Thursday, January 31, 2013

# 397 - Chicken Poop on the Patio

Chickens roaming free in the backyard is nice, but it's not working out. Six chickens create a LOT of chicken poop, most of it seeming to land near the back patios, at one of the two entrances we have to the house from the backyard. This is a major problem because the dogs like to go in and out of the backyard and if there is poop in their way, it's more likely to be tracked back into the house.

Not good. Disgusting, It stinks. It's messy. It makes much more work for me that is really unnecessary.

Finally, Deputy Dave moved the coop to the nice area behind the garage. He'd already built a fence in that area to create a dog-run for the times we have family gatherings and don't want the dogs coming in and out of the house with our guests. It's worked out nicely.

I love having chickens. I love having them even more now that they are no longer leaving poop bombs all over the backyard, which makes it hard to enjoy that beautiful space.

I also had not realized that my old dog, Liyla, had been disliking being in the backyard for long with the chickens running around. She doesn't seem to mind the feathered gals, but once they were relegated to the section behind the garage, Liyla began to lay outside in the grass beneath the sun, for two hours at a time. She hardly wanted to come back inside since she had the yard to herself again. That was nice to see.

The good news is...the chicken move hasn't not impacted their egg production. We've got some fantastic layers. Our chickens are dutiful in their egg-laying efforts and we get at least 4-6 eggs every day. Not bad!

But, I must say that it is nice to no longer worry about poop on the patio, especially since we are trying to sell the house. It's one less hassle for us to think about. And that is good, keeping your life low-maintenance is a good idea. overall.

Speaking of's this little home-made contraption look for a country bathroom?

A jaw-bone being used to help out the business end of the tail-bone. I was on the subject of pooping, so I had to include this great usage of old skeletons that might be laying around your land, or that might be hanging in the closet.

For now, I am smiling a bit larger and my sense of smell is experiencing radical freedom again as I don't have to be afraid to take in a big whiff as I open the back door or step into the backyard.

Adios poop on the patio, I do not miss you at all!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#396 - She Blessed Me!

Growing up, I lived in Scotland. My father was an offshore oil rig-man, a welder on a rig in the North Sea. He worked in brutal conditions.

My father left America when my mother was pregnant with my sister. I look back and realize how brave my mother had been to be raising two young children while being close to giving birth to a third and with a husband in another country, working a highly dangerous job in the North Sea.

The truth mother confronted a lot with us children...alone. Dad worked and played, but mom was always around and she found time to do more than many of our mother's friends, even when she worked full-time as a teacher. She was extraordinary. Doctors told her she'd never be able to carry a baby to term and she did...three times. I'm glad she didn't listen to those who would have placed restrictions on her capabilities.

We weren't a military family, but we knew a life of living with a parent who worked under extremely dangerous conditions and we understood what it meant to be an unconventional family. My father appeared to terrify people, including most neighbors, and my mother was significantly disabled...not a combination that made for a typical American family on the block. But, these differences made me, my brother and my sister extremely strong children, and I believe, wise adults. We see the world a bit differently than most people.

In 1975, my mom was around 27 years old when she gave birth to my sister. As soon as my baby sister hit five weeks old, we three kids and our mother flew to Scotland to live there so my father could see us all when his barge brought him to shore from the oil rig. I saw him about once every three months. Sometimes we traveled to Amsterdam to meet his barge...those were experiences I'll never forget.

My father holding my baby sister during his coming to see us at
our house in Scotland. Here, we are all visiting Briar Castle.
We lived in Edinburgh and I attended a Scottish school.
I have to say, I loved Scotland more than I can express.

In addition, my mother was a semi-hemi-pelagic from living in a body that had been ravaged by Polio at five years of old. Semi-hemi meaning...half of each hemisphere (top part of body and lower part of body, each a different hemisphere) is paralyzed. A para-pelagic will have half-their body paralyzed. My mother had half of of each half of her body paralyzed. Whew! That is how she was medically charted as a semi-hemi-pelagic. Actually, she was a double-semi-hemi-pelagic to be accurate.

Here is my mom, propped against a tree for a photo.

Polio left my mother with a paralyzed left arm that was smaller than her right arm and that affected left arm basically dangled by her side with minimal ability to bend at the elbow. She couldn't even move her fingers. Her thumb was left in a hooked position and she'd often use it pretty much in the same manner as a wall hook.

A shot of mom with my baby sister, a handful, but you can see
my mom is again propped against an object and can't use her left
arm/hand except in a staged fashion. My sister is about two years old here.
She was big, but still appeared to have features as a little baby while
she was actually a toddler.

My mom would expertly prop things in her "bad" hand or loop a bag handle onto the frozen thumb of her bad hand and make it seem as if the hand and arm were "normal." She'd get good use out of it, even though the left arm and hand were not of normal use to her.

My cousin Laura and my mother -
mom is using her right hand to camouflage
her left hand. This picture was taken
within a couple of years before she passed.

Sometimes people would know her for years before they'd realize she manipulated her left arm by the creative usage of her right arm. Nothing was in her left hand without her right hand having to place an object in the left and remove it from the left hand. In this manner and in others, my mother's sense of independence and usefulness never ceased to amaze me.

My mother by my side for the birth of my 2nd
child, once I was living in America, again.
She helped me through a very difficult challenge.

Her right leg was paralyzed and made into a bionic leg with rods running the length of her thigh bone and with her foot/ankle fused and pinned into place so that she could apply pressure to the leg. She used her hip to swing the leg around and could walk with tremendous delicate balancing skill.

Many, many, many times throughout my childhood, my mother would fall. Getting up with a paralyzed leg and a useless arm that remained out of the shoulder socket was quite a feat, even for anyone trying to help her get up. I knew how to help my mother, but she could not be pulled on by the arms like a usual person. It took skill to help her off the ground.

My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and
me...a treasured photograph.

As I grew up, I watched her go from being able to balance herself, often with bad falls that would leave horrendous bruising.

Then, I watched her be forced to use a cane.

Then, the day came when she had to wear a leg brace attached to a special that would be another thing she'd lose choice over because a person can't afford to buy a closet full of shoes, each one attached to a costly brace.

And I finally saw her relegated to an electric wheelchair for most of her outings and for doing things around the house.

Then came the wheelchair ramp that my mother's brother built for her at the house and the vehicles with the wheelchair lifts, all of the major heavy equipment for the disabled became a part of our family before my mother hit her 40's. mother continued to live a full life that most able-bodied people could not compete with. She was amazing, there's no other definition for her other than amazing.

My mom with the students she always loved; she was a teacher with
her Master's Degree in Education, teaching for HISD
(Houston Independent School District).

Therefore, we were all devastated to know my mom overcame so much in life, from age five, only to have breast cancer invade her body and take her from us within a two year ferocious fight. She was still young, only 57 years young when she changed addresses to her final residence in Heaven, but her entire life she'd confronted major hurdles beyond the comprehension of most people.

Is life fair? No. And this is also part of the reason I understand that life is also not about equality. For each of us, we do the best with what we have to offer and my mom brought that concept home to our family in a massive way.

