Thursday, October 30, 2014

# 533 - A Proud Parent

This past week was one of the BEST that I have had in a long while!

I traveled to spend four days and three nights with my youngest daughter, Stefie, as she was being initiated into the Honor Society for her graduate degree!

Am I proud of her?


Stefanie signing the pledge into her Honor Society.
The university did a beautiful job with this ceremony and brunch with the Mayor of San Marcos as the guest speaker was inspirational.

We had a fabulous time together. The ceremony was on Sunday, then on Monday she had to work, do coursework and attend class...about ten hours of responsibilities. I watched a few Harry Potter movies and had a beautiful time! Plus, I got to sweep and pick up some clothes and towels she had left on the floor, but she didn't leave me much to do as a "mom" since her place looked GREAT.

Stefie is a lot of fun to be around. Yes, we have a gal who is in her mid 20's, a graduate student nearing graduation, but she still looks 14, so the evil eye helps keep the child menus at the restaurant from being laid on our table.

Stefie, this week, on our way out to Red Lobster.

The two of us went to Red Lobster for dinner to celebrate and we ordered our usual platter to share, with an extra side of crab legs and lobster stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer. We brought a LOT of food home from our meal that we would re-heat and gobble down later. We are good at gobbling.

Being a parent is a beautiful thing, especially when your children are responsible and do their best to do the right thing in life. I love my children, and I appreciate them trying their best to be productive members of society. My daughters are definitely good-hearted people I am blessed to know!

I am grateful that God gave me a part to play in the raising of this beautiful young woman. And I appreciate Sgt. Dave for being a good sport with having his work schedule interfere with any travel plans and for staying home to take care of the dogs and chickens so I could truly enjoy a few days away!

We are blessed.

Friday, October 24, 2014

# 532 - Ebola, ISIS, Rioting Idiots...Prepping Reconsideration

Prepping was a way of life for many people for a long time.

My great-grandmother was the first "prepper" I had ever met. She
understood old-fashioned preservation techniques, she canned
regularly and raised chickens for her own food.

Actually, this is nothing new since many of us grew up with family members who "prepped" for the year with canned home-grown vegetables and fruit jams as well as those who hunted for sustenance.

These days, prepping has become a conscious effort to use the "preparation" for future needs that might result from something gone wrong in society.

We have all seen the ideas for prepping stem from concern about solar flares, satellite destruction, economic collapse and so on. However, I developed an URGE to begin some minor prepping after living through Hurricane Ike destroying our house and our neighborhood, encountering looters in our own neighborhood, and being in a mandatory evacuation zone that resulted in police barricades blockading the entrances/exits to our neighborhood for an extended period of time.

Several of us "hunkered down" for numerous reasons. We were a family that choose to stay behind. If we hadn't made that decision, we would have certainly lost EVERYTHING in our house to the continual rains that came through the roof that had been blown away between the hurricane and a twister. Then, had we not been there, the people looting houses in the neighborhoods would probably have hit our house as well.

Yes, we took a chance, but after living along the Gulf Coast region our entire lives, we were not accustomed to be runners...and the one year we did abide by Houston's idea to flee, we were stuck in devastating road conditions for nearly 13 hours that caused more loss of life than the storm itself caused. Never again.

In dire circumstances, independent judgment calls must be made. We learned, the hard way, that the government might be well-meaning, but they are not always right. With a high level of preparation and determination, a person or family can make their choices and live by them.

During the storm that Houston saw complete government failure during evacuation, we saw lawlessness in droves...we literally lived through life and death situations while being trapped on the road. Of course, me and my two daughters were EACH carrying guns, such as a Glock, we were ready to confront any criminal element that wanted to rob us, especially since we were towing a 30 foot RV that looked enticing to people who did NOT prepare for disaster along the road.

Houston's standstill roads during evacuations gone wrong.

