14 May 2010


There is a rhythm to our lives. Activities, relationships, interests. These things seem to emerge and we fold them into our lives. And then, sometimes, they fade. The strength of the relationship diminishes, and acknowledging this, we allow the cycle to continue, unfolding that part of our life as needed. Other interests, previously dormant, seem to emerge. Other activities surface that need our attention. We refold again and again.

And so it is with this blog. While I have found it an outlet for an enormous amount of creative energy, the natural rhythm of writing has ceased for now. It may begin again at some time, but I prefer to follow my inspiration in the other directions where my creativity continues to blossom.

Thank you for sharing this little part of my life and for offering so much inspiration through your photos, essays, poems and stories.

07 May 2010

Bridging the generations with shopping

When I was younger, perhaps high school age, my mom and I took a shopping trip to the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Some of her favorite stores were still there and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Mommy loved the old fashioned stores that had lovely rugs, served tea while you shopped and had huge powder rooms with soft upholstered furniture. After that shopping trip with her, I fell in love with that style of retail shopping experience too.

I don’t keep up with economic indicators, vis-à-vis the impact of unemployment and recession to privately-owned retailers.

However, in 2008, I started noticing some changes.

One particular day, shortly after Thanksgiving, I was doing some Christmas shopping and visited a couple of well established clothing boutiques in Houston. At Kathryn Risley’s shop I noticed that the inventory appeared very sparse, particularly given the time of year. However, I was fortunate enough to find a lovely top for my mom, on a mark-down rack, so I made my purchase and counted my blessings. Earlier that day, at Etui, another favorite just down the street, I had overheard one of the staff members at the shop telling a customer that they hadn’t observed any change to their customer’s spending habits, despite all the reports of economic doom and gloom.

Etui is located in an upscale urban neighborhood, but their merchandise is very reasonably priced. Well, not priced like TJ Maxx, but you know, not like the privately owned boutiques on Chicago’s famed Oak Street either.

It sounded like their client base was loyal enough and financially secure enough to continue spending money on clothing and accessories.

I was relieved to hear this news. While I’m certainly far from an avid shopper, I love pretty clothing and accessories and love knowing that there are a few places where I am confident I can locate completely unique, quality garments in a comfortable, but stimulating atmosphere at a price point that works within my budget.

Elizabeth’s Boutique in The Woodlands falls in this category too. I had been fortunate enough to time my last couple of visits to this lovely store to take advantage of an after-season clearance. But new inventory was still plentiful. My optimism remained high. These boutiques gave me the same feeling of that shopping experience with my mom some 30 years ago.

Kathryn Risley sent an email in early spring 2009, saying that she had closed her store and was launching a new fashion venture in an online space.

Six or seven months later, I received an email from Etui indicating that they were announcing a new fashion partner that was going to share their retail space. Hmmm. It didn’t lure me in, but I was hopeful their resourcefulness would carry them through the apparent financial difficulties creeping into even these businesses with a “loyal” customer base.

About four weeks ago, I noticed a “Sale” banner at Elizabeth’s Boutique indicating they were going out of business.

Then today another email arrived from Etui. They are closing their doors after almost 30 years.

I have to admit, it bothers me. I don’t know if shopping at independent retailers has been largely replaced by shopping online. Perhaps Kathryn Risley knows. Perhaps permanent changes in human behavior have been established, driven by technology, fuel cost and basic economics.

But on the eve of Mother’s Day, this news has extinguished the possibility of participating in an experience that always made me feel like my mother’s daughter.

03 May 2010

Lessons from a baby bird

Mosquitoes are plentiful in Texas and many Texas residents keep purple martin birdhouses in their yards in hopes of attracting these migrating birds who love to spend their summers in the hot Texas heat where they will find a plentiful supply of one of their favorite foods: mosquitoes.

We do not have a purple martin birdhouse, but 2 of our neighbors do.

My mom always told me that purple martins are just a little bit picky about selecting a summer vacation home – they like it to be very clean. No remnants from the previous occupants.

I don’t think that our neighbors ever received this advice. Sparrows are still living in the purple martin houses. But that is OK. We love the sweet little sparrows too. We’re just having to break out the citronella candles to ward off mosquitoes.

Yesterday evening, Cristy was watching the sparrow activity on the ground around the bird feeder and bird bath. There was one youngster sparrow that had not yet learned to eat by herself. She was able to fly, but still relied on mom to pick up the bird seed from the ground and give it to her. I suppose with birds, they have to learn to fly to the source of food before they can learn to eat it on their own. One hurdle at a time.

The mommy sparrow patiently fed her offspring who scurried behind her making a big fuss. Or, at least, that is what it looked like from where we sat.

It made me think about how long it sometimes takes me to grasp concepts that appear to be very obvious.

I remember, as a child, using scissors to cut a circle out of a piece of paper was very perplexing and frustrating. That day in kindergarten class I watched while all the other students cut out their circles, but I succeeded only in cutting an endless spiral. I didn’t get it. Later, my mom showed me another technique that made more sense to me. I was so relieved. I just needed more instruction.

I also remember in first grade at recess, I was having trouble running relay races as quickly as the other children and I asked my dad for help. He showed me exactly the things I needed to know to solve my problems. They were things that other children somehow learned merely by observing, but again, I needed more instruction.

Recalling these experiences makes me realize how crucially important my parents were for me. I felt safe taking a problem to them and asking them to help me solve it. And they did, in a nonjudgmental way. These two early episodes, like so many others, transformed my feelings of frustration into feelings of competence.

And more recently, Cristy showed me how to use one of the features of our television remote control. My technology phobia generally scares me away from that contraption, but Cristy showed me how simple it really was. And I can use it now. Maybe not for everything, but I’m OK with some simple navigation. I can feed myself.

And that baby bird will soon learn too.