Sunday, October 19, 2014

# 529 - Small Town Historic Appreciation

Living in a small country town makes trips into town so much more pleasant than it does when we lived in Greater Houston.

Small town streets downtown are often far from congested and ample parking is readily available.


I love old towns sprinkled throughout the landscape of the South, especially those that have worked to maintain their historical value. Livingston now has a historical committee that strives to keep the "old" alive and viable to today's society.

Greater Houston has bits and parts of the city that is dedicated to historical preservation, but the majority of the city is committed toward building the next structure bigger and better than the last. Property values in downtown Houston are so pricey that profits can only be increase by building upward. Sadly, that leaves many historical buildings vacant and floundering to the point of being condemned, which seems to be an actual business plan for many of downtown Houston's historic building owners.

They leave the building abandoned, even though it is in desperate need of renovations, and it falls into a rapid state of increased disrepair, until it is an eyesore and a hazard. It is sad to see some of these old buildings die a slow death instead of being restored to former glory.

In the big city, there is not much "glory" that comes with old age.

However, most of us learn through life's most valuable lessons that "newer" is not necessarily "better."

Age provides an increasing level of character to a building that new construction simply cannot capture.

I hope our little Texas town never sees the day where it wants to attract millions of people...I prefer our small town attract a dozen or so at one time and that it maintains low enough over-head that it will permit growth in spite of a slower pace. That's good enough for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

# 528 - Snakes Eating our Eggs & Say Your Prayers!

Needing to catch up with my posts.

One day, about three weeks ago, Sgt. Dave was in the barn and noticed a MacDaddy Rat Snake curled up in the barn.

A humorous turn of events would soon follow.

After he finds the snake, he comes inside to tell me about it so that I can go check it out. The truth is, I did not feel comfortable with the snake in the barn. I either wanted to dispose of it with a bullet or catch it, then release it at some point further from the home-site.

Yes, I got all the lectures about how these snakes are great for rodent control and so forth, but the chicken coop was about 300 feet away from the barn, and I told Sgt. Dave that I did not feel comfortable with the thought of that snake making it to the coop.

Sgt. Dave got testy with me. "The snake is staying," he said.

"Hey, but I have to go to the coop during the day by myself, if I KNOW a huge rat snake is lurking in the area, I don't want to take a chance for it to be in the zone where I must go every day," I tried to reason with him.

What does he tell me?

"You are being dramatic. That snake is far enough away to not be a problem, don't be ridiculous," he tells me.

Well, THAT was rude!

At this point, I must tell you that, initially, I felt as if my head were filling with red anger, so I decided to go inside and calm down with actual prayers for God to give me peace over the freakin snake issue.

So, I went inside and did exactly that...I prayed. As I sat there in the zone, laying the words the husband said about me being "dramatic" over the huge snake nearby at God's feet, I got this clear message that I can only describe as being divine that said, "Don't worry, you need to laugh because the drama is about to be his, not yours...he will be the one to confront the snake, relax."

I don't like the eggs being scavenged by slick bellied creatures.

Honestly, this is one of the times when I received an immediate, clear message to reassure me that everything would be okay, but with specific details. Yes, details.

After a while, I went back outside, feeling rather happy, in a warped if God and I were sharing this private, massive joke in a good humored kind of manner.

Sgt. Dave walked over and said, "We can go catch that snake that's in the barn."

With peace, I responded, "No, it's okay." I was smiling and Sgt. Dave is looking confused. So, I just shared the truth, "I said my prayers about it and have been reassured by the Almighty that things will be just fine because I will be protected, the worries I had about coming against a snake at the coop will not be for ME to worry about, it is going to be YOUR problem, so I don't have to be dramatic about it."

Big eye roll from Sgt. Dave, as if he highly doubted that I had literally prayed and received this message.

I had a complete sense of calm and faith enveloping me, but I was ready for what was about to happen, after all, I had been given a preview.

