Thursday, February 28, 2013

# 408 - The Old Shed

The old shed in the country on our acreage has been holding up pretty good after all these years. Once upon a time, we kept all of the lake toys in this shed since it is located close to the spring-fed lake that adjoins our property.

The shed is very roomy and stable; I think it's a 10x20. It's built on skids and is solid; however, this season I'll give it a fresh coat of paint, maybe the metal roof will get another protective coat as well.

The shed is set back in the woods, but it's still within view of anyone on the lake --- which the people on the lake are supposed to be land-owners of our neighborhood or their guests, but you know how that can be. Still, I don't like the shed being so easy to spot.

I'm thinking about going "Duck Dynasty" style to give the shed a "happy, happy" camouflage paint job. At least the old shed wouldn't stick out like a white banner in the distance to anyone approaching the area.

Honey, in this area, you are in THE woods, so I'm always careful to watch for snakes when approaching this shed, along with wasps and hornets and spiders and bears, oh my!

This little shed gives a great view toward the lake. Makes me wish we had a tiny cabin right here, on stilts for height to give a better view of lake. And a front lake-view deck would be awesome!

I need to do the thing I used to do with my kids when they were young and wanted something...I need to do my "I Dream of Jeannie" arm-fold and head-nod and blink my eyes to see if I've acquired such talent. Sure would be nice.

For now, I'm happy this old shed is doing so great and I look forward to giving it a fresh coat of paint so it can be rejuvenated.

Every little detail counts. Soon, we'll be filling that shed back up with fun lake toys. I better start going to Academy and Walmart to check out some awesome things, or I might be able to find a second-hand paddle boat.

Maybe I'll be able to put some fun things back into that shed for us to enjoy for a long time to come. I've got a lot of family and friends who would be eager to enjoy it all with us, so I better get into gear.

And for the big lake down the's nice, but it's even nicer to have a beautiful tree-lined lake in your own backyard.

I'm certainly not going to complain.

Friday, February 22, 2013

# 407 - Lakeside View and a Sunset

Taking a walk around the lake adjoining the acreage brings me great tranquility. It's nice to sometimes see young teenagers in their little boat as they fish.

It's a little quiet piece of this planet I enjoy thoroughly.

Taking a walk through the woods is the kind of adventure I most enjoy at this phase of my life...quiet and with solitude. Of course, with Howdy romping all over the place, it's not always quiet.

Near the future home-site, this will be the backyard.

It would be nice to build a small cabin right on our land in a spot where the lake can be seen with great views. But, access to the house would be more challenging.

In this area, you look straight ahead at the lake.

There's something soul-touching about being close to the water. It's beautiful, relaxing, inspirational and the scenery just makes you feel good inside.

It'd be nice to walk out the front door and to enjoy the lake.

However, it's not practical to build at the back of the property near the lake, especially because there are two areas of creek that we would have to go over and that would mean a significant, sturdy engineered bridge to accommodate crossing traffic.

And here's the other area that has to be crossed.

In the below shot, you can see the first crossing and in the distance, the picture shows the dip of the creek. This is an area of land that is both incredibly awesome while also being a humongous pain. However, I'd never give up the beauty and specialness of having a spring fed creek on our land.

There's no doubt I am eager to enjoy some sunsets in the country. The photo below is the sunset captured as we are leaving the acreage.

It's not always easy to head back into the Greater Houston area, especially when we are leaving the natural beauty of the country and having to put distance between us and fresh country air.

Knowing that we get to come back another day, very soon, is a happy thought. Until then, I enjoy life right where I am.

As my great-grandmother Lola would say, "All's not so bad."

No, all's not so bad, not at all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

# 406 - My Shipwrecked Boat!

I've always wanted a boat. Then, I remembered, I have one!

Never mind that it's been sitting abandoned in the creek on our land for years. In fact, it's been there for at least twelve years. Does this qualify as a mini-shipwreck?

Many years ago, I'm sure someone on the private lake didn't properly tie up this boat and realized it was a gonner, a bit too late.

Not to worry, the boat landed in our creek. The creek that runs through our acreage is fed by a lake that is bubbling with spring-fed water. It's a beautiful creek. The water is crystal clear.

I've crossed this creek hundreds of times over the years and have fallen into it half as many times.

This month, me crossing the creek.
Thank goodness I get to use the make-shift bridge
the Boy Scouts built with raw materials!