For the record, I do not have the halo-over-the-head syndrome about my mother, as some people do once their loved one passes away. I know that my mom and I had a REAL relationship, in every sense of the word "real." Did I have problems with my mom? Regular problems? Weird problems? Dysfunctional problems? Heck yes!

What family have you EVER known that is "functional?" And if you do, beware. If they appear to be far from dysfunction, then I beg you to consider, as my mom always said, that there are worse things unseen than facts that are obvious.

My mom and I were quite a pair. Did we sometimes feel as if we could wring each other's necks? Absolutely! But, I think that was one of the beautiful parts to our relationship...she was the person in my life who I could battle, who I could confide in, who I could talk to about anything, who I knew would listen and sometimes give me advice that made me want to scream, but I LOVED her capacity to get through to me. And I could do the same for her. It was a two-way street once I became an adult and old enough to be honored to be HER friend. Thank goodness she gave me the opportunity to be considered one of her friends! I've never laughed with anyone as much as I laughed with my mother. That's a beautiful legacy that she left for me to honor.

We would always race to each other's side, but she always seemed to be faster at it than me. We were interested in each other's world; we were true friends. I miss my friend. I miss my mom. But, I have to be thankful that I've had the best of both, mother and friend, in her. She blessed me.

Amazing, she was amazing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

# 395 - My Baby is Having a Baby!


For those of you who follow my blog, some of you since the very beginning, you get to share in one of my most treasured expectations that is going to change my life in a wonderful way! Yes, in case you missed the headline, I'M GOING TO BE A GRANDMA!

My beautiful daughter, my firstborn child, Heather, is PREGNANT and is expecting one very special baby! She's going to be a MOM! And Henry will be a great DAD!

For a couple of weeks, we were wondering if there might be twins hanging out in the womb, but there's just one little sweetie growing stronger each day! I am very excited to think about what my grandchild might look like! So much to think about! So many wonderful times in store for our family!

I am so happy when I think about the two hearts of these newlyweds being so perfect for one another and now they've created a new little heart. It will be a while before we have our introductions to this new little one joining the family, but time does fly when you're having fun!

I look back over twenty-five years ago when I gave birth to Heather, and I can't believe I went through my pregnancy and birth without my family. Then I raised her to be a toddler in Germany, so far away from my family and my most important friends. It was difficult, but worthwhile. Since those were the days of living without the Internet and without cell phones, we relied on old-fashioned mail to stay in touch with our loved ones back home. We were gone a long time. Years.

By the time we came back to America, I was so happy to share my daughter with everyone. I had been given a huge dose of being separated from my family, VERY separated! While in Germany, there wasn't just a few miles between us, we were oceans apart. I was on another Continent. So, I'm glad my daughter isn't that far away, she is still in Texas, but Texas is a mighty big state and that means my daughter lives five hours away, one-way.

The miles between us can be a challenge and it certainly won't get easier for the young couple to travel once they have a baby, but they have a cute place in their town and it's a good thing they enjoy living there because many things will change once that baby arrives!

I wish I lived closer to my daughter, but that's life. She will be fine, this I know. Something happens to a woman after she has a baby, her ties to her family become strengthened and valued more than ever. Mothers are usually the "glue" of the family and once you become a mother, this role is better understood.

With me, after going through pregnancy and childbirth on the other side of the world and raising my daughter in another country, I began to see the value of family in a new light. I had always loved my family, but I began to really APPRECIATE them, for the people they were.

Also, as your own family grows, you see how challenging it can be to parent perfectly, it's not possible, so give up the idea of perfection before you get started or you will make some sore discoveries. But, there's no doubt that having your own children makes you realize "Hey, I kinda had a great life, with some ups and downs, and I sure hope my own kid will feel like they are having a great life as well." We raise our kids to see those states when our kids will, sooner or later, decide that you stink as a parent, then you'll be the greatest parent, then the worst, then good again. Then, your kids have their own kids one day with the ups and downs being at their feet as the roles are reversed. It makes a parent smile. It's a beautiful world out there!

I think that's a big part of the joy of watching our children have their own children, we get to sit back and watch someone else do all the hard work of raising a child, mainly, that "someone" is our own grown child, the one whom we worked so hard for. It's wonderful to see them carry on the tradition of doing the best with what you have to offer and to see them try to figure out all the things you've already tried to unravel while bringing up your own children.

It will be a challenge to be a mom so far away from the core of her entire family, but Heather has Henry's family to be there for her and that is a blessing. And, depending on our visiting schedules, I will be ready to enjoy the time we get to spend together. I decided to be like my mom, relaxed and know that things will work out as they should. My mom knew I'd need her. Darn it, I did. Better yet, my mom might have still worked, but she made herself available on weekends to run around town with me and my daughters. The four of us had so many wonderful times together.

I'm so glad I grew out of my stupid rebellious, selfish age so that I could fully enjoy and appreciate my mom, even see her as a person and allow the relationship to go both ways. I grew out of the shallow girl I had been with thinking my mom should always be interested in my world, heck, she's a mom...right? I crack up when think about how I realized my mom was a woman, a woman I could talk to about ANYTHING and guess what, it was a two-way relationship, she could talk about ANYTHING with me as well. So, that set us apart, we became true friends because we both decided to be important to each other on a beautiful level of friendship instead of just mother/daughter roles.

I'm hardly able to think about how connected she and I had been, we choose to be that way, we choose to like hearing each other's voice and being able to talk about things with each other that no one else cared to talk about. As my friends slipped away into their own busy lives, my mom had time for me. She understood every stage I was going through, she'd been through them already and had great compassion for me, even words of wisdom that I welcomed.

My concerns became my moms and hers became mine. True friends, beyond a friend, I became to understand that my mother was born to have me and I was born to grow up and to be a woman who actually LIKED her mom. She was my buddy. I'm so glad that my maturity came sooner than most kids, probably because of the level of high responsibility I had to shoulder my entire life growing up. I don't know if this generation grows up half as fast to embrace the emotional maturity as I gained early in age, but I'm hoping. I know my daughters definitely did a lot of growing up, while still very young because I had become very ill.

As my daughter is pregnant with her first child, I start to think more deeply about life. I see my own daughter growing up to be all things "grown" and that includes becoming a parent. I realize that my mother loved me as much as I love my daughter. As for my mom, I will always cherish the relationship I had with my mother. I miss it tremendously. But, I am so glad that I didn't make excuses to miss out on such an amazing opportunity to be an amazing friend with her because those opportunities in life are fleeting. I found that out, personally. My mom left much sooner than I imagined she would. A big hole is there; she meant the world to me. I was her first-born and am thankful for our connection all throughout life.

With my daughter in the midst of her first pregnancy, I can't help but think of  how my mother would've loved to have known Heather was expecting a baby; she would have loved to simply lay her adoring eyes on that baby, but I'm sure she'll be watching over us from Heaven.

Once this baby arrives, my own adoring eyes will be as intense as my mother's had been toward her children and grand-children. I will search my grand-baby's face for that connection and PING, it will be a sealed deal. The connection will have been forged.

