photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, September 30, 2010


...all I have time for is a quick trip to this page so I can check up on all my friends whose blogs I now follow.

It's a flaw in my personality- some sort of OCD, I'm sure of it. But it stands me well in the running of a small farm, and the running of a small business, and just the never-ending running I do all day every day, this OCD.

Though most of my life has been wonderful and the stuff of warm fuzzy soft-focus memories, like everyone I've had some rough spots as well. Can't say as they've been any rougher than anyone elses'- that's not for anyone to judge and it sure shouldn't be a contest.

All I know is that I made it through the rough spots by scratching out as much control over my life as I could where I could, mostly in very tiny ways- alphabetizing the spice rack and my nail polish, wearing my clothing in order, having very set routines and rituals. At the time, it saved what sanity and dignity I had left.

One good side effect is that I can easily care for a farm with well over 100 mouths to feed and know I'll never miss a one, since I do the same thing the same way every single day. I can't help it. I have to.

One bad side effect is that now I have these sites and blogs to check- new friends, old friends, some I've met and some I haven't, and I know I'll never miss a one, since I do the same thing the same way every single day. I can't help it. I have to.

And what with the house being built (can you say "OCD Overdrive"???)and continuing drama at work and worry about Ward it's been hella-hard trying to think up something to blog about thrice weekly as self-imposed when I started this little endeavor.

Case in point- this post.

So here I sit, 11:20pm and I'll go through my list and catch up with everyone- mentally tuck them all in and turn off the computer.

Then I'll go through the house- feed the cat, put the puppy to bed, check the guinea pigs one last time, turn off each light in turn, make sure my family is tucked in and go to bed.

Goodnight Cyber-family. Yer OCD Texas Momma loves ya.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Inigo Montoya for President

Ya know what I consider the Best Movie Ever?

The Princess Bride.

I love it well enough that my family knows they'll be watching it twice a year- on Valentine's Day and my birthday- for the rest of their natural lives.

Oh, sure, I appreciate it for all the girly touchy feely happy ending stuff- True Love, Epic kissing, as well as the character building stuff it's good to teach children- noble causes,gallant heroes victorious over evil, never engaging in a land war in Asia (guess GW & Co. never saw the movie)...

But my favorite part?

The revenge of Inigo Montoya.

Witnessing the brutal and senseless killing of his father at the tender age of 10, the young Inigo tried immediate retaliation, only to be disfigured (but left alive) by the evil Count Rugen.

Inigo spends the next 25 years or so studying sword play and searching for the man who killed his father to extract revenge.

When he finally encounters him, his first order of business is to cause the same disfigurement he'd been carrying all these years.

With Count Rugen literally backed against the wall, the inevitable 'begging for his life' ensues. He promises to give Inigo anything- ANYTHING- if he just lets him live.

Now, considering it's a movie seen by children, there's a certain part of me that wants to say "Turn the other cheek", "Only the creator can judge", "Two wrongs don't make a right" and "Violence never solved anything".


The heart of the Sicilian Mama in me literally swells with joy and I actually tear up and speak along with my second favorite movie line ever

"I want my father back, you son of a bitch".

Thrust.Stab. No more Count Rugen.

and that's what we need. We need THAT sort of right/wrong conviction from our elected officials.

We DON'T need any more steamrollering over citizens' rights, safety and very lives so the corporations and billionaires can continue their decimation of our country ala the Repbublican agenda.

We DON'T need any more pandering to those same corporations and billionaires to the point of watering down important legislation to where it's damn near useless (or worse) ala the Democratic agenda.

Shall we vote out the Democrats and put back the Republicans- those folks who put us on this road to ruination? They've got that pretty little Pledge to America now and are telling us they can make it "all better"- PLEEEEEEZE give them another chance...

I don't think so. If they can make it better, why the HELL did they let things get so out of hand in the first place? And other than vague promises of "reining in spending and cutting useless programs (like Social Security and the VA)" they promise very little.

Shall we give the Democrats another go? Well, they're already there, and truth is, 2 years was not enough to "fix" everything that's gone so wrong- especially the way they've been going about it, yanno- the way that completely sucks donkey balls.

The Republicans want to repeal "Obamacare" and replace it with "something better". Where the hell were they when it was being written up? And so far, their "better" looks alot like letting the insurance companies (a.k.a. the Free Market) continue to let people die in the streets, only worse, because they also want to "privatize"and/or phase out Social Security, Medicare and the VA.

The Democrats promised we'd bring all our service men and women home from a war we never needed to be a part of (one of those things that was steamrolled through under the guise of "protecting freedom afar" a.k.a. "those weird little brown people are sitting on OUR oil"). What the hell happened to THAT?

I really think that the right people are in place, but for some reason, upon taking their oaths of office, all their testicles just magically shriveled up and fell off- rolling under the desks like so many dust bunnies.

We've got less than two months till mid-terms. You know what'd be great?

