"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin


Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.


"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham


"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien


"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not




Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's About Fun

Ronnie introduces the pigeons and chickens to Seth.


August 6  marked the fourth anniversary of my husband's passing. In some ways it feels like it's been a long four years, and in others if feels like he was here yesterday. The night Ronnie was given the diagnosis and prognosis, we lay together in his hospital bed. He told me, "Don't spend a lot of time being sad about this.  You still have a lot of life to live. Go have fun."

Shortly before Ronnie look his last earthly breath, a friend of ours, Peter Nillson, posted a link to Abba's song, "Move On." You can watch it here.

This song literally saved my sanity. The images the video maker, sssmacdann, used are as moving and as jubilant as the words to the song. The two together spoke to me in ways that I have never experienced before.




Images from "Move On".











Life is, indeed, motion -- forward.  It is, in fact, the only way to go. I will forever be grateful to sssmacdann, whoever you are, for making the video and to Peter for introducing it to me.

I've never been much of a party person. I don't have much rhythm, but I love many different kinds of music and I love to watch people dance. My kids  don't say it, but they think I'm boring and that I don't know how to have fun. Our interests are not the same, to say the least. Lol

"Fun" means different things to different people. To me, fun is being with people I enjoy, having heart to heart conversations about life and love, getting to know one another and myself better, growing to appreciate each other more, sharing memories of family, comparing experiences and discussing our different beliefs.  I have lots of friends who make me laugh. That's always fun.  I have wonderful  group of writers I see once a month.


Shelbie




Fun, to me, is also sitting on the patio, just me and Shelbie Pie, listening to music, running my fingers through her coat that's always as soft as cotton.  










Pink and lavender sky
It's sitting out in the yard and watching the motion of my beloved pecan trees in the wind.  It's listening to the soft cooing of the pigeons as they settle in for the night.  It's the drone of the crickets and locusts and the night birds. It's watching the sun come up over the trees casting pink and lavender colors on the clouds against a clear blue sky, listening to the morning birds.

It's watching the approach of storm clouds and anticipating rain!

It's watching a good movie without interruption, or watching a good movie with friends.

It's seeing my critters move about the yard. It's hearing that distinctive "peep" come from under my hen that tells me her eggs have hatched.  It's getting a glimpse of one of her baby chicks sitting on her back, just like in pictures. It's finding a new cantaloupe in my garden and then a watermelon. It's watching them get bigger.

Fun, for me, is when my five year old grandson hollers "I highly approve of you!" as we turn in for the night. It's seeing his Legos creations and hearing the stories he makes up when he puts SpongeBob's head on Marge Simpson's body -- and knowing I can encourage his imagination by paying attention, showing interest, asking questions -- even when the story doesn't make sense. 

Abraham says life is supposed to be fun. I believe that.  I also believe we each define "fun" for ourselves. Some of us look for it, some of us don't. 

My mother told me once, "You owe it to yourself and your creator to enjoy as much of this life as possible, so look for something to enjoy about everything you have to do."

Good advice. So was Ronnie's. Both pieces turned out to be a life changers for me.  I am having fun.


One of two cantaloupes -- so far.










Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mobile Kodgers

Open road on a rainy, snowy day


I watched a documentary on www.topdocumentaryfilms.com called "Without Bound."

It's about people who live in vehicles -- from vans to RV's and everything in between. There was one young couple, Josh and Meisha Manwaring (www.vagabloggers.com) but most of those featured are retired, not looking for work, live on their social security. Some had retirement from past employment. Some have art to sell.  Many are writers and have figured out various ways to make money from their blogs.

It was clear to me that these folks have the answer to stress free living. It's frugality and simplicity. They live cheap, most for under $700 a month, once they get their rig. They don't accumulate much because of space limitations in their mobile dwellings. Plus, they have figured out what their individual needs are.  Freedom is at the top of their list. They do as they please which doesn't appear to be much, other than enjoying every moment to the fullest.  They wake up in a new place anytime they want. They go wherever their heart desires -- well, almost.

It appears that "mobile dwellers" aren't welcome everywhere. One of those featured alluded to a need for stealth, knowing where it's safe to park and where it's not, especially in cities.

In another video, The Summer of Family Love, a young couple and their three youngsters took a road trip along the West Coast. They were living in a VW van, recording their daily lives in order to make a  beautiful and fascinating two hour video about living in close quarters, being on the road, looking for places to safely spend the nights. I'm not sure where they were, but they were asked to leave a national park. It seemed to have something to do with their VW van.  They didn't understand but they went peacefully.

So apparently "mobile dwelling" is viewed differently than "being on vacation." So if I or anyone else were to find themselves in a position to give this a try, research would be in order.

The Manwarings had come to a cross roads of sorts in their individual careers and decided to try something different.  They expressed interest in challenging themselves by living frugally. They have become mostly vegetarians because it's cheaper to eat without meat, but they also don't have to store it. 


So many beautiful places to see

Mobile dwellers stop in out-of-the-way places as opposed to RV parks, partly because of the cost, and I'm sure, they just prefer to find the more magnificent vistas off the main roads. They take advantage of BLM land when they can. That land belongs to the federal government, is wild, and it's open to anyone to stay a while. Ranchers use it for free grazing in some areas.

Because most of the mobile dwellers are connected through the internet, they arrange to meet up in various places, but it sounded like some of them see one another very seldom.

Another really attractive thing about Mobile Dwelling is in living frugally, you're not contributing so much to the status quo. Its the freedom from the responsibility of owning a home (that great American Dream that handcuffs us to the grindstone, gobbles up our freedom, and makes others richer in the process).  With Mobile Dwelling there are no outrageous  property taxes to pay every year or  sky high utilities every month. There is no maintenance on the lawn to suit the neighbors and city code, aka, mowing and trimming. One of the women in the film remembers  mowing and trimming her lawn for too many years. "What did that get me?" she asks.

Most of those featured in "Without Bound" don't have families. At least not in the traditional sense. Some of them chose mobile living when they ended up with no other recourse, but then they fell in love with it and have no intention of going back into the rat race.

We've been sold on the idea that "owning a home" -- which for most people never really comes about because as soon as they build up equity, they sell it and buy something bigger and supposedly better, most assuredly, more expensive, which ties them to that mortgage payment for another fifteen years minimum. So off to work they go with little hope of ever being debt free -- much less -- just free.




