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So for a very long time now, going on a decade, I've been harboring the fantasy of an addition to the house.  This fantasy has taken many shapes over the years. I've gone to countless open houses of other bungalows to see what others have done. I've spent a lot of time with tape measures and graph paper. I've talked over a bottle of wine with my (former) architect brother.  (He's still my brother.) I talked to my friend Buttery about putting shipping containers in the back yard.  I dragged my husband nee fiance nee boyfriend through dozens of home improvement websites.   I messed around with an excel spreadsheet at first and then an online site called floorplanner.com.

And there have been substantial improvements, starting with the disco fireplace project, the kitchen remodel extravaganza, and then the recent windows upgrade. But we still have a two bedroom, one bathroom house.  Now with a more funky layout due to closing off a door during the kitchen renovation.

But we don't have that much more space.  Last year, when I got pregnant, we really realized that while the 1940 census reported three adults and two children living in our house, a baby and a single bathroom was going to be extremely cramped.  Also last year, I read an article about some Houston architects, and Graham and I really liked one of the featured designers.  We thought that the excel/floorplanner design that we'd sort of come up with would work with his style, and we started stalking him on his websites and social media.  In September, while I was at a job interview in another city, Graham talked to the architect to determine what steps we need.  First, we'd need financing.

Two and a half years ago, we refinanced the house, and we got an idea of how much it was worth.  But about 6 months ago, Noir's house, which is right across the street from ours, sold at a substantially higher number than the appraisal in 2011.  We weren't shocked, as real estate prices have been going steadily up in our neighborhood at an alarming rate based on the open houses we've seen. But the higher number meant that it was extremely likely that we had enough equity in the house to actually do something towards the addition.

So we decided that after our taxes were done this year, we'd see how much of a HELOC we could get.  I started that process a few weeks ago, and on Tuesday we found out we were approved. We closed this afternoon.
rough design

So, as soon as we get the funds, we'll start making appointments with designers and see what we can do with the money we now have.  I suspect that the next few months are going to be extremely stressful, but ridiculously exciting.  I'll get a library, Graham will get a studio.  We'll have plenty of space for a baby and guests and even a parent if it comes down to needing to house family.  I suspect that the design will change several dozen times over the next few months. But we're terribly excited that we can stay where we are but get more space. Storage! More bathrooms!  A real closet! Space for art! An uncluttered living / dining room.  And the damned washer and dryer will finally have a home.

Weekend love

I turned 41 years old on Friday.

It's not a particularly noteworthy birthday, and being in mid-May, like it always is, my birthday tends to be surrounded by tons of other events.  My various family members were scattered, so Graham and I chose to have a quiet dinner out.  Originally, Graham was supposed to work, but the event got moved to another night, so the evening was ours to do with as we wished.

We went to the Backstreet Cafe. I'd chosen that particular restaurant because it was featuring a seasonal artichoke menu when I made the reservation, and artichokes are among my most favorite foods. Sadly, they'd changed to a tomato menu by the time we got there. Still, I ordered a special halibut in artichoke sauce and fried green tomatoes with crab, so I was able to get some of my beloved artichokes.  It was slightly disappointing, as that was the only thing I'd really planned for my birthday, but I splurged on one of my favorite Zinfandels, and I was with Graham in a nice restaurant, so it was ok.

Afterwards, we went to get ice cream and see Godzilla. A perfect 'stina movie. Lots of sight gags and opportunities for me to jump.  I was sadly lacking in much Godzilla background, so I went in pretty blind, aside from knowing some of the very basic facts.  We enjoyed the hell out of ourselves, and it was the first time in recent memory that we actually saw a movie the day it opened. Pleasurable, pleasurable evening.

The next day was spa day for me and the puppies. I spent two hours getting a pedicure and then my hair cut. And afterwards, we took the pooches to the dog washing place for a bath.  It was a desperately needed bath, though Fusilli was a pain in the butt about it.  He actually doesn't mind baths in and of themselves. He minds that Celosa is getting extra special attention by whoever is bathing her (in this case Graham), and he's not RIGHT there to supervise.  He spends the whole bath whining about it and pulling to get closer to her.  It's exhausting.

Later, we met my sister and her boyfriend on the lawn of the Menil and enjoyed watching the city celebrate one of the last non-hot weekends of the year.

Sunday, we lounged around the house a bit, getting the tent ready for our Flipside. And then we decided to go to the beach.  Graham is decidedly not a beach person. And strangely, I don't have that many memories of going to the beach with my family. But I used to go to Galveston all the time with my best friend and her family when we were kids. We'd spend hours there, playing in the surf, walking up and down the beach, getting burnt.  Since we were both pretty good swimmers, no one particularly worried about us in the water, and we were more or less on our own for hours at a time.  Her mom would pack sandwiches from Antones for us to eat at lunch, and we'd get Baskin Robbins ice cream on the way home.  In later years we'd spend time on the other side of the island, in Galveston Bay, at sailing camp.  Almost all of my Galveston related memories are good ones.

Graham had been to Galveston a few times, but only to to the town side, and we never went near the water. As a town full of history, it's right up Graham's alley.  Lots of old buildings, lots of neat things that happened in them. The last time we went, in February, I think, we ate at Guido's, which has been open around 100 years.

This time, we went past the Seawall, and we turned on the first public access we could find.  I normally go past the state park, but since we weren't planning on sticking around for very long, I figured less time driving and more time on the beach itself.

The beach we found was a little ghetto.  Cars were parked directly on the beach, and the seaweed was piled so high that there wasn't any sand between the cars and the water.  Music was blasting from competing sound systems, and people were grilling meat stuffs, drinking beer, playing ball, playing in the sand.  A few solo cup sand castles were in mid-construction, and there was some first class flirting going on between girls in bikinis and boys pretending not to notice.  It wasn't yet so hot that you felt like you were baking, and the water hadn't taken that bathwater temperature that it usually has in mid-summer.  It was even a pretty green-blue rather than that green-brown that a lot of people associate with Galveston.

Graham and I took our blanket and walked about a half mile up the beach, away from the cars and the crowds and the flirting. We found a space past the parking but before one of the first subdivisions of massive beach houses that are just waiting for the next hurricane to blow them away.  And we laid out our blanket and continued what we'd been up to for most of this idyllic weekend. We talked.

It's so nice to be with someone with whom I have a such good rapport.  We just enjoy each other's company so much that it doesn't really matter if we're in a romantic restaurant or a silly monster movie or domestic chores of washing our dogs or with my family or stuck in traffic or alone on a sandy beach on a perfect spring/summer day. We continue conversations until we can't talk anymore, and then we start new ones.  If Graham had chosen how we were going to spend our weekend, he probably wouldn't have put a trip to the beach on there. But we could have been anywhere and still had an excellent, excellent time.

We hung out on the beach for about an hour or so, and after dipping our toes in the water, we walked back to the car, laughing at the kids and telling each other stories of when we were kids. We got stuck in the sand getting out, but some helpful strangers pushed us out again.  Nothing really was going to mar our weekend.  Our trip home was relatively uneventful, aside from a quick trip to Buc-Ees, and witnessing a very slow moving rear-ending.  And then, after a quick stop at the grocery store, we headed home to Fusilli and Celosa, who told us they would have liked the beach very much.

It was a great way to start the new year.


So I was sort of reunited with an old friend yesterday.

Almost a decade ago, an exhibit opened at the Museum of Fine Arts called Inverted Utopias.  It was an AMAZING exhibition on avant-garde art in Latin America that hadn't really gotten proper attention in the United States. There was art there that was so much more cutting edge and sophisticated than the contemporaneous stuff going on in Europe. And it was comprehensive. The exhibition took over the entire Law building, and I'm sure that Mari-Carmen Ramirez, the curator, could have filled another building if she'd had the space.   I probably went to the exhibition at least five or six times while it was up, and I was blown away each time.  I loved it.

My favorite part of the exhibition, though, was the Soto statue out in front of the Law building.  This is what I said about it in 2004:

Anyhow, for the exhibition, there's a sculpture outside of the museum. It's a series rows and rows of thin yellow plastic tubes hanging about 20 feet or so from some sort of rack (I'm going to have to go and take a picture to explain it better). What's really cool about it is that every single time I pass by, people are playing in the sculpture. Old people, kids, young people, couples, families. People walk through it, letting the strands of tubing follow them. Or they stand there and sway. The sculpture moves with the people. What I love about it is that it's interactive art. There are quite a few pieces in this particular exhibit that encourage interaction, and there are some pieces where viewers have no idea that they have goofy looking smiles on their faces while they're interacting with the art. I LOVE this exhibit. I'm probably going to go see just that part of it over my lunch break.

The sculpture was one of several in different colors, called Penetrable in Yellow.  The sculpture stayed in place for over a year, well after the rest of the exhibition closed.  I saw the sculpture nearly every   day, since I pass the museum going to and from work.  Almost every time I saw it, someone was interacting with it.  I loved it more and more every time I saw it.  These are photos I took of the sculpture in 2004 with Relampago and Crianza.