The weird story continues...

And guess what happened? Within 30 minutes of this conversation, Sgt. Dave was checking for eggs in the coop and in one of the nests, a nice-sized rat snake over FIVE FEET in length came slithering up from the hay.

And guess who suddenly got dramatic?

Can you imagine how I felt privy to the scene BEFORE it happened and that since I had flat out TOLD him what was going to happen, it was even more hysterical!

I think the ordeal creeped Sgt. Dave out, a lot. I think that being in the country, in more solitude, has put me in better touch to listen, but I also LOVE God's sense of humor.

Sgt. Dave suddenly had NO HESITATION about running for the .22 rifle with the scope, to take position outside of the coop with the bullet ready to fly through the coop itself to shoot the snake.

It was creepy.

Two big rat snakes within 30 minutes of each other in the residential area was not pleasant.


I reminded him that the entire moment of divinity over this snake issue was not with malice, it was with good humor for a good lesson. My concern had been valid, especially since the coop is now enclosed in a fenced-in area that makes it a lot more difficult to run for an escape at the sight of a snake.

And the chickens got to enjoy some revenge.

Show and tell goes further to demonstrate these snakes can get quite a few eggs in their belly.

I don't know if I will ever have a moment like this again, but lately, it seems that the Lord is truly hearing me and creating some consequences and events on my behalf that is uncanny. God is cool like that, He really is. I can vouch that it is better to be a friend of God, to be the one laughing WITH Him than being the one taught a lesson that can only be laughed about at a later time.

:-) I will keep saying my prayers.

# 527 - Finalizing Floorplan Details & Striving for Balance

Sgt. Dave finally moved the old fire-pit out of view. Thank God!

Living in the country means that each aspect of daily life must be considered because each decision impacts the view and appearance of the acreage.

After a summer of good rain and lots of mowing, the St. Augustine grass is growing nicely on part of the acreage.

Howdy and Gracie are two peas in a pod. They play several times a day, chasing each other around trees, cars, and other obstacles. They bring me a lot of laughter. Gracie has learned to play ball, her own way. She catches the ball and runs with it, making Howdy run after her. It's quite entertaining.

Liyla loves to sit in the sun and let her bones get some warmth; she's our old girl and is always smiling.

One of the goals that Sgt. Dave has been tackling lately is to burn the dead trees to the ground so that they don't fall on anyone and cause potential harm and/or death. We call these dead, towering trees, "Widow Makers." Now, he's taken down about three massive trees.

I also have something else that is new/old Trooper. This Trooper had once belonged to my sister, but now it is mine. In our family, we seem to keep our old vehicles in the family. This Trooper has been an amazing vehicle. She's an oldie, but a goodie. And...she looks good out here too.

The good news with the construction process is that we are finally making progress with our floorplan. All the details can be overwhelming, but the house, I believe, is going to be amazing.

We are having to get every single thing in order for the construction process because our builder, once he begins, will go fairly fast. His crew is one of those that works like crazy from sun-up to sun-down on each project to get the shell of the house finished very quickly. Once that is finished, we can begin pulling it all together, to make this place our new home.

Once we get the house built, I will finally be able to get all of our belongings out of storage that had been packed after we sold our last house.

I am trying to be patient for just a little while longer. Meanwhile, I also enjoy my chickens. I believe we are down to 19 chickens. They mostly stay safe in their chicken run, but they do free-range three days out of the week, minimum. However, it is usually at the cost of one of the chickens disappearing, I believe because of a hawk.

And, there are always reasons to go to Houston, but each time I go, it is confirmed to be a wise decision that we moved from the big city. The congestion of people and traffic, the bad smells and the lack of personal involvement that you enjoy in the country keeps me glad about going back home to the country. But, the city is beautiful, from a distance.

Life has some great balance, but I could strive for more. Thank goodness we have the big city with its Sushi bars to balance life in the country. Sushi always puts things into perspective with helping me enjoy visiting the city.

