Saturday, October 29, 2011

#125 - Weird Numbers and a Big Bottom Lip!

For me, the number 38 has great meaning. First of all, I gave my mother her first grand-child when she was only 38.

Me holding Heather in Germany.

Since I am now 43 years old and have two grown daughters in their 20's, I am especially aware of how young my mother and I had been with having our children, which made her an extra-young-grandma.

Heather, Deputy Dave, Stefie, me, my mom and my Sissy, Robin.

What is extra strange about this is that my grandmother --- my mother's mother was also 38 when I was born.

Here is my grandmother in her 40's, holding my baby sister.

My grandmother had been 19 when she gave birth to my mother, my mother was 19 when she gave birth to me and I had been 19 when I gave birth to Heather. Those two numbers keep coming up this month...19 and 38.

Four Generations: My mother, me, my grandmother and my great-grandmother.
Of these four, the oldest, my great-grandmother has passed away
and my mother has passed away.

Thankfully, my daughters are in no particular rush to have children or to do things out of order with the get married first goal...we keep our fingers crossed! Since we've made it quite past the 19 year old phase for both of our daughters, there was no chance I'd be a grandmother at 38 years of age. I would have my hands full during my 38th year, but not with welcoming a life into the world...I would be 38 and having to say goodbye to my own mother as she went home to her Heavenly Address.

Here's my mom and my grandmother, we are actually on our
acreage for a family gathering. I feel so blessed that my mother was
able to see where we would be living during our retirement years.

However, as I remember what it felt like to be 38, I realize just how very young my mother had been to become a grandmother. Also, for so many generations in my family, when a woman got pregnant, the other women essentially went into mourning.

Here's my young mother with my baby sister.

It wasn't a really happy kind of news to get. Instead, the women grew very serious, even with crying and despondency. I never really understood...until today. All the grief was simply due to the woman becoming pregnant so young...a life full of responsibilities would be underway at such a tender age and each generation knew the sacrifices and the hardships that being a young mother would bring. I guess that each generation hopes the next generation could put off rearing children for just a tad longer.

And here's my young grand-mother with my baby sister.

Today was particularly tough. Deputy Dave has been doing some major work over at my parent's house and my job is to help go through a lot of my mother's belongings. My parents house is full of everything that symbolizes "mom" except for her presence. She's gone. She died about 5 1/2 years ago at age 57 after waging a war against breast cancer for about 2 1/2 years, and even though she wasn't a "survivor," she went BEYOND just surviving to being a warrior. A warrior doesn't always make it home from the battle and my mother fought such ugly chemicals and body distorting surgeries and endured radiation that literally drilled a dark, gaping hole into her body while blackening the surrounding skin as if it were charred by fire. She fought the cancer with everything she had, until the very end.

And on the day I said goodbye to my mother for the final time. I was 38 years old.

I guess I broke the expectation that we'd all end up a grandma at 38. I worked so hard to make sure my daughters went off to college so they would be educated and have choices throughout life.

Here are my two hoodlums. This picture has them looking "off"
but I still wanted to use it. The perfectly posed shots can be used another day.

But, at 38 years of age, I watched my mother die peacefully from home...the woman who gave birth to me at only 19 years of age, with a body riddled by polio...even so, she went on to eventually complete college studies all the way to the day she earned her Master's Degree in Education.

While juggling WAY too much at home, my mother managed to somehow get the three of us kids raised and on our way. Today, we're all great adults who treasure freedom, embrace a great work ethic, hold firm to our faith, and we each are raising our own loving families.

And here is teeny-tiny Stefie with ALL THE BLACK CURLY HAIR
that eventually turned blonde.

My daughters helped to break the pattern of three generations of women who were having babies by the age of 19 and creating grandma's at 38. Like Deputy Dave said tonight, "When the day comes for me to become a Pappy, I want to at least look and feel like one so I can act the part just right."

Here is little 1 1/2 year old Heather playing on her back-patio in Germany.