I had heard that the artist was negotiating with the museum for the purchase of the statue as part of its permanent collection, but he died before negotiations were completed. I was devastated when the statue went away, but I would hear about it popping up in other cities, like at LACMA in LA, and I loved hearing about the reactions to the sculpture.  Still, I missed it terribly.  I remember telling someone back in 2004 or 2005 that inside the sculpture would be a PERFECT place to propose to me, because I couldn't imagine being happier than inside of it.

I think I was wrong, though, about the purchase.  Ten years later, the Museum has brought another Penetrable to Houston. And this one is probably six or seven times the size of the last one.  It takes the entirety of Cullinan Hall, and it's AMAZING.  It's site specific, and the museum owns it.  They had to reinforce the roof to hold something like 7 tons of steel.  And it's MAGICAL.  I think it opened sometime last week, and as soon as I heard about it, I told my family that we have to go.  It's going to be up until September 1, but apparently it's coming back again and again, especially since it was made just for us.    If you watch the brief video above, you can learn a little about how it was commissioned and how it was done.  This is the only Penetrable that is intended for indoors, and it has an extra element of color.  The others were solid, but this one has a gradation of yellow on top of clear tube that's just really cool. It sort of looks like an orb of color floating inside the sculpture, and when you're closer (or inside) it almost feels like a bright yellow mist.  The color starts at about 8 or so feet when you're in the dead center of the sculpture, and it's higher and higher as you go out.  The grid above is also similar to the out door version, but it's sooooo much higher.  You can't see daylight when you look up, like you can with the others, but that's perfectly ok.

So yesterday, before we started cooking for mother's day. My mom, my dad, Olivia and a friend of hers walked over to the museum to play in the sculpture.   We were in there for 45 minutes and it was glorious.  I deliberately didn't bring my camera, because I knew that I'd be back, and I knew that I just wanted to experience the joy of the sculpture without feeling the need to document it.  When I got to the museum, I practically ran to get to it. And there were tons of people already interacting with it.  Kids, adults, all sorts of mixes of race and ethnicity and language were inside and just loving it.  One kid was being led through with her eyes closed so she could experience it just from a touch perspective. Another's parent would gather up an armful of strands and then release them all at once on his kid, who giggled with excitement.  A little girl, who couldn't have been more than five years old, ran out of the sculpture towards me and my mom, gave us a massive smile, and then turned around and dove back in.  I stood next to a black man, dressed as if he'd come from a very fancy church, who just kept saying, "I need to get one of these."  Some elderly Indian women in saris skirted the edges.  And I heard at least three or four languages.  Olivia and I developed a sort of OCD for untangling cords that clumped together.  This mainly happened on the edges of the sculpture, I assume because they didn't have other cords holding them in their place.  We sort of felt sorry for the guards who had to make sure that people don't hurt it.  That's probably much easier with a painting that no one touches than it is a sculpture that is designed to be a tactile experience.  Still, I never saw anyone pulling too hard or hanging from the cords, and I suspect they're pretty sturdy.

I could have stayed there another hour and been perfectly happy.  My father is a huge Cubism fan, and there's also a Braque exhibition going on in the same hall. He was sort of taken aback that Liv and I didn't want to leave the Soto to go look at other art.  But we were just having a great time with the sculpture.

About the time that the sculpture left Houston, I got into an argument with someone about public art. The argument revolved around the Gates Installation that Christo and Jeanne-Claude put up for a week and a half in New York. In brief, my adversary was very dismissive of the piece, not because of what she saw, but because what she read that critics had said about it.   It's a little bit out of context, but I said this:

But installations are important. Public art is important. And I firmly believe that art makes the world a better place.

I believe that Dan Havel and Dean Ruck's Inversion piece made the city of Houston a better place for the four months that it was up.

I believe that it is a national tragedy for the country of Venezuela that the public art pieces of Jesus-Rafael Soto have been destroyed under the regime of Hugo Chavez.

I believe that large scale public installations help make art accessible to more people, make art something that can be enjoyed or rejected by everyone. I believe that your disdainful opinion of the Cristo is evidence of that interaction.

I believe that support needs to go to people like Regina Silvera, William Pope L., Andrea Zittel, The Art Guys, and anyone else who does installations.

. . .

I think that you don't give working stiffs enough credit, especially since most artists ARE working stiffs. People react to art. Good or bad. And they don't necessarily need anyone to tell them that it's good or bad or that they should feel a certain way about the piece. Art is interactive with the audience. Sometimes, of course, having more information about the piece can help the viewer understand the artist's perspective, but for the most part, the viewer's own prejudices, history, and preferences will most influence his or her reaction to a piece.

Installation art, in my opinion, is singularly unique in that it tends to be temporary, it tends to be fairly large and it tends to be site specific. The short duration, the scale and the location add to impact it has on the audience. These are only additional elements that the audience has to process in appreciating a piece of art, but I think that they're interesting. Installation art is obviously not your cup of tea, but it seems to me that your criticism has been of the criticism and not of the piece itself.

The argument ended civilly, and I still believe all of these things. A piece like the one that we in Houston get to play with in the next four months is so engaging, depends so much on the audience's experiences and memories and senses, and can be enjoyed by so many people.  And while I share the man's opinion that I need to get one of these, I'm so glad that we all get one of these for a little while. And then we'll get it again and again and again.

I'm sure I'll be going back soon.  And I'll take my husband. And probably my camera. And I'll be happy. 

Windows to my soul

As I type, the last of 13 windows is being installed in my house.   They're double pane vinyl windows that are replacing wooden frame single panes that were installed 85 years ago.  It's been eerily quiet in the rooms that have already had the panes replaced.

In a way, my house is changing a bit. The old windows were the only color on an otherwise white house, and the new windows are white. Some trim has to be pained, and I'm thinking a nice cheery yellow or other bright color might be in order.  That decision will be made this weekend at Home Depot.  I'm told that I make paint color decisions, but I'm sure Graham will have opinions when push comes to shove.

This is the last major thing that is happening inside the house before the renovation.  We're hopeful that will happen in the next six months, and we're pretty excited about it.  We went on a home tour last month that featured additions, and the architect we've been thinking about using had a home featured in the tour. It's pretty exciting to think about, though it's also quite daunting.  I started calling around the banks this week to see what we need to do about financing.  We haven't started the application, but don't think it will be that time consuming.  I'm of course in pins and needles over the whole thing, but I also have elaborate fantasies about storage space and a library all of my own.   

But the windows! They're quite lovely, and I think that this was a good thing for a lot of reasons. Heating and cooling will be cheaper.  The aforementioned quiet. And we can OPEN them!   Of course, we did this later than we should have to take advantage of open window weather. But there will be a few days in May that we'll be able to have them open.  It will be a lovely, lovely way to live.        

Spring is in the air

For us, it was a long winter. We had several cold fronts come through, and it never really eased up until late February, into March.  The azaleas were two weeks late in blooming. My tulips didn't start popping up until a week or so ago. Pollen counts are just starting to get obnoxious.  For a city unused to an extra season (generally, it's summer or not-summer), it took a bit of getting used to.

But four weeks ago, we were able to pull out most of the dead stuff from the yard, right before the last major cold front of the year came through. Three weeks ago, we were able to go to the garden center and find the annuals and vegetables and other assorted items we'd need for the garden: herbs, dianthus, begonias, gladiolus bulbs, eggplant, jalapenos, tomatoes, watermelon and seedums.  And we replaced the hammock!    We took a bit of a break to show Fusilli in the middle of the month, but last weekend, I supplemented the items in the back yard with even more plants: ranunculus, calla lillies, more basil, an olive tree and a cardoon.  This weekend, Graham added the finishing touches, resetting the brick edging around the yard.

It's beautiful here now. All of the flowers are in bloom, here and in the country.  I drove to San Antonio earlier in the month, and the bluebonnets were just coming up. When I went to the ranch on Friday, though, they were everywhere, and some were growing not more than a quarter mile from the ranch.  Olivia and I took the pooches to the patch for a photo shoot.

Our motivation, and it's sort of a chicken-egg thing on what drove what, is that we want to throw another dinner party in the back yard.  Three years ago, we had the timpano party in the back yard and it was a smashing success.   The next year we were doing wedding and kitchen renovations.  And the year after that, we had a lot of that heavel going on.  Since we're likely renovating the back of the house in the next six months, this is probably the best time to do it if we're going to make this happen anytime in the next few years.

We're pretty certain that this time around we're going to do an Argentinian style asado, based off of the book The Seven Fires. This is the basic description of the meal from the book and here is another one from a magazine, though I suspect we'll mess around with it a bit.  As much as Graham would love to build a massive fire pit in the back yard, I suspect we'll more likely use the grill and the oven for most of the cooking, though we do have a small fire pit we can use for some things.  I'm itching to try my hand at some Argentinian empanadas, and I made some excellent maduros a few nights ago for practice.  We'll get copious amounts of Brazilian cheese bread. And we'll make tons of salads. We'll have enough chimicurri sauce to drizzle over a small rhinoceros. And needless to say, we'll be practically overflowing with grilled meats.

Our hope is to do this sometime this April, while the yard is nice and before it gets too hot. We're having the windows in the house replaced, though, at some point in the next two weeks, so the timing will depend on how well that goes.

It's going to be tons of fun, though.  


Yesterday, I rearranged my office at work.

