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Saturday, January 9, 2021

# 578 - WE are Multiplying!

Babies are amazing. When around a baby you adore, you're simultaneously invigorated, drained, goofy, on alert, willing to do anything for the next giggle, and wanting the little one to have better than you could've dreamed of having. 

I'm a Nana.

Sometimes, I can't believe I'm a Nana. Some of my friends are still raising children, but I've got #5 grandbaby on the way. 

Having grandbabies is akin to expecting wonderful surprises, constantly.

Grandbabies keep you on your toes.

This last several days (Monday through Friday), I stayed at my youngest daughter's house while her husband had surgery to reattach his shoulder. Yes, it sounds as bad as it really is. 

Stefanie and Brice had a tough week in front of them, and I had this near-two-year-old to watch over for the duration, complete with baby monitor at night for me to handle middle-of-the-night issues so Daddy and Mommy could confront post-surgery agonies.


This is Lily. My youngest grandbaby. She is Stefanie and Brice's first child. 

If you are a longtime reader you'll remember that Stefanie is my youngest daughter. If you don't remember, feel free to read old posts dating back years and years... 

Like her older sister, Stefie took her time to do everything in order... college, marriage, a career, then babies. It came as a challenging shock to learn she'd have to work hard along with planned interventions, unexpected setbacks, and deep heartaches to become a mommy. However, she'd worked hard at everything in life, so this wouldn't be any different. 

Stefie approached serious hurdles with pregnancy and childbirth with gusto, determined to conquer each. And yes, she had bad days that dragged her low to the ground, but she also had days of elation and cloud-walking. 

Stefie taught me a good deal about the aguish of infertility and its numerous side-effects, some devastating... the worst is when a blessed baby is on the way, then suddenly is not.

I think people strive to have babies for more than a legacy. Babies fill us with hope, make us dream of a better future, and prompt us to lean into each new day with extra gusto. 

Growth is the goal.
Growth is phenomenal for the baby and parents.
And the grandparents.
Especially for this Nana.


I am entertained by my grandbabies. Little things matter. I wish I could incorporate multiple lifetimes into one day... with enough time for my own life and its duties, then more for Coraline, Hank, Augustus, Lily, and more to spare for the little one on the way.

Alas, time doesn't work this way. 

However, sweet, precious love is enduring. 
Love cannot be contained. 
Love cannot be defined. 
Love is infinite while a human's existence is finite.
Within us, the infinite and the finite coexist.
Twenty-four hours is generous, yet woefully brief. 

All I know is... a linear ticking of allotted time whirls onward. Each second is one momentary chance that disappears. You better not waste time worrying about the long gone second of time or you'll miss out on the one you're in right now.

As a grandparent, the directions of your love grow exponentially. It is difficult to logistically work out details that exist between you and your grandbabies... distance, your own daily responsibilities and household, travel issues, their rules and your antiquated rules, and other considerations, such as remembering that a grandparent is (most often) a guest to the household with the grandchild.

That being said, my daughters and their husbands cannot do one thing more to make me feel more welcomed, loved, and appreciated when I'm at their homes. As the kids get older, I go there less often, and they come to me more more often. That's a bonus.

Since three of my grandkids are a two hours drive North, and the other is two hours away in the opposite direction, I must make a concerted effort to visit. One direction is mostly down country roads with great views of rural Texas, and the other direction takes me straight through the heart of Houston to skirt alongside skyscrapers and a stadium that has been re-named one time too many. 

Enron is still on the brain.

Little ones question life through exploration and an innate inquisitiveness. They expose us to new perspectives and encourage us to ponder things we haven't considered in ages.

For instance... rain. This week, Lily reminded me to be thoughtful of how rain falls from the sky, but when in the house, we are free from raindrops falling on our head. 

Yes, we adults know full well that this is due to the marvel of construction, but a little one who has been outside in a storm and rushed indoors will look at the ceiling in expectation of continued rain.

Marvelous.

Life is full of eye-catching details. When we get older, our eyes aren't as easy to "catch," but being around a small child can fill you with fresh reasons to take a another look or two.


Lily will be two years old in a couple of days. She's a tiny one, just like her momma. Our family has been thrilled to have her join the clan. 

I've discovered that every time a new child joins the family, you cannot remember how it was to exist without them. A tiny person who is destined to be part of us becomes etched upon the whole of our existence. 

We are no longer "we" without them.

Babies on the way are celebrated and counted as part of us, completely. 

And at this point, our "we" is swelling as we speak. This tickles me happy.

My oldest daughter, Heather, has three incredible kiddos. It's cool that my daughters' children are cousins. Cousins are people on this planet who are linked by some magical connection, as if invisible strands of blood bound them together for life.


The family photo above is from last Christmas (2019). I like this shot over the cleaned-up version. The chaos brought by little ones isn't a bad thing. The kids make the photo interesting. It's natural.