It's great that my falling and extreme clumsiness has provided my family with YEARS of free entertainment.

The thing about falling and being mad as hell at yourself for ending up in the middle of a creek bed is that your frustration creates extra splashing that can fuel your anger at falling. So, you end up sitting there in the water, laughing.

And as my husband says, family members standing around watching me flounder are of NO USE in helping me out of the creek because they are too busy laughing so hard that they are about to pee on themselves. And I know the real truth behind their lack of assistance...they are leery about giving me a hand out of the creek because I'm usually so fired-up that they are concerned that I might very well give a good yank so they can join MY side of the fun, in the creek.

See my blue boat back in the creek?

Every now and then, it's nice that I provide a bit of unexpected company for my abandoned boat. I'm thoughtful like that. But, I'm happy to report that my boat is still "docked" safely in the creek.

Finders keepers. Only problem is...the boat is deep into the creek and it will take some creative muscle to get her out of there.

At least this past trip to the acreage found me crossing the creek without stumbling to take a swim with the minnows. To Deputy Dave's chagrin, I even stopped to pull out my IPhone to take photos of the boat. He wasn't happy about me trying to do two things at once while crossing the creek. However, I managed to take a few shots of the boat, and I didn't fall.

However, my lack of falling was mostly due to my brother's Boy Scout Troop's ability to construct this make-shift bridge with raw materials across the creek. The hand-rail was the most AWESOME part of the bridge...I didn't have to walk across doing the "Whoooaaa, Whoooaaa, oh my gosh, Whoooaaa," kind of wobble-walk that ends with a big splash.

I guess we'll figure out the boat dilemma in the months to come. I'm ready to pull her out of there. Eventually, we'll dry-dock her. For now, our boat is part of the sight-seeing experience as we cross our creek. Maybe we'll pull her out this Spring or Summer.

If nothing else, I'm sure she'll make an interesting planter.

Later, when the old gal is permanently out of the creek and dry-docked, I will have to find another excuse for my big rear-end landing creek-side.

Maybe I'll blame it on the tadpoles. Someone needs to keep them company. Right?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

# 405 - Explosion Brings Our Community Sadness

One of the topics I've discussed numerous times in this blog is my desire to get away from this heavily industrialized area. That being said, I know there will always be a market for nice homes in our area that is heavy-laden with chemical industry because people like to be close to their jobs.

In my family and in my husband's family, we have direct ties to family members working in refineries and chemical plants. Heck, my bread and butter growing up came from a father who worked in a refinery. The house I grew up in was so close to refineries and chemical plants that we'd feel the ground shake during any explosions and our neighbor's windows would blow out from the blast.

Even so, I respect the industry. I admire it. I sometimes look at the lights of the chemical plants at night and am in awe at our country's industrial know-how. And, I find it amusing and ironic that those who viciously vilify such industry are doing so while enjoying products made in these refineries, products such as cell phones, computers, televisions, radios, vehicles, home building supplies, and other items that are part of their daily world.

However, does this locality sometimes stink? Yes, it does, literally. Some days are worse than others. And if someone doesn't like it, they need to avoid the area or move away. Just a little bit of distance can bring about big changes. Hence my desire to move farther away from this industrial production zone, but I still respect the area being dedicated, mostly, to creating ingredients necessary for many of our daily products.

I admit that I don't relish living in this location, but I also realize, with appreciation, that this area is vital to much of America's daily life.

So, I can appreciate the honesty that comes with talking with neighbors about a particularly bad release that has left our air heavy with a foul smell, but I find it a bit unnerving to hear someone spout off ignorant and hateful messages about this industry as they are using products in their daily life that come from these operations. It'd be interesting for an expert to go through one of those people's residences and take away everything they are using that comes from ingredients created by one of these "evil" corporations so they could see the truth of their situation.

The jobs that most of my neighbors go to every day entails a level of danger that is palpable. We go about our daily lives while knowing the realities of being alert and ready to "Shelter in Place" at any given moment. Our schools teach local children about how to properly "Shelter in Place" and we have local AM radio stations dedicated to alerts along with siren systems that will sound in an emergency situation.

One person killed, another hospitalized following explosion in La Porte
KHOU TV online photograph from February 9th, 2013 explosion.

Literally, we live a hop, skip and a jump from industrial businesses, and on Saturday morning, February 9th, there was a dreaded event, an explosion. Footage of the site is available below.

