Saturday, March 29, 2008


"Waiting, if done at a fast enough speed, can oft times look like something else altogether." - Carrie Fisher

I used to think that being really busy meant you had a life. Come to find out, it was just something to distract me, while I waited for mine to begin. It was only after I learned to be still, that it finally did.


A couple of weeks ago, right after Megan, Ben, and John all left to go back home, I was feeling kind of sad and lonely. I decided to cheer myself up by heading over to Texas Specialty Cut Flowers (AKA the big blue barn). On any given day, that's an uplifting experience, but this was even better - a tasting event!

One of the local goat cheese makers was there, a hummus maker, and my favorite person, Sibby Barrett, from Onion Creek Kitchens at Juniper Hills Farm. The Arnoskys are now carrying her Italian-style salsa verde, herb blends and tapenades, so she was there passing out samples. She told me she'd been reading my blog, to keep up with what's going on over in the Wimberley area, and it inspired her and her niece to finally come over and check out Clifford's Wine Bar. That just tickled me to death.

In addition to tasting yummy things, I enjoyed some fine music, was able to play with their new baby goats, and picked up this gorgeous bouquet of parrot tulips. Needless to say, I was feeling quite chipper by the time I left.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


When the appraiser came out to assess the damage, after our roof blew away, he stood looking out over our property and said "You have one of the best views around." Then he turned back to look at our roofless house, and continued with "That means you get the best winds, too." He wasn't just whistlin' Dixie.

The gods were watching over John last Tuesday, although he would find that hard to believe, as he spent the day in Houston puking up his toenails. Here in Wimberley, we started the day off with a pretty good rain, but that had all but stopped by mid-morning. I was sitting at my computer typing, when all of a sudden a rogue gust of wind came slamming into the window in front of me, causing me to jump out of my chair. A second later I heard a huge crash coming from the direction of our driveway. I ran to the window to look out, and saw that the wind had picked up not only the patio umbrella that John forgot to lower, but also its heavy wrought iron base, and the entire teak picnic table, carried the lot about 20 feet, then dumped them practically on top of John's car (he left it here and drove the truck to Houston last time).

I ran from window to window, checking for funnel clouds, before I finally had the nerve to step outside and assess the damage. What did I find? The table was resting butt up against John's car, with maybe one to two inches of clearance, and as far as I could tell, there wasn't a scratch on it. So, here's my question. If the winds up here are strong enough to pick up that table, or even an entire roof, and can come out of nowhere without any warning, what's to stop them from picking up, say, a nice frizzy-haired woman?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I know you are tired of hearing me use the word "synchronicity", so let me tell you about the amazing instance of "serendipity" that occurred yesterday. Monday evening I sent an email message to Bella Vista Ranch, home of Texas First Olive Oil Co. (, asking them when their pick-your-own blackberry season would begin. Yesterday morning I got a reply from someone named Colleen, saying they did not do that anymore, as they are now using the berries to make country wines and preserves. She asked if I had been to their showroom lately, and had I heard about the upcoming olive picking feast, which Sibby Barrett would be helping with. I replied yes, I had been in their showroom on one of Sibby's Hill Country Excursions last summer, and I was there at Christmas buying lots of their blood orange-infused olive oil to send as gifts. I said I had indeed heard about the upcoming feast, but unfortunately, now that I've left my job in Houston to live here full-time, I can no longer afford things like that (I think it was $200 per person, or thereabouts), but that it was so worth being poor for! She responded with "Well, we occasionally need extra help in the showroom, if you'd be interested in a very flexible, part-time job." Heck yeah! I start Friday.


When we first met at the SCN conference, Debi told me about a group of women she had bonded with while taking a class on "art with a different intention." When the class ended, they decided to continue meeting once a month. Thus, WOWW was born - Women of Wisdom and Wonder. I was under the impression that it was a closed group, so never gave it much thought.