It'd be great if the Republicans could listen and LOOK at their constituents- unemployed, hungry, sick, scared so shitless they believe anything you say no matter how insanely retarded it may be- all those teeming masses who DON'T take them to lunch on spendy lobbyist expense accounts from Pfizer or Monsanto- and do the right thing. Those are the people you are sworn to protect. Their lives. Their health. Their liberties. Stop purposely dividing this nation with tales of phantom monsters who only look like our neighbors, but who really want to take all their money, their women, their lives.

It'd be great if FOX News could be seen for what it is- NOT news at all, but 24/7/365 paid for programming that feeds the above fears to the point of not only saturation, but frenzy.

And it'd be really, really great if the Democrats remembered their promises, and could go to work every day REMEMBERING that they have the majority now- we gave it to them to use.

That they've had eight years to practice their sword play, hone their skills for a just cause, and that NOW is when they cannot falter in their convictions, that NOW is the time to not waver but move forward with intent, and purpose, look the fear-mongering minority directly in the eyes and say

"We want our country back, you sons of bitches".

Friday, September 24, 2010

Internet Medical Research + Midnight:Thirty = Nothing Good. Ever.

So there's this spot.

It's on Ward's neck right about where they harvested a vein for this latest graft. Actually, that's not entirely true.

That spot (hereafter referred to as the area) has just sort of been there all along after surgery- I'm not really sure, though, since his entire body was so ravaged away back then in April that the area was most likely the BEST looking place on his entire body for a good while.

About the size of a dime, give or take since it scabs and opens, scabs and opens, it's never really gotten infected, but never really healed over.

The doctors looked at it in July and said "Well, looks like post-surgical trauma- it should heal- we'll keep an eye on it". They mainly want to keep an eye on it since it's right over what's left of the same muscle that grew his cancer.

But at the time, they scanned it and said "No cancer".

Complicating matters is that that side of Ward's head has had its nerve endings (and everything else) all messed up and rearranged, and the area is where he naturally rests his head in his hand. So the area is apparently 'just' irritating enough for him to bother it, but doesn't have enough feeling for him to tell just how much damage he's doing to it.

I've bugged him. Alec's bugged him. Every time we see his hand wander up there we throw something at him. I've stopped just short of getting a spray bottle.

The obvious answer- Cover the Area, I've been loathe to do since that skin is SO delicate- any adhesive used to keep bandaging on there would've most likely torn off more skin when removed. And that's not the direction we want to go.

So we've gone back and forth, and it got better and worse, and we were told it would most likely heal- that we needed to remember that Ward's not only diabetic but also on coumadin- both things that make healing a slow going proposition.

But here's the thing.

Everywhere else on Ward is healed beautifully from that month-plus long assault on his person- the graft is perfect, the incisions are solid, the donor sites are almost invisible, even when Fizzgig scratches him in her puppy exuberance and he walks around with a paper towel dripping blood for an hour those spots are 150% All Better No More Boo Boo within a week.

And then the second spot appeared a few weeks before these appointments.

Just to the face-side of the area and looking like it's Evil Looking Glass Twin.

Which is the main reason I was sleepless in Houston and writing Haiku earlier this week.

The cancer doctor said "Well, the scans from July show 'something'- probably scar tissue, but definitely not 'normal tissue'. We can do 2 things- we can make sure you keep that covered to rule out self-mutilation and if it's not completely healed in 3 weeks you come back for a consultation and biopsy with the dermatologist OR we can just do the biopsy now".

I was ready- just show me the needle, hand me a syringe and I'll get it myself ya'll just hold that man down for a sec.

Ward said "Not so fast, Over-reaction Mama".

Being as he's the patient, and my beloved husband, and just an all around better and more sensible person than I am, we're going with the Option of Least Invasiveness for now, which the doctor never would've even offered if he thought for a second 3 weeks would make any difference. I know that because that's exactly what he told us in a quiet calming voice as they were gently tightening the ties on my strait jacket...

As we were leaving, we were offhandedly asked the last time Ward's seen a dermatologist. As in "You ARE seeing a dermatologist on a regular basis for an all-over check for more skin cancer, right?" We're not. We were never told to. We come to MDAnderson every 4-6 months for THEM to keep on top of it and FOR GOD'S SAKE NO ONE HERE EVER TOLD US WE NEEDED TO DO THAT!!!

(Those strait jackets at MDA are really top notch- never even loosened an inch...)

The bandaging they prescribed is something called Tagaderm- sort of sticky cellophane. Cut to fit and applied over the area. They said "Well, try this- but it doesn't breathe so if the area gets oozy or yacky or otherwise more disgusting than it already is, be sure to take it off". But no other options. Thanks.

Within 8 hours the area was oozy and yacky and more disgusting than it already was, so we removed the Tagaderm, thankful that we hadn't already spent $15 on 4 little pieces of it at the drugstore.

So...what to do what to do what to do about keeping the area covered yet breathing?

I've got almost 30 years working in the veterinary field, so I fell back on what came naturally to me-

(note Alec's "thumbs up"- I don't know where he gets his mean streak- must be Ward's side...)

*What the Sam Hell does any of that have to do with the title of today's post, you crazy old broad???*

Just this.

Last night I surfed the interwebs while my family slept (except for the Mutant Cat from Hades- it never sleeps) and came across some interesting yet horrifying things.

