Monday, November 25, 2013

Bad Faire Days

This last weekend was one of those weekends that most of us would have rather snuggled into bed and not come out to play music for the crazy people who insist on attending a festival by their own choice on days like this.  It was cold.  During the week, we had perfectly gorgeous weather, then the weekend comes along and we get 40s for a high.  For some reason, this makes it feel worse, almost insulting.  However, this was most certainly not the worst faire day I have ever had.
All of those rainy days, the ones where it rains ALLLLLLL day long and makes the grounds a big mud pit.  All of those days were worse than this one.  I've had those at Texas Renaissance Festival.  I've seen those days at Maryland and Connecticut and Michigan too.
All of those days that the temperature was above 95 degrees were also worse than this weekend.  To constantly drink water and sweat every ounce right back out is exhausting.  At the end of the day, even if you've tried to stay in the shade and stay hydrated, you feel as if someone has beaten you.  The worst of these was at the Sherwood Celtic Festival.  A few years back, I had multiple weekends like this at Texas Renaissance Festival.  I've seen some pretty hot days with really high humidity in Michigan too.  One of those, I got fairly ill in the day.  I consider all of those worse days than this past weekend.
And possibly the absolute worst weather day I've seen at any festival was in Maryland.  The hurricane moved in and buckets of rain poured and poured.  They closed the festival at about 3PM.  It was dark as night and raining so hard I could not make it back to my camp.  I had to get a trash bag from a shop to wrap my instrument and waited for the rain to slow down just a little.  I made it back to my camp and stayed in my Camper van during the hurricane.  Definitely worse.
And I have played a few days where it was colder.  Sherwood Forest Faire risks cold days in it's February days.  My stage there is a target for wind.  The smoke from the well meaning fire ring blows directly into my face without the benefit of the warmth of the fire.  Cold, windy and smokey.  Sing through THAT!
Oh, and you know what's worse than weather issues at a faire?  Festival organization issues.  You see, weather cannot be helped.  It's an outdoor gig and weather is just part of the package.  But when a festival schedules things poorly or doesn't give performers a chance to offer their best performance, the performer is sabotaged by the very people who are supposed to want to share this music.  I will take ANY weather issue over a festival making my job more difficult than it should be.
This last weekend, it was cold.  It rained for about 45 minutes on Saturday, just long enough to give us an excuse to play in a shop rather than on our stage which we like to do because it feels cozy.  And Sunday it rained lightly for about 15 minutes.  My fingers only hurt for 3 tunes the whole weekend - the wind must have been blowing the wrong way.  I had mugs of hot cocoa, coffee and tea all day and didn't sweat a single drop.  I wore three pairs of wool socks, 3 layers of leggings, a wool undershirt, and 2 more layers of medieval dress, a wool hoodie, and a wool cloak along with a double layer of mittens and a fur hat.  I was snuggly warm in  my Medieval Eskimo gear.
So, even though it was not ideal, it was definitely no where close to the worst faire day.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My no choice

There are times when we find ourselves in situations that we think "I have no choice."  When we think this we feel powerless, frustrated, angry, etc and we often take out our anger or frustration on the service person who may be sincerely trying to help.  This post is about a NO-CHOICE example I have in my life.  This post is the same if you replace car with computer or doctor's office or legal battles or any number of other types of frustrating expensive issues we face.

My no-choice moments come when I'm at the mechanic's garage.  He tells me there is something wrong and it's going to be $800.  I feel beaten, angry, bitter.  I have no choice but to pay this and get my car back.  I don't know enough about cars to have him show me.  So, I have to believe him and pay the amount he asks.  Let's stop and think about this.  When placed in a situation where you don't know enough about the subject matter to feel like you can know for sure if the diagnosis is correct, we feel like we have no choice.  But, again, we DO.  It's hard to see your options when you've just been blinded by an $800 bill, but they are still there.  Let's think.  Let's set aside the panic and anger and confusion.  Let's set aside past times when jerks have ripped us off.  Let's actually think.

Often this situation is two-fold.  First, I don't know if the car needs this repair.  Options for this part include:  1. Get a second opinion (even if it may need to be towed), 2. Wait on the repair.  Take it home and think about it,  3. Call someone, anyone, and explain what's going on and ask for their advice, 4. Call someone I know that does know even a little about cars, 5. Go back to school and learn more about cars, 6. Pay it and be grateful that someone is there to do the job, 7. Pay it and be a bitch about it.

Second, I don't know if the price is fair, and I don't have that kind of money.  Options for this financial bind include: 1. Sell something I own, 2. Mow 10 neighbors' yards, 3. Use credit and create a plan to pay it off soon, 4. Offer my skills to friends / advertise a skill on craigslist, 5. Rob a bank, 6. Use my child's college fund, 7. wreck the car and collect insurance instead, 8. Pay it and plan to eat out less for a few months.

Your options will vary, of course, but the point is, there are options.  The fact that you would automatically cross off the illegal and unethical options shows what a good person you are!  Some people resort to those....  do not forget, those are actually real options!

Ok, true, this situation still sucks.  But the truth of the matter is, we have choices.  Personally, when I am able to draw up this list and realize that I have the power to choose my path, I feel better.  This mechanic may be great, or he may be full of it, but it is still up to me to make a choice.  More than likely I will choose more than one of these options depending on the urgency and reliability of the person I'm dealing with.  I have power.  I have options.  I am choosing the best option for me at this time.  So, yes, this sucks, but it's not the mechanic's fault and I will own my choice and take action without bitterness.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Waffles of Love

I am a fan of the thinner waffle.  I like the texture and the bit of crunch.  Huge fat waffles are fun, but thin ones are my favorites.  I went in search for a waffle maker that would make thin style waffles and found one by Babycakes that makes 4 heart shaped waffles!

My friend Janell and I got together to prepare mixes for cooking and one of the mixes we put into jars was a waffle mix.  The instructions for the mix are:
Mix together:  4 cups whole wheat flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt.  When you're ready to make waffles, just combine equal parts mix and milk.  Pour onto the waffle maker and breakfast!
I made two dry batches of this and stored it in several quart jars.  The first time I made it, the batter would not cook.  It was gooey and a bit rubbery.  Also, the texture had no crisp at all even if I cooked it forever.