Grandchildren are very special. A child is a gift that is really not your own. That's the hard part about being a parent. You feel as if that little person belongs to you, but you're actually just their temporary soft spot. Eventually, that child will leave for their own life. Therefore, you realize that you must do right by them. It's a large task.

My daughter had her first ultrasound yesterday and the miracle of a baby growing in her hit home. There's something awe-inspiring about seeing a living being growing in the womb, knowing it is there with you, at all times, so peacefully depending on your body for survival. Watching the screen, seeing the little heart's weird, but real. There's a baby in there! Today's technology helps you realize that life is much grander than you imagined.

Me and Heather, she's about three years old.

As for being a grandma, to be honest, sometimes I feel like a grandma already. My sister's daughter, Shaye, has been such a huge part of my world. My sister was approximately five months pregnant with Shaye when we lost our mother to breast cancer. Shaye was my sister's first child. So, I've tried my best to be more than an aunt...I've tried to also do a lot of the things my mother would have done with Shaye, and it's been a beautiful relationship between me and that kiddo. I've been very blessed. Of course, my sister and I are very connected; she does her best to make sure that me and Shaye get to spend plenty of time together on a regular basis. It's an active relationship on both me and my sister's part. She'll call me and say, "I think Shaye needs some time with her Aunt, can she come for a couple of days?"

Every time I am with that beautiful child, I am filled with joy that can't be expressed. She sits in my lap, curls up and we watch Jungle Book, singing loud and strong. We do art projects together. She reads books to ME. We dance together. And we talk. That girl tells me everything. She unburdens her little heart in ways that are most poignant for a six year old. She knows I listen and that I respect her thoughts and feelings. We are forever bonded. I am thankful to my sister for loving her own child enough to know that a relationship with her aunt and uncle would not only be important for us, but for her own child, so she could have more love in her life. Plus, my sister is smart enough to know that we are the people who will care for her child, with true love and concern, more than most people, and this allows them to actually enjoy getting away for a weekend while Shaye stays with us. It works out beautifully for everyone involved!

But, my firstborn grandchild will be such a delight! I might not be able to see my own grandchild as much as I get to see my niece, Shaye, but I will be connected to that baby right away. A will be new territory for me! I've already been buying things for the baby and for Heather. Every week, at the store, I buy something else to add to my stash. It's as if my heart is being soothed and put into a place of pure joy at the thought of that baby coming.

Heather and David sharing a sweet hug. There's no doubt that this child
would test our limits, but overall, she brought out the best of us. We're
never finished with learning to be better people, us and her, we're 
always striving, but I know that this child was 
raised with abundant love and effort so
that she could be a gracious young woman when she left our house. 
I do believe we accomplished our goal. 
To be honest, we were strong parents, good parents,
understanding parents, involved parents...glitches
happened as they do with ALL parents,
but I hope Heather and Henry do even better than their parents. 
Truth is...they'll have their own glitches. That's life. 

I'll do my best to help MY baby do the best she can.
We're her supporting cast! Our love will give her and Henry the push
they need, when they need to be strong.

I wish I could make parenting easy on my daughter, but I know all of us mothers must find our way into motherhood, mostly on our own. I'll be more than glad to come spend a couple of weeks with her, again, after the baby is a 3-4 weeks old...just at that perfect time when she is no longer able to feel comfortable with leaving the baby long enough take a shower, at the time when the dishes are piled high, the floors are a mess and the laundry is backed up...I'll be there.

I'll be there to let her sleep as much as she'd like. And I'll do the laundry, the floors and the dishes, plus I'll cook my daughter's favorite meals. I'll hold the baby after my cleaning is done, and Heather will be given a chance to get back on her feet again. By the time I leave her house, I will be exhausted  to the bone and Heather will be refreshed and better able to pick up the torch. Even better, by the time I leave, the baby will be close to six weeks old and perhaps ready to sleep through the night. So, I'm hoping I can time my trip as best as I can to unload her burden of being a new mommy.

Heather and her daddy playing ball in Germany.
One of their favorite things to do. The little German kids
wanted to come take her ball, but we always bought
he a new one so she could share with them.
These kids have big plans. Having a kid is just the beginning. Heather will have another little person to think about, to look after, to worry about, to take care of...her life is about to revolve around precious, tender baby-stuff.  She'll hold her baby, gaze down into the baby's eyes and the baby will stare back, both mom and baby holding their gazes toward each other, as if they are in complete peace with each other, nothing else in the world matters except that moment. They gaze at each other, the sweetness and the strength of love between mother and know you will never forget such moments.

Heather and I probably getting ready for a breast-feeding session.
I was a major proponent for breast-feeding, doing ALL I could to
give my baby every bit of healthy advantage that she could get!
Pro-active parenting works. My baby was always healthier than
other babies around us. Breast-milk did seem to be the miracle formula!
Those precious moments live within me, strong and powerful, to this day and always. I am full of emotion that my daughter, the one with whom I shared those gazes with...well, she'll be doing the same thing with her own little bundle of joy. In just a few months, those baby eyes will hold her captive and they will be mesmerized by each other. Then Heather will understand me better as she remembers those moments forever. And I will knowingly observe the level of love she has discovered, all Heather will have to do is look into my eyes and again, she will know that we have a timeless understanding of each other.

The largest sorority in the world is Motherhood. Welcome to it my child!

Heather reading a poem I wrote for her wedding.
Letting the walls down and allowing for love to come through
without any self-inflicted barriers so that love can be
experienced in its most pure form. I feel the heaviness of
her tears, of knowing her wedding would mean a
completely new way of life----a new way of thinking, and
a commitment on a new level to remain a great distance from
her own family. She's a strong young woman and even
though our family does many things together that she can't
attend, we think of her and know that she is living her life
to the fullest while we city dwellers keep living the city life!
She comes and gets a fix of it every now and then, to calm
down the ancy city girl in her and she then goes back to
the country and is okay for a while. You might take the
girl out of the city, but you can't dim the city lights she
will always keep glowing close to her heart.

Well, I don't know what we will call me once I'm a grandma. My husband and I sat up tonight thinking about it. He pulled up google search to go through a massive list of top names from Grandma and Grandpa. For Grandma, the terms Bunny and Cookie were too much, no thank you. I thought about Mi-Mi. Then, Stefie asked why we don't use the names dubbed for my own grandmother and grandfather, after all, they were unique and cool names that no one else had for their grandparents. I had a Mimmim and a Pucky. Heck, it might be nice to carry on the family tradition of these quirky names.

How about Grandma?

Any suggestions? I'll gladly take recommendations!

So, I'm about to drift off to sleep, hopefully to dream about sweet babies in a field of flowers, happy and ready to be met by their mommies who are fluttering about, playing peek-a-boo and enjoying life's most beautiful moments. But, sooner or later, someone is going to need a major stinky diaper changed!

Dreams never last! Enjoy the good ones while you can.

I feel like I'm living a dream. I pray all goes well with my daughter's pregnancy. She is putting the best of herself out there while knowing every action has a reaction, so she's careful to be the best she can be and to be full of compassion and love, for then she is aligning life to give the same to her child. Being a kind-hearted mother will show her baby how to live in the most heartfelt manner.