-the area does, in fact, look suspiciously basal cell-ish
-a reminder that while basal cell doesn't usually metastasize, it can be "aggressive and problematic at point of origin".
and my favorite-
-of patients who are treated for basal cell, over 50% will have it recur near the original site within 5 years.

Today the area looks some better. I'm letting Ward not wear the collar unless we start to see him pecking at it again and/or during the times he would normally be resting his head in his hand- watching tv, surfing the 'net, or in the car.

All I can say is those sum-bitches better keep on healin', because my family has got a house to build, things to do, places to go, people to see, and none of it includes any more incarcerations at the cancer hospital.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Good, The Weird, and The Shameless Plug

We've officially (sound of fanfare) started to build the house.

While we were in Houston, they dug out the topsoil, trimmed only as much as they needed to, built up the house pad, brought in the porta potty, set the construction pole for electric and cleared the path to where the bridge will cross the creek so I can feed critters without getting my feet wet.

Even after sitting in the hospital all morning and driving all afternoon to get home, Alec and I HAD to go out to see what-all they'd done.

And it's awesome. The pad is perfect (and HUGE), they did a bang-up job of taking out as little vegetation as possible, and the topsoil is neatly piled to the side- waiting to be put back on top of the insulted earth and have new seeds planted in it.

Alec found a walking stick and climbed to the top of the pile for a photo.

Here's where it gets weird. See if you see anything weird about this photo-

Now read an excerpt from my upcoming book (shameless plug to generate interest and prod me into action to finish the dang thing). The book is titled "Extra-Ordinary- Finding the Magic in Everyday Life" and deals with day to day encounters of an other-worldly nature. No horror movie material, not even particularly spooky, just those things that make you go "Huh. Weird." Anyway- here's this chapter-

Chapter 5- The Alligator Man

We purchased 12.01 acres of beautiful forest, creeks, wetlands and meadow three miles from our current home with the intent of building our 'forever' home there.

Health problems have delayed this move over and over again, but the close proximity to our 'new' place make it easy enough to enjoy whenever we have a few extra minutes.

We're only the third recorded owners of this place, and no one's ever lived there-
at least not since recorded land deeds.

Sometime during the second year of our ownership, Alec started commenting on seeing 'someone' out at the property- he called him The Alligator Man, which frankly kinda of creeped me out, even after I asked for an elaboration of what he was seeing.

The Alligator Man was always seen in the central section of our place- where we plan on building our home, and always just inside the forest. He wears a red cape, has the head of an alligator and a long tail, but walks upright.

Although not threatening, both Alec and I were clearly disturbed by his presence- even though Alec could see him fully, I did see him several times just out of my line of vision- a flash of red cloth unexplainable as anything else.

When we started talking about bridging over the little creek that runs between that clearing and the meadow on the other side, Alec was visibly upset.

"We can't make a bridge- he doesn't want things to cross over the creek".

Right about this time we visited a Medival Faire- complete with jousters, magicians, knights, ladies, swordsmen, and, of course, gypsy fortune tellers.

Alec asked if we could have our fortunes told and I inquired of one of the vendors where we could find a gypsy.

She looked at me, then at Alec, and said "Well, most people go over there (pointing to a colorful gaudy display), but the Real Deal is over THERE" and she motioned to a small non-descript tent.

We headed for the tent.

Diana, a kind-eyed woman with masses of graying hair, looked from me to Alec and back again when I said we'd like our fortunes told. The only adornment in the tiny tent- a blue and gold macaw- glared at us balefully.

She spent a long time talking with Alec and he told her about the Alligator Man.

After sitting quietly while holding Alec's hand, she told us that the Alligator Man was a Native American medicine man whose people camped often on our land many years ago. He was there to protect the land, and just needed to know that our intentions were good- that we love the place as his People did.He's not an actual alligator- he wears a mask and robe used in ceremonies- the alligator is a symbol of protection, strength, endurance.

Diana asked Alec if he wanted the Alligator Man to go away- that she'd ask him to if he'd feel better without him there.

Never hesitating, Alec said, "No- that's his home and now that I know who he is, it's OK. I don't think he's scary anymore".

Other things were discussed, and Diana commented on things she shouldn't have known about us- our family and difficulties we've had. When our time was finished, I sent Alec to find his dad and Diana told me that my son is a very old soul- and that he was lucky to have found me for a mother since I accept and embrace such things.

Some weeks later we were out at the property and were again discussing a bridge across the creek. Alec said it was alright now- things on both sides were now friendly to each other.

We were there without my husband- he was home and we were headed out the very next day for more time away at the hospital, and another long complicated surgery and for luck, we decided to find and bring acorns along with us- one for each of our pockets to tie us to each other and to our little piece of earth.

Sitting in the sunlight on a little bluff above the creek, we both heard something along with the constant birdsong and wind, and we looked at each other, first confused, then unaccountably comforted.

There is only one house within sight or hearing, and that was behind us and empty- everyone was either at school or work.

Wafting up from where the creek runs clear, shaded by the huge ancient trees and lined with ferns- came the unmistakable sound of a Native American chant.


What do you think?

