Happy New Year

My greeting to you today is a wish for a healthy, happy, and safe New Year celebration.   As I set about in a few minutes for a nice long hike on this absolutely fabulous and unusually warm December day, the word 'renewal' is on my mind.  

So many people set New Year's resolutions that fall by the wayside when life quickly gets in the way.  I don't look at the coming year in that way.  I look for a renewal of spirit and vitality and I see this as I hike through the leaf-barren trees and watch for birds and other wildlife going about their business, without a thought as to the day of week, or bank accounts. I see the buds setting on the trees as they renew during their rather short Texas nap.

It is in this setting that I am closest to true spirituality. Peacefulness garnered from the warm sun enveloping my skin, the tepid breeze with drifts with pine and decaying wood, the sound of crackling leaves, and the melded song of many birds going about their business.  To me, there is nothing in the world like the absolute serenity and renewal in spirit of a stroll through the woods.

May all the worries of 2011 be pushed aside and new hope for a prosperous 2012 replace them, and may your spirit be renewed with the tolling of the clock at midnight.

Driving Duty

Another excerpt from my personal blog:
I absolutely hate driving. This predicament makes it difficult on the husband who takes up most of the driving duties.  OK, you caught me in a little white lie; he takes up all of the driving duties.  Poor guy, he drives the whole way when we take our annual vacations criss-crossing the country.  He can thank my mother who instilled in me the desire to have my children see their own beautiful country before they venture out into the larger world, just as she decreed with her own children.  What a better way to see the countryside than by car.

The only time I took up the driving duty was when I knew my life was on the line while driving in the Rockies.  I had researched the trip well and knew we absolutely had to drive the Million Dollar Highway from Durango to Ouray, Colorado.  
I had been to the Rockies numerous times before so it only made sense for me to make the drive so the others could enjoy the scenery.  Did I say enjoy?  What a big fat misnomer.  The only enjoyment to be had was by me as I laughed at the three sissies in the car with me.  For not being a big fan of driving, you would have been proud of me.  Hell, I was proud of me. 

In Durango, I took the wheel.  Not only did I take the wheel, but I felt it somehow important to play John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High as I made that harrowing drive.  Yes, John boy crooned the entire 1½ hours it took to complete the short 23 mile trek.  You see, to me it was sort of sacrilege not to listen to him while I was in the mountains he claimed so many years ago as his own.

From Durango, it was a bit misty but I picked my way through the pines and alongside the river toward the tiny mining town of Silverton.  In my opinion, there were not too many harrowing passes on the way to Silverton but as I looked over at my significant other, he was growing significantly white.  
I decided to stop in Silverton to get gas and since I had researched this drive on YouTube, I knew the next half was far more interesting.  I warned him to go get a beer before we set off for Ouray.  Seriously.  I wasn’t joking.

I knew I should have sedated him before we proceeded.  I suppose he felt he had the intestinal fortitude to forge ahead without the aid of some mind-altering assistance.  Either way, he did not heed my warnings and what happened next can only be described through the imagery of cartoon drawings complete with dialogue bubbles:

In complete control of my nerves and the vehicle, I had one hand on the wheel, while the other rotated between the CD player to change John Denver songs and eating a leftover sandwich from the Subway in Pagosa Springs.  In this cartoon, I’m a wild-eyed woman, driving distracted-man style and looking over at my front passenger who has made his 6’3” body smaller than I ever thought possible in the front seat.  He is clutching the center console with a death grip that must have left his fingers stiff and ice-cold, while he looks down at the floor.  My bubble says wryly, “You’re missing the beautiful scenery.”

In the next frame, I pull the camera from my bag and try to coerce my better half to take some photos as we approach the elevation  11,099 foot Red Mountain Pass.  The bubble out of my mouth reads, “If you won’t take the photos, I will.”  To which he took up the camera with shaking hands and captured some of the worst frigging shots my Nikon has ever known. 

The third drawing goes something like this, “Well this simply won’t do, here buddy you take some pics.”  As I hand the camera to my youngest, I discover the child hyperventilating in the backseat.  I don’t have any clue why, as I was doing my best to stay away from guardrail-less 2,500 foot drop.  My driving was superb, despite the CD and sandwich doodling.   
Meanwhile, he hands the camera to the eldest, my artsy one, and I end up with a series of shots of the rear-view mirror and angled shots of his feet on the car mat.  Nice.

The next frame shows me eating my sandwich and my spouse near palpitations and breaking out in a cold sweat.  I planned a stop at the little abandoned mining town along the way and I swear, my husband left the car so fast it made the hair fly off my forehead.  I looked in the back seat to see my eldest  distracting himself with gummy worms.  After assessing the situation with my youngest, I decided that I did not have to perform CPR.  Sheesh, it wasn’t as if I didn’t warn them.

We were able to hang out at Ironton Town, an abandoned mining town, taking photos just long enough for me to convince them they simply could not walk the last 9 miles.  By threat of bodily harm, the cartoon shows me forcing my brood back in the car.  Off we trekked the final 9, under the rock-slide bridge, finally switch-backing down into Ouray, our home for the next week. 

The final frame depicts us after we checked into our lodge, made our way to the local burger joint to down a beer or two, and on to a little shopping.  The drawing shows my husband, buying me J-41s and new hiking gear at the local outfitters.  The bubble out of my mouth states, “High altitude, beer, score.”

It's a Lot of Doggage

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I greet you this Christmas Eve with a humorous glimps into my love affair with rescuing dogs because, well, DOG spelled backwards is GOD.  On this day and the next, may you have a joyous day, filled with immense love, laughter, and abundance. 

I grew up with poodles. Naturally, when I became an adult my first dog was a poodle. I had just moved to Texas and heard about a great organization called Operation Kindness. My next thought was, to dog, or not to dog. That was a really big question. The facility was nearly walking distance from my job, pushing, almost taunting me into making the doggage decision.

