Wednesday, June 30, 2010


6/30/10 Wednesday
It rained some more last night and off and on most of the day so far. That makes it too muddy for me to use the plow. Maybe tomorrow, we’ll have to wait and see. Doesn’t matter cause there is plenty to do. It’s noon now and I just came in to take my pill. Ben and Gretchen were not here in the morning, as so often happens. When there was no sign of them by 11:30 I got in the truck and drove around, hoping to see them and encourage their journey home, and half afraid of finding their bodies somewhere. Didn’t have any luck locating them so I came back to the house.

Sam has been busy working for me all day. When I picked him up at the halfway house he expressed his gratitude for just allowing him to get away from there. I’ll keep him here working for as long as we have money to do so. He needs the money to pay his rent there, and is appreciative of having something constructive to do. We started the morning with a short bible study and prayer, as I try to do. Don’t always succeed at that when it’s just me working but when I have any of the guys here I make it important.

We alternate between working outside and organizing the garage depending on the rain. If it’s a light sprinkle we stay working out in it but when a shower comes rolling through we head inside the garage. We restacked the pile of wood that is to be burned for I noticed how close it is to where the main power line comes across from the pole. Last thing we need is for the intense fire to melt the insulation off of that. Right now we are clearing more weeds from some of the garden plots and plan on sowing more Bermuda grass seed there to take advantage of the wet ground.

On my way inside I saw Ben and Gretchen coming across the farmer’s field across the highway, on their way home. I breathed a sigh of relief and a prayer of “Thank you” to God (Yeah, I pray for my dogs) when I saw the miscreants. Suckers sure cause us a lot of stress. It would be nice if they stayed home but that’s not going to happen. At least they were in one piece and not full of porcupine quills or anything.

That’s it for now. There’s work to do and I can’t let Sam do it all by himself while I lay in bed and write this.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I am blessed

Here's a patch of Bermuda. Eventually, with care and fertilizing, it will be a lawn

6/28/10 Monday
The start of another week. First thing I need to do is make a list of what I need to do, or at least would like to accomplish this week. The quarter or half inch of rain we got yesterday spurs me to take advantage of it. It’s been dry for months now so this is a break I’ve been waiting for. I wonder if any of the Bermuda grass seed I planted over the last two months will now come up. There were only bits and pieces that germinated and they have barely survived. An exception is a place in the back yard where I would lay a garden hose that has a slow leak to keep it watered. That area has done well.

The raked out area between the posts is the pathway I sowed Bermuda grass seed. Eventually my vision is to have all the pathways lush with grass

I disked up the area I wanted to plant the Giant hay Bermuda in yesterday after church. I had some of the lawn grass Bermuda seed mixed with sand still in the broadcast spreader I’d used to spread it a couple of weeks ago and that got soaked by the rain so I had to do something with it. It was soaking wet so wouldn’t go through the spreader so I prepared an area and sowed it by hand. There’s no way I was going to let it go to waste and besides that I needed to use the spreader to get the Giant hay Bermuda sowed.

This is where the Bermuda hay seed was sowed. It will be interesting to see how it does. Don't have a clue what it looks like, nor am I sure what to do with it when, or if, it comes up.

There were dark threatening clouds to the south and not much daylight left so I pushed to get it sowed. Pulling the broadcast spreader through the disked soil fast enough for it to fling the seed out was quite a chore. Despite the rain the dirt was mostly dry because when I ran the disk it mixed the inch or so that was wet on top with about six inches of bone dry sandy soil that was underneath. If you’ve ever walked on a sandy beach you’ll know what I’m talking about. Only I was walking fast and pulling the broadcast spreader behind me, and had to maintain that pace without stopping in order to insure the seed was spread evenly. I can sure feel it this morning.

With a 70% chance of rain predicted today and more rain possible for the next few days there’s an opportunity for me to plant many of the seeds that I wasn’t able to before. I was able to I guess but learning that the seeds won’t germinate with the well water I lost hope and didn’t. So I plan on hooking the plows up to the tractor and once again attempting to plant crops.

Part of the problem I’ve had was losing that hope, being demoralized by the failures of almost everything I planted before. The other part is my inability to keep up with all the work that needs doing. The time are resources spent on tearing that barn down took a big bite out of it. All of that work required paid help and if that had been focused on this farm there is so much that would have been accomplished. Poor decision making on my part I suppose, but at the time it seemed right.

On the list of things to do is the ever present weeds. They grow despite a lack of rain and they grow…well, like weeds. When Mike, one of the halfway house guys I hired, came out to help finish the barn he was amazed at the weeds for what he had done for me before was chop them down. He couldn’t believe how fast and big they had grown.

That weed, behind my now defunct tractor (Transmission blew) wasn't there two weeks ago

The weeds are everywhere and huge. I’ve had to use the hoe like an axe to chop them down and worry that I will break it. I’ve broken several hoes since we moved here and this one was the biggest heaviest hoe I could find. The Toro weed whacker we were gifted with will not touch these weeds, even with the solid metal blade attachment on it. With this rain these weeds will explode. I’ve been focusing on hoeing the sticker grass and weeds out of the garden plots and haven’t even been able to keep up with that. There’s about three hundred dollars left in the farm account, so I’ll use it to pay Sam to come out and help. I earned about $400 working for a friend but that’s already been spent on labor, plus fuel and almost a hundred for flea and tick medicine. Plus I earned $150 cutting down a tree so I’m working to pay others to work here on the farm. That works for me just fine. I’ve always been a do whatever it takes to reach my goals kind of person and enjoy work. Work just doesn’t always enjoy me and comes with a price that I pay in this beat up body. Thank God for pain medication. As much as I despise it, it allows me to keep going.

I’ll call the halfway house this morning and see if Sam is available to work. It’s going to be nice and cool for a few days so that will help. Cool out here being 87 degrees, much better than the high nineties and over one hundred degree temperatures we’ve had lately, with high humidity on top of that.

(Click to enlarge) The plaque that hangs on my wall. I carved this while recovering

So that’s it for now. I’m blessed folks, no matter how things look. I have a loving wife and a house to live in, we have food to eat, so what more can a man ask for. Oh some people would ask for a lot more but with these simple things I am content. I’ve lived without a roof over my head and not knowing if I would eat that day so understand what it means to go without. I’ve wandered lost with sever brain damage, I was taught how to walk and talk, facing the real possibility that I would never be able to do either one of those things. I was dead, but now I live. So I am blessed and so much has been restored to me. I will strive to improve what I have and part of my motivation is to be able to help others, to provide for those who have less than I. That’s part of my creed, part of the code I live by. You can read it on this plaque, which hangs on the wall of our office. “Money and things can vanish in a flash. What has real lasting value is the lives you touch”. There is a God, and my life is proof of His mercy and grace.

Time to get to work.

2:30 – I got the brush unloaded from the trailer. Can’t remember when I took a pain pill last and I didn’t make a note of it, but the pain level is pretty high so I’m taking one anyway. My legs are a little weak from trudging around with the seed spreader for a couple of hours straight yesterday. Had a hard time climbing up on the trailer. Had to do that over half a dozen times and each time was an effort. But I got the job done and that’s the point. Moved the truck and trailer to where the big pile of future firewood is. It has the bigger logs from the tree I cut down on it and I need to cut them to the right size to fit in the wood burner. Plus I’ll pile the scraps from the other wood on the trailer as I cut it up and transfer them to the burn pile. I might have to think about that because it’s a big pile now and will end up being huge. It might be better to make a separate pile. When I light that sucker up it will be a pretty big fire and safety is always important. I can’t light any fires like that till the burn ban is dropped. That will require a lot of rain before it’s considered safe. Plus I must wait till the wind is blowing in a safe direction. Our house is old and the siding tinder box dry with the paint mostly worn off so a single spark could well cost us everything. I’m careful even when I burn the small piles of sticker grass.