*I* think we've got a heck of a supervisor on this project...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Houston Haiku Trilogy

My knight in shining armor
Sleeps just to my left.
Watching him breathe calms my heart.

My brave son and his Fizzgig
Sleep just to my right.
Stork legs, short legs, feet and paws.

I'm exhausted past slumber
Yet sleep just won't come
For Wife, Mom, and Worrier.

*Please keep my family in your thoughts and yes, even prayers, as we once again enter the maws of MD Anderson...again. Tomorrow and Wednesday are "routine" appointments, but for some reason we're a little twitchy just being here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blogger Goes MIA- Story and Photos Below

*What a week*.

We're still in negotiations with the electric company- but I think we've worked out a scenario for both replenishing the areas that were destroyed AND coming up with a plan (having to do with strategically placed gates) so they NEVER have to cross the wetlands again.

I met with our contractor (henceforth to be referred to as "Ronnie") and he and his boys (3 strapping sons all grown up in the family contracting business and just as professional and courteous as their dad) measured out, mowed and flagged where the house is going to sit.

(Lets see if I can get through the rest of this without I can't).

Now I was aware that SOME little pines would have to be sacrificed for this endeavor, but pines grow like weeds here (one reason I love this area of the country).

*(damn it- ALREADY with the parentheses??? OK- I'm REALLY going to do it this time)*.

And by little, I mean they were 6 inches high when we bought the place- see? Can't even see them above the grass.

Per the wildlife biologist, we'd left it all alone to grow up and heal. Here's what it looked like pre-mow.

I know, right? By last week I wasn't even sure we'd FIT a house in there.

Anyhoo, we'll snug the house in there right close- part of the plan to make it look like it's always been there and hopefully like it actually grew there instead of standing out like a big ol' boil on the butt of Mother Nature.

So here it is now-

Yesterday we met Ronnie and his lovely wife Tracy at the title company office and signed about a hundred papers all saying pretty much the same thing- namely that our ass is the bank's for the next 20 years. But the GOOD news is that we have a shiny new Interim Building Checking Account and are Official Home Builders.

The title company lady said the same thing the bank lady has been saying- "You know, you're a little more 'hands on' than most home builders, Mrs. Dixon. Most of our owner-builders pick a plan out of a book, hand it to the builder and except for maybe a once a week visit to the site, they say 'call us when we can get the key to the front door'". It really is odd to them that *I* designed it- like with graph paper, a pencil and a ruler- and *I* will be purchasing all of the incidentals like fixtures, trims, and doorknobs, and I WILL be on the jobsite every single day possible, I WILL be doing alot of the finish work my own self, and I WILL be going into work at the clinic to do my 'real job' after dark...till it's finished.

We have to be in Houston for appointments Monday thru Wednesday so will miss the first flurry of activity- the well going in, the dirtwork, resetting gates so the big equipment can get to the homesite- so we went out there today in the quiet of late afternoon and had our own little ground-breaking ceremony.

And Ward said to Alec, "Son- we're on our own now for the next few months- Mommy's going to be building a house".

And Alec sighed and said, "Yeah...I know".

What does that mean to my blogging community? That weird eclectic tiny buncha folks who actually READ this from all over the world?

When I started this, it was more of an exercise for me- as a writer I adore the Short Story, have attempted a tiny fictional work, a published journal, and a collection of beliefs, but I've got newspaper in my blood back 3 generations and have always fancied the notion of column writing. This- this blog- is my experiment to see if I can deliver something remotely worthwhile three times a week.

So I'll still attempt it- dropping off of my chair dead tired with dirt under my nails, sawdust in my hair and grout between my toes, and we'll see how it goes.

I ask in advance your forgiveness for those inevitable posts that will look like they're written in some foreign code used only by lemmings on LSD.

One more photo just because Ward's so deliciously cute-

(Ha. Made it without any more parentheses).

*(Damn it)*.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Update on a Broken Heart

So the Oncor guy called me this morning (stated also on the original post) just as promised. He told me he had good news and bad news- the outstandingly good news (for him) is that the lines in question are not, in fact, Oncor lines. Which was bad news for me since it meant I'd have to get all worked up all over again...But he did tell me whose lines they are and which office I needed to call- Trinity Valley Electric Coop in Athens. My thanks to Mr. Hill at Oncor for being so courteous and caring.

So I called there and talked to the manager, who was JUST as polite as Mr. Hill at Oncor had been, promised to look into it and that either the line foreman or himself would get back to me by tomorrow morning at the latest.

Less than 30 minutes later, the line foremen called, and he was on his way out to the property.

We walked end to end of it and he explained how they were instructed to clear-cut/scrape everything in the right of way (30ft on either side of the lines), and he added that the last time it had been done was 7 years ago- before we bought it- and that they HAD tried to contact us before cutting the chain. Since we don't live out there and only one neighbor is in sight of our place (and they were at work)the only person they could think of to ask (and it's a testament to the foreman's knowing the area that he REMEMBERED this used to be part of "the Parker Place") was old Mr. Parker, who'd given our place to his son...who lives in Dallas and sold it to us (and old Mr. Parker's still a little bitter about that- the land had been in their family for over 75 years). We never met old Mr. Parker, and considering the circumstances, he'd never known who Chris sold the land to. The foreman said they'd cut everything before and after us while trying to figure out who to contact and finally had to just go in and do it- as per their instructions.