People around here make good money working in these plants and refineries. Living in these towns means you KNOW the risks. Even our neighborhood parks have beautiful signs about "Welcome to Our Park" along with listed details on how to take proper action upon hearing sirens for a "Shelter in Place." It's our reality.

I have a mixed love affair with this area. There are wonderful reasons for living here, such as the convenience of enjoying multiple wonderful benefits of Greater Houston. However, I am ready to enjoy living on our acreage because it is close enough to Houston to allow us to enjoy the best of the metropolitan area while being far enough away to avoid the yuckiness of a big city.

It's complicated because I love the people in our area; I love the work ethic; I love the recreational side of our populace; I love the way our neighbors are BOUND together by a common working industrial knowledge that extends to our private residences; I love that our communities rise to the challenge of understanding "prepping" and "survival" on a level that is often real-world tested because we don't have the luxury of taking an ostrich-stance; and I love our admitting that the foul smell in the air due to a chemical release is indicative of an odor that signifies helping our country live BETTER.

Down here, in this part of Texas, we residents wish that a magic filter could erase all odors and air contaminates that come from industrialized processes, but there isn't anything quite like that, not yet. 

I guarantee the inventor of that gigantic HEPA filter will be a KAGILLIONAIRE.

Areas such as ours, throughout America, take a hit so that others may enjoy products that are available because of this industry. It would be awesome to be able to make a huge difference in our society without it costing something, but that's the rule in life, overall. If you make a dent to create more space on one side of a wall, the other side will show an opposite impact with less room because of the inward protrusion. I guess this is the reason that some people question progress...Do we really make progress?

Sometimes, we become painfully aware of the high price of business. I am deeply saddened when I hear that an area resident has sacrificed to provide our country with things that we use every day. Today, I used my laundry detergent and wiped down my kitchen countertops with the knowledge that these tangible items were created with chemicals used from local industries. This particular plant that suffered the recent explosion is the location for a mix of industrial gases such as nitrogen and hydrogen that are used in the processing of such things as food and beverages and electronics, things that all of us use, daily.

So, two Saturdays ago, I laid in bed and heard two loud booms. Later in the day, it bothered me, tremendously, that I second-guessed my own hearing that morning, talking myself out of believing the sounds had been actual plant explosions. Those were the sounds of someone being killed and another critically injured. I even had a moment of wondering if one of the frequent flying small crafts around our area had crashed nearby. Initially, I had an impulse to look at the window for a plume of smoke, but I decided against it. Those plumes of smoke can be disheartening to your core.

That morning, my husband and I continued on with our day, still without knowing there had been an explosion nearby. My husband never heard anything. He was probably in the shower at the time of the blasts. Our local sirens did not sound, which is ridiculous. Most often, city officials don't sound the warning system unless the wind is going your direction, even if you are physically closer to the accident site than the area under warning. You hear the "Shelter in Place" sirens because winds are taking hazardous gases or chemicals into your neighborhood.

So, we left the house via one side of the neighborhood that had no view of the drama unfolding and no indication of the serious situation underhand. However, it didn't take long before I received a text message from my uncle who was very worried about the news report of the explosion...he lives quite a distance away and he knew about it before we did. He's retired from Shell, which is a few blocks away, and he knows a thing or two about the dangers of our surrounding plants.

At any rate, we ate an early lunch, ran a few errands, then made our return home via the backside of the neighborhood and this is when we confronted the blockade. It turns out that the laboratory that exploded was housed in a nearby Air Liquide building. In our industry, chemistry is not a profession for the cowardly.

My photo of our drive home --- the plant is to the right, actually within
viewing distance from some second-story homes and businesses
in the area. Still, we did not have the "Shelter in Place" sirens go off.
Sadly, we faced ongoing drama unfolding at the backside of our neighborhood as we tried to return home. We found that we were fortunate to be able to turn into our neighborhood from this direction because the rest of the road was completely blocked by First Responders who were trying to deal with the explosion and to search through the wreckage for the worst kind of discovery.

With one death and one badly injured worker who suffered burns to over 75% of his body, it's been a sad time for area communities.

But, the work will continue because our society depends on these businesses.

Monday, February 18, 2013

# 404 - A Rainy Day and Old Skills Kept Alive

It's Monday. It's President Day. It's been raining. The humidity is heavy in the Texas air.

Our neighbors across the street sold their house and have officially moved out, so that means new neighbors will be moving in. Eek!