Right now I’m inside with my constant companions, Rascal and Trixie. Mama’s not real thrilled about them getting on the bed but we’ve worked out sort of a compromise. We keep a sheet covering the bed and I work to make sure it covers her pillows but Rascal invariably works it off as he squirms around. Cherie’s not keen on dog hair all over her pillow. But they love me, especially Rascal, and he always desires to be next to me, especially when he knows I don’t feel well and need to lie down. It’s hard to say no. Whenever Cherie tells him to get off the bed Rascal comes over to me, looks in my eyes with that “Please let me stay” look. As Cherie persists in demanding he get down, frustrated at my lack of support in that, Rascal will lay his head on my stomach and snuggle in, always looking in my eyes. Sometimes he wins but mostly, having some semblance of wisdom, I side with mom and tell him to get down. This he does as if his heart has been broken.

But they are here with me and Carman Kitty has climbed on my chest, as he often does, purring and rubbing his head on my beard. Carman has a particular liking of my beard. Hey, it’s good to be loved. And animals do so without preconditions. Much better than people in that regard. I’ll let the pain pill kick in and head back out in about a half hour.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A muggy day

6/27/10 Sunday
It is a muggy day, already warm despite only being 10:00 in the morning. Last night we were excited to see a big rain storm heading out way. I went online and looked at Channel 9’s radar and saw a big line of storms heading directly our way. “Cool, rain at last!” I thought and went outside to pick things up. The wind was blowing, lightning was flashing, and we could smell the rain in the air as we watched it come over Midland from the back yard. I turned off the water sprinkler I’d just started to try and save a few small pieces of Bermuda grass I found in the side yard. It was getting late and we generally call it a night after watching the news, which ends at 10:30.

The rain never came. It was hard to believe. I woke up this morning thinking I must have slept through the storm but going outside found everything to be dry as dust. In fact dust is a good description of what we have out there. God willing we will be blessed with some rain over the next few days. The weatherman predicts a 20% chance of rain so we’ll pray to be in that number.

Depression is a fight both Cherie and I have to make. I guess it’s Cherie’s turn now. She’s having a rough morning, crying but not knowing why. I prayed for her and assured her of my support and that helped some.

Yesterday we went to visit the widow. Cherie showed her the flyers and business cards she designed for Ms. G. The widows job at the school district is being messed with by the new head guy. He’s brought back children labeled as psychotic to the class and cut her hours. She must take a forced vacation too. All of this impacts the few dollars she makes there and depends on for basics in life. Her idea is to be a senior sitter, to assist families with seniors that need supervision by giving them some time away through her being able to sit with them. It’s a good idea and something Ms G has done before. So we are going to help her get something going.

While Cherie sat with Ms G I mowed her lawn and dug up some weeds. The grandson in law, whom is going through a divorce and living with her, was there. He has his two kids for the weekend so was playing with them. I’ve tried to talk to the guy but he avoids it. Come to find out he has been sneaking a girlfriend, who is also going through a divorce, in at night and trying to get her out early in the morning before Ms G wakes up. It’s sad to watch all of this. Not so much for him but because I know the trauma this has and will cause for the children. He will reap what he sows, and indeed already is, but the children are the innocent victims. I just want to smack him to wake him up. But it’s not my place to do so.

I need to unload the wood and brush from that tree we cut down. It will go in what will be a big burn pile. I just can’t burn until we get a good rain and it’s safe to do so. That might be a while. Time to get to work. We visited the local church we’ve been to a couple of times now. It’s a lot closer. We love our friends at the Midland church so don’t want to neglect them but it’s nice to not have to drive forty miles to go to church and back. I am conflicted about this. We like the little local church and it’s more in line with our background, church wise. For now we will divide our time between the two.

We just had a short but intense rain. One of these days I need to buy a new rain gauge. Meantime the one at the end of our driveway tells me that we got a decent amount of rain in five minutes. I’ll go out and check the soil in a bit to see how far down it permeated. Regardless of how far down it was there was enough that I can now go out and do what I’ve been desiring to do for weeks now, plant Bermuda hay seed and perhaps blackeyed peas too. It’s 4:00 so the rest of the day I’ll be playing in the dirt. Thank God for the rain.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My heart is heavy

This is an example of the work Bernie did. What a man of talent, what a loss.

6/26/10 Saturday
My heart is heavy this morning. Thursday I got a call from Suzie. She told me she heard that my friend, Bernie, had died, but didn’t know any details. We were in Odessa finishing taking down the barn so I called Cherie, asking her to go online and check. Sure enough he died and unfortunately the funeral was the same day I got the call. He had died on Sunday. If I’d known I could have been there for the funeral. This being so far from what used to be home, from where I lived most my life, from where the boys I raised live, from where the only friends I’ve had live, or lived, is hard. I just don’t have the resources to jet back and forth and thus have lost touch with so many. That plus the estrangements caused during the last year I was there before the wreck that put me in a coma contributed to that distance. That last year was rough. I had an undiagnosed stroke, at least one traumatic brain injury, fell into deep depression, was going through a miserable divorce, and had resorted to heavy drinking and drug use to hide the pain.

Bernie was a glass artist who’s shop was in the same building across from my businesses. He was a fellow Vietnam veteran and a good friend. I have had few friends in life, at least the good ones you got close to and shared life with. Bernie was one of them. We talked daily and helped each other out all the time. Anytime I needed something he could help with Bernie was there and anytime Bernie asked for help I did my best for him as well.

What a surprise all this was. I didn’t even know he was sick. Just got off the phone with his dad a few minutes ago. Had to call the funeral home to get the number after dialing several people from the phone book that had the same last name. It seems that Bernie had had surgery for cancer in September and they suspect it came back, though they don’t know for sure as there was no autopsy. He had been feeling bad and was found dead in his house. I am heartbroken. This distance is so hard at times. Life is hard in Toledo these days and when River East shut the building down and kicked the tenants out nine years ago it caused great difficulty for a good man. There were some who helped him set up his studio at another location, provided by another friend. When Cherie and I visited Toledo a couple of years ago we made a concerted effort to find Bernie and visit him. Bernie was the commander of the East side VFW post for some time, though that duty weighed heavy on him because of their serious financial difficulties. But he had heart and continued on despite that, working to lead the post in positive directions.
Some of the pieces that Bernie had laying around his shop. I took these pictures back when he was still in the building I'd had my businesses in. There was no questioning he had talent.

Bernie’s dad asked if I ever visited Toledo, and when I said I did when time and money allowed he invited me to come by and spend some time with them. He asked me to visit three times during the conversation. I so want to. I would go there today if I could. I’d like to go to the VFW post and have a beer in his memory, share with the fellow veterans who gather there and learn more about my friend. Bernie wasn’t a drinker but we would sometimes go and have a couple of beers and share about life. He enjoyed trying a variety of rare beers as I did. One that he turned me on to is called Anchor Steam, which I think is made in San Francisco and is quite hard to find. And I would like to sit with his dad for a while too. There are still so many gaps in my memory that I work to fill in but much of it has been restored in the nine years since I woke from the coma.
Goodbye my old friend. I miss you already. How I had looked forward to seeing you again next time I visited Toledo.

Bernie lived a spartan life, as many combat veterans of the Vietnam war still do. He didn't smoke tobacco and was a vegetarian, and never drank to excess. He was the last person I expected to get sick and die for he was careful about his health. However he made lots of stained glass, which involved copious amounts of solder, which contains lead and other unhealthy stuff.

Meantime, back on the farm, we got most of the barn down. I could quite finish because one of the guys I had helping is on a monitor from the parole department and was required to be back at the halfway house by 7:30. If he wasn’t back on time he gets sent back to prison. So almost all of it is down and I think that’s it for the job. I’ll email the lady later and let her know. It has already cost me more than the material was worth and to make another trip for the small amount left just isn’t wise.

It was a sad day for her. She drove up asking if we had seen her dog and I told her we hadn’t and had only been there ten minutes. It was a beautiful huge brown dog that just licked you to death when it saw you. She found it dead on the highway. We dug a grave for it where we were tearing down the barn. Tanna cried, it was the dog she was most attached to. I so wanted to give her a hug but didn’t. Don’t know them hardly at all and I’m uncomfortable with that. But I know how it feels as we have lost a few pets out here next to the highway so my heart went out to her.

