Wednesday, May 30, 2012

# 275 - Interesting Day, An Odd Cemetery Adventure

Being with my oldest niece this week has been a wonderful experience. Phoebe is 15 years old and for any girl, that is an age that is usually full of turmoil. This kiddo has been through a lot. I try to show her the side of life that is positive and the result of people embracing positive actions, no matter their circumstances.

We began our day at the voting booth for the primaries. When my own children were young, they always went with me to vote and there would usually be a "mock" booth ready for minors to have voting run-through so they could see what it is like to vote. Only, their candidates would be Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. I loved these mock booths because it gave kids a chance to learn how easy it is to vote, to see how important your vote can be and to feel comfortable voting.

As I took Phoebe with me to vote this week, I asked the voting administration if they still had those mock voting booths available and the man got a good heavy laugh rolling and said, "Noooo, We haven't had those around since the days of voting with chads."

So, Phoebe was able to walk over to the voting booth with me and we went through each selection, but it got REALLY interesting when the propositions came along. Her family is politically involved enough for her to understand each proposition and that's when the dial spinning at the voting booth became exciting and very important to her 15 year old mind. After I submitted my ballot, I told her that she'd soon be able to stand there and make her voice heard in a way that's more powerful than just complaining about who is elected.

Phoebe said she'd never gone with one of her parents to vote and it was interesting to see it up close and personal. It made it even more thrilling as we were walking into and out of the voting area and would hear people screaming for us to "VOTE FOR..." and they were the opposite candidate I would be casting a ballot for. Phoebe found that to be fascinating, almost as if she felt guilty as we left because she knew we didn't vote for the candidate that screaming woman wanted to get elected.

After voting, we drove to the odd little cemetery that is in our town. It's tucked out of the way and is the most eclectic, interesting cemetery I'll probably ever see in my lifetime...I wanted to share it with Phoebe.

This cemetery has people buried from about 200 years ago. It's small, already closed off to selling new plots, so the only fresh graves will be for those people who have previously purchased their plot.

Old trees grew all throughout the graveyard. During the day, this place is peaceful and even beautiful. However, at night, the draping trees, the wind blowing and causing the wind chimes throughout the cemetery to sound off, the little mini-fan-mills are whirling and it seems other worldly.

My sweet niece was automatically bothered by all the unkempt grave sites, especially ones like this one, buried to the point of nearly being completely engulfed by sod. She took the time beneath the hot sun to pull back the weeds, and in spite of the ant pile, she continued to pull away rogue runners until she could at least get the name and date of birth to show.

For several minutes she worked on the above gravesite and took it from being nearly concealed to becoming a clear grave-marker.

Many gravesides have seating at the end of the plot, as if the families enjoy coming to the grave for a long visit, maybe to sit and feel connected. We loved this bench that had cowboy boots for supports.

Sadly, this graveyard is full of gravesites that do not have regular stone markers. This gravesite is one of the rare few that allow anything you choose to be the headstone. The picture above is wood cut out with a jig-saw, the wood has been painted and the young mother who died had her name painted across the banner that the angel is holding. It's clear the family lost their angel. Two regular patio stones lay in front of the wood headstone, which is becoming quite weathered.

Some of the gravesites are so old that they are falling apart. After Deputy Dave saw this picture, he felt eager to get out there and reset the stone properly. Phoebe respectfully kneels down to give her attention to the person belonging to the stone and we were both surprised to read the year they were born...long ago.

Born 170 years ago in 1842 and buried in the ground for approximately 115 years already!

The cemetery history lessons kept coming as we felt honored to stand next to this marker that honored a man who served in the Spanish American War!

After standing and reading the first grave stone out of the two, which said, "Only one life that soon is past."

I read it and thought about how true that statement is, to all of us. Then, I stepped over to read the second stone of his wife who died ten years later and her marker read, "Only what's done with love will last."