We had someone new want to put a contract on our house, but they needed to put a Contingency Contract in place that says they will follow through with buying our house once they've sold their house...big problem...they didn't even have their house up for sale yet. Answer from us...Come back once your house is on the market and you have a serious buyer.

But, I am still enjoying my roses that my husband gave me for Valentine's Day.

This evening, we have more buyers coming to look at the house. So, I've been doing laundry, dusting and preparing. However, I need that buyer who wants a big house. Then, I can move out of this big house.

Along with hoping the house sells, I am celebrating the gift of life every day because my oldest daughter, Heather, is expecting her first child. Heather and Henry are going to have such fun being parents.

I am going to be very happy to be a grandmother. It's weird to me that I am going to have a grand-baby; it doesn't seem that I'm already hitting this phase in life, but I'm about to be 45 years old.

Me...this week. Hello to my Blog Buddies!

It's a good age to be a first-time grandma.

Then, I realize, one day, most likely, both my daughters will be mothers, and this means I'll have more wonderful grand-children to spoil!

While she was growing up, my youngest daughter, Stefie, would always say that she wanted ten children. I remember negotiating with her, trying to get the number reduced to a manageable level. However, I must say, I think she'd be a great mom of one child or of ten children.

She might find two or three kids fairly manageable.

As for me, having a grandbaby on the way is pulling me back into certain things I enjoyed as a mother of younger children, things such as sewing. In preparation for being a grandparent, I've been drawn back into the magical world of Hancock Fabrics.

I have to provide some a mother to young daughters, I was constantly sewing. Mostly, I sewed to create adorable outfits for my daughters because my husband and I produced children who were super skinny and extremely long-legged, which made it difficult to find certain outfits at a department store.

In the photo below, my daughters are getting to walk around in the dresses I made for them as they have fun beneath their little umbrella during a light rain.

Stefie and Heather wearing dresses I sewed.
They had so many clothes sewn by me through
the years. Soon, sewing
became a family project.

One of the most fun parts of sewing for my daughters had been the creativity they enjoyed by their involvement in selecting favorite fabrics for their new outfit. They also got to pick out patterns they preferred. Later, as they grew into teenagers and wanted to shop in department stores for their clothes, they would still want something sewn for them every now and then. However, they graduated in the creative process to the point of drawing out their own design instead of using a pattern, selecting their fabric, then HELPING to sew their outfit.

These two girls literally grew up around a needle and thread. I even purchased tags that said, "Lovingly Sewn by Mother" to put into their clothes. Sometimes, their friends wouldn't believe that their outfit was custom-made, so they'd have to show the tag.

Part of our sewing committee.
Well, now I'm drawn to sewing again. Perhaps not the same things, but I am being pulled toward making some very unique things for my grandbaby that is on the way...things that can be enjoyed whether the baby is a boy or girl, items that will be one-of-a-kind. It's important to me.

Deputy Dave is very supportive; he goes with me to Hancock Fabrics and he's well versed in how to search for certain items in a pattern book. He's the BEST at knowing exactly what I'm looking for...often, he finds it before I do and he knows precisely how to go to the pattern drawers to retrieve the pattern I'm ready to buy. I think that's awesome. Not many husbands would know how to do such things, but he is sharp, and he cares about this part of my creative side because he enjoys it as well. He likes to help and to be part of the process.

As for sewing, my Nanny, my great-grandmother (pictured below) was a professional seamstress.

She and her husband owned an upholstery shop in Madisonville, Texas for many, many years. I grew up with much of our furnishing custom-upholstered by my great-grandmother. She helped me develop a love for sewing. Often, she'd make a few articles of clothing with left-over fabrics that were suitable for clothes. She'd make the drapes in our house from remnants. To this day, I always have an urge to re-cover certain pieces of furniture because it's in my blood to have this urge; I grew up with this kind of craft being utilized as a profession.

So, I feel very at home in a fabric store. I could be happy there for hours. In fact, for our grandbaby-to-be, I have gone several times over the past few weeks to pick out fabric, and Deputy Dave was on task, helping to find perfect fabrics and materials for my projects. He may not want to handle a needle and thread nor does he want to put a pair of scissors to fabric because he could not cut a straight line if his life depended on it, but he helps in various other ways that are important.

So, this week, I will be spending time conducting a comfortable, timeless skill that I learned from my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, and that I helped to further teach myself.

Perhaps the tradition will continue as the grandbabies arrive; there is no doubt that I will do my part to maintain family appreciation for the needle and thread.

