Monday, September 30, 2013

# 478 - She Makes Life Better!

Heather, my oldest daughter, is awesome. She just had her first baby on September 1st.

Having a daughter has brought out different creativeness in my child because she's now carrying on a family tradition by making her daughter's hair-bands.

Here are a few that Heather has made this week...

Heather took this shot of Coraline wearing one of the hair accessories she made, and I had to share.

These are the moments in life that are simple, yet powerful for a Nana like myself.

Yes, I'm Lana the Nana, and I love my grand-baby girl.

I am now waiting for the day I get to see my daughter and her daughter, both wearing matching hair accessories. And this is the reason that having a baby girl is sort of like getting a beautiful gift, every single day.

So, when the crappy, yucky, depressing parts of life start to press down upon me, I take a few minutes to gaze at my grand-daughter's image, with her tiny features, her sweet little smile, her rosy cheeks

She makes my world a better place!

Friday, September 27, 2013

# 477 - Big Fire

Every now and then, we have to burn piles of debris around our acreage.

First of all, let me state, unequivocally, that I do not like to tempt fate. The debris fire that was recently started on the property was in absolute opposition to how I deal with life...I don't want to be burned, so I don't play with fire.

Well, not unless I am roasting marshmallows.

As for this latest and greatest fire, our puny water hose was useless.

And most of us know that a fire does not stay with the mother-flame, which has power beyond our imagination.

My husband likes to feel as if he is "controlling" the fire, which is humorous. (Hi Honey!) These roaring flames made my husband look like a tiny, little morsel that was in danger of being roasted.

I stood back, listening for potential fire trucks heading our direction so I could point them directly to my husband, "There's your pyromaniac...right there...making steam with that water-hose!"
As I was running back and forth on the property, looking at the water valves, checking for kinks in the mile long connections of water hosery, and trying to get my puny fire extinguishers ready, my father-in-law pointed to large chunks of black embers blowing directly over my RV and my new deck and he said, "That's what I'm worried about, those embers are our real danger right now, this fire can jump so easily."
And I remember the words of my grandmother as we'd burn trash on her land; she'd tell us to beware of "Flying Fire."
Oh great, we've got Flying Fire. I glared my husband's direction and imagined a size 6 1/2 -7 shoe in his rear as my RV burned to the ground. Hey, my temporary home as we wait to build a home cannot be burned down! I need this RV to remain scorch-free because it contains my FAVORITE PILLOW!
I cannot sleep without my FAVORITE PILLOW!
And as I watched magical pieces of Flying Fire whirl directly around my temporary residence, I had a sick urge to sing a highly inappropriate song that was released when I was about sixteen years old...the chorus goes, "The roof, the roof is on fire...we don't need no water, let the ***** burn!"
Yes, it was a moment tinged with crazy thoughts to match the crazy situation.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

# 476 - Old and New Country Sights

Moving out of the Greater Houston area to the country has been quite a culture change. Even though Houston is approximately one and half hours away, we are far enough away to make life much more peaceful and very different.

Downtown Livingston has a great mix of old and new buildings, both retaining historic architecture. I must say that the historic architectural committee in town is doing their job.

One building I love is the Polk County Courthouse.

Here is another building that has external metal beam supports that have been painted to blend in with the surroundings. It is nice that the construction of the beams and installation were thoughtful enough to make the beams interesting.

To be honest, it has always been a dream of mine to own one of these historically rich buildings in the heart of town, to run some sort of business at ground level and to live above in loft-style accommodations, or to at least have a sleep over pad ready at all times. It would be nice to have a place in the middle of it all, but not on the Downtown Houston congested level.
And let's be blunt, in a major metropolitan area, you have freaks on the street. In the downtown center of a country town...not so much.
Here are a row of buildings located just behind the Polk County Courthouse that are rather new construction, but built with respect to the area's historic architecture. I love it!