I've been in the same office since 2003, maybe 2004.  It is a pretty big coup, because it has big windows, and it's secluded.   I got it because it was smaller than another office when we moved and someone with higher seniority wanted the bigger office, and I've kept it over several reorganizations and reconfigurations.  There have been a few threats to move me over the years, and I know at least one person is highly annoyed that I have it and she doesn't.  But I've managed to keep a pretty strong hold on it.

At any rate, in the 10 or so years that I've been in there, it's been roughly configured the same.  Two or three years ago, during one of the reconfigurations, it grew by 18 inches, which was awesome. But the orientation has always been the same.  This is mainly due to the shape of the desk, which is a wrap around on three sides, and there's not much I can do about that.  But I've always faced the corner away from the door and the windows due to where the desk was designed for the computer.  Sometimes I don't even know that it's raining because I stare at my computer for hours on end and don't glance out the coveted windows as often as I should.  And people sneak up on me all the time because my back is to the door.

Yesterday, I moved everything around, so I'm now facing the door and the windows.  It didn't take much to move, though I'm sure over the next week or so I'll be making small adjustments about where I keep pens or files I'm working on or whatever.  I'm sure it'll take a while to get used to.  And I'm sure there will be small annoyances.  But on the whole, I like this so far.

I didn't spend days or week thinking about this before I did it.  I just looked at my environment at some point yesterday and thought, "I could move stuff."

I think, though, it was probably a need for change in some fundamental way.  In the last year, I interviewed for three jobs.  I got one, didn't get two.  I especially wanted the last one, because I thought it was a really good way for me to grow my skill sets in a way that wasn't too disruptive to my whole life.  In no way do I dislike my job. My work is really interesting, and by and large, I like the people I work with.   I'm not even as underpaid as I had been in the first decade or so of working here.  But I've been literally in the same place for over a decade, and I need some change.  For now, it's about three feet.  And for now, that'll be a pretty major change.    

Salt lick

Graham is in Austin tonight at a monthly gig, and for the first time in awhile I have the evening to myself.  It's been a few months.  Last night, he left pretty late at night, and I went to bed shortly after, so it wasn't like it is when the club is open and I don't see him from about 6:00 p.m. until he comes home at one or two in the morning.  He won't be home until tomorrow afternoon, so I'll be spending a little more time on my own without him. This morning I told him I'd miss him terribly.  He pointed out that I went to Seattle for three!whole!days! two weeks ago. I don't see how that's remotely the same as his leaving me.

I did some putzing around. Stuff I sometimes do when Graham's not here.  Like thoroughly cleaned out the refrigerator. Plugged in my itunes to the big stereo in the living room.  Sorted some paper work.  Worked with Celosa and Fusilli on some commands. Gave the cat (Liv's cat Giblet is visiting while Liv is abroad for ten days) attention.

Then, because I'm not going to watch Olympics without Graham, I settled down in Crianza's chair to read my current book.  The cat settled in on the cushion behind me, and the pooches were at my feet, chewing on some rawhide.  About an hour in, my book (The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller) got unbelievably sad, to the point that tears were streaming down my face, but Celosa and Fusilli knew exactly what to do.  Celosa hopped up on the side of the chair and started kissing me. Methodically, assertively, almost dominating me in the way that Celosa always kisses me. It was, as always, comforting and overwhelming.  And when she hopped off, Fusilli hopped up and cleaned up my face, finding all of the salt trails on my cheeks and cleaning them up.  If Celosa kisses, Fusilli hugs.  And so he did. Pushing his body into me and telling me that everything was ok.  The cat was a cat about the whole thing.  These bodies, these little souls that understand so much.  I don't really need studies to tell me how emotionally connected they are. When they felt that I was ok, they got down and resumed whatever it was they were doing before.  But they never strayed far from me when I picked up the book again.

They want me to go to bed now.  Celosa hates it when we stay up past what she thinks her bedtime is.  Eventually, she goes on her own, but she doesn't like it.  Fusilli will just agree to be where ever I am. Right now, she's next to my desk, hoping that this last hop on the computer was for something quick, not a long game or facebook or blog reading.  The pooches are pro ipad. You interact more with a person if she has an ipad.  He's on the couch in the living room, ready to move on into the bedroom if necessary, but ok with just hanging out.  

An honest to goodness post

So, for whatever reason, I went back into some older entries from my journal and realized how damned prolific I used to be in documenting my life in this here livejournal.  I went back just a few years, and it seemed like every day I had profound, witty things to say about my life.

I suppose I probably do still, but for some reason it's harder to get this stuff out on page.  I've noticed that the last few years have been reduced to documenting the big stuff, like the wedding and the kitchen and trips and Fusilli.  It's not the day-to-day like it used to be.  I think in some respects, it's that facebook has supplanted the day-to-day.  In other respects it's that facebook has a much wider audience, and this is linked enough to facebook that I don't feel that it's a separate sphere as much as it used to be.

So I think I'll post as I used to, and see if I can find that old rhythm again.

For the last week and a half, Graham and I have been engrossed in the Olympics.  This started four years ago, when we stumbled upon a race of cross country skiing that was commented upon by Chad Salmela, a former biathalete and current coach. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport was infectious, and this year, we were actively looking forward to any sport on cross country skis.  We've had a blast, but I think we'd like to get back to our regularly scheduled programming (literally) soon.  It's exhausting.

Two weeks ago, I went to Seattle/Tacoma for a dear friend's wedding.  Graham was supposed to go with me, but then his nightclub moved.  They shut down right before Christmas, and they were supposed to reopen the day of my friend's wedding.  He was supposed to dj the wedding, but ended up having to bow out all together for the re-opening of the club.  Of course, at the last minute, he found out that the construction has been delayed until at least late March, but by that time, it was too late to change plans. Instead, I stayed with two other girlfriends from Houston, and we had a nice girl's weekend.  I think he would have liked Seattle.  A rare snowstorm hit the city while we were there, and while it was treacherous, it was also really pretty. The city was still celebrating the Superbowl win, and out friend was so happy.

Fusilli is supposed to be in a few shows in March, and I need to start working with him again on how to do this whole dog show thing. When we got him, I agreed to show him until he got his championship.  In order to do that, he needs to win 12 points, and six of those points need to come from "majors" are shows with lots of pulis in them.  We were a mess our first show, and we got progressively better until we finally did really well in our last one in November.  We still don't have any points, but we know what we're doing a little better. But since then, we've been slacking.  He's a pretty good puppy, but he's still a youngster.  In his previous shows, he was able to get away with a lot because he was showing in the "puppy" category, but now that he's a year old,  he's a grown-up, at least as far as the AKC is concerned.  So competition is with everyone. And of course, his coat is a mess.  But it's fun, in its own way, and with this and the puli group on facebook, I know the puli scene a lot better than I used to.

While Graham has been waiting for the club to finish, he's been doing odd shows.  Tonight he's playing an all electroswing night here in Houston, and on Friday he's going to Austin for a monthly gig he has going there.  He's sort of planning a west coast tour at some point, but those are very preliminary plans.  I think he's ruled out another trip to Europe this summer, which bums him out, but at the same time, he has other projects in the fire.

I went to a yoga class on Monday, and I got a 30 day pass to this particular studio that'll run out in mid-march.It's about a mile from my house, and I walked over there on Monday to take the class. It's a huge studio, with lots of people in the class, and it's heated.  I enjoyed the class I took, and I'm looking forward to others.  I think that if I can get in the habit of going, it may be a good thing to add into my life. It's a heated vinyasa class, which I haven't done before. But I liked the energy, and I liked sort of being my own little person in this massive sea of people.  With so many bodies, you're not the best and you're not the worst.  It's been years since I've taken yoga regularly, but it sort of calls to me right now.  I'll keep on going and see how far this takes me.    

Lost in a Good Bookshelf: 2014

First Volume
Second Volume
Third Volume
Fourth Volume
Fifth Volume
Sixth Volume
Seventh Volume

For the last seven years, I've been keeping track of my unread book pile in a post in Livejournal. I add books as I acquire them over the course of the year, and I cross them off as I read them. I have a Goodreads account that also keeps track of this sort of thing, but I kinda like the original.

At any rate, here's the list. It's very similar to last year's list, because I didn't read all that many books in 2013, and I tried not to buy toooo many books last year. It'll change over the course of the year, but I'm pretty good about noting when I get new books.

You will note that my mother is the source of many of my books. She almost always gives me her books when she is done with them.

FictionCollapse )

Non FictionCollapse )http://www.amazon.com/Outlander-Novel-Diana-Gabaldon/dp/0385319959/http://www.amazon.com/Outlander-Novel-Diana-Gabaldon/dp/0385319959/

The end of a year

I think that this is my least productive livejournal year in the 11 year history.  I suppose it was more or less inevitable, and I shouldn't really mourn it.   Facebook fills a lot of the daily chit chat that I used to post here, and I sometimes don't feel like I have the time or energy to devote to the type of posting that I want to do. Still, it's not something I'm quite ready to let go.

I do enjoy this forum, though, and I feel like I should be keeping up with it.