Friday, February 15, 2013

# 403 - Political Poem - "It's Not My Fault"

It's Not My Fault
Another Political Poem by Lana Black
February 2013
President Obama is trying to gear up for a fifth Presidential year,
Yet still, "It's not my fault," is the message America is forced to hear.
So many Americans have little to no income left to budget or save,
However, "It's not my fault," the President continues to rave.
Too many in America are suffering, they have little left, groceries are scant.
But, we still hear Obama's Fairy Tale promises with his "It's not my fault" rant. 
The economy remains impacted by a ridiculously high unemployment rate,
"It's not my fault" says Obama by appointing an impotent Jobs Council as diversionary bait.
The People struggle while Obama vacations, entertains and plays golf,
As for your economic downturn, "It's not my fault" the President does scoff. 
The President has it hard, often basking in the glow of a flashy star,
"It's not my fault" he insists while flashing a big-screen smile from afar.
Obama loves to deliver speeches that focus on I, Me, and Mine,
As we listen, he reminds us, "It's not my fault," one more time.
Avoiding responsibility for Benghazi was an expected political goal,
"It's not my fault" is the claim as Obama goes on another tactical roll.
A full term without a budget and without more than an airy speech,
"It's not my fault" is driving some in America to want to impeach.
A President who despises one class over another is our unfortunate lot,
"It's not my fault" he spews to ALL the Americans who Obama forgot.
A Harvard graduate, slick lawyer, and community divider of both left and right,
"It's not my fault" Obama reminds half of America while ignoring the other's plight.
Tax-payers are too heavily burdened to carry Obama's bloated Socialist plan,
He insists "It's not my fault" but still sticks it to every decent woman and man.
Obama loves the power of wielding the Executive pen,
"It's not my fault" that ink is an option, he claims again, and again.
The deficit has ballooned far out of control while under Obama's power,
We can almost hear him sing "It's not my fault," as he takes a White House shower.
He walks around smug and delighted to grow the government's size,
"It's not my fault," he endorses while stacking bureaucracy and smothering us with lies.
Obama is conducting a great socialist experiment at our country's expense,
"It's not my fault" he'll keep saying in a few years as his hands he does rinse.
In a country where everyone has a chance to sprint or crawl their way to the top rung,
 "It's not my fault" he excuses about his own success with an over-worked tongue.
A few still hold the illusion that this man cares more about them than his own skin,
Meanwhile, "It's not my fault," is a message that's fast wearing thin.
Sadly, our country is constantly assaulted by Obama's divisional voice,
And he selfishly concludes "It's not my fault," but it is his choice.
(Poem: Copyright by Lana Black, February 2013).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

# 402 - Dad is in Love, Again

This past weekend, my dad made an exciting purchase. He finally bought a Mustang! This is a car he's wanted for a LONG time. He even bought the six-speed manual transmission because he felt like an automatic transmission would be cheating himself out of the full experience of owning a Mustang.

He came over with his new toy, then took me for a brief spin, and it is nice, indeed.

It makes me happy to see him happy.

My dad is a working man, the kind who does not dream about retirement. I believe he will find some job to keep him busy until the day he can no longer put one foot in front of the other.

I think this car is a birthday present to himself since he will be 67 in March. He's still a young one.

You do know that 60 is the "new 40," --- right?

So, I am very happy to see him enjoy some benefits of all that working! I'm glad that he realizes he deserves such rewards, he's earned them.

My dad and my mother were married for about 40 years when she passed away. The two of them had some great "Mustang" moments together that can't be beat, and I'm speaking literally and figuratively.

Often, the two of them were like kids together. Heck, they had actually been kids when they got married and a big part of them retained their child-like quality throughout their marriage, which was good and bad. Overall, it was mostly good.

At this point in my dad's life, according to him, a relationship is more about companionship than anything else, especially because he's already been down the road of "everything else." These days, a relationship is more about watching a television series with someone who is content enough to sit there on the sofa and be willing to discuss the ups and downs of the latest episode. It's about collecting an extensive DVD movie collection. It's about enjoying the dogs together. It's about drinking a glass of tea and eating a BBQ sandwich with a friend.

However, I must say, it's nice to see my dad actually fall in love again, even if it is with a car...oops, I mean...a Mustang.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

# 401 - Shades of Texas - Tour - Part 1

Shades of Texas is a local nursery and landscaping business down the road; it is a comprehensive gardening center that I've highlighted in my blog for a long time. We shop there, frequently.