What gives baking a crisp texture?  Egg.  So, I decided to experiment.  I'll spare you the details, but in the end, here is what worked:
Mix together:
1/2 + 1/8 cup dry mix from above (I scooped two heaping 1/4 c scoops of mix)
1 egg white
enough milk to make the batter waffle consistency
blueberries (although they will probably make your waffles look messy, I like them cooked in the waffle)
This will give you one cup of batter.  My waffle maker needs 1/4 c of batter per waffle, so this is a perfect full iron batch.  Because egg and blueberries like to make the batter stick, be sure to give your waffle iron a spritz of oil.  I cooked mine for 10 whole minutes!  I hear most waffle makers are faster than that.  I didn't mind the wait because they were perfect this time!!!  :-)



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Prepared for Anything

In less than 48 hours, I will be standing on the Travis County Courthouse steps auctioning off a house.  I was able to purchase this house because someone trusted and fully believed in me.  I have never let this person down.  I passed on that gift to a girl who threw it away.  She has not been trustworthy nor believable.  She doesn't communicate and when she does, lies slip out for no particular reason.  I understand needing to defend your actions with some justification, but I don't need anything but communication and effort.  That is all I have ever asked for.

This is the fifth time I have filed foreclosure against her in the 38 months she has technically owned the house.  I was incredibly lucky to find a lawyer who has given me the tools to do nearly everything myself.  This has taken a lot of courage, time, effort, strength and guts.  I don't always feel like I have all of those things in the quantities needed.  I'd like to share with you my strategy for these remaining 48 hours before the auction.

I am wearing 5 rings. I never wear rings (usually don't wear any jewelry). I pulled them out as more than good luck charms.  They represent certain people or events that remind me of love and strength and trust.  The one on my right pinky is the commitment ring Dan and I got together   I didn't care about getting married, but something personal was important to me.   Even though Dan and I are not together any more, we still communicate and I have baby sat his dog.  He still trusts me.  And I trust him.  We are good people and this is a reminder that good people can be good even when things don't work out together. Right hand ring finger is a James Avery dove ring. My father saved secretly to buy it for my mother. He had it made in white gold and surprised her their first Christmas. Mom gave it to me some years back. I think it's pretty special and symbolizes love and commitment.  Middle finger right hand is a gold gold ring with six round opals set in a circle around a wee diamond. A ring passed from great grand mother to grand to my mom to me. Opal is my birthstone. I don't wear yellow gold, but this is old fashioned and cool and represents the strength that women have. Left hand first finger is a spoon ring that I found the very first day in the house that Sydney and I bought. It was wedged between the carpet and the wall. This one represents journeys and joy in exploring new things.  Finally middle finger left hand is a teardrop shape emerald with two small diamonds beside it set in silver. This was in the box of junk jewelry my grandmother recently sent me. I love emeralds for the obvious green.  This one represents the saying "one man's junk is another man's treasure."  THAT is the motto of this house!!!!!  

I'm also wearing a necklace... The chain held a locket with my grandfather's photo in it, but fearing I could lose the locket, I am just wearing the chain and added a charm my mom gave me that is a Celtic knot with the word strength on the back. These can represent the strength and unconditional love that exist in family.

Earrings....  I'm wearing the studs that Dan gave me with emerald set in silver... And a set of earrings I made with the OM symbol. Centering, peace, calm, now, acceptance....  

I also have a series of trinkets in my purse that will go in my pocket. 2 stones given to me by my best friend that say "success" and "celebrate", a tiny cat statue that my godfather gave me, a souvenir heart that another friend gave me representing the clients that love me, and the hand luck symbol thingy on a key chain that a musician friend gave me representing the musician friends who love me. 

If I have any doubts, I can note ANY of these items to remember that all of these people love and support me in the here and now. I am lucky and loved and strong. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Flipped Choice

I met a girl who "had no choice."  She declared she had no choice at least a dozen times in the span of 15 minutes.  She was angry, bitter, and blinded.  She blamed events and other people in her life.  She was in misery.

This girl owes me a large sum of money.  She can not consistently pay her monthly payments and I have taken legal action against her 4 times in 3 years.  Something is always wrong and she never gets a break.  When we met recently to make some changes to her debt, she was angry.  She was full of hate toward me.  I was there that day to give her a fifth chance rather than follow through with the legal repossession.  This time, after four legal actions, I decided the interest rate needed to increase to make all of this worth it.  Her credit is absolutely worthless, but the interest rate was only increased to about midway for loans of this type.  She declared that I was taking advantage of her situation knowing that she "had no choice" but to sign this new loan.  She then proceeded to hand me a very large sum of cash as her first payment toward this revised loan.  Still she said, "I have no choice."

I do not know her exact circumstance.  But I DO KNOW that she DOES have a choice.  Let's examine just the part that includes the sum of money she gave me at this meeting.  1. This money could have been used to set up a new situation.  Debt dropped, new situation started.  2. She told me she was offered a job in Houston but decided to take the one in Austin.  She could have moved to Houston, dropped this debt and started over.  3. She told me her mother was lending her money. I offered that Mom could bring her up to date and she can keep her interest rate.  That's three HUGE definite options right there that I know she has.  Maybe there is a reason that each would not be the best for her life, so she chose the one that involved meeting with me and accepting new terms to the loan.  She had choices and she chose this one.

When she says she has no choice and then blames everything around her including me, I feel angry, dismissed, argumentative, disengaged, and stabbed in the back.  She is blaming me for her situation.  This is simply not fair to me.  It's also not fair to her.  How is she ever going to turn this life around?  She is simply surfing a wave of bitterness and anger.  She is surfing situations rather than navigating her life.  She sees no choices.  She doesn't look for creative solutions.  She is just a bottle bobbing the surface of the waves going whatever way the water sees fit.  She has no power, no control.

As the person who is supposed to trust her, how can I?  I know that she is doomed.  She is a person who can not navigate her own life.  She is a person who will tread the waters just enough to stay alive.  She has no way of making her life better.  Honoring a contract is certainly not on her priorities.  She won't look for a way to honor this contract.  She will not look for ways to make her financial situation better.  She is simply a victim of the world.