The year is a mixed one for me.  I've been updating my Flickr account, and the dominant theme of what I have chosen to document this year has been the puppies.  They're just a joy, and Fusilli has been an overwhelmingly good addition to our life.  He's the first show dog I've ever had, and while I was a bit wary about the idea of showing him, I've found that I really do enjoy it. It gives me an opportunity to spend a lot of time with him, and I think that our bond is pretty intense because of it. Not to say that Celosa isn't the most amazing, most wonderful puppy in the whole world. But Fusilli and I have our thing now.  And it's a good thing.  We've done three shows, and he's improved every time.   And with each show, we work on training, which is never a bad thing with a puppy.  He's almost 11 months old now, and his cords are beginning to come in.  Soon he won't look like a puppy any more.  But I'm sure he'll act like it for a long time.

In the last few months--aside from work with Fusilli--I've been really, really lazy.  I haven't been going to the gym as often as I should. I haven't really picked up any major projects. I've not written or crafted or taken any classes.  I haven't even read that many books.  The only thing I can really recall doing in the last few months is playing Candy Crush on my ipad and computer.  I finished that on Sunday.   I think that maybe after that last major flare up in my life, I needed some time to hit the reset button and check out for a little while.  And for some reason, I am ready to come back again and start doing things again.

This year seems like it's flown by, but at the same time it seems like March (when we got Fusilli), April (when I finished school) and May (when I miscarried) were forever ago.  I was walking yesterday along the route I took to school for the the first four full months of the year, and it seemed like such a long time ago that I walked that route twice a week.  But at the same time, it feels like I just left Taos, but that was in August.

Next week is more or less when I would have been full term if the pregnancy had taken. My due date would have been December 28.   I'm pretty much ok with the state of things, though I was hoping that I were pregnant again by now.  The worst part, I think, is all the questions and assumptions from other people.  I hate the "are you still trying?" or "how's the baby making going?" or "are you planning on having kids?" questions.  The sympathetic hugs when I have no idea what I'm getting hugged for are almost worse.  I saw this post on Crooked Timber a few weeks ago, and I could relate wholeheartedly.  My circumstances are different, but I've heard a good number of the same things in the last year.

Graham's club is moving downtown early next year, and I think he'll probably be working more once that happens.  He's planning a couple of out of town tours as well, and he'll be going to school.  I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing with my non-working time.  I suspect that we'll try to get the expansion going, finally.  We're both itching for space.  Graham really could use a studio space of his own, and I'd love to have a library/office/craft room.  Plus, extra bathrooms would be heaven sent.  We have a design in mind that would turn our two bedroom/one bathroom 1000 square foot house into a three bathroom five bedroom 1800 square foot house.  ,Graham talked to a builder/architect in September, and he liked our idea and the plan.  Our little corner of Houston has taken off in the real estate market in the last two years, so we're pretty sure we can get a loan for what we want to do just based on the equity of the house.  It's just a question of getting everything organized for it.

All Heaval and No Up

This has been a singularly strange year for me and Graham, but perhaps this is the sort of thing that happens to most couples in their first year of marriage.

I suppose the best example is the most recent.  At the beginning of September, someone asked Graham to dj a party in late October.  Graham immediately arranged to take time off work from the club for that night, and he started working on the party.  He spent hours downloading music, working out playlists, thinking through what he thought the party called for.  While the host knew that Graham played primarily electro-swing, Graham wasn't sure that was the best music for this particular party.  So Graham started looking for some of the music he'd heard in the U.K, while he was there this summer.  He thought that it'd be a nice opportunity to show off a different sort of music to a fairly large audience.   While he didn't have many details about how long he'd be playing or in what order with other artists, Graham put many hours of thought into this party. And of course, last week, the party host contacted Graham to cancel the engagement.  A day or so later, Graham released all of the music he'd gathered on his Soundcloud. (It's since been taken down because Graham wasn't happy with the quality of the set, but I think he'll put it up again soon after he re-records it.)

Towards the beginning of the year, I applied for a job that opened up at my work.  Between submitting the application and the interview, I found out that I was pregnant, so I wasn't entirely sure that it'd be the best timed move in the world.  But it was certainly a step up, and there aren't that many steps up in my organization so I saw it through.  After the interview, I had all sorts of conflicting emotions about it, and I was even more conflicted when I found out that I wasn't going to make it to the next round of interviews.  (Apparently I didn't have enough "experience".  I asked the HR person how I'd get more experience in this organization, and she sort of shrugged her shoulders. Later, someone asked if I'd be interested in moving to that department to get experience. I looked at the pay cut that would be involved and politely declined.) Going through the interview process, I had to think about all of the things I would do if I had the position.  It was an interesting exercise that made me flex my imagination quite a bit.

In April, I found out that I was pregnant. For six weeks, Graham and I spent hours and hours talking about the baby and the changes we'd have to make in our lives.  It was a weird thing to do.  We knew that everything in our lives was going to change dramatically, and we slowly began to absorb this new reality.   We'd just told our families about the pregnancy when we went in for our first appointment and discovered that the twins I was carrying weren't going to make it.  The five minutes when I thought I'd be having twins were some of the most surreal in my life.  I was terrified and confused and excited and nervous and overjoyed and all sorts of other things all at once.  And then they couldn't find the heartbeats and we went through three days of hell of not knowing. Finally, at the end, nine weeks and four days into my pregnancy, all of the hopes and dreams and preparations and ideas about this little life we'd been getting ready for were suddenly moot.

In late July, I was sitting in my office minding my own business when I got a cold call from a headhunter.  Some prestigious institution in another state was looking for someone like me. Was I interested?  Usually I say no, but this institution and this state were attractive to me, and I held on the phone.  Two phone conversations later, I was flying to Dallas to meet the headhunter.  And then I was talking to the institution and then they wanted to fly me out.  Lots of scheduling conflicts and work crises made it so I couldn't get there until the first week of September. But it was a good visit, and I got a good feeling from the place.  There were some drawbacks, sure, but by and large, it seemed like a cool job.   The whole time, I was taking the "let's just see what happens" attitude about whether I wanted it or not. It never really occurred to me that I'd be their top candidate.  But after I flew out, the headhunter called to tell me I really needed to think about what my answer would be, because she was pretty sure that they wanted me.  She gave me the number that she thought they'd offer me.  It was a lot, but it wasn't as much as we'd thought that it'd be for that place in that state.

So Graham and I spent a full week talking about what we want and what our plans are and where we want to be. We looked at every aspect of our lives and where we thought we wanted to go. Professionally, there's no question that it would have been a step up for me, and maybe for Graham, but that was an unknown. Financially? We were uncertain. The dollars were more, but so would have been the cost of living.  And our study of the cost-of-living calculators indicated that the salary bump wasn't necessarily enough to make up for the change. But it was a lot of money.  Lifestyle?  We live 20 minutes from anywhere we want to be.  I have a 17 minute commute on the outside.  Given the geography of the place we were considering, lots of time in transport was likely in our future if we moved, especially for me from home to work.  Family? We have a lot of chosen family near the place we were looking at, but no blood family.  Olivia moved back to Texas literally the week I got the call from the headhunter. Jose will be back to Houston in a year.  My parents are likely to retire soon to the ranch, so we won't see them as often, but that's an hour and a half away.  Housing? We love our house and we've been thinking through the next steps for expansion, especially after the pregnancy. Our house has bumped up in value in the last two years due to a lot of people wanting to live here, and we think we can afford construction within the year off of home equity alone.   The main driver in cost of living difference, though, between the two places was housing.  Real estate prices were just breathtaking, and even though we'd have plenty of cash in our pocket if we sold our house and moved, we'd never find something comparable.  And kids?  More money means more security for them, but at the same time, there's tons of support and resources here.  There? We had no idea.  Still, kids are entirely hypothetical at this point.  Celosa and Fusilli? It's not as hot there in the summer and there are lots of pooch friendly places.  But I'd likely be out of the house more often.

It was an agonizing week, and it was one of the hardest decisions I'd ever had to make. We'd go back and forth and back and forth. One day, I was convinced we were about to start packing. The next, I was sure that we were staying here.  I'd say something out loud and then declare myself crazy for even articulating the idea of giving X up.  And that worked both ways. The good news was that it didn't look like there was likely to be a bad decision, since we were so on the fence.   The bad news is that there wasn't really a bad decision that clearly showed itself.

In the end, I called the headhunter and thanked her for the work but said we decided we were going to stay here.  Weird, weird, weird.  If asked the day that I got the call from the headhunter if I'd take it if they offered it to me, I probably would have said yes, of course.  Going through the actual analysis, though, was something else entirely.

And so, as we round into the final quarter of the year, we're more or less in the same place as we were at the beginning of the year.  But not really.  We've had lots, lots of thinking, lots of planning. And I think we have a much better idea of what we want both individually and as a family, going forward.  We really had to articulate to each other what we want and what we value, and that was a good exercise.  And so, like Graham's party that never was, we come out of the preparing for major life change with great stuff to work with going forward.  And when we finally do have major life change, I think we'll be much better prepared for it than we were a year ago.

And a project done.

Yesterday was a lovely day of yoga, a lunch out at a nice restaurant, and the resumption of a project I'd started in April.