My baby is having a baby...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

# 394 - An American Opinion - Equality or Equal Opportunity? Let's be Fair!

This blog has turned out to be an article relating to An American Opinion, but I feel it is important, not just to me, but to many of you other there in blog-land.

According to many dictionaries, the term "equality" is another word for UNIFORMITY. It is the notion that what you do to one side must be done to the other; it is the notion of SAMENESS. Let's not confuse Equal Opportunity with Dictated Equality.

Having equal opportunities is not the same as trying to equalize the OUTCOME of those who work toward utilizing opportunity through work. Work may be hard, it might be innovative, it might be brain-powered or creative, but it all boils down to working toward making the most of our opportunities. Some people won't make the effort to pursue opportunity because it takes too much effort. Equality should not endorse siphoning off those who have worked diligently to make the most of every opportunity they encountered. If a person isn't motivated to grab their opportunities as they present themselves, then that is their choice.

Most people understand the analogy of a classroom as compared to normal society because most of us have either been in a classroom, had our children in a classroom, have taught in a classroom or we have or will be taking some kind of employment training in a classroom setting. Across all levels of social-economic lines, most people understand classroom dynamics, academically.

In every classroom, there are those few kids who are driven to achieve the highest grades. Often, we can see these students forfeiting other luxuries, such as relaxation and socializing, so they can EARN the best grades possible. For many of these students, there is a heavy price to pay so that they can be in the top-standing of their class. Sometimes, these students are picked on for being high-achievers and many have suffered in order to have the enjoyment of knowing their grades reflect the effort they have expended to be good students. A few have a natural ability to get great grades, but those students are still giving some kind of sacrifice to have that "natural" ability. People who know how to earn good grades know how to study. Most top students understand cause and effect; they know that hard-work toward academics results in an outcome of good grades. A top student wouldn't even consider letting an extra-credit opportunity pass them by!

We could use this same analogy toward sports, the most athletic competitor is usually the one studying their sport and constantly seeking to build their physical abilities, but I am sticking with academics, for now.

Then, we all know the students who come to class, out of obligation. Those students spend their classroom time trying to catch some ZZZZ's and avoiding as much work as possible. Now, to make it clear, we're talking about those students who have the capacity to do better, yet they choose to NOT do much other than doze off in class. Many of those bottom-of-the-rung students have no problem with being on the bottom rung; they don't care about earning the grade because they just want OUT of the classroom. These students do not want to expend energy or brain-power on studies because it is not important to them. Many of these students would rather expend more energy and more brain-power toward AVOIDANCE of being a good student...they simply aren't interested in earning good grades. Some of these students might be given the chance to take a giant leap forward by doing a simple project to earn extra credit, but such opportunities are wasted on a student who really doesn't give a flying flip about anything other than wasting more time doing nothing. Again, we could be also talking about kids who are working their first job at the local restaurant...the classroom is to just give examples of people with different attitudes toward opportunities, in general.

Finally, we have the other students, the middle-of-the-line students who represent most of us in society. They are diligent workers; they care about making decent grades; they put effort toward their studies, but they might not be a genius. Their hallmark is more attributed toward being dedicated and always striving to do better. These students understand the way a classroom functions and they might even hit a few high grades that show their potential to be budding or they might have struggles that plunge them downward every now and then, yet they always manage to pull themselves back up to be one of the good students. Because of hard work and determination, they continue to do well, overall. The middle-of-the-line students often do their best and are rewarded by being recognized as good students and recognized as the people who keep things moving forward in class. Often, a good student CARES about their grades and wants to keep making good grades, so they put forth the effort necessary. Most good students will see an extra credit assignment as an excellent opportunity to close the gap between them and the highest performing students, so try their best to not let such opportunities pass them by.

Personally, at one time or another, I have been each of these students, the top, the middle and the bottom. However, if we try to "equalize" the classroom, that would mean that the top students would be dragged down to the level of the lowest student because being equal does not allow the bottom student to rise to the top; it does not allow it because that bottom rung student is unwilling to rise to the top, that would require too much effort on their behalf. Therefore, if the bottom does not have the determination to take advantage of every opportunity to rise to the top, then, for the sake of equality, the top must be penalized and demeaned until they sink to the same level of those at the bottom...equality demands SAMENESS.

If you have been in class or at work and have experienced being with these kind of people, the ones who avoid work at all costs, you know what I'm referring to. So, for everyone to be equal, on the same level, that means the reaching must be done in the direction that is actually achievable. All those students in the middle, well, they are also a bit too far out of reach for the bottom rung students, so those masses will need to dumb-down, stoop-down and lower themselves to academically be on par with the lowest student in the class. Everyone must be equalized or there is no equality.

For generalized equality, don't expect to be special or to stand above the rest because of your hard work or cultivated talents. Equal opportunity is evolving toward a spiraling expectation thinking that those who have more are obligated to hand-out what they've earned to those who perhaps didn't give a darn about their own squandered opportunities.

Why should under-achievers care about missed opportunities and the lack of determination or applied efforts to obtain positive results? These days, it's much easier to be given the passing grade simply because it's a requirement of equality!

Maybe I'm weird, but isn't that a slap in the face for those middle-of-the-line and top students who have actually put effort toward EARNING their good grades?

Moreover, perhaps the student who doesn't know which direction to run for a touch-down should NOT be playing in their school play-offs. Is the athlete who cared about the team and the sport expected to sit out so that another student who shakes off practice is given a place on the field that rightly belongs to a team-member who has used every opportunity to prove and improve their game-worthiness?

In the name of equality, efforts toward anything other than equal opportunity would equate classroom degradation. Students who would normally feel compelled to go the extra mile for that top grade would have their academic-excellence extinguished; their motivations would be eliminated because they must remember to hand over their achievements to those who spend their time screaming for equality. There is no longer a top position in class to obtain anymore anyway; equality has erased class divisions; everyone is considered the same, EQUAL. Even if those top students yearn to lead the way, it's not possible because that would tip the balance of equality.

Therefore, is EQUALITY fair?


OPPORTUNITY is the basic foundation of Free Enterprise and Capitalism...the ones who would care to reach further and higher, to stretch themselves to reach the best that opportunity has to offer, are given a chance to be rewarded! In America, it is awe-inspiring to watch those who extend their efforts to rise from the ashes to go beyond the lowest, past the middle and reach the TOP!

Aren't the Olympics a typical example of what OPPORTUNITY and EXCEPTIONAL drive is all about? What if we decided that the top Olympian had too much of a good thing and needed to SHARE their hard-earned results with those who would rather party all night than show up for early morning practice? No, those athletes are NOT all equal, such is life, but there is fairness in that each are given an opportunity among their peers to give their best.

It is very upsetting to many Americans that we are finding ourselves living in a time where, in the name of "equality," there is now a pervasive idea that punishment and penalties should be doled out to those who strive for more...those terrible over-achievers who might build a business in your hometown and offer fifty new jobs, well, darn that hard-working, entrepreneurial person for doing such an unthinkable thing!