Those two gals struggling with the youngest ones in their arms are my daughters... my pride and joy. Those two gals have grown to be women I admire and respect, each bringing me untold joy. Heather and Stefanie are so different, yet so alike and full of particulars. Each of my daughters is fascinating in their own right. 

For now, they are in the middle of interesting careers; they're wives and mothers, and they are among my closest of friends.

I loved being their mother when they were teeny-tiny, and I love being their mother now. Today, I love being the one and only Nana to their children. I chose "Nana" after carefully ensuring the other grandmothers in the extended family didn't use the same name, and my oldest grandchild, Coraline, got the honor of sealing the name for all time after she used it. 

For me, being a "Nana" is a high badge of honor. 

No matter what my "title" might be, nothing can beat the connections I share with the small ones in our family. 
Those connections come with intent. 
I SEE the children. 
I don't look AT their eyes, I look INTO their eyes, which opens mine for them to do the same. 
I see the PERSON they are at that moment. 
It's the coolest.

When raising my girls, I thought EVERY stage was my next "new" favorite. And now, with the grandkids, I feel the same. 

It's all gravy. 
The good kind. 
You can't leave one drop behind.


My week with Lily is finished, but her daddy, Brice, has a long road ahead for healing. He's in great shape, and I'm hoping the worst of his surgery ordeal is behind him. Recovery isn't for wimps, that's for sure. 

He'll be eligible to begin physical therapy in about five-six weeks, but for now, his body has got to allow the hardware reattachments to take hold, for permanence. 

Back at home, things are not as fun as when I am with Lily. Although, I suppose it's been good for my body to rest since I give deserving loved ones my ALL. 

As I get ready for bed, I think of the lessons Lily re-taught me:

1. Find easy laughs with those who truly matter. 

2. Give your best to those who care about you day and night.

3. Never take it for granted that the rain doesn't land on your face while you're in bed. 

I hope everyone is enjoying this New Year... 2021. I'm excited for it since "We" are multiplying! The fifth will be here mid-summer!



Friday, January 1, 2021

# 577 Plentiful Toilet Paper - A Christmastime 2020 Post

Christmas 2020 has called for different experiences around the globe. Our family did its best to muddle through Covid-19 issues with months of heartsick loss.

Below is a shot of my dad last year with his youngest great-grandbaby, Lily. Oh, the children gave him such joy.


My mother passed away in 2006 from breast cancer. She was only 57 years old. She'd been the family rock... the one who gathered us together each Christmas. Each of us kids would emerge from our respective corners throughout the Greater Houston area to return to our childhood home in Deer Park, Texas every Christmas, and that ended when she died.


With her gone, we were at a loss as to how we should handle Christmas. 

I always held Thanksgiving at my house, and wouldn't have minded adding another holiday, but it didn't feel right.

Robin, my sister, came to the rescue. Newly married for less than two years, she took on Mom's tradition at barely 30, with a baby and stepson to add to the fun. 

She began holding our family Christmas party at her house. She made each gathering special. We all loved her themed Christmas meals... French, Mexican, Italian, Greek, and so on. She and her husband, Warren, would prepare the main meal, and the rest of us would contribute something as well. The main meal had a history to it, and we nerdy types adore that kind of thing.

This year, however, found our family stuck with challenges, again. Not only were we dealing with Covid-19 like the rest of the world. With all the dreaded potential of this virus, we were now tasked with celebrating Christmas without Dad. He died in March, just as the pinnacle of Covid-19 hysteria and mystery hit us hard. 

The day Dad passed, Houston and its surrounding counties shut down. 
The streets went bare. 
Businesses closed their doors. 
Gas stations closed. 
Grocery stores closed.
Hospitals overflowed.
People shut themselves indoors.
To mask or not to mask became more than a personal choice.
Even criminals didn't want to take unnecessary chances.

A little store down from our farm surprised us when it shut down with boarded windows and doors, as if to say, "We aren't sure if or when we are going to return."

Everyone knows what happened next. Toilet paper couldn't be found. Many areas, such as our own, had meat shortages. Walmart closing its doors to the public highlighted the profoundness of the circulating fear. 

Walmart closed to the public? Things got serious.

In the wee morning hours of the date hovering between the 26th and the 27th of March, when Dad suffered a massive coronary, we received the first warnings to not leave home unless you were "essential personnel." Those grievous words quickly became ingrained into all of us, marking an ugly chapter of enduring panic toward a novel virus.

Those words didn't stop my brother from getting into his vehicle and hitting high speeds around 1am to reach our father who'd already died. 

With the streets empty, he had no concern of speed or of getting pulled over. And the hospital in Galveston didn't want to let him inside, but he succinctly explained that he wasn't there to visit anyone, but to be with his father's dead body. That tidbit gave our brother a rare pass to get inside the hospital to do what the rest of us didn't get to do... he got to be with our father who rested in permanence. 