Kairos was having their reunion event at the prison today but I didn’t go. Had been planning on going but just don’t feel up to it. I feel bad already. Just got a letter from one of the guys there. I haven’t written any of them yet and need to. There’s a responsibility that comes with getting involved with a ministry and I haven’t been keeping up with it.

I cut down a tree for someone yesterday. That allowed me to provide some more work for Sam from the halfway house. He keeps suggesting I ask Clayton to have the guys come work on my farm as part of their community service but I doubt I will. I have a hard time asking anyone for anything and am unsure of what he thinks of me anyway. Just don’t get friendly vibes from the guy, though being able to interpret stuff like that is a problem with me and a common issue with TBI’s

Speaking of TBI, there’s a program that just aired on PBS that I had Cherie watch with me. With the new high speed internet we can watch these things now on our computers. It’s really impactful and deeply touching reporting on the severe traumatic brain injuries two soldiers endured in the Middle East war. Actually there are three soldiers shown on the show. My brain injury was also classified as severe so this really highlights just how miraculous my recovery has been. Here’s the link Please go check it out. You will see just how bad of a shape I was in at one time. I am blessed and grateful for the life I have, however hard that may be at times. I am also blessed and grateful for Cherie, who took on a lot when she agreed to marry me again. Folks, I am a walking miracle. There are those who never bothered to learn of this, who judged based on appearance without caring to know why I acted how I did, and I feel bad for them. They must stand before God and answer to Him, just as we all will. God’s hand is on our lives, and we desire to share His goodness where we can, where we are allowed to. With that comes blessings.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Making rough edges

This is a pergola. Never heard of one before but they are neat. If you want one I'll build it for you.

6/23/10 Wednesday
I’ll be taking Gretchen and Ben in to the vet this morning. We really have no choice in the matter. Dr. Law (our vet) mentioned that sometimes these quills can get stuck down in their throats. I’ll have to take them in one at a time as there is no way I can haul them both at the same time in my pick up.

Worked hard yesterday. Evidently harder than I thought. I didn’t get to Midland to work on Steve and Janie’s pergola till 3:30 and stayed till 9:00. I was moving slow and cranky by the time I got home. Come to find out it got up to 103 degrees yesterday so that didn’t help but I was able to divide my time between outside work and fixing their chairs inside. I don’t have a lot of confidence in one of the chairs I fixed because it was poorly engineered in the first place.

I figured out the best way to make matching rough edges on the veneers I made for the pergola. Come to find out the Swiss Army knife Steve gave me has a saw blade in it that worked better than anything else. Here’s a picture of it. The veneers work well but not as well as I want. I’ll be cutting some more pieces today to complete the job.

There is always much to do and seldom enough time to do it. I was blessed with extra cash designated to pay for help from the Stepping Stone ministry guys so will definitely be putting that to use. But first I need to coax Gretchen out and get her in the truck. That will be an adventure as now she’s afraid I will try to remove some more of those painful quills. Breaks my heart. At least Ben comes for a pet now though he does so with trepidation. They can’t and haven’t eaten since coming home yesterday morning after their run in with the porcupine.

12:55 – Went out to work. Noticed I had a hard time walking due to the right leg not working well. That’s the side they taught another part of my brain to operate. As I prepared to cut wood for Steve’s pergola had a hard time thinking it through. It’s a slowdown, another petite seizure. Came back in to record it. Hope it doesn’t get worse. Perhaps the headache was a sign it was coming. Typing in slow motion now as I struggle to find words to say. Need to help Cherie pick up the dogs. Still have the headache. Took aspirin. Hope it helps. Might ought to stay in bed but not inclined to do so. This always sucks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Are the porcupine quills?

6/22/10 Tuesday
Our outside dogs, Ben and Gretchen, have once again gotten themselves into trouble. When Cherie got up and let the other two out I heard her plaintive “Oh My, Honey, the dogs got into something, They have stickers all over their mouths”. I grabbed some clothes on and went out to see. It looks like they got into some type of porcupine, whatever it is they have in West Texas. Dummies. I used some pliers to start what looks like will be a long process of removing the spines or quills, whatever they are called. It’s going to be hard for the dogs aren’t keen about setting still for this and I’m unable to hold them down well. So far I’ve pulled about a dozen quills and have barely scratched the surface. I purposely make sure they have a big fresh bowl of food set out every night with the hope it will reduce their wandering at night. Obviously that didn’t work last night. That’s West Texas for you. Everything has stickers or thorns out here.

Today I hope to make it to Midland, where I plan on fixing some chairs and doing cosmetic work on Steve and Janie’s pergola. It’s quite a structure he’s built and their landscape lady asked if I could build some for some of her customers. I’m an honest guy so told her that I wouldn’t know how to price such a job and had never built anything like that before. She appreciated me not trying to BS my way into a job and offered to help me figure that out. Up till then all I’d done was stain the massive amounts of lumber required to build the structure. I asked Janie to ask Steve to let me help him build it so I could gain some experience doing so and thus be better able to tackle such a job. Now that I’ve spent a few days working with Steve I have a good idea of what is involved and am confident it’s something I could handle.

So this seems to be a new direction I’m moving in, doing outside contract type work. Farming is hard and requires expensive equipment, equipment that we can’t afford for the most part though we are picking up a little bit here and there. There have been a few remarks sent my way that insinuated I was lazy because I don’t have a “regular” job. I’m probably being over sensitive about that, partly because I always kick myself about not getting enough done. But I welcome any chance to work for others, especially when it’s someone who has needs or difficulties in life. I just don’t do that for profit. When I built the table tops for the little diner in Stanton she asked me “How much will you charge me?” I told her to just pay me whatever she felt like after the job was done. When it comes to building things like a pergola that must change. For one thing, the people who would contract such a job aren’t poor and needy and the other part of the equation is this is something I’ll use to help some guys at the halfway house get back on their feet. So it won’t be a “Pay me what you feel like” kind of thing. I’ll have to figure that out. I’m cutting down a tree for a hundred dollars and I know that a professional tree removal company would charge $400 to $600 for such a job. But it’s an easy job and not a big tree. I tend to go with what’s fair instead of “how much can I get”. However I’ve learned that I can misjudge situations, with that barn in Crane being a classic example. And I tend to trust people, something I’ve found isn’t always wise. Oh well, I’ll trust in God and if people take advantage of me so be it.

Time to go pull some more quills out of dogs mouths.
This will be a tough operation for one man. Ben kept struggling and hiding his face from me. Gretchen will be harder because she is bigger, stronger, and generally afraid anyway. There's just no way we can afford to take them to a vet so I'll do the best I can.

There is so much to do. It’s already after 10:00 and I’m still working on getting those quills out of Gretchen and Ben’s nose and mouth. Ben’s almost all the way done as he is more gentle (Hence his name, Gentle Ben) and is laying in his favorite chair. I’ll probably have to finish this up in bits and pieces and must work on other things as well. Leaving Rascal and Trixie inside as they don’t help, don’t even come close to helping. They want to get involved and get right into it, plus they are jealous of any attention I give to the other two so are motivated to be in the way. Times a wastin and there’s things that need doing. Carman Kitty is trying to crawl on my lap for pets as I write. We love our animals and they love attention but finding a balance is sometimes hard to do.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It's our wedding anniversary. 6 or 31 years depending on how you count

Read about it a little further down

6/20/10 Sunday
The visit with the widow was a good one. She’s always glad for the company, especially when Cherie goes with me. They talked while I worked on her computer, trying to get it to work with her printer. We had taken one of our extra printers to give to her but when I saw her machine I decided to try and figure out what was wrong with her’s. It is a nice printer, fax, copier that is much better quality than the plain old printer we brought. So I fiddled and looked and finally figured out what was wrong. It seems that the Microsoft Works program that came loaded on her computer when she bought it new had a time limit on it for use. When that time limit ended she told me that the machine demanded something like $700 for her to purchase the program and because she didn’t it not only stopped working but every time she tried to print anything from her computer it just printed gibberish symbols. So she must get a word processing program in order to use her printer. It will print some stuff but she is unable to write and print a simple letter.

