Wednesday, September 05, 2018

My Own Personal Bubble

Of late, I live most days in my own bubble. When I stay within the walls for my new abode for a day or two, without interacting with other folks, immersed in collage, reading news on my iPhone, binge-watching on ACORN.TV, eating healthy salads, rearranging belongings, I become removed, remote. Not a bad thing, necessarily. Everyday, I get stuff done, just not stuff that moves the meter, if there is even a meter to be moved these days.
I make TO DO lists and cross items off, so I know things get done. Today, I packed for Seattle and Kate's and my road trip. I've done a load of laundry and some mending. Hung a silk scarf depicting the painted library ceiling in the cathedral in Sienna. Reworked a Marfa collage for the Poe School auction in October, and now its new rendition needs to be glued down. Had a long phone visit with Jeanne; everyone is SO BUSY in Seattle. Spoke with Earl about the portraits on which he's working.
Put more images on Instagram - that is indeed an addiction of sorts. Went on-line to inform both the Houston Chronicle and NYT that papers are not being delivered, after several weeks of dependable service. Texted the carrier too. We'll see what happens tomorrow morning. Throughout all these endeavors, I am looking up passwords, connecting with CHAT and wishing for a human being to discuss subscriptions and orders and returns and non-delivery and whatever.
I fervently wish that gusts of wind would blow some of today's rain onto the plants along my balcony railing. I need to water them. I must think about preparing some sort of supper. And I will tune into ACORN.TV for Season 3 episodes of A Place to Call Home.
At least when I binge at the dining room table, I can hand sew. Still have to finish adding an inch of ribbon to pant legs that shrunk a bit - noticeably and many months ago - after a session in the dryer. Watching an episode or two, I can complete this task in daylight and cross one more thing off the daily TO DO list.
Enough. Every day, I feel guilty that I am not registering Millennials and GenX who live in this building. I want them to vote for BETO and all the other fine young Democrats running locally. I want to tell not to vote straight ticket or they will miss voting for Republican County Judge Emmett. He needs to stay where he is. I want everyone in this building to become voters and perhaps, change the course of history. I am not working actively on any campaign, cannot make myself to so.  Not sure why. My heart is in the right place.
This entire summer has been about failing to write, to begin to shape a memoir. The reasons for not doing so appear obscure. Not writing feels like a bad little secret. Instead, I will write a travelogue for Paper City about the Canadian road trip. But writing solid stuff that will turn into a memoir? It's not happening right now.
So, now, with sewing needle in hand, I will watch A Place to Call Home, and after a ruffled ribbon is affixed to pant legs, I will cross one more thing off today's TO DO list. Obviously, I will remain in my bubble until Rosario comes in the morning. And I will fret about our nation on the skids.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Various and Sundry On Sunday

This was a week of collage making. Bits of photos, fabric, dried leaves and flowers, brushes and tubes of acrylic paint are still spread all over the kitchen counter, and on the floor too. I always end up working on the floor because I can look down on the work. I really must need lower counter tops. I need to see what I'm doing without standing on my toes.
Been making iPhone collages since that last year I lived on Rockbridge. I'd spread photos out on the flat stones between the screen porch and dining room and play with sunlight that filtered through the trees onto the photo arrangements. I have hundreds of iPhone collages, taken before and since I left my house with its screen porch and garden. I've never stopped making collages that exist only in the cloud. Maybe this new way of working is more compatible with my continuing downsizing. I am still culling my belongings. Better to keep those collages in the cloud and show some on Instagram.