In the early days of this virus, even the experts didn't know what to think of Covid-19, and the learning curve brought about steep consequences. Rifts among people eager to use misfortune to attack others or to embrace "you're wrong, but I'm right" mentalities were flung left and right while others were busy mourning, suffering, worrying, and counting pennies.

I can't stand clichés, yet they have staying power for good reason, they sum up circumstances quite efficiently. In the early days of Covid-19, we saw the virus could both unleash and restrain chaos, simultaneously. Weird things happened to society.

Today, less than a year from our initial shutdowns, shutouts, and shut-ins, I can see that hindsight truly is 20/20. We are always wiser when looking back, aided by mindful experiences instead of a hazy unknown laid before us. 

No matter where you reside as you read this... I want you to hear me... we did our best to get through the worst. Sometimes our best is inglorious, imperfect, and sometimes messy, but we do what we can to get through it, toilet paper or not. 

And this is where we hear the laughter of the Doomsday Preppers. From the start, they were stocked, locked, and loaded as the rest of us contemplated newspaper, leaves, and whatever else might be suitable for civilized cleanliness.

I digress. 

This Christmas, my sister had to put her fourteen-year-old daughter, and her own family, first. Completely understandable. The rest of us were doing the same. She had to protect my precious niece, Shaye, from unnecessary risk and shield her from potentially seeing her parents get sick. Avoiding contamination is preferred. 

Every good decision gives the Corona Virus fewer chances to catch a new host.

My sister works for a school district in the Greater Houston area as a counselor in administration. She has around 65 schools with counselors to administrate. Covid-19 has seen their district with kids orphaned because both parents caught the virus and succumbed to it. 

Healthcare workers are entrenched in the frontlines of this virus, but there are others, like my sister, who must face the day-to-day aftermaths. She must continually confront the repercussions for kids living in this odd day and age. 

My sweet sister has repeatedly counseled shredded hearts after this virus impacted the lives of kids who mistakenly believed they were impervious to its touch, so we understood her desire to protect the one child they have at home.

How to handle this Christmas?

We can't do the normal Christmas thing. 

We can't do the thing we've been doing to celebrate together, as a family, since Mom died. 

Here it is... the time when we most need each other... our first Christmas without Dad, without parents, but we can't risk it.

It's a painful dilemma when we can't share love--in the ways we love--due to our love for each other.

Common sense dictates that we can't be in a house with 20-30 people who are closest to our hearts since proximity equals increased danger. 

My sister, the counselor, suggests a solution--a Christmas Eve Zoom party. 

And guess what?' Even though many of the "usuals" couldn't join us because they were having their own little get-togethers, we found that our Zoom Christmas Eve was a hit. Our evening was loaded with smiles, laughs, and ribbing. 

Of course, my brother made us laugh. Doug can make his sisters crack up in a good way, even during the most challenging of times. 

Beyond the Zoom gathering, my own little family, which has grown tremendously in the last seven years, decided to gather at my youngest daughter's home on Christmas day. We've suffered many losses in the last few months yet decided to take calculated risks to be together on this day. 

If you've followed this blog for a long time, you know of my daughters, Heather and Stefanie. You've watched them go from kids... teenagers, to college students and to the amazing, strong, young women they are today. 

Stefie is a Child-Life Specialist for a children's hospital in Houston, so she understands Covid risks. My oldest daughter, Heather, is a successful businesswoman, but has a biology degree from Texas A&M, so she understands the risks. We all agreed to assume the risks to be together, and testing was involved beforehand. 

By the grace of God, our bodies have remained healthy in the last months, but we must also mind our spiritual well-being. 

Our family has always taken great strides to see each other often... then this virus altered this joyful aspect of life for untold numbers of families. Separation from loved ones is painful.  

I'll be the first to admit... I also love times of solitude. I adore my personal space and privacy, but I also crave times of togetherness with friends and loved ones. When we're together, the restless side of our souls are soothed and our existence balanced. 

Picking and choosing what to do and who to see during this time can be a challenge, and your personal risks must be assumed for the right reasons and the right people. You can love certain people, but not be willing to contract a potentially deadly virus or maybe expose them to the same just to enjoy a visit with them. That's the honest truth. 

For us, we save our risky moments for those whom we'd lay down our lives while hoping we only end up sharing laughs and great memories, not sickness.

So, here are the pictures from our Christmastime, a much scaled down celebration, but we remained thankful for our Savior and mindful of our Heavenly Father's great sacrifice so that we may have an eternal gift. 

If Covid-19 catches me, I'll transfer from an earthly to a Heavenly address where many loved ones are already celebrating together and my place at the dinner table will be ready. 

