photo by Sheri Dixon

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Card for Gomez

A birthday wish for my husband, Ward- my Knight in Shining Armor.

It's unbelievable to me that we've shared almost 18 birthdays with each other.

First as friends who cared for each other through the heartbreak of our divorces.

Then as friends who became lovers who realized the main pitfall of falling in love with your best friend is that when there are the (inevitable) lovers' spats the person you most need to run to for support and reassurance is the one you're off-kilter with.

Then as newlyweds embarking on a life together filled with hope...and our symbol of that hope and love, our son Alec.

We've seen birthdays filled with happiness and joy, and those filled with sickness and worry, but through them all- every one of them- we've never faltered, never ever made a birthday wish that didn't include each other.

Ward's first words upon waking this morning were, "Holy shit. Sixty fucking years old". And we laughed.

We've seen every birthday together since he was 42- when his hair was black and his beard just tinged with grey, and I was 34- about 25 pounds lighter and much less squishy.

Every morning for 18 years I've been able to wake up next to him has been a miracle- in all that time I can count on one hand the mornings we haven't woken up next to each other when he wasn't in the hospital.

It may be Ward's birthday, but the gifts have all been mine- his love, his courage, his never-wavering belief in me. That boy who looks so much like him and has his kindness of spirit and strength of character.

Happy Birthday, Gomez- I fell in love with you long before I admitted it to anyone (even myself). You've been melting my heart and warming my soul, sheltering me when I'm worn out and cheering me on when I'm strong, my island of sanity in a mostly self-made hurricane of Crazy that constantly swirls around me forever it seems.

My wish for you is peace and happiness now to infinity, and I'll spend every day of my life working to make it so.

My birthday gift to you is still and always, my love.

Sparky and Gomez.

Friday, January 27, 2012

For a Little While There Were Creatures of Value and Creatures of Worthlessness in the Car. The Worthless Ones Drove Away...

So, really?

Someone really truly threw puppies out of a car in the middle of the center of nowhere and did it without remorse or regret.

2 days ago we had 7 dogs- Fizzgig, Smidgeon and Aaron (the Littles) and Sugarbearmarshmallowdog, Wendy and Beau (the Bigs), along with Joe's dog Molly.

We apparently have 9 dogs now.

On my way home from work I heard Alec's excited voice on the phone. "Mom! There are puppies under the barn".

My concerned and maternal immediate response- "How the hell did THAT happen???"

All our dogs are fixed. There have been no sightings of unauthorized canines on the property- the Bigs keep everything pretty well cleared out- that's their job.

And yet, when I pulled up to the barn and walked over I could hear it- growling from the depths.

Two sets of tiny blinky eyes glared at me, baby teeth bared. They were as far back under the barn as they could get without starting to come out the other side.

Cursing, I got food and water and pushed it under the barn.

Bitey 1 ran up and started eating ravenously- little belly distended with worms and hair as wild as his expression. Bitey 2 refused to come near even though he's not any better fed.

Wendy decided she would be on puppy patrol in addition to her previously scheduled property perimeter checks and I left them in her care. Wendy- who was dumped here pregnant back in July. I see a frightening pattern here...

This morning I walked to the barn with food and they came running out- barking and tails wagging, then stopped in mid-wag when they remembered human=enemy and dove back under the barn- they stick to the middle support pier like it's home base in a life or death game of tag.

I put down breakfast and they both attacked it. Bitey 1 is still braver- if I extend my hand he'll sniff it as long as I don't, yanno, MOVE it. Bitey 2 is gone as soon as my hand reaches under the barn.

So here they are.

IF they can avoid getting eaten by something I think they'll be tame within a few days and then they'll come up to the house and the puppy pen. They'll be fed, wormed, bathed, vaccinated and fixed.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is that we don't live at the end of a road, you can't even see the house from the road- you can see the barn, but it's been there almost 80 years and no one has lived here till a year ago. We have no fancy gate, no paved driveway, not even a mail box- we don't WANT people knowing where we live unless we know them.