Randy Vining has a blog with many fans, www.mobilecodgers.blogspot. com  

I found lots of interesting reading on Randy's blog. His perspective on life and living is so down to earth and refreshing. Be sure and check it out.

Bob Wells, also featured in "Without Bound" has a great website, cheaprvliving.com where I found all  kinds of information on mobile dwelling, from how to stay cool in the desert to how to protect yourself from 4 legged predators. There is also an invitation to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in January 2016. Bob has some amazing photography on his site. 

The film maker of "Without Bound", Michael Tubbs had this to say about why he named the film as he did:  "In mathematics, 'without bound' is used to describe something that either increases or decreases infinitely. I encourage you to think about how that applies to your life. What is increasing? What is decreasing? Is the balance of the trade-off tilted in your favor? Are you happy?  Is there a better way?"

We have pared down expenditures around here and are living quite comfortably, yet frugally ourselves. Good practice.


I was so charmed by these folks and their individual stories, I started the "what if I could do that?" train of thought. I looked on Craigslist for "something" I could live in, within my price range.


But I have decided the open road is not for me.  Not right now, anyway.  I'm Seth's only grandparent.  If I left, he'd grow up without me. He starts kindergarten this year. After he learns to read and write, I might give mobile living a try - and take my family with me. That way he'd learn what life is really all about -- while he's young enough to really "get it."



Rubber Tramp Rendezvous -- which I believe has gotten bigger.




Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Color of Greed



It's the pitts to live your whole life believing certain things, only to find out when you get to be my age, that few of your beliefs were worth hanging onto -- or more to the point, many should have been completely discarded.

It appears we humans have dug ourselves into a mighty big hole. According to many sources these days, there are huge, uncomfortable, perhaps even disastrous changes coming, starting with yet another financial collapse. It has already happened in Greece and maybe soon in China.

When I first read about this several months ago, I chalked it up to some more overblown media crap, but then I read a deeper examination of what happened to Greece's economy -- not the blame game the news media is trying to sell the rest of the world. It was clearly orchestrated by those who would gain in many ways - from the misery of the Greek citizens. Check out that article here.

Considering what those scoundrels were willing to do for gain, I'm realizing the media prophets might be right. My big question, though, is why? Why would anyone deliberately participate in the financial destruction of a whole country? Of course it's for money and power, but why? They were rich and powerful to start with or they wouldn't have been able to bring about the downfall of anything. So why do they need more? Like everybody else, they're all going to die -- sooner or later -- and they can't take money or power with them, so what's the point in torturing other people? I just don't get it. But I'm fairly sane.

In his book, Turning Point, Gregg Braden points out that in ancient cultures, a person who accumulated more than they needed for survival was considered mentally ill.

We may as well face it, many of us fall into that category, with our expansive homes (the bigger the better) our expensive cars ( I nearly choked when I bought my car.)

Many of us have more than one vehicle. Many of us have boats, four wheelers and jet skis that we use a few times a year -- all stuff that is fun but not necessary to our survival.

But think about those who have all the toys possible, plus millions and billions of dollars -- socked away in numerous banks -- foreign and domestic. They don't know which high dollar car or yatcht to drive today, or which ostentatious mansion to spend Christmas in this year -- and yet they fight tooth and nail against raising minimum wage to a living wage for their employees.

People who accumulate massive amounts of various stuff until they can't even walk through their home or clean it up are featured on the TV show "Hoarders". We recognize that they are sick individuals. Their families hire professionals to help them deal with their "problem".

But the person who hoards money is seen in two opposing lights. We curse them for holding onto the wealth, (which President Reagan assured us was the way to economic health with his "trickle down economics")(that certainly hasn't happened), and in the same breath we wish we were billionaires -- because of what we see as the obvious benefits of having all the money we want.

So in a sense, we have put the wealthy on a pedestal.  We criticize them because we know most of them did not get where they are via totally honest, legal or ethical avenues, but we use their "success" as a beacon.  We try to emulate them in order to accumulate more resources in our own bank accounts. On the way, many of us learn to be as ruthless and heartless as they are.

Permaculture teachers often mention how unsustainable the U.S.  economic system is. It is based on waste -- probably worse than any other country in the world.  My mother knew that 40 years ago. It's gotten worse since she mentioned it.

We throw out everything we don't need with little, if any, thought to the environment into which we are tossing it. We've been told that if we crush it, burn it, bury it, pitch it in the ocean or expose it to the sun long enough, it'll be okay. Well, no. Not really.

In his book "The Lost Language of Plants" Stephen Buhner talks about our garbage quite extensively -- especially the sewage, how it's infused with all the medications we take, in particular antibiotics.  He talks about how those chemicals are impacting, not only the environment, but the animals, grains, fruits and vegetables we eat and so ultimately -- us too.

Many of our cities "compost" sewage waste in their landfills, then give it back to us to spread on our lawns and vegetable gardens. It works great -- except all those antibiotics and other medications we take are still in there, many even more dangerous in combination with other chemicals, and they leach up into the food we grow.

A friend who has a lot of knowledge about the soil and growing vegetables described U.S. farm lands as having "become sponges for chemicals". U.S. farmland is dead, and that's the only way the big corporations can get anything to grow - dump chemicals on it.

But companies that produce the chemicals we ingest when we eat commercially gown food, and the chemical companies that come up with a chemical cure for every little bitty uncomfortable twinge we humans experience on a daily basis don't care about the side effects  -- at least not until they get sued.

All they care about is MONEY. Americans are the sickest population in the world and we spend billions and billions of dollars every year on chemicals  that will eventually make us sicker than we already are. The agriculture chemical companies and the pharmaceutical companies have gotten bigger and stronger and richer until now they pretty much can buy any and all of the U.S. legislators they want to control.

Millions of Americans have been lured into a sense of wellbeing, a feeling of relative safety by our leaders over the past 50 years, only to figure out now, they are all liars! We are not healthy, things are not going very well anywhere and we are not safe.

The enemy, though, is not Iranians or Muslims, or Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, Asians or Chinese. It's overpowering, overwhelming greed -- and it comes in all colors -- even red, white and blue.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

The American Dream -- is it worth the cost?




I watched a documentary on HBOGO, named "American Winter".  It was filmed in my new favorite place, Portland, Oregon.  It highlighted the problem of the new homeless in Portland -- as well as across America.