"Only one life that soon is past, Only what's done with love will last."    ----  Beautiful.

Oh my gosh, each headstone had an independent message, but once the husband and wife were buried next to each other, each phrase connected to make a beautiful, poignant message.

How about old Arnold here who wants to be remember by visitors as having a good poker hand. He made me laugh out loud.

My heart always felt heavy for the families that had to build and decorate their own plots, yet these seem to hold more significance over the regular "store-bought" markers. This cement cross is for a 17 year old kiddo and I love that someone put cars all over his plot. He must have loved cars. Of course he would've, he was 17.

Phoebe paused to take a good look at this grave, designed by a family for their child. The wood base has vinyl stickers that seem to be enduring. The baby lived one day. I think this is one of the most precious graves I've seen for a child.

More fallen grave stones and two huge encasements that are oddly tilting into the earth.

Here's another home-made headstone for a young mother --- the children were allowed to put their bright handprints all over the cross. Beautifully done, with great significance to the child, I am sure.

I found this beautiful marker to have a fitting poem on the back of the stone. Read it if you can. It belongs to a baby who died after living for a few short weeks. There's a picture of the baby on the front of the stone and she is adorable, even with the hospital tubes and attachments sticking out everywhere.

As for last statements made on a headstone, this was one of Phoebe's favorites.

This next gravesite stopped us in our tracks. It was very clear that a Native American is buried at this location. There are dream catchers placed at the foot and the head of the grave. The engravings and picture on the headstone are paying respect to Native American icons. Phoebe felt very somber and drawn to this site. We stayed here for a while. My niece is more than 50% Native American, mostly from the Shoshone tribe, the same tribe that the famous "Sacagawea" belonged to.

Phoebe is mesmerized by Native American relics and tributes, as am I. We discussed the importance of studying and honoring our Native American heritage. But, this girl has a big dose of it. Her birth mother came from a tribe...the government came to her reservation and decided there were too many children with not enough tribes-people to care for them properly, so Phoebe's mother and brother, at five years of age, were removed and adopted out to a rich white couple in Houston. Things didn't go exactly as planned. A few years ago, the brother was shot and killed in Houston during a drive-by shooting and Phoebe's mother was not able to maintain her parenting role, so her step-mother eventually adopted her. Regardless, Phoebe has her heritage to remember and to honor. She's a very special niece to me.

Onward we went, until we came upon this site that indicated the old guy had served in Korea and had been a Prisoner of War. We thanked Al for his above and beyond service as we walked away.

Another customized "headstone" made by a family with an indent in the concrete to hold a bottle. We couldnt' tell what was in the bottle cause the label was partly missing. But, the sad part of the headstone were all the hand prints with carved names of those saying good-bye to the one they lost.

Now, here's the oddity of the graveyard. I guess every cemetery has its own. So many possibilities behind this stone, but I sure would like to get the real story about the message on the headstone. I am thinking of calling the city next week. I'll let you know if I find out anything.

Some markers are so old that the engraving has eroded to the point of being a mystery.

Phoebe tries, she hates to give up, but these stones are impossible to read.

This headstone and one other in the graveyard used the same line of poetry...the other stone (not shown) with this phrase engraved on it had lost his wife and child, during childbirth. It is clear from the size of that particular headstone and by the excessive engravings that the husband and father probably grieved himself terribly --- I don't have a photo of that huge headstone, but it has been there since 1909. However, this little one below says the same thing as the husband's tribute on the large marker,

"When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music."

Yes, after that one, I let go of a couple of tears. To know that kind of love is to find fulfillment.

And this was only part of our day together. Phoebe and I went on several excursions...each one provoking deep thought and interesting conversation.