And while alot of what they did is "by the book", some things he was quick to admit were clearly NOT- he made no effort to hide his anger at the mangled gardens surrounded by broken little pines and oaks. "That there was just wrong, no doubt about it", he said.

Bottom line as of today-
-they WILL repair the fence (not even on our property but that gives ready access to what's left of our wetlands to any good ol' boy with a mud truck) on the far corner that's now down.
-they WILL re-seed all 4 creek banks that were torn up and scraped to help prevent erosion
-he will personally see to it that the men actually on the crew who destroyed the gardens WILL repair the raised beds and they WILL replace the little perennial fruits/veggies that were in there. He asked if I wanted their guys to do the planting, and I said no- let Alec do that.
-he WILL try to get me a new mimosa tree- on closer inspection, since it was growing out of the creek bank on an angle, while the BRANCHES were over the creek (and in the easement) the tree itself was NOT.

And while we were standing there he talked to their Environmental Person who's getting the exact procedures regarding wetland areas. I need to find the report the biologist did about how TxP&W said for us to maintain it, and the Environmental person is calling me tomorrow morning to work it out. When I talked to the biologist Friday, she said to help it heal quicker, we should rake out the ruts, and per the foreman they WILL do that either with a tractor or by hand if the biologist says NO MORE HEAVY EQUIPMENT.

He did say once we move out there we need to put up our "Designated Wildlife Habitat" sign- and have copies of it with our phone number on every property line that the wires cross so there's no question in the future.

I have to say I've been very impressed with how all the 'higher ups' are treating me and my concerns.

I also met the bank appraiser out there- the one who's telling the bank how much of what we're asking for they can actually lend us and the first words out of his mouth when he stepped out of his truck after following me back to the homesite was

"What a perfect place for a log home".

Isn't it just?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bargain Book Discovery- "Them"

First, a confession. I paid more than $5 for this book. I paid $6 for this book BUT it's a hardcover, not a paperback.

"Them" by Nathan McCall is set in present day Atlanta, and is a study of relationships- racial, class, gender, educational, all focused on the two main characters- Barlowe Reed, middle aged black man who works at a print shop and Sandy Gilmore, just under middle aged white woman who, with her husband Sean, buys the house next door to Barlowe's rental.

The old 4th ward is home to the Martin Luther King Memorial, and is undergoing "urban renewal", which looks like two very different things depending on whose eyes you're looking through.

The book is peopled with a cast of characters who all behave pretty much stereotypically on both sides, as people tend to do in real life- having pre-conceived notions and...stereotypes and all.

"Them" is how each group refers to the other- as a chunk of knitted together yet interchangeable pieces instead of individuals.

Barlowe and Sandy don't really like each other, don't really trust each other, and hard as they try not to each of them constantly misunderstands the other- seeing a brilliant flash of the other's truths just out of their line of mental vision, but not quite being able to see it fully.

"Them" is not the type of book I'd usually pick up, but we drive through several "urban renewal" neighborhoods in Houston every time we go to the hospital, and they intrigue me- they always seem hopeful yet sullen, gracious decay giving way to stark renovation.

There's a certain look of dogged determination of the faces of all of "Them"- the residents being pushed out, and the new homeowners, and "Them" helped me understand more than the architectural changes taking place, but the motivations and inevitable fears behind all those determined faces.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to Break An Ol' Treehugger's Heart

Anyone who knows us knows we have a little piece of earth we searched for YEARS for- 12 acres just up the road from where we are now, we're actually fixin' to start building our little dream cabin in a few weeks- we've had the land for almost 5 years, but building has been delayed again and again and again by Ward's health issues.

It took so long to find this place because we had very specific parameters in what we wanted- we wanted elevation, and wetland, and water, and tall trees. We wanted something near where we are now, but more secluded- we wanted meadow enough for pasture and wilderness enough for shelter.

And we found it- 150ft elevation difference from the tippy top of the hill on one end to the lowest corner of the wetlands on the other, live springs, year round creeks- special enough that the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist who issued us our "TX Parks & Wildlife Private Landowner Wildlife Habitat Program" sign said "I go out on a lot of these assessments, and this is by far the nicest small parcel in the area".

There are electric poles on the property. Not the big metal ones- just the smaller "T" shaped ones with like 3 lines on them. They are just inside the lot line and run the entire 1200 ft length and to service the neighbor's house (one house- dead end for the line) they run thru the wetland. Per the biologist, I called the power company and told them about our wildlife habitat designation and that we did NOT want any herbicides or heavy equipment on our land to protect the various ecosystems.

They said "You live there?" No. Not yet. "Well, if the gate's locked we have no access and you need to keep around those lines trimmed- if something breaks- it's YOUR cost". Fair enough- and we've been watching- NOTHING has even approached getting near the lines- in fact in the wetland there are NO hardwoods, NO pines, NOTHING that would grow tall enough to interfere.

