photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, August 18, 2014

Looking Back Over the Decades

When I was five
I had my first crush.
His name was Mike Tatum
And he was in his fifties.
I made him promise me
That he'd wait till I was twenty five
And then he'd marry me.
Of course he didn't.
But I forgave him...

When I was fifteen
I was assaulted
And shamed
By a church deacon.
Took me thirty five years
Before I had the courage
To tell anyone.
My mother chalked up my
Rebellious teenage years
To rock and roll music.

When I was twenty five
And married for the first time
I had just had my second baby
And thought my life was perfect
Ignoring the gaping holes
In my heart and soul.
If I could just be a
Better wife
Better lover
Better mother
Better housekeeper
Everything would be

When I was thirty five
I met my Knight in Shining Armor
After shedding my second
Alcoholic abusive husband
Like a virus
Or a diseased cocoon.
A flaming, carnivorous, strangulating
Panic attack inducing

When I was forty five
I held tight to my husband
(the Good One)
And my small son
As we bobbed and spun
And were dunked and dragged
Under the waters of cancer
Over and over again
Feathers without anchors
Fireflies without lights
But refusing to let go
Of each other.

And now I'm fifty five
And all I can say is
"Gimme my senior discount, dammit.
I'm old and by god,
I've earned it."
IHOP, here I come.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

No Promises

Sometimes people keep going on out of sheer cussedness. No matter what seems to be the limits a body and mind can take, they just keep going...because they have to.

My friend Edna was like that.

When she was 13 her mother died and she was left to pretty much raise her younger siblings (and herself) alone. This was in 1932. She got through it out of sheer cussedness.

When she was a reasonably new bride with a reasonably new baby, her husband was killed in WWII and she bucked all tradition and did NOT find another man to marry who could support herself and her baby- she'd seen too many stepkids being treated as literal 'red-headed stepchildren' and wasn't about to have that happen to her son. This was in 1943. She got through it out of sheer cussedness.

It wasn't easy. It was never easy. The worry of being sure there was a roof overhead and food on the table was deeply ingrained in her and in the last year of her life, when there was so much information and memories stuffed into her brain that it all started getting muddled she'd fret and become vexed and outright agitated. She was filled with a roiling core of sheer cussedness.

"We need to be looking for another house."

"Why, Edna? This IS your house."

"Oh, it is not!"

"Yes, it is- they built it to your specifications and we wrote a check for it and decided where on the farm it would set. I was there. This is your house."

"Well...if you say so it must be true."

"I promise you. It's true."

At 94, she was very slow getting around, but she got up every day these last few months getting ready to go to work.

"Where are you going, Edna?"

"I'm going to work, of course."

"You don't have to do that- you're retired."

"I am??? Thank goodness. I'm too tired to go to work."

Edna kept her own house, cleaned, cooked, did laundry, tended her garden and her dog, till about six months ago. It became too much for her physically and she was starting to forget the order things were done, coffee making, laundry.

I said, "As long as she doesn't wander away and set shit on fire, she's OK."

One day, she did both in the matter of four hours.

A daily living service started coming for six hours a day. Then eight. Then twelve. In between and around, Joe and I took turns checking on her, sitting with her, tucking her in at night.

I had a baby monitor set up with one end on her refrigerator and the other on my headboard.

I slept with 'mom ears' for almost three years.

Twelve days ago at 2am, she got up for a drink of water and fell...hard.

In a matter of minutes, we were at her side and in another thirty minutes she was in the emergency room.

Fractured hip- three breaks. Cracked elbow. The X-Ray showed not only the fractures on her right hip, but a crack in her left hip. ICU. Surgery. More surgery when the elbow became infected. Home.

This was her third stay in our local hospital. The other two were for bladder infections. Every time she's rallied and come home, but just a bit weaker than before; starting out a bit lower on the strong scale. But rally she did...including checking herself out AMA, then sitting at her kitchen table eating pizza and drinking beer three days later. Cussedness, thy name is Edna.

They transported her home via ambulance, because of the two broken hips and all. We had a hospital bed installed in her living room to be her command station.

Something about the transport scared and disoriented her and she fought the EMT's, wearing herself out and hurting...something. Somewhere.

The assigned nurse came out, assessed her pain level and noted her failing circulation and accumulating fluid in her limbs and tummy and said, "You don't need me. You need hospice."

The hospice nurse came out, assessed her falling blood pressure and oxygen saturation even with constant oxygen and said, "It won't be long. She's just plumb wore out. Our goal now is to keep her comfortable."

When Edna and I took our epic road trips back and forth to Oklahoma, and even our run of the mill weekly trips to have her hair done and out to lunch, the boys would say, "Ya'll don't get into trouble now- no bar hopping and dancing on tables." We'd grin and say

"No promises."

Some days when I'd visit her on my way to work she'd say, "Don't work too hard and don't hurt anyone." I'd grin and say

"No promises."

Some days I'd be leaving her house and say, "So and so will be here in a minute to stay with you for a while- don't give her any trouble or try to run away." and she'd grin and say

"No promises."