Sushi in the country...not so sure I'm comfortable with that idea, not just yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

# 526 - The RV-Life Blues

This outdoor kitchen is nicely done. We might have the carport area built with the backwall used as the backside to the outdoor kitchen. The outdoor kitchen would be looking out to the main part of the backyard. Since the main structure is already there, this might be the best and least expensive option for us to fit in the outdoor kitchen into our budget.

Imagine this outdoor kitchen at the backside of the carport, accessible out the back door, close to the side that has the home's main kitchen.
Rustic outdoor space.
Lately, it seems we are always exhausted. Life has been extremely taxing. However, I know that the coming months are not going to be any easier.
Tomorrow, I have a list of phone calls to make to get back on top of the construction plan. We are still trying to work out final details with the floorplan and have been traveling a bit out of town, then we caught a terrible cold that had indiscriminately made its way around the family like a germ atom bomb, and now I am simply drained.
RV living is not good for me. I have determined this because I always had space to walk around in our house, rooms to clean, and it was never-ending. However, the main part was that I had room to stretch my legs. In an RV, you have minimal room and walking the floor means you might send vibrations to the other person sharing the RV and the sounds in the main part of RV are atrocious because the main air-conditioning is attached to the ceiling in that room and it is LOUD and intrusive. The A/C is vented through to the rest of the RV, but the main living room is not so enjoyable right now.
In the photo below, the RV with the deck is ours. The fifth wheel belongs to my oldest daughter and her husband, Heather and Henry. They just took it off the acreage a couple of weeks ago, so that means our guest quarters has rolled away!
The RV with the deck is ours.
As Henry was pulling their fifth wheel down our private road, Sgt. Dave was guiding them because the growth in our forest over this past summer has been phenomenal.
Henry did a great job getting the fifth wheel off the land and onto the road for their home near Fort Worth, Texas, which is about four hours away from us. The following week, we would be traveling to see them for our grand-daughter's first birthday.
We have two entrances/exits to our acreage. The other side has the
massive commercial-grade culvert. This side does not have one. But,
Henry has a big truck that handled the hauling, perfectly.
As for our own RV, it's good for me to get so sick of the RV that the construction process will become more delightful. I feel as if I am running a marathon, but getting nowhere. Life can be like that, especially when the process is daunting.
Truthfully, part of the fear about digging in and starting the actual build process is that I will make a decision that really cannot be changed because it won't be affordable to make the change or it won't be structurally feasible. I am trying to build us a house that we have never seen, yet it is very close to what we have seen in person and is rather simple, even so, it is 100% custom. It is similar to the house we shared previously, but also a lot different, as far as siding, color, roof color and such is concerned.
My fear with getting started is that my time to back-track and change my mind will no longer be an option.
I remind myself that we are never stuck with anything in life, yet it is something that I can see is a struggle for my personality. It's been a learning lesson for me to discover more about myself during this process.
From House Beautiful on-line. I love some white in a kitchen. I love this
color, but my last house had green cabinetry and not everyone loved them.
One thing is for sure, once we are back in a house, I will be incredibly thankful to have SPACE.
This past year of being in a cubby hole, in a's been nice, in a way, especially to allow us time to live on our land, to simply "be" and to figure things out regarding the seasons with drainage on the acreage and such. However, I well surpassed my expiration date for RV living.
We better get back on track because my steam seems to let out a lot faster these days. As for my whining, here are some things on my mind about being tired of RV life...I need space to stretch out; I want my bookshelves to be full of my books; I want my piano to play during melancholy moments; I want a guest room ready at all times for my kids and grand-grandbaby to enjoy; I want a bathtub; I want a full kitchen with a real refrigerator/freezer that is FROST-FREE; and I want a real sofa to stretch out upon.
All of these things are luxuries, I know. And the world has such major issues that weigh upon me like a lead-weight, but in my tiny corner of this existence, these are my current feelings about RV life.
Perhaps this coming week will be a positive move toward finishing the floorplan changes, so we can keep moving forward until the day comes when we can call a permanent structure "home" instead of this box with a hitch. Ha Ha. Yes, I have the RV blues.

