Thursday, April 27, 2006

Answer to All the Questions About My Plans

Since I quit my job at Louise ISD in May of 2004, my life has taken a few unexpected turns. Mom had a series of strokes, starting on Labor Day weekend of 2004, and culminating with her death on February 24, 2005. The year following her passing was consumed with estate and Trust responsibilities. The business of death and the process of probate and the distribution of her effects determined my daily activities. Add to that necessity of learning to manage the Leigh Family Trust, and suddenly I am engaged in finance on an unprecedented level which requires hours of time, phone calls, travel, decision making, and accounting.

Hopefully, the tempest of the last year and a half is not a pattern for my future. I am still quite busy with the Trust, but it is beginning to settle down into familiarity. With the help of a dynamic accounting, investment, and legal team, the Trust’s holdings have been streamlined. The paperwork load remains high, but as I develop and work a system, it’s becoming manageable.

I laugh every time someone asks if I’m enjoying my retirement. Due to the convergence of events, I feel busier now managing the Trust, the rental properties, and doing Dan’s corporate office work than I ever was as a public school teacher. Not to mention that the emotional stakes are higher as I administer the enterprise created almost seventy years ago by my grandfather.

My intention is to settle back into a life pattern similar to what it was before Mom’s illness. The last few summers during my teaching career were spent commuting from Texas to Missouri for several weeks, home a week or two, then back. That worked well, and I hope to do that again as I work on the Cabin in the Woods and the Trust’s 100 Acre Woods timber project. The best time to be in Missouri is the summer season, when you can garden, pick blackberries, listen to the turkey calls in the early morning, and canoe the river. I enjoy the serenity of being truly remote from towns, traffic, and crowds.

I’ll spend the cool months of fall, winter, and early spring in Ganado, catching up on filing, working on the rental houses, and tinkering with my landscaping. When I get the “Office of Multiplicity” finished there, the business home for the Trust will be centralized and orderly, provide a place to work, and be a safe repository for the Trust archives.

Of course, one of the lessons learned since May of 2004 is that you can’t predict or plan with any certainty at all. When I resigned the teaching position that I had held for fifteen years, I had no way to predict or expect the unsettling events that followed. Likewise, I cannot predict the next few years. I simply have intentions and adjust as events require.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Getting The Garden In

Here in Missouri, it's planting time. Sebastian had done such a wonderful job of getting the raised beds ready for vegetables that it has been a breeze to plant. We spent all of Tuesday morning putting in little plants. There are a few things we are starting from seed (carrots, radishes, corn, okra), but primarily, we are setting plants. Even with the loss of some plants on the west side of the greenhouse due to excessive spring heat, we have enough onion and tomato plants for three gardens, so we took some of the excess to Sandy and John down the road.

Here's a list of what's in so far: several varieties of tomatoes, two kinds of bell peppers, jalepenos, watermelon, radishes, corn, carrots, okra, eggplant, lettuce, collard greens, yellow squash, zuchini, dill, broccoli, swiss chard, lemon cucumbers, cabbage, peas, white onions, vidalia onions, and red onions. We still have two empty beds to fill, and I think those are going to be beets and black eyed peas.

Even with the loss of some plants on the west side of the greenhouse due to excessive spring heat, we have enough onion and tomato plants for three gardens, so we took some of the excess to Sandy and John down the road.

There are seven of the new thornless blackberry plants, but they won't bear this year. I hope there is enough rain to help out the wild berries this year. It's very, very dry here. We also have one rhubarb plant.

Yesterday, I got the herb bed going. Dill, oregano, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lavender, and basil. The thyme plant survived the winter and is growing energetically already.

The flower bed around the bird baths is filled with coleus, amaranth, cockscomb, and the two hostas that made it through the winter. The small flower bed by the driveway fence has mint coming up, and that's where I'll put the flowers for cutting. I also got some mammoth sunflower seeds, and they are going in the middle of the tomato cages. It'll look funny to have a 7 foot tall sunflower growing out of the top of the tomatoes.

Yesterday, I spent part of the morning at the Cabin in the Woods, rebuilding Dan's fire pit and beginning the process of clearing the yard of rocks. Although Sebastian's maze of stones in the yard looks interesting, it made the yard impossible to maintain. Creative, but not realistic at all. It may take me a month of hauling rocks each morning to clear it. Good exercise!!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Home Style

Days at home, dashing from task to task, getting things done, and seeing a big list of things that can be done when time allows.

I got all the lawn and the raised beds watered. The drought is beginning to show itself in dry grass and cracking soil. It's not as bad as when the boys were little...when you could drop a 2x4 into the cracks, but it's heading that way. The sprinklers ran a couple of hours in each spot, and some places got treated more than once.

I mowed the new baby grass in the back yard between my flower beds. The mulched path experiment is over. Keeping the weeds out of the paths just proved too time consuming. I had sprinkled grass seed last time I was home and watered it a couple of times, and the new grass did better than expected. The raised beds are looking really good, considering they haven't been watered. The plants that have survived are the tough ones! There were a couple of volunteer grape vines that I had to eliminate, and I'm sure I'll have to spray them next time I'm home.

I sprayed Round UP under all the electric fences, and sprayed the rose hedges with a new herbicide. The fight against rose hedges is going to get ramped up now that I have a chemical that I can use at other times of the year. The other good thing about spraying is the exercise. Hiking in the pasture with 3 1/2 gallons of chemical in a back pack sprayer is great exercise!