It is Sunday afternoon, and just days before I fly to Seattle for next Sunday's three-generation family picnic. Thrilled about this year's picnic, because most of us will be there on the hill in Discovery Park. John and Trish are flying to Seattle and so are Carrie and her kids. Chris and Heather will drive from Gig Harbor with their two. Four little cousins will play together for the first time. And these four little ones will also get to play with some of their older cousins for the first time. I find the whole idea enchanting.
I already know that these eight great grandchildren of Dean and Doris Bain Thompson will have their pictures taken together, again and again and again. We'll be missing Laura's Audrey and Tanner and Gregg's Peyton and Anna, but there is always PhotoShop if we can't bear to see photos without them. I'm kidding.
Peyton at the picnic four years ago.
Lulu in the tent. We always have a secret hideaway at our picnics.
More about this particular Sunday which I am living minute by minute. Today's papers did not appear this morning. Not The New York Times or the Houston Chronicle. The carrier has faltered. Haven't gotten a paper in three days, after several weeks of steady delivery. I texted the carrier and hope the Chronicle resumes tomorrow? Must also go on line and have both papers credit my accounts. Getting hard copy of a newspaper in a downtown Houston building is a time-consuming and intricate story for another blog post. Might be worthy of a column in Lisa Gray's Gray Matters. Or not.
Had breakfast with John at Weights & Measures, and then a long CHAT with Sebastian, an AT&T customer service person. My iPhone bill was enormous this month and CHAT was imperative. What I discovered texting back and forth with Sebastian was that my calls to Canada in preparation for Kate's and my road trip were international calls. Therefore I was paying $1.00 per minute. Ouch. So now, I have a new and less expensive plan that includes international calls to Canada and Mexico. How interesting that I have a plan that includes our friendly neighbors to the north and south at the same time as the current administration is doing all it can to make enemies of them both, sort of.
Top photo taken on Shirley and Lewell's wedding day in Lisbon, NY., February 29, 1916.
They are the couple on the left. They took a train west a week later to Saskatchewan.
The photo below was taken on their land. Our dad is sitting with his mom in the wagon.
Kate and I decided to take a road trip through the Canadian Rockies and the Saskatchewan prairie earlier this year. The impetus for the trip was to see the land on which our paternal grandparents farmed wheat from 1916 - 1924. Our grandmother, Shirley Keyes Thompson wrote a memoir of their years on the prairie. I've just reread it and covered the pages with post-it notes. She tells a good tale. Indeed, she is a good writer. She and our grandfather Lewell were tough, but during those eight years, there were more bad harvests than good. After eight years, they sold their horses and farm equipment, said goodbye to prairie neighbors and returned to northern New York with two young sons.
We decided we needed to see this land, which as I've read was found to be more suitable for grazing cattle than growing wheat.  John will fly to Saskatoon from Houston and the three of us will see the land our young grandparents hoped would make them rich. Expect blog posts and a travel series in Paper City.
Sometimes, I think our trip is ill-timed, that I should be registering new voters and working for Beto and local Democratic candidates. But, I'll be back in time to volunteer in October. Should they win, there's hope for our country.
John McCain's memorial was held in WDC yesterday. I heard Obama's eulogy on YouTube and read an article in The New Yorker that maintains the entire service was an act of Resistance. The current president was not invited; instead, he played another round of golf. Our country is weathering deadly storms, our institutions under attack and citizens divided. Things aren't working out well for anyone but the 1%.
And while the underpinnings of life in the USA are eroding, cracking, shifting day by day, I spent hours this week collaging and binge watching A Place to Call Home, an Australian rendition of Downtown Abbey. I saw friends and a play, got my hair cut, joined Earl at the opening of an exhibition by Houston artists who painted in Mexico. There is irony in this exhibition, considering the current president tweets often about building a fortress wall along our southern border and cares nothing about the ways our two countries are bound together by family ties, art and music and trade.
At 76 years of age,  I find that I am remembering and connecting so many past events and places and time, as if I were assembling a grand quilt in my mind. Perhaps this remembering and connecting is also why I collage. It's a way of making sense of things.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Morning Encounter With a Millennial

