Saturday, May 1, 2010
Hyacinth bean vine in fruit & bloom, both at once; brilliant ribs of swiss chard, in all my favorite colors; poppies marching around our water tank (why do they love that gravel so, and how did they get there?); tomato plants setting fruit; and, a strangely beautiful plant called Cow's Tongue, resting upon the rim of a big red pot.
Friday, April 30, 2010
My niece left a message last night, saying "Must be kind of weird for you guys, trying to live a sustainable life there in Wimberley, while having John consulting for an oil company because of the spill." No shit Sherlock. But then, that's nothing new for us. We have always been the odd ducks of the "awl bidness" world, right from day one. The only thing that saved us was the particular company that John went to work for.
You see, at Mobil Oil an engineer could choose between the "managerial" track, or the "technical" track. You'd never become a bazillionaire on the technical track, but you wouldn't be hurting, either. Most importantly, you could continue doing what you love your entire
career (instead of having to be a people pusher) and eventually become something of a guru in your particular area of expertise. But - you would never be one of the movers and shakers up in the ivory tower. John saw that as a good thing.
Another big difference was in the way John prioritized his life. Once we all started having kids, it became more and more obvious that there was something exceedingly strange about my hubby - something so strange in fact, that I couldn't even discuss it with the other wives. He actually liked spending time at home with us! Although the other husbands were leaving the house before dawn, and coming home after the kids were already in bed, they just couldn't seem to turn it off, even when they were at home. They were either on the phone, or closeted in their offices, and the only breaks they took were to head off to the golf course. John was very good at what he did. In fact, one boss told him "John, you're not just a low-maintenance employee, you're a NO-maintenance employee!" Still, if he had to choose between spending time at the office or at home? Home would always win, hands down.
It wasn't until the kids hit junior high that things started to go downhill. By that time, John was well on his way to becoming a "Rotating Equipment" guru -- the go-to guy for problematic turbines and compressors, as well as maintenance and reliability procedures in the gas plants. Only problem was, Mobil was shutting down all their domestic gas plants. John had no choice but to transfer into their overseas division. That meant that instead of going off on 3-4 day trips to west Texas and New Mexico, he was going off on 3 to 4 week trips to places that were kinda scary. Fortunately, despite the amount of time he was away, he seemed to have a gift for staying connected with the kids, for they both say they never felt neglected at all. John, however, was suffering big time. After a while I realized that, each time he called, the more cheerful and chatty I was about what was going on with the kids, the more silent and depressed he became.
When Exxon came along and bought out Mobil, they gave him a choice -- a job with them, or a separation package? It took him about 5 seconds to make up his mind. He walked. He said "I've already missed out on every single important event of our daughter's teens, and I'm just not going to do it anymore. A teen-aged boy needs his dad." So, he took a boring job with a small company, for a huge cut in pay, and was happy as a little clam. He sat right behind the band at all the games, snapping pictures of our grinning, tuba-dancing son. I don't know one other guy in The Bidness who could have, or would have, made that choice. I'm sure they all thought it was my doing - that I forced him into it. The wives probably felt sorry for me, thinking I would miss the prestige of his former life. Instead, I felt like we had finally taken the first step -- towards The Good Life.
P.S. And, to all you guys who can't imagine a life outside your careers, and who keep telling my hubby how much he would hate being retired? Well, you don't know jack about John!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
(click image to enlarge)
Got a call from the hubster yesterday, saying "Not much point you coming to Houston this weekend. Or next. Or, well, any time in the foreseeable future." Seems he's been handed a consulting job related to the Gulf spill debacle. Starting today, he will be working 12 hrs./day, 7 days/week, until this thing is brought under control. At least he won't be offshore. You know in the movie Julie/Julia? The job that Julie had in NY? John's job will be a lot like that. Poor baby. Oh well, if I'm not going to Houston for a while, and he's not coming here, guess I'll have no excuse for not tackling all the stuff on these To-Do lists, huh?
There are both good and not so good consequences of thinking globally. I was such a rube, when I went off to college, that when I asked one girl where she was from and she said "Guatemala" (only she pronounced it Wah-te-mala), I scrunched up my face in confusion and asked "Is that in Texas?" I can also remember my mother, who prided herself on not being "one of those bigots", saying "I don't know why - maybe it's because of the war and them pounding it into us that the Japanese were the big scary enemies - but I can't even imagine kissing an oriental. Can you?" So, for me, the greatest thing to come out of this global mentality, our time spent living overseas, and our years volunteering with AFS and hosting three exchange students, is that when you mention Japan or Bahrain or Indonesia or Denmark, I no longer think of strange, scary countries whose people are so different that they just can't be trusted. I think of Mageda and Tamaki and Dewi and Eric and Asnah - individuals whom I have known and loved and who, as it turned out, were not so very different from us after all.