It isn't Portland that's to blame, it's many things. They chose Portland because it was easy to find folks there who have never had a problem supporting themselves and their families before, but usually due to a job layoff, found themselves in dire financial situations. Very interesting video --

One of the most often repeated phrases in the documentary is "The American Dream."

Unless I have totally misunderstood this concept, the American Dream is the ability to get a college degree, a high paying job, a nice home, nice cars, college education for all the kids and the ability to enjoy the fruits of one's labor, including dining out, nice clothes, fun toys, vacations, plus the security of health insurance and retirement benefits -- and the freedom to seek all that stuff.

But -- every single thing listed in the American Dream is expensive -- and when we buy it, we make some one else wealthier.

Colleges are BIG BUSINESS. And they depend on each and every American to buy into the American Dream -- and now it seems having that expensive college education guarantees nothing for many people. A lot of folks graduate with crippling debt from student loans -- all because the upper echelon has convinced Americans that they are entitled to a college education because THEY NEED YOU to spend that money -- and they don't care if your credit is ruined because you can't find a job and so can't re-pay those loans.

Our economy depends on every American buying into the American Dream.   We are encouraged to buy homes we can not afford to live in -- if one -- let alone both breadwinners were to lose their job. And guess what folks? The bank who loaned you the money to buy that house, was fully aware that if just one of you were to lose your job, you wouldn't be able to make the payments. They don't care. The plan has always been to evict you, take the house and sell it to someone else if you fall on hard times. And every single penny you have put into that house is gone. Not to mention your self esteem and sense of worth. Who feels good about themselves when they can't pay their mortgage and has to move their families into Mama's house?

If we can't keep up our end of these often lopsided deals, we are useless to them.

The Powers-That-Be have convinced Americans for a long time now that in order to be "respectable" we have to have everything listed in the American Dream, and now we not only need to have it all but we need to have the most expensive version of house car education, clothes, shoes we can get our hands on. And every time we increase our debt load, they get richer.

Take the car, for  example.  It was not invented as a status symbol.  It was invented to make travel easier and faster, but now many people who have swallowed the ideals of the American Dream hook line and sinker, actually judge the "good enough-ness" of those around them by the car they drive.

When I was working in that last place, our customers were high dollar folks -- top drawer people -- so to speak. Honesty was seldom used in the same sentence with most their names -- but no one in that circle cared because "she drives a Lexus" or some other car that costs more than many people make in two years working a full time job.

Few of us have any training in how to be happy. We look at "stuff" that others have that seems to make them happy and we think if we had that job house car money, we'd be happy too. According to Deepak Chopra and the folks involved in the Science of Positive Psychology, that method isn't very effective. It leaves empty spaces that need to be filled -- so we buy more stuff -- and enjoy it for a little while. Then we want something else -- because things don't make us happy -- not for long.  It is our connections to ourselves, each other and our Creator that bring long term happiness and peace.

And the whole time we are buying "stuff" to fill those "empty spaces", we are contributing to the wealth of someone else.

But what if we jumped off their band wagon? What if we stopped buying into the American Dream at least not to the extent we do now? What if - en masse -- we realized that happiness is a point of view, a moment to moment decision?  What if we as a nation began to appreciate the idea of "less stuff and less stress"?

What would happen if we realized that in buying into the American Dream, we let someone else define who we are?

What would happen if all of a sudden everyone were to realize they deserve better than this slavery we have tied ourselves into by caring so much what other people think about us, about what we said, what we do, what brand clothes we wear, if we're too fat or too thin, if we have wrinkles or if everyone knows we had a face lift?

The only reason anything is valuable is because humans believe it is. Gold and silver are metals taken from the Earth. They aren't "precious" because of anything other than thousands of years ago, someone convinced someone else that they were valuable -- and our troubled economic systems were born.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Changing Direction.




My front yard July 2013


My front yard in January 2015


The front yard went from green to brown in about a year and a half.  I can't explain this.  It seems to have been a combination of some sort of soil deficiency, erosion and five years of drought.

I've lived in this house for 35 years.  Most of that time, the yard looked like the picture on the left, green and lush, but it was a lot of work.  My husband fought to keep that St. Augustine here in hot dry Texas because "it feels good when you walk on it barefoot." And it did.

It started having multiple problems many years ago. After Ronnie was diagnosed as dying in 2010, he told me some things I might try to keep it in good shape. I hated to disappoint him at this time of greatest stress and sorrow, but I didn't want to promise to do something I had no intention of doing. So I took a deep breath and uttered words I knew he was not going to enjoy. "I'll probably let the Bermuda take over."

Ronnie passed away in August of 2011.

Grief is a strange experience.  It effects everyone differently. When the drought really set in, I avoided looking at the front lawn as much as possible. I went to work and came home every day, pulling into the driveway and going directly inside. With our city reservoir down to 18%, we were not allowed to water outside at all except with gray water, and that was wasted in front, running down hill in trails and running out into the street.  Ronnie's beloved, manicured lawn was gone and I didn't have the energy, the strength or the ability to focus long enough to do anything to fix it, so I chalked it up to one of those things I could not change -- at least not right then.

As you can see in the photo on the right, the Bermuda didn't take over.  Those small yellow areas were all that remained of it.

In August of 2014, I cancelled the lawn service that administered chemical pre-emergent, so after Christmas,  I threw out a wildflower seed mixture in hopes that something would germinate and slow down the erosion that had become the biggest problem.

Then in early January of this year, I woke up. I really saw the stark reality of the lawn situation and I hit the panic button -- sort of.  The shade in this yard comes from a huge pecan tree.  I had already lost 6 trees to this drought.  I could not even begin to imagine my yard or my house without that shade -- or not having the paper shell pecans it puts out most years.

You've heard the expression -- or some variation of it, "when one door closes, another one opens."

I don't remember what I googled that brought Permaculture front and center on my Facebook page. I had never heard of it but I felt certain it was an open door that I should walk through.












     

          May 2015



















As per instructions ( sort of) from Permaculture, I dug a series of swales all the way across the front starting just below the pecan tree.

I made the decision to allow anything to grow that had roots.  Soon I had several dandelions, some thistles, hen bit and chickweed -- all the usual Texas "weeds" -- which come to find out are actually Nature's remedy for bare exposed soil -- religiously stamped out by the pre-emergent.