And yet this is where they are dumping animals.

The creeks run along and under the road and there are hundreds of empty acres all around us. For some reason the bridges are magnets for people who don't get city trash pickup and are too cheap to pay for service and we haul out bag after bag of trash and refuse from the creeks and their banks.

They're dumping the dogs along with their trash.

Hell is too good for them.

Bitey 1 and Bitey 2...pre-domestication

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to Choose a Nominee

Now that the field has thinned and the gigantic turd has floated to the top, lets review exactly what has happened thus far in the quest for this year's presidential nominee of the NEW and IMPROVED Republican Party .

Before we begin, keep in mind the most important issue in this campaign.

What? Jobs? Health care? The decline of our infrastructure including slashing spending for public education? The financial meltdown of Wall St. and subsequent raping and pillaging of our system? Abortion? GAY PEOPLE MARRYING??

No, silly.

According to Mitch McConnell, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

And it's not just Mitch- every single potential nominee has repeated it in ways that are couched in disappointment as in-"the FAILED Obama presidency" to being outright (and purposely) alarming as in-"the most dangerous president we've ever had".

So, in the context of what's REALLY important in this country, lets begin.

DON'T- be a completely off the wall batshit crazy religious woman.

(Yes. Horrifying, ain't it? I thought about making it smaller, but then you sorta lose the whole effect. You're welcome.)

DO- be a completely off the wall batshit crazy religious man.

DON'T have extramarital sex that makes your voters twitchy or uncomfortable- also known as "preying on white women".

DO have extramarital sex as long as it's within your race and you apologize to God- also known as "preying on white women" (it's a subtle but important difference- if you can't see it, you're obviously not an American)

DON'T be a Morman who believes in science, global warming and bipartisanship. Subtract 100 extra points if you encourage religious diversity in your own family.

DO be a Morman who believes in Wall St., corporate personhood and vowing to repeal everything the current administration has done so far. Add 100,000 points for strapping your family pet to the top of the car.

...and finally

DON'T be a career politician from Texas who loses no sleep over killing people because "That's the ultimate justice in Texas".

DO be a career politician from Texas who loses no sleep over letting people die without healthcare because "That's what freedom is all about".

This concludes our summary of "How to pick a GOP Nominee" and remember kids-

It ain't about this-

or this-

or this-

or at the end of the day, even this-

At the end of the GOP day- they want a candidate who may not make a lick of sense, who offers nothing of help to our country, our children, our senior citizens, veterans and anyone else who isn't rich enough to buy them outright. At the end of the nomination process, all that matters to them is making damn sure they eliminate the most dangerous threat ever to come on the American scene...ever. The thing that will destroy our nation and plunge us into the fiery furnace of hell or worse-

Yep. That's a clear and present danger if I've ever seen one.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In All Fairness...

"All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others"
-Animal Farm.

"Life is not fair. The fair is where you go to see cows and eat corndogs"
-unknown (if you remember, please let me know so I can give credit)

Somewhere along the line, the core belief of "no man is an island, but this is the land of opportunity and fairness for all" in this country has given way to the mantra of "I've got mine, go fuck yourself".

I blame every idiot who waves their copy of Atlas Shrugged with as much vigor as their Holy Bible and their Constitutions- none of which they've read completely through, but depending on talking heads on the TV and at church to tell them what the hell's in there. *Bonus points if their church talk also comes from a talking head on TV.

I blame every idiot who sees (and idolizes) a "self-made man" who got that way by taking advantage of others and dodging the law (tax laws count, even though it only seems that way if it's poor people doing it by cleverly not making enough money to be taxed, damn their stealing souls) and calling it "admirable" and running to the defense of people who would light them on fire in a heartbeat just for yucks and giggles.