We're seeing the Federal Government take California's lead in trying to tax the "rich" and to make the business-owners PAY for being the ones who shoulder great responsibility and heavy effort.

I mean, aren't rich people the ones who earn a buck? I've earned a few bucks and am far, far from rich, but I certainly don't want to finance the guy's life around the corner who would rather hang out with his buddies all day than do anything productive. Aren't income-producers a evil lot because they are in business to make a profit? Aren't profits becoming distributable income? Isn't the government becoming experts at telling people how much money is acceptable for them to make without them becoming the target of hateful propaganda? Since when did Americans start to resent successful people so much that the bar is becoming lower and lower to define those considered "successful?"

Today's society is being groomed to be resentful of the person who DOES more to EARN more. Today's society has the bottom rung believing that they DESERVE the same as the top rung. Maybe life isn't fair, but there are opportunities out there for all of us! I can honestly say that Bill Gates has earned what he deserves; I stand in awe at how his freaky brain operates; he's WORKED to change our lives with revolutionary ideas put to WORK. I'd love for him to send me $100,000. but do I EXPECT it? Heck no, he earned the right to put every red cent of his earned money where he desires.

I am taking a firm stand on this issue because I believe that, even if we struggle, we cannot be indoctrinated into believing that equality is fair. Most of us are having a hard time financially. My family takes a vacation approximately once every five years. Our last official vacation was in 2009. Most Americans are dreaming of that next vacation, but are happy to get gas so they can go to the grocery store with their coupons. Therefore, I am appalled by the White House and the President being so detached from the plight of the American people as they publicize vacation after vacation after vacation. Where is the equality that Obama is talking about all the time as he goes on yet another vacation? Personally, I would like for that equality to begin with Obama caring about the money that WE are dumping into HIS lap. Since he is a Public Servant vacationing on our dime, we have a right to yell, "FOUL!"

So...every time you hear the far left spout off the word "equality," please remember what equality truly means; it means that the upper and the middle will have less and less so that those who might not even be seeking more, can have part of YOUR more.

Yes, there is a massive difference between equality and equal opportunity. I'd rather our country strive for as much fairness as it can muster, yet hammer home the ideals of responsibility to make the most of our opportunities rather than spouting off about equality. It's a warped government that promotes siphoning from the income-producers of our land, as if it will solve all of our socio-economic problems. We all know, as big boys and girls, that life is not fair. One business-person may have worked for thirty years to build their successful business and he lives in a mansion on the hill, while another man may have surfed every day for thirty years and found himself living in a straw shack...each is getting what is fair for their circumstance. Shall we try to equalize the two? If we tried to make the surfer and the business person equal, that would indeed be unfair to both of them. So, let's try to keep our eye on what is fair instead of what is equal.

What is equal might not be fair, and what is fair is not equal.

There's no doubt that President Obama and his non-ending jabbering about equality is prompting new generations to believe those middle students and top students should forfeit their own hard-earned positions and rewards so that a redistribution can be made toward those who did not earn such benefits. I'm not saying that people can't be given a leg-up or assistance when they are down for the count, but our tax money should not continue to be poured into programs that encourage immobility and cause a drain on our collective system. Everyone needs help every now and then, but this pervasive thought of attacking those who have earned their way is not acceptable.

Moreover, on a deeper level, Obama expects people of lower-economic status to believe they are somehow short-changed by the hardly-rich to the wealthy family in town. Equality demands that things level out, even if that family across town has to look forward to paying back school loans for the next twenty years because they spent nine-twelve years in medical school and residency. Who is Obama to decide an across-the-board income as a target? How does he know what each person or family goes through to earn that income? It may have come at a very high price that is not yet paid off. How come Obama comes across as resentful toward those who are successful business-minded individuals, yet he is slobbering all over anyone who has had their name in lights?

Obama is offering the type of equality that we need to shun. I ask you to think carefully every time you hear the President use the term "equality." For me, I cringe. Instead, let's remember how great it is to be an American! Let's embrace the success of others for it does NOT take away from us! Let's be happy for the ones who stretch themselves for they give hope to us and to future generations!

Opportunity is still alive and well, let's keep it that way!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

# 393 - A Life of Color

This past week I have been doing some things to the house to liven it up, warm it up. I found myself in a trap of too much Real-Estate-Beige, so I put a splash of color back on the formal dining room's walls. Actually, for my entire adult life, I've had either burgundy/wine or a red color in my dining room and kitchen areas.

A few months ago, for some reason, I decided to do something different, so I took away the reddish color for a while, but it didn't work for me. I had to get the color back in my life, even if we are selling the house.

Formal dining room with color again. Day-time photo.
As for this color, I LOVE it because it is rich and velvety looking. It took about 3-4 coats to get good coverage, but it was well worth the effort. Also, I went ahead and repainted the chair railing and baseboards with white high-gloss paint to give the room better contrast.

Formal dining room, night-time picture
Of course, my kids are now grown, each of my two daughters are in their twenties. My oldest is 25, so things are really rolling with my children being grown adults who are building their own lives and their own families, so my formal dining room gets less and less usage on a daily basis. But, when my girls were growing up, for most of their childhood, I did the majority of the meal preparations, until my oldest hit ninth grade, then my husband began cooking more than the weekend BBQ contribution and well beyond the occasional kitchen assistance level or holiday meal preparation. 

However, up until that point, I had been the main person who cooked dinners and who made my children breakfast before they went to school and who made untold numbers of school lunches that I put into paper-bags, always with a drawing of a funny witch with a little message to make it interesting, and I made after-school snacks that were a staple of my children's diets...lots of peeled and sliced we had much more going on than just dinner. 

Often, on the weekends, I'd make a big pot of basic marinara sauce which was used for stuffed manicotti, lasagna, spaghetti  and such...freezing casseroles so that my work-week would go more smoothly by having a home-made meal already prepared. 

Meal-time is something you can't escape when your children are growing takes a LOT of food preparation to raise children, all-throughout-the-day kind of meal preparation. It takes a lot of work, a lot of presence, a lot of dedication and a lot of dirty dishes.

These days, I'm completely content with a bowl of soup, a sandwich or something quick and easy to prepare. Staying out of the kitchen, keeping it clean...that's okay with me.

Me serving dinner to Stefie when she wasn't feeling well and
home, visiting from college over the holidays.
Still, I have those days when I long for one of my standard, comfort-food recipes and I have a great time cooking for those who mean the most to me, especially for the ones who love my cooking and think that nobody can make it quite like their mom!

I love that being a mom puts a stamp on your food so that anyone who thinks they can make it better is simply proving that they don't cook like mom. This is the reason so many of us crave our mom's cooking...she had a way of preparing certain meals that no one else can match. Even though my mother's residence is now Heaven, I still crave many of the things she cooked. My mom was an incredible Southern cook, but she prepared a wide-range of foods, many that were ahead of her time, such as Orange Chicken and other Asian dishes. She also made the best iron-skillet hamburgers in the world! Often, I would just eat a hamburger patty with ketchup...DELICIOUS!