By yesterday morning she was very weak and sleeping most of the time. When she'd wake up she was in pain so sharp it brought tears to all of our eyes. Before her next dose of morphine set in I kissed her and said, "I'll see you later." She looked up at me, smiled and said

"No promises."

Those were the last words she spoke to me.

The boys tell me that bringing her here after she got pneumonia and decided she couldn't live alone in Oklahoma anymore gave her the best three years of her life.

Having Edna for my friend was an honor, and an inspiration, and a joy, and a daily lesson in tenacity and cussedness, and I'll miss her every single day of my life.

Edna Hoskins, born at home in Oklahoma 9/15/1919

Died at home in Texas 8/8/2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Just...What?

Sometimes when I drive, I like to listen to talk radio to stay awake. And since we don't have any new-fangled gizmo like 'Sirius satellite radio', that means Right Wing Yell Radio.

Because that's the whole show on the public airwaves. You know...the Liberal Media.

It sort of drifted in and out, but I finally found one that lasted for a good ten minutes before statticking away...The Michael Savage Show.

In ten minutes, I learned a few things.

At least I'm pretty sure I was learning, because every other sentence he said one of two things-

"You don't know this."

"This is something you don't understand."

So the first thing I learned was that Michael Savage is psychic and knows what I know and understand. Awesome.

And it must be true. He sounded very sure of himself.

I don't want to withhold this valuable information from you, so here it is, pretty much in the order presented, as I remembered to dictate it into my phone after manually closing my mouth that was hanging open in amazement.

-Atheists only believe in power. Atheists don't believe in tomorrow or an afterlife, so they feel they are free to do anything they want to without repercussion. Which is so weird, because *I'M* an Atheist and I do believe in tomorrow. Also, myself and all the other Atheists I know tend to treat this one life we have with MORE care and concern for others and tend to be MORE moral than someone who believes that they can do pretty much anything (no, wait- absolutely anything) and as long as they say, "I'm sorry" and give puppydog eyes to the Man in the Sky, they're totally cool. We have no 'spiritual loophole'- we're either good people or assholes and most of us choose to be good people...because it's the right thing to do- not to avoid burning in imaginary hell.

-This current administration is Atheist. That's why it's overstepped its power over and over again. Ahhh...cleverly disguised as a Christian family and cleverly using Executive Orders less than any other president in the history of Executive Orders. Nefarious.

-Israel is fighting for its life against Gaza, who keeps viciously attacking unprovoked. It's more than a regional war, tho- Israel as God's Chosen People are literally fighting for the future of the ENTIRE WORLD in a Judeo-Christian(?) vs. ISLAM battle and the ATHEISTS in the US who are pushing the LIBERAL One-World Order are sending poor little Israel to the Slaughter. I just...I can't. It's too insane. Gaza has NOTHING. They are trapped there and being decimated by an Israel that is armed to the teeth. I just...too much propaganda horror.

-The LIBERAL ATHEIST US government and its bastard media is 'DEMONIZING Vladimir Putin, who is our NATURAL ALLY in the war for a moral world'. Read that again. It's actually verbatim what he said. Again, slowly.

Ten minutes.

What if this sort of stuff was all I was exposed to? What if this, and Hannity, and Rush, and WorldNet Daily were my only sources of news? I'm surrounded by people like this and I can't get over it. They aren't bad people. But they swallow this shit hook, line, sinker, pole, fisherman AND BOAT. And if you try to put anything else in front of them that doesn't square with what they 'know', it just doesn't compute. Best case scenario is they look at you like you're an imbecile. Worst case is they'll tell you you're unAmerican and maybe need to move somewhere else.

Like where? America, land of the Free where everyone's voice and opinion counts? I'm already a citizen of that nation, thank you very much. Although more and more, 'living Blue in a Red State' is an exercise in courage/stupidity/futility.

This morning while drinking coffee, I had a brief online discussion regarding Robert Reich's latest column- should the US break up into different countries? Are we too far gone off either side to ever come back together?

All the vile bullshit Michael Savage vomited out onto the airwaves and I just typed out? That's 'truth' to a great many people. They hear it from their trusted sources and it's parroted from their pulpits and gets cemented in their heads that way and to question it gets tangled up in questioning God and lord knows we can't do THAT.

Lets talk for a moment about the refugees down on the border.

Here's what I read about that from the Right Wing just in the last hour and from just one thread-

"My sister said it takes $15,000 just to feed one of those kids till they get deported."

"I read that only 2% of the illegals are children, the others are gang members and adults who are just being released into our country."

Please note that this was in a conversation where the participants were actually grappling with the Christian humanitarian aspect of the refugees (although they can't bring themselves to refer to them as anything but 'illegals'), not your usual run of the mill Hate Crowd.

And they STILL couldn't do it- they still couldn't make the insurmountable leap from what they're being fed and what the real needs and issues are. They still spew out, "We need to take care of our own people first!" when...NO SHIT. Why are the two things mutually exclusive? They all need attending- the refugees, our homeless, our veterans, our children. All of it. None of it is right and we COULD afford it all if only we stopped being so damn afraid because we are being told to be afraid.