This morning, I picked up my daily Houston Chronicle on the ground floor of my downtown apartment building. I am the only person in the building who subscribes to a hard copy newspaper.  Perhaps, I am the only person in the building who even reads the Houston Chronicle or the NYT in any form. With morning paper in hand, I busied myself with iPhone alerts as I entered the tenant elevator. Buzz Feed and  Huffington Post both reported the death of Aretha Franklin, 76, Queen of Soul.
I am immersed in this news and my mind is replaying her songs. Absorbed, I inadvertently pass my floor, riding upwards to the top of the building where a young man steps into the elevator. He is dressed for business, sporting chic rimless eye wear and hair with the sheen of product.
“Good morning.” I say, “I see I've gone right past my floor.”
I hold up my iPhone as evidence of inattention and say, “Aretha Franklin died this morning.”
He looks at me, as from a great distance.
“She was terrific,” I say, still hearing 'Respect' in my head.
He is silent, and then asks, “Did she die of old age?”
I am flummoxed. I am Aretha Franklin’s age. 
I say, “I think not. She wasn’t 90.” 
The elevator door opens. I nod to the young man, tell him to have good day, depart with both hard copy newspaper and iPhone in hand.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Lamentations Upon Reading the News

In Houston, TX, there is intense sun and debilitating heat by mid-day; forests are burning in the Arctic Circle region of Sweden. This morning I read hard copy of the Houston Chronicle and on-line Huff Post. I lament all of the following:

The Trump administration is planning a $12 billion bailout for U.S. farmers to help protect them from the ravages of a trade war with China, the European Union, and other countries that Trump started.[HuffPost]

This after a self-created trade war to which China and Canada and the UK all reacted strongly. Trump will bail out his voters with a giveaway, yet looks with distain upon monetary help for veterans and the poor. I read last evening on Facebook that a retired marine with 26 years of service got a postcard in the mail announcing that dental work is no longer covered by his insurance. It’s the little nicks that kill you.


A man with an AR-15 assault weapon held up a bridge near the Hoover Dam demanding the government release a report that had already been released. Like Pizzagate before it, the QAnon conspiracy has jumped from the Internet into real life. [HuffPost]

OK, I’ve not read much about the QAnon conspiracy but if it’s like Pizzagate, it’s disturbingly nuts - and it's white men with guns. Trump must love this altercation because it means that truly made-up facts are making headway.


The White House has edited an official transcript of the joint press conference by Trump and Vladimir Putin to remove a question from a reporter that asked if the Russian president wanted Trump to win the 2016 election.[HuffPost]

Can the White House legally edit an official transcript of a presidential press conference?  Will they be sued for reshaping what we can read about an event already in the public domain?


Thousands of “involuntarily celibate” men in online forums are consumed by misogynist entitlement and a skin-deep quest for self-improvement. We go inside incels “looksmaxing” obsession: penis stretching, skull implants and rage. [HuffPost]

I keep reading about these celibate men whose unrequited sexual energy kindles rage within. Perhaps they cannot ‘can’t get a date’ because they look at women as foreign bodies to be conquered?  I am sure there is a connection between their inchoate rage and the growing clampdown on women’s rights in state legislatures. 
The world does not need men for whom power-over is necessary to feel whole. Who raised such men? I wonder about their moms and dads. Just how did these men become ‘involuntarily celibate’? 


The White House will no longer publish public summaries of Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders, according to reports.[HuffPost]

Is this even legal? Can the flow of public information be stemmed, once again? This faux president runs the country like he ran his businesses. No clue or interest in governing within an open society. Will enough folks vote in November to change the course of events?


Trump has criticized the Federal Communications Commission for not approving Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, calling it “disgraceful.”

Sinclair is a monster, a vehicle for spewing way-right propaganda in single market communities. Hope the FCC can hold them off.  


To add to news of Sinclair’s predatory acquisitions of heartland news channels, there is an Associated Press story about newspaper job cuts. Doesn’t matter these days if a journalist wins a Pulitzer Prize. He/she can still be laid off for lack of ad revenues. Will newspapers find their bearings and stage a digital comeback?
I begin to understand why the Washington Post insists I pay to read their stories on-line.  We need a plethora of newspapers, staffed with seasoned journalists reporting real news. 
I will pay to read real news on-line.