I bought pink evening primrose plants and seeds from the local native nursery and transplanted vinca major, sedum and other plants that I had growing in the back.

Then it started raining -- and the yard went from brown to green again in four months. Problems solved. Right?

Could have been.  After reading just a little bit about Permaculture, though, and learning some about urban farming, I decided I'd like to grow food in my front yard, but now I have all this evening primrose flourishing  -- replacing my lawn grasses -- just as I envisioned.

I'm not real sure what I'm going to do about that, but I planted corn in a flowerbed close to the house and I may put a couple of hills of squash in front of the corn since none of the squash plants I already have growing in back have made anything edible.

I am still excited to have green instead of brown. My pecan tree is as beautiful and sprawling as ever. And to top off all these wonderful blessings, our reservoir is 100% again and my pecan tree has a bumper crop forming.

I walk out front several times every day now to see what's new, to look at the greenery, the flowers, to appreciate it all, and to communicate with my pecan tree. I am so glad it's still with me, and I sense the appreciation it has for all my hard work.

Or is that Ronnie walking with me? Seeing the beauty of it all through my eyes, smelling the wonderful fragrance of the honeysuckle through my senses, anticipating the delicious taste of fresh harvested pecans in the fall? Even though it is all very different than what he chose when he was here, I think he approves.

And that makes it all the better.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Great Expectations -- of being a Farmer



Early spring before the heavy rains arrived. On the far  side of the yellow
yarrow are three Marionberry plants. You can't even see them from here.

Folks who live on a limited income would have a difficult time choosing organically grown, responsibly raised food. For some reason, it's expensive to leave off all those chemicals or keep chicken, pigs and cows in humane conditions. I'm guessing most organic farmers don't raise thousands of acres of crop so they have to get more for their produce than the commercial grower, but I really don't understand why. I'm sure there's a "perishable loss" that has to be absorbed and accounted for whether its organic or not.

But the fact remains that most of us have no idea how to grow our own food -- any of our own food.
Many of us have completely lost touch with that knowledge.

Realizing that IF the economy were to collapse -- and there are more sources expecting that than I ever realized -- I'd be one of those with a sizable piece of ground that grows nothing but grass, trees and flowers.

On the left, new corn sprouts rescued out of the
"swamp area". Right, are some recuperating green beans.
Behind the air pruning baskets are four volunteer plants. 
I'm not sure what they are (?) and behind those are the
six feet tall Marionberries supported by bamboo and twine.

So I decided to try my hand at growing edible stuff. I'm 66, though, and digging up a plot of ground, then weeding etc, does not appeal to me any more now than it did when I was younger, so I sought alternative gardening methods. So far, I'm having limited success.

I had a good crop of onions!

I have blooming okra plants out the wazoo and I have picked a few pods -- enough to fry with some potatoes and onions.

I have blooming squash out the wazoo too -- but no squashes yet. I noticed the blossoms of the squash were falling off instead of setting squash, so I googled it and discovered that squash plants put out male and female blossoms.  Only the females bear fruit.  The first blossoms are male and the female blooms will come later to set fruit. Isn't Nature awesome!


Cucumbers! I do have two real live cucumbers. And I planted some "lemon cucumbers'. They are climbing on the wire cages around the Marionberries and are loaded with blooms but so far I can't see any cucs. I picked one of the two small cucumbers to put in a salad for some old friends.

I have eaten three home grown tomatoes, used four in guacamole and there are three or four on the plants -- but I can only see two new tomatoes. With temperatures going past 90 degrees, they may not set more new fruit. They are blooming, though, so we'll see what happens.

I have blooming green beans plants too, and I've picked a few. I had a handful so I cut them up and sautĂ©ed them with onions, the few okra pods I had picked that day, some cabbage and potatoes.  It was wonderful!

Corn planted in stacked cinder bricks.
And corn! I have 7 visible ears of corn in the making. That should get us through the winter, lol. I planted some more in the low spot in the back yard that gets plenty of sun.  They sprouted in just a few days. Then it started raining again and they were standing in inch deep water for two days, so I transplanted them to an "air pruning" basket and they don't seem to be any worse for wear.

My daughter, Deidre, cut down the boxwood shrubs in front of her window to make more room for growing food.  I planted the rest of that packet of organic corn seeds in that flowerbed. I intend to plant more okra in front of that single row of corn.

Growing food is not easy.  There is a lot to learn. For one thing, I discovered a little too late that all bagged dirt is not equal. So I followed a recipe for garden soil on Larry Hall's site, and re-planted some things and transplanted others. I'm waiting to see improvements.

I planted watermelons in one of the straw bales.  As soon as they  sprouted, something started eating them, so I transplanted them into a grow bag full of cheap  "garden soil" and they sat there without moving one way or another for several weeks.  I added some bonemeal, and some worm castings but still nothing, so I filled another grow bag with Larry's mix and transplanted them again and now the watermelons have new leaves!

All straw bales are not equal either. (That was doomed from the time we got those bales home and couldn't identify the cut side) Out of the six bales, three are growing something. I may not have done the initial decomp correctly. Two of the original four tomato plants I put in the bales have recuperated from nearly dead and are doing quite well, so I added a handful of worm castings and some Larry's mix to the bales and planted bare root strawberry plants in the rest of them.

When I bought the strawberry plants, I intended to plant them in my front yard on berms located on the lower side of swales, but with all this incredible rain the bermuda grass has taken over the berms. Too much intense labor to get it out so I will let it be and mow it.  I'm looking for "easier" out front.

I needed to get the strawberries planted so I put most of them in the straw bales. They already have new leaves! I'll figure out what to do with them in the fall. I might be able to line the bales with cinder blocks and just leave them in place.

Marionberries!
 Looking forward to next year on these beauties!







I was concerned about my three Marionberry plants when water backed up in the yard where I planted them, but they don't seem to mind being wet -- or dry. They are six feet tall now and really branching out.









A friend told me recently that when you start gardening vegetables, there's about a 3 year learning curve.  

It's only the middle of June. Texas is just beginning to come back to "hot and dry" so I'm sure more challenges will pop up as summer settles in, but the pecan trees are flourishing with all this rain. There is going to be a nice crop of pecans and much denser shade to give relief to all of the gardens at different times of every day.  My expectations are very high for a bountiful harvest of all sorts of goodies.