Every time we are there to buy crushed granite, pebbles, mulch or some of the most beautiful plants I've ever seen, I am in the midst of creative-greatness without having to be stuck inside a gigantic cold, corporate setting. This garden center is large enough to operate on a large scale, yet small enough to provide above-and-beyond personal service to their customers. It embraces home-town goodness while being able to meet the demands of large-scale corporate needs.

Since I am particularly drawn to this garden center for our own landscaping supplies, I am often standing in their structure designed to serve as their business office and it is like being in a nicely built custom country home. I wanted to learn more about the construction of their office building, so I decided to call the owner and see if he sells architectural plans for his building. He had a better idea...come on out and get a closer look. The owner then generously offered to answer our construction questions during a personal tour.

I felt honored to be given such an in-depth tour and to be inspired by the owner, Jon Mathews. This garden center has been a staple of our community, making our homes and our neighboring cities more beautiful, and I could see that the owner's personality matches his business...he is firmly rooted in his need to strive for excellence and growth.

This past year, at least, I've blogged a few times about the main building that handles customer business operations. This building is awesome. I'd love to have it on my property for our cabin; I can picture a place similar to this, sitting among the shade of the trees on our acreage.

Shades of Texas - Nursery & Landscaping

There's no doubt, when I go to this garden center and walk into their office to place a big order and pay for our landscaping materials, it feels like I am in a building that could easily feel like "home" on our land.

Jon Mathews, I believe, sketched out this building on a scrap piece or paper or a napkin. He's done that several times, for several of his structures. This is a man of vision.

Jon Mathews, Owner & Operator of
Shades of Texas

Inside the main building for business operations, you can feel the breeze come through the opened doors, and the high ceilings make the place feel much larger than the approximately 1,000 square feet that it really is. For Texas, this is quite an amazing feat.

In the South, we might be able to construct more square footage for less than other part of the country, but the hard part is in keeping all that extra square footage cool during the many hot months we experience. The construction details, materials and cardinal placement of a structure can determine much of the temperature conditions within the building, keeping harsh temperatures at bay.

Year round I've visited this garden center, and even on days that reach near 100 degrees, this building manages to hold in cool air because it makes the most out of any available breeze.

The side walls of this structure are built in ten-foot panel lengths to allow for easy add-on construction at a later date. In fact, Jon Mathews had this building constructed off-site, approximately two miles from this location, then his crew transported the assembled structure, in one piece, to the garden center. I can only imagine what THAT moving day had been like. Yikes!

The tongue and groove ceiling gives a warmth to the interior that can't be beat.

The large windows are divided light and quite large, which brings the outdoors inside, while keeping the heat out.

If you have a gorgeous view outside, such as this garden center enjoys, it is wonderful to have expansive views to the outdoors.

Speaking of windows, it appears to be a good investment to splurge on an unusual accent window for just-the-right-spot. This round window above the rafters draws the eye upward and lights up a space that would, otherwise, be dim. Such interesting windows can be functional, yet also act as a decorative jewel inviting natural light inside.

Beyond the main structures, Jon has built pergolas for his plants throughout the garden center and these structures are built so impressively that they almost seem like art.

However, Jon is a man who gets things done on a budget. If he can find left-over or re-claimed construction materials that meet his standards for a project, he will take that route and spend less money for his supplies. Intelligence, resourcefulness and creativeness...not bad traits for any person to embrace.

More importantly, Jon's main ideas are not envisioned and then left to the side to fade from memory, he takes the best of his ideas and brings them to life, and he does it with extraordinary attention to detail. I look around at the things that he's built and the things that he imagined, then had made into a physical reality, and I see that his hard-core attention to the smallest detail is part of what makes his creations memorable.

This trip involved several tours, of three large structures. We went from the front-side of the 150 acres to the back-side, so I will be making more posts about this wonderful tour experience.

Jon Mathews reminds me that some of our most interesting stories and sights are located in our own community. I'm thankful to share the miles around me with such a talented, hard-working and creative business person who is brave enough to share a small part of his life with us.

And, I am glad to have a front-yard and back-yard full of plants and gardening materials that have been purchased from Shades of Texas. Most of all, I've been reminded of how critical it is to take your business to locals. By choosing to support independently-owned businesses around your community, you help  business-owners remain in business and this promotes your own local investment toward constant improvement.