I've got a little clue for you- the CEO's of the huge corporations and banks do not need your protection. They bought all the politicians, supreme court justices, lawyers and security forces to do that. They're good. Really. Calm the hell down.

Now the really surprising part- you are not them. You will never be them. If you are reading this blog on your home computer and have a stack of ordinary bills like house payment, car payment, utility, insurance bills next to you and you've prayed even ONCE that there was enough in the bank to cover what's due, YOU'RE NOT THEM. The best part? It's ok. Get the hell over it.

Yanno what really chaps my hiney?

People who want to destroy the social safety net in this country in the name of "reducing the deficit" even though it's been shown time and again that it's not contributing a fucking nickel to the deficit.

OK, wait. Here's who I give a semi-pass to on that.

If you've been born wealthy, and your family has never needed assistance, if no one in your family or circle of friends has EVER ONCE needed to cash an unemployment check, or gone to the store with food stamps, or applied for disability or medicare or medicaid, if you've never ever signed your child up for CHIPS (low income health insurance), if no one in your family DEPENDS on their SS retirement check just to buy food and pay rent, who depends on the VA for their medical care even though their service was decades and decades ago, if you never needed to apply for grants and scholarships to attend college because your daddy could just write a check for it, then you are (partially) excused, because you don't get it.

Because if you've been so lucky, there's no way to connect with that.

There's no way to relate to the fear of having nothing "set aside for a rainy day" not because you blew it all on lottery tickets and beer, but because there have been so many rainy days in your life your feet are webbed.

Illness, job loss, even something as common and simple as having a car blow up or pipes burst in the house can plunge the average family into a spiral of Peter paying Paul with no way to catch least not for a very long time.

For every person who's "playing the system" and "using their credit card at Starbucks" there are 1,000 who genuinely need help- and unless you are there you have no idea how easily that can happen randomly and out of the blue.

So you are excused for not knowing, but not for ignoring or for mocking.

Because that just makes you an asshole.

For anyone else- ANYONE who has personally reached for any of the above help when they've actually needed it to feed their families and care for their children, and who now try to shinny up close to the very rich and wear your Conservative flags and scream for tightening of the rules and elimination of the "waste" in the systems- "waste" that looks alot like your own family and friends-

Shame on you.

Shame on your hypocritical asses, and I swear to god if I see one more word out of any of you I am calling you out on it in front of god and in as public a manner as you are sneering at those less fortunate than you are (well, as you are NOW- precariously and probably temporarily- not because you're lazy or make bad decisions but because shit happens- GET IT???)

Show me one, just one self-made man.

Show me one person who was set out as a newborn (and not one of those spoiled babies born in a hospital, either- one who was born in the forest, surrounded by bears and shit), and not clothed or fed or cared for or given ANY HELP AT ALL who survived ALL ON THEIR OWN and is now
a) alive
b) not a raving lunatic
c) rich as all get-out

You can't, because it doesn't happen.

No one succeeds all on their own- in every single American Success Story there is one of 2 main ingredients-
-they were born with a buttload of money waiting in a trust fund for them
-someone already successful helped them

That's not Liberal-speak, it's the damn truth.

Making sure the weakest members of a society are cared for PROPERLY and with DIGNITY no matter how much money they have and ensuring that the young are educated FOR FREE THROUGH COLLEGE is not wasteful, the former is the very essence of being human in a society of humans and the latter is making sure our next generation is given all the tools necessary to succeed.

If we could depend on everyone to give of themselves freely when they could and that it would help those who really needed it that would be awesome.

But there are alot of people "at the top" who look at fellow humans as numbers and resources and figure they don't have to worry about them, and alot of people at the bottom who are invisible- living lives of literal quiet desperation without access to help, and that's where the whole dirty word of "fairness" comes in.

Fairness does not mean everyone plays no matter how bad an athlete you are and everyone gets an A just for showing up. That's bullshit spin used to whip good people into a frenzy and to make them suspicious of their neighbors, who will supposedly "take away FROM YOU what they don't deserve and everyone will be poor".