Last year, I'd gotten it into my head that I was going to turn the banners from my wedding into a harlequin quilt.  Problem was, I didn't know how to quilt. I didn't even know how to sew, really.  I have a sewing machine, and I know the very basics of sewing, but I've never been formally taught or really done that many sewing heavy projects.  So, I pinned a lot of quilts I liked to my pinterest board, and I started research.   My mom had made quilts for both of my sisters when we were little, and I remember it being a very laborious project for her, but she definitely encouraged me.  In December, Olivia and I discussed quilting, and we poured over patterns in various books and on the internet. In March, I signed up for a four hour quilting workshop on Living Social, and I finally put needle to fabric.  I really got into it.  I realized, though, that I wanted/needed to work on a smaller, easier project than the wedding quilt as my first quilt.

Anyhow, in April, I found out that I was pregnant, and I saw the baby as a good a reason as any to start a smaller quilt.  So I picked out a relatively easy pattern from the Moda Bake Shop, and I found some gender neutral fabrics. And one night when Graham was at work, I started cutting.   I must have run out of time or needed the dining room table or something, because I put the fabric away shortly after I was a little over halfway through.

And then I lost the pregnancy, and I wasn't particularly interested in continuing.

But when I packed to come here, I grabbed all the fabrics I had for quilting and my sewing machine and boxes of notions and way too much fabric related craft stuff. I figured I had the room in the car, and maybe I'd progress a little.

When I started yesterday, I figured I'd just get the cutting done. I don't think I realized that I was nearly done with the cutting when I stopped, which may be why I put off moving forward. Cutting is not my favorite part; I'm in a constant state of terror that I'm going to royally screw something up.  But forty five minutes after I started, I was ready to start piecing all these fabrics together.  It took me about half an hour to finish the first block, and I figured out a few ways of streamlining the process, and the next thing I knew, I was done with the first set of blocks!   I worked for a few hours yesterday, and I finished half the blocks.  I went to bed feeling very proud of myself.

This morning, I woke up not feeling all that rested.  I thought that maybe I just didn't get enough sleep or maybe I overdid it with all the walking and yoga, but I'm thinking now that I'm coming down with something.  I'm hopeful that I'm able to fight it off before tomorrow's journey home.

At any rate, I went to the farmer's market this morning, which was lovely. I saw a few people I'd seen over the week, mainly people from the various yoga classes. But it's clear that the farmer's market is a social hub for the community, as it was packed and everyone was spending as much time chatting as they were buying food.  I wish I'd made the market last Saturday for my provisioning while I was here, but I knew that there would be two items I'd be happy to take home with me: berrywine tomatoes and fresh mushrooms.   The tomatoes are just to die for, and I bought a little over a pound for $4.50.  The mushrooms are an amazing delicacy.  There is a French chef who has been here for decades who, legend has it, knows mushrooms better than anyone in the FDA.  He's able to find chanterelles and porchni, and the next few weeks are the perfect times to find them. I bought a half pound of each, and I thought that the $17 I parted with was well worth it.

When I came home, I finished the second half of the blocks for the quilt, and I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment. Everything seemed to fit together fairly well, and I didn't screw up the seaming or cutting too much, from what I could tell. I put the blocks in order, and I sewed four rows of blocks together, and I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I promised the pooches a walk, so we went into town one last time after lunch.  There was some sort of arts/crafts fair going on in the plaza, but we didn't see anything that we needed/wanted.

We got home, and I started on the home stretch. There were a few areas where I needed to fill in a gap or two, but I was really pleased with how I managed to piece everything together so it fit.  Only one row wasn't exactly the same lengths as the others, but I got creative, and I don't think anyone will be able to tell which row that was.  Finally, I put everything together, and aside from mixing up the side borders with the top and bottom borders, it went without a hitch.

Throughout, Celosa sat underneath whatever chair I was sitting on.  It bugged her no end that I'd move from the sewing machine to the cutting board to the iron, but she moved whenever I did.  Fusilli spent most of his time outside on the patio, occasionally coming in to tell me that we needed to see something.  And just about sunset, I was done!

celosa quiltquilt topfusilli quilt

Now I have to learn how to quilt.  I think that this will be my next project after I finish this quilt.

After finishing the quilt top, I started straightening up to get ready to leave tomorrow.  We have a long drive and I don't want to do too much packing tomorrow.  But we also paused to make a last dinner, using the chanterelles, we made a pork chop and polenta with a wild mushroom sauce and a side of baby bok choy. Good stuff.

And now, we pack some more.

Into the woods

Today, I skipped yoga, and I have no guilt whatsoever about it.

I slept 10 hours last night, which is ridiculous, but it's also probably needed, especially after I practically dared my body not to sleep that long with what it went through yesterday.

I got up at around 9:15 and ate breakfast. Again, Fusilli was so enamored with the outside that he missed breakfast, and Celosa was the only one around to help with the washing up.

We wandered around the back yard a bit, and played chase.  Graham and I "talked" via a text app that we've downloaded called "whatsapp", and I learned that he'd successfully made it to Oxford. His first gig was tonight, and apparently it went well.

After a bit of writing, I got myself organized for a solo excursion to town.  I'd been to the shopping area several times already this trip, but always with the puppies.  I wanted to go at least once on my own. The puppies were deeply suspicious when I got my things together, but they were ok with everything when I pointed out that they get treats AND the house to themselves for awhile. And I promised them fun when I got back.

I didn't have any particular in mind when I ventured out. I knew I wanted to stop at Steppin' Out, which is one of my favorite shoe stores anywhere. I have a pair of black ballet flats that are falling apart because I wear them all. the. time., and I need to replace them.  None of the potential replacements in Houston met up with all of my picky criteria.  Other than that, I had no agenda.

It's a little over half a mile from the house to the center of town, but there are shops and restaurants and other establishments almost along the entire way if you take the main road.  I took my time, and I stopped where my fancy took me.

I was sad to see a few establishments that had been there for years were gone, but it seemed that Taos had more going on than it had in the last few times I'd been here.  The recession hit the town hard, and it's never been on par with other resort / tourist towns, because it's not an easy place to get to.  But it seems to be bouncing back a little.  Certainly there seemed to be more new places open than old places closed. I took that to be a good sign.

I wandered through a few shops, noting a few "stop back later if I don't find anything else" spots.  A pair of pants in one place, some cashmere fingerless gloves for Graham in another, a polka dot skirt in a third.  When I got to Steppin' Out, the perfect pair of ballet flats happened to be on sale only in my size.  The retail gods were smiling upon me.   Having already checked out the square with the pooches, I headed to another area of the town center and wandered into Spotted Bear (no website), where over the years I'd picked up some items that are still in my wardrobe.  Again, I had no particular agenda, but the owner spotted me fingering a top, and she decided to help me. The store has a LOT of clothes, but she knew every item in her inventory, and she steered me to items that seemed to be cut especially for me.  EXCELLENT customer service, and I ended up buying a top that I probably will wear for the next 20 years.

Having spent more money than I had really anticipated, I finished my journey through town without stopping much.  I did check out the menu at Adobe Bar at the Taos Inn, as I think their patio would accept puppy dogs, but otherwise, I just sort of wandered without stopping.  My journey  from start to finish was roughly about 2 and half miles, but it didn't feel all that long, as I paused a lot along the way.

When I got back to the house, I ate some leftover green curry chicken, and I informed the pooches that since they've been very, very good, they get to go on another excursion.  We hopped in the car, and drove to the mountain.

Taos Mountain is just a stunning piece of geography, and I always feel like it is a sacred space.  The south face is owned by the pueblo, and as a result, it's undeveloped.  Unlike other ski towns, when you look up at the mountain at night, it's not dotted with lights of homes and other developments. It's unblemished.  The ski valley is on the other side of the mountain, and it's a nearly 20 mile journey from town to the ski area.  The drive is quite beautiful, across the mesa, through a few small communities, and then following a mountain stream up three thousand feet to the base of the ski area.

The puppies and I stopped at first along the stream, and we got out for a small hike, maybe half a mile or so, along the stream until the trail went over the water and to the other side.  We weren't geared up for traversing water, so we turned around and went back to the car, pausing for a moment to admire the stream.  There were mushrooms all over the place, and they were HUGE.  I wish I knew enough about fungi to have known what was safe and what was dangerous, but I was terribly excited for the upcoming farmer's market on Saturday, where surely people more expert than I would have mushrooms for sale.  Celosa is better at going forward, but Fusilli is more adventuresome on hikes. Celosa just wants to GO, no dithering; Fusilli wants to see EVERYTHING, and makes some side trips.  It was fun.

After we got back to the car, we went to the ski valley itself.  Not that many people were there, though a few of the shops were open.  We walked through the commercial bit, and then went towards a trail that I always loved to ski back in the day.  It's a long, long trail that isn't very steep but gets you from the back side of the mountain back to the bottom.  Skiing it, you always have to get up sufficient speed to make it through some of the flatter parts of this trail.  As a result, it's a fairly decent trail for hiking, because it's not hideously steep, especially given that we're now at 10,000 feet.  And it follows that same mountain stream, so it's really beautiful, especially frozen over in winter.  Since I was last skiing over a dozen years ago, though, they'd put in a chairlift along this trail. I don't know why I was so surprised, except in the yearly excursions from about 1992 until 2002, I don't remember them doing any real major additions to Taos.  I mean, I'd heard that they finally allowed snow boarders about two or three years ago, but a new lift? Ok. (Looking at the map now, it doesn't look like the lift goes that far.)

