Saturday, October 3, 2015

Beware: Creepy Insect Post Ahead

For some folks, Tarantulas are nightmare inducing.
Tiny spiders in their house are hardly more than they can bear.
The thought of one that is nearly as big as their hand causes this reaction.

I happen to like Tarantulas because they prey on scorpions and red headed centipedes.  
Both those insects sting and both those insects come in my house.
The fewer of them the better.
Tarantulas have no interest in coming indoors.
They head the other way if they see me outdoors.
Live and let live.
I've gone so far as to get out of my car and shoo them off the road in my neighborhood so no one will run over them.
Yes, I'm one of those people.

photo credit: wikipedia stock photo
As with most things in this world, there is something bigger and badder than the thing you fear most.

photo credit:
Meet the Tarantula Hawk Wasp.
Second most painful sting in the insect world; only the Bullet Ant tops it.
An entomologist has come up with a scale for the pain level of insect stings and exposed himself to each and every sting.  
Some people need to have their heads examined, but I digress.

His name is Dr. Justin Schmidt and his "scale" is called the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.
Here is is description of the sting of the female Hawk Wasp (males are harmless).
"Blindingly fierce, shockingly electric.  A running hairdryer has just been dropped into your bubble bath."
Sounds like a good time, huh?

We have those here. 
In Texas. 
At my house. 
Flying around my pastures.
I just ignore them.

They have no interest in me.  Their biological clocks are ticking.  The females are out in large numbers right now, in search of a place to lay her 3 eggs.
She can only lay them on tarantulas---thus the name of the beast.

She somehow manages to sting and thereby paralyze a creature that is bigger than she is.
Then the real horror begins.  
Stephen King should take notes.

She then drags the spider to her waiting den (aka: hole in the ground).  They have been seen dragging a tarantula several hundred yards.  They have also been known to use the tarantula's own den for the next bit-----which is to take the spider down into the hole, lay eggs on it and then leave.
The tarantula is now the incubator for the young.  
Once they hatch, they eat the paralyzed spider, who is still very much alive.

Last weekend, I got to watch this natural freak show in action.
I came upon the struggle and eventual paralyzing of the tarantula.
I had no camera and so just observed.
She then began dragging the spider.  Backwards.
However, she made one mistake.
She was so intent on her prey that she made no mind to those that were watching her.
The chickens came closer and closer to inspect.  Movement of any kind might mean food for chickens.
Remember, with chickens---they will eat anything that doesn't eat them first.  
Tiny dinosaurs, but I digress.

Tarantulas are a favorite snack of chickens.
Just as quick as it had begun for the unsuspecting tarantula, it was over.
My chickens stole, fought over and devoured the spider, leaving the Hawk Wasp to wonder what just happened.

I learned online that Hawk Wasps have no predators. None.  Not one.  
The chickens came back to her to have a "wonder if she's tasty" look.  She sat back on her hind legs, front legs in the air and wings outstretched.  She hopped at them.
The hens decided, "NO!" and went back to picking seed heads off the grass.

Nature will have what nature wants.  
Welcome to the Jungle.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Missing the Sunrise

Sunrises are my favorite.
Someone at church last week asked where we see God.
I see God in sunrises.
Proof that He sees fit for humanity to have another day.

I find artwork in sunrises that surpasses any other magic in nature.
Sunsets are pretty too, but I don't have a front row seat for those--a house and trees in the way.

One of the very best times of day for me has always been sunrise.
The temperature is cool, even during heat waves in August.
The traffic sounds from the highway have not begun in earnest.
The animals are just waking. 
Birds sing, 
chickens quietly cluck, cluck as they search for nighttime bugs that have forgotten to go to bed, dogs stand at bowls, waiting for breakfast, 
the cat purrs as he makes he way in and around my ankles, 
the herd of deer wait quietly for their meager handful of corn, 
and the donkeys stretch and yawn and shake off the night.
Quiet. Cool. Still.
Then, as if on cue, the color rises in the east.  
Reds, Pinks, Oranges, Yellows, Blues and even Purples.

The lead actor, the Sun, comes onto the stage slowly.
A ball of color that can scarcely be described. 
I am stopped in my morning chores to watch.  
I mustn't move, lest I miss something.
Photographs have never done it justice, and so I no longer bother.
I just allow myself to be enveloped in the moment.
The moment will be gone before I know it.