And I must say that my family proved that being a young mother is not such a tragedy afterall. Each generation did just fine and we are all college educationed, professional women who stand up for our beliefs. Things worked out just fine...only because we each had a strong mother in our corner.

Stefie....fuzzy, wuzzy in a blanket.

I pray that I will be here long after my daughters' each turn 38 years of age so that I can enjoy life for as long as the Good Lord will let me

Weird that Stefie hasn't joined our little family yet.
But, at this point, it wouldn't be long!

And since my mother's birth-date is November 19th...I have another number 19 coming up very soon that is meaningful to me, but my mom can be daughters are living it up and enjoying life a little bit before the hard work of babies begins. Thank long as I'm a grandparent BEFORE the age of 78!

I love this picture of my girls when so young. This epitomizes all that
they held dear to them in life...being barefoot, in the rain, holding their
own umbrella.

Friday, October 28, 2011

#124 - Starting From Scratch --- All Over Again!

Nearly ten years ago, when we purchased our acreage, it was raw land that had untold years of growth on it. Walking through the forest on our land, we would be in awe at the towering trees, the thick vines growing upward through the dark, dense canopy to reach the sunlight at the top of the trees and our feet would walk upon the soft pine needle paths through the forest.

Realizing that we would need some area cleared for us to enjoy on our weekend trips, we decided to clear a couple of acres of the dense underbrush. So, we hired a man with a bull-dozer to come to our property for three days of nonstop work so we could get on top of readying the land for our RV to be put into place.

All of these pictures are from ten years ago, when we first attempted to clear a little section of our land.

Mr. Bulldozer Man hard at work, pushing all trees that are being
cleared into a big pit that's on the land. And yes, he is fast.

How did we find Mr. Bulldozer Man? Well, we went to the little convenience store at the corner, asked around and the owner pointed out a bulletin board that listed a few locals looking for work. Presto!

With a good deal worked out for everyone involved, the bulldozer's capability amazed me. That little piece of machinery is pretty awesome. I almost feel like making a little manly grunting kind of noise when watching this piece of machinery in action...must be the nearly non-existent testosterone flowing through me.

Me woman; me like big machines, and me like lots of dirt...ugh, ugh, ugh. Or, whatever sound it is that a man would make as he listens to the engine purr.

Deputy Dave climbed on board and would help guide Mr. Bulldozer Man around our property boundaries so we could clear the perimeter and make it safe for our vehicles and RV.

Our RV ended up being there for three years. Sometimes, during the summer months, we would stay on our property for two weeks at a time.

Our daughters made friends with the local kids, often going to the skate rink on weekends. However, these country friends talked about their horses, about their FHA activities and living in the country while my daughter's talked about living in the NASA community (at the time). The girls actually became more broad-minded by this experience.

We had to hide the keys from this one. Stefie was dangerous.

And talk about dangerous...look at this one! Who said daughters were of sugar and spice
and everything nice? How about POWER, FIRE, and
Can we say, "Stop, Drop and Roll??
My oldest figured out that she loves the country and my youngest figured out that she loves the city. But, the great part is...they are able to live in either environment, they are quite flexible.

Back to the land clearing...I can tell you that it was quite sickening to watch part of our land be cleared of the dense underbrush. The bull-dozer driver happened to be knowledgeable about the trees and tried to reassure me that most of the trees that we were forced to remove in this area were "trash" trees.

Besides, we were only clearing a rather small area in the middle of the property for the RV to be tucked away, but it still felt painful every time a tree was pushed into the pit. Of course, we tagged oaks and steered clear of those. But the china berry trees and such were shoved into the pit.

Finally, we were able to see that it would be possible to drive our vehicles into and onto our property and to pull in a 30+ foot RV, turn around and have plenty of room to maneuver.

And, unlike our neighbors who very recently clear-cut their land, completely clear-cut it...we did not trespass onto their land and tear it up. In fact, we left our tree line between properties so that all of us would have ample privacy. Good thing we took this course of action because, little did we know, those land-owners would soon be bull-dozing everything in sight, including a few trees on OUR property.