I guess that's part of being a mom, there's a special touch that the maternal instinct gives to our efforts. When we do something for our kids, it is truly to do it from our hearts. Of course, there are those days of drudgery when the cooking and cleaning can feel a bit too much, but then we do something little that lights up their faces and their positive response rejuvenates us to keep going.

That's the beauty of having real color in your life; relationships are like color for our soul, healthy relationships push away the drabness of life. Yes, the true riches of life come from our relationships...those give real meaning to our existence.

Today, I am feeling extra burgundy. How about you?

Monday, January 21, 2013

# 392 - Coronation Day! Observations

Coronation Day! Observations of an American President's Inauguration
An American Opinion

Seeing a president come into office can bring the spectator a mixture of feelings. A new president can indeed bring a country hope. However, I am not feeling very charitable today, not after the last four years have proved the presidency is morphing into a office that is unafraid to do risky things that might not have the overall welfare of the country in mind. That said, I want to make it known that I vote split ticket, my vote is not blind, it is based on the candidate. Yes, I voted for Clinton. Yes, I have Democrat judges in office in Harris County because I was one of the people who voted for them, but I am mostly a Republican voter as it is the party that speaks loudest to match my internal voice.

Many in America are not thrilled about Obama's second term, the official inauguration being today. As a woman, a minority with a bit of Native American blood running through my veins, I can say that Obama's past four-year term failed to impress me in the slightest.

Oftentimes it appears that Obama is more obsessed with developing a legacy and making it into history books for this and that rather than noticing that our country has immediate needs that should not be ignored. Of course, there are extreme Liberals who believe "we won the election" and are incapable of seeing their "win" is not so "winning." Some people, including our President, has forgotten the map of the United States as it appeared after the election.

Perhaps Obama needs a visual-aid to reference prior to him making speeches and arrogantly making blanket-platitudes. I'm talking about platitudes such as, "I have the American people behind me." I think he needs to take another look at the division of election results to see that he is lacking much of the American people's support on many issues that he has rabidly pursued with distorted justifications.

Not all American people are behind Obama's rushed engagement of the "Executive" pen instead of sticking to our system of checks and balances, even if imperfect. It appears we have a president who doesn't really believe that the American people are behind him or he would prove it by letting Congress take care of matters that belong to the people instead of believing American people are trusting in ONE desk. All the American people can hope for, at this point, is that the President is, eventually, put in his place by our checks and balances. Many people in America believe Obama ended one term and began the next without fully understanding or respecting the American people he is supposed to serve.

First of all, as for visual-aids, take a look at the Electoral Map for the 2013 Presidential Election. However, in doing your own research, take great care to make sure that the blue/red standards are not swapped. There are several sites that have purposefully pulled a switch-a-roo to show Blue as representing Republicans to make it appear as if BLUE is the pervasive color across the map. However, the standard is for Blue to represent Democrats and Red to represent Republicans; I'm sticking with the standard in my writings.

2013 Electoral Vote map. Red=Republican, Blue=Democrat.

This President seems to have forgotten the fact that electoral votes is NOT representative of the POPULATION. The Electoral System is a beast within itself, but Electoral Votes are not a reflection of individual votes. Here is the breakdown of the "popular" vote for this second term.

Let's keep in mind that American people themselves have their voice and their individual vote recorded by POPULAR VOTE while the Electoral Vote represents REGIONS, so there can indeed be a gap, as we are now witnessing, as the country is split in half. Near half of America did not want Obama to be their top White House representative, but the Electoral system, once again, trumped individuals. And yes, I understand the reasoning behind us being leery of the popular vote controlling the country, although, I believe that many of us are seeing the faults of the Electoral system because it is, essentially, leaving half of America without representation that we can believe in.

When it comes down to it, the Electoral Vote gets the person into the Presidency, but once the campaign is over, the President actually represents individuals, NOT regions. The popular vote cannot be discarded because those votes are attached to the people of this country.

It is clear that Obama is out-of-touch with HALF of the American people. According to a Gallup poll, when the NRA has a higher popularity rating than the Presidency that is taking steps against the NRA, that is revealing. Actions speak louder than words and the American people are taking action that proves they are not "behind" this President on the level he has diluted himself into believing. Worse yet, he ridicules and dismisses the other half, but guess what? --- The other half is not going away. The other half is powerful, in their own right. The other half is going to make sure that Obama's next four years are spent remembering that he is OUR public servant; he is not an entitled member of royalty that can turn his back on selected subjects. We are not subjects, we are CITIZENS.

So, the President's actions have proven that he is not in-tune with approximately half of the population, and his far-reaching efforts to slap right-wring-wrists as they attempt to keep their government from running into a pit of destruction is becoming beyond irritating.

Why do discontent people in America continue to speak out? How come we won't simply sit back and be quiet as the President rules over America with increasing gall? Well, it's because we cannot ever lay down and roll over. If we do, our children and their children will become the pets of government instead of the masters of government. We The People are the masters of our government. Elected officials are our PUBLIC SERVANTS. Obama is our EMPLOYEE, our government servant. Granted, he is one very expensive servant and his constant vacations are a strong indication of his belief that he is entitled to a grand ride at tax-payer expense. For those of us who are struggling to pay our taxes already and who are struggling with the cost of living on a daily basis, we are not amused to see our President and his family on so many astounding vacations. In this regard and others, there appears to be a severe lack of sensitivity in the White House.

I actually laughed aloud when CNN reporters touted Michelle Obama's connection to the American people's financial plight by wearing the same blue cardigan yesterday and today. Hmmm...her connection is not very linked to mine as she sits with her kids, yet again, on another extravagant vacation. Forget the cardigan, what about their choices to siphon tax-payer funds for personal gain, repeatedly? Are we supposed to be impressed with the meager token of wearing the same cardigan two days in a row as some kind of display of a conservative-spending mindset? The two-days-in-a-row cardigan message has got to be a joke.

Obama's eagerness to display his latest vacation in our struggling faces is another sign that he is out of touch with most American people. While we are expected to live an ordinary life of cut-backs and as we are expected to dish out more for less, we are witnessing this President make more and more Fairy-Tale-promises to many who are learning to walk around with their hand held out. Hard-working Americans are being smothered by smooth-talking politics. CNN even stated today, after the inauguration speech, that Obama's speech embraced too much "more" because he had a "litany of agenda items." I agree with a CNN commentator that Obama's unrealistic promises are going to eventually be his own trap.

Many of us realize that such promises are going to eventually disintegrate because SOMEONE has to pay for it. Who really thinks Obama will be around to pay the piper? Part of that disintegration will take place because Obama enjoys putting down and ripping apart the top producers of this country, the ones who are producing jobs for others, for your town and mine. As many are noting, Obama is resentful of people who succeed. His contrived, distasteful tone toward those who are "rich," which means, "those who earn a buck," is quite apparent, unless, of course, they are his Hollywood pals or his favorite singer, Beyonce. I guess Hollywood "deserves" their success and are not to be despised because they wrap Obama in their red-carpet arms, but the other segment of our population that includes people in business, people who invest wisely, people who work, scrimp and save...those people just don't get the glimmer of Obama's eye nor his glorification. Obama's idea of what deserves recognition and admiration is a bit twisted.