A moment of magic and wonder and God.

Have I seen enough sunrises to make up for the fact that I can no longer witness them? 
I don't think so.
My new job has me out of bed and doing outdoor chores at 5:30am.
Well before sunrise.  
When the sun comes up, I am in my school building, preparing for the day.
I am meeting the bus that carries my Jane and Red, just after sunrise.
I am surrounded by tall trees and houses and so the horizon is barely visible anyway.

And so, I must find new things to appreciate and worship in the sky.
Luckily, I live far enough from large light sources that many stars are visible.
I will find God in the night sky.  
I will enjoy the darkness.  
I will learn to appreciate the wonder of the stars and the moon.

photo credit:
I will tell you that one star in the early morning Eastern sky has captured my fancy.
As it happens, it is not a star at all, but the planet Venus.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Five Years of Waiting

Five years ago this summer, a pair of Great Horned Owls set up household somewhere in the area.  
They have raised, successfully, 5 broods of chicks since then.

Every night in the late winter and early spring, I have gone outside to hear the familiar 
"Whhooooo, Whoo, Whhoooo"
 of one mate calling to the other.  
Sometimes they were so close, that I could hear them from inside the house.  

Always, always, I would creep quietly outside to see if I could spot them in the fading light of day.
They are terribly skittish and even one snap of a twig under my feet and they were off.

I have taken several very blurry, grainy pictures of them at dusk. 
 I have longed to see one in the daylight for five years.  A creature that I know exists, but have never truly seen in the wild-----until two weeks ago!

I was out mowing the dirt (kidding, but just barely) in my north pasture.  We had flooding rains in the spring, followed by 2 months of no rain at all.  
Tall, green grass and brush turned to tall, dead grass and brush.  
A fire danger!  
My neighbor to the north pulled onto their property and spooked a Great Horned owl from a tree.  I watched it silently glide to a stop in one of my trees.  I contained my excitement and let it settle in.  I continued mowing and catching sideways glances to see if it was still there.  
It was!

I got off the mower after about an hour and went inside.  Binoculars from the house let me know it was still there.  The problem now was that there was freshly mown, open pasture between me and the owl.  It would see me as soon as I stepped foot outside the house with the camera.

I pretended to fiddle around in the barn, which lies between the house and where the owl was perched.
I stepped from the barn toward the tree on the far side of the pasture.
Click, click, click.  
Photos through a telephoto lens.
Step closer, step closer.
Click, click, click.
Step closer, step closer.
Click, click, click.
If you look back up at the photo, you'll see that there is a large,vertical branch to the right of the owl. 
He stepped sideways toward that branch, every time I snapped a photo.  
He'd stop and look at me, as I stopped to snap pictures.
Finally, with about 300 feet between us, he'd had enough.
I searched through my camera and then with my naked eye.
He was gone. 
I hadn't even seen him leave.

Fingers crossed for one good picture, I took the camera back in the upload the photos.
One good photo from about 50!  

I know it's really no big deal, but I feel like I've captured a picture of Bigfoot!

If you'd like to read more about these amazing birds, I've attached some links.

Monday, September 7, 2015

My First Week at Work

Well, I did it.
I worked 40 hours at a place away from home for the first time in 23 years.

Katie and Jenna both asked me how my first few days went.
I explained it as follows, 
"The first day, I felt like I was climbing a ladder for 8 hours. Straight up"
"The second day, I felt like I was climbing a mountain for 8 hours.  Places to rest along the way, but still very hard."
"By day 5, I was spending my time mostly on long, gentle inclines.  Still up, but not so hard"

None of those descriptions had anything to do with being on my feet so much; but rather how steep the learning curve feels to me to be doing something so very important.

I get Jane and Red off the bus at 7:10.
Down the long hall, past the cafeteria, and elevator.
We say our names, loudly, as we pass the bathrooms--the echo is wonderful!  Don't tell the kindergarteners! Down another long hall and into our classroom.
We spend the entire day traversing hallways, bathrooms, elevators, classrooms, music, PE, art, and any therapies she might receive. 
I am responsible for general learning, but also responsible for carrying out the directions of her Life Skills teacher and the teacher that will be helping her negotiate her world as young person without sight.
Everything I do with her must mean something.
I feel that weight.
I'm am more that willing to carry it, but it is heavy.
It keeps my mind racing as I lay my head on my pillow at night.
That is new too. 
I used to race Eric to dreamland.
It even enters my dreams.