Of course, there are huge differences between living in a large city and a small country town. Mostly, we lack an almost unending variety of restaurants and shopping. Last weekend, Shaye and I had fun going to Walmart and listening to the high school band play music outside in their effort to raise money for a trip to D.C.
Yes, we contributed. It was a HOT day and those kiddos were playing music and selling BBQ. 
Even though we don't have big city conveniences, our small town does have a nice Walmart, an HEB, Brookshire Bros., Lowe's, Sonic, El Burrito, Taco Bell, MacDonald's, Jack in the Box, Whataburger, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars' Pizza, Bodacious BBQ, Joe's Italian, a CVS, Payless Shoes, Radio Shack, Dollar Tree, and a few other places we've not yet tried that makes life easier.
However, out of all the stores available in Livingston, I am very grateful to have a Palais Royal here in town! They city girl in me clings to that Palais Royal in the hopes that a few more nice restaurants and stores will eventually make their way around this area. Oh yes, we do have an Outlet Mall that I've not yet visited. 
The one Southern restaurant with a drive-through that we really miss is Dairy Queen. Obviously, there was a Dairy Queen near the center of town, once upon a time, but it appears to have been set too far back to benefit from townies needing a bite to eat.
I sure could go for a Blizzard.
Well, I am about to sign off. But, I want everyone to know that we've gone from such hot days, mostly in the high 90's to even about 100 degrees, to much more tolerant weather. Saturday, it felt so great that I used the hand-hoe to dig a few rows in my brand new vegetable garden, and I planted lettuce and broccoli. Sunday, I'll dig a few more rows and get some more seeds in the ground for a Fall harvest. Tonight, it's already 62 degrees and tomorrow should be in the 80's again. Heaven for Southerners.
The past few days have been spent listening to the rain constantly pour down upon us to give our acreage a good soaking. Since we're still "living in between" with our temporary residence being an RV as we prep the land for home-building, I found it very nice to lay back and hear the rain tap, tap, tap on the roof of the RV. Sometimes, the best things in life come from simplicity.
We really needed this kind of rain, but I didn't like being in a Tornado Watch yesterday. I've already lived in a house hit by a tornado; it's a scary event. Thank God, no tornadoes came our way.

Life holds such beauty, and I gladly take time to notice it and savor it. Thank you Lord for loaning this piece of dirt to me! I hope 2014 will find a new home waiting for us to bounce new memories off the walls.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

# 475 - Country-Style Education

Livingston, Texas is a wonderful community that has country charm. Livingston is the county seat for this area, and the county's history has wonderful tales to tell.

In town, there is an old cabin that has been moved from Kickapoo Creek to the center of town, as a historic icon. This cabin was built in 1933 by one of the last Pakana Muskogee Indians in Polk County. Actually, he built it with his wife.

We're Home!

I grew up going to family land owned by my parents that led to Kickapoo Creek. I grew up swimming in Kickapoo Creek. I saw my grand-father catch catfish with his own hands from Kickapoo Creek, which no one outside of the family wanted to BELIEVE happened until today's reality-tv educated the viewing public about "noodling." Certain tv shows now film people doing EXACTLY what I had witnessed my grandfather doing over thirty years ago.

Back on track...

Getting to know this town that I've known all my life, in a deepened manner, has been fun.

Evidently, this cabin is an example of the Native American's effort to replicate the "white man's" way of home-building. No matter the background, I think this cabin is a beauty and a work of art. Later, I will post more up-close photos of this cabin from different angles.

So, last weekend, I was able to have a wonderful visit with my niece, Shaye. She is now seven years old and is a stinker-poo that I adore. For our outing on Saturday, I took her to this historic area in Livingston, and we had a ball.

Picnic area behind historic cabin.

Shaye loved this little house, but wasn't quite ready to move in.
Just around the corner from the historic cabin is the No. 5 train. This train took the county to new heights, economically, because it was able to transport timber.

BOOM, the train changed this county's economy. Today, the timber industry in this area is still running strong; this region's timber business contributed to the building of America.

When driving to town, you can bet that we will see a logging truck roaring along the same road. I don't much care for logging trucks, but I will take those over the Hazmat Highway our old house adjoined and that had the highest number of big rigs carrying hazardous materials than any other stretch of freeway, especially since Hwy 225 is lined, on both sides, with refineries and chemical plants that make up the majority of Houston's petro-chemical industry.

America needs both the petro-chemical area and the timber harvesting area. However, I won't be in danger of hearing a "Shelter in Place" alarm for a timber truck spill that has occurred twenty miles down the road.

I have always found it fascinating that the timber industry is the main industry for this area. Natural resources that are harvested and replenished is an amazing process.

As for the train, it has a steam engine --- see the bulbous steam output thingy sticking out of the engine of the train in the background?

Back on our acreage, Shaye was trying to relax on the deck. She was playing with a new toy from Walmart, watching Netflix streaming onto her tablet via WiFi, and drawing in her construction-paper folder. I viewed this moment as a weird combination of country-life mixed with high-tech capabilities.

Soon, we would go on another adventurous hike through the woods.