When you blame someone else for your circumstances, you are not taking responsibility for the choices you made along the way.  You back that person into a corner and make it clear that you are not an empowered stand-alone person.  When you claim victim to another person, you turn them away.  You make it impossible for them to see you in a positive way and no forward dialogue or solution can occur.  People wrong others all the time, but claiming that someone is the cause of your life circumstances is simply not true.  You have choices.  You can be angry about someone's actions toward you, but you need to claim your own choices.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guinea Pigs

This is post 2 about life as a pharmaceutical volunteer.  Read the first post here.

This morning, I had to eat an enormous breakfast within 20 minutes.  Then I had to take the drug dose. This breakfast was HUGE and very greasy.  There were 3 fried eggs, 2 hash browns, 3 pieces of bacon, two pieces of toast with 2 tablespoons of butter and a cup of whole milk.  First off, I hate fried eggs.  I used the bacon to disguise the taste and texture somewhat, but I did actually gag once and almost gagged multiple times.  The hash browns were mushy from so much grease, and the one cup of milk was not nearly enough liquid to wash it down.  In the 20th minute, I had to stuff the rest of the toast in my mouth.  My food monitor mercifully signed me off even though I could not possibly swallow the toast for another few seconds.  This breakfast and dose are the only real requirements.  For $4500, I ate a greasy slimy super high fat breakfast with no extra flavor enhancers (no salt/pepper, jelly, juice).  That's actually quite an accomplishment!

For four hours after our dose, we stay at one long table so that our blood can be drawn one after each other every thirty minutes and so that they can monitor us for adverse affects or sabotage like vomiting the drug.  Guinea pig number 1 is an African American woman, 2 is a white male, 3 is also a white male, 4 is an African American male, 5 is a Hispanic woman, 6 is me, and 7 is another African American male.  I think I am the oldest at 38, but a couple of others are close in their thirties.  This is a pretty typical group.  Even though we are a small group, the mix is actually very representative of all the studies.  There is a good mixture of human beings in this lab.  There are people here who do this for a living.  Number 5 travels to Fargo, ND amongst other places just to be involved in medical studies for money.  There are others who are students, parents, and plenty of self-employed people.  People have a range of reasons for wanting this money.  I met a woman who does a study annually to pay for a trip to Vegas.  Many people see this as a boost, or a student loan that they won't have to pay back.  There are also those that seem like they probably aren't skilled to do much else or maybe too lazy.  There are people who see jail as a part of their life cycle.  Whatever their reason, everyone is treated with respect and a sense of humor.  There is no theft.  When we check in, they document electronics.  If someone DID steal my computer, they can't just leave and there is an exit search to make sure you aren't taking home towels or needles or someone else's computer.  Therefore, there just is not a problem with theft and so no one treats anyone with suspicion.  We are all here to just get ahead a little.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Finance

I am extraordinarily careful with money.  I budget and plan and then make sure there is a cushion in case my budget and plan are sabotaged by life as we know happens.  I started Green CHAI, the Ranch 6 months ago.  I refuse to pay myself through the organization until it is more on its feet.  I have been paying the bills with my organizing skills, but soon, once I have animals, I know trips to Austin might become difficult or impossible.  It is time to prepare.

I have volunteered for a medical research study at PPD in Austin.  I have volunteered here before.  It is a clean, professional, secure, and friendly place.  The word volunteer is usually used for work that one does out of the kindness of your heart.  The word volunteer here means I get all of the information about a research study and it is up to me to join voluntarily or leave at any time.  These studies have pharmaceutical company sponsors.  These studies offer large financial compensation.  The study I have chosen and qualified for consists of 12 overnight stays and 2 out-patient visits.  I will be compensated $4500.  My study involves a drug that is already on the market in a powder form that patients add to water and drink.  This form apparently tastes awful so they are testing the drug in pill form.  We are all healthy volunteers.  This drug is used in very ill patients who retain excess iron after transplant.  They take a dose daily.  We take a reduced single dose three times spaced out every 8 days so that each dose washes out.  We have our blood drawn and vitals measured.  Our blood is examined to see how much drug stays with us for how long.

This is "Day 9" according to my clipboard.  We actually started on "Day -14."  We began taking low doses of iron just to boost our levels a little.  We were initially screened for general health with a full blood panel, ECG, and questionnaire.  This particular study requires levels to be within a very narrow range...  which means, I am within a range that is particularly healthy.  We checked in on "Day -1" and they ran us through another round of preliminary blood work as well as screened for drugs and alcohol, blood pressure, etc.  Our group was 11 people that day.  The levels are so narrow for this study that 4 of us got sent home that day.  These people are healthy, just not within the narrow parameters that the drug sponsors want.  They want to be able to see any fluctuations in change from a narrow range of persons.

Day 1, we were given our dose.  We check in 3 times and stay for 4 nights each time.  So this dose is our first of three.  Each dose is given with a different amount of food.  My first dose, I got no breakfast. It was sad, but I survived.  It did not even vaguely affect me.  Our second dose will be tomorrow morning.  This time, I get a high fat breakfast of 3 eggs, 3 pieces of bacon, toast w butter, milk and juice.  I have to eat every single bit.  That is the only meals that they care about.  They can measure side effects and different absorption rates with the different dosing meals.  My dose on "Day 19" will include a low fat breakfast.

While I am here I have computer and TV time.  LOTS of computer and TV time.  I watch my clipboard and show up for blood draws and meals as I am scheduled.  Dinner is at 18:20.  There are clocks everywhere.  I am hungry.  The food isn't great, but I don't starve.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What not to do

In today's episode of "What not to do with your riding lawnmower," Stephanie and Abby use it to move a 5X7 structure from the pond area into the goat pen.  First, remove the roof....  second, carefully cut all of the supports from under the deck.  Third tip structure onto its side.  Fourth, place the lawnmower trailer beside the bottom of the structure.  Be sure to lock the wheels of the trailer.  Fifth, push the structure up and onto the trailer.  Sixth, secure the structure with temporary supports so it doesn't tip back over.  Seventh, hook up the lawn mower to the trailer.  Eighth, strap the structure to the trailer...  and set something heavy on the structure so it doesn't slide off.  A human being about Stephanie's size will do.  Ninth, carefully and slowly drive the structure to its new home.  Tenth, unhitch and dump the structure, remove the trailer and gently let the structure come to rest on the ground.  The end.  We'll put the roof back on when we decide exactly where it will live for all time.