People were traveling with pets and the Texas heat made untold numbers of people's vehicles overheat, so people were finding their pets dying. The only solution at this time, for many people, was to leave their pet's body along the roadside. My girls and I witnessed a man being hit on the head with a crowbar and with his skull cracked, with blood running down his face, he walked in circles in a parking lot, not knowing who he was or what had happened...we could not get one officer to come help because they would have faced insurmountable odds with stranded, furious, unprepared, desperate people. This is when you are thankful that you know a little about "prepping."


During the time we are stranded, my daughters were not even allowed to hold a water bottle above the truck window line. The RV door remained locked and we made trips to the RV trailing the truck only during a dire emergency, with a gun in hand. One thing is for sure, we did not want to become a rolling "outhouse" for all those around us who felt entitled to use our RV for their personal use. Sorry, but that is not an option.

Truly, during moments like these, you MUST think of you and your family. I could have embraced a generous spirit and began to hand out water bottles, but I also understood that I had two teenage daughters who would need clean water over the next few days...which the water ran out fast. After a trip that normally would take two hours ended up taking over ten hours because of the panic and ill-planned city evacuation, I would be extremely thankful that my "prepping" instincts helped me protect my daughters. We had enough water left for us to not become dehydrated. definitely runs out faster than anyone can imagine.

As for today's preparations...I am thankful, our land has a Spring-Fed lake that could be a source of water for us, in an emergency.

Over the past year I have taken my prepping efforts up a notch. Of course, we have a flock of chickens that provide plenty of eggs that could be used to provide nutrition, but I have also begun to store extra amounts of rice, tuna fish, pasta, matches, seeds, packets of Ramon noodles for the carbs and sodium, popcorn, dry beans and so on. I even purchased buckets with lids from Walmart, and I really don't know how to protect the dry food other than to keep it in a cool, dry environment, and I lined the bucket with a black, thick trash bag to make sure no extra light would get inside the bucket.

And now that the news is picking up momentum with revealing the issues our society is now facing, such as domestic terrorism from foreigners and from people living in America who feel their discontent gives them a right to destroy communities...I feel it is important to be prepared to "hunker down" in a different way.

After being in a situation that was so dangerous, for many days with my girls, it became apparent that the local authorities would not be able to respond to most emergencies due to the calls being far higher in numbers than can be confronted. We need to be able to fend for ourselves.

If we were not able to go into town to get groceries because of local unrest, we need to be accountable for our own residential and personal protection, meaning we need to be well-armed, well-trained and with ample ammo at our disposal, as well as prepping with extra food on hand to last several weeks, at a minimum.

Then, we have illness and potential bio-hazards, such as Ebola that could become a serious concern for our communities. Just as Hurricane Ike prevented the trucking industry from coming into our communities for the replenishing of desperately needed fuel, groceries and such...the community basically just shut down.

Everything closed...there was no business to be had, especially since there was not electricity to run the fuel pumps and registers and lights. Everything shut down, and it took weeks to restock and to resupply. If you needed gas, too bad. If you needed water, too bad. If you needed batteries, too bad. If you were hungry...oh well...nothing within a two-hour radius is open to help you!

With Ebola, there will be additional problems for any community that is stricken with a major outbreak because no one will be eager to rush into the area to truck in goods. Also, if a major outbreak occurs in a community, we will see a lack of people wanting to go to work, so this will also contribute to areas being forced to shut down. Growing your own food would really be a great way to be self-sufficient.

And the police cannot protect a community from certain hazards; the government cannot protect a community from certain dangers; personal responsibility must be embraced. Police and government services are a great "back-up," but I know that we are often our own first line of defense for many different situations.

Regardless, I appreciate and have high regard for those who put themselves on the line for our safety and for our rescue from those who are self-serving on a criminal level.

Looters without a Cause - Ferguson

If we were to suddenly be in an area where such a virus began to spread, rapidly, we would need to be ready to either leave the area for an extended period of time, or since we live on acreage, we would need to be ready to "hunker down" on our property and to not leave for however long it takes to have confidence that our community is in the all-clear. For a virus such as Ebola, we can all see how this could present a problem due to the extended incubation period of 21-days for those who are exposed to the virus.

