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Thursday, July 7, 2011

#47 - WARNING: Ponderings of a Rambling Woman

As a Texas gal, I have grown up around country spaces, but I've always resided within the county limits of Harris County, which is mostly Houston, the largest city in Harris County. Our careers have revolved around the city of Houston. I love Houston, and it has served its purpose for a time in our lives, but we are ready for a big, permanent change as we keep working toward re-locating to our acreage.

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.
Some areas of Texas are chock full of farms, one after the other, but the Greater Houston area is not like that. In fact, we live on the outside of Houston near the Gulf of Mexico, which means our life has mostly included fishing, water activities, lots of fresh seafood and salty breezes, plus a couple of Hurricanes. Regardless, we've been aching for a change of scenery as we slowly make our move out of the Houston area and into the country.

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.
Whether we are in the city or the country, I guess we have enjoyed the double-goodness of being able to embrace diversified environments.

My youngest, Stefie, as she would sit in her FAVORITE reading spot.
This was the only horse we had room to keep!
As a resident of Greater Houston, I grew up hearing about oil wells and oil fields. In fact, the town where I first lived as a young girl was the area for filming the movie Urban Cowboy with John Travolta. My dad worked off that Hazmat (Hazardous Materials) Highway in one of those refineries where the "Uncle" in the movie was killed. Yes, we have lost family friends through the years from explosions and plant accidents. Both of my brother-in-laws, on my husband's side, work at refineries/chemical plants. I think about how Urban Cowboy was a fun movie, but the drama laid out was not far from the truths of our local culture.

This is what we see as we are pulling into our city.
Lovely landscape. Am I ready for the country move? Yes!
The movie reminds me that at 14 years of age I danced my first country dance with a young man at the original Mickey Gilley's. That same day, in the adjoining rodeo arena, I witnessed my first rodeo bull-riding death as I sat watching three rows above the terrible scene. The bull got the better of the young man and after he hit the dirt, he didn't move again. Paramedics rushed him off site, but didn't give details. The rodeo took on a somber mood, but continued. Later that night, the local news station revealed the foul ending of what had surely began as an exciting day for that young man. I grieved for him and his family.

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.
I was born in Houston, Texas. The South is in my blood and soul.

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!
There is certainty that I will not miss living among refinery-land, but the land of oil production has been ingrained in me from birth. My dad even worked for years on an off-shore oil-rig as a welder. His idol had been Red Adair - the famous personality who could cap a fire raged, blown oil-well. Further back, when my dad was a teenager, his uncle owned oil-wells and after he finally struck oil, he passed out little bottles to everyone in the family that contained oil from his first well. That little bottle of "Texas Tea" signified big things, such as faith, taking a risk, living a dream, sacrifice and hard work.

My tall daughter on the right with her friend as we were camping near
our acreage and taking time to ride horses. Heather & Stefie loved hanging
out at the stables and the owners would let my girls help out by grooming the horses
 and doing chores at the stable. Horse Heaven.

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.
Currently, I do have a cousin who has a beautiful farm and ranch; we have held family reunions at his place.

The family at Bo's house for one of our reunions. An unusual bunch, for sure.
Several years ago, my cousin took me into his barnyard full of farm animals. He knew I was a skittish city girl, but he was determined to show me the good stuff that can be found on a farm. Into a fenced area, he led me to a donkey! Didn't these beasts kick and behave ornery? I did not feel comfortable; it took all I had to not start running like a lunatic to get away from his docile donkey. My cousin stood holding the donkey firm and he tried to get me to pet it, as if the donkey were a household dog. My cousin, Bo, kept saying, "Get over here and pet this donkey! I've got a good hold of him; he won't hurt you, actually, he won't hurt a fly, but he WILL kill a coyote."

Gasp.

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, my girls and myself at one of our family
reunions. Bo is playing his traveling "medicine man" historic act.
Bo and Susan provide incredible entertainment.
Bo actually had an appearance in "The Newton Boys" featuring
 Matthew McConaughey-hey-hey.
In the movie, you can see Bo doing this same act.
He is a walking riot and Susan is beautiful, always.
Soon, I began to see the donkey as if it were a strange kind of household pet. My attitude toward donkeys were forever changed by that encounter. My prejudiced mindset toward donkeys had been altered. Later that day, Bo's wife told me that when the donkey was born, she'd sit outside with it in her lap, for hours, and she was content with simply existing in a peaceful, nurturing state with this awesome creature. With each pet down his mane and back, I began to understand. On this day, just a few short years ago, I learned that donkeys COULD be adorable. During my time of bonding with the donkey, I began to forget about the wasps that were still buzzing overhead. For anyone who knows me, this was indeed a miracle within itself.