But, back to the Popular Vote...speaking of being out-of-touch with the American populace, let's not forget that this President had a Popular Vote in 2008 that was also indicative of Americans being split in their thinking. Below you will find a Popular Vote map from the 2008 election. Since that election, think about how the Popular Vote has continued to widen and separate Obama's link to individuals in the United States of America. This second-term campaign and election proved that he has already lost a large portion of the popular backing.

I have a feeling that the next four years will be long ones for Obama. Over the next four years, the blame-game will not be swallowed as easily by this country's citizens, even as Obama continues to try to vilify Republicans, the other half, as the reason he can't dig our country out of the financial hole he's excavating faster than any other President in our history. Poor, poor helpless President Obama.

2008 Election map showing Popular Vote relating to counties in America.
2013 Election map showing Popular Vote relating to counties in America.
One massive area of discontent for many Republican, Tea-Party, Right-Winging individuals is that this president continues to stir the hot-pot of party division by his irreverent and disrespectful way of paying lip-service to bi-partisanship. When viewing the visual references above, it is extremely evident that his statements about understanding what America wants and needs is not exactly altruistic.

Lately, we are seeing Vice-President Biden take more of a lead in some major areas of politics, such as with Congress on financial issues and with the gun-control fiasco. White House public relations appears to have a dawning comprehension of needing Biden to save face for the President's inability to reach across the political aisle. Biden is simply more approachable, more diplomatic, he keeps his humor about him and is outspoken to the point of endearing people to understand he is intelligent, driven, yet able to cross party lines to get things done. A president should lead the pack in this aspect of politics, but we have not seen that admirable trait that most presidents embrace after the campaign. Obama remains on the the endless campaign trail, leaving political casualties in his wake to include approximately half of this nation.

"Seize the moment" is a phrase that was part of our President's inauguration speech. If you can't obtain what you want by going through proper channels, then SEIZE what you want. SEIZE it from those who work hard. SEIZE it from those who risk everything in the pursuit of happiness to put all that they own on the line to know the meaning of success. SEIZE control of entitlements and pay-outs and tax-payer's hard-earned money by holding abiding citizen's money hostage for Robinhood efforts...while remembering that Robinhood was still a thief. SEIZE what has been earned by others in the name of "equality."

I find it mildly humorous that some media outlets and the President himself loves to lay the blame of indecisiveness on Republicans. How long will ineffectiveness continue to be blamed on others? I thought our nation was moving past blame-game tactics that wreaked havoc upon us. However, there is an underlying current of right-wing thought that is becoming loud and knows that some motion can be destructive. Motion does not equate productivity. Sometimes, true movement comes in holding your ground until the motion can indeed be forward and toward our collective benefit.

If the lack of motion is something that Republicans must take as their burden of holding back destruction, then I am all for it. Put the finger in the spurting hole of the political dam that is threatening to burst open and consume all of us. Put pressure on it and don't move until a valid solution can be provided or we will all sink.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

# 391 - Boy Scout Weekend Prepping

Today my brother came over to pick up the lawn tractor and trailer to go to our acreage for mowing in preparation of the Boy Scouts Wilderness Survival Badge weekend, which is next weekend.

This weekend, he'll be mowing the parking and camping sites, then doing some preparations for the boys to better handle their wilderness experience. This weekend, he'll probably use the chainsaw to cut down a few pine trees and such that the boys will be better able to use to build their makeshift shelters and the rudimentary bridge across the creek. I believe the branches with the evergreen pine needles will make great coverage for their shelter roof. I can't wait to see the pictures my brother will be taking next weekend!

One thing for sure, in my family, I'm surrounded by men who are typical products of testosterone over-drive maleness. Sometimes I am ready to go bonkers about that fact, but then I look at these men and am proud at how they get things done. It's nice to see them work together and able to communicate like REGULAR people!

For me, I was looking at my little bearded brother today and still can't believe he's now 40 years old! It's great that he's so active with the Scouts. He's a hard worker, an intelligent man, and he is always involved with the kids on the weekends. Since he's an outdoorsman, this usually involves being in the great outdoors. But, most Sundays they are in church. He keeps his priorities in line.

He also took a chainsaw and I'm sure that will add to his fun times on the land. There seems to be a little Lumberjack in most men. Put a chainsaw in their hands and they are saw-happy. I think men believe the smell of sawdust is an exotic aphrodisiac.

Maybe there should be a perfume for women, Eau De Sawdust Parfum, or whatever the terminology would be with a French spin to it. Then, added scents to this special line of perfume would be...bacon, ocean breeze, and perhaps, motor oil. \


Friday, January 18, 2013

# 390 - New Clothes with Purple!

My oldest daughter gave me several gifts at Christmastime. She's a generous daughter. The great thing is that she buys me the most wonderful clothes. I don't know how she does it. Every time I buy myself clothes, I end up with articles of clothing I'm not so pleased to own.

So, I don't know how Heather is able to go shopping and find such great pieces, each fitting me perfectly. She also goes the extra mile and usually buys a nice blouse with a matching cardigan or sweater, something I always did when she was growing up. But, she's made me realize how that extra matching piece truly makes everything look pulled together. I especially love this purple accented outfit.

Since I'm one of those people who takes very good care of my clothes, I end up having blouses that I wear for ten years. Clothes shopping is a very infrequent affair for me to enjoy. Since I'm not good at it, I just avoid it.

However, my daughter Heather is a perfectionist at knowing exactly what will look good on me, and she is astute in being able to look at a blouse and know whether or not it will fit me. Plus, she's been buying me outfits that are in a wide range of colors that I might not have considered for myself, but that I LOVE.

Now that my daughter has purchased me several new blouses, I've decided to start shedding my closet of some of those old ones. I admit, it's difficult for me to get rid of "good" clothes, but it's about time that I quit having yearly photos in one of my same, beloved blouses, ten years in a row.

Below is a self-photo as I try to take a shot to show Heather I am wearing the new shirt she bought me. I loved the t-shirt being jazzed up with a nice print.

A big bonus for the shirt was that the part around the bust and abdomen is not tight, I'm definitely a Southern woman who likes her sweet tea and chicken fried steak, so I invite those extra pounds and don't beat myself up over it. I have extra weight on me, but the bottom line is...unlike so many women...I am happy with myself. Go figure! I've learned to embrace my body, as it is, and not let anyone's criticisms pull me down. After all, everyone has an imperfect body and that's what makes us each so perfect! We're all unique!

Heather is one of those women who has that great body, tall, but with a nice, curvy figure and she always dresses fashionable.

Now that I have so many nice, new clothes, it is definitely time to donate a few things. Besides, I am a firm believer in getting rid of old clothes as the new clothes come into the closet or things can get out of control. I've been lax in this area, so I need to get back on track. I'm a tad out of control. However, having so many new things to wear will make this task much easier.

And I am very blessed to have a daughter who is so sweet. She is an amazing young woman, a thoughtful, sweet, forgiving young woman who puts her best-self forward, even when it is difficult. I admire her.