By the end of the day, this smile had disappeared as the kiddo was begging me to let her go to sleep! Country living combined with her aunt's back-to-back activities had worn her out to the core.

"I AM SO EXHAUSTED," she pleaded at dusk.

Next time, we might go to the local library and save some energy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

# 474 - Underground Piping is Awesome!

My in-laws have been hanging around a lot these days. For years, these two have been full-time RV travelers and have been on the road, mostly out of Texas, but now that we have moved to our acreage, they are enjoying our land and the physical exercise in nature that it offers in endless fashion.

The electrical line down our private road, at the base of the pole is one of
our telephone boxes with DSL connection wires that my father-in-law
tore apart with the ditch-witch, by accident, on Sunday. The next morning,
I called out the phone company and they had it repaired before the
end of the day. I don't think that would've happened in Houston.
Glad I signed us up for the insurance plan to cover wiring inside and out!

My father-in-law is a construction master. He needed to run a ditch line for electrical wiring and for plumbing so they can park their RV on our property. He rented this beauty and spent two straight days behind this ditch-witch machine. While running ditches for his own plumbing and electrical, he used this incredible piece of machinery to run a long line from our main water connection to our RV. Now, we'll be able to bury the lines.

Yesterday, he got his electrical box wired and his plumbing lines ready to connect.

They are going through this labor and expense so they can park out here throughout the year when they are in town, and not have to worry about paying for RV park expenses during that time. RV spaces in the Livingston area will have a cost of about $400. per month, but the Houston area charges about $600. per month.

For people with RV's, you are already paying a hefty expense for the RV itself, for the high level of maintenance, and for gas. Expenses can be overwhelming.

It is good that we can provide a piece of our acreage for them to hook-up and catch a break from being on the road. And since they've been living in an RV for a very long time, I think they have truly enjoyed being able to get out of the cramped space and into nature. Taking a walk in an RV park is not the same as being able to cut back undergrowth on land that your family owns. Doing yard work or gardening in someone else's RV park is not exactly a desired activity.

So, they get the exercise and the fresh air with us benefiting from their desire to be productive out of the confines of the house on wheels. It works out for everyone. Out of their four adult children, we are the only ones who have a yard big enough for them to wander around in and big enough for them to have some freedom to do gardening.

My father-in-law is such a hands-on kind of man that he might have my house built within a matter of weeks with his own two hands! Looks like my husband is catching a MAJOR break as his mom and dad take over a few construction projects around here.

My job has been to document and record the lines that are being installed. The only problem we might have in the future is that our water line and phone line run tightly together in one area. We will have to watch out for that tricky area and hope the phone company will do the same.
Soon, we will have water that is no longer traveling to the RV via water hose connected to water hose connected to water hose and so on, I believe over 600 feet of water hose to reach the RV will no longer be needed because we will finally have underground water piping.
I love that our indoor piping will now be hidden and not of the garden hose variety.

Another giant leap for our rural country life!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

# 473 - Oh Where or Where is My Chicken?

This past May, we moved to our acreage in the country. We brought our six backyard chickens with us to the country. Yes, we had lived in the Greater Houston area and had chickens in our city backyard for over three years.

However, we had adopted two chicks a couple of Easters ago, after we rescued them from doomed lives as discarded pet Easter chicks.

We took them in after a family friend found the duo wandering into their garage.

And after we made the big move to the country, many locals told us that our chickens would not last the first week as free-ranging chickens in this area of the Big Thicket.

For almost four months, our chickens have happily survived living free. They seem to be defying the odds that the locals warned us would occur with their imminent demise.

Perhaps they've lasted this long because the chickens mainly stay near the home-site which is also the same territory that belongs to our two large dogs.

So, all my hens have been doing great for the past few months. They are healthy gals. We let them out of the coop in the early morning and they put themselves back up at night for us to lock the door behind them.

However, this past week, one of the rescued Easter chicks suddenly disappeared. No sign of her being kidnapped or being torn to shreds in this area, but she is gone.

My great-laying hen that has disappeared.

I was sad, especially to not know what happened to her --- I figure a predator of some sort was able to whisk her away. The mental images I have explored regarding her disappearance has not been pretty.

Hawk? Really big snake? Fox? Raccoon? Stray dog?

And then, two days ago, Sgt. Dave was working near the RV-Future Home-Site and he is standing near a piece of property adjoining our land that has just been cut to harvest and bale hay, and there, on the other side of our forested land was a Coyote. Soon, it dashed toward the other side of our acreage.

Our chickens scratching for goodies in the woods next to
the home-site.