Until the end of here and now, or there and later, I'll do all I can to soak up the love today, whether it comes electronically on Zoom, Facetime, Skype, text, or a call or via a big hug in person to never ever take for granted.

Here's retired Sgt. Dave and I on Christmas Day, getting ready to load up all the presents to haul across Houston to Stefie and Brice's home.


I took particular joy in decorating the Christmas tree this year as Christmas classics played in the background. 


I have three painted ornaments left from my mother. She loved folk-art painting, and I loved her work. These ornaments have a specialness to them that cannot be bought.


Maybe I need to paint some similar ornaments?


The picture doesn't do justice to the details of the beard, hat, and rosy cheeks. Simple, yet precious.


Robin is heading our Zoom Christmas Eve gathering and displaying a filter in this particular shot to commemorate the reason for the season changes.


In the middle of my sister's sweet recognition of those who have suffered this past year, my brother is already up to his antics.


How can anyone share a poignant moment with this staring at you? Besides, maybe those to be remembered would rather those left behind share laughs instead of tears.


My brother with his hands up, just before our sister boots him from Zoom. The two of them were being "little sh!ts" as our mother loved to say. My nephew Q-Man is sitting next to his dad... displaying more hair than my brother could imagine.

I was saying through laughter to all the Zoom participants, "You kicked out our brother!?"

The rules of the Christmas Eve Zoom didn't say for us to behave properly. If so, no one in our family would've attended. That's how we roll.

We all got a load of laughs from our time together. Not to worry, my brother made a reappearance. All is well that ends well. My sister put together some ultra fun games for all of us and included prizes! Lottery tickets are in the mail to the winners! 

On Christmas Day, we went to my youngest daughter's house. The four munchkins unwrapping gifts are our grandbabies. Like I said, the last few years has seen our family grow exponentially with son-by-laws and grandchildren. Beautiful.

For every person we've lost in our family, I believe we've also been gifted new souls to adore. Nothing and no one can replace a lost loved one, but our hearts are so filled with blessings that we find it very difficult to complain.


Coraline and Lily... daughters of my daughters... cousins... magnets. They call each other "sister."


Little Lily is looking at one of the presents that we gave her, Brice, her daddy, is making sure she sees the dolls, and oh boy, Lily was thrilled. This photo also shows my first child, Heather, and her husband, Henry, with their oldest son, Hank, between them as they laugh hysterically. I love everything about this photo. I love my family.


Leaving Houston that evening to head back to BootCreek brought beautiful sights. Houston's skyline showed off Christmas colors.


We take the exit toward Cleveland and keep going beyond that small town on the other side of Houston to get home. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive the 117 miles home from Stefie's. Well, it doesn't take us NEAR that long.


I savored the lights, lines, and curves as David drove us home, safely.

Let me know what you and your family did this year in the comments. 

What did you find difficult or surprisingly refreshing? 

How will this Christmas change your future celebrations?

I pray everyone enjoyed Christmastime, no matter the routine, old or new. May the days that come be filled with plentiful toilet paper.

 



Thursday, December 17, 2020

#576 - A Good Dog


A good dog is a treasure. 

Through the years, our family has been blessed to have had GREAT dogs join our lives. 



Gracie is a fantastic friend, guard dog, heating pad, and reminder that life is to be greeted with gusto each morning. 

It's taken me a while to begin writing again, but I'm back. I've got a lot to write about. A lot has happened in the last several years, but especially in the last several months. 

It's been a while.

In the interim, I've hit 50, gained some grand-children, made some headway on our custom home in the country, lost a friend and my father.

Life either ticks along... or it doesn't.

I've shared life's highs and lows with a couple of great dogs, but today, Gracie gets the glory for being one of my ultimate best friends.

And that got me to thinking of how we could all use a good dog.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

# 575 - First Blogging, then BOOKS! What have I done?

Before I add my usual blog post, I want to let everyone know that I've been blogging for ages and will continue doing so...it's in my blood, but I've also enjoyed a long career that's included writing, but I'm now holding my own reins by publishing creative fiction books.

I've got several eBooks set for release, a novella series is the first on the schedule, and Book I was released a couple of days ago. It's a scary, spooky story balanced with humor, faith, and love. You can read it on any device...iPhone, iPad, Computer, Mac, or Kindle. You don't have to own a Kindle to read it! When you order, there will be a choice of where you want to have the eBook sent, and it's magic...it sends it to you with ease!

The button for choosing the place for the story to land will appear just below the purchase button on Amazon. It's easy and allows us to enjoy additional reading choices. You can read the eBook on the device you're using right now to read this latest blog post, it's super simple.

And here's summary of this first book...

Shelby, an energetic teenager, has recently returned from Scotland to America after living abroad with her family for a couple of years. They find a home in the Greater Houston area, close to her father's job and next door to a church, but Shelby doesn't like the house. From the moment she steps beyond the threshold of living room, into the heart of the home, she notices a dark presence, but she's the only one who senses it.

