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Merry Christmas!

The secret to getting hand-drawn Christmas cards designed, assembled and mailed out on time when you work in retail is to start them around June and have them finished and ready to mail by Thanksgiving. I think I need to start doing my gift shopping/making that way too.

Merry Christmas!

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Categories: Animals, Artwork, Celebrations, Christmas, Holidays, Life, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Winter | Leave a comment

Spring Break, Part I

My blog hibernates during DFW winters. There’s not much here that inspires me to reach for my camera during the bleak gray months, although I did get a few nice shots this year at the place where I board Mahogany.

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I’ve been less and less satisfied with the performance of my aging camera, so I finally picked up a new one earlier this month. The dreary winter landscapes didn’t offer much worth aiming it at until Elizabeth’s bff flew out from California to spend spring break with us. She arrived on a Saturday night and left a week later on a Saturday morning: a week of gorgeous spring weather bookended by chilly drizzles. I had Tuesday and Thursday off work that week, so we crammed all of the sightseeing we could manage into those two days.

Our Tuesday morning began at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. I’m still getting the hang of my new camera; my old one excelled at outdoor shots and struggled in indoor settings, while the new one seems to do just the opposite. I do love the way the new one captures the luminous quality of sunlight.

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The weather couldn’t have been nicer. Mid-80s and sunny, with a light breeze that smelled like spring.

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Love the giant Texas bluebonnet.

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Of course the Japanese Garden was the highlight of the day.

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Hopeful koi are hopeful.

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After the Botanic Gardens, we headed downtown to the Water Gardens.

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And from there we went to the Stockyards.

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Don’t tease the mechanical horses!

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Saunders Park is still my favorite little hidden gem of the area.

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All in all, a fun day!

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Next: Thursday in Arlington.

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Birthdays, environment, Family, food, Friends, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trail rides, trees, Uncategorized, Weather, Wildlife, Winter | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Friendly Reminder

I’ve always kept politics off my blog, but this year I feel strongly enough about our options and their potential consequences to break that rule.

The primary elections are underway. It is so important that you get out and vote. Yes, you. Find out when and where to vote in your state, and go make your voice heard.

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I stand with Bernie Sanders. If you don’t know why, I urge you to learn about him and what he stands for. Here is a great article to get you started.

You can learn more about his policies at his website.

If you live in a Super Tuesday state, tomorrow is your big day. Don’t miss your chance to make a difference.

Let’s do this!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

City Gardens

No school today, so the kids and I decided to visit the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. It’s the first time we’ve ventured back into downtown Fort Worth since Luke’s birthday trip to the Science Museum, mostly because I am intimidated by the DFW freeway system.

When I first moved here I said that if I ever mastered these freeways I would never fear any kind of city driving ever again. Now, seven weeks later, it’s more accurate to say that I’ve gotten really good at NOT using the freeways. I know all the ways to get where I need to go without ever touching an onramp. It’s sheer cowardice, but I’m okay with that.

It wouldn’t be so bad it you could just hop onto a freeway and get to where you want to be. But there are SO MANY freeways, and they come together and merge and entwine and separate like a series of snake orgies. One moment of inattention or confusion and you’re shunted off in the wrong direction on an unfamiliar roadway. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is less than 20 miles from where we live, and to get there we had to navigate these four interchanges (it would have been five but I bypassed the first one):

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I come from a town with one highway and no stoplights. Even driving to LA or San Diego was a fairly straightforward (albeit slow and crowded) business. This snarl of Metroplex freeways is alien to me.

But today we girded our loins and headed back into the heart of the city. And it was totally worth it, because the Botanic Gardens are amazing.

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If you ever visit the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens and you wonder whether it’s worth paying extra to see the Japanese Garden, the answer is yes.

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Yes it is.

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All of the gardens are beautiful, but the Japanese Garden is stunning.

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There are koi food dispensers along the paths, and whenever you get near the water a galloping horde of hopeful koi appears.

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The Japanese Garden was our favorite, but all of the gardens are worth visiting.

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I found this near the Conservatory. I think it’s a pretty good arboreal representation of the DFW freeway system:

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When we had seen everything there is to see at the Botanic Gardens we still had a good chunk of afternoon left, so we decided to go check out the Water Gardens.

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The Water Gardens are kind of surreal. They’re designed to resemble a wilderness of canyons, mountains, lakes and rivers, represented in stark, geometric lines.

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The active pool is energetic and exciting.

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The quiet pool evokes a sense of standing in a wooded canyon near a serene lake.

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The aerated pool was the least interesting to us. I get what they were going for, but it didn’t really speak to us like the others did.

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Got mildly lost on the way home, trying to navigate my Apple Maps directions in reverse. By then I was in too good a mood to be bothered by it, though. Eventually I will master these freeways, because the alternative is missing out on too many of the incredible things that the Metroplex has to offer.

I freaking love this place.

Categories: environment, Family, Gardening, Humor, kids, Life, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , | 3 Comments

And Now For Something Completely Different

Big changes in my life, new look for my blog. It’s a thing.