I had been working out in the heat up to 3:00 that day and had run out of steam. That might be an understatement. I came in and laid down till it was time to visit the widow. After I got done working on her computer it all caught up with me. I started falling asleep at the table as we sat and talked. Ms G saw this and decided I needed something to eat. She and Cherie fixed chicken salad for sandwiches and made a batch of tea. I had wanted to go home and crash but Cherie told me that this was important to Ms G, that it was something she really was excited about doing, her chance at returning some of the love we’d shown her. I’m glad Cherie pointed that out for me. It’s the kind of thing I often miss. So we stayed till the sun started going down. I never mowed her lawn so must remember to do that later.
It's nice that the days are longer. I worked till about 9:15PM hoeing down weeds. That's when it started getting too dark to see. You can see one of the piles I made of them. I'll wait till they dry and burn the piles. This will destroy the sticker seeds.

Yesterday we ran into a strange situation on the way to visit the widow. Cherie saw some antique furniture sitting out with a for sale sign on it so we stopped to look at it. The guy invited us inside to look at the mirrors and more pieces that went with the set. Walking in the house was like walking into a Halloween set. There were full sized mannequins dressed in witch and warlock type costumes holding sculls and other things along with all the other stuff like huge spiders. Then there were lots of paintings and art work (I use the term “art” lightly here) that were equally strange, with many of them outright pornographic. “You guys are really into Halloween” I said and he said it was mostly his wife and kids. There was a bookshelf next to the piece of furniture and looking at it I saw all kinds of books on witchcraft and other occult subjects. The guy looks older than me by a decade or so and with his cowboy hat appeared to be a good ole west Texas boy but…I was sure uncomfortable in my spirit. Getting out to the truck I let Cherie know that I had no interest in the furniture and learned that she too had a bad feeling about the whole place. We were glad to leave.

Well folks, today is Cherie and my wedding anniversary, the one from our second marriage. We have officially broken our old record from the first marriage. That one lasted five years and we just passed the six year mark with this one. June the second was the wedding date for our first marriage so that would have been our 31rst anniversary if we hadn’t been divorced. I would have forgotten totally if Cherie hadn’t reminded me. She would have forgotten too but we were married on fathers day so that helped her remember. Let me tell you the story, or at least part of it. For the old readers this is nothing new but for many of you it will be. It’s a story I tell all the time to folks we meet all over. “This is my first and third wife” is how I often introduce Cherie and with that comes the explanation. I tell how we met in bible college and were “first loves” for us both. Then I explain how we went to Ohio and about falling out of a tree where I broke my back and neck and sustained a concussion. With that concussion came a drastic personality change where I became kind of an ass and this resulted in us getting divorced. We now know that the personality change was a sure sign of a traumatic brain injury but back then doctors were not very aware of that so offered no explanation.

So twenty years later I had the car wreck that put me in a coma and caused yet another traumatic brain injury. Evidence shows that I have had at least six traumatic brain injuries in my life and one stroke for sure. So I’m wandering homeless with amnesia and ABC runs a news story on me entitled “Toledo’s John Doe”. Cherie turns on the television and there is her ex husband who didn’t remember who his friends were and even had his age wrong. So she calls in to offer some help with me putting the pieces back together. We discover that we still loved each other to our mutual amazement. Her parents were not thrilled about this but Cherie decided to no longer let them run her life. We had met with the pastor of a church to get counseling before we married and we had already gotten the marriage license so he asked if we wanted to get married right there in his office. That worked for us well as there was no plan for a big wedding of any type. So we got married on fathers day.

Tonight's sunset.

Helping that friend went well. Spent three days working on his project and it looks pretty good. He paid me well for that and threw in some extra money for me to use to pay some of the Stepping Stone ministry guys to help finish tearing down that barn over near Odessa. So that is good. I worked hard to earn the money I can use to get them some work. I got a job cutting down a tree as well and that will help me get them some work. When all is said and done I won’t make anything but I really don’t care. My needs are always taken care of so what’s important to me is to help others.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

No big plans, just plenty to do

Last night's sunset

6/19/10 Saturday
We will start our day with a scripture reading and prayer. It’s a day we can use to catch up on stuff around the house and farm. Today I plan on visiting the widow and Cherie will probably go with me. I’m sure her lawn needs mowing so I’ll do that for her plus anything else she needs. I’ll run to Stanton and check on the tree removal job I was asked to quote on. So that’s it, no real big plans just plenty to do.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A headache morning

6/18/10 Friday
It’s a headache morning. One of the bad ones where light and sound beat me up. Hope it passes soon. Must stay in bed with lights and tv turned off. Took some aspirin for it. The pain pills do nothing for these though I had to take one anyway because the back pain is up there from cutting wood yesterday. Even the screen on this laptop is bright and I keep my eyes closed as I type, only opening them to see if I make mistakes. I’m sure that would look comical so am glad there’s no one here to see. Cherie prayed for when she left for work. Usually I pray for her but it’s not a usual morning. I hope this passes soon. I have much more wood to cut and always weeds to attack. It’s going to be a hot humid day so missing out on the cool of the morning will be a shame.

10:30 – There’s nothing more frustrating than laying in bed for two and a half hours, wide awake because your not tired, with your eyes closed because it hurts to open them. What an incredible waste of time, time I don’t have to waste because there’s so much to do. I tried to put Rascal and Trixie outside but they don’t want to go, they just want to stay close to me. It’s amazing how they sense when something’s wrong, or at least when you don’t feel good.

I refuse to just lay here any longer. I’ll put my sunglasses on and get moving despite the headache. Can’t tell that the aspirin did any good but I can sure tell that the pain pill I took at six this morning wore off. The doctor told me not to take one more than four hours apart so I can take my second one for the day now. When I go in for my checkup I’ll let them know that they don’t work as good so odds are I’ll get a stronger prescription. Hate it but they allow me to keep moving.
You can see all the weeds growing around the tomato plants.

I haven’t made a schedule of what I need to do today. Should do that now. I’ll try to work outside and see if I can push through this headache. If I can’t there is certainly some writing I need to catch up on inside. I’m planning on going to Fort Stockton for the prison ministry today. There is only one other person going so I need to find out if he is planning on riding down with me or if I’m riding with him. I don’t remember how to get to the prison so need a map. If I’m driving I’ll need to take Cherie’s truck for mine only has two gears that work, first and third. It slips in drive and won’t go into second gear at all. With over two hundred thousand miles on it I’m babying the truck so don’t want to take it on a long trip.

So I’m getting up and getting moving, whether I feel like it or not.

Going to Kairos prison ministry in Fort Stockton didn’t work out today. Took a bath and got all cleaned up with fresh clothes and rushed to Odessa to meet the guy I was riding down with. When I got there he was on the phone to a customer of his in Midland, trying to help them figure out how to get a printer working. They couldn’t figure it out so George told me he had to take care of his customer so wouldn’t be going to Fort Stockton. There’s no way I’m driving my truck that far as I’m not sure it would make the trip without breaking down. I’m hearing a squeak coming from the front wheel and am wondering if it’s a bearing. Speaking of that, the mechanic we had look at Cherie’s truck said I should repack her front wheel bearing as it was loose and they need that on a regular basis. That’s another thing I had forgotten about and just remembered now when I was talking about my truck.

So I came back home. Cherie whipped up a nice dinner and now I’m putting my grubby clothes back on and heading out to work in the garden. I’ll work out there until it gets dark as I usually do. I used to wear the fisherman’s head light to work after it got dark but now there are so many bugs out that it doesn’t work out well. With a bright light mounted on your forehead it attracts every flying bug there is, and there are a lot of them now. It doesn’t take long before you have hundreds of them flying headlong into your head and face at full speed so it also doesn’t take long for me to turn that sucker off and call it a bad idea. There’s a red lens on the light that I might try out to see if that doesn’t attract the bugs.

