|Part of the land we REPEATEDLY tried to clear, but it will|
be a constant battle until we're able to live out there full-time.
The soil is rich and nature is in abundant growth on this land.
Even though I've not been closely involved with anyone living a "farm" life, I have been around ranchers, oil wells, BBQ'd food, fishing, horses and bull-riding for my entire life. Per our Texas roots, we raised our daughters to know how to ride a horse; those girls can bait and hook and reel in their own fish; they spent many happy times hiking throughout Texas; and they are brave enough to kayak in or to take a swim in a "watering hole."
On the flip side, my girls are comfortable throwing on a sheek black dress and attending an opera or a live play in the Theater District of downtown Houston, and my youngest can even sing in Italian with a powerful voice that defies her small frame. But, I also love seeing my girls in their beloved cowboy boots as they enjoy an evening of country dancing. My girls are serious about their cowboy boots...that's an entirely new story for another time.
|My oldest, Heather, at her fiance's parent's ranch in Texas.|
|Heather & Henry - visiting Michigan for the first time.|
My daughter Heather takes after her dad, she's almost 6 feet tall.
Henry is about 6' 5" and they make a good couple
If they have children, I think they'll be 7 foot tall.
|My youngest, Stefie, as she would sit in her FAVORITE reading spot.|
This was the only horse we had room to keep!
|This is what we see as we are pulling into our city.|
Lovely landscape. Am I ready for the country move? Yes!
And yes, I got in BIG TROUBLE for going to Mickey Gilley's...another story for another time.
So, Texas has taught me a lot, but Deputy Dave and I will be tackling our farm land with a gusto that comes with inexperienced determination. Actually, my husband has experience raising cattle, pigs, and so on and it seems to come very natural for him. I think we'll be just fine, but I expect a few nicks in the plan and we'll learn from them.
And, no, I am not rich. It seems that so many people think that Texas families own oil wells, okay, mine did, a long time ago; or they think that we all wear cowboy hats...I admit that I wear mine, especially to the beach; many people think we only eat BBQ'd food and I slowly realize that we own FIVE pits of varying sizes and the MacDaddy pit is used at least four days out of the week; and there was a time when I wished that I did not fit so firmly into the Texas mold, but I do. Maybe it's inevitable.
|Last summer, at the beach in Galveston, 30 minutes from our house.|
My mother taught school in a Houston inner-city school. Multiple times, we questioned her sanity for staying at the job. One time, a drunk father came into the school and held another teacher by knife-point at her neck; she ended up being okay in the end, but my mother stayed at her job. Then, she went to her car one afternoon after work to find all her hubcaps missing, in spite of the barbed wire fencing surrounding the teacher's parking lot. Another time, she was getting ready to start her car and quickly discovered the battery had been stolen. She did have sad moments, such as the time one of her favorite students was shot and killed in a drive-by. Then there was the time that a fifth grader in her classroom decided to bring a gun to school in his backpack; she saw him pull it out and she automatically went into her mad-momma mode and yelled, "Give that to me RIGHT NOW." She didn't even stop to think about her own safety, it just made her FURIOUS that the kid brought a gun to school and he was in T-R-O-U-B-L-E. The kid gave her the gun as his eyes were averted with shame. Did I mention that my mother taught from a wheelchair due to being a semi-hemi pelagic?
Yes, Houston has its good and bad points, but I have grown up with Greater Houston in my family's face, always loud and strong.
Of everyone in my family, my husband, Deputy Dave, has the most experience with all things Houston. Working for the Sheriff's Department for over twenty years will give you that kind of in-depth knowledge.
Like any place, Houston has its bad and baddest side, but it mostly has a beautiful side that offers nonstop mesmerizing excitement. Even so, I've had my fill and am ready to retire in the country. Waking up in the country has always been so inexplicably wonderful. Day to day life on our future farm land is full of nature's glory instead of artificial "improvements." I am so ready...
|Two other joys of my life. Lyla (Big Red) and Howdy (Blackie).|
This was another day at the beach. Howdy is a puppy here & is exhausted!
|My daughters the blond gals on the left-hand side.|
But, the cute gal in the front would end up to be Stefie's
dorm-mate during their first year at Texas A&M - Galveston.
|The family at Bo's house for one of our reunions. An unusual bunch, for sure.|
How could I stand still and pet the donkey as WILD chickens were running around my feet and wasps were buzzing my head? This was chaos! Yet, as the minutes passed by, my cousin remained insistent. Geez, Bo could be stubborn! Getting braver and stepping closer, I began to look into this donkey's eye (I could only see one side of him as he leaned firmly against my cousin) and I calmed down enough to sense this little donkey's gentle nature, his intelligence and his patience. Closer still, I found myself magnetized to the donkey, and I ended up petting it and petting it. Bo stood with a smile somewhere beneath his handle-bar moustache.
|My cousin Bo Franks, me, my sister, my mom and Deputy Dave|
during a family reunion at Bo's farm and ranch.
|At one of our reunions at Bo's house, my youngest, Stefanie, was|
being led on a walk with one of Susan's favorite mules.