Anyhow, the lift didn't really mar the beauty of the trail, and the pooches followed it up for a quarter to a half a mile before Celosa said she was getting tired.  We stopped for water, and then made our way back down again, stopping to answer inevitable questions from some tourists.  When we went back down again in the car, Celosa asked if I could open the back window a bit. Since her daddy wasn't around to object, I acquiesced, only a crack, but she was pretty happy about that.

We stopped in Arroyo Seco, a small town at the base of the mountain, and walked around a little, before heading back down to town. I stopped at Cid's for a piece of trout I'd seen in the display earlier in the week.

I now have two pooped pooches.  I took a bubble bath when we got home, and Celosa slept next to the tub while I bathed. Fusilli barely had the strength to go outside.  They helped me with the trout (especially the skin), but it's been pretty quiet since our adventure.

Tomorrow, I'm going back to yoga, but I've decided not to go to the flea market in Santa Fe.  I just don't really need anything (especially now that I've purchased that top and those shoes).  I probably will walk to yoga and then stop along the way back at a few places, and I've really gotten used to my rhythm here.

In the meantime, an evening of quiet relaxation is just the right thing for tonight.  And so I relax. 

A 'stina day

Yesterday was more or less productive on the writing front. I found some old stuff that wasn't terrible, and started working on outlines on how to flush them out, move them forward, etc. I also read a bit, and the puppies and I took a loooooong walk to the center of town and back.. They're minor celebrities here, so we had to stop a few times to explain ourselves. Fortunately, we're used to it at this point.  Fusilli is getting better on his leash, though he's still very excitable.  Even though he's much taller than Celosa, everyone has picked up pretty quickly that he's a puppy.

We made salads last night and settled in for an evening of writing, closing the house down early because of a nearby skunk that I didn't want the puppies to get to know.  It was actually a pleasant day though I couldn't really say we did anything.

Today, though.  Sheesh.

We woke up early and played chase for quite some time.  Yesterday, I could have sworn that Fusilli was the faster of the two, but I think that Celsoa has been letting him win.  Today, though, she turned on the afterburner, and she put the distance between them that they had yesterday, in different order. She's also more cunning. She'll stop and make him go around the long way, or she'll turn where he'll miss.  His cornering isn't as precise as hers is, either.  At one point, they ran back inside from outside, and he ran chest first into the dining room table leg, bouncing off.  I stopped him to make sure he was ok, but he complained that I was letting her get away.

They're great fun to have here.

At noon, I informed them that I had shit to do, and I gave them treats and told them to enjoy their afternoon without causing too much of a ruckus.

My first stop was the noon yoga class. I really love the energy in this studio, and I had the same instructor as on Monday.  It was a challenging class, but I felt good doing it.  This class was more full than the class on Monday, but it seemed like it was all levels and it certainly wasn't crowded.  The guy in front of me was wearing a The Mountain tee shirt, which made me enormously happy. I was glad that I brought my new dragon/wolf shirt. I'll wear it to my next yoga class.

After yoga, I got in the car to make the voyage to Ojo Caliente. Ojo Caliente is a natural hot spring miles from anywhere, and someone brilliantly put a spa there in 1905, I think.  There are two ways to Ojo Caliente from Taos. One is using the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which you may have seen in a few movies, most recently, Paul. The other is going through Pilar, climbing down into the Rio Grande Gorge, crossing a much smaller, lower bridge, and then climbing up again.  One way is paved and relatively safe the entire way. The other has four narrow miles of unpaved, un-guardrailed, terrifying switchbacks that could have you plunging into the rocky gorge at any second.  Guess which way I chose?  Oh yes, and there was a nasty thundercloud behind me that was threatening to kill me by making the road slippery on top of treacherous.  Any relaxing effects of the yoga class were mitigated the second I pulled onto the gravel part of the road.  I'm not sure that I cleared 8 miles an hour that entire four miles.  When I got to pavement again, I thanked the gods and Volkswagen, and I foolishly followed Google maps instead of my instincts.  Google, five miles before the hot springs, had me turn down a dirt road that was literally falling apart. I stopped listening to Google when I came across an impassable mud puddle that was going to make my car stuck for years.  I turned around, went back to the highway, traversed until I saw a sign, and five minutes later, I was pulling into the spa.

The spa feels like a spa.   I mean, a spa in the olden days, when people were sent to spas to recover from tuberculosis or the like. It's based off of some mineral hot springs, and people travel from all over to soak in the waters.  I'd forgotten to pack a bathing suit when I came, but I had a sports bra that more than did double duty, with a pair of short shorts, no one was the wiser.  I had an hour before my treatments, so I chose to spend 15 minutes in each of the three mineral pools that were open. I started in soda, moved to iron, and finished at arsenic. The lithia spring wasn't open for some reason, and I wasn't particularly interested in the process of getting mud on and then off of me.  I think that soda and iron were my favorites, but that may be because they were the least crowded and slightly warmer than arsenic.    There were a fair number of people there today, but I didn't feel crowded.  I very much relaxed in the pools.

At 3:20, I wandered over to the desk to wait for my massage and scrub, and a lovely woman named Marcela took over my body for the next hour and a half.  She rubbed and she scrubbed and I could feel all sorts of tension just melting away from me. It was a perfect amount of time, and I was feeling just wonderful when she told me that she'd prepared a shower for me so I could get the rest of the rub material off of me.  Lovely, lovely afternoon.

I drove back to Taos using the non-terrifying route, and feeling guilty about the amount of time they'd been left alone, I got the puppies some knuckle bones from the butcher at Cid's.  They were overjoyed to see me, and they showed me that aside from a few crooked rugs, the house was in good shape.  Celosa took her bone for immediate chewing, but Fusilli had trouble deciding what to do.  He went outside with his, chewed for a few minutes, and then he buried it. Then he forgot where he buried it. Then he remembered. Then he brought it under the apple tree for chewing. Then to the deck.  He was very much a little busy body about it.   After an hour or so, I had to take the bones away from them, because I could see that fights were brewing.

And so we spent the evening writing and cooking and fighting over bones. I'll probably go to bed early-ish, as I'm still feeling relaxed (the half bottle of wine is helping me along that front too).

Graham seems to be having a great time in London, and I'm so glad for that.  I miss him terribly, and I wish he were here, but I know that he's doing an awesome thing.

I'm going to have difficulty explaining to the pooches that we have to go home eventually.

Missives from New Mexico

A few months ago, Graham got in touch with the folks over at Boomtown Fair, a music festival in the U.K. to see about getting on the lineup.  That particular festival has different districts dedicated to differing musical themes, and one of them, Mayfair Avenue, is focused on electro swing and live swing bands.  Within a few weeks of getting in contact, Graham was on the lineup.  He has three short sets on a huge stage on Friday night, and he has a longer set in a smaller venue on Saturday, with the possibility of another set on Sunday in the Latin district.  He also has a gig, ironically enough, in my old haunting grounds of Oxford on Thursday night at the invitation of Dutty Moonshine.  I used to go to the club he's performing at when I was a student there in 1994-95.  It's actually the same ownership/name as the club he performed in when we were in London last year.  He's on a plane as I type, and he will spend two days in London before he goes on his tour.  He'll have a great time; when he's in the U.K. he tends to blend in.

At any rate, for a variety of reasons, it didn't make as much sense for me to go on tour with him this time around. But I didn't want to stay home while he was having a blast, either. So, I called my mom to make sure the house was available, and I made arrangements at work to take off this week.  And on Friday, after work, the puppies and I kissed Graham and wished him the best time ever, and drove to Rhome, Texas where we stayed at a Motel 6.   Saturday, we woke up early, got in the car for ten hours, making friends with motorcycle gangs along the way, and arrived in Taos in time for a quick grocery store run and a lot of running around in the cool(er) mountain air.

If Graham blends in London, I blend in Taos.  I have somewhat hippie sensibilities, along with a practical streak.  I found myself not the only one in a prairie skirt and Birkenstocks at the grocery store the other day.  It's a town that I could live in easily if I could figure out how to pay the bills.  I always feel a sense of belonging here, and every ounce of stress that I'm carrying seems to melt off my body.

I have no real goals while I'm here.  I made a vow to myself that I would not play any computer games while here.  I want to take the puppies up to the mountain to go hiking one day. And I want to take myself to the spa at Ojo Caliente for some TLC.  I sort of promised myself that I'd try to make a yoga class once a day, but I'll be ok if I miss a yoga class for something else.  I want to take the puppies on longish walks while we're here, even if we don't make it to the mountain. There's a farmer's market on Wednesday at the pueblo, I'm told. And I want to go to the flea market in Santa Fe on Friday. I saw a sign for a craft fair on Saturday in the plaza.  Though there are some awesome restaurants here, I'd rather cook more than go out.

And I want to write.  Last fall, I took a fiction class at Inprint, and I found that I wasn't really horrible at it. I didn't have time in the spring, with classes at the School of Public Health, to keep writing as I would have liked, and this summer, I've been more preoccupied on other things. But, I knew that creative writing was something that I wanted to explore a little more seriously with a little more discipline.  A week to myself in one of the environments where I'm most comfortable in the world with nothing else to do seems like a good a place as any to impose that discipline.