It's doubtful that she'll ever see another cemetery such as this one...a cemetery where love itself is palpable.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

# 274 - Fishing Day Gone Awry

First of all, I wanted to give my regular readers an update. My biopsies came back clear! I have been thankful!! And my youngest, Stefie, has been doing great with her back rehabilitation...she had seen a Neurologist who was concerned that she had MS, so they did more MRI's of spine and brain, which showed everything to be clear! We've had a lot of reasons to celebrate around here! I have a CT-Scan scheduled for this coming week and hope the celebrating will continue!


Big Events can occur in our lives. Events of such magnitude that we are forced to stop in our own little tracks as the world itself continues to whirl around us. In these powerful moments, we are forced to confront changes to our personal evolution. Sometimes, find ourselves to be different afterward.

Deputy Dave experienced a Big Event this weekend and he's been taking a good hard look at life and how it can truly change in one blink.

This past Sunday morning, Deputy Dave planned a Memorial Weekend kayaking/fishing trip with his brother. Deputy Dave ended up launching his kayak at Mosquito Island. We live near the bay, close to Galveston, so ocean kayaking is a huge part of Deputy Dave's fishing lifestyle. On this morning, he'd left the house before dawn after he loaded up the kayak with all of his fishing gear, to include his sparkling new rod and reel. He stopped for a cup of coffee on the way to the water, then he set out to fish in conditions that made for slightly choppy water.

Still, it was a gorgeous day, perfect for fishing. As he kayaked, he realized that Kevin, his brother, would not be showing up. It seems his brother had partied too hard the previous night and would not feel like getting up early to paddle through the ocean for hours. So, Deputy Dave kept fishing, solo.

On a roll, he caught four trout. Early in the morning, around 7am, as he kayaked near the shoreline in continued solitude, he was happy to see a fishing guide appear nearby. The guide had one client onboard; fishing next to each other, they began to have a good conversation that included trading stories about their fishing techniques and successes over the past couple of days. Everyone savored the beautiful day at this rather remote location.

Photo from that morning.
Soon enough, Deputy Dave is off on his own again, but the excitement was just getting started because he hooked into an Amber-Jack and the pace of the morning suddenly changed to peaceful to a high pace adrenaline rush. Sitting in his kayak, Deputy Dave hears the reel spin with high velocity to create a screeching whine belonging to a reel being pushed to its limits. There were no breaks in the screaming of the line, it continued on and on, proving that the fight to land this fish would not be easy. So, Deputy Dave began paddling as fast as he could toward the fleeing fish on the screaming line; he needed to get to a point where he could start reeling, but not too soon or the fish would likely get away.

He didn't have to worry about boating traffic or competing fisherman in the area because Deputy Dave was out there alone, except for the fishing guide left back near the shoreline, the disappearing shoreline.

Once he began to reel and to fight the fish, Deputy Dave was fully enjoying his sharpened focus on catching the Amber-Jack, so fully that he'd not realized he was now approximately four miles from shore. As he gained distance from shore, it appeared the waters had also become more choppy and within seconds, the excitement twisted into dread.

An initial large rogue wave hit the front of the kayak so hard that it popped his front cover open and without a moment to gather a second thought, more waves battered the kayak. Since the front hull cover had been popped off by the sheer force of the wave, the following waves filled the kayak hull in an instant. In happened in seconds. Deputy Dave didn't even have time to panic as the kayak's front end dipped down into the depths of the ocean while the rest of the kayak followed into the depths to sink completely, tossing him out in the process.

Since the Texas sun had appeared before the kayak sank, it had become very hot and uncomfortable during the fight with the Amber-Jack, so in the frenzy, Deputy Dave had done the unthinkable, he'd slipped his lifejacket off and it had been laying behind him on the kayak. Thankfully, he managed to grab the vest as the kayak sunk. Slipping his arms in into the lifevest, he then leaned back in the water to get it zipped. He had one old fishing pole, the bag of fish he'd already caught, and he was able to swim to catch the paddle.