Now a useless little deck thingy can be a useful goat house.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

House face

This is the main cabin when I first met the house.  The porch roof hits the head of unsuspecting victims who are taller than 5'8" tall as you walk up the steps.  It's also dark and cavelike.  The porch steps were also about 3 feet wide which is no big deal, but for such a wide porch.... I made new steps that are four feet wide mainly because I found a heavy duty 8 foot long board and I cut it in half!

Before

First order of business complete!  Removal of the porch roof took lots of muscle, a bit of patience as we had to decode the original builder's methods.  We believe there may have been copious amounts of beer involved.  We could have just ripped it apart, but I wanted to save that huge roof for use as a barn.

Jim made the removal of the roof safe and quick.  It would have taken me a week to do what he helped us do in four hours!  I had already purchased materials to build the railing.  The 4 inch fencing was taken from the previous owner's dog pen which I immediately took apart.  I explained my design to Jim and he waved a magic wand...  In one day, he had the entire railing done.  There is actually a TINY bit left to do because I did not account for one little thing, so I need to purchase one more board to finish the job!

Stephanie and Jim take a break.

Finally, the paint.  I think this looks like home now.  I can't wait to find a small set of patio furniture so I can sit outside to enjoy my breakfast.

Home green home.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Porch Improvement

Last night Jim took down the porch roof.  Stephanie and I assisted a little and cheered a lot.  The old porch roof will become a horse barn soon.  

This morning, Jim has been building the railing while I wash the house and prepare it for paint.  Color preview over where the railings meet the wall - St. Patrick's Day Green.  The trim will be white.  Open, inviting, clean, fantastic!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blue Cheese dressing

My friend Rae Clark sent me this recipe.  I have not tried it YET, but if you look at the ingredients, how can this go wrong?!?!?  There are certain foods in this world that I just love so much.  Blue cheese dressing is one of those.  Maybe it should be one of your favorite foods as well.  Enjoy!

1 pkg softened cream cheese (I've also used reduced fat or neufchatel cheese to reduce some of the fat)

6 oz buttermilk

Garlic powder ~1/2tsp


Basil flakes ~ 1/2-3/4tsp

Black pepper ~ 1/2 tsp

8oz blue cheese crumbles

Mix the softened cream cheese to and buttermilk on low speed in deep bowl (a shallow bowl will splatter EVERYWHERE, trust me on this), adding seasonings to blend well, then add blue cheese crumbles until all mixed in. Makes about 2 & 1/2 cups of dip.

This recipe makes more of a dip than a dressing, which is my preference, however if you want actual dressing consistency, add more buttermilk a quarter of a cup at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. This will also mellow your blue cheese flavor out some as well, so if I am making actual dressing, instead of dip, I add more buttermilk and more blue cheese crumbles because I so love the rich tang of the cheese.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Feminism

This word, feminism, has negative connotations to many people, but maybe it's time to toss the connotations.  The negative thoughts that come to us with this word are: 1. unshaven, 2. lesbian, 3. mean, overbearing, demanding woman (ie: a bitch), 4. kids optional, 5. husband optional, 6. protester, politically active, 7. man-hater.  That's basically it, right?  That's why we don't like feminists.

1. Unshaven.  The shaving thing is a tradition that should be a person's choice.  Maybe you think it's ugly, unsexy, unfeminine.  It's not your body.  Maybe your shirt is ugly.  It's an aesthetic, not a moral value.
2. Lesbian.  I'm not even going to address this except to say if this is what you think is WRONG with feminism, then you probably need to do more soul searching.
3. Bitch.  This is probably the biggest one for me.  I don't want to be a demanding bitch.  I want to be nice and sweet and kind.  I want people to like me.  When men demand to be heard we call them assertive.  We think it is perfectly reasonable for a man to say no, or ask for a raise, or make certain demands at the work place, home, or a restaurant.  I want us all to think very very hard about this one.  Maybe a woman being assertive is just that, assertive.
4. Kids optional.  What's wrong with that?  Our world is over populating itself.  There is nothing wrong with a man deciding not to have kids, but women are supposed to create a family.
5. Husband optional.  Again, what's wrong with that?  Are men afraid they won't find wives if all women become empowered to think for themselves?  Are men afraid we won't want to serve them if we create a world where we are paid on an equal scale?  What men forget (those who are concerned about these losses), women who are empowered are better partners and lovers.  There is not the same pressure for a man to provide financially or emotionally - it's about equality.
6. Politically active.  Women who are in this battle do get out there and get loud politically.  Have you ever seen public policy changed by being quiet and complacent?  Didn't think so.  To gain equality, someone has to get out there, get dirty, and often be loud and inconvenient.
7. Man-hater.  This is simply not true.  Equality is not about bringing down someone else, it is about...  equality.  Men are coming to understand this more and more.  I see more and more men standing beside women as they realize that it is good for our entire world for women to be powerful and productive.  This, however, is still the biggest misconception and causes the most anger and hate amongst men and women.  It's time to stop that.  Realize we are all on the same side.  Equality is not an overthrow (unless you are doing something objectionable).  Equality is about standing side by side when all other things are equal.

Aside from the stereotype, people frequently say, "Women ARE equal" or "My husband treats me well.  Why complain?"  I'll address this later with examples.  It's not about complaining or whining.  It's about equal rights, pay, and respect.

I aim to shoot down this problematic stereotype and the above over-simplistic statements.  I aim to be able to confidently claim and wear the label:  Abby Green, Feminist.
To be continued....

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Mornings

It's summer in Texas.  It's summer in SOUTH Texas.  We have humidity and heat.  Our only chance at working outdoors os in the early mornings.  I hate mornings.  Well, I don't really hate mornings as much as I hate trying to think and converse in the morning.  I manage to get moving by 7AM, earlier if I absolutely must.  I slept well last night.  I drank water and ate well yesterday and this morning.  We began working right at 7AM.  It was no hotter than 80 degrees when we started but the humidity was outrageous.  As we installed the fencing, I had to stop and wipe the pouring sweat out of my eyes.  I took a break about every hour to drink more.  Each time I noticed that I was a little tiny bit dizzy.  I noted this and made sure to take my time and not over do anything.  We finished the fence line about 11AM.  My shirt was so soaked that when I took it off, I could wring sweat from it - it was as if I had been swimming in that shirt.  I checked the thermometer.  It still was not quite 90.