After moving in and experiencing terrifying encounters with an indescribable entity, she starts to question if her mind is the culprit. Perhaps her imagination is the source of terror...maybe her eyes are playing tricks on her, but she can't deny the blood. Circumstances spiral out of her control, preventing her from rationalizing all that she hears and sees. She can't escape the shadowed presence that targets her, but she'll find a way to fight back.

She won't give up or give in as she searches for a way to protect her family and herself from what lies in the middle.

Shelby's family includes a disabled mother, a workaholic father, and two siblings...Brother and Dovey. Brother keeps the humor coming as Shelby utilizes faith and bravery to accumulate useful knowledge to battle dark spirits, and she searches for a way to survive the necessity of sharing a home with a terrorizing presence. She refuses to live in terror, not in her own home, but how can she live with and battle the dark shadow that lurks around the corner from her bedroom, just beyond the threshold?

***

I hope you're able to gather the bravery to read this character-driven storyline of relatable people confronting irregular hurdles. This is the first book of the series titled "What Lies in the Middle."

I hope to discuss a few topics inspired by the book along with some personal experiences of my readers. I've made posts in the past of eerie experiences and reader-comments revealed many of us have experienced discomforting things that can't be explained. And even though this book is a fictionalized storyline, I know a lot of people have tried to explore strange happenings that might never find rational answers.

And to clear up any confusion...we decided to combine the book's title with a subtitle that is also the name of the series, rooting the two together; that's only for this first book. I'll let you know when the next book is due for pre-release with a definitive launch date.

There's a new Group on Facebook that I'd love for my blog buddies to join, and that link is at the bottom of this post

If you join the group, please let me know you're from our blog-sphere. And if you buy the eBook, especially let me know so I can thank you!

Just as I've written my blog and enjoyed a long-lasting fantastic interaction with my readers and fellow bloggers, I intend to maintain the same path with readers of my books, whether they are in the form of an eBook or paperback print...I want to stay in touch with you, give you behind-the-scenes details, and get your feedback along the way...hopefully you guys will be some of the first readers of this series.

***

As for building the never-ending farmhouse...it's still under construction. The long-time blog readers already know that we are slug-slow with finishing our house. We've had rains for months that have made the land a mucky mess. It can get quite depressing to be surrounded by mud, but I'm thankful we've not flooded. So many family and friends this last year were devastated by flooding in the Greater Houston area.

Despite the dreariness of the weather, we managed to work on the laundry room. I'll write a separate post about that experience. I LOVE my laundry room!



We used leftover tile to create a nice design in the floor, and I gave the bead-board a "weathered barn" paint treatment that I concocted on my own, which took me three days to paint.



The room is quite nice...mostly finished, but it still requires finishing touches, such as the trim around the windows and a window ledge for my little plants. I'll write a post about the laundry room because it deserves its own shining spot on the blog!

What can I say? I'm a thrilling woman who enjoys a great laundry room. After we finished this room to a certain point, I stood inside it to re-enact that scene from the Sound of Music as she spins around at the top of a pastured mountaintop with joy...yeah, that was me.

Of course, I wasn't escaping Nazis with a pack of children in tow; regardless, I spun around while surrounded by dirty clothes and stinky dog towels, and it was beautiful.

Aside from my laundry-room-moment, our family has also had some difficult and exciting things happening, which I'll share in my next few posts. With my new laptop, getting back to blogging is easier than sitting at my desktop. I don't know why, but for me, sitting at the desktop is a little claustrophobic. Blah.

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy my laundry room while wrapping up the second book to this series, so if anyone reads "BEYOND the THRESHOLD: What lies in the middle?" by Lana R. Black, then be sure to let me know, then get prepared for Part II of the series! The novella takes about two hours to read...it's an easy-read of about 100 pages, so it's an enjoyable commitment. Feel free to go onto the given Amazon link and stay in close touch by FOLLOWING my author page...there's a button below the book info on Amazon to follow the author. Please give me a review on Amazon after reading and be sure to use the highlight feature that Amazon gives its customers while reading an eBook...then share your favorite parts with me.

***
I've included the Amazon link that takes you to the first couple of chapters, then it will prompt you to buy it for $3.99 --- and that's cheaper than coffee! Isn't that the old line?

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B07MYTBL9B&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_-JwsCb7GFYWPT

Facebook Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/768805986830396/

As always, I'll be reading your comments. Happy reading to my blog-buddies!


Thursday, October 25, 2018

# 574 - We're on Country Time

There's no doubt about it, we are slow, slow, slow with finishing the interior of our house. We finished building the shell with the garage at the end of 2015, then moved forward with the mechanicals, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and such throughout 2016.