As I cut wood a guy I know, who does work for the old man, drove up. He’s got a house in Stanton and needs to have a tree removed so asked how much I would charge. I told him I couldn’t say until I looked at it so he gave me an address and his phone number. I’ll look at that tomorrow. It would be nice to get the job, especially if it would help me get work for some of the guys at Stepping Stone ministry. I’m not concerned for myself, we have plenty of wood that was dropped off and I’m sure I can get more. But I try to do as much as I can for others.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Focus on cutting wood

6/17/10 Thursday
This morning I will focus on cutting wood. Had a hard time waking up, real drowsy or something. Not sure if I slept well or not. Wally is coming by to visit in a few hours. I’ll sweep up the living room and neaten it up some. I seem to be a little slow this morning. Having a hard time collecting my thoughts to write. Went to the bible study at the halfway house last night. It’s always good to see the guys. This is all I’m going to write because it’s just to hard to figure out what to say or how to say it. Ears are ringing, sometimes a sign of a slow down but they ring all the time or lots of times or…got to go. Too hard to think.

I cleared up fairly well in time for Wally’s visit. Took the garbage to the landfill and started getting things ready for cutting wood. Set up some pallets I’ll use to stack the wood on as the steel roofing I’d used last year was buried under four inches of blown in sand. The pallets will keep the wood off the ground so there’s less chance of termites or some other creature making a home there.

It’s interesting to note how differently others see this farm than I do. To Wally everything showed amazing progress and he could see all the things I’d accomplished but when I look at it I see everything I haven’t done or completed. Two sets of eyes looking at the same thing but seeing it all differently. I expressed my frustration on being unable to keep up and do the things I want to. Wally assured me that I had done well despite being a one man show. I explained that much of what had been done happened during those times I could afford some help.

I’m so tired. The slowdown from this morning is catching up. They always drain me much. That plus the hamburger Wally treated me to both contributed to this tiredness. My eyes keep closing as I write. Suppose I should take a short nap as they refresh me. That’s another frustrating aspect of TBI, the mental fatigue. Doesn’t make any sense but it’s there.

4:25 – Came in to grab something to drink and cool off in front of the fan. Of course laying back eases the pain some too. As the fan evaporates the sweat soaking my shirt it’s almost too cool, sending chills shivering down my skin. But it feels good. Cutting the wood is going slowly because it’s all piled together, little small unusable twigs still attached to the larger branches. We will have a big fire to burn off all the unusable stuff later. Moving all of it out to where I’m building a burn pile will be a lot of work so I’m debating just burning it in the middle of the lot. I think that’s what I’ll do, just have to be careful and choose a day when the wind is blowing away from the house. There’s so much to do that time’s valuable. This fruitless mulberry is hard wood and tough on a chain saw blade. The blade is stretching pretty bad and I must adjust it often. I think I’ve got another blade laying around somewhere but will have to work to find it. Hard to believe it’s already this late. Time always flies when I’m busy. Taking a nap in the middle of it doesn’t help either. I only laid down for about an hour. Never really went to sleep, just kind of vegetated.

I need to call and see how Suzie is doing. She had a hysterectomy and bladder surgery and that got infected so things were rough. Then she had problems with Calvin and moved out with her two daughters. All of the pressures of no reliable incomes on top of everything else made things a tinderbox there. She is technically homeless now and they were finding different friends and relatives to spend the nights with and that wasn’t going well either. It breaks my heart to be this far away and unable to do anything.

Here's how much wood I got cut. Chain saw gave me fits till I figured out the safety stop had activated. Took me a half hour to figure that out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My will to survive

6/16/10 Wednesday
We’re up early this morning. I was out at midnight after hearing the dogs making a commotion and Gretchen came running but no Ben. That always causes concern so I looked for Ben with no luck. “It’s late. I need to go to bed and not worry about Ben” I told myself, trusting that God will take care of my dog. So Cherie was up at five this morning, having gotten a rare good nights sleep, partly because it was a cool evening, and with energy and the house being a comfortable temperature she’s getting things done. I put on some boxers and grabbed a flashlight to look for Ben some more. It’s nice being out in the country because I don’t have to dress up to look for my dog at this hour due to almost no traffic. I found Ben, he’s bedded down on the other side of the highway and it took a lot of coaxing to get him to come. Little dweeb, got to make it hard and keep me worried. We love our dogs but they are a constant source of frustration and worry. I rewarded Ben and Gretchen both for coming when I called, or perhaps I should say “Begged and pleaded”.

Put in a long day yesterday. Didn’t finish getting the Bermuda sowed till after the sun went down. What a tedious chore that was but there’s no sense doing a job if you don’t do it right. Unfortunately the ground was dried out by the time I got the seed pressed in. I’ll water a small section just to see if that helps or hurts. It would suck to have sixteen hours of work go to waste.

Today I plan on cutting firewood after I disc up the five acres. If discing brings moist dirt to the surface I may attempt to sow the tall Bermuda hay seed on a little over an acre of land. At ten dollars a pound we could only afford ten pounds, which the guy said was what it took for an acre. The hay seed costs way more than the grass seed does. My thought is to get it going and when it goes to seed capture the seeds to plant in other areas. I don’t have a clue if that’s doable. Have no idea of what it takes to harvest those seeds and what must be done to make them plantable. I have a lawn mower with a grass catcher to catch the clippings. Used that to harvest Rye grain before. That was a lot of work trying to thresh the grain and get the seed out. Eventually I’ll have the stuff needed to build equipment for that. I’ve got a cutting and welding torch along with a cheap electric welder. It won’t handle anything big, in fact I haven’t even taken it out of the box yet.

Little by little I’m building this farm, piece by small piece I’m getting equipment and tools needed. Meantime I do the best I can with what I have and that means spending sixteen painful hours doing by hand what could be done in forty minutes with the right equipment. We meet with the USDA guys in a few days again to learn about what resources the state and federal government has for us. A lot of those programs require matching funds or other forms of commitment. It’s our hope to attract business partners in the future that will enable us to qualify for these programs. There’s good money in farming but it always takes money to make money.

I learned that one of Cherie’s sources of frustration has been other’s conveying their thoughts and attitudes concerning me and my dream of building a working farm on this land. When she’s asked “How’s Bob doing with the farm” Cherie is at a loss for words because there have been so many difficulties and setbacks. “I try to put a positive spin on it but don’t know what to say” she explained. This puts her in an awkward position and what’s left is a sense of pity or something like that from the others. I tried to convey that many successful enterprises only happened after the founder overcame great difficulty and pushed through despite the expressed doubts and criticisms of the nay sayers. I’ve built several companies from scratch and done so without a penny to my name so it’s easier for me to see than it is for Cherie, or others. Besides that, overcoming difficulties and doing what some say can’t be done has been the story of my life. Doctors didn’t expect me to live and if I did said I would be a vegetable till I died. Then I was expected to exist at a four year olds mentality level having to be led around and told when to eat and bath. Actually they never thought I would walk again and kept me strapped into the bed to prevent me from getting out of it. I kept insisting and they finally sent up physical therapy guys who taught me how to walk again. Without insurance the hospital didn’t want to incur any more expense than they had to but they couldn’t find a place to send me where I would be cared for as I vegetated in a bed. My improvement was miraculous and beat the odds, the odds being what the “experts” thought. Oh I was a mess for sure, with sever brain damage, but my will to survive and get better was, and is, strong.

Three hours on the tractor and I’m a third of the way done. Forgot just how much that beats me up but part of that is because I’m running at a 90 degree angle to previous runs so it’s bouncing across the old grooves. I need to run to Stanton and get some more diesel fuel. The fuel gauge doesn’t work on the John Deere and the last thing I want is to run out of fuel with a diesel engine. It’s almost 11:00 so I’ll grab mail and something to eat too. That will give my eleven o’clock pain pill time to kick in too. Not sure about sowing the hay seed. I wish I knew more about this stuff or even had a relationship with a farmer who could advise me. That’s part of the damage done by those who whisper in the dark and thus create such division in the body of Christ. Sure, I share some blame in that because I dare to keep a public journal about my life but…
My question on the seed is do I sow it knowing no rain is forecast? Or should I wait till I know rain is coming or after it rains? I know that the previous seed I sowed never came up, even after it rained so am not inclined to throw away a hundred dollars worth of seed.