P.S. And yes, I live in luxury - now receive the Houston Chronicle at my new place in downtown Houston. I took my paper to read by the rooftop pool very early this morning. Couldn't help myself.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

One Fading Flower, One Clam Shell

My Building Has a Rooftop Pool

 Often, in the very early morning, I take the elevator to the top floor of the apartment building.  The sun is rising, the pool shimmers in the light,
You might think this rooftop is a quiet place. Not so. Club music pounds from far too many speakers.

If I stand at the far edge of the pool, away from the lounge chairs, I can almost NOT hear endless bass beat. Day is arriving. Clouds are pink.


Lizzy Hargrove lives with a bevy of parrots, two dogs, several cats and a goose named Honker. She lives in what was an old Heights neighborhood corner store, a one-story brick building she's surrounded with shrubbery, vines, patios and mini-gardens. Moment by moment she creates and lives her world, and from time to time invites us in.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

20/20 Seeing 24/7

Collages in this blog post may have something, or nothing, to do with the text.
You decide.
Three days ago a cataract was lifted off my left eye and a new lens implanted. I opted for a Multifocal/Accommodative IOL, which means that for the first time in my life, I have 20/20 vision without the aid of glasses or contact lens. It's wonderful and a bit disconcerting at the same time.
First of all, Medicare doesn't pick up the tab for this type of lens, so it's a luxury of sorts. Second, because I've been nearsighted since childhood, simple stuff like getting into bed at night is now a new experience. Each of the three nights since the procedure, as my head touches the pillow, everything in my bedroom remains in sharp focus. And I think I've forgotten to remove my contacts. Which leads me to a third disconcerting thought. I have another cataract removal procedure in several weeks. I am actually wondering if I want a second 20/20 lens inserted. Do I want two eyes that see 20/20 all the time? A bit of blur at bedtime is not a bad thing.
When I was a third grader, my mother took me to an opthamologist. He pronounced me quite near-sighted with astigmatism. He wondered aloud if at my young age, I would keep my new glasses on. Really? I never took them off because they showed me a world I'd never seen. When I looked up, I counted individual leaves on every tree, no more green blur. When I looked down, I saw cracks in the sidewalk. My mother was briefly guilt ridden, wondered why had she not taken me sooner for testing. I wonder now how I managed to see blackboards in my classrooms, how I'd managed to excel academically. I cannot imagine how I compensated.
After my freshman year in college, I decided I wanted the still relatively new contact lens. Again, my mother took me to an ophthalmologist. After testing, he declared I was a good candidate, though he wondered if I could withstand the lengthy protocol involved in adjusting to hard contact lenses. One had to develop expertise in inserting them. For weeks, hard contacts could be worn for only an hour or two at the time while corneas developed callouses, or perhaps just became accustomed to foreign bodies lodged beneath eyelids.
I was just fine during the time of adjustment, because I became smitten with contact lens. Not only was the world in focus - I myself was suddenly visible. To others. Hometown folks looked at me as if I was a new person, as if they'd never seen me before. They said I'd grown up. They said what a beauty I was becoming. My life was different back on campus too. Boys noticed me. This was new. Being 'seen' was a heady experience.
I had a good long run with glasses and contact lens. Seeing after cataracts will be different. As I put drops in my left eye four times daily and remind myself not to lift anything over ten pounds, I wonder how it will pan out - this ability to see 20/20 24/7. And when I look in the mirror at my 76 year old face, I see a need for the invisibility that eyeglasses offer. I know I will never do without some sort of eyewear.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Precious Time, How Do I Spend It?