This is why we are not having any scheduled work-parties out here during the summer.  It is not safe.  I took a shower and ate a small snack before lying down for an hour.  It is not fun to have to care for yourself like this.  I certainly can not imagine having to care for myself and watch out for people who are enthusiastic about helping but aren't used to this type of heat and humidity.

Stephanie, the intern, and I are working to clean up the site and make it completely ready for animals and cabins.  Stephanie stands the heat a little better than I do, but even she admits to defeat on occasion.      Even Stoli comes in to rest in the air conditioned room.

For you few brave people coming out this summer, I'll have the air conditioning waiting for you :-)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Choices

Everyone has choices.  Everyone has to make a million decisions and choices every day.  The first choice of the day is usually this:  "Do I get up now or sleep for 9 more minutes?" or something along those lines.  Frequently, we will say, "I don't have a choice.  I have to get up."  Actually, you do.  You still have a choice.  The thing in your mind that tells you the pros and cons of your choices has just told you that getting up now is probably the best choice and probably the only one you won't regret tomorrow.  You know that if you don't get up and go to work, you could be fired or miss deadlines or whatever the obvious consequences are for not showing up today.  But still, you DO have choices.

Sometimes, we get ourselves into a financial or legal bind or some other extreme challenge.  We must choose the thing that seems like the only way to go because all of the other options are either illegal, unethical or otherwise no good.  We might then say, "I have to do this.  I have no choice."  When we say this, we become a victim.  We play the situation out feeling powerless and drained.  The world pushed us into a corner and it's over.  The reality is, even in the worse darkest cases, you still have choices.  You may have brainstormed options, but like the sleeping-in example, you have decided that only one choice makes sense.  If instead of saying, "I have no choice," you say, "this is the best I can do," you have upped your ownership and power.  Maybe it still sucks, but life isn't always roses and peaches.  Being a victim of your own life is not empowering.  It is defeating, negative, and as time goes on, the choices you get are more and more narrow, because you don't see them.  You have convinced yourself that you have no choice.  You stop looking for creative ideas and directions and you begin blaming your circumstances.  If you could take control of your situation, see the choices, choose the best one and declare is so, you open your mind to the possibility of seeing choices as events unfold.  You become the navigator of your path, not merely a beaten follower of what has to happen.

If you find yourself at any time saying, "I have no choice," please stop and look around.  Get out a piece of paper and write down ALL the choices you have in this situation even if they are stupid or illegal or unethical options.  You deserve to have power.  You deserve to be creative and in control of your future.  You DO have choices.  Some of them are obvious no-go choices.  No matter what, you have choices and you are smart enough to choose the best option for your life.  That makes you intelligent, strong and powerful.  No one can take that away from you...  except you.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Why a nonprofit?

This is the question I am asking today as I consider insurance.  Wouldn't it be easier to just sit in my little cabin and take care of the animals and live a tidy quiet existence?  Maybe as the years pass, I could build one cabin every couple of years for my own guests.  No agenda, no plan, no lessons, no volunteers, no liability, no asking for money, no wading through IRS forms.  Why not?  Sounds perfect.  Am I over-complicating my life?  I can just give back the money and relax.  Do nothing.  Live simply.  Live for me.

I knew this was going to be complicated.  I knew it would be difficult and that I would need expert advice along the way.  I knew that.  I guess my problem or frustration comes when I don't understand enough to even form a proper question.  Everything breaks down.  So, I'm determined to write an answer to my question.

I want to be a part of something bigger.  I want to help people through confusion and shed some light on things that scare people because of perceived cost and complication.  I want people to find peace and beauty in a place that I can share with them.  I want to share science and nature with children.  I want girls and women to be as empowered in the building world as boys and men.  I want people to trust me and accept my hospitality.  I want people to feel at home in my presence.  I want to pay forward the kindness so many have shared with me.  I want to build things - a business and actual structures.  This mission, this non-profit is the way I think I can do all of these things.  I can do some of them as an individual simply living, but I think I can reach more people and be helpful and hospitable to even more as the ambassador of this organization.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Monologues of Doom

Look.  If you want to pity me over the sad, horribly difficult life I have, I think you have completely missed the memo.  My life is amazing.  I am doing amazing things every single day.  I am even impressing myself.  Please, if you wish to console me on the pathetic-ness that is my life, maybe you should just not talk to me.  Your pity will be met with confusion followed by my own pity for how dull your life must be followed by great irritation when you don't give up your pity party.

If you think you need to warn me about all of the awful things that might happen when I attempt to do something, you missed that memo as well.  I might ask for advice, and then, please give me what you know.  If I tell you about a project, your response should be, "Wow, that's awesome."  If you're not all that impressed you could say, "Oh, that's cool."  Or if you are really not interested you could say, "Huh.  Well, have fun."  Under no circumstances should you launch into a *monologue* about how incredibly difficult that will be.  I sorta kinda know already.  If it wasn't difficult, EVERYONE would be doing it.  However, it's not rocket science.  People have been building and designing and digging holes for centuries.  You should also avoid telling me how much you think it will cost.  I don't plan on doing it your way with the money and the hiring people.  I plan on doing it with my own hands.  Yes, even the hard stuff that is usually reserved for intelligent and strong men.  Again, if I have asked for advice or we are having an actual two way conversation to brainstorm possibilities and solutions and problems, please ring in to your heart's content.  But NO MONOLOGUES OF DOOM!

I know what you are going to say...  "Abby, people care and are concerned for you."  Yes, yes, I know.  That's why I offer these alternative responses.  I care for these people too.  If they don't want me to shoot daggers from my eyes into their skulls, they will maybe think about not treating me like a 5 year old who wants to build a mansion with diamonds and Barbie shovels.  For those who seem to repeatedly pity me (and I continually give second chances because I'm sure they are good people with kind intentions), I will not be able to give you an audience.  I have no room for pity parties.  If you pity because you think I need extra hands to help with projects, you are right...  so either put on your work boots and HELP me out, or shut up!