2:43 – I’ve gotten most of the tractor work done. What’s left is small tight spaces and a garden plot that will require a lot of backing up to do. The tractor started boiling over a little. Not bad, just a little fluid squeezing past the pressure cap. It did this last time I disked this much area on a hot day. I checked and the fluid level was fine and it was evident there is a good amount of anti freeze mixed in the water. Wish I knew more about diesel tractor engines but I am fairly knowledgeable about gas engines. So the question would be, is the radiator plugged up or bad? I need to flush it out and while I’m at it I need to change the oil. I know that changing oil is extra important for diesel engines. I sure look forward to when I get a barn built so I can work on these things.

Anyway, I’ll let the tractor cool off and it’s a good time to lay down and let the pain ease up some. Can’t remember if I took a pain pill when I came in. That’s why I need to make notes when I take a pill because five minutes later I can’t remember. I know I intended to take one and probably did so won’t take another one. I did call the VA to set up a doctors appointment. My other doctor told me he was moving to parts unknown when I saw him last and normally I go in every six months for a checkup. That last checkup was over six months ago and knowing the VA is stretched thin and that I would have a new doctor assigned to me I figured I’d be lost in the shuffle. I was. The Orange clinic, the one I’ve always gone to, no longer exists and when I called the lady told me that the doctor assigned to me is also leaving in a few days so a third doctor will become my primary care physician. Good thing I called. I see the doctor July 22 and the prescription runs out before then so they will renew it early.

The ground is already pretty dry so there’s no sense in planting the seeds. There’s plenty of other stuff to do with weeds on top of the list. Actually I need to get the chain saw out and cut up the branches that were torn out of our trees plus the wood that was dropped off by the guy I saw cutting down trees. I stopped and asked what he was going to do with the wood and he said he would be happy to drop it off. He’s done that three times now so we’ve quite a pile of wood to deal with. That’s a blessing for sure as it sure helps me get a head start on preparing for winter.

I’ve rested long enough and there’s lots to do. I still need to do my laundry as well and that must get done today. It might be smart to take care of that next instead of getting on the wood. I know me and if I start on the wood I’ll never get the laundry done.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The winds blew

6/15/10 Tuesday
The rain we got was miniscule so in order to take advantage of it I must rush out before the sun evaporates it all away. Digging down only the top inch or two of soil is wet and underneath it’s dry as a bone. I plan on running the disc to get the wet soil mixed deeper in with the thought that this will help keep it from evaporating away. But part of what I desire to do is sow Bermuda grass seed and the area it’s to go on can’t be disked so I will have to rake it by hand and then spread the seed, pressing it in with the roller I bought for that purpose. I think that task I’ll have to do first in an attempt to take advantage of the wet soil with the hope the seed will germinate. If the well water was good I could run sprinklers to get the grass going but because it’s bad that would only poison the seed and prevent it from starting. There’s a 30% chance of rain today so I’ll pray we get that.

Cherie is frustrated today. When I asked her what’s wrong she just says “I’ve got a lot of stuff on my mind”. I so wish I knew more of what’s bothering her but I have a good idea of some of it. Life is difficult out here, money is short, she works full time and doesn’t have as much time or energy to do things around the house as she would like. I know what it’s like to not accomplish all you desire. I pray with her every morning but that doesn’t just fix everything.

Cherie made me another list of things to do, a big help for me. Among the things I need to do is cut up the wood that the winds tore out of our trees. On the news they showed an oil drilling rig that the winds had mangled the top of here in Martin county. We’re talking heavy steel just twisted into pretzel shapes. Fortunately no one was killed but some were taken to the hospital. That rig isn’t too far from the house. I’ve got some steel roofing that I noticed is coming up on the garage so I need to go put more nails or screws in it. Not sure what to use but it’s the kind of thing you don’t leave undone for the next wind will get under where it’s loose and tear it all off.

It will be a busy day. I must do my laundry sometime and it’s a poop scoop day so I’ll run into Midland at some point. A friend said he wanted to come out and visit but gave no indication what time he’d like to do that. I’ll just get out to work and hope he comes while I’m here. Laundry and poop scooping I normally do later in the day, often timing it so I’ll be in town when Cherie gets off of work.

Time to get out there before it gets too hot.
Just picture this all nice and green with Bermuda grass nicely mowed. That's what I see in my minds eye. I see all kind of things as I visualize what can be.

2:40 – Had to take a break whether I wanted to or not. I’m almost done raking the area I plan on sowing Bermuda seed on, got about 80% of it raked and leveled. Been working at it six hours now, only taking off to get mail and something to eat around noon. If I had the right attachment for the tractor I could have done this in thirty minutes. Actually I could have done it with the Massey Ferguson tractor by scraping the surface with the front end loader blade running it in reverse. Losing that tractor was a real blow. One of these days, when I build a barn to work on things like that, I’ll tear the transmission apart and see if I can fix it. It could be something as simple as a shear pin. But until then it will have to sit. Meantime I’ve been pushing hard to get this area sowed and am paying a price in pain for that. The pain pills don’t work as good as they used to but that’s the way it is. Over time you develop a tolerance for them and I’ve been taking this prescription for over two years now.

The sun came out and is drying the soil pretty quick now. That’s bad. If there’s not enough moisture left in the dirt all this work might be in vain. I’ll allow myself ten minutes laying down to let the pain subside and get back out to work. Then I’ll pray for a light rain, one that won’t wash all the seeds away. I still need to go do my laundry and poop scoop today so only have an hour and a half to finish this.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It’s 2:34. I just came in to sit in front of the fan and cool off, along with laying down for a while till the pain level goes down to something manageable. I can’t take another pain pill till 4:00 and am careful about that. Moved the laptop to the bedroom where I can write laying down. Besides that it’s cooler here as the open window allows the air from the evaporative unit to flow through this room. With the unusual high humidity it only cools the air a small bit but every little bit helps. Besides, if we had regular air conditioner’s our electric bill would be sky high and things are tight enough as it is.

I’ve been hoeing down weeds all day and it doesn’t look like I’ve gotten much done at all. If it wasn’t for the sticker grass I would have gotten the tiller out and tilled it all under and been done with it by now. But the sticker grass is full of stickers, which are seeds, so tilling it in would just be effectively planting more. So I’m piling up the hoed weeds and after they dry will burn them, thus eliminating the seeds.

I did find two carrot plants that somehow survived so that’s cool. We harvested our first broccoli today. Nice big heads on them. I’m not sure when you’re supposed to harvest it. Some of the broccoli heads have big nodules or whatever they are called so I wonder if it is more mature than it should be. I’m pretty clueless on lots of stuff. Look it up and study but forget what I read shortly after I read it. I wonder how you tell when to harvest the carrots?

Start of another week

6/14/10 Monday
Start of another week and always more to do than I can keep up with. I still need to finish tearing down the barn in Crane but we are out of money so I can’t even afford the gas to go there. Had a surprise charge made on our account from the Stelera internet guys when the charged me for the replacement internet box. Looking at the bill I see that they never gave me the discounted rate we signed up for, the low rate designed to attract new customers. Seems that we were charged full price from the start. Now I feel lied to. I’ve placed several calls to the lady who replaced the original representative, who either got fired or went somewhere else, but she has yet to return a call.

Replaced the section of pipe that the gophers chewed through. Not a good sign at all, the amount of damage those little pests caused. This could be a really bad problem if I can’t get a handle on it. I’m sure they are not happy about the wire cages I surrounded the wind break trees with but at least so far that seems to be working. All of the trees are still alive as of now. We lost 90 trees before and that hurt. Nothing is easy out here. Not at all like the farm country we were used to up in Ohio/Michigan.

We have a few sporadic patches of Bermuda grass that has managed to grow out of the twenty or so pounds of seed I put out. Most of it never came up but I’ll take what I can get.