Now, I just have to get her to call me more often. I know that will be next for the natural progression of things to come; I'm being patient. I wish I lived closer to her, but life has us five hours apart and that stinks. I know that we would have good times together, if we lived closer to each other. However, I am being a good sport and looking forward to our Skype date sometime in the next couple of days. Gotta love technology.

Even though Heather is keeping me in nicer clothes, I'll save the moo-moo dresses for the days I'm outside with the chickens, the rest will go to Good Will. Besides, I am due for a shopping trip at Good Will. I am good at shopping at Good Will. Ahhh...the beauty of awesome chain reactions!

Monday, January 14, 2013

# 389 - Wilderness Survival Training

I am so proud of my brother. Since I'm from the South, I call him, "Bubba." However, his actual name is Douglas. He is a Boy Scout Leader for Troop 202.

Because my brother is a true survivalist and a decorated war veteran, he will be leading the troop into the wilderness for survival training. The kids who pass all the tests for the weekend will earn their Wilderness Survival Badge.

Douglas and his youngest son, Quin.
Guess where he's taking the troop for their survival training?

He's taking the scouts to my acreage that's located in the Piney Woods of the Big Thicket region. There's near ten acres waiting for the scouts and they will definitely be tucked away inside the forest.

The troop got together and my brother put it to the kids like this, of course, he's giving this speech in his typical booming "Marine" voice, (I'm paraphrasing from my conversation with him), he told the troop, "At the end of this month, I will be taking you scouts into the wilderness where we will live out a survival scenario for the weekend. Your leaders will be injured and the bridge to the creek, needed to escape, will be washed out, so you will have to build a natural bridge to cross the water. Each of you will need to build your own make-shift shelter, prepare your own drinking water, build your own fire, and provide First Aid to your leaders."

My nephew is the long-legged boy to the far right.

He had their attention, he continued, "When you are in the wilderness, you might come across predatory animals, bad weather, unfair conditions, discomfort, and you might want to cry, whine or moan. But, if you walk up to a tree and cry and wail to the tree...What Will Happen? The tree will not respond, AND in this manner, your scout leaders will be trees. We will NOT respond to crying or whining or complaining because this is a weekend for survivalists and that means YOU must work out your own problems. By the way, remember that your leaders will be 'injured' so you will need to take care of US leaders in addition to taking care of yourself. It's going to be tough. You will be challenged and if you succeed, you will definitely have EARNED your Wilderness Survival Badge."

Since my brother is a Marine (never say "ex" Marine), he is forceful and competent, can kill with his bare hands and all that good Marine stuff.

The handsome guy standing there in the middle of the Middle East,
that's my brother. An amazing person --- it took him a while to
figure it out, but he is indeed amazing.

Did I mention that he's also a Systems Analyst Executive in Houston, Texas? The Survivalist-Marine-Computer-Geek.

But, this is still his favorite past-time...

There is an area of our land where the boys will be camping out. My brother has made a couple of trips to scout it out to pick out the perfect spot. I wish I could climb a tree and get a bird's-eye view of the scouts on Saturday, especially as my brother is writhing on the ground with his fake injury...he's a pretty good actor. Come to think of it, aren't all little brothers great at fake-hurt acting? Even if they must slam their own arm in the door kind of acting, twist their own arm kind of acting, then run to mother with real tears while pointing to the big sister and saying, "She hurt me; I don't know why! I was being so nice!" Yea, acting, something like that. He's good, I've witnessed it plenty of times, personally. Let's hope my brother is now smart enough to create a fake injury instead of slamming his face into a tree for the sake of realism. I may need to have a discussion with him about the benefits of FAKE blood. haha.

As for the land, it's pretty isolated enough to believe they are really trapped in the wilderness, but they'll have access to a lake with spring-fed water and a creek. But, the water will still need to be treated before it can be drank. In a worse case scenario, they actually could walk about two miles to the corner store. However, the truth is...where our land is located, if the kids didn't know where they were going, it is a real possibility that they could become lost deep in the woods, very easily, and it could be serious. The Texas Forestry Department doesn't have a head-quarter's building around the corner from our land for nothing.

But, that's what this Wilderness Survival Badge is all about. If those kids were to ever become lost in the wilderness, they will know how to increase their chances of surviving. And guess what? America is still FULL of areas of wilderness; this is a good skill to learn. America also suffers from natural disasters that would make survival training truly valuable.

The Scouts will be allowed to cut down certain pine trees to build their independent make-shift shelters and to create a passable area at the creek. I believe they will use the pine branches to make the roof of their shelters which my brother said should be very low to the ground, just enough for the kids to slide under because it will better hold in their body heat with less space to the "ceiling" of the shelter.

I think that starting a fire will be their main challenge. Each scout must start his own fire. That will be interesting. I can't wait to hear the details of how this goes.

My brother's three awesome kiddos!

My brother is a sweetheart to me. Like any siblings, we have our ups and downs, but our hearts are very close. He is my "little" brother, but I am so damn proud of him. He's become a man of great conviction, truth and honor. He took a rough road to get there, but he got there and he keeps trying to reach higher.

At Heather's wedding a few months ago, my oldest daughter's wedding, my sweetest dance was with my brother. We couldn't even talk...just the knowledge that we were kids together and that our own children are growing up was overwhelming. All we needed was a couple of minutes together to absorb the phase we've reached as siblings.

It took a long time to get to that wedding day for my daughter, all the way from days like these...

...and these...but I think he's off the bottle now.

As soon as the scouts have their weekend with Big Foot on our land, I will be posting pictures to share with you. I'm sure Bubba will have incredible memories to share and the boy scouts will have awesome memories as well. I can only imagine how he will play out the scout leaders' injuries and what will be expected of his troop. These boys will definitely benefit from my brother's life experiences and from being thrust in the middle of the woods and expected to "survive."

It's nice to know my brother was selected to lead the troop for this badge expedition, especially since my brother is a man who survived in the desert; he's survived in canyon-lands: and he is a true woodsman from babyhood to manhood. To be honest, all this upcoming fun makes me wish I had been in the Boy Scouts, well, that sounds WRONG on many levels. Yes, I believe ONLY BOYS should be in the Boy Scouts, but they sure get to do a lot of awesome things! Forget the cookies! Give me the woods!

Good thing is, the first night there, Friday night, they will be staying in a tent, then the survivor time begins the next morning and will continue all throughout that coming night, all night, and I suppose it will come to an end on Sunday morning. For these boys, I bet Saturday will be high-stress, challenging and a test of their skills while Saturday night will seem to last forever.

I'm going to tell my brother that they can pick a hardwood tree (out of the hundreds on the land) and carve in their troop number and date, a tree that will be there for a long time for all to see. I'm sure those boys will leave their "mark" on our land in many ways, especially in sporadic holes dug here and there for a specific purpose, but the carved tree will give me years of joy as I pass it by.

By the end of January, the Boy Scouts will be one step closer to becoming a man. They might go home with their chests sticking out a bit further and with the feeling that chin hairs are starting to sprout, but I bet most will be glad to be home with mommy, a warm bed, and a kitchen with food to grab. Life will certainly look more grand and their pride will be inflated in a positive way. Ahhh, the beauty of the Boy Scouts organization.