Another beautiful blue sky day in Houston. It will also be a hot day with still air and intense sunshine.  I am watching that sunshine stream through north windows and wondering why I am not working on/toward my 'next BIG project'. I feel it out there in the ether, waiting to manifest. I have hints of its form and shape, but it's not yet become a concrete idea that gives me goose bumps. I think I know why.
My mind is overtaken with dismay and horror at the daily news. I peruse email updates from the NYT, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal and Truthout. I follow Amy Siskind's posts on FaceBook of things 'not normal'. (Her first year of 'not normal' was published in hardcover last April as The List, This is How Democracy Ends.) I attend rallies and vigils, march when called, send donations to the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood and The Sierra Everyday, I lament the fate of our country under the current administration.
I lament. Such a short time ago the U.S.A. was a world leader, imperfect, but steady. America is now a rogue country. Our government is picking fights with close allies, initiating world trade wars, sowing hate and fear among its citizenry, giving money to the 1% (that would be the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), dismantling federal agencies, stuffing Federal courts with ideologues and/or unqualified individuals and of late, denying asylum seekers on our southern border, instead calling their entry into our country a criminal act, thereby justifying separating children from their parents.
This last outrage - small children incarcerated in internment camps along the border, or flown away to faraway cities - has gotten far more attention than the administration anticipated. Thank heaven, tens of thousands of Americans are incensed and have taken to the streets in protest. I will march again on June 30 and just signed up to volunteer at RAICES (refugee and immigrant services).

I spend precious time every day (and at 76 years of age, time is very precious) obsessing over Trump's latest infliction of cruelty and bigotry. Important doings in my life are being neglected.  Though you wouldn't know it from my Instagram feed - a log of visual prettiness.
Tableau afternoon teatime. Really.
It's 11:00 a.m. already. Perhaps, I can let this endless news reel go for the rest of Sunday. Perhaps I will take deep breaths and be open to the next BIG idea, the one that will give me goose bumps. I know it's out there. Somewhere. I need to bring it into my world. Very soon. Time is precious. I will march for moms and children, separated by villainy and caprice. And I will breath and await goose bumps.