This also means that people with chronic medical conditions truly need to have extra medications on hand and to have a First-Aid kit that is extensive.

Since things are becoming iffy with our federal government lacking guts and since this administration lacks an aggressive proactive stance necessary to protect the citizens of our nation, we need to be prepared for the worst and expect the best.

I do feel better, overall, that we are living out of the city and deep in the forest. I suppose that we would have to watch for looters desperate for provisions, just as we had to do when our neighborhood was hit by the hurricane.

Ferguson-Fit-Throwers, any excuse to steal something and feel justified!

Since we do have surveillance on the land and we have set up certain protections, we are better off than most, but I think that we all should be alert and prepared rather than afraid and unprepared.

Having a plan is better than being taken off guard. Does anyone else have a plan to protect themselves and their family from a community issue that could require individual pro-activity?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

# 531 - Outdoor Gym

One of my goals is to start taking walks more often, just for the sake of walking nonstop for cardio purposes and to allow my body to again exercise in a manner that is continual for an extended period of time.

We do a lot of physical work around the acreage, but it is in spurts, here and there. That kind of work can often do more harm than good, especially if you are out of shape, in general.

And, I am out of shape.

This is me, a few weeks ago, floating in a refreshing lake in Texas.
I am in the water since you don't see people lurking around. I was
being silly with my old Water Ballet moves. Yes, I did ALL THINGS
water related while growing up.

Actually, our family has always been very active, especially during the years of raising our daughters.

One of the hundreds of trips we made
to Galveston, Texas...just down the road
from where we lived while raising our
awesome children.

We were extremely outdoor-geared, always bike-riding, hiking, camping, swimming and doing anything that required moving, having fun and being under the blue skies.

The kids and Sgt. Dave on our acreage,
many years ago. Sgt. Dave looks scrawny
to me in this picture! Lol.

My grown daughters are in great shape and they have often been involved with very athletic competitive activities and they watch what they eat.

Both my daughters on Heather's wedding day (my oldest daughter).
Heather & Stefanie are precious to me. This was two years ago.
I am so glad they grew out of this stage...

At their great-grandmother's house...playing tea-party, with wigs.

My youngest daughter is taking her commitment to exercise and overall health to a new level. She is a tiny thing...not quite 5'2" and has a hard time hitting 100 lbs on the scale. Stefanie has also encountered serious bodily injury in her freshman year of college due to a car wreck...the impact was so severe that it caused her car to flip and the result was a broken back and a closed head injury from the brain being rattled.

So, when I see her conquering her battles and becoming physically stronger than ever, I am especially proud of her!

Muscles Galore!

She has motivated me, in spite of my own significant health hurdles, to get moving in a way that goes beyond using a weed-eater or planting flowers in the garden and even beyond re-laying stepping stones...I needed to start a program of sustained exercise for a significant amount of time, several days per week, just to get the body moving in longevity.

I had initially even considered checking out the two work-out facilities in our small Texas town.

Livingston's recent Homecoming Parade

But, my round-trip to go to the gym would be about 25 miles and I don't think that would help push me to the gym. Then, I am in my mid-40's and don't exactly relish the idea of working out with a potential audience since body parts tend to go in different directions these days. No thanks.

On our acreage, we have a long private road that I knew needed to become part of my walking path on a daily basis.

Due to the curves in our private road, I cannot get a picture of its full
length, but it is definitely longer than a football field.
It is in the middle of the woods, but I am completely capable of protecting myself and I also have three large dogs who LOVE to walk alongside me the entire time.

They are fantastic guard dogs as well.

I thought I'd throw in a picture of Liyla to show her serious side. Lol. I am not kidding, of all my dogs, this one is the dog that would do serious damage. She has had some guard dog training, and if I say the magic words, I would pity anyone having to contend with her. 

Being in nature is wonderful.

So, I have begun the process of taking daily walks, weather permitting, on our private road and I even incorporate part of the forest into the walk to make things more interesting.