Monday, September 8, 2014

# 525 - Celebration in the Country! Nana for a Year!

On this week, a year ago, I became a Nana.

Heather & Henry watching their baby girl dive into her first-birthday cake,
face first. Such a wonderful moment!

Actually, on Labor Day, September 1st, my first daughter, Heather, gave birth to our first grand-child, Coraline.

This past week, we traveled to the Fort Worth/Dallas area to celebrate Coraline's first birthday. We had a glorious time with her.

Even better, we had made reservations at a nice local hotel, but our daughter's in-laws insisted we stay in their guest house, so we decided to stay with them. Since we are all truly one big family, it was better to be at a family member's house than at a commercialized location.

My son-in-law's parents' home - their "pool house." It is very comfortable.

I love my daughter's mother-in-law...we call her "Blondie" and she is a beautiful woman. I feel as if my daughter gained a great mother and father-in-law in her marriage, and I gained a new friend who I feel as if I have known a lifetime. Henry's father, Herman, is a great guy as well. He put up with us two women going for a night-time swim, then staying up past midnight on the back patio chatting it up and laughing as if we have been friends forever.

Sgt. Dave was thrilled to stay with the "in-laws" because he has back problems and had just had his back injections and nerve cauterization done on the day we left for our out of town visit, and their guest bed was super comfortable for his sore back, and their pool was refreshing.

In spite of all the physical work Sgt. Dave handled for the birthday party, he was able to handle it better because of the great accommodations.

As for Heather, she experienced mixed emotions over her first baby turning a year old. She has thoroughly enjoyed having her first baby and has been a wonderful mother in her first year of motherhood, but the sadness at the first year being "over" struck her rather hard.

But, I reminded her that each year will be so exciting and she might feel as I did, "Oh, THIS year is my favorite, really, this one!" And each approaching year will hopefully be the BEST year and BEST phase ever with her children.

I loved every year. It's hard to believe that each year surpassed the last, but it did, and it still does.

However, we do love our babies. It can be difficult to see the "baby" in your baby fading away because those days are full of sweetness, innocence and dependence, but all of that is counter-balanced with a lot of work needed during that first year, which makes it a tad easier to welcome the more independent days that are to come.

God is mighty wise in His creations!

Coraline's first bite of s'mores as
Nana holds her at the lake on her
REAL birthday! She is giving her
daddy those twinkling eyes of
delight. More s'mores please!
I do love being a Nana. It is probably the most joyous position I have held in life. Being a parent was the best, but being a Nana brings such happiness, especially since I am not having to change diapers at 2am on a regular basis.

I have now been a Nana for a year, well, for just barely over a year, and that baby gal has brought me a level of joy that only a baby can bring, minus the diapers, and that's a fantastic kind of happiness!

Friday, August 22, 2014

# 524 - Country Home Construction - Sneak-Peek Preview of Exterior!

Well, here is the house that we will have built...with some tweaks.

It will not have the log-cabin siding, but will have hardy-plank that will be painted white, with a dark grey metal roof for contrast.

Sgt. Dave used an ap that kind of gave the house the look it would have with our supplies, colors and trim. I'm standing on the front porch of this picture, texting someone.

Our look will be more in keeping with a Colonial Farmhouse style.

The main living room and formal dining, well, the only dining room, will have vaulted ceilings and lots of natural light. You can catch a peek in the photos I am sharing.

Upstairs, there is a small loft area, a bathroom, a bedroom with nice sized walk-in closet and a functional hallway that will have bookshelving and room for storage and a second bedroom that will only have enough space for a twin size bed, but it will provide extra bunk space.