Everyone who goes onto our property is aware that there is to be NO trampling or cutting down of stuff as there are 5 kinds of ferns, delicate creek banks, a pair of Mississippi Kites nest on the edge of the wetlands every year and it's kind of a big deal because we're not really their territory. The contractors building our house are asking before cutting down trees as tiny as 2 ft tall, and the well digger picked a spot where he'd have to cut NOTHING to get in and drill the well.

They get it.

We've not mowed or anything for the entire time we've been here- the previous owners ran cows on the land a few months out of the year to claim an agricultural exemption and just that was enough to mess up the meadows and trample down the creek banks. We've been letting the land heal.

Until today.

I was just out there week before last with the guys unloading the year's hay into the barn, and today we met the well digger out there.

Sometime in the meanwhile, the utility company came in, CUT THE CHAIN ON THE GATE and laid complete and utter waste to 3 of our 12 acres.

Just to give you an idea, here's a little before and after tour-

Lets start with Heron Haven- the wetland area-


and now-

my beloved Dedmon's Branch before-

and now-

Prairie Creek's bank before-

and now-

and in a final act of "don't give a shit-ness", Alec and Ward's raised beds of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and herbs before-

I called the electric company's 800 number and you can imagine how THAT went.
"We're sorry- I'll leave a message for that department and they'll call you within 48 hours".
We went home and I got online and found the department's name that I needed and called again- "May I talk to someone in Foliage Management?"
"Why not?"
"I can call them and leave them a message".
"Fine. Give me the number and *I'LL* call them".
"No. It's not really a phone number, they're a department in this building".
"Good. Then you can transfer me".
"No. I can't. But I can leave a message".
(sound of me hanging up the phone accompanied by various curses)

Got back online and found that Oncor has district managers. Found the one for Brownsboro. Called the Tyler number and got an answering machine telling me he was out but if this is an emergency, here's his cell number.

Oh, hell yeah.

Left a message on the cell phone- "Your crews tresspassed, cut a gate open, decimated designated wildlife habitat and something needs to be done to fix it, NOW".

Called the sheriff's department and the deputy met me out there to take photos and notes to file the trespass and criminal damage report.

Called the Wildlife biologist who is just as sick as I am about it and who will get me in touch with the Ecological Assessment guy on Monday to survey the damage.

Called a lawyer friend (at the suggestion of the deputy) for a referral.

Called the district manager's number again to convey that I'd contacted the sheriff, the biologist and a lawyer and if he wanted to weigh on this matter any time now, that'd be swell.

The district manager called me within 30 minutes of that second call.

He's very sorry for our anguish (oh- he's got no idea of the anguish my family's lived through this last year) and he'll be talking to the Foliage Management guy at Oncor over the weekend and they WILL come up with a plan to fix this. Make it better.

And that's great. He's sympathetic, he's sincere, he's very sorry for this gross invasion and mismanagement. He could've said "Lady, we've got easement rights and it's a buncha weeds in a bog" *click* but he didn't and for that I AM grateful,and we'll appreciate every effort he makes to try to undo what's been done.

But here's the thing.

The springs are not running anymore. There's a chance the big equipment damaged them, squished them, did 'em in. And that would be so very bad. Springs that have fed the wetlands, the creek, burbled up for hundreds of years, gone for no damn good reason- there wasn't a hardwood or pine in their path. Not one. Will the Kites come back? That would be a shame if they didn't. How do you fix that?

There was one mimosa tree on the whole place and they cut it down. Mimosas don't grow tall enough to interfere with lines- that was pure spite. It draped over the creek and wafted it's fairy flowers into it every spring- one of the first things we'd see coming through the gate. How do you fix that?

All the ferns, corms and roots older than me- exposed now to full sunlight- doomed. All the arrowheads and waterlilies in the wetlands- shredded.

The raised beds? Ward and Alec made those right before we started our nightmare pilgrimages to MDAnderson. Some of ya'll remember that-

Twelve acres of this planet that we searched so very long for and held so very dear- fully a quarter of it now in ruins.

We're going to start building in a few weeks- carefully and respectfully- just as we'd planned and all our crew members are on board with that. And now we've got THIS mess to look at every day where once there was beauty.

Really? Fix it? I'm sorry, but I don't think so.

(a little oak tree next to the raised beds- all well out of range of the lines)

***update 9/13/10- the Oncor district manager called me at 10am with good news and bad news- the good news (for HIM- LOL) is that the lines in question are not, in fact, Oncor lines. So I'm off to slay different dragons today. My thanks to Mr. Hill at Oncor for his courteous and prompt treatment of this matter.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Snakeoil Anyone?

OK. OK OK. Just ONE MORE post about the conference last weekend and then I PROMISE I'm done...

So I attended a session called Energy Sensitive Beings, because I had some very serious questions to ask. It was run by two people- one the obvious leader and one...not.

After just a few minutes, I was aware (as an Energy Sensitive Being) that the leader was more Showman than Shaman. Anyone who says he can be Anything and Everything Anyone and Everyone needs at any given time is...suspect. I actually expected him to break into song any minute, or at the very least for an organ to drop down from the clouds accompanied by a winged choir.