There I sat, nails digging into the steering wheel. I was not sure I could handle a dog of my own. I made up my mind to look - ONLY. With that decision made I felt much better about stepping through the front door. Unbeknown to me, a little honey-colored dog lay quietly with his nose pressed against the cage door.

I answered a lot of questions and filled out an application listing the preferred features in my dream dog. Then it happened. The staff walked me past the rows of cages and I came upon big brown eyes sitting upon a wet brown nose. My heart instantly melted; there sat the prettiest dog I had ever seen.

Suffice to say, I plunked down my money so fast it made the hair fly off the clerk's face. I could not wait to take this sweet, petite dog home with me. Little did I know, I was about to become completely doggie-whipped.

Dusty was the sort of dog that would tap his foot impatiently while I finished up chores. How dare I spend time with those dishes and cleaners when my sole duty in life was to pet, brush and kiss the pink, freshly manicured nails of my new master. I soon discovered there were consequences for my wander-lust heart.

I used to play the piano just for Dusty. I would sit for hours playing Chopin and Wagner. I washed him weekly and groomed him outside on the back patio. I threw his favorite squeaky toy for hours, yet looming overhead there were always those pesky chores that stole my attention. Dusty secretly devised a plan and waited for the right moment to put me in my place.

One day I came home from work to find that I had been accused, tried and found guilty. Before me was the carnage of a rampage Dusty determined I deserved. He went into the bathroom and shredded every piece of paper in the trashcan. I can only speculate that his next move was to grab the toilet paper and start running, because the freshly replaced roll was strewn about the downstairs in a well orchestrated TP event.

Mad as can be, I went searching for him. Upstairs I came upon the bedroom pillows in the hallway. I stared in disbelief. The testosterone rage must have given him super-canine strength to drag the pillows from my bedroom all the way down the hall. Ever so sweetly, he placed them upon two rather large dumps he took. I think he held it in a few days for this premeditated plan of disposal.

There was so much to take in: laundry pulled out of the hamper and strewn about, more shredded tissues from the trashcan, bedding rumpled and tossed about the bed, chewed up and spit out socks and bras. I was in complete shock. How could one 11 lb dog wreak so much havoc? Had my sweet little poodle-noodle turned into Cujo? I just had to find him.

I ran back down the stairs and walked into the living room. There he was, defiantly staring me down. Sitting triumphantly over the pièce de résistance . There lie the electric cord to my piano, gnawed in two.

The next day, I decided to show Dusty just who the alpha-dog was in that house....

I became the proud owner of a kennel.

Ode to Snow

As this Christmas season nears the climax, I reminisce about those famed days of yore.  This blog post is dedicated to fellow Yankees now living in Wylie who can totally relate to living in the Snow Belt and also to those who have never had the pleasure.

Growing up in a peninsula state surrounded by ice-age formed lakes had its moments to be sure.  Nearly every Michigander shows other Michiganders on their hand where they live.  I suppose that is one of the little shortcuts to living in a mitten-shaped state.

During the total of 22 years (20 in Michigan, 5 in California, then 2 back in Michigan) in which I called that state home, I lived through winters so cold I thought my nose would fall off.  Four blizzards, three ice storms, never a green Christmas, and that final 3 ½ hour 7 mile white-knuckle drive to work later, I finally had enough.

As a young girl, I never questioned the utter randomness of putting on thermal underwear, jeans and a shirt, a sweater, 2 pairs of socks, snow pants, boots, winter coat, hat, a set of gloves inside a set of mittens, and two scarves (one around the neck, one around the face).  To be sure, the only thing missing was a partridge in a pear tree but I don’t think there was any room left for one on my person.  This was the norm if you wanted to go outside to play. 

Sleeping at night, I often had 6-7 comforters on my bed as that old gas furnace chugged along.  If the power went out, my grandmother’s hand-made rose and white striped, feather tick came out of the linen closet and graced the bed.  You could sleep outside in a blizzard under that allergy-inducing giant, but not without being poked by goose feathers and sneezing.

Savvy mothers everywhere used to save bread bags and all of my friends could be seen walking to school with bread bags over their shoes held up by rubber bands.  Yes indeedy, we were style-makers.  It wasn’t that you didn’t own boots; it was that they were terribly difficult to deal with changing in and out of while hopping on one foot in the coat room with 15 other kids trying to do the same thing, and still have time to make it to the bus.

As I got older, pierced ears and clogs made their way into my wardrobe and I can say with all certainty that the last time I wore clogs in snow was when I trudged to the bus stop in 18” of the stuff.  Fashion quickly goes by the wayside when your toes burn all day long in school from your morning’s stupidity.  My socks dried just in time to make the trek back home in it. 

Likewise, you will never know true pain until you stand outside in -9 degrees with a cute set of hoops in your ears.  Did I mention metal conducts cold like a real son of a………? 

Living in such winters left an indelible impression upon me which makes me very grateful for the mild ones we have in Texas.  When I moved to Texas, I tried to forget how awful and bitter the cold weather feels.  Breathing in your nose, you can quite literally feel the nose hairs freeze and get stiff and bristly.  Your lungs burn if you try to run.  Your toes and fingers burn after being outside more than 30 minutes and thawing them in warm water or in front of a fire is excruciating, if not actually dangerous.  In fact once they warm up and turn a swollen and brilliant red color, pins and needles is a radical understatement.   

Even the metal framed windows of our old house were not safe from the cold.  They would ice up in November and not thaw until March. Long, chunks of ice resembling what would form in old freezers grew inside the window on the marble ledge and the ever-present towel would catch the water as it melted every spring.  I recall the year they came out with the window plastic you could shrink with a hair dryer.  My mother beat feet to the store the pick some up.  It did help with the drafty winds that would pry their way through the panes. 

I recall times it was so cold, the top layer of snow froze to a solid sheet of ice and you could literally walk across the back acre to the school bus just as Jesus walked on water.  The killer was every so often when you stepped on an area that was not so sturdy you would fall through.  Seriously sharp edges of ice would really scratch your leg if you had on a skirt or thin pants, and getting out of the hole could be challenging, depending on how much snow there was. 