The builder is standing in the photo below with Sgt. Dave --- they are standing in space that will become our master bathroom. It is roomy and will be full of natural light.

Normally, I do not like staircases, unless there is a landing, at least one, to help break any fall that might occur. However, this stair will have sturdy railing at the side of banisters and probably a wall rail for additional safety. I think it will be okay. At the bottom of the staircase, it will be blocked by a custom-made gate to prevent any people or pets from going upstairs without us knowing.

In the shot below, Sgt. Dave is standing inside our Master Bedroom. I like the location. We have a lot of sound buffering because our bathroom and master closet seem to encase us into that corner of the bedroom. But, we might add a door from the master bedroom to lead us to the screen-in back porch. That would be enjoyable.

The ceilings in the master are not too high, they are just right. I don't want that window on the backwall where Sgt. Dave is standing---it has to go. In fact, that is the headboard wall and I don't want any solar heat coming through that wall, so it will likely be windowless and the other wall will have the beautiful outdoors coming indoors through a pair of great French Doors.

The room below...well...that's our master closet! Isn't it awesome? It's about the same size as the closet in our last home. It will have some built-ins to make it for efficient and to glamorize it a tad so that my country life will not dictate my wardrobe.

Here's another shot of the master closet.

The photo below is looking through the kitchen area to the large Mud Room with the backdoor. It is great and will also be tweaked, until just right for our needs.

We will need to re-configure the current plan for the A/C ducts, etc., as ours will be much higher on the wall so that we can use that space underneath as a hallway to walk to another room upstairs at the end of the house that would have been closed up as wasted space. We are using creative construction so that we can utilize every spare bit of living space this house has to offer.

The other home-owner has their house designed with the kitchen separated from the rest of the house, but that wont work for me. I must have my kitchen be part of the flow of traffic through the house - it's a critical room toward making things happen for every event. We all want to be together. So, I am moving the kitchen to where the kitchen has a straight line of vision all the way through the dining room and to the end of the living room. My sink will position me so that I am able to overlook everything while washing dishes.

Our house has ample architectural drama that will make the best of our natural light and the vaulted ceilings.

I love the openness of the house.

 The porches, we might do a tad different, but these are eight feet wide across the front of the house. Plenty of room for porch swings and hammocks.

 Our own view across our acreage will be very similar to what you see in the photo below.

 Very nice porch - the main porch across the front of the house.

Eight foot wide porches across front of house. Plenty of front porch moments will be seen across that space over the coming years.


 We will definitely have a covered carpet built with a drop-down-ladder for accessing the carport attic. Our wish list had been that we make that vaulted space an additional hang-out/living space for kids and company. So, we will see how it goes and how much more money it will cost to make this happen, if so, we will build the lower part of the garage with walls to enclose the space and build a true staircase to access the vaulted room. Perhaps we will build a safe walkway coming from the garage vaulted space to the upstairs loft in the main house. We shall see. I would like for the floors of the garage to be concrete, but we will probably do these after market to save money and to keep taxes down.

With hard work, we can build our dream home. It will take time and lots of careful planning, but I am now working on making the floorplan suit our lifestyle. At least we have the main parts of the construction process decided upon.

Our builder is easy to work with. He goes fast. He is a true custom builder and will move walls, ceilings, and do whatever you would like for him to do. For now, I am just thankful that we found a house that speaks to me...I BELONG TO YOU!

As I go along, I will share the changes we are making to the floorplan. Some of them will be unique. Some will be functional. Some will increase our storage and others will make our house a true home to enjoy.

I feel very fortunate that we are able to build a home that we both will love. Sgt. Dave and I look forward to enjoying our first candle-light dinner in this house....the celebrating of this milestone is important to us.

And then, we invite all the family for the best family gathering ever! In fact, we've already been stocking up on some AMAZING fireworks and we will have the first gathering begin with a really big bang and sparkling lights along with great food and a lot of laughs.

Closer and closer, every day. I am happy and grateful!