I found myself trying to explain why I don’t have a “regular” job last week to a well meaning person who offered to try and find me one. First of all folks don’t seem to understand that I work full time as I strive to build this farm. I put in 12 or 15 hour days, on the days I’m able to do that, so it’s not like I lay around doing nothing all day. I tried to convey the difficulties I face but am not sure if I was successful or not. People seem to have fixed opinions about things, little boxes they desire to fit everyone in based on their experience. I don’t fit in a box. You can’t generally find a job where you can work when you feel like it, or those times you are able to, and not work when you have a seizure, severe headache, or hurt so much you must lay down till it goes away. I have that job right here on the farm, it’s just what the doctor ordered. I just am not making any money at it right now. Plus I find time to help others out despite the difficulties. I mow the widows lawn and do chores around her house as well as spend time visiting and praying with her as she wrestles with so many problems it makes my life seem mild. I visit and sometimes teach bible at the halfway house and intend to get back to going to the prison in Fort Stockton on a regular basis. I endeavored to explain to this well meaning brother that I don’t do well in unfamiliar environments and my brain isn’t able to process lots of new information fast so any fast paced situation would leave me in shambles. Plus there’s the emotional control issue, one that hasn’t been a problem lately because I avoid situation that would aggravate it.

I can do a lot of things, no question about it, but they have to be on my terms. There’s a chance I can build some pagoda type things for a lady and that I can do. It would be great and would also help me find work for some of the guys at the halfway house. I’m not concerned about me for God takes care of us, but in my mind life isn’t about taking care of yourself but about helping others. That’s why I liked building those table tops for that lady last week. I would see the existing ones every time I went to eat there and they had totally deteriorated so I offered to make her new ones. When she asked how much I would charge I just said “Pay me whatever you think they’re worth after I’m done” and offered to take food in trade as well. I’m not worried about money, I just want to help and was glad to do so.
Here's a picture of the wild sunflowers that grow around here. Cherie likes them and so do I so they didn't get chopped down with the rest of the weeds.
I’ve spent two hours on this computer and that’s a waste of valuable time so got to go. There’s a list of things to do and they won’t get done with me sitting here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Heat to beat

6/11/10 Friday
Friday’s come around too quickly these days. A weeks gone by and it seems that nothing’s been accomplished. I’ll run to Steve’s this morning and stain some wood for him. Always glad to do anything for someone who has done so much for us. I expressed how glad I was that he asked for the help.

Watched the rain go north of us yesterday evening. There were storm clouds southwest coming our way so I hoped to get some rain but they fizzled out and never made it. We met with the USDA guys yesterday and they came out to the farm to look around. They pointed out all kinds of plants to me, explaining what they were and what they were, or weren’t, good for. Some were labeled as not worth much other than holding the ground together so it didn’t blow or wash away. Out here that’s worth a lot. It’s unfortunate that I will be unable to remember much of what they showed me but I can remember some. The memory is better than it was a few years ago and I’m always grateful for that.

Went to the Stepping Stone bible study Wednesday and enjoyed fellowshipping with the guys. Some had just gotten out of prison a few days ago and we talked of how hard it is to adjust to simple things like not hearing the 24 hour a day noise of prison life. The peace and quiet can be very unnerving and takes a while to adjust to. I so wish I had the funds to hire these guys, to help them in this period of adjusting to freedom, to provide a safe work environment without the issues that can be found in other places. That is part of my long term goal with creating this farm, to help them as they start life over, literally start over from scratch.
Firewood I need to cut and stack

This evening I head back to Fort Stockton with the Kairos prison ministry. I feel bad about not writing the guys I met there as I promised. There are so many things I want to do and don’t get to. It’s the biggest frustration I have with this TBI, this seeming inability to follow through on things. I am surrounded by unfinished business. Cherie dug up some forms I needed to fill out six months ago and never got to. One of them is for tax free diesel fuel for the tractor and there are others. Cherie is unable to be my “babysitter” and keep after me to do these things. Her hands are full as it is. I was able to build several companies despite multiple brain injuries years ago with the help of a secretary, who’s job was basically to remind me of what I was to do when. Like I’ve said before “I’m the smartest dumb person or dumbest smart person you will ever meet”.

There’s work to do and heat to beat so time to get moving.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I was dead, but now I live

6/8/10 Tuesday
This heat can sure slow you down. Yesterday was Sam’s last day to work, at least for now because there are no more funds to pay him. I finished making the table tops for the little place we sometimes grab a bite at. Any more I hesitate to name places for our experience has been that those who have a root of bitterness in them (Hebrews 12.15) make it important to plant seeds of distrust anywhere they learn we go. The really sad part of that is it appears to be church people doing this. But that isn’t unusual, unfortunately. There’s a saying I’ve heard for years, going all the way back to the days I was in bible college studying for the ministry (1978) “Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded”. A few verses before the one in Hebrews I referred to above it says (vs 12) “Therefore strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble” and that’s how it should be. It is that way in much of the church but in the few places, or perhaps just times, this isn’t practiced it shows up like a fire in the night and the whole world sees. I know this breaks my Lord’s heart. 1 John, along with pretty much the rest of the bible, talks about loving your brother and neighbor. Chapter 4 vs 21 says “This commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also”. The verse before that is blunt saying “If someone says, “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

Now I know that I have given others reason to feel uncomfortable around me and have tried to remedy that. After reading the words of Jesus in Mathew 5.23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” I went to the pastor of the church we felt rejected by and asked forgiveness. He clapped his feet together four times during the conversation so I asked “Why are you doing that?”. He said “I’m shaking the dust off my feet” evidently in reference to the scripture at Mathew 10.12-14 where Jesus sent His disciples out and told them to do this anywhere they were not received. This so hurt, and is such a misuse of scripture that I was dumbfounded. This action was aimed to those who rejected the disciples and their message. We didn’t reject the church, in fact I pleaded with them to accept us, pleaded for fellowship and expressed our desire to have friends and told of the loneliness we felt despite attending there for over a year. It was the words of some who poisoned this, but I must share the blame for I keep this journal online and in it simply talk about what does and doesn’t happen each day.

To my knowledge I have never said a word that isn’t true but if I did would gladly apologize and correct it. This is a typical issue with those who have traumatic brain injuries and also for those with Asperger’s syndrome, where we say what we think openly and honestly without considering the social ramifications. So I reached out to apologize and try to mend the problems I caused, so I did what Jesus said to do, so I humbled myself. And I didn’t do it for me, I did it because it was the right thing to do and because I know that these roots of bitterness planted in others will harm them and disrupt the body of Christ. Hebrews 12.14-15 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled”. I pray for them all.

This love that the bible speaks of isn’t the feel good emotional kind of love we have for family or our spouses, it is a choice based not on emotion. Oh, emotion can well be a part of it for if you truly love and care for someone there is deep emotion when you see them choosing death over life by their actions or when you see them blessed and achieving something. Jesus says it best, as He always seems to do. In Mathew 5.43-48 he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

It was my hope, when I approached the pastor, that he would see that the scripture I brought up applied to them as much as it applied to me, and I presumed that he understood that God, and His son Jesus, desire unification, that one of the underlying principles throughout the whole bible, both new testament and old, is restoration and forgiveness. This is still my hope, for their sake. I don’t believe there are any accidents in my life anymore, and suspect that God knew that when I came to that church with my addled brain damaged mind that I would stir things up. So I have to believe that God, who knows all and has sure had His hand on my life since I was raised from the dead, had a purpose in mind for this. He often does things to break through the walls we put up, to break through the hardened hearts of those He loves. This is God’s way, He shines His light on darkness, exposing the works done in secret in order that once exposed they can be washed away. Me, I’m pretty much like Balaam’s ass, the donkey that talked to Balaam, a prophet who was selling his religion, doing what he knew was wrong for gain and the accolades of others. I figure that if God will use a donkey He can use me. Lord knows I’ve been an ass plenty of times before. I don’t desire to cause trouble but seem to anyway.