The vast majority of people in my life do not do these things, so please don't go all paranoid.  Most of you would be as disgusted by some of the comments (not all sexist, but frequently) and nay-saying I have to listen to.  I try to gently bring people around, but lately, I have given up on a couple of people and explained to them that I am actually a very intelligent strong woman.  I'm tired of it.  The pity party is the one that I REALLY do not understand.  My life is amazing.  This ranch is incredible.  The trees, the land, the pond, the plans, my house....  it's all fantastic.  How can there be pity? Wouldn't you be annoyed?!?!?  :-)

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fencing Triumph

Have you ever done something that you seriously never thought you could do?  I need to build a fence about 1200 feet long.  This requires about 130 posts mostly dug about 2 feet deep for a strong four foot fence.  I set my goals to a do-able 5 holes per day.  If I had help, maybe I could double that.  Today, with the help of one other woman friend, we set 28 posts.  We dug 28 holes, filled them with 1050 pounds of cement and trued 28 posts.  20 and 8.  14 times 2.  A LOT of posts!

We started at 7 AM.  We dug out 5 holes and cut 5 posts to 7 feet.  We took the posts to the holes.  We placed our bags of cement onto our child's red wagon.  We filled our blue Lowe's bucket with water.  She held the post true and I mixed 50 pounds of cement and dumped it into the post hole.  The 50 pound bags were perfect!  We did 4 or 5 posts at a time.  We took breaks between each set to cool down and drink more water.

28 posts!  This took 8 hours.  I am so completely exhausted.  I am also completely happy.  I am thrilled and inspired that we got so much done.  I would never have thought *I* could be 50% labor of 28 posts in one 8 hour day.  Soooooooooo incredible.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Paint saves the day

 The only real change here is paint.  The light fixture and blinds are gone.  I plan to make curtains for these two windows...  and eventually recover the furniture, but I'm just happy to have a brighter happier living room!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Cost

I have more time than money.  Therefore, I frequently choose to do the job myself.  If there is something I cannot or absolutely choose not to do, I don't mind paying for the service.  In the case of my new kitchen, I managed to do everything myself.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to reroute the stove electrical outlet, but turns out the wiring was simply tacked to the underside of the house and the outlet itself is similar in principle to wiring a regular wall outlet.  I am also very good at looking at the supplies I have available and deciding how to get the most out of what is already here.  With all of this in mind, here is the tally for the cost of my new kitchen:
Bench:  FREE.  I used an over-the-fridge cabinet that was too big for my over-the-fridge space as the base.  I topped that with a piece of 1 inch plywood that came from a 1980's treadmill that we had to take apart because it was too heavy to move.
Pillows:  FREE.  I got three pillows from an organizing client who did not want to repair them.  I fixed them and recovered them with fabric that another friend gave me.
Shelving:  $57.  3 ten foot boards were purchased at Lowe's.
Brackets for shelving:  $8.  I bought 15 brackets at IKEA for 50 cents each.
Drawer pulls and handles:  FREE.  Another friend decided not to use them for her kitchen and gave them to me!
Tension rods for curtains:  $6.
Curtains:  FREE.  Made of fabric a friend was tossing out.
Pink bins:  $28.  This was a treat.  I didn't need these, but I decided to add more pink since I got the pink IKEA brackets.  Also they are handy for holding small things.  I have savory spices in one and sweet spices in another, for example.
Island cabinets:  FREE.  These were the cabinets that were the upper cabinets in the original design.
Island counter:  FREE.  I used plywood and trim scraps from the closet wall that I removed in my bedroom.
Island tile:  FREE.  A friend gave me 6 giant tiles (I used 2 in this).  Then I asked friends for bottle caps.  Mom sent me some cute colorful lizard tiles and the rest I filled in with broken pieces of tile.
Paint:  $2.  A friend gave me primer that they over-purchased.  I got wall paint from a client who was cleaning out all chemicals from the garage.  I purchased a gallon of trim paint, and it is the same paint I have used in the entire house, so I divided the cost.

For a grand total of $101!!!

The message here is this: If you want to spruce up a space, you don't have to spend a ton of money.  Your friends likely have things taking up space in their garages.  You can use and live with many things in your kitchen, like the appliances and cabinets.  Rearranging things can make a huge difference.  Think about what is wrong and consider as many solutions to those specific problems as you can.  Hopefully a few solutions to a few problems will match up and go with it!  My two big problems were the fridge and the stove.  They were free standing and both in front of a perfectly good window.  With my design, moving the fridge to its new home meant that the upper cabinet would no longer fit in that space.  So I had to solve that problem.  Putting the stove in an island let me use the upper cabinets and create much more usable kitchen space.  All spaces win.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Awesome Kitchen

Before:


After:


What?  It looks twice as big?  You're amazed I installed a window on the left wall?  Yes, it looks and feels twice as big.  There is now seating for 6 to 9 people.  I increased storage space even though I took out that huge pantry on the right.  Storage space was created by using the entire length of upper cabinet space, moving the existing uppers to be my island base cabinets and adding a cabinet bench under the window.  That window was there.  It was covered up by the fridge previously.  And how about that fan in the before pic!!  It chopped at 5'9".  I removed it and added a small ceiling fan to the middle high beam - we now chop at 7'3".  The previous lights were HUGE fluorescents at 60 watts times 4 bulbs.  I installed 3 small 13 watt lights.  I did remove the blinds.  I prefer curtains that can be taken down and washed.  Blinds get dusty, and in the kitchen, the cooking grease and moisture makes a dirty paste on blinds.  Washable curtains replaced those blinds.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Bathroom

The bathroom isn't as exciting as the kitchen or even the bedroom, but there are some changes I made that will save the bathroom and made the space a little more efficient.

Before, we have unpainted raw wood paneling....  in a bathroom.  There was evidence of a tiny bit of mildewing on the shower ceiling.  I'm sure the space stayed ventilated enough that it wasn't too big if a concern, but we are still talking about unprotected wood in a room designed to deal with water.  Also, there are two sets of lights there on the wall (there is also a main light on the ceiling), and a shelf next to the toilet.  The tiny window is very cute, but also very visible to the outside world.


Before, the shelving above the washer and dryer included an over-the-fridge cabinet (probably because they had it and wanted to put it somewhere) and a shelf on the shower wall which almost makes a triangle with the ceiling.  Let that be a hint as to how useful this shelf is.