A lot has changed since my last Big Life Update, but it’s not really a story for the Internet. The edited version is that over the past year or so I came to the realization that Anza was no longer the right place for me and the kids. I felt like Luke and Elizabeth weren’t getting the socialization they needed in that tiny, remote town, and they themselves had begun to chafe at the isolation and lack of stimulation. There’s a sort of cliff that too many teens fall off in Anza when they reach a certain age, with nothing at the bottom but drugs, alcohol, unplanned pregnancies and unhealthy relationships. While I didn’t necessarily see Luke or Elizabeth going that route, the town doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of constructive alternatives. Gardening isn’t the kids’ thing, and even I found myself with less and less time to tend the homestead as my writing and editing work picked up. And then Steve got engaged, reopened the child custody case, made some wildly unrealistic demands and accusations and generally created an unlivably hostile environment for us. It felt like time to leave.

The thing is, it’s not easy to get permission to move children out of state, or even out of their local school district, during a custody dispute. Especially in a situation where it appears to the casual observer as though the parent who is remaining behind has all the supportive resources (family, finances) and the parent who wants to leave has little to none. Any chance l had of getting permission to leave with Luke and Elizabeth rested on two things: their determination to be with me, and my ability to prove that relocating them was in their best interests. In other words, I had to demonstrate that the move would improve the quality of their lives, and that I wasn’t just obstructing their relationship with Steve out of spite. I took a long look at their needs and interests, and realized that what they really need is to live in full-blown civilization for a while, with stimulation and diversity and decent schools. When I mentioned this to Luke and Elizabeth, they got very excited and agreed that city life sounded like a fantastic change of pace. At least for a few years until they graduate, and then they can make an informed decision about where they want to live.

The court also looks at whether you have friends or family where you’re going, to provide social support. Once I ruled out the qualifying places that were too expensive, too rural or just not what we wanted, Dallas-Fort Worth was the obvious choice. We have friends who live in a family-friendly suburb right between Dallas and Fort Worth, with great schools, parks, libraries, museums, theaters and all of the urban excitement and entertainment that the kids could possibly want at this point in their lives within 20 miles in any direction. To put that into perspective, it’s a shorter drive from the center of Fort Worth to the center of Dallas than it is from Anza to Temecula where we used to do our grocery shopping. It’s a shorter drive (or walk) to Elizabeth’s new high school than it used to be just to get to a paved road and our mailbox.

Long story short, we got permission to leave, and our DFW friends said we could stay with them until we get acclimated to the area and find an apartment. We made the move about two weeks ago.

Part of me worried that we would get to DFW and realize that we had made a terrible mistake. But we had the opposite reaction — it was love at first sight. We are living in a beautiful suburb of a beautiful city. We love everything about it (except for the freeway systems, but that’s another story).

A few first impressions. In California, hardly anything is built with brick. Earthquakes shake brick buildings apart unless they’re built to all sorts of special codes and regulations. So if you see a brick building in SoCal, you can assume that a fair amount of money went into its design and construction.

In DFW, nearly everything is made of brick. They build for hail and tornadoes here, not earthquakes. So I see all these charming, beautiful brick homes and businesses and my SoCal brain subliminally interprets it as wealth. To add to the impression, DFW is very green and woodsy. In SoCal grass and trees are a sign of prosperity, since someone has to plant and water them. So I feel like I’m living in a really upscale area, what with all the grass and trees and brick architecture. It’s gorgeous, and we love it.

We’ve spent the past two weeks in a frenzy of moving, getting the kids enrolled in their new schools, choosing our favorite public library (there are four within five miles of where we live), switching over car insurance and whatnot, and generally settling in as newly-minted Texans. I’m boarding Mahogany in Anza while I find a place for her here, and that search has so far been the least-successful part of our move. Stables in this area seem to be divided into two types: full to capacity or prohibitively expensive. I’m having to look farther afield than I had hoped, but I’m sure the right place will turn up.

Meanwhile, Luke turned 13 last week, and he requested a trip to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

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He has complied a list of all the local museums he wants to visit — there are tons of them in DFW — and we plan to eventually work our way through all of them.

There is a river called the Trinity that runs through both Forth Worth and Dallas. The kids and I have challenged ourselves to find out if it’s possible to hike every mile of it between Lake Worth on the west side of Fort Worth and Gateway Park on the east side of Dallas over the course of a year. Friday we made our first exploratory investigation, and hiked this bit of it in the middle:

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That’s about one mile of riverbank. I can see that this project will work better if we can arrange drop-offs and pick-ups, so we don’t have to backtrack every stretch of river that we hike.

Hiking trails in the Metroplex are a little more domesticated than we’re used to, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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So that’s the short version of events. My long-term goals involve getting back into growing food on a smaller scale and finding a comfortable compromise between urban convenience and rural simplicity. My philosophies haven’t changed, only my surroundings. I’m curious to see how much of the homestead lifestyle I can realistically recreate here in the Metroplex.

Tomorrow: Six Flags Over Texas!

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