Howdy is also an ultra-guard dog. He has NO HESITATION and will run straight up to the brother discovered this side of Howdy, until Howdy got within three feet and finally recognized him. Scary moment, but it made my brother so HAPPY to see that Howdy is such an intense, capable guard dog. Then, my brother changed his britches. :-)

I make five rounds, which is quite a distance. And I realized that I have an awesome "Outdoor Gym" that just needs to be used with a bit more purpose. Just walking outdoors to do some work on the land does not always equate the exercise we think it does. Yes, the strength training the acreage provides is awesome, but the endurance and benefits we derive from activity sustained at a steady pace cannot be overlooked.

Since I need to get this body into better shape, my Outdoor Gym is about to be my best-friend on a new level.

Monday, October 20, 2014

# 530 - Barn Improvements - Concrete Flooring!

The barn that we have had for about a year needed a concrete crust floor so badly.

Since we no longer live in the suburbs of Greater Houston, we no longer have a large garage to hold all of our tools and machinery. Anything we put inside the barn was subjected to the high humidity that came from the earth and the dirt...that came from the earth.

Needless to say, our tools our in the worst shape they have ever been in.

However, time is a commodity around here...between Sgt. Dave's long commute to and from work, five days per week with some double-shifts here and there, we aren't left with much time to do above-and-beyond chores. If we can keep up with the daily chores, that has been good enough for us.

But, we have to step things up a notch. Sgt. Dave has been taking a few days off over the past few weeks so that we can get on top of things.

One of the items he wanted to tackle was to put down that concrete crust in his barn. He pulled everything out of it and began laying a concrete floor upon the dirt he'd leveled. It is a much thicker and more sturdy concrete floor than I imagined would be in place.

Of course, Sgt. Dave grew up working construction for his dad's company in the Greater Houston area, doing commercial construction, so he does have some great skills. He was able, by hand, to level the ground, get the concrete poured and then leveled with a board.

He went through bags and bags of concrete.

This was the first section he tackled. The cement floor set up perfectly.

It will be so much nicer to step into the barn and not have to worry about mud puddles or worry about setting something down straight upon the dirt floor. From now on, the concrete will protect our tools and machinery from moisture, rust, and dirt.

Today, Sgt. Dave finished the entire floor of the it a nice concrete base that will make being in there a delight.

The barn from a distance looks okay, but within the next couple of months, we will be painting it a barn-red color with white trim. I believe it will look fantastic.

Sgt. Dave is a hard working man.

I see him in the back! There he is, working to set up a new burn site for our trash.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

# 529 - Small Town Historic Appreciation

Living in a small country town makes trips into town so much more pleasant than it does when we lived in Greater Houston.

Small town streets downtown are often far from congested and ample parking is readily available.


I love old towns sprinkled throughout the landscape of the South, especially those that have worked to maintain their historical value. Livingston now has a historical committee that strives to keep the "old" alive and viable to today's society.

Greater Houston has bits and parts of the city that is dedicated to historical preservation, but the majority of the city is committed toward building the next structure bigger and better than the last. Property values in downtown Houston are so pricey that profits can only be increase by building upward. Sadly, that leaves many historical buildings vacant and floundering to the point of being condemned, which seems to be an actual business plan for many of downtown Houston's historic building owners.

They leave the building abandoned, even though it is in desperate need of renovations, and it falls into a rapid state of increased disrepair, until it is an eyesore and a hazard. It is sad to see some of these old buildings die a slow death instead of being restored to former glory.

In the big city, there is not much "glory" that comes with old age.

However, most of us learn through life's most valuable lessons that "newer" is not necessarily "better."

Age provides an increasing level of character to a building that new construction simply cannot capture.

I hope our little Texas town never sees the day where it wants to attract millions of people...I prefer our small town attract a dozen or so at one time and that it maintains low enough over-head that it will permit growth in spite of a slower pace. That's good enough for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

# 528 - Snakes Eating our Eggs & Say Your Prayers!

Needing to catch up with my posts.