What I desire is for all I meet to be better people, to have better lives. I don’t have much ability to do that but I know God and He absolutely has that ability. It’s been a blessing to spend time with the guys at the Stepping Stone ministry, men whom have ruined their lives in many ways but came to, or came back to Christ while in prison. They all face severe hardships as they transition from prison back to the free world. For many alcohol and drugs were at the core of their problems and it makes me aware of just how blessed I am to be free of these things. There are many I know who play with these poisons, seemingly unaware of the dangers that lurk within, or refusing to recognize them. I tried to talk to my brother about it but was rebuffed. It’s hard and sad to see how a lifetime of drinking has affected him, damaged his brain and I’m sure his liver isn’t in great shape either. His statement to me was “I’m not an alcoholic, I just have too much fun with my friends”. He, nor others I know, can’t understand that when consuming alcohol is a prerequisite for having a good time things are out of balance. Balance is a key word here.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that drinking any alcohol at all is wrong. I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with pizza and in great moderation these can actually provide some health benefits. But I spent years in bars drinking heavily so have seen both sides of the coin. It’s when you feel you need a little “Buzz” to enjoy company or that drinks are a requisite to liven up the party that things are getting out of balance. It’s an insidious drug, alcohol is. One that will slowly over time gain an ever increasing hold on your life and “denial” is a key part of this process. There’s always the “I can quit anytime” rationalization and the fact that it’s a social disease where all your friends, who are great successful people that have it all together, accept and support you in it that make this so hard to see. That’s why it is often that one has to “Hit the bottom” before they even recognize they have a problem. The sad part of that is that by then they have already done a great deal of damage to their bodies, minds, and lives.

I watch. I see so much yet feel helpless to say anything, knowing my words or opinion mean little to them. It’s the Christians who compromise their lives that tear at my heart. They blind themselves to the truths they know and let the world hold a greater sway in their hearts. There’s a scripture that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death”. Jesus said (Mathew 7.13) “For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”. I’ve learned these truths the hard way and have been granted a second chance at life, a rare thing indeed. I am surrounded by temptations, by things that “aren’t that bad” but I know how it works. I bend a law here, compromise a little there, knowing that God will forgive me, but in taking that path I’m straying from the truth I know. After a while each compromise becomes easier and soon that which is deplorable to God no longer bothers me at all and I end up fooling myself and believing a lie, where good becomes evil and what was evil becomes good. Who am I to say these things? What right do I have to express such judgment? I was dead but now I live, I was a genius but now struggle to remember what happened yesterday, I was an adult but became a child in my understanding, I was rich but now am poor, ultimately I am blessed with so much being restored. My life is a gift and my desire is to give life to all I see.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Poor decisions

I haven't added it all up, and probably won't, but so far this is what we've gotten for about a thousand dollars overall expenditure going back two months when we started the project. It wasn't the smartest decision I made but at the time it looked good. I just didn't have a clue how much it would take to get this "free" material.

6/5/10 Saturday
Boy, am I beat. We didn’t get home till 11:00 last night. It was a long, long, day. Tearing down this barn has been a struggle from the start and in retrospect probably not the smartest decision I have made. Knowing what I know now I would not do it again. We have over a thousand dollars invested in getting this “free” barn and for that money I could have bought the materials we hope to gain from it several times over. But a promise is a promise and keeping my word is important for many reasons. The biggest reason is because I let people know I believe in Jesus and once you do that they watch how you act, judging Christianity and you by what they see. I’ve seen so many who wear the Christian label but don’t live it, even though they seem to think they do, and I have no desire to be placed in that category. You know the one, the word that seems to be most connected to Christianity, hypocrite.

We put 400 miles on the truck in two days for this job and Sam, the guy helping me, worked 26 hours in two days. Despite that we aren’t halfway done. A lot of the miles were put on driving back and forth getting things needed to do the job. The small oxygen acetylene bottles only last about thirty minutes and we estimated we would have to refill them over ten times before we finished cutting all the steel. At twenty three dollars a pop that quickly adds up to a chunk of change in addition to the two hours of driving it takes for each refill. So when we were getting the bottles refilled yesterday morning, on the way out to the job I asked the guy if they rented out the large bottles. They lease them but it would require opening an account and passing a credit check, and that would take days. Plus I already know there’s no way we could pass a credit check, we have never established credit in our names or the farm’s name. “Do you sell bottles?” I asked. Yep, they do and he could work out a deal for me to get what he called personal use size bottles for $300. Money is tight and I try hard to be frugal but I did the math and it would be better to get the larger bottles. They aren’t as big as the full size commercial ones but are way bigger than the little bitty ones I had borrowed from Eric. Plus I knew that Tractor Supply sold that size for $700 and that it would cost over three hundred to get the little ones like I had at Harbor Freight, so it looked like a good deal.

I had assumed that the gauges and regulators on Eric’s bottles would work with these new ones. You know what they say about “Assume”, it makes an ass out of u and me. So we went to Harbor Freight and bought a cart to haul the bottles in because it was a better one that Airgas had for about the same money. Then we went to Crane, where the barn is. By now it’s already 11:00 so getting started early to beat the heat wasn’t happening. I’m excited about having these new bottles that would allow me to get to work and keep working till the job was done so we put the cart together (You know that everything has to be assembled these days) and Sam and I went to attach the regulators and hoses. NUTS>the acetylene stuff won’t fit. So we go back to Harbor Freight only to learn they are sold out of the kit they had on sale for a hundred bucks. Then we go to Tractor Supply and find they too do not have just an acetylene regulator but they did have a kit with both the oxygen and acetylene regulators along with a torch set. But that was two hundred bucks and by now I’m choking on spending any more money. I told the kid that I thought I could find it cheaper so he took it back to the stockroom where he had gone to get it at my request. We get out to the truck and look up welding supplies in the phone book I had the presence of mind to take with us. Calling them I learn that just an acetylene regulator was $230.00 by itself. So we go back in, embarrassed, and ask that they once again bring the kit out from the back.

Finally, we can use the bottles I bought. So we get back to the barn and get started. By now it’s almost 2:00 and certainly warm. We were relieved to see that everything hooked up so fired up the cutting torch and got to work. It didn’t work, not like it was supposed to nor like I remembered when I learned to use a torch in shop class back in high school. So I struggled along trying to cut this steel, wondering what I was doing wrong. Taking a break from the heat we sit in the cab of the truck and read the instructions that came with the torch. We learn that we had a #0 size cutting tip and that was designed for thin sheet metal, not the stuff we were attacking that is about ¾ of an inch in places. So it’s back to the store to get the right size tip. They didn’t have it so we got the biggest one they had, which was a #1, just one step up. It’s the best we could do. Didn’t work as good as I wanted but was better than what we had.
A hose broke while I was out. We get that a lot with all the old garden hoses I use. Unfortunately the spigot this one comes from is so full of that hard water crust it won't turn off.

So it was a long arduous day, with things moving at a snails pace. When the sun went down I called it a day. We loaded what steel we had cut and hooked up the trailer. I was tired and when I’m tired I don’t always think as clearly, not that I think clearly much anyway. As we drove off the property I heard a crash and looking back see the trailer had come loose. I had carefully hooked up the chains and plugged in the lights, but I forgot to lock the trailer hitch. It took an hour to get the trailer back high enough to hook it up and several goes at it to back the truck to the right spot as we were just crossing a ditch to get on the road when this happened. I am so grateful this didn’t happen as we were going down the highway at 60 mph. (the fastest I can go with the trailer hooked up as it sways) That could have been a disaster.

The lady, who owns the barn, called. She’s no longer in a hurry for us to finish the job, and for that I am grateful. Today, Saturday, is the Sabbath, a day of rest. And resting I need to do. I’m not moving very fast at all and am a little slow brain wise. Cherie keeps feeling bad for me as she watches me stiffly shuffle around. Keep telling her not too but that doesn’t do any good. It’s nothing unusual, she just knows I pushed more than I should, which is also not unusual. I don’t care, I’m used to it and it’s just life. What I tell myself all the time is that if a little pain and stiffness is the price of being alive I will gladly pay it.
Things neglected. This whole area should have been seeded with the Giant hay Bermuda

We must buy dog food so will go to town today. What bothers me the most about the barn project isn't the project itself but the cost in other areas. The torch set and oxy/acetylene bottles are an investment that will be used often in the years to come as we build this farm so will pay for themselves in the long run. But as I work and expend resources on tearing down this barn other things are being neglected. It rained three or four days ago and I really needed to get seed out while the soil was wet. That didn't happen. The funds we were gifted with to pay for help around the farm are not going to last as long as we hoped but there is still some left so next week Sam will come out. A guy expressed interest in buying the truck and trailer yesterday so that would be cool. But I'll have to not hope to much for that because things don't always work out.