In shock that his kayak had disappeared into the ocean, he began looking around and no one was in sight. The shoreline was miles away. He tried to use the paddle to reach the bottom of the ocean floor so he could gauge the depth, which was apparently about 10 feet deep for that particular place. For a moment, he felt as if he might end up to be a Memorial Day statistic. He also knew that I would not raise the alert for many hours because he sometimes doesn't come back from fishing until around 3pm. In that case, if he couldn't get help or swim the four miles to shore, in increasingly rough waters, he might be in the water for 8 hours, at least.

Deputy Dave keeps an anchor on the boat and a miracle for the kayak occurred after it had tipped; the anchor fell out and hit ground to drag on the ocean floor. The anchor hitting bottom forced the kayak to be pulled against the current beneath the water. This action caused the kayak's front tip to again pop up above the surface, but only about three inches of the kayak reappeared topside. Deputy Dave swam over to the kayak to see if there were any way to get the kayak topside again. After many tries, it was apparent that there wasn't anything he could do to get the kayak to float. It remained almost completely submerged, except for those three inches that bobbed above the waterline.

Everything onboard the kayak was gone...the fishing net, cast net, two tackle boxes, brand new rods and reels, but the thing he complained about the most, with humor, was the cup of coffee that was wasted. The kayak went under with the coffee cup more than half full. The ocean finished off his coffee.

Little did Deputy Dave know, the fishing guide he'd left at the shoreline earlier that morning had been keeping an eye on Deputy Dave as he and his client continued to fish that area. The fishing guide had thankfully not rushed off to another fishing hole, instead, he had stayed put while watching Deputy Dave nearly disappear offshore. Obviously, the fishing guide felt uneasy about the entire situation, but he and his client kept fishing. The next time the guide looked up to search the horizon for the kayaker, he could not see the kayak or the fisherman who we all know as "Deputy Dave." The kayaker he'd been talking with earlier that morning had suddenly disappeared completely from view.

Most of us understand that this moment was a pivotal deciding point for Deputy Dave's survival; either that fishing guide could've shrugged off the disappearance as no big deal or he could've done exactly as he choose to do and acted upon the bad feeling with not being able to see the kayaker any longer. Fortunately, the fishing guide had alarm bells ringing, so he told his client that their fishing adventure would be taking a detour so they could go out a few miles to search for the kayaker that suddenly could not be seen in the distance.

Meanwhile, Deputy Dave is in the water, very frustrated. He's realizing how bad things have gone, in a blink of an eye. One moment, the morning was a beautiful fishing day with a nice fish pulling on his line and the next moment he's been forced to cut his line to try to save himself from capsizing, but it was too late...the waves had made up their mind to take him down. He was shocked that the kayak completely sunk.

As my dad said later that day, in this area of water, he'd not want to be out of a boat for ANYTHING. Deputy Dave didn't even think about the sharks in the area. He only thought about being so far from shore while facing the fact that no boaters were in sight. He'd only seen that one fishing guide in the few hours he'd been kayaking that morning. Ships were in the far distance, but he was alone in the water, relying on his lifejacket to keep him afloat. Minutes were ticking by. Personally, I don't know how he kept from panicking. But, he said that God gave him a deep sense of calm.

Then, after spending about 30 minutes in the water near the sunk kayak, he hears the motor of a boat approaching. He takes his paddle and waves it around in the air. He could tell the boater was searching for him because he kept circling in the same area. FINALLY, the guide kept circling until he found Deputy Dave in the water and the fishing guide joined Deputy Dave's shock at seeing the kayak submerged. The guide could not believe it had sunk. The scene must have been eerie.

The fishing guide owned a flat bottom boat. He and his client pulled Deputy Dave aboard, then decided they would try to save the kayak. Deputy Dave didn't care at this point, he was so thankful to be out of the ocean. But, the fishing guide and his client were determined to lug the kayak out of the water onto the flat bottom boat. Problem with that plan is that once they began to pull it onboard, the kayak instantly began pouring water out of the hull, about 400 pounds of water, onto the floor of the guide's boat. To make matters more complicated, the fishing guide's bilge pump was not kicking on, so his boat end started to sink.