When I say "country," I mean it on several levels. Our house reflects a country lifestyle - we're smack in the middle of rural countryside. Our views are spectacular since we live on the edge of The Big Thicket forest. We're also country in that our area is sparsely populated. And it's still very country when it comes to trying to get any kind of worker to come to the house.


Our contractor finished building the house and the detached garage with overhead loft, then we took it from there. We have a long series of hit and misses, such as sheetrocking an area, then having to take it down due to an electrical oversight, then re-sheetrock, then having to take it down again because of a new change in the framing, the start all over again.

We had framed-out doorways changed to regular wall framing, and regular wall framing changed to add a doorway. We installed windows to then take them out and also cut into the side of the house to add windows that weren't originally planned. Then there were the doors that were installed, found to be warped, then replaced with new doors. I cannot tell you the number of changes we've had to confront because of a defect or oversight.


If we had built this house in Houston...in Harris County, each of those changes would've cost approximately $2,200. due to required changes to the architectural drawings, permit changes, etc., Here in the country, it's easy to confront last minute changes or kinks in the construction process since the day-to-day temperament of your contractor is all that is at risk when you're covering the costs. And things usually go pretty well, if you keep changes to a minimum and they make sense, especially if your contractor is well-paid from the start. A builder in Houston would absorb construction issues caused by their own mistakes, but here in the country, builders know their craft, but they aren't continually barraged with as many options and variations that city-builders come across, so they stay rather open-minded. And let me be mindful of staying aware that the person paying for the construction process is the person who gets it the way they want it. Those who build homes are usually eager to make their clients happy, unless they are unwilling or unable to budge on design because of ridiculous constraints.


The good and the bad side of building this country house is that it isn't small enough to be considered cozy and it isn't big enough to be considered a sprawling mansion, but it is somewhere in between the two. We wanted our house to be large enough to accommodate the family that continues to expand with our grown kids, with our love-in-laws, grandkids, dogs, and friends who wonder if we'll ever live to see our house completed. Believe me, we share their concern.

This country house has introduced us to the concept of country time, and we've somehow gone from city people who existed in a perpetual state of rushing to country dwellers moving in slow motion...the kind of people who require one year to sheetrock one room. It's the Rip Van Winkle end of country time for us.


We nearly go into a full-blown celebration after each small accomplishment. We installed a new faucet, so it's time to celebrate at Thai Cottage! We sealed the wrap-around porch, it's time to hit The Seafood Kitchen! Then it'll be ribs or chicken fried steak for doing a bit of landscaping.

And that's how we roll around here these days. Do a little, eat a lot.

After working nonstop so hard and for so long on this house...we got burned out. But lately, we've been trying to work at least two full days on some goal in the house while also doing the ordinary day-to-day chores and acreage upkeep that is demanded. I must say that we've become quite the team. These days, when we tackle a job, we have the knowledge and ability to work faster and to do the job well.



For example, with sheetrocking...you should see the two of us. I can listen to music while wearing earbuds as he listens to a game. We work together without needing to overstep or supervise one another. We have even learned to do a light Sante Fe texturing technique that requires both of us to work simultaneously while the mud is still soft. The finish of the wall texture is subtle, yet attractive...natural in appearance instead of the ordinary splattered on texture. This technique goes beyond the orange peel look that I loved for so long. Of course, our choices of finishes demand techniques that are more labor intensive, but what the heck...we've got nothing but COUNTRY TIME on our hands. If this is going to be the never-ending house build, we might as well have fun with the details.




I've been so thrilled to finally finish sheetrocking the first room upstairs. We've done some sheetrocking in each room upstairs, but no room has been finished, until now! It has multiple edges as the angled ceiling splits into two different directions. There's a small regular ceiling in one area that leads to the dormer window and another ceiling area that slopes with the angle of the roof. This room was a booger to sheetrock, tape, float, sand, then texture. There were many extra lines, angles and joints because of all the cuts that were needed. I even did some tricky sheetrocking while lying on my back beneath the lowest portion of the sloped ceiling. Things got crazy in there.

But I enjoyed finishing the floating and taping because it led us to enjoy ourselves at Cracker Barrel.

Floating and Taping - No makeup, humidity-sticken hair, but
I'm thrilled the room is moving forward.

Today, I was so happy to pick out the paint for this corner room. I opted for a soft, buttery yellow that was in the "chill-out and enjoy the tranquility" kind of paint selection. With the two windows in the room (once they're cleaned) it will be bright and sunny in that space, so we want it to be a cheery feel-good room.

I'd love to begin painting tomorrow, but I'm not sure that will be possible because it has been raining for days in our part of Texas, and more rain is expected. It's a mess out here folks.

This room, once finished...which that might take another year...will be my writing room. It'll also be a soft place to land for reading, chilling out or for having a quiet talk with riotous laughter. This room might even be a place to do limited Yoga since I restrict my movements to coincide with my motto of being an "exercise minimalist."