Growing up in the Great Lakes State, I learned by age 4 to ice-skate.  Always resourceful, my aunt taught us how using an old wood chair that had those small metal coasters on the feet which would slide nicely across the ice.  Every winter she would make an ice rink in her backyard and that is where my siblings and I learned to skate alongside my cousins, holding the back of that chair as we pushed it around the makeshift rink.  Later we took those skating skills out to one of the many lakes we lived by (you cannot go more than 7 miles in Michigan without coming across a lake).  Much of my youth was spent on the frozen lagoon behind our house taking turns with a shovel, clearing just enough space for a good hockey game and ice-skating. 

The problem with skating on a lake is that it doesn’t exactly freeze in a nice smooth chunk of ice.  It can be quite ripply, so even though I was good enough to turn spins and skate one footed with the other extended behind me, when my toe pick caught in one of those ridges, I was the mortified one left sliding face first across the ice as the others looked on and laughed.  Showing off is definitely overrated.

My best friend and I often walked through the woods after a nice heavy snow.  We would stand at the bottom of the massive pine trees that cover much of Michigan and pound on them just enough for the reverberation to allow the snowy tops to release their load upon our heads.  I cannot recall how many times I returned home with a wet, frozen back and icicles in my hair.  Though I look back on that now and wonder how we didn’t catch our death of cold out there, at least we were smart enough to know never to stick our tongue to anything.  Honestly, it was so cold outside you didn’t want to stick anything out that you needed to get back in.

Probably the most fun I ever had was the hours spent sledding.  We would build massive Toboggan runs and spend hours skidding out of control down any hill that we could find only to trudge back up it and do it all over again.  Though we had a Radio Flyer wooden sled and a seven man toboggan at our disposal, my favorite was the cheap plastic saucer with synthetic rope handles.  There was no telling where you would end up in one of those things.  Damn the toboggan run, you could make it half way down and that darned saucer with a mind of its own would take you up and over the edge and on some other trail it had in mind, ultimately skidding out of control toward trees, stumps, dogs, whatever. 

One of my fondest memories with my whole family was when I returned to Michigan from California.  On my first New Year’s Eve back home, my parents and siblings came over and we spent a balmy day sledding and skating on the community pond just before an epic ice storm was about to hit that night.  To this day, I will never forget my rather portly father sliding down the man-made run, complete with several banks and turns, and across the pond.  I never heard my dad yell like that before or after as his sled hit the sprinkler pipe and bruised his tailbone.  Poor dad, it was like watching that very old Norelco commercial with Santa and his swinging cap.

Blizzards presented a special challenge.  It was imperative to have a cord of wood in the driveway and enough milk and bread to survive at least 4 days.  I recall the blizzard of 1978 very well.  It started the day we moved in to our new Colonial out in the country.  The semi and movers barely made it back to the freeway before the roads were shut down.  Here we were in a new house with a long, long driveway and no tractor.  My dad, brother, sister, and I rotated shoveling the driveway all day and all night.  I know, I know, it seems fruitless to shovel during a huge snow but anyone who lives in the Snow Belt knows it is far easier to remove smaller amounts of snow than to attempt to remove massive amounts.  You totally underestimate how heavy the stuff is.  That snow was so bad, when we looked out the back of the house; our neighbor’s house was gone.  The snow had drifted up the front of his one story house.  Crazy Michigander, he climbed up a ladder on the back of the house and pulled out the sled after the storm had ended.  That’s when we made life-long friends with Mr. Dan.

The snow was so deep, we had somewhere in the vicinity of 36 inches blow around the back of our house and the only way the dog could go outside was for us to dig a trench for him.  There is just no nice way of putting it, the creepiest thing you will ever see in snow is the doggie doo lying upon it, still steaming. 

No matter how many times you shoveled and how careful you were to keep the snow away from the plow area, when that giant plow came down the road, it would push 2 feet of snow back up on the driveway and we would have to shovel it yet again, for if we didn’t we would need a serious head start in order to jump the ‘snow’ curb without getting stuck. 

We always drove with several bags of sand in the back of the car.  The weight really helped with traction, but I’m sure it did a number on the gas mileage our 8 cylinder gas guzzlers got.   

The worst part about living in Michigan was having to drive to work in the snow.  It’s not like it is here, where places shut down with a light dusting.  Up North, we are expected to get to work, oh and on time too.  If you do not own a garage, you need to schedule in window clearing time and it would be absolutely unheard of to see a Michigander pouring water, let alone anything hot and steamy, on a window.  Cold.  Hot. Glass. Um, duh. 

My first car, a jacked up ‘76 Duster, was full of bondo and primer thanks to years of road salt.  Back in the day, cars were all metal and, well rust was about as common as fog-lamps are now.  I still have my monster ice scraper from my Michigan days in the trunk  of my car and I can still clean the car windows in less than a minute, or two if we have ice.

One of my first driving experiences on my own was in complete white-out conditions.  I was 16 and my best friend and I went to the movies and did not know a storm was coming.  When the movie ended, we walked outside to a surprising 4 inches already on the ground with heavily blowing snow.  I had just been turned loose to drive on my own, and it was a 20 mile drive home.  The freeway wasn’t bad, they were always cleared and salted pretty well, but by the time I dropped off my friend, I was one of the lone cars on the two lane road making my way slowly through 6 inches of snow.  With nothing to guide me as to where the road was because previous ruts formed by cars were blowing over quickly, the fir tree woods running parallel to the road were my only guide and I lined my car up dead center.  You have no idea how mesmerizing those big, fat, white flakes are as they come at your windshield with a mere 6-10 feet beyond your front bumper only a haze of white.  I took comfort in the shadows of those tall trees I could barely make out and am thankful I had my druthers about me. 