Even better, I LOVE seeing hard-work, patience, diligence, personal investment, blood, sweat, tears and all that good stuff be converted into a GOOD OLD AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

# 400 - A Country Veterinarian

This past week, our two large dogs needed to go to the veterinarian. Howdy and Liyla needed updated vaccinations, heart-worm and parasite check, and both needed to be examined to make sure their overall health is good, especially since Liyla has reoccurring ear infections.

Since the house is STILL up for sale and the Spring season is approaching, we figured it would be a good idea to take the dogs to a new vet, one in the country, close to the acreage. Since we spend a lot of time outside here in Texas, I am vigilant about the dogs staying current with their vaccinations, especially since we are in the country so often. We spend a good deal of time in rugged country that shares ground with abundant wildlife.

Honestly, I was thrilled to change veterinarians because our local vet, in the Greater Houston area, has been extremely expensive, even if conveniently located, within walking distance.

Our new vet's office, in the country.

However, the last straw was a passing comment the former veterinarian made to Deputy Dave; a comment that sealed the deal for us to start looking for a new vet.

When Howdy was still in his puppy stage, being an Aussie, he is one rambunctious dog, and Deputy Dave took him to the vet for his most recent check-up, about 18 months ago. Anyone who has owned an Aussie knows these dogs use their jaws and paws more than an ordinary dog as these body parts of the dog's "working tools." There is no doubt, this breed is a working breed.

Howdy is terrified, but he also didn't
try to bite anyone. Always a concern
with larger dogs who are in fear.

At any rate, you can't jump up and decide to shun an Aussie or deem the dog to be dangerous because you got caught in their learning process of figuring out that their jaws must be used more discriminately. Firm, consistent discipline and regular attention are great ways to guide an Aussie toward being a great dog.

And as for their body mass, ears, eyes, paws and Aussies, these are working tools and once a working dog improves its abilities, they use their tools more efficiently and intelligently.

This being said, an Aussie is not the right dog for everyone. But, once you get them through the "teenager" stage, you have yourself an incredible member of the family who will never let you down. But, God help you through their "toddler thru teenager" stage.

Howdy, my boy. He's stuck to Deputy Dave,
like a big piece of lint.

Deputy Dave was telling our former veterinarian, during that last appointment over a year ago, that Howdy had tried to use his jaws a few times to get Deputy Dave by the hand so he could pull him toward his chosen destination or while playing with him. Heck, Howdy lives with chickens in his backyard; he's not a biter or we'd have raw nuggets all over the yard.

But, this vet responded to Deputy Dave's comment by saying, "I had a dog that bit me, once, and I put it down; I took my gun and shot it myself."

At the new vet's office. Talking with a woman who knows we're
from the Houston area and is telling us, "Honey, you've GOT to
move away from the city; there are news reports about
Houston every night. I think they have five murders per day."

Well, that admission by the vet didn't impress Deputy Dave. We've raised dogs since we were kids. We've had some old-timers in our family because they are very loved; the last dog we had that died was approximately 16 years old upon her old-age passing in our home.

So, it's hard to leave your dog in the care of a vet who callously talks about shooting their own dog. I can truly understand a compassionate kill, but this vet talked about "no second chances."

Liyla, my red-haired beauty.
If this vet had his way...How many dogs would be executed because they misbehaved while still in their puppy stage?

New vet office. That's a vet-assistant; he's making
sure Liyla is calming down;
she was NOT happy, but never tried to bite.

I was also shocked that the vet elected to shoot his misbehaving dog, not with a "sleeping solution" needle, but with a gun. I guess the ultimate decision had been his to make, but for him to even bring it up to a person who was there to get medical care for their dog...well, it's creepy.

Bottom line, I am sure the dog who attacked him was ferocious, hmph, but it still rubbed Deputy Dave the wrong way.

How could we take our dogs back to that vet?

The dogs are smiling bigger than Deputy Dave,
who is having a massive headache.

So, we decided to make the switch in veterinarians. However, since our dogs have established files on record in our area, I called the dog-shooting-vet to see how much it would cost to bring in our dogs for the basics, to have figures for comparison.

Okay, here's the breakdown. It would be $145. per dog, just for the exam and heart-worm check. The vaccinations would be almost another $100.00, per dog.

This means, it would have cost us about $500.00 to do the ordinary things for our dogs. I gulped. That's not affordable. I guess the dog-shooting-vet has to pay those prime-property bills to be in business off a main highway.