If my bladder wakes me before the alarm does, my brain now wants to be awake too.
Funny how my body is taking the wheel in these early days of learning for me.

Soon, all of us that have Jane's best interests in mind will have a definitive plan of action.
Right now we're finding out what she knows and what she can/can't do.
How can we help her reach out and grasp her wildest dreams?
On the other side of that coin, Jane is finding out about us.
Can she trust us? Does she like us? Does she like school?
Learning, we're all learning.

Down our hall.
Past the bathrooms, "Carla"  "Jane" we say, listening again for our echoes.
Past the elevators and cafeteria and down the last long hall.
Out on the sidewalk.
We wait for the bus.

Next time I'll tell you all about her friends---she has many, which delights me to no end!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The End of an Era

On October 13th, 2004, I got a call from my mail carrier,
"They're here!"
My first ever batch of chicks was at the post office, cheeping up a storm because they were tired and hungry and cold.

My last hen from that first batch of chickens died on Sunday.  
If she had lived to see October 10th, she would have been 11 years old!

People always ask me, "How long to chickens live?"
I always say that I don't know, but that "I have one that is 10 years old".

Penny was an extra chicken that I did not order.
She was added "for warmth" (chicks need to be kept at 95* until their first feathers come in--more chicks, more warmth).  
That is chicken hatchery speak for "We're dumping a rooster chick on you because that's one less chick we have to kill because no one wants roosters."
Good for them, not so good for me.
I asked them to mark the head of the little roo with a marker so I knew who NOT to get attached to.

As the weeks went by, I noticed my little roo was not acting or looking like a rooster at all.
When the 12th week passed and there was nary a crow out of the wee bird, I decided that my little chick that was added for warmth was actually a little hen.
Better yet, she was an Easter Egger chicken.
Her eggs would be pink, green or blue.
They ended up being pinkish brown.
She laid dozens and dozens of eggs in her lifetime---right up until last year.

She was always a bit skittish, never one to climb in my lap like some of my other chickens.
She was also a loner.  For reasons unknown to me, she was never pals with any of the other chickens.  I worried about her the first year.  Worried that her being alone all the time when she free-ranged would make her more susceptible to daytime predators.
Nope, she outlived all her sisters.

In the last couple weeks, she began showing real signs of failing.
Walking very slowly, standing in one place for long lengths of time, eating with less vigor, drinking little.  
Part of me hoped it was the heat.  I provided her with cold water several times a day and put her in shady places when I'd find her standing in the sun.
She was living life in slow motion.  
I told a friend that it was she was like a helium balloon that was slowly losing air and drifting toward the ground.
Several days I thought, "Today is the day", and then she'd rally.

A couple people asked me why I didn't put her out of her misery.

The short answer is that it didn't appear that she was suffering
she was pretty darn afraid of me.
I didn't want to terrify her by picking her up, only to then wring her neck.

I let nature take its course and the course was completed on Sunday while I was at church.

Eric went out with me to check on her.
He then dug a hole while I cried. 
I finally held her, stroked her feathers.
The first and last time I would ever do it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Whole New Chapter

I got a job!
A paying job. I have long volunteered in many arenas of my life.
I decided that since Quinn is now driving,  I could take a job that required more of my time.
However, I wanted to still be able to look after the house and make dinner.  Especially dinner.
I was also hopeful to find a job that would allow me to keep my two long-term volunteer positions.
No nights or weekends either.
Sounds like a pretty tough list, huh? It has been.

It only made sense that I apply at our local school district. 
I'd have the same vacations that Quinn has, have nights and weekends off and have hours that meshed with my wife and mom duties.  
I also missed being with little kids (see yesterdays post).

I was turned down for one job that I felt I would be a shoe-in for.  I would simply be an assistant to a Pre-K teacher.  I was sent a nice email telling me that they'd had a large number of applicants and that I wasn't qualified for the position.  I was feeling pretty let down.  Geez, if I'm not qualified to assist in a classroom, what am I qualified for?  I raised 3 kids and I was room-mom extraordinaire for all 3 of my kids many times.  I let it go and decided I would look for seasonal work come Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, my cell phone rang at 7:30am.  I normally don't answer a call that doesn't have an ID.  I figured it must be someone I know or at the very least, a wrong number.  I answered.