But, for me, the best part is feeling more in harmony with all that is. 

"Oh, I love the life within me! A part of everything is here in me." -- John Denver 





Saturday, June 6, 2015

Welcome Back!



It's hard to believe that less than two months ago, Lake Arrowhead, our main city reservoir was down to 18%. In two weeks it filled to 100% and is going over the spillway! So are Lakes Kickapoo, Wichita and Diversion.

You can have a party if you want to -- but I'm just going to think about and talk about how wonderful it is, how incredible it feels to have water in our lakes again. It's just good for the soul.

I realize that lots of folks are not high and dry during all this rain, and I sympathize with them. I have my own unique flooding problems. They are nothing compared to those who have lost loved ones or their homes in the flooding rains that filled our lake.

Those of us who have been here in this area for a long time, knew it would take these flooding rains to return the lakes and reservoirs to acceptable levels. Once 82% of a lake bed is dry, it takes a tremendous amount of rain -- all at once  -- to fill it up.

It has been a long worrisome haul and I am glad to have the lakes full again -- especially Arrowhead.

So what does this mean? I noticed someone on Facebook expressing her joy that we can wash our cars again without feeling guilty. Another was looking to buy a Slip-n-slide for outdoor water fun. I caught myself wanting to return to my old easier dishwashing habits, and I thought, have you not learned anything during this drought?

Seth and I stopped in the middle of a running

battle with water guns to rescue some 
earthworms from the storm waters

Yes, I have learned a lot -- about conserving and harvesting water, about how miserable and troublesome it is not to have easy access to all I want and need. I've even realized that I was quite wasteful. I need to make some permanent changes to the way I did things before the drought. I need to take care that I don't return to those wasteful habits, but I don't want to stay in this drought mindset either.




One of the answers I found is to harvest rainwater. After some trial and error, I bought one 330 gallon IBC, then two 270 gallon IBC's. Deidre and Andy hooked them up to the roof gutters on the house and Bruno's Shop. We hooked up a 40 gallon trash can to the gutter on the pigeon pen -- which recently I expanded to three 40 gallon tanks. Even with the sparse rains we got last spring and summer, I always had water to use on my potted plants. I used most of what I captured behind the shop around the Desirable pecan tree that has been diminishing every year.


Even with the lakes full, and watering restrictions being relaxed, I don't intend to use city water for gardening any more. What falls from the sky amid thunder, lightening, and wind is so much more beneficial to all that grows.

Another solution is to figure out how to keep the rain that falls on your property --  in your soil.

I dug the now semi famous swale (semi famous because I talk about it all the time, lol) across my bare dirt front yard.

The very first benefit of the swale was that it gave me a way to water my paper shell pecan tree with harvested water.

Then it started raining -- and the swales filled and absorbed again and again -- and again. I did not realize that the ground would just keep on sucking up the water, but it did.

The cost of municipal water keeps going up. The city council raised the rates during the shortage.  I'll be real surprised if the rates go back to anything even close to pre-drought rates now that the lakes are full. You know how it is, the more you make, the more you spend. City government is not going to want to absorb that kind of loss.

From what I've read, it's still up in the air as to whether or not the current drought is over.  I've also heard that it's being predicted that these rains may continue through June. Would the drought be considered "over" if that happens? Maybe -- but another long period with no rain is very common here. When summer gets into full swing here in 2015 we may find ourselves wishing it would rain again.


Last summer with no outside watering being allowed, my daughter bought us some water guns. We had a blast with those guns! We were wet and refreshed and it was lots of fun -- and we didn't use a fraction of the water we'd have used with a pool or a sprinkler. I think we'll keep those handy!






Flowing water -- what a beautiful sound!























Friday, May 15, 2015

Maintaining My Happiness

Desirable pecan on the right, Burkett on the left
Stumps in the foreground are from the black walnut.


I have always deeply appreciated the shade in my yard. In this part of Texas, shade in the summer contributes to feelings of well being.

Last summer, when the effects of the drought were peaking, I noticed the shade in my back yard was much thinner, smaller than it had ever been before. Not much relief from the heat. I looked up into the Desirable pecan and saw that its canopy was not nearly as large and spread out as it should be. This tree produces the best pecan EVER when it makes a crop.  It doesn't make a crop every year, but when it does make enough pecans for the squirrels to share some with me, I feel abundantly blessed. I must find ways to make it more comfortable.

The big black walnut took up a lot of sky space. When it died and we cut it down last spring, it left a huge area of sun and heat, but it also gave the pecan trees more room to spread out. Recently I looked out my window and noticed that the Desirable and the big Burkett on the far side of Ronnie's shop are just about to intermingle.

Since the rains began here in April, the leaf output of the Desirable is higher than the past few summers. It is already producing a much denser shade than before. Ronnie always kept the new branches trimmed off the trunk, but because I feel like I nearly lost this tree, I'm going to let it do whatever it wants to do.

Many years ago, we put an in-ground fish pond between the Desirable and Ronnie's shop. We covered that whole area with pond liner and heavy rocks. When I took the pond out after Ronnie died, the whole area was dry as a bone and teeming with fire ants. And the canopy of the Desirable had diminished even more.  This 45 year old tree used to shade half the back yard.

I pulled out all the pond liner and most of the big rocks. I replaced the pond with a plastic container to accommodate the waterfall. There was a big difference in the size of the reservoir for the fountain and the fish pond.  It left a good sized low spot that I have been using to water the Desirable since I started harvesting rain water in the big IBC totes early last spring.

Just like the front yard, the back goes up hill away from the house. In heavy rains all the excess water from the yard behind me flows down through my property.  It backs up against my house and makes its way to the corner of the garage, then flows down beside it to the street in front. Back in the 90's we received 11-13 inches of rain in a short period of time. The flood waters covered the patio and were about an inch from coming in my patio door. My house is on pier and beam and it is 20 inches off the ground. That's a lot of water! We had every towel we owned ready, but thank goodness the rain stopped and the water subsided.  Shortly after that Ronnie dug a French drain from the patio to the corner of the garage.

Over the years, though, the drain has gotten clogged with dirt and roots so Deidre and I got out there last week, re-dug the trench and filled it with gravel.