I don't like Coyotes.

Mostly, I worry that any predator might think this land is similar to a MacDonald's drive-through and will make a return visit for more chicken goodness. We will have to see how this year goes with our chickens. If there are too many issues with letting the chickens free-range, we might have to make some changes.

For now, the chickens spend a majority of their time dirt-bathing under the RV, so I hope they will be close enough for us or for our two large dogs to hear of any distress calls.

Liyla is a fantastic guard dog.

Howdy the Aussie is definitely in-tune to the different sounds that the chickens make and if he hears any distress screeching, he is running for the door with his, "LET ME OUT OF HERE bark and grumbling sounds."

Howdy has scared quite a few critters away from the chicken coop and from the RV that serves as a temporary residence.

Howdy and Liyla, shot taken this past Spring, just
before we moved to our acreage full-time.

And we are always at the ready with some kind of weapon, just in case any critter decides to take on our dogs.

Anyway, I'm down to five laying hens.

Come Spring, we will be getting some more chicks. I'm thinking a few meat chicks, strictly for processing. Well, we'll buy our first batch of meat chicks only if we have enough room to store frozen meat. Right now, we're living with a tiny RV refrigerator/freezer unit.

Also, in the Spring, we'll get some more chicks to help re-populate our laying hens. If we happen to get an accidental rooster or two, we will keep the most useful one and will isolate the rooster with a few select rotated hens to get busy re-populating the hen-house.

I don't think we want our rooster to roam free. I'm not sure. I don't mind the cock-a-doodle-do moments, but don't want my regular free-range laying hens to mingle with the rooster. I prefer non-fertilized-embryo-free eggs for breakfast.

I'm sure we'll keep learning as we go along in this farming adventure --- I had two good roosters in my city backyard, once upon a time, so it might work out again. This time, we won't have to worry about their morning crowing bothering a neighbor.

For the moment, I'm hoping my five remaining chickens will make it through the Fall, Winter and Spring so that our new chicks can grow and have time to become good egg-laying hens. The old gals can teach the new girls how things work around here.

Regardless, these past few years of having fresh eggs at the collection-ready have me spoiled. No more grocery store eggs for me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

# 472 - Country-Life is Marvelous

Over three months ago, we moved from the Greater Houston area to take a wild chance with finally moving onto the acreage we've owned since our kids were younger.

To be honest, many of our family and friends believed we were nuts for leaving big city boundaries.

Many of them hoped we would sell the big house and buy a smaller house to suit the needs of our empty-nester status. However, we felt much too young to embrace hefty life-reduction changes. Heck, society is full of people who live longer and who enjoy being in nature instead of being stuck in a residence on a city corner block.

I had more than a few family and friends suggest we "forget" about our crazy dream of moving to a rural area.

Well, the craziness continued. We sold the two-story monstrosity, bought an RV, and moved to our rural property so we could make preparations to build a country cabin.

It has been WONDERFUL and challenging!

One thing is for sure, the dogs love the wide open spaces. And on a recent road trip between our country home to see our oldest daughter, Heather, I had this experience with my Aussie, Howdy, as we stopped for food. See the video below.

As for moving to the country full-time, the challenges have been worth it. Living in the country is worth every step through the dirt. It's worth the many weeks we lived without electricity and were powered by gas generator. It's worth the transition that includes living in an RV as we prepare to build a home without wheels.

When we must leave to go elsewhere, it's nice to come back to this piece of earth because it feels as if we are HOME. It goes to prove, home is not a structure, it is the place where the heart resides.

Between the economy spiraling downward and the deepening issues with disastrous events potentially targeting or threatening our largest cities, we decided to get out while we could. If it wasn't necessary, then we were still living a life in the country that was our preferred environment.

Of course, we had owned acreage for many years. Plus, I grew up with a family who always had property in the country or a country home of some sort. My grandmother had a "fish-camp" located a short distance from our rural acreage, so the Big Thicket area has always been in my blood, from birth.

Our move to the country felt natural, yet the change from city life to country life requires some trade-offs. A major difference we noticed, right away, was the inability to ORDER hot and fresh PIZZA for delivery to the front door.


But, the opportunity to wake up and to walk outside in the morning, in privacy, in the midst of nature's hear the birds warbling, to see the trees swaying and to feel the dry brush crunching beneath my is marvelous.

Yes, marvelous.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

# 471 - A Baby to Love!

On September 1st of the year 2013, I became a grandma! Baby Coraline came into the world as my daughter, Heather, gave birth, completely natural. In fact, she was so relaxed during her labor that she didn't arrive to the hospital until she was dilated to 9cm, which is TOO CLOSE to a baby being born!