We did our land clearing about ten years ago, the neighbors clear cut their land this past year, and I made a previous post about that shocking revelation upon one of our weekend trips to the land. They probably harvested their timber to sell to a lumber company. They also made quite a few turn abouts on our property with their heavy equipment making deep rivets and pits that our lawn tractor cannot traverse. It would take another pricey bull-dozer job to get things smoothed out enough again to correct the problems the neighbor caused on our property.

See, this is how we did work along the area that was owned by another
property owner...we kept a nice tree-line in these areas for privacy.
Oh well, so much for having mysterious country neighbors that we've never seen because no one lives out there in the boonies. Except for US...we will soon be living out there full-time. WE will be the neighbors of NO ONE in particular. For a city person, that is a heavy concept.

In the end, after the partial clearing of this little area of our land approximately ten years go, we were left with a bunch of dirt. But, the blackberry vines were completely torn to shreds in this zone and the dirt was so soft and composted that it was ready for the St. Augustine sod that we would soon be laying. More back-breaking work! But, so worth it!

And here is what the land that had been cleared once upon a time looks like these days...

The areas where we planted the St. Augustine grass so many years ago is much easier to maintain and harder for the Blackberry vines with their nasty thorns to break through. Plus, the grass continues to spread out farther and farther each year. The runners from the sod stretch themselves outward like fingers trying to close around everything in sight. We love this part about St. Augustine grass. And for Texas, it is hardy and safe for farm animals.

Before the mowing took place, but the area in the back that had once been
totally cleared is now covered with more towering trees. You can't really tell in
the photo, but there are probably fifty "new" trees in this one area we had
cleared and half of those are over fifteen feet tall already.

Yep, this is part of the area we had cleared. But, it hasn't been taken
over by St. Augustine grass yet, so you can see the blackberry thorns
heavy throughout this area. Not a place to walk barefooted or without
jeans because those vines will wrap around you leg and leave their mark!

All of the trees that have grown over the past ten years in the "freshly tilled" ground will serve a greater purpose as we begin to build on our property. We will harvest this area of trees to use for projects here and there.

Most of all, the power of mother nature is staggering. Since we have not been able to live on our land full-time, all the work we do on any given trip seems to magically disappear because of rapid growth. This land is extremely fertile and has natural springs below it...a perfect recipe for the most monstrous Miracle Grow capability you've ever seen.

However, I'm ready to figure out how difficult it will be to "tame" this land once we're living there on a regular basis. Getting started in the woods is a challenge. The Big Thicket can be overwhelming with its prolific growth, but I'm ready, willing and semi-able! At least I can start the slow process of putting down more St. Augustine grass or we can harvest some of the sod that's already in place and begin planting more plugs of St. Augustine all around the property.

Then, we will see what it looks like in the NEXT ten years! Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

#123 - Commuting Changes

Most of our lives, Deputy Dave and I have held professional jobs that required us to make trips into downtown Houston. For Deputy Dave, he's been driving back and forth to downtown Houston , daily, for about 17 years straight now. Wow!

From our house within the Harris County limits, he drives mostly down highways lined on each side with chemical plants, refineries, holding tanks, massive pipeline; he passes over the Ship Channel loading docks and he shares the road with an inordinate number of big rigs since this zone is their territory for loading and unloading.

Houston is very large and the county that holds Houston also holds multiple cities outside of Houston...Harris County is one Big Bad County to live in. The other counties that surround Harris County are known for being more "country" and more "laid back" without a city council ready to make ten new ridiculous rules for home-owners to follow this next year. Living in Harris County is turning out to be more and more expensive. We want out of it.

But, Polk County, which will be our new county, is still full of rural land and country people. Polk County holds the county seat and that helps with growth in the city, but things still stay rather slow and easy around that area. It's nice.

I've been reading lately where people all over the country, some in New York, some in California, some in Florida...will drive up to one and a half hours to get to their way. Just to live where they want to live, to get out of the city, to get away from the craziness that comes with congested city life...people will drive a long commute.