I almost hung up because it was obvious that it was someone on their car's bluetooth and I honestly could barely understand him.  
I heard 3 things that made me stay on the call.  "Job" (crackle, crackle) "DSISD" (crackle, crackle) and "Haven't taken another job?" (crackle, crackle).

He did something in his car that made it easier to understand him, but I still wasn't completely clear on which job he was referring to.  I figured I'd find out when I went to the interview.
I went, fingers crossed.  I had to make it clear to him that my ability to do the job was not predicated on having recent past experience in the classroom.  You see, I spent 6 years in the classroom as a preschool teacher, but it was 30 years ago.  The preschool no longer exists, so they were just going to have to take my word for it.
He did.
We talked for some time and he was convinced that I was the exact person for the job.  In fact, he told me he wished he would have interviewed me first and saved himself the scramble of finding the right person.  You see, school starts on Monday.  They have to do a background check, I have to be fingerprinted and they have to check all my references.  I have to sign papers, get my picture taken for a badge, etc.  

So, what's the job?

I will be an aide to a beautiful, red-headed little girl that is visually impaired.
While I will never share pictures of her or even mention her real name, I can tell you that she had leukemia as a small child.  She lost her eyesight to a virus and she has small seizures.  Her service dog is for her seizures and not for her vision impairment.
I will, for the sake of this blog, call her "Jane" and her dog, "Red".

My job will simply be to help her navigate through her day.  

I can't tell you how excited I am!  I can't wait to meet her and her family.  
I can't wait to assure her parents that I will treat their daughter like my own and that I will come to work ready to make her day a great one.

I have so many questions and want so badly to make this little girl's life as wonderful as possible.
I have long, long recognized that teachers help us raise our children.

I want her parents to be at ease and feel without question that I am the perfect person to be with their daughter every day.

And so, I am not only turning a page in my life, I am beginning a whole new chapter.
Then again, so is Jane.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Throwback Thursday

November 20, 2001

Some days I miss these kids.  
They've grown into such wonderful young adults though!

We had surprised them with this trip.  Packed their bags and then hid the bags in the van.
We took them out to dinner at a local pancake house and then told them we were going to Disney World instead of home. 
 This is the "We're going where?" look

 Quinn didn't exactly know what Disney World was, but he knew he wanted in on what the big kids were excited about.
 Eric had ordered special tickets for all of us, so we had plastic name tags with a magic bar code on the back. All we needed were lanyards and a plane to Florida!

 Dinner was quickly finished and we headed to the airport.
 A non-stop to Orlando, and a cab ride to the Contemporary Resort in the Magic Kingdom and we'd be ready to meet Mickey the next day.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer Birthdays

I guess technically, Dad's birthday is in the very late Spring.  
No matter.  It's a time for celebration and family and (in this case) fresh, homemade blueberry pie.  

It's mom's recipe and it quickly disappears.  Nary a crumb left in the pan. 

Wee Everyly isn't so wee anymore.
She's full of smiles and such a good natured girl.  
If you'll notice in my right sidebar,  Evie is going to be a big sister next year!

The birthday boy, and his boy, and his boy's boy. 
I just noticed how Eric's shoe looks like he wears a size 20 shoe.  
That's how small fish and rattlesnakes appear so much bigger in photos---perspective.

We celebrated Mom's birthday with the family tradition of German's Chocolate Cake.
Somehow I managed to not get one photo of Mom's special guest---my Brother-in-Love, Joel.
He comes to celebrate the birthdays for Mom and Dad with "Zeros and Fives" in the number.

Got one, now the other!

 Success! Now we eat cake!

Here's another photo where camera angle skews the perspective.  Evie is not, as the picture portrays, a giant's child.  
She got to try a a couple nibbles of Grandma's cake.  
Something she did not get to do with Grandpa's pie, because she was too little.

Fall is a huge season for birthdays in our family.
Quinn, Jenna, Olivia, Jody, Me, Katie, Evie, Nora and Beth.
Maybe one year, we can all get together and celebrate them all at one time.
What dessert should we have?
I vote for ice cream.
Always, ice cream. 

Do you have a birthday tradition?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bird Bath

At first, I thought this Great Horned Owl fledgling ended up in the drink on accident.
After looking at further shots, I can see he did it on purpose.
One day, I'll get a picture of a GHO in daylight with a decent camera.
Until then, I'll have to settle for my game camera.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Happy Anniversary to Me, Again!