The guide's client was determined to get the kayak on board, but Deputy Dave told the guide to start the boat forward so the water would flow off the back of the kayak into the ocean instead onto the boat floor. Frankly, Deputy Dave wanted to leave the kayak behind. But, the fishermen were determined to save the kayak. Finally, with the boat moving slowly forward, the bilge pump kicked on. Deputy Dave said it was another tense moment because he certainly didn't want to be in the ocean with two lost boats and three men stuck at the mercy of the ocean.

So, by the end of the ordeal, Deputy Dave had beautiful rescuers who saved his life and his boat. Everything on the boat could be easily replaced, payday to payday!

The wave hit so hard that it popped off the cover
to the hull, which immediately filled with water
from the following waves battering the kayak. In mere seconds,
the boat went under and Deputy Dave was tossed out.

By the time all three men reached the shore, it was still early in the morning, probably just after 9am. The fishing guide would not give his name because he didn't want to be thanked for saving somebody...he just thought it was all in God's plan, but he was definitely upset by the ordeal. He tried to go back out for more fishing with his client, but ended up making a short circle to come right back to shore and load up as Deputy Dave himself was getting ready to drive off.

Deputy Dave said he'd never forget this man's pro-active mentality that led to life-saving actions. If that man had been flat out lazy or disinterested, Deputy Dave might not be around to enjoy more days of fishing. It's great that Deputy Dave had someone, a stranger, looking over him...God put him in the right place to find himself tossed out of a sunk kayak.

And since the Deputy has means of tracking down anyone he'd like in this area, the thank you is not an issue he'll drop. It wouldn't matter if this man were up for murder next week, he'll be getting a thank you from Deputy Dave. Since the guide didn't have any official signs on his boat, he'll be found through other methods. But after a bit of research is conducted, we will probably set up a fishing trip with him and do it on a personal level.

Even though Deputy Dave's brother wasn't there that morning, it worked out beautifully. I felt, if Kevin had been there, he might have tried o save Deputy Dave and the situation might have been worse. Regardless, Kevin would have had those same brutal waves hit his own kayak. Even though his kayak is newer and more stable, it's still a kayak, subject to Mother Nature's mean hand. Getting a capsized six-plus-foot man back to shore with one kayak between the two would not have been an easy task.

I don't care how "good" Kevin's kayak is built, they are all dinky floating toys compared to the ocean's wrath.

Later that same day, we went to meet my sister at The Top Water Grill for her birthday. We did our best to keep moving through our day, as if the ocean had not tried to claim my husband for its own treasure.

I'm glad we actually got to celebrate a birthday on this day and not be forced to conduct a search and rescue mission. At the restaurant, as we waited for everyone else to show up, Deputy Dave took a few moments to savor his second chance.

And to have a few beers.

Beyond our own happenings, for Memorial Day weekend, I spent a great deal of time thinking about those who have served and given their life in service to the United States of America; I thought about those in the military who have been injured and are impacted for the rest of their lives; I spent a great deal of time thinking about those who served and will be forced to forever confront the demons in their mind...coming home to find the enemy locked inside their own head is something that we should accept as part of serving in the military...I always want to tell those courageous souls that the battle of the mind can be fought and WON --- never give up; I thought about the families of those who serve...the feelings they must face daily that most families can't begin to understand; I have love in my heart and an appreciation for every person who falls into the categories listed above.

I also thought about young Cody Norris, a hometown hero who served in Afghanistan and was killed in action. I stood with townspeople, back in November, to welcome him on his final journey to his resting place located around the corner from our home.

And, I thought about having my husband at home with me as I hugged him goodnight. I took the time to close my eyes and to savor the feel of his body wrapped in my embrace while knowing that it all could be gone, in the blink of an eye.