With this baseline figure, I checked around town. Deputy Dave had the day off, it was early in the morning, and I wanted to try for the impossible...get the dogs into the vet on that same day.

Dealing with 100 pounds of dogs is not easy, especially when you're going into a danger-zone because of cats being in the vicinity, so I wanted to get the dogs into the vet while Deputy Dave had a day off.

Mom...did you say "C-A-T?"

I got on the internet and plugged in the name of our town in the country that's North of Houston. A few veterinarian offices appeared on the screen. I already had a vet's name in mind for the area of our acreage, but I decided to play it safe and started with calling the first one listed on the internet.

I decided to check with three offices in The Piney Woods / Big Thicket region, to get an average fee for services.

I squinted to better see the first business on the screen and called. The lady at the first out-of-town vet's office answered the phone and I told her we were looking for a vet in that area since we were moving there and needed to get some cost-checks. I was SHOCKED when she told me the exam, JUST AN EXAM, was $287. and a heartworm check would be another $89. and a parasite check $39. and vaccinations an ADDITIONAL $59.00., per vaccination.

Taking notes during the call, I began to add the figures with my extraordinary math abilities, and I realized this place would charge approximately $500.00 PER DOG! How did the country go from being so affordable to matching the cost of a business operating in a metropolitan area?

I thanked her, told her I'd be calling around some more --- no sense in being snippy. So, I hung up, in a bit of a funk while staring straight ahead at the computer screen. I wondered if I'd been too out of the loop with changes in veterinarian costs, perhaps expenses for vets had soared for some reason.

All of a sudden, I noticed on the screen that the first internet hit I'd had for our town in the country did not say Livingston, Texas, in small print, it said it was located in Livingston, New Jersey. Same town name, different state.

I'd  just hung up with a vet office in New Jersey, not Texas.

I laughed so hard that I nearly fell over. Then, I got myself together and called the right town in the right state and got the right answers I'd been searching for. Affordable care for our dogs was within reach and if you checked-in by 4:30pm, they would take you as a walk-in appointment. Beautiful.

The new vet...wish I had a picture of him.
He is awesome.
Needless to say, we got in the truck and drove there that afternoon as Deputy Dave gave me an odd expression while asking, "The lady's accent didn't clue you in to the fact that you'd called an office that was definitely not in Texas, or not even part of the South?"

Ugh, no. I detected nothing unusual. I certainly didn't think the receptionist had a "Jersey Shore" accent.

And the area code began with the same number, which did throw me off, since I do not dial Livingston phone numbers very often.

After a nice drive toward the forested part of Texas, we ended up at a country veterinarian's office. We wanted to take our dogs to a vet in the country, and that's exactly what we

On the side of the main road through town, this little home-style vet's office was a bit hidden from view. It had unkempt landscaping and hard-to-find signage because the vet mainly gets work from word of mouth. In fact, we'd passed up the building and had to turn around and go back to it. The signage is very hidden from the road by trees.

Yep, the country atmosphere could not be mistaken, down to the massive tree stump in the front of the clinic. Additionally, the vet's  office is located next door to the town's arena, so the vet's office is named in honor of the Arena.

The vet assistant weighed the dogs and looked them over. The assistant had already sat in the waiting room with us; she had her clipboard and pen as she asked a lot of questions about the dogs; she got a great start to their examination.

Both had their blood taken to check for heartworms, parasites, etc.,

With determination, the vet cleaned out Liyla's right ear that was GAG-BAD; the vet took his time looking both dogs over, from head to tail-end.

The vet put anti-biotic cream in Liyla's bad ear and went over a regiment for take-home antibiotics. He discussed Howdy's occasional trouble breathing at night, explaining it's probably an allergy, but he prescribed a medicine for when he has extra trouble, mostly in cold weather.

Then, both dogs got their vaccination updates.

Both their tests for heartworms and parasites were negative. They were in great condition.

However, we walked out of there with ALL of those services performed AND with FIVE medicines:
1) Howdy's antihistamine,
2) Lilya's ear antibiotic cream,
3) Liyla's ear-flush solution,
4) Howdy's preventative heartworm meds, and
5) Lilya's preventative heartworm meds.

And everything combined, prescriptions included, cost $320.00!

I love the country.

It was a great day! And the dogs didn't try to eat the cat who sat in the waiting room with us, that made a good day even better.

But, the best part of our day was...we didn't have to use a vet in New Jersey!