Fairness means that the kid whose dad bought all the uniforms doesn't get to play every inning even though the only balls he can catch are right under his dick, and the football stars do not get an A just for mouth-breathing in the back row of the classroom. See?

'Leveling the playing field' is the current "spit it out loud" phrase of the far right- and it invokes images of poor people (because that's what we all are in relation to the really really rich people- all of us, everyone you and I know- our doctors, lawyers, bankers, local businessmen large and small- EVERYONE- never ever forget that) having what little they have taken away from them so "crack mamas can go buy big screen tv's and iPhones".

Here's what it really means.

Fairness means that NO ONE can evade the laws by buying enough lawyers and accountants and politicians to change the rules in their favor- to evade taxes or to be given special compensation in return for promises of delivering things they don't really have to (like jobs. here in the US. that pay well. in safe work environments).

Fairness means that NO ONE can purchase an election or skew the news to fit their own agenda.

Fairness means that no one in this country has to fear a medical bill, or feel pressured to work long hours with little compensation to TRY to avoid being laid off, or losing their home to predatory lending practices- things that are unheard of in every other civilized nation on the planet.

Fairness means that we celebrate long term committed loving relationships- ANY long term committed loving relationship and that the real perversion is protecting the sanctity of marriage by having a shitload of them for no good reason other than "upgrading to a newer model" but then saying "it's totally cool- I asked god for forgiveness".

Fairness is respecting all religious views- what if Tim Tebow WERE Muslim?

Fairness is protecting the right of a woman to make very difficult and personal life decisions as much as the right to walk into a gun show and buy any kind of death tool you want to.

See? Fairness is not "making the rich poor and giving the poor shit they don't deserve". Fairness is "making sure everyone plays by the same rules and no one gets stomped into the ground".

Fairness is...FAIRNESS for everyone, not just everyone who believes what you do.

Right now the bullies are running the playground. Is being pissed about that Class Warfare? Is that Envy Politics?

I don't think so. I think it SHOULD piss us off and that we SHOULD change the rules back to level the goddamn playing field- because it always hasn't been this way, yanno. Just because you can't remember it doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Believing that America is the land of opportunity where everyone can get ahead with a little gumption and elbow grease has been both our blessing and our curse.

A blessing in that GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY AND A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, yes- it can be done, with a lot of luck and HELP FROM OTHERS thrown in the mix.

A curse because we're all so enamored of being wealthy, it's so encoded into our definition of how successful we are as humans, we're all "just one lucky break" away from being the guy holding the giant lotto check, that we tend to identify more with the very very rich than the very very poor, which is, of course, ridiculous.

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
-John Steinbeck

And don't paint a fucking red flag on my house because I said "socialism".

Because that would only reinforce my belief that America is in trouble not because of the "evils from the outside world trying to destroy America because they hate our freedoms" so much as the "obstinate and proud refusal to learn a goddamn thing from anyplace other than America no matter how much we suffer because of it. Proudly. Because we're Americans".

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review- "A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"


"A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard?

Didn't we all have to read that like in high school? Possibly.

There were many things I was supposed to do in high school, but was too busy with other pursuits. Or maybe I did read it and just don't remember doing it.

High school was like that.


"I need a book to read", I said to Ward- Keeper of the Dixon Library. He actually hates when I say that, because while MOST of the time the book he places in my hands is fabulous and just what my eyeballs and brain ordered, there have been a few times when his choice has been...unfortunate.

So he handed me his worn copy of Pilgrim hesitantly, saying "I'm sure you've read this but it's pretty good".

If you haven't read it, or if you can't remember reading it, or even if you read it AND remember reading it, here's what you need to do.

Read it again.

My only problem with this book is that it was so delicious, so very rich in its descriptive nature, that it was difficult reading more than one page at a time.