I was in a room full of adults- and they were all mesmerized by this man. I mean, really grown up adults- I was NOT the elder in the room by a long shot, and I know I should've just up and left, but it was like a car wreck- you've just gotta watch- you don't WANT to watch, but you just. can't. turn. away.

Two examples-

His girlfriend was looking to find something to do for her life's work- and by selective discussion, errrr....Using the Flow of Energy, they were able to figure out that she'd like to be a massage therapist.

So she was all excited (which is GOOD- you SHOULD have a passion for what you're going to do in life) and started ticking off things she needed to do from there- find a massage school, see about licensing and equipment...but he told her "NO- you want to BE a massage therapist- you ARE a massage therapist. You have the knowledge within you to do this". So she hung out her shingle and has a growing herd of clients.

Ummm....NO. Not just no, but HELL NO.

She has no idea of the workings of the human body and muscles and she's really gonna HURT someone. Stuff like that has to be LEARNED, I don't care how much Flow is running through your body.

And in speaking of the Power of the Energy, he related how he'd been leaving his house to come to the conference- his PHYSICAL body was headed for the car, but his ENERGY stopped him in his tracks- wouldn't let him continue to the car. So he listened to his Spirit and realized he'd left his computer in the house.

*The entire room gasped in wonder.*

Except for me- all I could hear was Stan from Southpark's voice- "Dude. You stopped to think if you forgot anything and you're calling it Magical Energy? Weak".

And I must confess to hearing that old Saturday Night Live character during his spiel about being everything for everyone all the time- the voice in my head kept saying "GET to know me!"

Anyhow- the other guy was different.

Different in that he clearly is uncomfortable with whatever Energy flows through him- he made no claims, no promises, no sales pitches. He related things that had happened to him, do happen to him, that defy how "normal people" think and see, and I thought- THIS one is the Real Deal.

After the session, after all the adoring women had made arrangements for "private consultations" with the leader (conveniently held in his HOTEL ROOM) for the special conference rate of about a Ben Franklin each, I asked him my question, which had to do with Alec.

The smile froze on his lips, because it was more than "What do I do with my life?" or "How do I access the Energy of the Universe to my benefit?" This was a real, specific, serious question, and he was clearly flummoxed. I saved him by adding "And I'd like to talk to HIM", pointing at the other man. He said "Oh, of course- that'd be best", then tried to talk to me about the Sliding Scale of Payment. I told him we have NOTHING left after all our medical problems and this conference was REALLY expensive and the other guy (who'd been studying my face very intently while I'd been relaying my concerns/fears) said quickly "I'll talk to you- no charge".

They had to go lead another session but I was told to call the leader's cell phone the next day to set something up. I did, and he never called back.

Not surprised. I suspect the other guy was never even told I'd called.

The best moment of the conference for me was as we were walking past a session room and the leader spied us and came almost leaping out of the room.

He said "I was in there and I suddenly FELT that you wanted to talk to me".

I said " we were just going to the dining room", and after introducing Ward and Alec to him we just kept on walking.

Score One for the Practical Hippiechick.

Monday, September 6, 2010

When Natural Parenting Is Anything But

So I've skipped a few days, but I've had good reason.

My family and I attended an Un-schooling conference this past weekend. We were pumped, ready, excited to go and be with people like us, who home school in a sort of nontraditional manner- instead of "having school at home" where there is a designated school area in our home and our son sits there for 6 or 7 hours 5 days a week, we un-school. Looser, more laid back, much more eclectic and flexible which works for our crazy schedules we still use a curriculum as reference to be sure we don't forget important stuff like fractions...and grammar...and all that other stuff I forgot as soon as the test was over.

And there WERE people like us there- people who travel and explore museums and parks and do extra-curricular activities with their kids like music lessons and tae kwon do lessons and other worthwhile endeavors that are so much more attainable and enjoyable when you're not confined to the public school year and whose children are all reasonably polite, and clean, and respectful, and poised. The children were confident and moved throughout the resort with an aura of calm mastery of the world around them. They needed no supervision, and didn't need to be within their parents' sight at all times. They were the ones holding doors open for folks, watching younger siblings, attending sessions.

And then there were...The Others.

The Others are the children of the parents who believe the best thing they can do for their offspring is to abandon them. Which is weird because they are the parents who read books like Attachment Parenting and The Family Bed- books that tell you your kids can't get ENOUGH of being close to their parents.

I believe those books. I believe in home birth (and Alec was born right here- 3 feet from where I'm sitting- with 2 midwives, Ward and a collie named Slippers in attendance) and the Family Bed and not letting your baby cry itself to sleep. I believe all that.

Here's where The Others' parents and I apparently part ways.

The Others' parents believe that children are born- right out of the box- knowing what they need and it's their job as parents to Release Them Into The Universe to find it. Their children are not fettered by things like bedtimes, or baths, or anyone forcing them to eat healthy foods, or teaching them manners, how to read, what 2 + 2 equals. All that knowledge is theirs for the finding as they need it.