27 years ago, today!.
I have been married more than half my life!
Hills and Valleys and Mountaintops.
It wouldn't be marriage if it didn't have all that topography.

I have no wise words, no secrets for hanging in there when marriage hits a Valley or a Ravine.
Often, it is just one partner being completely unwilling to let go of the other's hand.
Hanging on by the slipperiest of grips.

I think making the most of the Hills and Mountaintops can be helpful.
Eric and I are guilty of not taking advantage of those high places.
We have been in the midst of careers and child-raising for nearly all of our 27 years together.
We are one of those couples who never took people up on offers of babysitting because........well, I don't know why.
We just didn't much.
By the time we paid a babysitter, watched a movie and ate some dinner, it was terribly expensive.
We saved our money for things like paying bills and yearly vacations.
Daily/weekly/monthly hikes to Hills and Mountaintops have just not been our style.
If I were to change anything about our marriage, it would be that.

We are within sight of retirement and having Quinn go off to college.
Am I worried about what Eric and I will do once that happens?
Not really.
I think we'll just pick up where we left off 27 years ago.

Is this the ideal way to do it?
No, but it has worked for us.

I have faith that we'll once again walk that path that brought us together in the first place.
It meanders through our marriage and we occasionally walk on it, hand in hand. 
One day, we'll stay on it permanently--Hills, Valleys and Mountaintops.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy Anniversary to Me and the Boys!

One year ago today, the boys came home to live with me.
Nothing special planned for today, as they are very picky about their treats.
No cake or watermelon.
Only apples and pretzels.
They helped me clean their paddock this morning, as they do every time I get out the wheelbarrow and muck rake.

Bill is sure to check the wheelbarrow for items that he doesn't approve of being removed (small sticks, mostly). 
Ted just takes the opportunity to chew on the handles.

Neither one offers to help actually scoop up manure, but that's okay. 
 Not having thumbs makes that a bit difficult.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Are You Ready to Fly

SPECTACULAR: Spectacular is a camp dedicated to creating a safe, Christ-centered community where teens can discover God, their inherent worth, and share their giftednes.

July 17-26

2,386.4 miles
5 Twelve-passenger vans.
43 campers
10 staff members
2 tag-a-longs
1 small dog
4.5 days on the road
7 days at camp
6 nights at camp
2 nights sleeping on church floors 
1 flat tire
0 air conditioners in the dorms

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and finally Iowa.
A week of classes, games, music, art, competition, laughter, tears, disappointment and elation.
A week that was exhausting for me both physically and emotionally.
Breakfast was between 6:30 and 7:30.
Lights Out was at 12:15
Emotionally, I invested too much in how Quinn was doing at camp.
I was also concerned and hurt by a young man that I took under my wing last year.  It was obvious that this trip was just a personal vacation for him and that he had no interest in participating in anything that might ease the pain of his life outside of camp.
In hindsight, I should not have taken any of his actions personally.
You cannot rescue someone that does not want to be rescued.
I can only pray for him at this point.
Mostly, I'm just sad

I believe that with time, I will have feelings of affection about this trip.
There were 3 amazing guest speakers. 
 Two stellar bands and a freakin' ferris wheel!
There were paper lanterns and fireworks.

People worked very hard to make it a memorable week.
My memories right now are jaded by emotion.
This is a video that was played at the closing service.
It is really what took place last week.
I hope and pray that most all of my campers got to fly last week. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chicken! Chicken!

 Not what you were thinking this post would be about, huh?
This is a recipe post.
An easy, peasy, DELICIOUS recipe.

When our family went to Grand Cayman several years ago, Trip Advisor reviewers said that we should most definitely eat at this little hole in the wall eatery.
Holy cow were they ever right!  We ate there twice, we loved it so much!
I was so enamored with the the luscious, heavily herbed, lemony chicken that it became my mission to duplicate it at home.  
I believe that I have mastered it minus one ingredient---wood firing.  
They slow roast theirs over a wood fired spit.  I don't have one.
 However, my version is pretty darn close! 