There was no emergency training in my life that was better than what I learned as I grew up fighting extreme cold and snow each year.  As I sit here writing and fondly recalling my youth, I know that there are other fond memories I am making with my family now in Wylie.  Though different than my youth, these memories are equally as powerful.  I hope that all my readers have a safe and Merry Christmas and may your own memories be made with loving and open hearts. 

Beat It

Not that I am qualified in any way to be the moral compass for Wylie, nor do I even want to undertake such a task, I find today’s Wylie News headline overwhelmingly horrifying.  There he is, Seth Dorris, whose mug shot in the newspaper makes me want to take an old-fashioned switch to him and wash his mouth out with soap.    Yes, I am going to beat my moral drum today.

It was reported in today’s Wylie News that Dorris, along with 4 others: Matijevic, Brumley, Harmon, and Dorris’ brother had given Johnathon Bird severe brain injuries with “very deep bruising” and even “a partial laceration of his brain stem.”  My God, they nearly decapitated him with a hammer and kicking.

These are not injuries from the run of the mill teenage gangsta wannabes.  These are injuries mired by utter hatred bred in 5 young men who were completely out of control and out of touch with reality.  Talk about your anger management issues.  Hell wouldn’t be good enough for them in my opinion.

Is this what we are breeding in Wylie? I am amazed that Wylie harbors families who have gone so wrong as to mutate and integrate these 5 individuals into our community.  It takes a lot of hatred, abuse, and neglect to create such vile monsters.  Their parents must be mighty proud of such a feat. 

So was it solely the parents’ jobs to create law-abiding citizens?  In my opinion, you bet.  However, there is a certain amount of support that a community can provide to help ward off the breeding of evil within its bowels.  The types of businesses calling Wylie home have a little something something to do with what sort of habitat we provide for our kids to grow in.  The old adage, garbage in = garbage out couldn’t be more poignant. 

Sadly, we have places like a tattoo parlor, pawn shops, gold buy and sell, and a head shop.  Now I am not stating that every person who frequents these shops is a walking criminal in the making, however the lifestyle they lend themselves to is by far more troublesome than that of say, Chuck E. Cheese or even Main Event.

 At last night’s city council meeting I found out we are going to get yet another licensed pawn shop and you won’t believe where:  Downtown Ballard Street.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t equate good clean fun with these places and I am particularly miffed, as were the senior crowd sitting behind me who gasped in horror, that such a place would be welcomed into what should be quaint and nostalgic shops.  This is little ole’ Downtown Wylie that still sports an old-fashioned Opry; is nothing sacred?

Wylie does a good job of promoting parks and recreation, but for every park and activity there seem to be some other place for teens to pass by with the potential to morally corrupt them.  Obviously we cannot keep these businesses out of Wylie if they follow the ordinances of the city, however we can go a long way toward forcing them to close their doors if we refuse to visit them and dissuade others from doing so as well. 

I am left scratching my head in wonderment of what is next?  Are we going to get a New Fine Arts or Condoms to Go here?  For every exciting business venture Executive Director, Sam Satterwhite and the WEDC help usher in, it seems to be trumped by mini-storage units and pawn shops and frankly, I’m tired of it.  These are the businesses our kids get to see as we drive up and down 78.  They do not provide citizens with a glowing and healthy community feel.  Do we want to live through another 5 on 1 beating in the future because Wylie welcomes lowlifes?  Do we have armed robbery to look forward to next?  Can our kids feel good about themselves as they drive past Purple Haze and an endless sea of mini-storage units every day on the way to school?  Perhaps it is the snob in me coming out but I want better for them.  From the gasps and comments in the row behind me, I think many others do too.

As I see it, Wylie is on the cusp of becoming either another Garland or DeSoto or becoming another Frisco or McKinney.  Which way do we wish to go? 

Let Them Eat Snow

Another blog entry from my personal blog.
I like to call Texas the state of extremes.  Winters can be brutally cold at times and summers are brutally hot.  I swear some summers you feel like you are breathing fire in your nostrils when you step outside.  When Labor Day hits I celebrate like a screaming banshee because I know Mr. Golden Sun, that tubby purple dinosaur sang about on PBS, is about to get the boot.  Every year I cannot wait to pull out the sweaters and scarves and I dream of that day as I toss and turn trying to find the cool side of the pillow every hot, sticky summer night.  

When that ever elusive snowfall is finally predicted, you would swear hell froze over.  The local Wal-Mart is unparkable and hot cocoa and fire logs fly off the shelves.  Pretty soon, the evening air is filled with that smoky bouquet of Duralog and Downy. Of course television shows have to be preempted.  You would swear someone shot a nuclear missile at us with the massive news coverage even a light dusting receives.  Like nobody has ever seen the stuff fall from the sky before?  The weathermen begin spewing nonsensical terms as if  ‘snow’ isn’t catchy enough.  I laugh when they call those dangling clouds in thunderstorms 'scud', like they are the dangling chads of the sky.  The reporters and meteorologists actually hold meaningful discussion on dry lines and arctic air masses.  All I know is if you were an air mass hanging out in Saskatchewan, wouldn’t you beat feet to warmer ground?

We wait by the television, hoping that there will be no work or school tomorrow. “Please Snow Meiser, do your magic.”  I am always spiteful when the meteorologists are wrong and it turns out to be nothing at all. Someone must pay and it must be very painful.  I’ve tried everything: snow dances, leaving the refrigerator door open, playing Christmas music, I even rubbed Buda’s belly once.  Damn thing gave off static and I shocked the hell out of myself when I went to turn on the light.

Sadly our snow is the wet floppy kind that either melts instantly or turns to a solid sheet of ice.  The ice is no fun to play with unless you hope to slit your wrists on shards of it as you flail about making snow angels.  Every so often the conditions are just right and we score big with a couple inches of buildable material.  I am always amazed by the Rockwellish scene of those neighbors we try so  desperately to block out the rest of the year.  Everyone comes out to play in mass.  Look, there’s Beau out there with a shovel. A shovel?