So far? Not as successful as I would like, but I'm going in the right directions. Yesterday, I was pretty beat up by the travel and the altitude. (I almost always get headaches the first day I'm here, but this trip has been fairly decent.)  So I took it easy.  I finished a book that I'd been reading. I cooked some delicious salmon and couscous and spinach.  I drank a half a bottle of wine. (I'm finishing it now.) I walked the puppies to the square and back.  I did some straightening up around the house.  I settled into my home for the week.

Today has been a little more successful. I went to a yoga class, which I was a little nervous about. I think it's been about five years since I've been in one, and I was afraid I was going to make many mistakes. But the instructor and my classmates were great, and I felt very welcomed and I remembered what it was that I liked about yoga.  That I'm pretty flexible helps.  I also went to the hardware store to pick up some annuals and a hand weeder to get rid of some dandelions.  The annuals won't last that much longer, but they're on sale, and the two pots on the deck were barren.  My parents will be up here in two weeks, and I wanted it to look nice for them.  Fusilli helped me get rid of some of the dandelions, and Celosa supervised.   I caught up on some reading.  Later, I walked to one of the grocery stores for some ingredients for my Thai green curry chicken. And even later, the puppies and I saddled up for a longer walk. We would have been out even more, but a nasty cloud looked to be coming our way, and I didn't want to get caught in the rain with them.  We cooked dinner, and we were pretty happy with our efforts.  I'm sort of focusing on foods I like to cook, but Graham doesn't really like.

And now, I'm sitting down to write.  And I've written quite a bit. More than I've written in awhile.  It feels good to put my thoughts down, and I wish I had more confidence about this whole process.  I suppose most "writers" don't. And the ones that can make themselves go through it to the other side are the ones that get to take the quotes off the title.

We'll see if this week helps me do that a bit.      

SB 5 and Wendy Davis and me.

As I type, Wendy Davis, a state senator from the Ft. Worth area, is in the middle of hour 5 of her (hopefully) 13 hour filibuster of this bill.

SB 5, among other things, bans abortions in the state of Texas past 20 weeks. It also requires that physicians who work at abortion clinics be credentialed in a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. It also requires that all non-pharmacological abortions take place in an ambulatory surgery center.  Effectively, this bill would shut down all but five clinics in a state the size of France.

This monstrosity came up because Rick Perry is under the delusion that he can win a Republican nomination for President of the United States.  The state legislature only meets for four and a half months every other year.  That ended at the end of May. But it can be called back for a special session for so-called "emergency" legislation.  The legislature came back to supposedly work on redistricting, because the courts still weren't happy with the Texas maps. But halfway through the session, Rick Perry made whatever decision he made about his future, and did a bunch of noxious "pro-conservative" things, like veto the Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter act. And put abortion on the agenda.

For a variety of procedural reasons, Democrats were able to kill most of the provisions of this bill in the regular legislative session.  But the special sessions have different rules.

So the bill easily went through the Senate, and then on Thursday, it went to the House. And that's when the call went out.  Hundreds of women from all over the state descended upon Austin to testify on the bill in committee. 700 women signed up to testify, and they went until four in the morning.  The committee chairperson at one point called the testimony "repetitive", but that didn't stop women from telling their stories over and over again.  The bill did get out of committee and went to the House, and the Democrats did everything they could to delay and add amendments and otherwise make this horrible thing not so horrible. This process led to another Republican horror statement about rape, with Jodie Laubenberg saying that "In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out," in denying a "rape and incest" exception to the 20 week ban.   In the meantime, more and more Texas women came to the Capitol to get their voices heard.

Time was running out. The special session ends today at midnight. And if the legislation doesn't pass by then, then it's dead. There were some nice procedural barriers, in the legislation had to be read a few times before the final vote in the House.  And yesterday at around 10:40, it passed and was kicked back to the Senate.  There was a 24 hour waiting period before the Senate could take up the measure. And at 11:18 a.m. Senator Wendy Davis began her filibuster as her last chance to save Texas women from a horrible fate. (And the State of Texas from years of litigation, as I imagine that the injunction paperwork is being drawn up as I type.)

I've been pro-choice since the first time I gave such matters thought.  I got into an argument with my 6th grade religion teacher about it the first time the subject was brought up in school.  No matter how much she explained it to me, I could not grasp that I (who'd just started having periods) would have to have a baby if somehow I got pregnant.  I first got involved with Planned Parenthood formally in 1992 during the Republican National Convention and the descent of the Christian Coalition upon our local affiliate.  I've been a leader at Lobby Day for four sessions. (This year was the first I'd missed in nearly a decade.) I've been a clinic escort. I've chaired fundraisers and sat on committees. I've given some pro bono legal advice. I've marched in the Pride Parade with Planned Parenthood.

This isn't to say that I don't understand or even respect the other perspective on abortion. I just strongly believe that each of us should be able to make our own choices about such things.

Until this year, though, I never really had to think personally about abortion services.  I'd practiced safe sex all of my adult life until January 2012, when I went off the pill for the first time, and Graham and I decided to try to have a baby. Having always been "good", I just assumed that I'd be pregnant immediately upon discontinuation of birth control.  That didn't happen.   In July, I started taking more pro-active steps, like checking my basal body temperature and charting my various fluids and generally understanding my own reproductive system a little better.  I started putting "appointments" on the calendar for the optimal times to have sex so I'd get pregnant.  In November, I went on a drug for a few months that was supposed to help with my luteal phase. In January, I had an x-ray taken of my uterus to see if there was any blockage.  In March, I started acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine along with some other vitamins.

This is to say that I really, really, really wanted to get pregnant.

In mid-April, we were just about to take the next steps to seeing fertility specialists when I peed on a stick and it was positive.  We couldn't believe it, and I peed on a stick for six days in a row to confirm that yes, I was pregnant.  We were over the moon.

I called my doctor, and I didn't have an appointment scheduled until my 8th week of pregnancy, which was May 20.  We told selected friends and family. We started trying to figure out how to reconfigure the house. My boobs started growing(!) and getting heavier.  I'd have lightheaded spells.  I was suddenly tired all the time. We bought a few baby items.  And we just impatiently waited for May 20 to get here so we could see the baby.

Finally, four days after my 40th birthday, Graham and I went to see the doctor. I was 8 weeks and 2 days pregnant.   We were so excited!   The nurse came in and took a lengthy medical history, and we hurried through because we just wanted to get to see the baby.  Finally, I stirruped up, flashed my cooch for at least five people, and was stuck with the magic wand.

It took awhile to find the placenta. And I remember saying "phew, there's just one!" But the nurse said, "not so fast." And the next thing I knew, Graham and I were staring at not one, but two yolk sacs.  There were twins!  But they were small, the larger one almost a week smaller than it'd should have been, and the smaller one even tinier.  The nurse said that maybe my dates were off.  But I'd been downright anal about record keeping. I knew what my dates were.   Then, she asked the student if he'd get the doctor.  That's when I knew that things weren't going well.

The doctor didn't take much time. He took a look, told me to get dressed, and we met in his office a few minutes later.   He explained that he had trouble finding a heart beat, but he wasn't sure if that was because they were so small or because something was wrong.  He cautioned us that this might not be a good pregnancy, especially for the smaller one. But he referred us to a maternal fetal specialist that had better equipment and might be able to see more clearly what was going on.  Graham and I left the appointment in a state of shock.  Twins!  But will they be ok? Holy shit, we're really pregnant! But they were so small!   Maybe it's going to be ok. Maybe it's not going to be ok.

I was able to get an appointment with the specialist that same day, and I went by myself to his office. I didn't know until later, but he and my father are close colleagues, and my father thinks that he's the best there is at his job.  I just wanted to know if my twins were going to be ok.    The drill was more or less the same. Strip down, legs up and open, and wait for the insertion.  His screen really was clearer than the other, and we could see the embryos better.  He found a very faint heartbeat on one of them, but it was extremely low for what it should have been.  The other may or may not have had a heartbeat.  In addition, I learned that monozygotic, monoamniotic twins (identical twins that share an embryonic sac) are very rare and very high risk.  He told me that we should wait a few days and check again.

I went home as confused and upset and numb as I've ever been.  This had been one of the most roller coaster days of my life. And for the first time, I started thinking about abortion.  What if they lived but there was something so wrong with them that they weren't going to make it?  Obviously, there were some developmental problems early on, but what if they were severe, but not severe enough to trigger a miscarriage. What if the big one makes it but we have to terminate the little one? How does that even work?   I knew that if something was terribly wrong with them, I'd want to abort, but this was something I'd wanted so much and worked so hard for.  It was emotionally draining.  

I started looking for signs that I wasn't pregnant any more. Did my boobs feel lighter? Did I feel like I had more energy?  Was I cramping?  None of these were conclusive.

When I went back to the specialty doctor's office on Friday May 24, I wasn't sure what I wanted to see.  A strong heartbeat on both was my top scenario, but I knew that wasn't likely.  What would I do if there were still a heartbeat but it was still low? What if one but not the other?  I also knew that even if things looked good(-ish) that I wasn't out of the woods.  There were still genetic scans and 31 more weeks of pregnancy where something could go terribly wrong.  This happy, breezy pregnancy that I'd had for 8 weeks was gone, no matter what the outcome of the sonogram.