Currently, it takes approximately 35 minutes to get from our house to Deputy Dave's downtown destination; however, if there is a tad bit of traffic that stands in his way, that time-frame can change in a snap. Once we move to Livingston, that drive will increase by about 15's about 50 minute drive one-way from our land to his downtown destination.

However, the drive from Livingston is a beautiful drive. Since the freeways and highways have all been expanded early to be top of the line travel choices, it is pleasant to ride in the expansive five-car lane and to only see small towns and country life with trees and rail-lines running alongside the freeway...all the way to Houston.

And as Deputy Dave returns home, he will pass by these same things on the freeway, but as he gets closer to our home, the lanes go down to four lanes, then two lanes and the highway is rolling on gentle hills with scenery that could come straight from a post-card. He'll mostly pass by our historic old town, a few churches, some old farm houses with their antique farm equipment left up near their frontage to pay homage to the farmers of yesteryear and he'll pass the towering trees on each side of him and a couple of mom and pop diners and convenience stores, then he'll turn onto our road and he will know that his home that is sitting on several acres is waiting for him to walk its woods, to visit the farm animals, to cast a line into our private lake or to go build something in his wood workshop...he won't have to do some fast and careful maneuvering to get into his own driveway, there won't be bumper to bumper cars blocking the way to his own driveway; he can take in a deep breath of fresh air and won't have to smell putrid chemical released air that is so thick that you can taste it, no he'll be breathing fresh, clean forested air.

The house that he walks into won't be on a concrete foundation, it will be built on pier and beam, so there might be some creaking here and there. Kind of like a farm house is supposed to creak. Polished wood surfaces will greet him and make him feel warm and proud. I might even learn to bake apple pie...then I can add to this scenario that he will walk inside to the smell of warm apple pie. Yes, I can do that or I can at least buy a Mrs. Smiths to start with...

Anyway, the point is...the commute from Houston to our country home will be a tad bit of extra time but the payoffs that he will be surrounded by once he arrives will make it so worthwhile.

And every weekday this wife will be waiting to hear his truck rumble down the road or to hear his economical car whiz my direction because every moment out on the farm our wooded paradise...will be worth it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#122 - Lightening Our Load Takes Work

The holidays are coming. This means that our house will be full of family and friends. Usually, we have Thanksgiving at our house. This year, our oldest daughter will be coming into town with her fiance for the turkey dinner and the house is often crammed with fun and laughter.

The good thing about having gatherings at your house is that it forces you to clean and to get organized so that your home can be full of people. Having company on a regular basis keeps you living honest.

A Christmas gathering at my brother-in-law's house.
I love being with my brother-in-laws. Both are wonderful men.

One thing that I would like to quit doing is to quit waiting until we are going to move before we kick the house into high gear for future showings. But, as a former Real Estate Broker, I know what I used to tell my own clients, "How we live to sell is not how we normally live."

Putting the house up for sale means that moments like these
might be interrupted for a pack of strangers to come passing through.

For now, I've been walking around making my punch list for things to do to sell the house, such as paint the exterior, catch up with the caulking, replace a couple of window sills and a main item on the list is to finally replace the front leaded glass door that our dog Howdy has gone through a couple of times.

I've been painting so that the walls have a fresh color and I've been giving the baseboards a clean white coat of high-gloss paint. Things are looking pretty good.

Of course, when it comes time for the showings to begin, we will have to move the chicken coop to the grassy area behind the garage so that it won't be the "main event" of the backyard. And, we'll need to add a little picket fence to the area behind the garage for a nice dog run for the dogs to stay in while we are having showings.

Since the dogs are not really allowed upstairs, not allowed on the carpeted rooms...they are already kept under control in the house and only on the tiled areas that are easy to maintain. I know people looking to buy a house do not like to visit other people's animals, so they will be kept out of sight as best as possible during the listing period.

Hot and sweaty working day outside with Howdy.

Speaking of our listing time-frame...I always dread that part of selling the will get the potential buyers who want to come look at the house during dinner-time. But, you've got to be flexible and realize that those buyers will keep on looking, they'll go to the next appointment and perhaps find a house that they like instead of your own. So, once our listing period begins, I'll be prepared for the sight-seeing crowd to begin traipsing through the house.