Coming from Michigan, I learned early on the skill required to toss together a sturdy guy.  I bet I can still pack those bits and pieces as fast as any Yankee.  One particularly fantabulous snowfall, my sons and I were outside laughing and building to our delight.  We made those balls so colossal; it took three of us to get the head on.  That bad boy was 8’ tall when we were finished.  My youngest son offered to go in the house and gather up a hat and scarf.  As my oldest son and I waited, we dug through the hedge for some arms.  Suddenly my oldest, never one to be terribly social, whispered to me that the guy across the street was eyeballing us. 

I began wondering if I needed to be afraid. OK, OK, it was the Detroit girl coming out in me.  We started to pack the base to make sure our snowdude wasn’t going anywhere.  I nonchalantly kept watch of this new interested ‘neighbor with the prying eyes’.  Was he some sort of creepy frosty stalker? 

Where was my youngest with the final accessories?  He was taking way too long. I noticed the neighbor was doing something in his yard with a shovel.  You know the kind, a nice sturdy shovel you could dig deep holes in the garden with.  He has hardware; nice. 
“That kid must have the attention span of a pea.” I silently lamented.  Just as my youngest came out thrusting his prized possessions at me, I noticed Mr. Frosticles headed our way.  Crap.  Now I have to talk to him. Why didn’t we build this thing in the safety of our fence anyway?  What was I thinking? Why did my youngest have to take so long?  If he had been a little faster we could already be in the safety of our own house with the deadbolt securely fastened.  I should have known the child-unit would make a pit stop first.

I waited nervously while Mr. Snow Stalker crossed the street.  When he finally arrived he queried, “You’re not from around here are you?”  Warily, I told him we were not.  He went on to say, “I’ve been out here for the last half an hour trying to build a snowman with this shovel, then he schlepped all hunch-shouldered back to his house and closed the door.  Bubba alert.
Recently I saw our other neighbors building a snowman with their shovel.  Lordy, these Texans need a lesson. Roll, baby, roll.

Wylie Christmas Spirit

What does the Christmas spirit mean in Wylie?  To me it means neighbors spreading the cheer with outdoor decorations. Every year since we moved to Wylie, we have loaded up the child units and driven the streets to admire the decorations.  That is until this year. 

I did notice two more sets of lights providing additional light pollution on the surrounding streets on my nightly walk with the furbabies.  To be honest, I’m saddened at how few people have put up Christmas lights this year.  Now I realize it is still early in the month, but if they don’t go up this weekend, it’s really not worth the bother unless you are one of those people who like them up until nearly Easter. 

I equate Christmas lights with how well people are doing.  I remember after the 911 attacks, our streets were littered with so many lights you could virtually get a tan just walking down the street at night.  People needed to heal and I think the security in being able to hug our kids just a little tighter and celebrate being alive was just the light ticket needed.  Every year since, the lights have been about average but this year I am shocked and dismayed at how few there are. Even shopping in the stores I feel such a lack of that conviviality and camaraderie from those around me.  I believe when the people are not doing so well, the light count is affected too. 

This is precisely the reason we need to start pressuring our City Council and WISD Trustees to lower our taxes, thank you very much.  I firmly believe the attitude at the city is that any windfall in extra funds is going to be a ticket for them to spend more.  Hells no.  It needs to be a ticket for them to lower our frigging taxes.  This is precisely the trouble; once you vote to allow the city or school district to increase your taxes, it’s hard as hell to get them to remove their cold stiff fingers from our cash and give it back to us.  We give them an inch and they take a mile.

To add to our tax base, Wylie has a hospital coming on 544 between Wylie High School and Sanden.  It will start as a medical center but will eventually become a hospital.  More tax base to be sure.  We will get increased tax revenue from the new Movie Theatre too.  Oh and we will get increased tax revenue from whoever buys that strip of city owned land along 544 also.  With this windfall of tax revenue and lowering of debt when that land is sold and the funds are applied, what do you think our City Council will do with those funds?  Do you think they will give them back to you?  Hmmmm.  Oh sure, they will try to pawn off a ½ cent or so decrease.  That is nothing, especially compared to the exponentially massive increases that we allowed by passing all those bonds so little Podunk Wylie could grow into bigger britches. 

Along those same lines, it seems to me, we voted to approve a certain tax rate with the school district as well.  Oh yes indeedy, they can increase your taxes another .04 cents if the whim strikes.  I read the Super’s blog and I know he is talking about reducing taxes for us, but I most certainly hope this is not some bait and switch tactic whereby he tells us that our taxes are due to increase by that .04 cents next year but oh, we won’t do that to you, thus your taxes have been lowered.   I don’t know about you but I’m not buying that game.  Not enough time has passed for this Super to be wearing his Wylie pep rally gear and I still have no trust because some of those trustees who rammed those triplicate bonds written and re-written down our throats are still sitting on that school board.  It is not until they are gone, that I will even entertain the possibility of trust.  Either they are removed, or they had better have some grand epiphany and beg forgiveness for their past bond transgressions.  Not sure which is for better or worse.

As long as the economy is caput, I expect Council and Trustee alike to tread lightly on our taxes.  May they remember that they are both hitting the same pocketbook.

Even though people don’t seem to be feeling it with the lights so much this year, a week ago I put up my LEDs which are so neon obnoxious you need sunglasses to look at them.  Hells, my eyes cannot even focus on them until I am on top of them.  Scary.  Three years ago I replaced all the incandescents because I was sick of my electric bill tipping $400 after the holidays were over.    Best thing I could have done.  Barely notice a blip in the bill with these bad boys.

Last weekend, I had a bout of hoods who decided to come make a grab and dash with two of my candy canes.  Sheesh, I am convinced kids are brain damaged until they turn about 26.  Evidently they are also illiterate, because they missed the video surveillance signs.  It amazes me how the kids will run up the walk with the lights on, not caring if anyone sees them, and make a mad dash.  The woman across the street has her candy canes nearly at the road, almost taunting and beckoning them, but hers are not lit up with lights like mine are so I would surmise mine were like a beacon of light for them screaming, “Ooh, ooh, take me, take me!” 