What that looks like in Real Life is packs of feral unwashed illiterate rude urchins over-running a very nice resort- scuffling in the dining room, dropping stuff off of balconies,dancing on the pool tables- all things we personally witnessed. IF they attended sessions, they just sort of drifted in and out. A great number of them could be found in the darkened Violent Video Game room (actual title from the literature- NOT my own assessment of it), which was open 24/7 with no time or age limit. No shit.

If the goal of these parents is to raise children Freely and Naturally, I'm for it.


They need to work with the entire Nature scenario, not just pick and choose.

In Nature- animals have their young at home- not a hospital. Home birth- I'm there.

In Nature- animals keep their young close to them day and night, sleeping in the same nest. Family Bed- I'm there.

*Asterisked to insert that if you are a reptile or insect In Nature- you do, in fact, throw your children at the universe and abandon them, but generally that's why they have many, many young (or eggs) at a time instead of just ONE and up to this point, The Others' parents have acted in a very birdlike or mammalian way, what with that Attachment Parenting stuff so I'd assume they'd keep it up as follows...

In Nature- animals TEACH their young how to eat, how to act, how to care for their physical selves, how to be a part of the family group. Children need to LEARN how to act, eat, bathe, play together- they DON'T automatically know that stuff. Children need to know that they're not the center of the universe- that while yes, they are each as special as Christmas and unique as snowflakes, so is every other child and that needs to be respected. They need to understand that their bodies need certain foods to stay healthy and a certain amount of sleep to be well and they need to know you love them enough to MAKE them take the steps to be good citizens, healthy people, good friends.

In Nature- animals know where their young are at all times because the world is a dangerous place if you're small, and helpless, and don't understand that THERE'S A FREAKIN' INTERSTATE HIGHWAY RIGHT NEXT TO THE RESORT. Children aren't stupid. They are fully aware that they are smaller than adults, they don't have car keys, checkbooks or other things to facilitate being Fully in Control of their destiny. They need to know, NEED TO KNOW that the adults closest to them ARE there- they know where they are and are available to help them and keep them safe from the world, from each other, from themselves.

In Nature- if a little cubbie steps out of line and acts ugly towards another cubbie, momma corrects it- fitting the severity of the reprimand to the severity of the crime, but they DO get corrected. Allowing a child to be rude and run wild not only makes for a very disagreeable person to be around, but makes it damn near impossible for the rest of us to appreciate that child's innate "awesomeness". I sat in a session run by a young man who was a product of this type of upbringing. His hands and feet were filthy and his hair matted (trust me- it wasn't dredlocks) and every time someone said something not right in line with his thoughts and ideas you could visibly see him sull up (a great term I learned after moving to the South) and pout. This guy was well into his 20's and it wasn't a good look for him.

In Nature- if an offspring becomes too much trouble, you eat it.

Just kidding. I'd never eat one of The Others. No telling what sort of germies are attached to 'em. I'd be askeerd to even use 'em in the compost pile.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Luxury of Distance

We've got chickens, which means we've got snakes.

Snakes are cool. They are amazingly resilient, wondrously adaptable, and can do stuff with no legs that I could never dream of doing with two legs, safety gear, a ladder and a rope.

Most of the time, the snakes are after the rodents that are after the chicken feed (sounds like The House That Jack Built, don't it?)but once they realize that eggs aren't nearly as hard to hunt and catch, our relationship takes a decidedly sour turn.

Everyone I know who needs to "contend with" a problem snake goes after them with a hoe. I just can't do it. I have a hard enough time smacking a fly with a flyswatter- the idea of taking a sharp metal object and dealing a blow powerful enough and with intent to decapitate makes me frankly sick to my stomach.

So until recently I did what any strong-willed independent woman would do.

I made my husband kill the snakes.

Then our friend Joe (hunter, competitive shooter, mountain man survivalist) moved in with us- the old treehuggin' unarmed hippies- and he brought with him a literal arsenal, and I received my very first lessons in shooting stuff.

And I'm not bad at it.

Of course, when Joe's here I just have HIM shoot 'em. But Joe spends alot of time way the hell up north where only the insane live (it's the thin air of the high altitude- causes brain damage) leaving me with only 2 little handguns and several thousand rounds of ammo to defend the chickens' nests. (passable Scarlett O'Hara impression- back of hand to forehead in virtual swooning position).

So when faced with a snake in a hen's nest I was able to take Louise (yes- I named my guns) loaded with birdshot, and dispatch the offending reptile with only a slight hesitation. I may have over-done it at 13 shots, but DANG they keep moving a long time after they're dead...

And a few days ago I didn't even hesitate before 1. to the body since the snake was in deep weeds 2. to the head as it was heading out of Dodge- flipping it upside down and 3. point blank to the head to be sure it was dead.

While it's a good thing that I'm able to take care of egg protection my own self (especially good news for my poor husband, who doesn't like killing stuff with a hoe either), it troubles me that with the luxury of distance and the non-physical contact of bullet vs. hoe I can take a life without pause.

Like if I don't actually have to make physical contact, it's not such a moral struggle- just like a little Kodak- it's as easy as Point and Shoot.

And that bothers me more than a little.