6 to 8 bone in/skin-on Chicken Thighs
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Montreal Seasoning
1 whole head of Garlic, peeled
3 large Lemons, juiced (save the peel)
1 large bunch each of Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary

Cut the lemon peel into quarters.
Add all the ingredients to a Gallon Size zip bag.  
Mash the ingredients together a bit and store in refrigerator overnight or a minimum of 2 hours. You want to break up the herbs to release their oils.
If you think of it, turn it a couple times to redistribute the ingredients.

Preheat oven to 300* (slow cooking! Makes all the difference!)
 Line a 13x9 pan with heavy duty foil.  (otherwise clean up will be a booger)
Add all the contents from the bag.
Bake for 3 hours.  Baste chicken with juices a couple times.
For the last 15 minutes, turn the oven up to 400 degrees to get a nice brown color on everything.

 Remove everything in the pan to a serving dish/bowl.  
Pour the juices in something because you are most definitely going to want them to dip your chicken in.  We serve this dish with rice.  The drippings are an obvious choice to pour over rice as well.
1. You can definitely do this in a slow cooker on Low.  It won't be as pretty, but it will still taste amazing.
2. I have tried this recipe with Chicken Breasts.  It's just not the same.  The chicken gets dried out and the missing fattiness of the thighs leaves much to be desired.
3. On the subject of fattiness, I do trim most of the obvious fat from the chicken thighs before I mix them with the other ingredients.  Some fat is tasty, too much fat is just icky.
4. Good golly this makes amazing chicken salad the next day if you have any leftovers!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

For the Kids, Always for the Kids

photo credit: flicker sapphire4443

This is a post about learning.
A post about people.
A post about passion and fear and disappointment.
A post about me pushing through something I'd rather not push through.
A post about knowing what has to be done and doing it.

The church I belong to owns a campground in Bandera, Texas.
There are 28 congregations that feed into this one campground. 
All from Texas. 
Those congregations are held together by 2 Mission Center Presidents (the state is split in two) and 1 Financial Officer that works for both Mission Centers.

Each summer there are 4 large youth camps and 3 family camps.

I am the Chair, Director, Sounding Board, Punching Bag of the Camping Committee.
The Camping Committee oversees staffing, educational content, and financial concerns for each of the 7 camps. 
We also deal with parents and pastors and pretty much anyone with a voice that wants to be heard.
A balancing act of the most precarious kind.


Every single camp is staffed by volunteers.  
People that give up precious vacation time to spend time with children that don't belong to them. 
Families they often don't see eye to eye with.
 It is an act of love and selflessness on the highest order.

However, like all good human beings, disagreements are likely. 
Expected even.
How folks deal with their anger, frustration, concern, and disappointment often comes to a boil and I am expected to step in and put a lid on it before it boils over.  
Sometimes those negative feelings are directed solely at me because of decision I made regarding (fill in the blank).

Did I mention that I am a volunteer as well?
This summer has been one of constant triage. It began in earnest in late February and has continued episode after episode.  Getting staff for each camp has been a challenge, but it always is.  Getting staff that is qualified to do the job (especially with kids) has been especially taxing this year.
Getting adults/parents to make a decision in a timely manner about whether their kids are coming to camp has been maddening.  
We cannot staff a camp without knowing how many kids are going to be there.  

Why not put a deadline on campers?  We'd all breathe a lot easier for sure.
We don't work that way.
We want any child who wants to come to camp to be able to come.
And so, we hold our breath and hope for the best.

On the other end of the camping season is the inevitable discussion about how we can make cuts next year so we can be in the black instead of the red for each camp.
How we can entice more kids to come.
How we can have camp but not raise rates.
How we can get them to sign up in a timely manner.  The 'late charge' doesn't seem to be a deterrent for many folks.
And then there is the discussion about what went right and what went wrong with each camp.  What staff really didn't do so well with the kids. 
Finally, we come to the "Who should we ask for next year".

This summer has been trying for me.  
I am a planner.

I like all my ducks to be neatly in a row.
Thankfully, I have 2 Presidents and 1 Financial Officer to deal with and we all work as a great team.

BUT-------next year that all changes.

Those folks have lost their jobs due to budget cuts at my church headquarters in Missouri.
Next year there will be 3 Mission Center Presidents in the state of Texas and 3 Financial Officers in the state of Texas.  All volunteers who have full-time jobs doing other things.

How will this work next year?  Who will I answer to?  Having one financial officer to talk with about camping budgets, money we have and don't have and so on has been a saving grace.
How on earth will the camping program work if I have 3 that I have to deal with.  
Three that may not agree on what is happening at camp and what they will/will not contribute.