This weekend, I had many reasons for allowing myself to have quiet, deep thoughts and to give thanksgiving for good people in this world who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others.

For me, as of this Memorial Day weekend, that fishing guide and client were added to my list of heroes.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

# 273 - Country Girl Class 101

Of two chicks that we adopted around Easter, one of the chicks was attacked several weeks ago by our Yorkie. The upper beak was bitten off and we didn't think the chick could survive, but with extra round-the-clock intervention, the chick lived. I don't exactly know what breed of chickens these are and I don't know if they are a Jack or Jill, but I do know they are the SWEETEST CHICKENS WALKING THIS EARTH!!

Perhaps it is because these chicks received major hands-on care because of the injury, I don't know, but they are extremely attached to me. Every morning, as I go outside to feed the chickens, these two chicks hop on my feet and if I bend down, they hop into my lap, wanting to be held.

The big hens that we've had for over a year are accepting of the chicks, and Big Mama, the "A" hen, is keeping a guarded eye on her chicks, very closely.
So, now we have four Buff Orpingtons and Two Mystery Chicks.

These chicks seem to have above-average chicken intelligence. Shall I put on the show of a proud old grandparent by whipping out the wallet with the long accordion photo spread? Actually, these chicks have impressed me by their quick scoping of the yard to find every nook and cranny so they can scamper under every item they can fit beneath. They seem to be skittish, but they are constantly on the lookout. Hmmm...Maybe a dog attack at young age has prompted them into being true survivors.

My oldest niece has been staying at our house for a visit. I sure love this kiddo. She's my brother's middle child and his only daughter. Phoebe is an amazing 15 year old. I have a bond with this gal that goes to the moon and back.

I get a kick out of Phoebe not being afraid of chickens. She was instantly at ease around them and they were immediately drawn to her...not that it had anything to do with her holding a container of feed.

Speaking of breeds, 15 year old teenagers are a breed of their own. I've raised a couple myself already, so I sort of speak their language. It's called..."Get to the point."

Trying to tip-toe around a teenager doesn't work. They look at that approach with a shark's mentality, so don't go there. Just speak your mind, tell it how it is, and lay it on the line...teenagers are better able to handle that kind of language and its the kind they best respond to. As for myself, I love having conversations with teenagers. Before you know it, they'll be developing into young adults and will start to judge themselves and everyone around them with a new set of eyes...hopefully more like a dolphin instead of a shark.

My niece is trying out the farmer look. I think she's nearly got it down. Once we get moved to our acreage, she wants to come help me with the animals during her visits. She's grown up coming to our acreage throughout the years. She loves it in the forest; she's jumped our creek and swam in our spring fed lake. This kid has a bunch of country-loving bones growing strong in her body.

And the dogs are living in peace with the chickens, yes, with ALL the chickens, to include the two growing chicks. Even Belle the Yorkie has decided the chicks are part of her big family; they are free from her predatory mindset. In the photo below, you can see the two chicks and the three dogs at the back porch.

Man...isn't this EXACTLY what people are eager to find when they are thinking about buying your house?

Sometimes, I have to giggle at the absurdity of it all. How did I end up with this kind of life? I never imagined I'd have a backyard full of barnyard creatures. Heck, I never thought I'd ever have a large dog. I think there are two in this picture, two big dogs.

Lord, get me to the country. I love my life, but it sure would be awesome to finally have a front yard that would be the equivalent of several city blocks of this neighborhood we now live in. I'd have a landscape blessed with mature oak trees that are older than my grandmother. I'd have to learn to appreciate the silence that comes with country living.

Lord, I'm doing my part...trying to. Like I always say, if it is in HIS will, then we will be moving to the country before too long. Since I'm certain that the Lord has a hearty sense of humor, I'm sure he'll bless our efforts just so he can get us out there for some extra "real-life" entertainment for The Big Man in the Sky to enjoy as we muddle through each day. I'm sure we won't disappoint, we've got a LOT to learn.