Each and every page, paragraph and sentence is thick with detail and must be consumed not as a novel but as poetry- slowly turning each word over carefully, fitting each one with the next as they drop gingerly yet effortlessly together.

What's it about?

Life. Nature. God. Eskimos. Bugs. Death. Horror. Beauty. Muskrats.

Where does it take place?

Tinker Creek, silly. All the above, in the familiar and fabulous context of one simple,ordinary extraordinary place.

A brilliant collage of scientific facts both book learnt and observed, are stitched together with folklore, laws of nature, seasonal forces, mythology, predatory and migratory behavior and experiments sensible and nonsensible, all encompassing a year of life on the ever-changing banks of Tinker Creek, a location that sparkles in its remarkable normalcy.

As perfect as the entire book is, there is one passage, one paragraph that I kept going back to, actually dog-eared the page so I could find it quickly (sorry, Gomez) because it's sublime in form and speaks my own heart better than I ever could.

Thank you, Annie.

"I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions and whose beauty beats and shines not in it's imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Becoming a Tiger

Ward's comment came out of the blue, out of silence, completely random.

"So, El Nino's a tiger now."

El Nino was our billy goat, and he just died a few weeks ago. He'd been born on our place almost 10 years ago. He was a good goat- not aggressive at all, even before he crippled himself by going through a sheet metal wall and cutting the tendons in both front legs. His legs healed, but put a permanent hitch in his giddyup.

He fathered many goatlings and was patient with them- they'd take turns bouncing off his back while he tried to maintain the dignity his stature as Head Billy implied. He was never mean or pushy with the girls.

As he got older, he developed arthritis in those scarred front legs and I retired him to live with Alec's wether Lazarus and our sheep Conrad. He still had a hearty appetite, which is my primary benchmark for quality of life- our farm tends to attract the old and infirm- lack of perfection does not equal sickness or pain.

In his final 30 days he was still eating, but had started dropping weight. I suspect cancer had started up somewhere, since that's what got his dad before him.

One dark and stormy night he just laid down and died.

Not knowing what do do with a large dead animal is an unpleasant fact needing to be dealt with on any farm. When you don't have benefit of a huge amount of land or a tractor with a backhoe it becomes doubly problematic. I've only lost 3 other goats (and no horses...yet) and 2 of those were hauled away by friends with a "back 40" to leave animals out for the food chain. The last one we carried deep into the woods and left- within weeks there was no trace of him.

The circle of life spins quickly. And silently.

This time Alec and I had just been to Tiger Creek Wildlife Center outside Hawkins- they are home to many big cats, but mainly tigers- rejects from small zoos and circuses, a horrifying number that were surrendered because people bought them as "kittens" and then were astounded when they ended up as...freaking tigers.

They have some with rare bloodlines and they work with zoos on genetic preservation, although they do no actual breeding there.

They run purely on donations.

When we were there they mentioned that some of those donations are in the form of meat. Cattle, horses, pigs wild and domestic, sheep...goats. Tigers eat a lot.

So I called them up and we loaded El Nino's body into the truck and Joe and I delivered him to Tiger Creek on a cold and rainy morning. I told the girl there I'd had him since birth and petted that big shaggy head one last time as they transferred him to their cart.

But I never thought about what Ward said until he said it.

We are what we eat/we become what eats us.

It appeals to me greatly that El Nino- who spent a good part of his life with limited mobility, is gliding effortlessly across a large wooded enclosure and leaping silently onto a lookout rock. Stretching languorously as only a cat can do and looking at the world through metallic yellow eyes.

I've always said that when I die I want every part and parcel that someone else could use taken and disbursed. I always assumed the next step would be cremation of "the rest" and scattering over the land I love and is so much a part of me.

But now I'm not so sure.

Maybe I'd prefer being a tiger first. For just a little while.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

And the Little Demons Danced With Joy

The figures are out and the outrage is huge.