Shortly after we returned from the conference, I received an email from Debi. She explained that one of the WOWW members was a textile artist, and had put together a workshop that she was hoping to teach out at Old Oaks Ranch. She needed some warm bodies to practice on, and they were wondering if I'd like to join them the next day. Heck Yeah!

I had all sorts of expectations about this adventure, and every last one of them was wrong. First of all, judging from the location of the house where we would be meeting, I was picturing one of those perfectly decorated houses that were featured on the annual home tour. Instead I found an amazing, but very comfortable home that was far from perfect, with evidence of the owners' many passions scattered here and there - much like ours. A "livin' the good life" home.

Next, I expected the workshop to be about technique, and since I couldn't knit, felt, crochet or weave, I wondered how on earth I would participate. Instead, it was about the creative process, and coming up with new ideas. Cheryl, who was leading the class, makes fabulous form-fitting dresses that she weaves from spiral cut strips of hand-dyed leather, and I realized that I had been seeing her work at the Renaissance Festival for years. She talked a bit about her own creative process, then set a shallow wooden tray in the middle of the table, pulled out all sorts of markers, beads, clay, fabric scraps, jewelry bits, wire, and various other things she had scavenged from her studio, and told us "Let's see what you can do with this." I haven't had that much fun since back before the first person ever told me "No, you are doing it all wrong!" A couple of hours later we had created a mysterious lake with beaded waterfalls, which was filled with everything from creatures of the abyss to flying jelly fish.

I expected this to be a one-time invitation based on their need for extra bodies, but began to wonder if I wasn't being checked out. Then they started talking about future events, assuming that I would be there. When one woman asked "Well, are we weird enough for you?", as if she thought I was judging them, I gave up trying to figure things out.

The expectation that I was most wrong about was my assumption that I would feel intimidated by these extremely talented women, who were artists, writers, musicians, teachers, and a few who did all of the above! Instead I found that for the first time ever, I was in a room full of women who kind of thought like I did. Every oddball book that I had ever read and loved, they had read too. While we held many of the same interests, they had many different passions too, as well as differing religious and political views, but instead of arguing over who's right and who's wrong, there was an open-minded sharing of ideas. Rather than intimidation, I would have to say what I felt was more like....coming home.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


For all you China Bayles herbal mystery fans out there, you should know that author Susan Wittig Albert is now on a blog tour for the soon to be released book Nightshade. Alas, my blog is not one of the host sites, but link to the tour calendar here, and check it out:
Not only will you have fun visiting with China and Susan, you will discover some great blogs in the process, and each visit adds to your chances of winning a first edition copy of Nightshade.

Speaking of Susan, did I tell you about the Lone Star Sleuth event that was held over at Texas State not long ago? Remember, I mentioned brazenly going up to tables in the restaurant at the SCN conference recently, and inviting myself to intrude? At one of those tables was a lady named Debi Bowers. Her reply was "You aren't intruding, you were caught in our net. We sat here facing the door intentionally, hoping to nab someone interesting." If I didn't already believe in synchronicity, I certainly would now, for as it turned out, Debi was from Wimberley! She sent me an email after we got back, telling me about an upcoming event over in San Marcos, where Susan Albert would be one of the honorees. John and I had nothing better to do that weekend, so we decided to check it out.

As it turns out, this was a promotional event for a newly released anthology. It contains excerpts from the works of many different authors, all featuring Texan sleuths. I skimmed down the list of names, not recognizing anyone but Susan at first. As soon as we arrived, I spotted Debi and her husband, and we went over to say hello. The authors were seated at small tables around the perimeter of the room, with name cards in front of them, and piles of their recent books waiting to be autographed. The name card closest to me read "Doug Swanson", which rang some distant bell in my head. I glanced up at the person behind it, and thought "Hmmm, looks kind of familiar." I walked up to him. "Are you from Dallas?" I asked. He nodded. "Went to Woodrow Wilson high school?" Another nod. "Had a role in the play Charlie's Aunt?" A nod and a grin. "Well, I probably made your costume for that play," I told him. Turns out he is a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News now, and a while back he wrote several P.I. mysteries that were set in Dallas.