Now, AFTER.  I added paint.  Instead of that shelf, I installed a towel rack behind the shower - out of the way, but available. The shower ceiling is sloped and so is the shower curtain rod.  Before there was a standard curtain which dragged the ground.  I made on that compensates for the slope - both an inside curtain and the one you see.


 I added a tiny curtain for that window, removed the shelf and extra lights to make room for a second towel rack.  I did away with the toilet paper holder and just set the TP in the window sill.


Finally, I removed the over-the-fridge cabinet and added shelves which hold twice the stuff.  I used all scraps for this.  I found enough to run the entire length and then 2 smaller boards, so I left the gap in the middle so that tall things could sit there.  Still present is the GIGANTIC water heater.  I plan to replace that with a tankless water heater as soon as I can safely afford it!


Friday, April 19, 2013

My week

On Monday and Tuesday I worked in Austin.  I organized and cleaned for my 4 regular clients that I see every third Monday.  I have another group that I see on second Wednesdays.  When I moved in, my kitchen looked like this:

Wednesday morning, I woke up tired from working and driving from Austin late Tuesday night.  I wasn't sure what, if anything, I would accomplish, but I started on the littlest thing and kept moving along.  By Wednesday night, my kitchen looked like this:

Thursday morning, I woke up even more tired from all of the lifting and painting, but boy, did it look impressive!  Now I had a decision.  I could begin priming and painting all the walls or I could start building the kitchen peninsula.  (Or I could just go back to bed.)  I picked up the tape measure and got started on just the littlest thing (the platforms for the cabinets).  I kept going and before long I had to move the stove into place in order to be sure the counter would be the correct size.  Well, if I move the stove, I might as well move the electrical outlet.  I crawled under the house and rerouted the electric.  That was unpleasant, but I DID IT!  Before I knew it the entire thing was built.  By Thursday night, my kitchen looked like this:


I have been awake for hours with ideas for the next phase.  I have to tile the counter and paint.  I decided how I want to tile and I have a brilliant new idea on how to do the job even easier than I have in the past.  Today, Friday, I need to do some work outside.  If that work goes smoothly and quickly, I think I will prime the walls in this room.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kitchen

For over an hour, I have been watching the paint dry in my half-way finished newly remodeled kitchen.  I took everything apart today.  Upper cabinets down, lower cabinets out.  I cut 5 1/4 inch off of the counter, rerouted the drain, and reassembled all of the lower cabinetry.  NOW, the fridge fits on that wall instead of being out free standing next to the front door.  I did not rehang the upper cabinets.  Instead, I plan to use them to make an island thing with the stove which is also free standing out by itself.  I will make a tile counter where a couple of bar stools can sit.  Instead of upper cabinets which only took up 2/3 of the upper space previously, I installed 10 feet of shelving.  3 ten foot shelves extend from one wall to the fridge.  They look beautiful - simple, useful, clean.  When I woke up this morning, I had not intended to complete the amount that I did.  I am thrilled and amazed that everything went smoothly.  I am also exhausted and I need to stop staring at my new kitchen and go to bed!
 Just so you can see what it looked like before...  :-)  Can't wait to finish it all!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My bedroom and office

First, the before pictures.  This is a 9X13 Morgan building (shed) that has been fully converted to a bedroom.  Two windows, a 7 foot closet, panelling, ceiling fan, A/C, and flooring were all added by the previous owner.



And now!  Paint is the main change.  We do have humidity and dust collects and sticks to that raw wood panelling.  The other main change was to remove half of the closet wall.  It was a 7 foot long closet with a tiny door on the front.  You could not reach ANYTHING on either end.  Now I have storage on the one end and I can access all of my clothes.  It feels like the room is twice as big.  Originally, I had planned to add a window where the A/C unit currently is.  It felt so dark and cavelike. Bot now, it is so bright, clean and airy, that I'm not sure about the window.  I might just save the window I bought for another project.




Sunday, April 07, 2013

Almond Flour

I'm one of those lucky people who can eat just about anything.  But I tend to lose my mind when I get hungry, so high protein immediate access snacks are always good to have on hand.  When I was at In.gredients, the no packaging grocery store in Austin, I decided to buy some almond flour.  This evening, I found a simple recipe online for lemon sugar cookies using almond flour.  I tweaked it a bit and they are fantastic!!!  I'm going to give the recipe with my modifications...  mainly so I don't forget what I did!

2 c. Almond flour
1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
zest of one lemon
1/4 c. melted coconut oil - I found another recipe that claimed replacing this with the same amount of butter is just fine, so I did.
1 tbsp lemon juice - I LOVE lemon cookies and my lemon gave me 2 tbsp of juice, so I tossed them in.
1 egg white - why waste the yoke?  I threw the whole egg in (minus the shell)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat to 350 degrees.  Mix the dry stuff in one bowl (first 4 ingredients).  Mix the wet stuff in another bowl (the other stuff).  Then mix the two together.  Add some sugar till it tastes right.  I added an extra 6 tbsp.  I figure if you don't like the dough, the cookies won't be any good either. Spray a cookie sheet with some olive oil spray or whatever ya got.  Plop blobs of dough onto a cookie sheet.  My blobs were bigger than tbsp size.  I made 12 rather large cookies and ate a thirteenth cookie raw since there wasn't any more room on the sheet.  Watch the cookies bake.  They fluff up and if your blobs are as big as mine, the cookies will collide a little.  I took my cookies out of the oven when they started deflating and there was a little golden color around the bottom edges.  Now, eat it!  Don't bother waiting for a special occasion...  just eat it!  MMMMMMmmmmmmm!!!!  You are welcome!!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Technology

As I continually read about GMO foods and the legislation that seems to be sneaking its way in to hide this information from the public, I return to a series of thoughts that I frequently have regarding technology.

One of the issues I hope to address with Green CHAI, the Ranch is this recurring problem of technology sounding great until ten years later we find that it causes cancer.  What did we do before plastics held all of our foods?  What did we do before microwaves and cell phones and GMO foods?  Are these things safe....  and more importantly, are they necessary???? It may not be all that incredibly important to us who don't have kids or feel that our time to affect our health is past, but generationally, it WILL matter.  As ADHD (and other mental health issues), cancers and obesity rise, are we doing what is best for our next generations? Can we simply do with a little simpler life?  This is not even to mention what all of this technology and techno-garbage does to the environment.  Next time you get a plastic bag at the grocery store, ask yourself if you really NEED this bag.  Next time you pick up a piece of fruit at the store, ask yourself if you know what has been sprayed on it, where did it come from, what was harmed in the making of this apple...  and will it be you or your grandkids that are harmed over generations of ingestion?  When will the little harms add up to become the combination that cause us to stop?