My cousin Bo Franks, me, my sister, my mom and Deputy Dave
during a family reunion at Bo's farm and ranch.
My cousin also taught me, according to his experience with ranching and farming, that mules are more intelligent than horses. Bo actually "shows" his donkeys and mules at rodeo and livestock shows. The ribbons and plaques on his walls demonstrate his pride and knowledge. His amazing wife, Susan, brought out the mules for my daughters and for the other kids at the reunion to ride. With their powerful, swift movements, I was impressed. I'd always been a horse-loving gal, so this was another new Farm Life Lesson. Of course, these mules were of top quality blood-line with constant training and a gorgeous environment; these mules were treasured. My cousin looked so happy on that farm and his sharing it with us brought each of us great joy, especially us people who were city dwellers.

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. 
After our visit, we drove back home. At this time, we had a Houston address and were not so thrilled to be leaving the farm my cousin had shared with us. As we drove farther away from the country, we all became deflated. My husband and I had always owned a place in the country to offset our city craziness, but we weren't as satisfied with living the majority of our time in the city. Things were lop-sided. The city didn't look as stellar to me as it had in the past. Deputy Dave and I began making rough plans for some big changes so we could make a move to the country; we even bargained with our daughters --- for leaving their city life, they would get horses. All agreed upon the terms and we began to look for a larger piece of acreage than the piece we'd already had for years in The Piney Woods. Life seemed to be looking brighter than ever; however, we all experienced a drastic jolt after I became critically ill.


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.
It's taken a long time for us to get back on track and for me to feel comfortable enough to make "future" plans beyond the approaching evening. Fighting for your life on a huge scale can do that to you. My five-year plan that I tweaked every year was out the window. Five years? I would be happy for five more days. Life was different.

Bo demonstrating his "Hair Tonic" that's guaranteed to grow hair.
My dad is his willing test subject and after a bit of tonic was rubbed
onto his bald head, he went behind the blanket that's strung up
and came out with a head full of hair. Got to buy those tonic bottles!
Even so, we continued to make our country dreams fit into our lives. After I became seriously ill, we sold the place in the country that was on the Lake and we bought nearly ten acres, again in The Piney Woods, but this land was raw and densely wooded. Our acreage came at a time when we most needed it. Weekend trips to our land transported me away from my crumbling health as the chaos of the city began to close in on me. The remaining fragments of the city girl in me began to disintegrage as the country girl in me grew stronger. I craved simplistic livng in its most raw form.


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.
As for our acreage, it came at a time when we, as a family, needed healing. Therefore, that ground will always be sacred to me. It provided a closer tie between me and God. It seemed that the closer to the dirt I'd get, the closer to God I'd be. Maybe that's why we have such an intrinsic need to have a vegetable garden or to obsess over the plant in the corner of the living room. After all, the soil of the earth holds our beginning and our end.

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.
As usual, I found that being tucked inside the palm of nature provided a healing perspective. How can nature break through our defenses and speak so loudly without saying a word?

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.

10 comments:

Mike said...

Hope your journey to the country life comes quickly. I'm stuck in the city limits but, will never give up my quest to be back in the country. I should have never left but, life has other plans.

Alex said...

Quite a journey this far! I wish you the best as it continues, and I look forward to reading about it as well!

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Hey Mike! I think the journey is always half the fun, so I am trying to learn from every step along the way. I'm thankful to have such a beautiful place to go to, but it sure can be overwhelming because, to us, it is so much land and is so densely forested, expect in one little area. But, we sure do love going every chance we get and one day, before too long, we'll be out there and won't have the house in the Greater Houston area to worry about! Just the thought lowers my blood pressure.

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Hey Alex! --- I guess we all have our complicated reasons in life for doing what we do...mine are the same as everyone elses. It seems as if we are always searching for purpose and meaning; being on our land is very fulfilling to me. I love where I am now, but there is something about being on our land, in the middle of thick nature that is so awesome. I guess the beauty of such places in the country never ends and it keeps me inspired.

Paula said...

You have a great story, Miss Lana. In fact, a lot like mine in some ways...
I was born in the country and lived there all my life until my hubby and I got married... my mom (who was my best friend also) was very ill at the time and even though we had bought some property in the country (where we live now), we felt it best to stay close to my mom.
Unfortunately, the only place we could find to live near her was in the "city" in a subdivision, and it was a terrible commute for both of us to work, not to mention neighbors in your back door and close on either side. (Which neither one of us was used to.)
So I feel your pain...
However, I'm so glad we made that "sacrifice", because my mom passed away one day shy of mine and my hubby's 2nd wedding anniversary. We then sold our house and built where we live now... it's been a long journey to this point but I wouldn't change a thing.
Hang in there...
((HUGS))

LindaG said...