I had a good friend suggest I hide in the bushes and take care of the morons should they come back.  Actually, I was thinking of going all vigilante on their asses this weekend.  Think of the fun hiding in the bushes and shooting anyone who steps on my property.  Guess it’s time to pull out the No Trespassing signs just for giggles. 

Sadly, this is such a sad statement on our Christmas spirit in Wylie.  Evidently, people cannot keep their hands off of what others have.  Every year since I moved here, people’s lights have gotten closer and closer to their homes.  Remember the years people had those spindly light up trees in the middle of the lawn?  Today I saw that someone put them in their flower beds.  Awe, come on.  Really?  Two years ago we had someone on the street next to ours with a white tree with lights timed to music playing from a box. I used to love to walk the fur girls over there and stand outside watching and listening. Last year they set it up and then a couple weeks later it was down.  I can only imagine that some Grinchmas decided to ruin it for everyone else.  People used to line their properties, sidewalks, and front walks with lights.  Hardly anybody does in our neighborhood anymore.  I think they learned their lesson when two years ago, someone came through and popped people’s inflatables and sliced their light strands.  Mine were sliced then too. Ya, Merry frigging Christmas.  Now there’s some Christmas spirit for you.

So has it come down to jealousy?  Are the OWS-minded sheeple so desperate that they want to ruin it for everyone else?  I’m thinking next year I’m going to use my Christmas lights to spell out F-U on the front lawn.  I wonder if the gangsta wannabe’s will still want my decorations then?

I would suggest people stop letting the dregs of the world steal our spirit any more than they already have.  Will those people with their hands out take everything away from us and one day our streets will be completely devoid of lights?  Sad, truly sad.  Let us not forget why we celebrate Christmas and remember to keep the bad spirit at home under lock and key and share the good spirit in abundance with others. 

Bad Boaters

It is a slow week, and I suspect the next several will be slow as well.  In between my political blogs, I will post some of the entries from my personal blog and share a little bit of myself with you.  A little humiliation goes a long way.  Welcome to my insanity:

Since we had our home built near the lake, a boat was inevitably in our future.   The whole famdamily wanted to come out on the watercraft for that first exciting outing about 8 years ago.  This was real memory in the making kind of stuff here.  The in-laws, spouse and kids dressed in life-jackets and water shoes.  Everyone slathered on sunscreen.  We toted a picnic lunch and cooler chock full of sodas, beer and water to the boat.   Putting in at Collin Park, we set off in uncharted waters.  Well, uncharted for us, anyway.
The winds were pretty high that day and of course, all of us lily-whites had to have the Bimini top up so we wouldn’t get fried.  Need I suggest we should have checked the weather forecast?   Rule number one: Don’t boat on a windy day.
Out on the lake, we made our way toward party cove.  We had heard about the infamous cove where all the cool boaters anchor and swim.  Wouldn’t you know, along about half way we were forced to stop because the youngster with the pea –sized bladder simply could not hold it any longer?  I wondered why he couldn’t just add water to the water, if you catch my drift.  We came alongside a small dock at a park and tied on.  Half the boaters decided a pit stop was just the ticket and they abandoned us.   The wind and waves were fierce and it started to push us up on the dock.  We did not have any fenders tied on to protect us.  Well, of course we wouldn’t.  This is us we are talking about.  The in-law fished them out from under a seat.   Leave it to us to have to thread rope through the fenders right then and there.  Can you say dumbasses?  Rule number two:  Make certain your boat is properly supplied and needed items are readily available for use.
When the others returned, we couldn’t get the boat started.  Gee big surprise, like you didn’t see that one coming. The father-in-law, AKA Einstein, got the brilliant idea of dragging us out to the open water.  Before we could stop him, he untied us and jumped in the lake and pulled us by the rope.  When we got just far enough from the dock, the Bimini top took over and acted like a sail and really sent us on our way.  Unfortunately, not fast enough to leave the in-law behind, the bobo.  Rule number three:  Never jump into the lake and pull the boat.
Imagine the horror of two youngsters as they point out we were drifting toward a rocky outcropping.  And the adults were in charge because why?  Out came the anchors.  Can I just point out here that on a windy day, the little 24 lb. bell anchor is like pulling a Fred Flintstone foot brake on the freeway?  Onward we crept toward the rocks.  If we made it there, we were certain the pontoons would be severely damaged.  I’m kind of thinking bumbling idiots fits here right about now.

Out came the metal hook anchor and everyone took turns trying to catch it on something, anything but it wasn’t to be.  The he-men on the boat casually pointed out we were going to take full impact.  Really?  Is that the best they could muster?  Six people are about to crash on the rocks and hike a good 9 miles back to the car.  Good to know the beer was setting in for them.  The rocks were about 50 yards away and we were gaining on them.  I decided to have a go at it; my first shot grabbed hold and finally we were stopped.    Refer back to rule number two.
Despite my repeated warnings, the numskulls kept trying to start the motor.  Everyone smelled a lot of gas and concluded it was flooded.  Well I suppose so when they take turns at pumping gas to the motor.  This is when we realized the father-in-law is hard of hearing, because he could not hear the motor running he kept priming the motor.  Nice.  I finally took the keys away from them, the boobs.   Rule number four:  Make sure the operators have a full working knowledge of the engine.
For the kids sake, we decided we may as well make the best of it.  There’s nothing quite like a picnic lunch on a dead boat in full-on, gale-force winds.  After opening and closing the gas cap a few times to look in it, the tank was able to get enough oxygen for the motor to start. Now I don’t want to point fingers here but someone forgot to open up the gas tank cap which sucked the oxygen from the tank and stopped the motor.   With the boat finally running, it was time to unhook the anchor.  Around and around we went, stuck to this damned rope but it would not come loose.  I could imagine all the other boaters laughing at us as they waved.  We were too humiliated to wave back.  Rule number five: Don’t be inhospitable to the other boaters on the lake.
Of course, you probably know what’s next; nobody had a knife.  Well, why not let’s add to the fun?   Not only are we going around and around, tethered to this rope, but now we can’t get it untied from the railing because the torque from going round and round only served to tighten it.  Nice.  Thankfully I had the wherewithal to pack scissors.  It took us about 10 minutes to saw through the rope but finally we were free.  We left the rope floating in the water and never looked back.  We are nothing if not consistent.  Rule number six:  Clean up after yourself.
I feel compelled to point out here that we were finished with boating for the season.  Actually, we were finished with boating for quite a few seasons. Would you want to go out with us?  We didn’t.
Once home, I found a video in my husband’s stack of junk in the office.  It was called Betty and Bob Boaters.  It started with Betty and Bob and how the two idiots made every mistake we had made on that water.  I was in tears by the time the short video was over.  I had laughed so hard my stomach and cheeks hurt.  That was us!  I looked over at my husband to see if he was as amused as I was.  He wasn’t.  Rule number seven:  Watch the boater safety video first.