There is so much evidence giving SO MANY REASONS why plastics are bad.  So they come out with BPA-free plastic - "woohoo," right?  NO.  No, "woohoo."  We have now learned that there is more.  To all you moms who so carefully made sure to feed your baby out of all of those more expensive BPA-free bottles:  sorry...  we were wrong, but, hey, you spent lots of extra money and your baby was stylish with that cute little "BPA-free" sticker on the side of the bottle!

Companies are out to make money.  Remember that.  Companies may be sincere in the beginning with their new awesome product that will shape our lives more conveniently and give us time for other things, etc.  When it turns out that their product does harm, what happens?  Nothing.  The harm in most of these technological (including foods) products takes years, even generations to show up.  No one can be held responsible.  Besides, YOU CHOSE to eat and drink it, so it's your own fault - just like cigarettes and big macs.  You choose it.  We know they are bad, and we do it anyway.  This reasoning saves these companies from responsibility.

No, don't be paranoid....  Just ask questions.  In fact, forget about health and safety, and ask, "Do I REALLY NEED this?"  If not, why risk it and why add to the landfill?  Why use another plastic bag that will be shoved under the sink when you have a perfectly good canvas bag?  Why use a styrofoam cup when you have a cabinet FULL of coffee mugs?  Why use a styrofoam or plastic to-go container at a restaurant when you have a cabinet overflowing with plastic and glass containers?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Setting up

I moved onto the property at the beginning of March.  Even though we had not officially taken possession yet, I had been hired to help move the previous owner's belongings into a storage unit.  Because of my crazy March schedule, I had to move the owner even if the closing didn't happen until later.

I arranged the previous owner's furniture and cleaned up the place to stage it for "before" pictures.  It's not that it was a complete disaster, but the man had been injured and left the property suddenly and unexpectedly.  The place was left in a state of "omg" and I didn't want my before pictures to look unfavorable to his character.

In the move, I was able to discover the livability of certain ideas.  For example, there is a large seven foot wide closet, 2 feet deep like you might ordinarily see with those sliding doors in the bedroom.  This closet only had a regular 20 inch door.  This means everything at both ends of this closet was completely inaccessible.  Great big space, totally unusable.  The kitchen is another area of wasted space that he obviously tried to reclaim, but not in the most efficient manner - I plan to change that!

Once I get my living spaces set up and efficient, I plan to fence and build the barn.  First me...  then the animals....  then the cabins!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Project

OK.  I am moving this weekend.  I am nervous (that's a very nice way of saying I feel half out of my mind) and at the same time I am completely calm and feel completely confident.  One minute I wonder what the almighty hell am I doing and the next acting like this whole situation is as normal as eating a sandwich.  I am in Austin at the moment, in my 150 square foot cabin with no indoor running water.  The cat is loudly purring and snuggled up just behind my computer with his nose pressed to the edge of the screen so I don't forget he's there.  He has no idea what his new life will be like.  I wonder how he will react.  I have a feeling he will love it.
I have a borrowed trailer that is stacked full of donated furniture and really cheap finds on craigslist.  I will take that and unload it on Saturday.  Sunday I will come get the rest of my stuff including the cat.  Then, I will officially begin my journey with this crazy green ranch idea.
Here we go!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Texas Early Music Project

What a great weekend of beautiful music!!  There will be plenty of video clips from the concert.  For now, I have video of my two solos.  The fabulous Ariana Vincent, massage therapist and teacher, sent me copies of the video she recorded from both nights.  There were several people who attended both evenings - the concert was that good!  When I see others post other clips, I will share those as well.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Concert

Texas Early Music Project concert next week in Austin!  Celtic style!!  I'll be singing a couple of my favorite songs in Irish.  There will be fabulous lovely music played by the best early and Celtic musicians in the area.  Saturday the 26th & Sunday the 27th of January.  http://www.early-music.org/schedule.html

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Relationships

I do not usually talk a whole lot about my relationships.  It has been just over one year now that I found out the person I loved and trusted was not worthy of the trust I gave him.  This paved the road for the most challenging year of my life.  Can I love him or trust him as a friend ever again?  All year, I tried very hard to find this answer.  I actively worked toward forgiving, trusting, and loving.  I now realize that I did nothing wrong.  In stating what I needed and hearing "ok" as a response, it was good for me to trust that my need was heard and accepted.  I did nothing that made it ok for him to go against that agreement.  I did nothing that made it ok for him to abuse my trust.  I did nothing that made it impossible for him to be honest.

I don't need you to hate him for me.  If you feel a small amount of anger while reading this, I would understand that.  I can't say for sure that I will never find a way to be a friend to him again.  I just know that after a full year of trying to accept the situation and forgive and love, it is not good for me to push all of my needs aside for someone who cannot trust or be trusted.  This is not my burden to carry any longer.  I need to re-establish my ability to trust those who are worthy of trust rather than trying to trust someone who has so obviously not deserved it.

I thought I had been dealing with this.  My trying to reconcile the love and trust with him and protecting him from what our friends might think is not actually dealing with things.  I need to focus on my rebuilding of me not him or us.  I need to admit that I have suffered a great loss of many types and that I need to heal from this.  I have not wanted to admit this because I am a strong independent woman who doesn't need him anyway.  While those things may be true, I trusted him to be more and to be honest.  It is a huge loss to be betrayed no matter how you add it up.  I am sorry that he has some element of loss in this situation, but I can no longer concern myself with his loss.  I am ready to accept the process and move on with my life.

Thanks for listening.
Abby

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Still no address

It's January 6.  There is no way for me to have an address by January 15.  Plans and ideas are progressing, but now, the idea that could happen by Christmas might happen by mid-February.  Or , maybe nothing will happen.  If the possibility that is before us right now does not happen, then the whole project is on hold until October.  As I said before, I always have plans and back-up plans, so it's really no big deal, I just wish I could plan and get an address if I'm going to be here!  Everything will work out fabulously in the end.  I just have to hang in there!