The trunk of the Desirable Pecan



A swale between my house and the Desirable would serve two purposes, flood control and providing water for this valuable tree. It's going to be a lot of work.  It'll need to be deeper than the ones in front in order to have an effect on the flooding, and it's going to take a lot of gravel, rocks and logs to fill it in.  There's going to be dirt to dispose of one way or another because I don't want a berm on the downhill side of this one -- unless it is a very low one because we'll have to walk across it to go out into the yard, the garden or the pigeon pen.

Since the drought started, I have lost two 30 year old pine trees, a 20 year old Sweet gum, Ronnie's California Christmas Tree, the black walnut and a native pecan. I don't want to lose any more trees.



The pecan tree out front is a Choctaw. The pecans from it are not huge, but they are paper shell. Except  in 1979 when the tornado nearly destroyed it, it has produced a big crop every single year since we bought this place  -- until this drought hit. In other less severe droughts, the crop was lighter, but still abundant. Two years ago, it started a crop then in the middle of July it dropped every pecan on it.  Come fall there was no crop at all. Last year, it made a small crop but the meat of the nuts were dried out with a big air pocket which I believe is a strong indication of insufficient water.

I'm expecting a good crop from the Choctaw next fall.  It already has the beginning of pecans clearly visible on the ends of the branches. Even after the rains come less frequently in July and August, I'll be able to water the tree via the swale I dug in January.

Choctaw Pecan in front





The Choctaw is a more spreading variety than the Desirable.  It's growing at the south end of my front yard but it shades the entire front yard until nearly two o'clock.  I hired a man to mow the front while Ronnie was sick.  I didn't really care what time he came to do the yard work but I noticed that he came later every time.  I finally asked and he grinned. "I get the sunny ones done early while it's cool because I know your yard will be shady much later."

 At one point this tree had a huge branch that extended all the way across the front of my house and shaded the front windows.  During a time when we were still having fierce wind storms, Ronnie decided to cut it off because of the damage it could do if the wind broke it in one of those storms.

I have always loved the taste of pecans and when I have my own home grown crop, I put them in salads, desserts, eat them raw, eat them toasted. Warning, do not leave unattended pecans near me. I will eat them.




So what does any of this have to do with maintaining my happiness? It feels good to grow things.  It feels good to take care of that which is already growing.


a patch of wildflowers in the front where there 
used to be nothing but dirt.
Wine cups! Thanks Paul and Nila Dowlearn! 
They were in with
the evening primrose plants. 
The bright yellow is poppies.


















Monday, April 27, 2015

All at Once!





My front yard in January 2015.
The loose dirt is from the digging  
of the first swale.





This big pecan tree was my main
motivation for digging the first swale.






























The picture above, taken today, April 27, 2015  is the same shot of the front yard, and clear evidence that the swales are doing their job. They are holding most of the water long enough for it to soak into the ground.

There has been such heavy and frequent rains the past few days, though, that the water may overflow the berms. Thank goodness, if that happens there are now thriving plants below the berms to help hold the soil in place.

The area that I'm working with is close to the property line.  I asked the people living there if they minded a swale on their side and they said, "Do whatever you want to do. We don't care."

Erosion on the south side continues



I took this picture this morning, too.  This stream of running water comes from between our houses and washes out onto the neighbor's drive way. Unfortunately, a lot of the dirt is my top soil.

I got in a hurry and scattered evening primrose seed all over the front part of my yard, then I agonized about a late frost.  I delayed scattering seeds between the houses until last week.  Now there's no telling where they will come up, but with a heavy layer of straw down, surely some of them will sprout where I put them. That should start slowing down the water flow. 




I am not a gardening expert by any means and sometimes when I look out on my new greenery, which is now a collection of ground covers, wildflowers, milkweed,  onions, and some rejuvenated patches of bermuda grass, I wonder what the hell was I thinking?

But it's green and sooo beautiful compared to the brown dirt in the top photos -- and in just 4 months.

The swales (plural because I have dug a total of five) provided me with a way to water the lawn with captured rain water.  Before the swales, the water was wasted because it just ran down the hill across the sidewalk and into the street.

As you can see, in heavy rains, they catch and hold the water long enough for it to soak on down into the soil.

I recently watched a Permaculture video about a community that was built in Southern California in the 1960's. On 60 acres, over 200 homes were built.  Wide shallow swales are part of the landscaping in this neighborhood.  And all the storm water goes into the swales and stays in the neighborhood. 45 years later, it is a lush area of green grass, thriving trees, bearing fruit trees and lush gardens. You'd never guess there are that many homes on that 60 acres. It looks like you are walking through someone's garden. They measured the moisture in the soil after a year and it was three feet down.  After 2 years, the moisture went down to 9 feet and in three years, the soil was damp 18 feet below the surface.

My swales are not that wide and don't capture that much water, but I do expect they will help keep the soil moisture higher than it would normally be. I do believe they will save that big paper shell pecan tree.

I dug this swale below a struggling crepe myrtle, then planted onions on the upper side of the swale. The onions may drown but the crepe myrtle is thriving again.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ups and Downs

Bees came and went through holes under all that wisteria and bamboo.

Life is about the ups and downs, the highs and lows and I think one of the keys to happiness is figuring out how to make peace with the lows so they don't cause so much disturbance.

I've missed Ronnie more the past two weeks than I have in a long time. It started when I saw a Snickers ice-cream bar in the freezer at the Dollar General. I just glanced in and saw it.  I had one of those grieving moments that comes sudden and so powerful, it takes your breath for a moment. I've been mostly on the verge of tears every since that happened.

We discovered Snickers ice-cream bars on a vacation in 1992.  We bought them every time we stopped to fill up the car all the way to Florida and all the way back. I'm not sure either of us ever wanted one again but we sure enjoyed them then.

I decided to have the bee hive removed from my back yard.  The bees have stung Seth several times and now he's afraid to go outside to play. Having the hive removed was a much harder decision for me than most realize. For one thing, the hive itself, the coming and going of the bees was one of many interests that Ronnie and I shared.  It attributed to the beauty and peace of the back yard for fifteen years. It's part of many memories of Ronnie and how he grew to love nature and to be willing to "live and let live".

I looked out the kitchen window one morning. He was standing, bare arms crossed over his chest, near the shed where the bees had taken up residence, watching a huge vortex of bees swirling around him. I went to the patio door and called out, "Don't you think you should come inside?"