One day, about three weeks ago, Sgt. Dave was in the barn and noticed a MacDaddy Rat Snake curled up in the barn.

A humorous turn of events would soon follow.

After he finds the snake, he comes inside to tell me about it so that I can go check it out. The truth is, I did not feel comfortable with the snake in the barn. I either wanted to dispose of it with a bullet or catch it, then release it at some point further from the home-site.

Yes, I got all the lectures about how these snakes are great for rodent control and so forth, but the chicken coop was about 300 feet away from the barn, and I told Sgt. Dave that I did not feel comfortable with the thought of that snake making it to the coop.

Sgt. Dave got testy with me. "The snake is staying," he said.

"Hey, but I have to go to the coop during the day by myself, if I KNOW a huge rat snake is lurking in the area, I don't want to take a chance for it to be in the zone where I must go every day," I tried to reason with him.

What does he tell me?

"You are being dramatic. That snake is far enough away to not be a problem, don't be ridiculous," he tells me.

Well, THAT was rude!

At this point, I must tell you that, initially, I felt as if my head were filling with red anger, so I decided to go inside and calm down with actual prayers for God to give me peace over the freakin snake issue.

So, I went inside and did exactly that...I prayed. As I sat there in the zone, laying the words the husband said about me being "dramatic" over the huge snake nearby at God's feet, I got this clear message that I can only describe as being divine that said, "Don't worry, you need to laugh because the drama is about to be his, not yours...he will be the one to confront the snake, relax."

I don't like the eggs being scavenged by slick bellied creatures.

Honestly, this is one of the times when I received an immediate, clear message to reassure me that everything would be okay, but with specific details. Yes, details.

After a while, I went back outside, feeling rather happy, in a warped if God and I were sharing this private, massive joke in a good humored kind of manner.

Sgt. Dave walked over and said, "We can go catch that snake that's in the barn."

With peace, I responded, "No, it's okay." I was smiling and Sgt. Dave is looking confused. So, I just shared the truth, "I said my prayers about it and have been reassured by the Almighty that things will be just fine because I will be protected, the worries I had about coming against a snake at the coop will not be for ME to worry about, it is going to be YOUR problem, so I don't have to be dramatic about it."

Big eye roll from Sgt. Dave, as if he highly doubted that I had literally prayed and received this message.

I had a complete sense of calm and faith enveloping me, but I was ready for what was about to happen, after all, I had been given a preview.

The weird story continues...

And guess what happened? Within 30 minutes of this conversation, Sgt. Dave was checking for eggs in the coop and in one of the nests, a nice-sized rat snake over FIVE FEET in length came slithering up from the hay.

And guess who suddenly got dramatic?

Can you imagine how I felt privy to the scene BEFORE it happened and that since I had flat out TOLD him what was going to happen, it was even more hysterical!

I think the ordeal creeped Sgt. Dave out, a lot. I think that being in the country, in more solitude, has put me in better touch to listen, but I also LOVE God's sense of humor.

Sgt. Dave suddenly had NO HESITATION about running for the .22 rifle with the scope, to take position outside of the coop with the bullet ready to fly through the coop itself to shoot the snake.

It was creepy.

Two big rat snakes within 30 minutes of each other in the residential area was not pleasant.


I reminded him that the entire moment of divinity over this snake issue was not with malice, it was with good humor for a good lesson. My concern had been valid, especially since the coop is now enclosed in a fenced-in area that makes it a lot more difficult to run for an escape at the sight of a snake.

And the chickens got to enjoy some revenge.

Show and tell goes further to demonstrate these snakes can get quite a few eggs in their belly.

I don't know if I will ever have a moment like this again, but lately, it seems that the Lord is truly hearing me and creating some consequences and events on my behalf that is uncanny. God is cool like that, He really is. I can vouch that it is better to be a friend of God, to be the one laughing WITH Him than being the one taught a lesson that can only be laughed about at a later time.

:-) I will keep saying my prayers.