Besides the outside stuff, I got all the bank accounts updated, entered in the computer, reconciled, and backed up. The accountant got the tax returns (all five of them) done ahead of time, plus the quarterly returns. Are we an awesome team or what?? It's a load off to know that it's all DONE!

Heading to Missouri on Monday morning. I've got to re-remodel the front bedroom at the cabin since the last guest had some misguided ideas about decor that resulted in the removal of a load bearing joist. Each morning, I'll get my exercise moving the thousand or so rocks that he moved into the front yard to create a maze. Yes, I've learned a lesson. Don't give a self styled interior designer carte blanche.

On to the next adventure!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I goofed off!

This morning I drove to Austin and met with Todd to clean out the rest of the stuff in Mom's office and move the boxes and wonderful old wooden filing cabinets to the storage unit. I had most of the boxes loaded and everything staged before he got there, so it didn't take us long to get the rest in the truck. We had everything in the storage unit in less than an hour.

Timing was good, as the real estate agent called as we left the storage unit and asked if I could come to the office and sign the new lease for the O'Dell house. The new renter is moving in at the end of April.

WOOHOO! Two big worries eliminated in one day! I did some shopping, then returned to Mom's house and GOOFED OFF!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Today was a good day, really the first day that I felt I could set my own pace and not be stressed if some of the things on the list didn't get done. Now that tax season is almost done and the current remodels are almost finished, the stress level is really dropping.

My activities included simple things like going to Wal-Mart and H.E.B. in El Campo, getting the mail, dropping of papers at the accountant's office, and picking up some chemicals to spray the rose hedges. It was just such a luxury not to have deadlines, and not to have it matter if some of the projects got moved to another day or time.

I enjoyed the day!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Chocolate, It's Just Not Worth It

Terese and I went to Port A for the weekend and had a wonderful time shopping, looking at the sand sculptures at Sandfest, eating at different restaurants, etc.

On the way home, we stopped in Refugio for Dairy Queen ice cream. I got a small blizzard with Oreos in it, and I just should have known better.

This morning, I woke up with a headache that turned into a migraine. One of the worst ever, even to the point of feeling sick to my stomach. I lost the morning to the headache, and the work I had planned to do gets moved to tomorrow's schedule.

Chocolate, especially cheap American chocolate, is a very bad migraine trigger for me. I really need to stop trying to get around that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Austin, Again

Back in Austin, gettin' stuff done.

This morning I started walking about 7:30 AM. The time change makes it difficult to go earlier than that. I went down to the park, out Shoal Creek to Steck, then back through the neighborhoods on the other side of Burnet Road. Got home about 9:00. My legs feel better than I expected to after making the shift from sedentary to very active. I did walk in Missouri over the weekend, but not as much as today.

I've been by Lowe's to price new vinyl windows for the Vine Street house. That came in at over $5000, so it's not happening in the near future.

The report from the independent flooring inspector was here, so I made copies and took one to Lumber Liquidators. Now, we wait to hear the central office's response.

Had lunch with Mildred at the U.T. Faculty Club. That's always a delight, both in the company and the food. Thanks, Mildred!

Travis is now the proud possessor of his own clay likeness, sculpted by his grandmother in 1990. You can see the resemblance, even though it is obviously a junior high age version of THK. I also took Travis keys to both rent houses, as he's my emergency backup here in town.

Next stop was Total Relief Footware, where I picked up another pair of work boots. Now I don't have to haul my original pair back from the Ozarks. Unfortunately, our good friends at Total Relief experienced a break-in over the weekend. Someone who really knew what they were doing broke the front door, disabled the phone and alarm system, and took 180 pairs of shoes. That's about $30,000 worth of shoes.

Next....GELATO!! It was on the way back to the house from the shoe store, I promise. I had half strawberry shortcake, half 'bounthy.' Bounthy is a combo of vanilla gelato, coconut, and chocolate. Delicious. The store was full of homeschoolers playing chess, tic tac toe, etc, and eating gelato. Noisy, but well behaved.

I've started cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer. Trash day is tomorrow, so it's a good time to get this chore done. Supper was Frito pie made with homemade chili from the freezer. Perfect ending for a busy day.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Many Springs, Missouri

I've just spent three quick days in Missouri, surveying the wonderful work that Sebastian did at the Cabin in the Woods and in the garden at Lonnie and Kathleen's house. The man is a work-a-holic, for sure. He accomplished more in two months than I would have been able to get done in a couple of summer trips.

All the brush piles have been disposed of, and I'm talking LOTS of brush piles. The area around the garage, that no one who lives in the area remembers seeing cleared is now a daffodil bed.

The orchard, peach, pear...are all pruned so that they can grow in a more open and productive shape. This project alone was a huge undertaking, and I am very grateful for his hard work.

At the front porch, a new flowerbed adorns the left side, filled with flowering plants.

At Lonnie and Kathleen's house, the large raised bed garden is ready for planting. This means that Sebastian spent an incredible amount of time weeding, tilling, and preparing the soil in the nine raised beds, PLUS preparing the tires that serve as tomato planters. To the west of the greenhouse, new tame blackberry vines are about to break dormancy.

But in the greenhouse, the best awaits. Many many baby plants in peat pots flourish in the protective warmth. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage and much more await their turn to be set out when the threat of frost is over.

Thank you, Sebastian, for your labors.