He didn't even glance around at me. "Well, I don't think they're coming after me." That was one of the things I most admired about Ronnie.  He was not afraid of anything.

Even when he was in the wrong, his courage in facing the consequences for his actions, his drive to keep moving forward was always something I wished I had more of myself. That old saying, "you can't keep a good man down," certainly applied to Ronnie.

A few days ago, I took Seth to Kiwanis park to play.  He's all boy in so many ways -- and it wouldn't matter one iota to any of us if he weren't -- but he's also very cautious. I tried to talk him into playing on those handles -- like Monkey Bars that you swing from one bar to the next. I could do it when I was in second grade, which he's much younger than that, but he wouldn't even try. I told him that being careful is all well and good but that if he never tries anything new or different, he will sure miss out on a lot of the fun things in life. Nothing I said convinced him. I don't have it in me to force him, so I let it go, but I was disappointed that he didn't even get to have the experience of seeing what his whole body weight feels like.

Leaving Kiwanis a while later, I looked across at Rosemont Cemetery, where Ronnie's headstone is along with a portion of his ashes and I realized that the only person in our family who was never afraid of anything isn't here to teach this kid how to not be afraid of life.

For many years, Ronnie fell down as often as he stood -- but he always got back up -- until the very end.

Well, the bees are gone now too.  We can put the boards back on the shed in a week or so.

It rained last night. It may rain some more later. A cool breeze is blowing in my bedroom window. There is an awesome chorus of bird song and wind chimes right outside.  I have Morning Glory and Four O'Clock seeds soaked to plant. Lemon cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash are thriving in the hay bales along with some tomato plants I bought and some I started from seeds. I have green beans and okra flourishing in big plastic totes. Onions! I planted onions every where. And my precious Marionberry plants are putting out lots of new growth. I bought two rolls of cheap light weight  landscape fabric which I can use to make shade for them if they need it when it starts getting hot. I've divided my worms and now I have two healthy thriving worm bins outside under the patio.

Seth -- a.k.a Gollum hasn't awakened yet, but he will in a little while and I'll be glad to tell him he can go outside to play.

I'm counting my blessings. Some days -- that's all I can do -- and put one foot in front of the other.


Monday, March 2, 2015

The Law of Attraction and American Winter




I watched a video recently on HBOGO, "American Winter". It spotlights the new homeless in America.  As I watched the video, I got really bogged down in the "unfairness" of how hard it is to achieve the American Dream -- for some people -- but not for others.  One of the statements made in this documentary is that the main determining factor of whether or not a person will be wealthy is if their parents were wealthy.

I was so irritated by "the way things are" that I wrote a post I intended to publish here, but then I realized how far down the negative road I had gone, and I stopped working on it.

It does seem like the pitts that some have so much and others have so little, but necessity has always been a catalyst to change.

What must change before we will see any lessening of that divide between wealthy and poor is the way we think. Before we will see any significant change in the status quo, we must accept that what we think about and what we get is always a match -- and not always a match made in heaven either.

There are only two emotions. We call them by many different names, but there are only two. One feels good.  It is that high vibration that makes us want to sing and dance and hug people and laugh and love one another -- and it attracts good stuff. The other emotion feels bad. It is a low vibration.  In a low vibration, we cry with frustration, we cuss out the waitress. At work we feel overworked and underpaid and certainly under appreciated. We fly off the handle because the dog pooped in the floor, the baby broke a favorite knickknack, or said a cuss word. This low vibration attracts job loss.  It attracts homelessness, and frustrating situations at every turn. And it is not easy to turn that around -- especially if you have not accepted that your thoughts are the tools used to build and create what you live.

The law of attraction matches vibrations. Period. It is not concerned with whether you want what's coming or not. It's just matching your vibration, your over all mood, with people and circumstances that match your output.

Whatever you are living right now, whether it's abundance, poverty, or some where in-between, it is a result of your long time thinking patterns, your joys, and the fears that you harbor. The main fear that I believe may lead many people to homelessness and all kinds of other problems is "what will people think?"

When we live our lives in fear of what others will think, we spend too much money -- often money we don't have and haven't even earned yet.  We don't even ask ourselves "is this something I really want or am I buying it because society says I have to have it in order to be respected."

We buy things like expensive houses and expensive cars even though we know that if we were to lose our job, we wouldn't be able to pay for it. Then we worry about losing it when the economy slows down and companies start laying people off.

Worry and fear are the same low vibration.

Anger and fear are the same low vibration.

So are disgust, feeling "less than" for any reason, envy, jealousy, dissatisfaction. And if you can't figure out some way to turn your thoughts toward stuff that makes you feel better, you are setting yourself up for more of the same old crap that made you feel that way to start with.

It's a never ending cycle unless you realize that your thoughts are powerful and work at changing them, and redirecting them so that the law of attraction can work with you instead of against you. But it's all up to you. The law of attraction is not an entity. It isn't God. It is a Universal law that works exactly the same for everyone, all the time, no exceptions -- ever.  You get the equivalent of what you think about -- whether you want it or not.

Thank goodness, my mother warned me a long time ago that if we worry about something long enough, something very similar will happen in our lives.  Worrying about what people will think of what we do in every single aspect of our lives is a big mistake. And we all do it.

In American Winter, it was a common concern.

The self esteem -- especially that of the main breadwinners was down to nothing. They were embarrassed and ashamed and emmitting lots of other very low vibrations.

I sympathized with them.  I got all caught up in the unfairness of what had happened to each family, but after a while, I remembered that we attract what we get.

And listening to these folks, I would be surprised to find out they were able to pull themselves back up. Of course they all expressed "hope for better things in the near future", but very often hope is a mid range vibration. Because there is often so much negative baggage attached to hope, it can't attract the really good opportunities. Hope is also fleeting. It can disappear completely when something new and frustrating happens.

I'm not sure how long they filmed those people but by the end of the video, most of them were still struggling to get back what they had lost. They were still trying to prove to others, to themselves and to each other that they were not "worthless welfare recipients".

Low vibrational output attracts low vibration stuff. For instance, one man got his old job back, even got a higher wage than before -- but only part time.  One lady who had been staying in a shelter with her teenaged son, got a house through some kind of public assistance, but by the end of the video, she still had not been able to find a job and was worried about being on the street again. In the case of a third couple, he finally found a job but was making half what he'd been making before and it was just part time.