Heather actually thought she might deliver in the car on the way to Fort Worth. But, she did it. She delivered her baby natural, just as I delivered both of my daughters, so I have tremendous appreciation and respect for what she endured.

My daughter and my grand-daughter.
Heather was my first baby. To see my first baby with her first baby has been a joy that the world could not prepare me to experience. I liken the experience to having your first baby, you can't really imagine it, until it happens.

Heather kissing her baby and me kissing my baby.
Henry is an awesome dad, as we knew he would be. Still, those who do right often need encouragement to keep doing the same, so I took a moment to thank these kiddos for making us grandparents, but most of all, I thanked them for being mature, good-hearted and responsible so that us grand-parents can thoroughly enjoy our position.
We are truly proud of them. More than that, our son-in-law is the kind of man who would protect his wife and daughter with his own life. It feels wonderful that he's well-equipped with ample experience to handle most situations, and he will be impacted by his baby girl to become an even more wonderful man of strength and character. 
There's no doubt, Henry is the kind of son-in-law most of us dream of having for our daughters We are blessed to have him as the father of our grand-daughter, Coraline.
As for us getting meet our soon as my husband could get a day off, we drove the four hours to see the new addition to our family. To be honest, the two of us were a nervous wreck. These kinds of things don't happen very often in our family.
So, our grand-daughter was two days old when we met her. And she stole our hearts. Seeing our grand-daughter made us experience one of the sweetest moments that two people can share, next to having a child of their become grandparents together has confirmed that our hard work and determination through these years has paid off.
We held baby Coraline and both of us felt the burdens of the world fall from our shoulders. I'm not kidding. During the months our daughter was pregnant, we held such tension as only worry-warts such as ourselves will do because we held great concern for our daughter's health.
We wanted everything to go well for our child, so it felt like standing on pins and needles through her pregnancy, but we didn't want her to know the depth of our never-ending concern. Having too much physical distance between our residences definitely compounded our agony.
The Houston area to the Fort Worth area is a hefty distance; it wasn't easy to live so far away that we could not help our daughter on a regular basis, and I think the distance between us brought back the hard side of memories from our own experience with living in Germany for three years, so far from our family, during the birth of our first child. I guess that would be considered legit "separation anxiety."
I had to keep reminding myself that Heather lives far away, but she's still in the same country. Breathe.
When we arrived to meet Coraline, we were delighted to see our youngest daughter mesmerized by her tiny niece. Stefie has fallen in love with Coraline. I think Stefie might be one of the most awesome aunts to grace our planet. No kidding.
Stefie's boyfriend, Brice, is smitten with baby Cora-Lou. Her daddy calls her "Cora-Lou" and it is a contagious, precious nickname.
We stayed in a hotel located close to our kids' house. We went on a big grocery shopping trip, then spent the next two days preparing meals for the new parents of our grand-baby.
Sgt. Dave and I cooked their first meal at home with their baby, and the next day in town, Sgt. Dave kept on cooking whatever his daughter wanted to eat:
Breaded, Seasoned sauteed chicken in creamy mushroom sauce
Rice Pilaf
Broccoli and Cheese
Three-Cheese-Garlic Bruschetta
Tuna Salad
Chicken Salad

In addition to getting to cook for my daughter, I went into action to help the new mommy catch a break by dusting the living room from top to bottom, vacuuming nooks and crannies, then I tackled the baseboards, which are my specialty. Also, I was able to work on the nursery a tiny bit and to do the floor of the guest room. Heather's house looked great, but I was happy to help in a small way to hold back the dust-bunnies for another day.

I wanted to keep going to help, but the baby needed a grandma to hold her and to stare at her precious little features for a few hours while the mommy got some much needed sleep and the daddy took care of business.

I can't imagine the pure joy that comes from having multiple grand-children! Yes, I was truly meant to be a grandma.

During our second day with our little jewel, we "mature" grand-parents began our playful, yet serious whining about which one should be holding the baby.

"It's MY turn!"
"Hey, I've only held her for TWO hours straight, back off!"
This is the truth.
"No, you have to go eat your food that's waiting on that plate over there and getting cold."
"No, I have no need for food any more."

After all those light kisses of blessings we gave Coraline from us, we laughed about what we must look like, from Coraline's perspective. Perhaps in her eyes we appear to look something like this...

Love is a beautiful thing.