Crime Stats

I picked up the December 1st Murphy Monitor.  Don’t ask me why I read that thing, but I somehow felt compelled. 

I am quite disturbed by a chart posted in the paper:   
2010 Part 1 Crime Totals for North Texas Communities 10,000 to 100,000 in population. – Source FBI 2010 UCR Part 1 Crime Report

When I look at the numbers:
Wylie is 25th on the list with
35 violent crimes
703 Property Crimes
State Ranking of 94th
Population of 43,508

As I scan down the list, I see that Murphy is 3rd on the list and 4th in the state and Sachse is 6th on the list and 21st in the state.  OK, so now I’m getting a bit miffed. 

Murphy’s population is 17,848 and Sachse’s is 20,548 and as my eye scans down the list, the populations get relatively larger as the crime numbers go up.  Well duh.  I suppose if you have to rank populations of  10,000 – 100,000 it makes sense, but the chart does absolutely nothing for Wylie’s reputation because we are listed right above Addison, Mansfield, Farmers Branch, Desoto, Duncanville, and Cedar Hill.  I don’t know about you, but in the book of TXun, those cities are not okie dokie to be compared to and they are one reason I moved to little old Wylie.

Even though I am not a fan of statistics, this chart has done nothing to dissuade my concern about the crime here lately.  I certainly don’t wish for Wylie to be compared to the likes of Mansfield.  We are Wylie and we can do better than that, however it will take the vigilance of every citizen to help the police by staying aware and reporting anything suspicious.  Even petty crimes like when someone cuts your Christmas light strand or rips pickets off your fence should be reported. 

If citizens do not help be the eyes and ears of the city, the police do not have a crystal ball to see where patrols need to stepped up. 

If citizens will decide not to allow being 25th in North Texas or 94th in the state, the criminals will move on to towns that will be easier to get away with their crimes.  Vigilance my friends, vigilance. 

Do you Hear What I Hear?

I am always amazed at what people are willing to tell me.  Seriously. So many times I am left in a perpetual state of confoundment at what people are willing to confide.  Oh sure, I am personable enough with my friends because I know that I can let my hair down with them and for the most part they remain nonjudgmental.  With strangers, I am often very awkward.  I can hold my own in polite conversation with the sales clerk at the store, but beyond that I actually hold very antisocial traits.

That is not to say I am antisocial to the point my genius uncle was.  He would cross the street so he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.  He even taught himself to knit his own sweaters; less shopping and store clerks.  Nope.  I am more the fidgety, antisocial type.  You know the type, foot doodlers or people who can’t sit still.  You wouldn’t want to sit next to me on a plane. 

Because I know this about myself, I am always amazed that people reach out and start random conversations with me.  Perhaps I’m a good listener?  Yesterday at the art show, one of the artists told me all about their personal finances, how their credit cards are maxed out and how they just received an inheritance they intend to use to expand their art business.  Today, while waiting outside the fitting room for one of my child units to try on hoodies, the sweetest little old lady came up to me and started to tell me about her grandkids and great-grandkids.  She told me all about how her family is that of the fiancé of Jonathan Bird.  He was the man who was bludgeoned to death by the 5 derelict teens in Wylie two years ago last November. 

She told me how Mr. Bird’s almost step son had witnessed the tragic death and now they were at Kohl’s  trying to find some clothes to wear for the beginning of the trial tomorrow of Ethan Dorris.  (http://www.wylienews.com/articles/templates/news.asp?articleid=3647&zoneid=4)   

As if this young man hadn’t been through enough two years ago, here he was, stressed out, trying to find something to wear that made him feel good about himself, knowing he has to relive those horrific events yet again, but this time as a witness on the stand.  Will it never end for this poor family?

Normally, I am so utterly and overly impatient, I would have been not only foot doodling, but knee waddling, and perhaps even tapping my fingers because my son was taking forever to try on zip-up hoodies.  Come on.  However, once this woman began talking to me, she was so compelling that I was actually glad my son was taking so long so that I could be there for her.  Really be there. 

This lovely woman’s story made me slow down and think about the upcoming holiday season and forget about all the pesky tasks that I wish were already on my todone list.  I am so honored that I was there for this complete stranger who just needed to not own her pain today.  Again, I was a good listener.   

This woman made me remember that this season is about caring, sharing, and understanding and so I hope that as you prepare for your Christmas activities, you will keep this family in your thoughts. 

Art On

I just have to say this first....CAH UTE!  There is simply nothing better than to watch Gilbert Tamez walk around at the Wylie Art Festival with his face painted and reindeer antlers on his head.  It made him the most endearing man of my day.  Thank you for your sweet spirit, Gilbert!