As you know, there was a time when it was village against village, and clan against clan, but as the saying goes, there is nothing like a common enemy to bring people together. So, eventually the clans and villages united to form nations. However, when these nations began thinking of war as the natural way of life, I began to wonder whether rabid patriotism was such a good thing after all. It seemed to me that it was more of a way to keep your subjects dutiful. As long as you can convince them that "It's them against us, Man, so we gotta stick together!", you can keep them under your thumb, believing whatever propaganda you choose to feed them. As it turns out, that was the reason AFS, the exchange student program I worked with, was formed in the first place. It was organized by a group of WWII ambulance drivers - The American Field Service - who came to believe that if they could arrange these student exchanges, and more people came to see them as individuals - people much like you and me - then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't end up having to send our sons and daughters off to fight WWIII. I think it's important that we keep striving towards that end.
On the other hand, our global way of thinking has done some serious damage to our poor planet. All of this jetting back and forth has given us a taste for foreign goods, and shipping those goods to us from around the world is sucking the life right outta Mother Earth. Now the push is on to figure out a more sustainable way of doing things - to rebuild local food systems and local economies, and to re-establish and strengthen community ties. Does that mean we are doomed to revert to that old clan vs. clan mentality? I sure hope not. How then, do we find the right balance?
P.S. Many thanks to musicandes.com for the above image.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
This weekend was the annual Wimberley Arts Fest. So many wonderful artists and crafters, so much good music, so many interesting people (and pets), so many cool vintage autos, but so few spaces for photos on each of these blog postings...
By the way, that's archi-friend Bob - designer of the Cantina Garden's structures - relaxing there behind his cherry red caddy named Scarlett.
Monday, April 26, 2010
This time of year, amidst Valentines, Mother's Day and our anniversary, I am often reminded of my mother. Mom lived by stringent proof-of-love standards, as set up by the Hallmark Corporation. In fact, I often wondered if those weren't the only signs she knew how to read. In her world, if you didn't receive that corsage to wear to church and lunch at a fine restaurant on Mother's Day, roses and a heart-shaped box of chocolates on Valentines, a piece of jewelry on your anniversary, and a cake with candles plus a mountain of well-wrapped gifts and everyone gathered round you on your birthday, then it was obvious your family didn't love you. Hallmark said so.
And, in accordance with the studies having to do with birth order, those values were passed down to each of her successive offspring in an ever diluted state, so that by the time we came to my little brother - the youngest - he was so oblivious to The Rules that he's been known to forget to even show up for his own celebrations! It's a good thing I was child #3, because John is to The Hallmark Rules what matter is to anti-matter. He's never baked a birthday cake in his life, feels morally compelled not to send flowers on the expected occasions, and was rarely even in town on our anniversary, and yet, I couldn't feel more loved.
You see, it's the little unexpected things that he and the kids do, for no particular reason at all, that make my heart go pitter-patter. It's a 24 year old son who still gives me a big ol' bear hug when he sees me, or overhearing your daughter telling someone "When it comes to parents, Austin and I pretty much won the lottery." It's finding that homemade, crayola-drawn card that my sweetie tucked under my pillow one time - the one that started out "To An Oolie-Droolie Girl." Could Hallmark possibly top any of that? Not in a million years.
P.S. Many thanks to glitterhound.com for the above image.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I am a rotten housekeeper, and I just don't understand it. I was raised by a family who set the highest value on never having a thing out of place. The house may not have been antiseptic clean, and no telling what was in the garage or in
the cabinets, but if anyone showed up at the door unexpectedly, they would never see a glass on the counter or a newspaper on the sofa.
Despite what you usually see in my blog photos, my house is not really like that. At all. I wish it were. I hate clutter, and find it very distracting, but I just don't seem to have the willpower to keep it properly under control. I used to blame it all on John and the kids, but either I was fooling myself, or somewhere along the way, I was drawn to the dark side.
I would love it if I never had to be embarrassed when someone drops by unexpectedly, but I guess I just don't love it enough. Every time I walk into a room and see some clutter that ought to be taken care of right away, I find myself thinking, "Well, I could do that right now, but no one's gonna see it today but me, and there's those new perennials to plant, and that story to write, and those pictures to draw, and that place to explore, and that river to float, and those brownies to bake, and that new yarn to knit..." And so, the newspapers stay on the coffee table, and the shoes by the door, and the glasses on the counter, until I know someone's coming over for sure - then I go a bit nuts trying to get it photo-shoot-perfect all at once.
I keep thinking I'll change my ways, turn over a new leaf, but what would that entail exactly? Would I really find life more enjoyable, if I somehow managed to turn my priorities around? What would life be like if the new Becky could glance at an empty sketchbook page and a boxful of colorful pencils and think "Yum! Shall I play with those for a while?", then glance over at some dusty knick-knacks and think "No, I'd rather take care of that instead"? Or, what if the Muses called up to say "Meet us at the Blue Hole in 15 minutes", and she always replied "Well, I'd love to, but there are a few weeds in the garden"...or some windows that need cleaning...or...? Would I really be happier? Would you read a blog about how nice and orderly my house is?
Well, you needn't worry about that ever coming to pass. In the meantime, it's a good thing I have friends like the Muses. I never have to fret about their unexpected visits...because I'm pretty sure what I'd find, if I happened to drop in on them.