Next Debi and I made our way over to greet Susan Albert, while our husbands wandered off to check out the Lonesome Dove exhibit that was being held in the adjoining rooms. While chatting with Susan, my eyes fell on the pile of books a couple of chairs down. "I know those books!" I exclaimed. Sure enough, it was Ben Rehder, author of the crazy Blanco County mysteries that we introduced the Sanfords to, featuring game warden John Marlin. We bought his new release Gun Shy, and had him sign it to Tim and Chase, but of course, we plan to read it first before we give it to them (must be careful not to leave any chocolate fingerprints in it!).

I spotted John a couple of tables down, with a pile of books in his arm, and went to join him. Seated at the table were a fellow about our age and a pretty young blonde girl. John grinned when he saw me, and started waving a book in my face. "You are not gonna believe who this guy is!" he cried. I grabbed the book from his waving hand and glanced at the title. Bubba Ho-Tep? "You wrote Bubba Ho-Tep?" I exclaimed. "I didn't even know it was a book!" He gave us a special discount when he found out we were huge fans of Bruce Campbell movies. Turns out the pretty blonde was his daughter, and lead-singer of the band that was there to entertain us with some "Country Noir" music.

John showed me the other books he had purchased, and I saw several by someone named Neal Barrett. Again, a bell went off in my head. "Which one is this guy?" I asked, and John pointed to a slim, silver-haired fellow near-by. I approached him and asked if he was, by any chance, related to someone named Sibby Barrett. His eyes lit up. "Why, she's my daughter!" he replied. I explained that we had been to several of her cooking classes over in Blanco, and that we thought she was just an exceptional person all around. He seemed quite tickled. What a small, small world it is.

We were having such a lovely time, we hated for the afternoon to end. Apparently the Bowers felt the same way, for they suggested adjourning to a nearby restaurant for coffee and dessert. We lingered there for quite some time, and since the whole experience had been so synchronistic, I was not even surprised when the two husbands seemed to be hitting it off. Just another magical day in the Texas hill country.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Once I started transferring journal to blog, new story writing more or less came to a standstill. Guess I'd better get crackin'! Here's one from January:

Today's the big day! In a couple of hours I will head over to Austin to attend Story Circle Network's Stories From the Heart: Women's National Memoir Conference. I vacillate between feeling pumped and confident, and wondering "What the hell was I thinking?" One minute I'm looking through all of my stories, trying to decide which one to read at the open mic event (surely if that editor from University of Texas Press heard it, she would offer me a book contract on the spot, right?). The next minute I'm convinced that all of my stories are total crap, and if I dared to read one aloud, I'd most probably get laughed out of the conference!

* * * * *

I really don't know where to begin, when it comes to describing the weekend I've just experienced. To say that I am feeling overwhelmed right now, would be a huge understatement. Everything I have done over the past three days has been completely out of character for me, and has stretched my comfort zone to its outermost limits: signing up to go to a conference solo, not knowing a single person there; agreeing to room with a total stranger; posting some of my writing on their story wall (with my photo on it, no less!) as soon as I arrived, for all the world to see; walking up to tables of women in the restaurant, who already seemed to know each other, and brazenly inviting myself to join them; standing up to read one of my stories at the open mic session, and feeling good about it!; baring my soul at a special interest dinner, where we talked about writing as a form of healing; chanting and getting in touch with my inner goddess..... the list could go on for pages. Right now, everything I learned is a massive swirling jumble in my head, waiting to be sorted out and filed away, but three things are perfectly clear. First, I am a much braver person than I ever gave myself credit for. Second, that's a damn good thing, because writing is not for the faint of heart. In the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay, "A person who publishes a book appears willfully in public eye with his pants down." Last, and most important, I learned that the world is full of amazing women, and every single one of them has a story to tell!