Of course these folks don't have a clue that they are bringing this to themselves.  This knowledge of how the universe really works should be common in this day and age -- and it's beginning to spread through lots of different sources, but it has been suppressed for eons so that people would not have any control over their lives.

When we start paying attention to what we think about and how what we think about makes us feel, we can cast "what  will people think" out the window. Then we'll be in a much better position to start working with the law of attraction to attract more of what we want and less of what we don't want.



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Music! Music! Music! Part 3



Just a few more words about Tangerine Dream: Their music was good to write with and just sit and listen.  It also sent me into dream land on many occasions.

Going to sleep with any music seemed to imprint it on my mind.  Even if I didn't like it, if I could go to sleep with it, my attitude about any song would change.

During the same time period, John Denver put out "Looking for Space". Check out this cool video, uploaded by Mark Petta. This song, again, spoke volumes about what I was feeling at the time.  It encouraged me to look for the answers to the questions in the song from "Mahoghany", "Do you know where you're going to?  Do you like the things that life is showing you?" Mostly, my answers were "No" and "No."

I needed some space - to find out who I am.

I'd never really known what the hippies were talking about when they said "I need to find out who I am. " How could anyone not know who they are?

Then suddenly, I realized I was living someone else's dream, not my own. Out of ignorance, I had bowed under the weight of traditional ideas of what a woman can do, what she is and isn't.  I was not someone I could respect.  I had been living my life "through someone else's eyes." I was not a happy camper, but I had no idea how to fix it, so I retreated into writing and music as often as possible.  Thanks goodness, my husband worked a rotating shift in a factory (his choice, not mine), so I had ample time to myself.

There were many wonderful love songs that came out during the 80's and 90's.

Even Now by Barry Manilow, uploaded by MyKvAn . Thanks for sharing!

And Looks Like We Made it also by Manilow. Thanks to saabatch87 for this upload!

In these two song Barry Manilow sings about the lasting effects, the bittersweetness of being in love but not able to maintain the long term relationship.

These two songs - way more than any others influenced the way I handled my character, Revis Kirkland's, relationship with his ex-wife, Holly.  Through these two songs, I realized that "gone" is not always forgotten. "Out of sight" doesn't always mean "out of mind".

My mother made the comment once that "A man isn't much of a man if he doesn't feel some tenderness toward the mother of his children." I wanted the world to love Revis, so I incorporated real goodness into his rather flawed character. In all three books, he deals with the old and new feelings related to Holly, and all their experiences together, how it feels to see her again occasionally even though he has fallen in love with his childhood sweetheart again and is moving on with his life.

In my opinion, there is so much going on in life from watching bees buzz from flower to flower to getting the education required to design and build skyscrapers or transplant hearts -- and every single thing in between, it just seems such a ridiculous waste of time and energy that so many hinge all their happiness on one person, then get pissed and bitter because that person can't turn enough somersaults to please them for five years -- let alone 40 - 50 years. One person can not be all things to another for ever and always -- and it isn't wrong that we can't.  It isn't our  responsibility or obligation to make someone else happy.  Their happiness is their responsibility.

I've also come to realize that it is NOT impossible to love more than one person at a time.  Love is central to who we are.  It is the core of our being.  It is the reason for our creation. We should not limit who, or how many or have to explain to anyone -- why we love.

All right, stepping down off that soapbox.

Early in the 1970's Roy Drusky sang "Jody and the Kid". This song had a very strong impact on me.  The feelings of childhood admiration and friendship growing into young love inspired the childhood relationship between Revis and Amanda Kirkland.  Since in the song, it isn't clear who is Jody and who is the kid, and since Jody is often a girl's name too, I considered changing Amanda's name to Jody. But at that time I was still writing long hand. Changing the name of a major character would have been time consuming and messy.  And since I was still in the closet with my writing, I didn't think changing the name would be a good use of those stolen moments I had to write. Thank you  wilburscott for that upload!

Although I connected with many of Barbra Streisand's songs, I didn't with everything she sang, which was one reason I agonized over the demise of the 45 RPM records. My so went to Europe with his friend Peter Nilsson. While in Paris, they went to see Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of Phantom of the Opera and my son fell in love with it. He said even though it was all in French and he had no idea what was being said, it was the most awesome production he'd ever seen. He sent me the soundtrack.

The first time I heard Barbra Streisand sing The Music of the Night, I was watching Pairs Figure Skating. About the time Barbra reached full volume, the man lifted the lady up over his head with one hand and twirled her around as if she weighed nothing, then with a flourish of movement, he tossed her forward, she spun around a couple of times and landed on one foot.  I was thrilled by the whole presentation, I watched it again and again.

In the early 80's, we heard Kim Carnes sing Betty Davis Eyes for the first time.  Thanks to emimusic again for that upload. Bonnie Tyler put out Its a Heartache. Thank you softgellcapsule for uploading this! and I need a Hero Thanks to 1929GY

And there was Madonna! My son is still one of her best fans.  I couldn't remember what the controversies were about her so I asked him.  The first thing he said was "her openness about sex, gays and race." Then he texted me back and said, "Oh, and she rolled around on the floor acting like a slut while in a white wedding gown singing 'Like a Virgin'." I laughed out loud at that.  I remembered then.  When I watched the video of "Like a Virgin, I didn't see much offensive.  We've come a long way past that now! Thanks Queen Madonna HD for this upload!

I very seldom watch tv even now. Since music and writing have always been my go to - there are just so many songs that I enjoyed, so much music that thrilled and inspired me in so many ways, I can't list them all. But it was a wonderful time for pop music. The energy of Elvis's gyrating torso in the 50's and '60's evolved into Michael Jackson's thrusting hips highlighted by his white gloved hand over his crotch, fancy footwork and his famous "Moonwalk" in the '80's and '90's. These two men influenced the onstage performances of all in one way or another.  Seeing a singer stand still at a microphone occasionally moving their arms or tapping their feet had become a thing of the past.

Now it was all about energy -- and lots of it.

My son and I were sharing music on a daily basis during his young teen years, but there was something he was keeping to himself. Something I had been aware of since he was a little boy, but afraid to confront because I didn't know what effect it would have on our family if the answer was "yes".

to be continued...