My brain and heart are tired and I still have one more camp to go.
The largest camp and it's a traveling camp.
45 high school kids and 10 adults (me included) and 5 vans.
One road trip to and from Iowa.  

Can you see why I might be feeling a bit frazzled?

Why do I do it?
Because of the kids.
For so very, very many of them, camp is a week long escape from their lives.
Lives full of worry and hurt and anger and pain.
Lives that children should not have to live.
Many of the kids are lucky (like mine), and they provide a quiet friendship for the kids that need the down time from their lives.  

Next year will be hard for me.  
I think about quitting every day.
God provides me a boost almost every day to remind me that this job, this volunteer job,  is necessary.
I'm good at it.  I'm passionate about it.
I don't like disagreeing with people.  I'd rather have dental work without anesthesia than have someone angry at me.  
Eric is my foundation and stronghold in those personal storms.  
He has taught me that "people just want to be heard".  I remember that when someone is railing at me because they think I've made the wrong decision.  

I will make this work.  
There's a saying that goes "God never said it would be easy".
If I can trudge through this job, feel uneasy for a while, so that children can come to camp and have a week free of drama, then it is all worth it.

My hair may be on fire sometimes.
I may be grouchy and wish for November when camp is on the backburner for a bit.
However, I have people around me who make my job easier.
I will lean on them, as I always do.
I will lean on God when I am out of options and at my wits end.

For the kids.
Always for the kids.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Her Father's Eyes

At a 4th of July party last year, we all found out that this wee baby was going to be a girl.
It's hard to believe that she's 8 months old already.  
We kind of like her a little bit.

She is the light at every family gathering.  All smiles and giggles and stories in her own language.

We huddle around her like campers to a campfire on a cold, damp morning.
What must she think of us studying her?  

She went for her first 'swim' in our pool the other day.  I found her a little floating raft with a cover over the top.
She loves the water. 
Splashing followed by surprise at the water in her face.  
Eyebrows up, blinking eyes.  Looking to Katie for whether to be afraid or not.

I have an odd mix of extreme joy and melancholy when she is around.  
She has her father's eyes--my son's eyes.  
They are exactly his.  
The shape.  
The way they crease the corners of her face. 
The light and expression they provide.

Why does this make me sad?  
Because I see my first born in her eyes.  
My first baby.  
I fell madly, deeply in love with him---a love I thought was reserved for lovers. 
His smell, his smile, his laugh, his every move.  
I missed him when he slept or when I was away from him.
Seeing that baby boy in Evie's eyes is much like seeing a first love again after many, many years apart.  I miss that baby and that simple time in my life.

Preston is now grown and what a fine young man he has become.
He is an amazing daddy to this little pumpkin.  He adores her and she him.  
I would never have imagined this for him.  Married with a baby by 23.
Now I can't imagine any other way for him.

I don't know if a comparison is fair to either one of them, but he is like Eric in so many ways. Conscientious, hard working, selfless, driven, silly, willing, loving, smart, and an amazing husband and father.  Just like all parents and children, we went through our rough patches with one another.  I hope Preston can one day see that those places when he hated us the most are those places that we loved him the most.  

Being a dad is the very hardest job he will ever have.  Everly will make him laugh and make him proud and also make him cry and pray harder than he's ever prayed in his life.  He will raise her to think for herself, to discover life outside his protective home and will have days when he wishes he he could take those things back--Shelter her from others, from herself.  

He will do just fine.  He'll survive, just like Eric and I have.  All the worrisome years will melt away and he will see Evie become a lovely young woman, just like he has become a wonderful young man.
One day he'll understand the pride we have in him, because he'll feel it for Evie.
One day he'll understand the love we have for him.
I suspect he already understands that part though. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Anniversary of Being Chosen

One year ago today, I was chosen.
I met Wishbone (aka Ted) and Digger (aka Bill).
I wasn't able to bring them home right away because my pastures weren't completely fenced yet.

I was, as they say, putting the cart before the horse.
Didn't matter.
The wonderful woman who owned them was happy to keep them until I was ready.
Turns out it was a good thing, as we had a tornado blow through on June 12th that took out trees and my brand new fence.
The donkeys would have had no cover from the storm at all.

I didn't actually bring them home until July 30th, but that's a story for another day.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Which Canine Are You?

