The Great American College Adventure # 2

Well, he did it. He did it! I doubted that he'd do it, thought that he would rue it, but in spite of all the odds- he did it. I'm so proud of him I'm about to explode! Son #1, wait-listed at his first choice college, went off for his freshman year in college- wrecked his car the very first week. Inauspicious beginning. His first semester grades were all over the place: A's, B's, C's, a D. He nearly failed a class when he got confused as to when the final exam was. Son #1 came home over the holidays, thin and tired, but full of resolve. He realized he had to take 18 hours in the spring semester, and earn 4 A's and 2 B's in order to have the overall GPA he needed to get in to his first choice university. Son #1 has spent a lifetime doing the least amount of work possible to get by. We 've always known he was creative, but focused and determined in school he was not. However, something lit a fire under him this time. He buckled down, gave up his social life, worked really hard, and pulled it off. I can't believe it, but he did it: 4 A's and 2 B's - yes, still technically the least amount possible to attain his goals  :o) while taking 18 hours, as a freshman. And so he is home for the summer, once again tired and thin, but justifiably proud of himself, and excitedly planning his adventure next fall. Now he continues in a long line of family, generations back, who have attended the University of Texas at Austin. I'm just so proud of him I could dance.


Tis the Season

I came back from visiting a friend in France a few years back and planted lavender in my backyard. Texas is much like Provence in climate and I figured, "why not?" It took the tiny plants a few years to get going, and a harsh El Nino winter in 2010-2011 nearly wiped them out. But my little lavender plants are back this year, and blooming well - a full month ahead of schedule, but hey, global warming is all a myth, right ? I'm about to go out and cut them, so if you want some fresh lavender, come on by !

Yard Sale-Tag Sale-Garage Sale-Estate Sale

Spring is in the air and what a wonderful thing it is on a Saturday morning in the spring, to host or to drive around searching for the quintessentially perfect yard sale. The quest for that perfect find, unappreciated and under-priced by others, but secretly scoring just the item you need to complete your collection, is an exciting adventure that never grows old. It can be an addiction, like gambling. I grew up calling these events garage sales, (my mother always too proud to ever have or shop one), I suppose because that was where people held them back in the day, in our pretentious neighborhood. Too snooty to put it out front- signs posted in yards and on telephone poles directed you down the alley, to the back. When I moved to New York, I kept seeing signs for "tag sales" everywhere I went and had no idea what they were referring to.

Back then, I was too poor to buy anything, anyways. Nowadays, going to a yard sale is quite a fun thing to do. I don't take them seriously, but I know people who do - had one gf who survived her divorce and single-mom status for years, by augmenting her income hosting them on a regular basis. She acquired the merch from a finely tuned trash-picking hobby in her upscale neighborhood. When it was heavy trash pickup day, folk would set out by the curb the most amazing items. She'd drive around in her Volvo station wagon, her kids helping her lug the stuff home. They'd fix it up - replace a wheel that was missing, give it a new coat of paint, and sell at a profit at their weekly yard sale. Some folks would call that owning an antiquing business. Yet this was cash only and no questions asked.

I have another gf who has furnished her entire home, beautifully I might add, from just these sorts of shopping excursions. Every Friday morning during "the season", she scours the local paper for ads, often hitting the events just as the proprietors are setting up (sometimes calling in sick to work! if there is a lot of good stuff, or else arriving just barely in time for work, swinging by sales on her way in) to score the best items before anyone else gets there. I happen to live in a neighborhood that is the creme de la creme for estate states. Lots of elderly college professors, world travelers, art collectors, with excellent tastes and hobbies in music, china collecting, antiquing, books, pottery, art - often with adult children who live far away or don't appreciate their tastes. Primo mid-century modern and Victorian antiques,collectibles of all sorts. Some day, I will be one of these, too.

Ruby's 1930's Kitchen

 Do you have special, fond memories of a person that are linked to a specific place ? I have great memories of being in my grandmother's kitchen and watching her cook. Just to give you a sense of what that room looked like, I searched the web looking for pictures that are close to what I remember. I wrote earlier that it was mostly butter cream yellow and maroon, and I remember distinctly the tile back splash was yellow with a maroon border, maybe even a little black filigree in the dark red tile. The floor changed color as various linoleum patterns wore out and were replaced over time. There must have been some light mint green in room's design mix, as well, even though I didn't initially remember it, because when I saw these pictures I sat up and nearly hollered, "That's it!" Clearly it was a popular color combination at the time. Her kitchen was a bit more country in style, less modern than the ones above, but the Chambers stove is a dead  ringer for the one she had. The washing machine, too, except that hers was white.

The picture below is eerily just like my grandmother's kitchen- trade the white back splash for a yellow and maroon one- and turn that large window on the right into an eating porch. Put the stove on the left, and put the clothes washer where the stove is- bingo ! That's it.