Planned Parenthood's end of year report for 2009 stated that 3% of their services were abortions.

For 2010 it was 11%. And the outrage is huge.

The outrage is, of course aimed at Planned Parenthood and is of the "SEE? We KNEW they were all about abortions! BURN 'EM DOWN!!! EVIL EVIL EVIL!!!" variety.

Apparently the belief in the Land of Outrage is that Planned Parenthood laughs and dances every time an abortion is performed- perhaps there's even a little tote board where they keep track and give extra bonuses for the most babies killed.

I think it's an outrage too. But for different reasons.

See, I believe that the rise in abortions is NOT due to slick marketing on the part of Planned Parenthood- some sort of "Have an abortion today- ALL the cool kids are doing it" ad campaign.

I think the reasons are much less glamorous.

Like perhaps the fact that many more Americans have slipped below the poverty line.

Many more Americans are without jobs.

And homes.

I think (and I know this is just CRAZY TALK when compared to the "dead baby tote board" theory above) that there are so many more women who are without options, without support and without anywhere to turn that they are being forced into this horrible corner- many with children they already can't feed, or clothe, or even provide a roof for.

"Well, they could just ask for help- walk into a church and ask for help".

I know there are still unwed mother's homes. Will they take an entire family? Will they find loving adoptive homes for babies that may be minority, or mixed, or not perfect for lack of pre-natal care?

Are there enough foster homes?

I know the food pantries are begging for help- people who in the past were regular donors are now needy recipients. With so many more families in trouble where are all the homes for these new babies?

Last year I wrote about abortion- my point being that no one is PRO-abortion. No one. It's a heart-wrenching decision for a woman already in a corner and with damn few options.

This year saw a hell of a lot more women without.

The reason for the upswing in abortions performed has nothing to do with the evils of Planned Parenthood and everything to do with a society that's floundering and sinking- and continuing to pull the social safety nets out from under the victims is not going to do anything but make things worse.

THIS is what happens when there are no jobs because the corporations must be protected, when there are families being foreclosed on because the banks must be protected and when there are massive spending cuts to schools and health care and food and housing assistance because the budget must be protected.

THIS is what happens in a "share the sacrifice" atmosphere where the only ones being sacrificed are the weak and powerless.

It's not Planned Parenthood's fault. Turn the numbers around and notice that 89% of what they do is preventive medicine, testing, providing basic affordable health care to those who have nowhere else to get it.

It's not the women's fault for having nothing and no one, for living lives of despair that consist of one hard choice after another day after day.

It's a societal ill that has nothing to do with lack of Jesus or the bible. It's as easy and as difficult as making sure people are fed, and clothed, and housed and cared for- given the dignity that comes (or should come) with being human.

You can't fix oppression by being more oppressive.

But by god and by gum, those pro-lifers will die trying.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Need to Make a Reservation, Please

I made the hotel reservations today.

The reservations for our trip next month to Houston. Regularly scheduled scans, tests, blood work and appointments- the equivalent of routine maintenance on my husband- they take him back, poke him, check his fluids and the wear and tear on his bearings and send him out with a sticker on his forehead and an air freshener hanging from his ear.

It's difficult to feel special, unique, human when you're a number, a blip on the screen that says "Dixon- checked in/prepping/scanning/recovery/finished" with a different color for each benchmark achieved.

The actual appointments are better- we know the nurses, the staff, the doctors, and they query about our home, our family, our lives, and they listen to the answers we give and the questions we ask.

We don't hate Houston, we don't hate MD Anderson. They've both enriched our lives more than we could ever have foreseen, back in the days when Houston was just a huge blob on the map of Texas that we needed to circumnavigate to get to Galveston.

Before we knew the different neighborhoods you drive through from the outer edges, through the center and out the other side- neighborhoods we far prefer over the interstate highways that wrap the city like the tentacles of the cancer they removed from my husband.