I'm taking a break from the festival, but had to report to readers.  It was nice to see friends and family and get to meet some of the other artists and vendors.  Lynn Grimes of the Wylie Art Gallery (WAG) was working hard.  Councilwoman Kathy Spillyards was everywhere visiting with people and spreading the cheer with her gorgeous smile.  The sights, sounds, and smells were truly a feast for the senses and the rain has stopped nobody from visiting.

It was crazy wild busy there but you still have time to pop in before they close at 6pm...so go get your Art On!

Change in Wylie Art Festival

There has been a change in venue for the Annual Wylie Art Festival tomorrow.

The event will be held in the Event Center at 200 North Ballard Street in historic downtown Wylie.

Hours are 10a-6p Saturday
December 3, 2011

Please come by and visit more than 90 vendor booths and help support this fantastic annual event.  You can even come by and meet me as I help sell my art along with nearly a dozen other local artists displaying their art for sale through the Wylie Art Gallery's booth.

I hope you will come downtown and shop the booths indoors! 

Is there anything better than supporting our community?

Handout v. Support

Last week I posted a report on the Wylie Youth Council which was formed by Wylie Councilman Bennie Jones.  The Wylie Tea Party had asked Councilman Jones to be a guest speaker at their last meeting. Shortly after my post, I received some comments and emails of concern.  One particular email stands out above all others because the person called Mr. Jones, “A bleeding heart liberal.”  I am not so certain Councilman Jones is a bleeding heart liberal so much as I believe he wants to better the lives of children.  After all, that was the platform that he ran on for City Council. 

“Let me point out something else while I’m at it, (no, my anger is not directed to you – it’s directed to the bleeding heart liberal). The minorities in our society are already handed everything on a silver platter, including COLLEGE TUITION!  I know this firsthand!!  My niece was married to a Mexican. They both applied for government grants.  She was denied, although her family was always below the poverty line.  HE got full tuition.  Did he use it? Hell no. Would he allow his white wife to use it? Hell no.  He blew the money – then divorced my niece.” 

OK, so this statement might sound a bit racist, but if you look at the numbers that back up these statements, the reality lived over and over again is that the minorities might potentially receive more support from Jones’ group than Caucasians. Though there is a fine line between handouts and support, if Jones wishes to support the children, how does he create a program that does not look like another liberal-backed handout for the minorities?  The minorities make up a hefty percentage of the underprivileged within Wylie.  Let us go back and analyze the facts I presented in a previous post about illegal aliens in Wylie.  According to WISD’s Economically Disadvantaged Students by Sex and Ethnicity report for 2011-2012:

Total number of students in WISD = 12,937

Hispanic/Latino 1131 Free, 215 Reduced-Price = 10.4%
American Indian/Alaskan Native 34 Free, 6 Reduced-Price = .3%
Asian 199 Free, 64 Reduced-Price = 2%
Black/African American 568 Free, 141 Reduced-Price = 5.4%
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 11 Free, 1 Reduced-Price = .09%
Two or More Races 50 Free, 4 Reduced-Price = .4%

White 838 Free, 285 Reduced-Price = 8.6%

There are 2424 minority students or 18.7% of the student population on the free or reduced meal plan within WISD as of October 2011.  There are 1123 white students or 8.6%.  We know from the TAKS tests that the minority students do not fare as well as white students.  http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/cgi/sas/broker According to the 2011 District Accountability Data Tables for Wylie:

Reading/ELA All Students 94%, Economically Disadvantaged 89%
Writing All Students 95%, Economically Disadvantaged 93%
Social Studies All Students 96%, Economically Disadvantaged 92%
Mathematics All Students 90%, Economically Disadvantaged 84%
Science All Students 89%, Economically Disadvantaged 81%

According to the TEA Snapshot for 2010 http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/cgi/sas/broker only 79% of African American students and 80% of Hispanic students were passing their grades in contrast with 88% White students passing. 

What do all these facts and figures represent?  After I received the email above, I called the individual who sent it to me for further clarification.  That individual said that they have seen these programs started over and over again and they end up helping only the minorities.  Given the statistics above, these will indeed be the students that would benefit from the Wylie Youth Council.  Or would they?  In my research, I discovered one tidbit of information that I found might just be a saving grace for this program. 

According to the 2011 District Accountability Data Tables for Wylie.  Last year, 25 total students dropped out of high school.  Of those, 6 were African American, 6 were Hispanic, and 10 were white. From what I can see, if Bennie wishes to help the students complete high school and become upstanding citizens within the community, his best bet is to go after those who are considering dropping out of school.   In this case the minority to white ratio was a lot closer to 50/50 than one might expect given the scholastic records above.  Twelve were minority and 10 were white.  If the Wylie Youth Council focuses on those students, I wonder if the complainant above would be able to claim this program will end up only helping the minorities. 

I have one final comment that I received about my report on the Wylie Youth Council.  An individual stated, “I don’t care to hear the words, “It takes a village” from Mr. Hillary Clinton-Jones. His goal may be noble, but from what I’m reading here, he seems to be just like Obama on social issues – a socialist.”  Well that was cause for pause. If Jones is a socialist/liberal, then why didn’t he vote to approve the Planet Kidz program that was being pimped to city council over the last two council meetings?  It was because he, like the other council members, does not feel it is the City’s job to raise everyone’s children for them.  Conservative dogma to be certain. 

Statistically, African American’s vote toward the liberal side of politics.  It must be a bitch being a conservative black person; ask Herman Cain, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice who have taken their share of potshots for allegedly selling out their heritage, and more locally Katrina Pierson who is the spokesperson for the Dallas Tea Party.  All bets on, I will ante up Jones as wanting to be a conservative, but raise that it must be difficult for him to overcome liberal ancestral roots.

Where does that leave us?  My New Year’s wish is that the Wylie Youth Council turns out to be student led, more like the Boy and Girl Scouts where the children spend their time doing the bulk of mentoring, that the program seeks out those students who are about to drop out of high school, that the students helped are a good racial mix, and that the council may never ask for a handout from the City Council.

Only time will tell if this program ends up helping all students equally, or if it becomes another socialist program.