At 33 years of age and as a very physically strong young woman, I found myself in and out of the hospital until I landed in a cardiac ward with all kinds of wires and IV's and such sticking out everywhere and I heard the "Code Blue" being called on the floor, but still could not conceive that it was being called for ME. All I can say is that from that point forward, things go fuzzy, but I THANKFULLY was in the care of a brilliant cardiologist who saved my life. Regardless, the road in front of us would be long, arduous and full of ugly twists and turns because my body had decided to fail. We all fought back. But, this health detour created a hitch in our plan to get moved to the country. From then on, our lives drastically veered into survivor mode; the dreams of a different life away from the city took a backseat to me simply wanting to maintain LIFE and to have another day with my family. It was not a time to make a significant move that would surely bring a culture shock.
|Last summer, day at the beach with family & friends to honor|
a friend who passed away.
So, our acreage joined our family during a time when we four were feeling displaced, shaken and uprooted from the normal securities in life. The land changed, yet stayed the same. It struck the core of our existence. There is no question that we are eagerly looking forward to an early retirement on our land. Nature...it's been a huge part of our lives; we don't shun being in the midst of untamed nature. Our land is raw; and fellow nature-lovers will understand, even if they are sitting smack in the middle of the city, that nature can beckon you and it can wrap itself around you and provide unexplainable healing.
|My youngest, Stefie, showing her fascination with snails.|
During the worst of my illness, there were times when I would cry because I craved being on our land. I wondered if I'd ever get to go out there again. And I don't cry easily. It's difficult to express, but I wasn't afraid of going there because I wasn't afraid to die. Yet, I didn't want to die and leave my husband and two young daughters. One day, my husband decided to take a chance; he'd take me to our land in spite of the health hurdles. I was too weak to do anything but sit on our land and be a part of nature on such a huge scale...to sit and watch the trees sway in the wind and to hear the birds singing...powerful sounds of nature not crowded out by city life. Deep within my soul, I needed this place. I had no idea that our land would hold such restorative powers, but it did.
There were times, against my husband's judgment, but to honor my wishes and to make me happy, he would take me there...away from the comfort of nearby Houston's Medical Center and away from the rapid response 911. He either gave in or trusted my instincts; I don't know which. Once on our land, he would set out a reclining lawn chair and practically carry me to it, bundle me in blankets with my book, drink and walkie-talkie so I could simply be there for hours, immensely happy during a very sad time in my life. Even though he'd stay within my eyesight, I didn't have the lung power to yell out, so he thought walkie-talkies would help. It was a good idea and it allowed him to work to clear the underbrush of an area while I sat and sat and sat...happily.
After our visit to the country, we would return home and I would feel as if tangible healing had taken place. How can nature have this power?
I don't know the answer to this question, but, for me, I needed to be on our land. It allowed me to focus on things other than a frustrating, useless television remote control, and it helped me escape the same four, dreary four walls that I'd been staring at for months. Beyond that, being on our land for short visits even gifted me with the ability to escape the grief-stricken expressions of visitors coming by. Like a germinating seed, I took root in life again and began to regain strength. Against odds that I can hardly believe myself, I was given a second, third and more and and more chances to the point of regaining more health than I ever thought possible. Most of my doctors did not expect this to happen...
Five years ago, my mother lay in my childhood home that was only six houses away from my own and she was dying from breast cancer. Since I lived so close by, I was often at her house or running errands (to the best of my stubborn ability) that she needed to have done. I was still not well. I'd had one dangerous cardio-thoracic surgery performed months before she died and the surgery left me with a collapsed lung and other serious surgical complications, but I didn't have time to even think about my own suffering because my 57 year old mother was dying.
Approximately two weeks before she died, I was confronted with the fact that she was indeed close to death, and I didn't know how I would handle it. Would I freak out? My mother was my best-friend. I could share anything with my mother. But, as death closed in on her, I asked my husband to take me on a day-trip to our land so that I could make my peace with losing my mother. He did. We loaded up the trailer and headed out, even though it had been a long time since we'd been to our land. M.D. Anderson trips had been our focus for so long...I contemplated losing a day with my mother, but I needed to do this.
As soon as we arrived onto our overgrown acreage, I sat on the lawn tractor for six hours straight that day; laying my heart's burdens with God. It seemed that the sounds of the tractor shut out all other distracting noise. I didn't even feel any pain in my body that had been surgically battered. I zoned out and made my peace with God's plan to take my mother.
While on that tractor that day, I wound my way around many towering trees as they stood tall and strongly rooted in their prime; I mowed around sapplings that would one day grow strong, with God's blessings; and I mowed around some old trees that finally succumbed to a life long lived with their majesty spread out on the ground to again become one with the earth.
|Our land, letting some trees fall to the natural cycle of life.|
I don't know, it just does. One thing I've learned in my Farm Life Lessons is that subtle happenings in nature can speak the loudest in our darkest moment, certainly louder than hard steel or cold concrete. Maybe this is the reason that city dwellers try to recapture a bit of nature within their man-made confines...the rooftop gardens, the rubber plant in the corner and the communal vegetable garden in an inner-city...it's healing connection time with greenery and dirt.
I treasure my personal haven where nature thrives unobstructed. This is the place where I find my own internal road blocks dismantled. Who likes road blocks anyway? Or honking horns? Or Sky-rise buildings...or...or...Starbucks...I am needing a trip to the country, desperately.