Wow. A week of posts in one! ;-)
You know I sympathize with you about mowing. It's definitely not easy when you're not there.

Yay for cowboy boots! I couldn't wear them but I sure do like to look at them. :)

I'm from Michigan...
I had one of those rocking horses when I was growing up, too!

They have refineries like that in Baton Rouge.

Animal Cops Houston... Your dogs look like they had a great time at the beach. :)

The hope is that by the time we are ready to retire we have a kitchen, one bath and one bedroom so that our next family reunion can be held at our farm. I think we only have 2 more years on the time we were given. A lot of people offered to help, but none have so far. Except for my brother, who travels from Michigan when we can vacation at the same time.
Oh well. I don't see the money being there, but we'll see. :)

That 'Medicine Man' show is wonderful. Bo looks like a great guy.

*hugs* Hope you all have a Blessed weekend. ♥ :-)

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Hey Linda --- I know, right??!! Actually, I had been working on a few posts and just decided to combine them. What the heck! I was in a deep thought process lately and had to let it out. Us artistic/writer blogger types are impossible!

Isn't it a small world? My daughter and her fiance are actually in Michigan right now, for her best-friend's wedding tomorrow. She loves it there.

I wish we would've kept her little rocking horse. We sold it a few years ago in a garage sale. But, she sure loved it. I also had one that was similar. Those moments are so beautiful!

I'm with you on the cowboy boots; I haven't worn a pair in...hmmm...I don't know how long! I'm not sure I could walk around in them, but they do break in and become quite comfortable, giving great protection to your feet. But, I've become a flip-flop, sandal kind of girl long ago and that is going to be difficult to change. And you may have inspired me to just write about that very issue...it'll have to change once we get moved, I can't walk around every day on the land with my feet so exposed.

As for Animal Cops in Houston - that always gets my blood boiling. People around here do have horses crammed into every spot imaginable and some of them are so mistreated. We Texans have so many horses...I'd love to provide a home on our land for a horse or two that is rescued. I'll have to wait and see how that goes.

Since you are getting closer to retirement, I understand the thinking about just having a small home to meet our needs. Being out on the land will be enough space to allow you freedom. But, indoor space, too much just means more cleaning and more overall upkeep and maintenance. I think most people want to enjoy going to a farm, but not the hard work that comes with it. My family loves our land, but doesn't want to work it. That's fine with me, but my brother went out there a few times with his 4-wheel drives and TORE UP the land we had cleared and smoothed out to be able to ride a tractor over. He was completely CLUELESS. Augh. Of course, he's my "little" brother and is still learning! haha. People who don't have land do not understand how difficult it is to simply make the land smooth, without pits and dips so that it can be mowed without tearing up your lawn equipment. We had hired a guy with a tractor to do a lot of the major work, then we did more back-breaking work ourselves. Now, we are getting ready to put up gates at the entrances to keep people from driving onto it.

Hope you are doing great Linda!!!!

Lana at www.FarmLifeLessons.blogspot.com said...

Paula - I left a comment on your site, but I cannot express how much your encouraging story means to me. You give me inspiration that all the hard work in this journey is SO WORTHWHILE! I looked at the pictures on your post today and was overjoyed. Things worthwhile take sacrifice. I am willing to do what it takes to get moved out of the city! Thanks for the encouragement! I am blessed.

Anonymous said...

I came to a point in my life after my dad died that I finally decided I was going to take time for myself and let everyone else take care of themselves(I was always the one worrying about folks and helping out).
It wore me out and I am still 'getting better'.
You are a lucky girl to have someone who loves you so much'Deputy Dave'.
You two sound like two peas in a pod with like minds...that is great...not everyone has that...the person you are married to is also your best friend...I have that and appreciate it so much.
Your story is very inspiring.
By the way, Michigan is gorgeous.
We would like to retire THERE someday.
Beth (B)

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Hey Beth --- I understand what you are saying. After my mother died, I was forced to focus more upon my own health, especially because I had a 2nd cardio-thoracic surgery coming up. But, my mother's death was such an emotional time...I was so ill and my little sister was five months pregnant with her first child when our mom died. I guess this is part of the reason we want to move to the country, to enjoy the retirement years in deeper serenity. Deputy Dave is my fellow pea in our pod! Like most married people, we've had our ups and downs, but he is my best-friend. We really do love being together. He loves me, scars and all.

My oldest daughter is in Michigan right now for her best-friend's wedding and she LOVES it there; she says it is breathtaking beauty.

One day, I'd love to go there. Actually, I want to visit every state in the nation. I am so proud to be an American and every state is a part of us!! I can dream!