Regardless...the room will be awesome.


I hope to post pictures of it painted by the end of this weekend...or maybe after Christmas. I'm on country-time. All. The. Way.

* Time frames listed are never concise, y'all.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

# 573 - Rooster Love

Our roosters are kind of adorable, even when mean-mugging me.


They are big, healthy boys who get along and wake us every morning to their crowing.


Sometimes it seems they are posing for me, literally strutting their stuff. Roosters can look quite regal. This is Pavarotti; he's got a beautiful voice.


I love the classic rooster stance with one foot in the air. The roos look great when shaking their tail feathers.


I think I heard him whisper under his breath, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."


Thursday, July 6, 2017

#572 - Gardening for Bountiful, Beautiful, Tasty Delights

For nearly all of my adult life I've had a vegetable garden, on some level. Even during my worst years as my green thumb withered, I still grew some sort of vegetables, most often tomatoes, bell peppers, and other kitchen staples.

There's no doubt that I'm addicted to homegrown tomatoes, but this season I tried growing potatoes...again.

In the past I've tried and not enjoyed much success. This year I bought GMO-Free Adirondack Seed Potatoes, and I planted five. All were fantastically successful; it was interesting to see the potato vines and leaves grow to a bluish color, and this is beneficial as you'll always know which potato variety is the Adirondack Blue.

As you can see in the photo below, the potatoes have a purplish skin and the flesh is bright purple. Unlike other purple potatoes, these maintain their beautiful purple flesh after being cooked and are VERY high in antioxidants! You can see how large these got by looking at the upper middle photo of the collage where I'm holding one of the potatoes; they're such big beauties!

I prepared oven-roasted potatoes for dinner one night, mixing Adirondack Blues with regular Russets, and the purple color made cooking feel more delightful and cheery, but the purple roasted potatoes on the plate made dining seem more fun and exciting.


From now on, every year I'll do my BEST to plant Adirondack Blue potato seeds in our garden because an abundant harvest allows me to give these beautiful potatoes as gifts to family and friends who are creative home-style chefs, but who might not have the space to have their own vegetable garden.

Later, I'll write about my growing techniques because my potato crop was a success; my harvest was quite handsome; I feel like a proud momma! However, potatoes are a crop that can be planted three separate times throughout the year, so I'll be making sure these potatoes keep going in our garden, and I'll write more details for potato lovers in a post that's soon to come.

This season, so far, my Walla Walla onions, sown from real seeds, tiny seeds, didn't seem to germinate. That was disappointing because I was eagerly anticipating two rows of onions being at our disposal for a long period of time...I wanted to walk out and pull up a couple of onions for meals whenever I wanted, but my want, want, want turned to nada, nada, nada for onions. I had doubted the health of those seeds, but went against my gun instinct when planting those seeds...shoulda, woulda, coulda.

However, my scallions were comfy at home in the garden and grew nicely. Same with the carrots; they love their growing spot. I love to pick baby carrots when they're tender and sweet, plus the chickens love the carrot tops as a treat. The below photo even shows a couple of pitiful potatoes that had been accidentally left behind in the garden, the tiny runts that simply struggled to keep up with the pack...I'll not let them go to waste.


Oh Bell Peppers...how I love thee! This is vegetable that can truly be expensive at the grocery store and is an ingredient we love to cook with. It's wonderful to grow fragrant, tasty bell peppers on our acreage. I love making several foods with bell peppers...stuffed bell peppers, chicken fajitas that do NOT taste nearly as good if cooked without bell pepper slices, king ranch chicken where I mince the bell pepper so my youngest daughter doesn't pick through her plate, grilled chicken or beef shish-k-bobs that include bell pepper chunks, and so many other delicious meals.


I've been thrilled to get corn from our garden this season. Now, corn is an incredible food to have on hand. You can take one ear of corn and cut off the kernels for a meal variation, grill it on the pit or it can be cooked several other ways, but corn is a great food to add to a meal. Corn is a continuous crop, so if you like eating it often or consistently, then you need to plant new seeds every two weeks for the entire planting season. I'll have to improve my gardening skills and time-table to get into a good groove for corn, but I DID grow some corn this year!


Jalapeno Peppers are my husband's delight. Well, ANYTHING hot and spicy suits his palate. I prefer the milder extra large jalapenos, and I stuff them with cheese, wrap in bacon and cook...one of my all-time favorites. The jalapenos I grow at home are smaller and HOT. But, it's great to have them on hand to prepare home-made salsa or pico de gallo, along with other dishes.