Friday, June 22, 2018

My 76th Birthday Wish - Act Like a Mom

It is 6:00 a.m. on Friday, June 22, 2018 and today is my 76th birthday. I can already see that this day will be a blue sky day. This year is different in so many ways from other birthdays, other times. After 24 years in my very own home, I've resettled in an urban nest, a pied-a-terre, in downtown Houston. I've downsized, for sure, but my new place is way over-stuffed with curated possessions from a lifetime of collecting. I like the place.
Today, on my birthday, my two eighth grade grandsons, Charlie and Kelan, graduate from middle school with ceremony, congratulations and perhaps trepidation over the big unknown of high schools. I wish I could be in Seattle to share their accomplishments. Lulu, my fifth grade granddaughter just finished her days at elementary school, going out with a bang as the strawman in her school's imaginative recreation of the 'Wizard of OZ'. Lauren, my sixth grade grand daughter is already at camp in Tennessee, living her summer days as I know two of my daughters long to do.
Today should be a day of celebration. I sit at my dining table with my Kaui mug of coffee admiring the beauty of pink blooms from Central Market. How delicate they look in my friend Leslie's leafy green pitcher atop a stack of books that include that include Vogue's 125th Anniversary Collectors edition (Really? I own such a volume? It was a gift and I like it, but really?). Three pink ceramic women from Caroline's 2000 wedding day flank this bouquet. All is set on vintage Guatemalan fabric and an Indian patchwork dotted with sequins and embroidery. Which is to say, I live in visual luxury in a comfortable space with north light. I am privileged to the max.
I could live my days mired in small beauties, visiting good friends, cooking healthy organic food, reading books, traveling to the Pacific Northwest to see daughters and grandkids. Few would fault me.
BUT, despite my rarified setting and my Instagram indulgences, my heart and mind are subsumed by Donald Trump, this crafty, ignorant, self-important man whose lies and hateful cruelty spawn hate and fear. He is shoving America into uncharted territory where fairness, decency, honesty and empathy are deemed weak. He plays on race as the great divider. Civility receding, our citizenry has been unmasked and we have been found to be racist to our core.
The U.S. Constitution is suddenly negotiable. Our Congress no longer legislates. Political donors, lobbyists and corporations are on full throttle. Our enemy, the former Soviet Union, now Russia-under-Putin, may have infiltrated our political system, calling our democracy into question. While this owned-man plays to the media cycle with distractions, our laws and regulations are being quietly dismantled. Clean rivers, clean air stand in the way of short term profit; public lands are under assault and ready to be plundered for corporate gain.  Government programs we citizens paid into for generations are now deemed entitlements, ready to be slashed to make up some portion of the deficit generated by the recent tax giveaway to the few. Government agencies are being hollowed out. Scientists, diplomats, educators, consumer advocates are encouraged to leave government service, their knowledge and expertise no longer needed in the 21st century.
American life has become a reality television show, its star a master of 24/7 media manipulation. The man has made the cover of Time Magazine for three weeks in a row. I am sure he considers this a win.
The latest - and on-going - tragedy is happening on our southern border with Mexico with the separation of children and those of 'tender age' from mothers who've travelled as many as 2000 miles to escape death and danger in their own countries. Who would make this fearsome trip with young children if not in fear for their lives? Yet, parents are denied legal asylum entry and are brought into custody, charged with criminal misdemeanor and separated from their children. Children are whisked off in airplanes to Miami, New York, wherever, to for-profit shelters that care-take these desolate children for $700+ per day. Children carry no papers with names and identification numbers and indeed, what small, perhaps non-verbal child can carry their ID safely? There seem to be no lists with corresponding numbers and names and no process for reuniting parents with children.
Many of us are horrified and are sending donations to the ACLU and non-profits whose sole mission is to represent immigrants and now, locate their kids. I wonder how effective these efforts can be without paper trails?
Then, there is the matter of young Stephen Miller, racist extraordinaire since his high school days, now at work in the West Wing of the White House. He is a thorn in my side. Miller drafted the Muslin travel ban in January 2017 without review by Federal agencies or attorneys. The president signed with flourish and havoc ensued. Miller has hit once again over immigration at our southern border, declaring that separating children from their mothers was 'a simple decision''. The president again decreed, and chaos and horror reigns. I wonder if Stephen Miller has ever in his life held a small child or spoken with a young mom. We know that Trump's kids were raised in the company of nannies.
Add caption
So, these days our government sees fit to take the children of brown people seeking asylum at our southern border, taking children without documenting exactly where the children are going. I am seized with horror and worry, and I know I am not unique. I also know that separating families of color is an American tradition.
Pine Ridge School for Indians, South Dakota, 1890 (Getty Images)
Our government sent Indian children from reservation homes to boarding schools to learn new ways. We separated enslaved African families via the auction block. We interned Japanese families - can we say they were better off because we did not take their children?
Can we stop this habit of ours? Can our country's white majority stop breaking up families of color when fearful and angry? Some folks must be very afraid of the distinct possibility that in our country, brown will overtake white. Some of us know that race is a cultural construct, and we'd all do well to give it up and turn to inclusivity.
Can we take a step toward redeeming ourselves by finding the children of 'tender age', finding the girls, freeing the boys in fenced cages, reuniting children with parents?
My 76th birthday wish is that the many-of-us commit to work to reunite these kids with their parents. If we can't volunteer, we can send donations. Better yet, we can send donations AND volunteer.
I know many smart, strategic, creative, tenacious, tough women and we are moms. If the agencies whose mission is to serve immigrant families will give us tasks, we can spring into action. The most fierce foe is a mom, human or animal, protecting her young. We are moms.

Here are links you and I need so we can chart a course of activism. 

ACLU Texas with an office at 1500 McGowan, Houston, TX, 77004, (713) 942-8146 

Together Rising

Is this the America we want?