Portrait of the Artist

I think I did pretty well after the flood as we started pulling stuff out of the house and I ruthlessly decided what was trash and what wasn’t. “I don’t care” became my stock response to every item someone else expressed sympathy about. But when I found this in a flooded bin, it made me physically ill. I didn’t know I still had it. I’d even asked my brother last year if he had it, and he thought he did.

This discovery about broke me.

Debby and Lynne painstakingly lifted it from the water and found a way to place it where it could dry. It did dry, and the truth is, there was already some staining on the sketch long before our flood, but nothing like it has now.

Written on the bottom: HERE’S AN ARTIST’S CONCEPTION OF ME. I can’t read the artist’s name, but I think the date is 1949, which would corroborate what my mother once told me, that the sketch was done of my father by one of his fellow art students while he was in college.

Today’s Daddy’s birthday. The sketch is weathered but it will be okay. Like me.

He was one of the biggest reasons I’m a strong person.

Got a dime?

Deep from one of the flooded bins on the carport, I rescued this. It’s a little bag I made when I was around 15. I don’t remember if I used my jeans, Riley’s, or First Love Tim’s, but it had a rawhide cord that pulled it into a little pouch, and I often hung it from a belt loop. That rawhide cord had come out and become a slimy thing that scared the crap out of me because I thought there was a snake in the bin, even though snakes aren’t slimy and whatever, fear knows no reason. After some serious laundering, my little denim bag is fine. As I recall, we called these dope bags, but I never had pot in mine, probably only a few dollars and some change. Always had to have a dime with me for that emergency call. There’s a whole generation who thinks phone calls were a quarter, and more generations who don’t know what a pay phone is.


Today is Jim’s birthday.

I actually have a gift for him that I purchased while he was here and intended to ship. I had all the time in the world…and then the flood happened. Below is a generally accurate account of what I told Jim.

“The morning of the flood, I texted Tom to tell him Tim’s apartment was flooding. He told me he didn’t have time to talk because our house was also flooding, and before he did anything else, he HAD TO GET JIM’S BIRTHDAY PRESENT SAFELY OUT OF THE REACH OF FLOOD WATERS.”

When I recounted this conversation to Timothy, here is a generally accurate account of his response.

“I hope you told him that when you called to tell me the house and apartment were flooding, I said, ‘Don’t worry about the dogs or the antique violin my great-grandfather built. GET THE BLUE VASE TO A SAFE LOCATION!'”

Well, of course, Jim knows we’d do that. But he always likes a little proof that the blue vase still exists.

Happy birthday, Jim!

Who saved my sanity…

In the first week after the floods:

Lindsey and Rhonda, who came and packed so many of the things that made me feel daunted and overwhelmed.

Tim who in light of all he’s lost could continue to say, “They’re just things.”

A young man named Dustin who doesn’t really even know us but went through the house with Tom and helped him get a starting point in dealing with the destruction.

Our contractor Keith, who when asked to come look at the damage, not only showed up the next day but brought a crew of workers with him and began tearing out sheetrock and pulling up flooring and gave us good advice on how to start setting things right.

And the bunch below: Pete, Lynne, Debby, Tom, and Jess. They have packed and moved and cleaned. Hauled debris. Fed, cheered, and comforted. And Jess was with us, helping us, instead of spending his son’s first birthday with him. I will NEVER forget the feeling of Pete and Jess showing up raring to put our world back in order. We wished Isaac a long-distance happy birthday with our pizza. He will always be blessed with examples of what family means.

Who else? You know who you are. You emailed and called. You texted and messaged. You commented here and on Instagram. You offered to do anything you could to help. Just knowing you’re out there sending love and good wishes has been huge. My gaze toward the future and determination to make Houndstooth Hall even better has been inspired by you. Thank you.

Backdated post re Harvey No. 1

It was raining when I went to bed Saturday night. In fact, Lynne was with us and left just before the hard rain began. I could see water moving steadily down the street toward the bayou. I wasn’t too worried. We’ve had heavy rains, even flooding, in Houston since we moved to Houndstooth Hall, and we’ve been okay.

Tim was away house- and dogsitting, so I slept at his house with his dogs. Around six AM, I heard a dog whimper next to me and thought, Oh, they’re probably hungry. I swung my feet out of bed and put them down in at least two inches of still-rising water.

That’s when I knew things were bad and likely to get worse, because the rain was torrential at that moment.

The below photo sums up a few things. I had to bend that screen to get it out of the window to hand Pixie, Penny, and Pollock out to Tom because there was less water in our house at the time than in the apartment. Dogs came first.

But immediately upon getting out of bed, as I was texting Tom and evaluating the water levels at the doors, I thought to do two other things. The first was to make sure Tim’s violin was safe (that’s his guitar case pictured here, because by the time I was shooting photos, Tom had moved the violin even higher). The violin was built by his great-grandfather and was one of the only things Tim kept with him wherever we were during previous hurricanes. The second was to move his painting of Rex by Houston artist Kermit Eisenhut to the safety of the table.

Things may be just things, but some of them we shouldn’t have to lose.

Moonflowers and Magic

Yesterday was Marika’s birthday, so I want to offer her a couple of gifts.

The first is a photo of the moonflowers growing in Debby’s Fairy Garden from seeds Marika sent. They have survived bugs, storms, and oppressive heat. Though they are not yet producing flowers, just to see them growing and persevering is a recurring gift–from Marika and back to her.

In my work with Rescued Pets Movement, there are hundreds of stories I can’t or won’t tell. There is a lot of triumph in rescue–many happy endings and new beginnings. But there are unfathomable losses. And there is always for me a struggle against judgment. No one knows all the reasons a dog or cat ends up homeless or in a shelter. The writer in me is always spinning stories, both good and bad. But rescue makes me paraphrase what a writer once said about grief and healing: Rescue begins when we stop saying “what if” and start working with “what is.” I can’t judge people’s motives or call what they do mistakes. There are decisions like theirs in my past, too. Sometimes circumstances and events overwhelm us, and we act.

Dash with his foster mom.

Recently I struggled when we learned about a Jack Russell Terrier mix in the shelter. He was twelve years old. He was sick with a cold and partially blind. He’d been brought to the shelter to be euthanized. The first thing I had to do was let go of the WHY, WHAT IF, HOW COULD THEY refrain in my head. That’s his past. When he was less than one hour from being put to sleep, a rescue in Colorado offered to give him his next chapter, and so we pulled him for care and transport. I named him Dash after Marika’s beloved dog, not just because they were both JRTs, but because I wanted him to have a little of the crazy energy of Dash when he was young, and some of the love that Dash was given every day of his life.

When I learned which volunteer would foster him, I knew he’d be cared for and loved every minute he was in Houston. The day he was brought to transport, he was the absolute darling of everybody. He doesn’t care that he bumps into things. He doesn’t care what happened before. He knows everything will be okay because it WILL be. That’s what matters. Little Dash didn’t have a care in the world, quite honestly, and I want to be more like him.

Dash on transport day.

One of our rescue coordinators told me the other day that she’d heard from Dash’s rescue. Here’s what they had to say: Dash has been quite the hit. Everyone [who] meets him wants him. He brings out everyone’s nurturing side. He was adopted today…

Now Dash really will have a home like Marika’s Dash had. Love and care. Companionship and all the good things a dog wants. His life is a gift to him, to everyone who helped him, and I hope to you, Marika. I think there really is a spark of your boy inside him.