Saturday, March 15, 2008


Each time we move, one of my first missions is always to find my special "lunch spot". It's not an easy task, for I have stringent criteria that must be met. First of all, it must have the right ambience - rather casual, with a cozy booth or sunny corner table - somewhere that I would feel comfortable dining alone and lingering over my meal, with a crossword puzzle perhaps. Second, it must have really good food, not national chain fast food. Third, it must be inexpensive.

It took me a while, but I finally found the perfect place here in Wimberley - Crucita's Kitchen. I didn't notice it at first because it's tucked away in a strip center behind the laundromat. Open only for breakfast and lunch, it serves mostly just an assortment of tacos and gorditas, using the most delicious, warm, fluffy homemade flour tortillas I've ever tasted - and I've tasted a passel of them. Try a chicken fajita taco, a bean and cheese taco, and a pineapple flavored Mexican soda, and not only will you get out of there for less than $6.00, you will surely be coming back to work your way through the other options.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I told someone recently that my husband has always had a habit of leaving things lying around the house. As long as they are not causing him actual discomfort, they might stay where he dropped them indefinitely. Nagging only makes things worse. The one trick I have found is to just shift the items to a spot that does make him uncomfortable - in front of his computer, in his favorite chair, tossed into his closet, etc. Do that, and the pile of shoes or mail or dirty clothes will be dealt with in no time! I'm not sure if he even realizes that I'm being somewhat manipulative. I think that in his world, that stuff on the floor isn't even a blip on his radar, and when I shift it so that it does appear on his screen, he probably just stares in confusion, wondering how on earth all that mail ended up in his underwear drawer.

If I do decide to move on up to Wimberley ahead of John, I will suddenly make his situation in Houston seem much more "uncomfortable." He always hated Mondays when I was off and he had to work. The first week after they switched my schedule around so that I could attend the Monday managers' meetings, John leaped out of bed gleefully, threw his arms in the air and crowed "WELCOME TO MONDAYS!" That was the only time in 32 years that I ever saw him leap out of bed. Just as he hated those Mondays when I was off work, he will probably be much more unhappy with working in Houston, knowing that I am in Wimberley. Well, who knows? Perhaps it will motivate him to get extricated from his job sooner, rather than later.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


One day I was cruising the internet, to see if anyone else was blogging about the hill country. I found one interesting site called Lifescapes. The woman was chatting about her husband's pecan trees, and some tracks spotted by the pond, then really caught my attention when she mentioned being a writer. I thought, hmmm, maybe I can pick up some tips, and kept on reading. When she mentioned something about her recent book "Spanish Dagger", I almost fell out of my chair, for there on the shelf directly in front of me, was that very same book, by one of my favorite authors, Susan Wittig Albert.

I have been reading her China Bayles mysteries for years, about an ex-criminal lawyer from Houston who becomes disenchanted with her life, chucks it all to move to the hill country and open an herb shop, and happens to solve a lot of murder cases in her spare time. I couldn't resist sending Susan a short email, explaining how I had happened upon her blog, and telling her how much I enjoyed her books. I also mentioned that we had bought a house in the hill country ourselves, and hoped to retire there some day. I hadn't really expected a reply - after all, the woman is a nationally known author juggling three different book series and a magazine column. She doesn't have a lot of spare time. Nonetheless, within fifteen minutes I had a note telling me that "China" says "Yes, the hill country is a great place to live!", and that they both hope we will be able to make our move there soon.

Later, after I had made my decision to leave the nursery and concentrate on writing, I came across her email. It reminded me that she was once an administrator at Texas State University. I decided to send her one more note, asking for suggestions on classes that might improve my writing skills. I had barely hit the send button before I had an answer. In addition to class recommendations, she suggested that I might want to join the Story Circle Network, and attend the conference being held in Austin soon. I went online to check it out, and discovered that SCN is an organization she launched ten years ago, made up of women who want to explore their lives and souls by exploring their personal stories, and this was to be their fourth National Women's Memoir Conference. When I checked out the list of topics being offered - Blogs and Life-writing, Accessing Your Inner Muse, Turning Food Memories into Stories, Demystifying Word Processing Programs, Getting Published, and many, many more - I knew I had to be there.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


When I first landed my job as visual merchandiser at the garden center in Houston, I thought I was the luckiest person in the world. I just couldn't believe that someone was willing to pay me to hang out around plants all day and do displays, but not have to deal with customers or work weekends. The first year was a bit rough. I hadn't done this for a nursery before, and they had never had a merchandiser before, and weren't really sure what they wanted. The manager would ask us me to do one thing, then the owner would flit in and tell me to do the opposite. The next day she would change her mind. Each department head was accustomed to doing their own thing, and it was not at all unusual for me to spend the day reworking the gift shop, only to return a couple of days later and find that a certain someone had put everything right back the way she had it. The maintenance manager wouldn't even speak to me the first couple of years, just grunt, and there was rarely anyone available to help me move the heavy stuff. They were only willing to pay me to work 10-15 hours a week, so I used the rest of my time to build up a garden design business on the side, and to haunt every garden-related shop I could find, in order to figure out what a well-merchandised nursery was supposed to look like.

I kept on plugging away, and eventually most of them came around. I think they started grooving on the positive feedback they were getting from the customers, and decided it was more fun to work with me than against me. I kept hoping to get some feedback from the owner, but that rarely happened. She never seemed to notice anything we had accomplished, only that which we hadn't. Still, business was increasing slowly but surely, and we were getting good reports from the marketing consultant that came in periodically. One day, out of the blue, the owner invited me to begin accompanying the shop manager on her buying trips. Surely I must have been doing something right.

In the meantime, we bought this house in the Hill Country, and I became obsessed with writing. As we spent more and more time here, it became harder and harder to find time for my design clients, and I eventually let that business go. After five years at the nursery, with only one fifty cent raise (which I had to beg for), and still no signs of approval from the owner, I was getting extremely frustrated. I was getting less and less satisfaction from my efforts there, more and more from my time spent writing. I found it particularly irritating that she would never allow my name and picture to be included in the employee section of our website. My friends would ask "Are you sure you really work there? I think you are making it up!" When I inquired about it, she claimed that if customers knew who I was, they would pester me so much I would never get any work done, but one of my co-workers said "Nah, she's just afraid someone would steal you away." I was dumb-struck. "You mean she's actually pleased with my work? Why doesn't she ever say so?" "That's just the way she is," they replied. I discovered exactly what they meant when she decided that I should be included in the weekly manager's meetings. Although it was somewhat comforting to find that it wasn't just me who failed to live up to her expectations, but the entire world, it was also disheartening to realize that no matter how hard I worked, I would never get any reaction from her other than "Why haven't you done this?" or "When are you going to do that?" Still, buying trips to Dallas, New York and Atlanta, can make up for a lot.

* * * * *

A new manager started on Monday (the fourth since I've been there - they never stick around for long). Whenever that happens, the owner always goes into an expense-cutting frenzy, to compensate for the manager's salary, so I wasn't too surprised when she told several of us that we should go ahead and start our (unpaid) holiday early. On my way out the door, she stopped me. I thought she was going to say "Have a nice holiday!" or maybe even, at last "Good job on transforming the nursery for Christmas. Thanks." Silly me. Instead she said "By the way. I don't think we really need to go to market this year, do you? I don't see why we can't just order what we need on line." And that was it. She didn't even say good-bye. So, I owe her a huge debt of gratitude, for she has made it so much easier for me to finally leave the nursery behind, and actually start living the good life, instead of just reading about it!