With my mother and my sister at my side, I found out that the heartbeats had stopped on both embryos.  I wasn't going to have to make any decisions.

Graham came immediately home from Flipside, and we spent the weekend together waiting for me to miscarry.

On May 29, I had a D&C and was officially not pregnant again.

I REALLY don't want to talk about this.  This was hard to write. It's hard to think about.  I'm better than I was a month ago, but it's still pretty raw.

There are a few people who know about this, but it's not something I was yelling from the rooftops. It's extremely personal and painful and private. But the Texas legislature and governor don't really care about that sort of thing.   They want to politicize this. The want to insert themselves in the discussion I had with my husband and doctors and family.  I thought with dread about the sonogram the state of Texas would make me have to if I had to terminate the pregnancy.  In this process, I'd had four of them.  But the state of Texas doesn't think that's enough, and they would have forced me to have another, meaningless test just to shove (literally) the point home that they are in more control than I am over decisions in my uterus.  That bullshit can't be dealt with right now, but the stuff that Wendy Davis is fighting can.

I'm over 40 years old.  ANY pregnancy I have is by definition high risk.  I WANT to have a baby.  But I also know that I'm more likely to have something go wrong later in the pregnancy than younger women.  I am grateful that the genetic screening can be done earlier, but there are some things that aren't going to come up on the MaterniT21 or equivalent tests (which are done around 10-12 weeks).  I live in a huge, dense metropolitan area, and I think that the clinic close to me will survive if this bill passes. But the waits will be ridiculous, the lines will be long, and there won't be enough clinicians to serve the population.

This is extremely personal, but it's also too important for me not to talk about.  I'm not interested in sympathy or expression of sorrow for my loss. I'm interested in a fight to ensure that women in my state--that I--have the resources that we need to take care of ourselves.  Support Wendy Davis in her filibuster, and fight .  


Sometimes pet owners feel like the worst people in the world.

Graham's working tonight, so the puppies were terribly excited to see me when I got home.  I hadn't seen them since early this morning, and I decided that we'd enjoy the outside as much as possible while it was still daylight.  They played chase and ran around a little, and then Celosa retreated to the deck to chill out. She was so pretty and calm and serene, that I decided to take a few pictures of her.

In the meantime, her brother was exploring the yard.  He go off and sniff something, and then come back to try to get us to check it out. He'd then go back out again.

Soon, he came trotting by with an eggshell in his mouth. I'd seen it on the deck and noted how tiny it was earlier.  I quickly pulled it out of his mouth, threw it under the house so he couldn't get it, and sent him on his way.

Celosa and I resumed activities.

A minute later, I looked up in to the yard and saw Fusilli diligently chewing on something. He's never paid much attention to the oleander leaves before (and they're everywhere), but he was sitting under one of the trees. They're pretty toxic, so I went over to see what he was chewing.

I removed the leg of a baby bird from his mouth.

This baby bird was not the recent resident of the egg, or if it was, it'd grown considerably since vacating the egg. I had no idea where he found it or what state of decomposition it was in when he found it.

I quickly picked up the puppy, high tailed it to the bathroom, and poured hydrogen peroxide into his mouth.  I haven't had to use this method in awhile, but it worked like a charm.  Poor little chap was so trusting, so eager, so willing to please, he gulped down the hydrogen peroxide I shoved down his throat like a champ.

And then the upchuck.  He didn't know what hit him.  It was just awful to watch.  The treats his daddy gave him right before he left were there. Plus a lot of foam and bile and other remnants.   And then he threw up again. And then once more for good measure.

The happy, playful puppy of just minutes ago was sick and upset and terribly confused. Celsoa and I could do nothing but watch and offer encouragement and soothing noises.

He retreated to the bedroom  for a minute, and then I picked him up and took him to the water bowl.  He drank voraciously. He refused a treat.

His heart told him, "yes, I do want dinner."  His stomach told him, "whoa there, buddy, are you sure you wanna rush things?"  His stomach won.

For the first time since Fusilli came home, Celosa ate without someone hovering over her food.

It's been about a half-hour now, and Fusilli's stomach has decided that it's ok to eat.  Still, it's not the voracious, "this is my last meal" rigor that such occasions usually warrant. It's a cautious, "will this stay down?" approach.

I know he'll be fine, and my actions may have been a slight over-reaction.  Poor baby.  


Sky update

Graham talked to her owners. She didn't break anything. The car saw her and braked hard, and while she was hit, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  The person in the car stayed with her until the owners got to the vet, and there were dozens of calls to the vet's office to make donations.  The dog people on social media in this city are pretty awesome at coming together.

It turns out that Sky has cancer. She's been in chemo for awhile now, and she's been staying with our neighbor's mom. (He is also Noir's family, and there are three other cats and another dog in their household.) I don't know how well she's responding to chemo, but I imagine that this was a bad shock to the system.

At any rate, she's as ok as a pooch can be in this situation.  


Weekend project: secure the yard!

So I'm innocently working, and I get a message that I've been tagged on a post in facebook.  I click.  I regret.

A picture of a badly injured dog pops up. And in the comments section, a friend posts "I'm pretty sure that Graham and 'stina know this dog."   Dammit. I did.


About an hour ago, Graham called me asking for a neighbor's number.  Skye, the great Dane across the street, was out of her yard, and we don't have her owner's number.  (Skye's owners, btw, are also Noir's official owners.)  We do have the number of another neighbor who has their number, so he wanted to talk to her so she could talk to them.  Graham tried to catch Skye, but she was either too scared or too excited or too gun-shy to go anywhere near him.  He tried treats, he was really soft with her. He called her.  Every time he got close, she bolted. Whenever he followed, she sped up.  He realized that if he chased her, she'd just run faster.  Graham realized he wasn't going to catch her, so he needed her owners right away.

Graham vented on facebook about the whole thing.

Half an hour, 45 minutes later, the facebook notification from my friend popped up.  A great Dane had been hit by a car in River Oaks and could anyone identify the bloody dog in the picture. The signal was boosted. Two separate friends saw Graham's rant on facebook and the picture. And both friends got in touch with both of us, hence the image hitting my inbox.

It took me awhile to find information, but I finally found a number for the person who posted the picture, and I called.  Skye made it all the way to the River Oaks Shopping Center. And several people tried to catch her, but she wouldn't come.  Finally, she got hit by a car.  The lady I talked to was the manager of a pet business, and it sounded like she was instrumental in organizing immediate care.  There was a vet's office not too far away, and they picked her up immediately. At the very least, Skye has a broken leg.  I gave her my neighbor's name and address and said that we'd do what we could to get in touch with the vet's office.

I called Graham and gave him what information I had, and he said that the neighbors were just getting home, obviously in a panic.  He relayed as much information as he could (without getting angry), and they took off to the vet.  I hope she's going to be ok.

The likelihood of something like this happening to one of our dogs is slim, as they don't hang out outside unsupervised.  One of us is usually with them when they're outside, and they're not particularly interested in not being with us. Even on the rare times when the gate has been open, they haven't shown much interest in leaving.  They both have tags, and Celosa is chipped (Fusilli will be chipped soon).

Still, this doesn't mean that accidents don't happen.  My parents' first puli, Pisco, died because he was hit by a car.  He had horrible separation anxiety, and once, when my parents left for some event or another, he opened the sliding glass door, got out of the yard, and went to look for them.  He got hit on a busy street near their house. Fusilli is still new, and he might decide to get some bug up his butt about entry or exit to the rest of the world, and I really don't want to go through what Skye's parents are going through right now.  Celosa in the accident was enough of that for me.

So this weekend, we'll go through the yard like a fine toothed comb and look for any exit points. Skye got out not because the fence was insecure, but because she could crawl under the house. But she couldn't remember how to crawl back the way she'd come.  I know a few spots that need some attention. It'll piss off the cats, but they're pretty good about figuring their way around things. 


Fusilli just jumped on the couch!  He's 12 weeks old today.

Of course he has no idea that he did it, or how to replicate it.  He was being chased by his sister at the time and didn't stop to think about the mechanics.  But a few days from now, he'll get it better.

And then, the only refuge will be the bed.  That's usually at around three months or so, so he has a few weeks on that.

I keep meaning to note his mile stones more here. I did that with Celosa and Crianza, and those recollections are so useful with Fusilli.

At any rate, he grows, and gets along great with his big sister. They're laying on the floor next to me, side by side.  And they enjoy the hell out of each other's company.

I'm so glad that we got him for her.  She gets annoyed with him very seldom, and she's very patient. She's also having a blast playing with him. He's bigger than she was at that age, but a little quieter. They don't bark at each other like Crianza and Celosa did when Celosa was this age.

He's a voracious eater, finishes his bowl in about a half minute.  He's always irate that he goes straight outside after a meal, and can't muscle Celosa out of her bowl to grab her food. Celosa sort of rolls her eyes at this.

He's terribly cute, and we're awfully glad to have him.  And we're so grateful that Celosa is here to do the hard work with him.  If she rubs off even a little on him, he'll be an amazing pooch.


'stina is, surprisingly enough, a lawyer from Houston, Texas who rambles about quite a number of things.

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April 2019

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