Bungalow Love

Several of my gfs and I have been talking lately about downsizing and planning for retirement - now that the kids are grown and our jobs are stressing the hell out of us. One reoccurring fantasy shared by many of us is that we can sell our suburban behemoths for enough money to earn a profit, free and clear, to invest, (in what ?) all while downsizing into that cute smaller home of our dreams. For me, this is often a 1920's-30's style bungalow. It's not just that this was the type of home my grandmother had, but I also spent key years of my own life, throughout my own 20's and 30's, living in inner-city fringe neighborhoods in just these very sorts of houses. Of course, most of them were rentals and not fixed up quite so adorably. But they were still pleasant, friendly, easy to maintain and live in spaces. I think when the old man goes, this will be my future.

My Grandmother's House pt I

Imagine this: a 1920's Texas wood bungalow style house. Set up 4 feet off the ground on red brick pillars, with high ceilings to catch the breezes. (Day lilies and other flowers camouflaged the storage area between the floor and the ground.) Steep pitched slate roof. Mahogany wood floors throughout. Ceiling fans in every room. Wrap around deep porches on all sides to shade it. (Service porch on the back, with a drain hole where the ice box used to stand, and an outdoor toilet closet for "the help".) Bedrooms and the breakfast room were in that bump out style, with tall mullioned windows on three sides to create air flow. Art deco touches throughout- a wall niche in the hallway where the phone was plugged in, stained glass windows in the living room. Outdoors, hundred year old pecan and oak trees shaded it. Indoors, elaborate tile work in the enormous kitchen (maroon and soft butter yellow) and bathroom (light blue and sea green).

I remember taking cool tub baths in that bathroom as a child. Laying back in the tub, looking at the 12 foot high ceilings, surrounded by beautiful light blue bathroom fixtures, tile work, and a lush floral wallpaper ordered from France. It was a room of daydreams, an oasis in a hot Texas summer before air-conditioning.

My grandfather, a furniture maker, built that house for my grandmother when they got married. He hand selected every board in it to make sure there wasn't a knot or flaw in any of them. Made himself, in his furniture factory, the moldings, the balusters, cabinets, doors, mullions, and other stuff I don't know the names of. People often commented on what a lovely house it was.

Over time, modernization and a need for repairs changed the house. When the slate tile roof (originally blue-ish in color, with rounded slates) became leaky, brown square composition asphalt shingles replaced it. The house had always had electricity, with visible wires snaking down walls to giant switches that let out an audible "click" as you turned the lights on or off. Granny never felt the need to update the wiring, or add air conditioning, or change any of the fixtures or appliances. Vintage art deco light fixtures, door knobs, latches. She had a Chambers gas stove that was huge, white porcelain with silver knobs. A washing machine that was a round tub on legs with a wringer arm on the top. No need for a dryer- clothesline did the work. We'd consider that "green" nowadays. Granny considered it frugal; she preferred the smell of fresh air dried laundry, anyways.

When granny got to the point that she could no longer take care of herself or her house, she moved into a nursing home and the house went for sale. As the years passed, our family continued to keep an eye on it, driving through granny's small east Texas town on the way to somewhere else. The house seemed to have had a series of  owners - Granny's once genteel neighborhood gradually became commercial, all the homes but hers were torn down and laundromats and car repair shops built on the lots - until eventually someone moved the house to another side of town and turned it into a law office. Then one day, as we drove by to check on it, the house was a charred ruin. Clearly the original electrical wiring had not been updated.

I wish we'd had the foresight, or the time and money, to pull out the light blue bathroom fixtures or some of the art deco lights, door knobs, hand carved moldings, the stain glass windows. Wish that time would stand still, and I could visit the house again, and my grandmother would be waiting for our car to pull up, with a Siamese cat in her arms, stroking its fur.


Stay Tuned...Up the Down Staircase

A teacher friend of mine, disgruntled over recent events in public education, was trolling the web looking for the anonymous blogs of our fellow down-trodden, always-on-the-edge-of-fomenting-rebellion educators. There were none. Where is the outrage, the civil disobedience? Where are those troubled thousands, teaching without raises, without textbooks or computers or lunch breaks or bathroom breaks, in over-crowded classrooms, berated by parents, administration, students and politicians alike- even as test scores continue to rise, where are they venting? Why aren't they venting? My friend was shocked not to find anything on the web at all, and we discussed this topic at length. The best answer we could come up with was that folks in education these days are keeping their heads down, their mouths shut, minding their own business and praying that the insanity all around them passes them over, much as the fog of death passed over the Hebrew homes in Egypt. Much as the non-Jewish denizens of central Europe did in 1935. You know how effective that was.

I, too, am victim to this situation. I need my job to pay my bills and put my kids through college. But when I retire......just wait. I do know where some of the bodies are buried. Stay tuned!


Something in the way it smells,
Repels me like no other odor.
Something in the way it oo-oo-ooozes.
I don't want to clean it now,
 But I know I need to and how.


Somewhere in the dark it grows,
Making a stink like no other odor.
Something in the stickiness glow-ow-ows.
I don't want to clean it now,
But I know I need to and how.


You're asking me will this mess grow,
I don't know, I don't know.
Stick around, and it may slow
But I don't know, I don't know.

Something in the way it smells,
And all I have to do is open it.
Something in the back- it scares me.
I don't want to clean it now.
You know I believe and how.