We've seen things at the museums most people only see on TV. Attended live theater, been to gigantic festivals, eaten marvelous foods of every ethnicity.

Ward's life was saved and his body patched up not once, not twice, not thrice, but four different times. And every time he goes in with a courage I cannot fathom and comes out rearranged yet whole, different yet beautiful. He is, quite simply, my hero.

We're a Cancer Family, and Ward feels guilty about it when he shouldn't. He says "It's my fault" and I tell him that's ridiculous. Getting cancer was NOT his fault. If he had emptied our savings account, bought a hooker and gone to Vegas THAT would've been "his fault".

It just happened. Shit happens. Family deals with it, grows with it, thrives in spite of it.

I will never, ever believe or condone any ideology, tenet or scheme that tries to pin the blame on the downtrodden for their condition.

The bravest person I know? My disabled husband.

The most com/passionate person I know? My "mere child" of a son.

The one we depend on to keep our home safe and sound when we're gone? Our retired veteran Joe.

My inspiration for strength and perseverance? Joe's 92 year old mother Edna.

All of us expendable, according to "gotta share the sacrifice" dog eat dog bullshit.

This is my immediate family, here and now. We are NOT expendable. We are NOT percentages to be cut and numbers to be crunched.

And yet we're not special or remarkable, except to ourselves. Every person has a story, and every story matters. Every sick person, unemployed person, homeless person, young person and old person matters.

Every one of us wakes up every morning putting one foot in front of the other, refusing to quit, refusing to lie down, refusing to believe that we are expendable no matter what we see and hear every day every minute ad nauseum from the smug talking heads and experts who don't have any idea what they're talking about when it comes to this sort of thing- the sort of thing that can happen to anyone...even them.

So we turn the calendar and see the dates marked out and are hit with the wet blanket of trepidation/anticipation. I make the reservations and look forward to seeing our old friend Houston, our old friends both inside and outside of MD Anderson, to reacquaint ourselves with Big City culture, and sights and sounds.

We've spent so many nights at the hotel we know each and every room- which ones have crappy internet, which ones have squidgy TV's, which one has a bunny sticker at the bottom of the bathroom door.

The hotel staff notices how tall our boy is getting.

This time we're planning on visiting Occupy Houston...wherever it happens to be, and the museum of Natural Science, prowling the book stores and eating at our favorite places. As long as we're there ANYWAY we'll cram as much good experience into it as we can. But it's all in the shadow of the hospital.

We've made the trip so many times the car knows the way, we can drive it with our eyes closed but we don't. We've watched entire homes being built and/or renovated on our route. We notice if people have painted their homes, if trees have fallen or been cut down, if fences have been constructed or deconstructed.

We remember, like butterflies on migration, certain markers and signs, places of note and renown- not just the big things everyone notices like the creepy empty schoolhouse in Crockett or the pinheaded man in Trinity, but things only we know and remember- the bridge we were crossing when the eagle flew right beside our car for four mighty flaps of his wings and the spot we saw the alligator...just inside the "safe swimming zone" cones on the lake.

So many trips. Back and forth. Forth and back. In hope and despair. Pre surgery and Post. The pendulum of our lives is firmly anchored here at home and several times a year we emerge- strange mutations of cuckoo clock figures and groundhogs and follow our well-worn tracks down to Houston, pause, bob, listen to the music, wait...

...tick. tock. blood work. scan. appointments. tick. tock.

"Mr. Dixon, everything is all clear- see you in six months".

It's a weight you have to feel to believe, and it's not till it's gone that you understand just how heavy it's been to carry, it's a weight I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and it's such a relief when it's lifted- an inverted jar over the lightning bugs of our hearts.

"Mr. Dixon, everything is all clear- see you in six months".

And our hearts fly up up and away, onto the next things, the next things we dare to plan, always daring, always planning, always.

Never look down. Never look back. Never take your eyes off of the ones you love.