And yes, unlike the TEST that my daughters gave me in this see if I was paying attention...I will give the sale of
our house my every attention so it can be sold for the highest
amount of money in the shortest period of time possible.
As for the sign language...very funny my sweet angels.

The worrisome part is the state of our economy. Deputy Dave and I have always sold our houses very quickly, but this economy has changed the way people buy and sell houses. Some people can hardly give their house away and some buyers won't be able to buy for years and years. Things are not easy on either end. So, there's a side to me that is concerned that we will sell our house very fast, too fast, and there's a side to me that worries that the house will sit and sit and sit without selling because we won't be able to get a qualified buyer in this hard-to-please-the-loan-officers kind of economy.

Stefie has already signed up for her Spring semester away from home. She has her plans to move; she's working in a solid, forward motion toward a bright future of her own. So, as of January, she won't be living here our our house any longer. Boo hoo. My baby will be leaving on a more permanent basis. But, this means that we could put our house up for sale, technically, around December 1st.

Since it takes approximately 45 days for a closing to take place, even if we got an immediate buyer, the closing date would not take place until sometime in mid-to-late January.

Moving means saying good-bye to seeing this when we leave our neighborhood.

But, we'd still get to be in our house throughout the holidays, regardless.

Sticking that "For Sale" sign in the yard is a big commitment. Having a deadline for that sign to go in the yard will also push us into full speed motion to get the punch list items completed to prepare the house to sell. Knowing the sign is about to go up will light a fire under us. A big fire.

A good fire will be lit under us, hopefully not a refinery/chemical
plant kind of fire that lights up the entire area.
I won't miss the chemical leaks, the "Shelter-in-Place"
drills nor will I miss the horrible smells that come with this industry.

Lately, another thing I've been doing to sell the house is to go through old files, old paperwork...a pain in the rear job that must be done. I cannot believe all of the old paperwork we've had that needed to be shredded. So much of our younger years, the memories, old days gone by...those days are gone, but not forgotten as we move forward onto this next phase in our life. Letting go of the past and embracing the future can be scary, exciting and full of surprises. Oh, I know the surprises are coming.

With good, solid planning, I hope to avoid as many unpleasant experiences as we can.

I am ready for new surprises, the fun kind, such as when we
are learning to do these sorts of things, as shown in the books.

For now, the timing of when to put the house on the market is the question. I think we will actually be able to move forward much faster than we had originally planned. I believe we can buckle down and get to the nitty gritty of moving as soon as possible.

More than anything, I dread packing. During our lifetime, between living the military life and coming back to America...renting, buying, upsizing, downsizing, upsizing and now moving to the country...I have packed and unpacked so many times that I can't keep count. When we were younger, I had the process down to a science and could be finished in three days flat. These days, it takes infinity. I'm slow. I'm trying to get rid of the excess right now so I won't have to pack and unpack it again, but it's difficult. The good thing about moving is that it FORCES you to go through the recesses of your closets, drawers and cabinets. And, I'm always amazed at how much junk that can be accumulated.

And, these two cuties in the picture above and the picture below, these are our REAL babies of today...these two go with us to the farm!

And all of our clothes that magically shrunk in our malfunctioning dryer will have to be donated or sold at a resale shop! What to do with those nice clothes that suddenly do not fit so nicely? Darn those shrinking dryers! Those clothes will have to be cleared out of the closet and drawers, they can't be taken with us...unless we expect to get Farm-Fit and lose some pounds by working the land every day. Maybe I'll go ahead and pack the too-small clothes...they just might fit again by the end of this coming summer.

Moving to the country will give Howdy HOURS more of this
kind of fun every day. I hope he can handle it!
Well, I need to get that For Sale sign in our yard because I've got some old nick-knacks to part with, some more papers to shred and ultimately, I am eager to shed those Farm-Fit pounds!

Lightening our load takes a lot of work.