The Texas heat is now battering the best out of my precious tomato plants, but they've been producing quite an impressive bounty of tomatoes. From seed, I grew several varieties...of course my garden is completely Heirloom or GMO-Free plants, so I grew Black Krim, Beefsteak, Old German, Yellow Pear and my Bootcreek Green Beefsteak...some tomatoes get up to TWO POUNDS in weight! The smell and taste of our homegrown tomatoes is something that cannot be replicated in an ordinary grocery store full of produce that's grown as rapidly as possible to make as much money as possible...our home-grown, heirloom varieties are allowed to linger in the garden, to grow at their natural pace and be free of any kind of growth stimulates or chemicals, and they are allowed to hang out on the vine for as long as it suits them, then they're savored.


The harvest we get from our home-grown vegetable garden brings tremendous joy and value to our lives, home, kitchen, meals, wallet, self-esteem, and to our tastebuds. Not only do we find fulfillment from gardening, we learn and utilize real-world skills that are priceless because there's MUCH MORE to gardening than just sticking some seeds in the soil. Each lesson is treasured and no matter how much I read, study and research, there just isn't the same level of absorption for a topic than to just dig in and do it. Every year I gain more knowledge by doing some level of gardening, whether it be in containers, or a very limited garden or a more extensive garden where I'm taking things to a new level.


One thing is for sure, gardening can bring out the introspective side of me. After the rains we've had last week, the weeds can be an unrelenting beast, but gardening teaches and re-teaches me life lessons. This week, I'm reminded that life always has bad things trying to creep in, but we must be diligent and watchful, always eager and energetic to halt unhealthy intruders before they attempt to ruin all that we've worked so hard to enjoy. Life is like that...from destructive thoughts to destructive behaviors and destructive people, we need to weed as much of it out of our life as possible. Then, we should focus on the beautiful parts that will give back to us. Our hard work DOES come back around, and there is such amazing joy when we reap the fruits of our labor.

I'm celebrating!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

# 571 - A Country House and Back to Blogging

Years ago I began blogging. So much happened over those years. We went through our house being destroyed by Hurricane Ike, getting our kids through high school and then college, selling our house in Greater Houston, then moving to our acreage in the country and living in an RV for nearly three years as we built a house.


Weather conditions were difficult as we got started. It took much longer to clear the site for the house because of constant rains. It was awful. The large equipment couldn't maneuver in the muddy ground, so we had to simply practice PATIENCE.


It was difficult to imagine a house standing on the acreage we'd owned since our kids were young. David was determined to get his wrap-around porch...that was his non-negotiable feature. Mine was to have large rooms, especially nice sized bathrooms. We've owned homes with TINY bedrooms and this house wouldn't have tiny accommodations.


Another feature we both longed to have in our country house was dormer windows, and we got them...three of them. I love that they are well balanced with the size of the house because sometimes a dormer window can end up to look like an afterthought. Our builder did a fantastic job.


The house is just over 3,000 square feet with over 2,000 square feet of wrap-around porch. Crazy porch space, but that is David's dream.


We kept the forested landscape all around the house. Of course, that's not difficult to do since we live in the Big Thicket.


Our detached garage became a huge construction project in itself. We decided to go all out. On a solid, re-enforced foundation, we built an oversized two-car garage with extra space aside, a four-car carport, and a loft overhead that's over 900 square feet that we use as "attic" space for the time being. We build a full staircase inside the garage to lead up to the loft. I had intended that space to serve as part attic space with a separated area to be used as my art studio. However, this house is such a huge undertaking that it will probably take another two years to wrap up the main house, so the loft continues to serve as an attic storage space. I must say it's wonderful to walk into the attic and to not be cramped.


We now have our garage and attic full of many of our belongings and many things of all size...furnishings, boxes, appliances, etc., that our oldest daughter has stored there for the time being. We are ALL looking forward to the day when they can move their big ticket items out of these spaces so we can use the garage as the wood workshop David truly needs to utilize since we must do many projects to finish this house. For now, we look like true Rednecks with far too many things on our wrap-around porch because they will not fit in this huge garage that's stuffed with everyone's things. We will be working that out this year or me and my daughter will be having a garage sale!


Our builder had been waiting for the bad weather to clear out so he could start construction on our house. It was a miracle, but once he began building from the floor to the metal roof...we did not have ONE rainstorm. The weather remained dry and hot while they built the shell of the house, which pleased me immensely. This was indeed a huge and unusual blessing!

I have loads to catch up with on this blog. I had a problem with pictures, but it seems that issue is resolved, so perhaps my loaded pictures will no longer disappear and that's a great motivator to return to regular blogging!

As for construction on this new home...we have a long way to go to finish, but we are thrilled to be fortunate enough to live a dream. Each day is a challenge and a learning experience, but the rewards of doing so much of the work ourselves is beautiful.

Today I'll be putting up a couple more shelves in the closet of a the downstairs guest bedroom. Each small step puts us closer toward enjoying the house of our dreams.