Obviously, I need a point of reference to figure out if the canine in the first photo is the same as the second photo.
This picture was taken last night.  It's the only shot of him/her.
I'm leaning toward thinking it is a coyote and the tail in the air is a sort of 'flipping me the bird' behavior.  
Coyotes do not carry their tails up, nor do fox.

This is obviously a gray fox.  The dark stripe on the tail is the primary give away.

Even though they are in almost exactly the same spot on my front porch, the plants that are to the right were trimmed back this spring and so I cannot compare their sizes.
Maybe I'll get a pot from one of my garden beds and put it out there for reference.

They both evidently visit because this is where I throw kitchen scrapes for the deer each evening. 
 Usually just plant matter from making salads and such.  However, there is sometimes an old moldy piece of bread or 5 leftover brussels sprouts from dinner.  

Either way, if the first picture is a coyote, it is unsettling to me. 
I know there is a pack in the area, as they carry on something fierce at night.
I had thought they were staying well away from the houses, as there are plenty of cottontails and other small critters to eat back where they live.
I must be wrong (obviously!)
One coyote is no big deal to my donkeys.
If the pack comes into the neighborhood and into my pasture, my donkeys would be hard pressed to fight them off.

It might be time to attach no-climb fence to my 3 rail fence.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Not So Heavenly

I keep looking at the news, hoping for some good news about those that are missing.
In a small town, just 15 miles from my house, a beautiful river became a wall of death and destruction in the middle of the night.

We've been experiencing consistent rain this Spring; something that we haven't seen in over 7 years.
However, it just won't seem to let up.
Day after day of torrential rain finally caught up with the residents in Wimberley, TX.
The Blanco River rose to 41.5 feet in a matter of an hour or so.
Flood stage is 13 ft.!

Eleven people are missing.
Nine of them are from one household----vacationing for Memorial Day weekend on the river.
It looks like a 10th person from that house is the sole survivor.
A dad.
His wife and 2 children are missing and presumed dead.
They found the family dog, 6 miles downstream in a tree---alive.

I'm not normally an emotional person when it comes to "acts of God".
I understand that bad stuff happens to very good folks.
For some reason, this flooding and those missing are really getting to me.
I guess I can't fathom the pain involved with having a family member missing among the massive, massive piles of debris and rushing water.

The rain that was so very prayed for, wished for, can stop now.
We are high and dry(ish) at our house.  
The water runs quickly away. 
Our biggest worry right now is a tree that's leaning and needs to be taken down before it falls down on a fence.

It's raining right now--again.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


I've always love the term 'Walkabout'.  It has it's roots in Australia.
I don't know where I first heard it.
It was either in The Man from Snowy River or Crocodile Dundee.
It is defined by Merriam Webster as:

1: a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work 
2:  something (as a journey) similar to a walkabout
3:  a walking tour; especially British :  one in which a well-known person mingles with the public 
photo credit: My long-suffering and good hearted neighbor, Jason
Eleanor (Roosevelt) and Ruth (Bader-Ginsburg) have decided they must talk privately about matters of state.  
And by privately, I mean a quarter mile (or more) away!

My chickens have always roamed, but these girls are taking it to a whole new level. 
They walk all the way across my pasture, through the neighbor's pasture, around their house and into their back yard.

They scratch up the neighbor's flower beds, leave 'presents' on their pool deck and look in windows to see who is home.  
It is a mystery that I have no hope of solving.

They are not going over to some secret egg-laying site, because they dutifully walk all the way home to the coop to do that.
There are not super secret snacks being provided by my neighbor.  
In fact, my sweet neighbors are worried that the girls will either get in with their dogs and get killed or be taken by coyotes or other predators that live just beyond their property. 
"Here Be Dragons"
I'm a practical chicken owner though.
If they get eaten, they get eaten.
You cannot tie a chicken to a chain in the backyard.

I have asked my neighbors to chase them away when they see them.
I am also trying to figure out ways to keep them on the property.
One way is to keep them in the chicken run for the better part of the day.
It's a very large run, with lots of things to eat and places to scratch and bathe.
However, Ruth can still get out of the run.
Eleanor has given up "flying', and so is stuck in the run.
Thankfully, Ruth isn't wont to wander so far without Eleanor's company.

Still, why all that way?
A mystery that will never be solved.
Any chicken whisperers out there?