off and on the last two weeks cutting tile, setting tile, grouting tile. At one point when I requested he undo something and do it a little different he asked me,

OK, no problem, is there anything else hard you want me to do?”

Wait a few minutes, I'm sure I'll think of something.”

I'm a challenge to Rocky. This is the smallest shower he's ever had to tile and he's never done the kind of decorative work I want on the floor with three different kinds of tile all different thicknesses. Plus, I know how I want the finished bathroom to look.

I'll make an artist out of you yet Rocky,” I told him.

Today he finishes the bullnose around the door inside the shower and tackles the decorative rectangle on the floor of the bathroom. Once all the tile work is done the rest of the bathroom will finish up quickly.

In the meantime, this is happening...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A minha mae

One of the places we went one of the days we visited Vila do Conde was a video gallery which was comprised of four or five small 'theaters' where you could sit on a bench and watch the film. We sat for a while in several of these...a film of the beach watching the waves and sea birds 

and two animated films. 

They also had a bookshop and I was immediately drawn to a particular book which had really beautiful illustrations. The guy tending the place kept trying to draw my attention to other smaller paperback black and white books with simple line drawings which he said were by Portuguese illustrators and great for coloring books for children, except they weren't all that interesting and my kids and grandkids are well grown up. I bought the children's book that first drew my attention and though it is in Portuguese, the author Stephane Servant, is French and the illustrator, Emmanuelle Houdart, is Swiss and she won an award, the French Grand Prize of Illustration in 2016 for her drawings for the book A minha mae (My Mother).

Author: Stephane Servant

I used several Portuguese to English dictionaries to translate the story thusly accompanied by a few of the illustrations. My effort may not be precise but it gets the story told if a bit clumsily.

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

My mother
has the heart
between the sun and the night.

Bright as a moon.
Dark as the wing of a crow.

It has an all-nothing
that makes your laughter

And your sadness in the open.

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

My mother has love in full bloom.
An entire garden.

Weeds, heather, lilacs or thistles.
Where we cut, we rub,
we shelter or chop.
With my father, we learned early
to garden.

My mother
has in the heart
a fox
nested in the burrow
all winter.

And I
between their legs
in the warmth
I cuddle.

I could spend a thousand years.

My mother
has in the heart
a wolf

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

That sometimes, in the summer, makes it
sing and dance
in black forests.

I wait and I cannot help it,
shudder at the thought
maybe she will not come back.

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

I'm not afraid of the darkness.
I'm afraid of the day
that she may not know how to find.

Do not be afraid, my mother told me.
When you were born
I tattooed on the heart
a birdsong
your first cry
a star of dew
your beloved face.

The path that leads me to you
I never could forget.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

swan song

Here's what I took away from my trip to Portugal...I could live there. I could easily live in that beautiful clean place with it's tropical environment and it's warm welcoming people. It wouldn't take much to get me to cash out and move especially the way things are going over here. And Portugal likes ex-pats and have a system that makes it easy for those of us who would want to live there, according to our guide the day we went to Sintra. If you run your retirement funds through one of Portugal's banking institutions and stay in country for 9 months out of every year, giving you three months to travel, then you can live in the country tax free for 10 years, and so said our guide, air fare is cheaper from Portugal than from the US. It would take several more visits to determine where in Portugal I would want to live of course, but can't you just imagine it? Remaking your whole life, moving to Europe, jetting around to other countries like we jet around to just another state. I'm in.

Of course, as my friend Denise says, vacations are like the honeymoon. And as Ms Moon's Mr. Moon says, it's hard to move a whole tribe. Because I would have to move the family too. And they would not be retired and would have to have jobs and all. But it's a nice dream.

Meanwhile, over here, Trump is continuing to make this country a place that no one wants to emulate, a country no one wants to befriend. We forcibly pry crying children from the arms of their crying mothers and then keep them in cages sleeping on mats on the floor as punishment to their parents for having the audacity to want to come here to raise their families in a safe place. Instead of fighting for human rights, we now suppress them and are on the UN's human rights watch list. He has made us a country that allows non-citizens to join the military and then deports them after they fulfill their enlistment and need services. He suppresses the free press. Under his leadership we have become a country with zero compassion, where white people feel emboldened to insult and curse and scream at and in some cases physically assault total strangers telling them to go back where they came from because of the color of their skin or the language they are speaking; a place where the KKK, Nazis, and white nationalists, responsible for thousands of deaths of people of color in the past, boldly parade in public without governmental censure 73 years after we sacrificed over 40,000 citizens to defeat these same people; a country where the highest court in the land has OKed purging names from registered voter lists dismantling one of our constitutional rights. His policies have further eroded the middle class with his tax reform making the rich richer and plunging us into the deepest debt we have ever been in to the tune of trillions while he enriches himself by raiding the national treasury and his family via access to world leaders and governmental policy with his daughter and son-in-law reaping over 82 million dollars so far. He has alienated our allies, particularly our neighbors to the south and north, with his childish complaints, name calling, and behavior and his untruthful rhetoric about trade practices and is losing markets for our crops. He has withdrawn us from negotiated and signed agreements with other countries making us a nation that will not keep it's word and insults our allies, trashing the Western Alliance, instead preferring the company of dictators and human rights abusers because they stroke his ego where our allies, the other Western democracies, won't put up with his ignorance and arrogance. 

photo credit Jesco Denzel  Trump tells Angela Merkel he can do whatever he wants.

It would not surprise me in the least for him to withdraw from the Western Alliance completely and to form a new alliance with Russia, North Korea, and China sounding the death knell to the America I knew.

Empires always come to an end, some last longer than others. I never thought I would live to see America fall but I fear Trump is our Nero and if we don't get enough opposition in Congress this fall, it will be our swan song. So regarding the Supreme Court's decision to let states purge voter registrations, make sure you are still registered to vote come November. Check every month from now until then because the Republican state governments will remove as many young people, old people, and people of color as they can and they will not tell you if you have been removed.

And then turn out and vote.