The very size and depth of their fear makes me afraid for our future as a nation indivisible.

I'm afraid.

I'm afraid that the internet made things worse instead of better. That instead of broadening people's horizons with learning different viewpoints and cultures, it gave the perfect platform to circle the wagons of isolationism- to burrow down in pockets of familiarity and stay there...vindicated by being surrounded only by those who think the same, look the same, hate the same.

I'm afraid that there is a huge population in the middle who have no clue. They don't want to think about things that are far away because it doesn't affect them, don't vote for anything other than president (if then) because they don't think it'll change anything anyway and it's SO HARRRRRRD to like, read up on issues and shit. So they coast, and ride the tide, and don't look up unless something finally directly affects them and it'll be too late. It'll be too fucking late.

I'm afraid that it's already too late.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Seriously Jacked Up

There are people on the borders crossing into America- the dream that is America.

Who are they? Central Americans, mostly, meaning that according to a law signed by GW Bush (one of his good ones) they cannot just be summarily re-deposited on the other side since their home country doesn't share a border with the US. Note the spelling of the word 'border'. It's not 'boarder' like 80% of the right-wing blogosphere is stating. Spellcheck won't catch that one, Bubba- some you gotta know on your own.

Why are they coming all at once? Must be
-Obama importing them to turn 'Merika brown
-Muslims sending 'em over (with MUSLIM PRAYER BLANKETS DISGUISED AS SOCCER JERSEYS) to bring 'Merika to her knees DEATH TO AMERICA
-George Soros bringing 'em in so they vote Democrat
-Vladimir Putin sprinkling them all with lethal germs and sending them amorphous Trojan Horse of disease that will destroy the Devil America once and for alllllllll....!!!!

Actually, the truth (as it ususally is) is probably a lot more tame and boring. Oh, the circumstances aren't. Those are vile and horrifying. The countries these people (and they are 'people', they're not 'illegal aliens' like Mork or that thing who terrorized Sigourney Weaver)are coming from are, in fact, crumbling under the weight of crime and drugs and all sorts of things that just happened to be set in motion or abated by our self-same government here in the US of A. Weird, huh? Weird that when it becomes so onerous and dangerous to be there, those people should choose HERE to come. Huh.

No, the most likely scenario that I've heard is the one about the lawyer. Or group of lawyers. Somewhere in one of these dangerous places some lawyer(s) looked around and thought, "Damn. This sucks. If only there were a way to send people where it's safe(r) than here. Some way for them to not be considered illegal aliens, but asylum-seeking refugees because this place has become a shit-hole and these people WILL die if they stay here and that's sorta kinda the very definition of 'asylum-seeking refugee'."

And that would explain the border patrol agents being inundated with peaceful people presenting them with papers asking for help- asylum, if you will, instead of running like hell and going to ground to be part of America's Undocumented Alien population.

But it doesn't matter, really. Not to me, anyway because I'm a squishy goddamn liberal hippiechick socialist and I think crazy thoughts like
-Hey, look. People who need help. Lets help them.
-Lets help them now with their immediate needs and THEN proceed from there because
-Hey, look. PEOPLE who need help.


Not if they're applying for asylum, they're not. Just like that ridiculous German family who's been here for almost a decade saying, "We're being persecuted in Germany because we home school and they want to MAKE OUR CHILDREN ATTEND SCHOOL." Wow. Heinous. So, if they're homeschooling, why hasn't one of the subjects been PASSING THE US CITIZENSHIP TEST? And yet, people are fighting tooth and nail to keep this poor, oppressed family in the US.

We can't take everyone? Then we damn-well better sand blast that shit off of the Statue of Liberty.

We can pay for this AND take care of our own people by doing what we need to do anyway to remain solvent and civil-
-repeal Corporate Personhood and require them to pay their fair share instead of giving them loopholes and bailouts and tax advantages for screwing us over and taking their banking and jobs overseas.
-Bring our troops home, stop our AGGRESSIVE invasion of the entire rest of the world that has shit we might want someday and dismantle the standing army. That's what the whole first part of the 2nd Amendment is really about- having a core of citizens who are TRAINED and can be called up to protect our borders. Period. Not letting anyone own and carry anything they want to. Not roving bands of assholes gathering on the border threatening to shoot children or abetting crusty old ranchers who want to graze public land for free because they've always done it (they've always broken the law, therefore...?) Trained to work together Switzerland.

To the people screaming at these human beings who have risked everything to come here- shame on you. That is seriously jacked up.

To the people insisting that children be sent back into horrific places because "It's not our problem"- shame on you. That is seriously jacked up.

To anyone anywhere in America who's not 100% Native American and who is screaming for these people to be deported (and I'm looking straight at you, Ted Cruz- 'born in Canada to a Cuban' Ted Cruz) your ancestors came immigrants, as refugees, as non-Americans. You think you just sprouted here from God's Own Seeds planted in this Fertile Soil of the Land He Made for You Because AMERICA? Shame on you. You are ignorant, and forgetful, and seriously jacked up.

To the people who say it's A-OK to keep a thumb on what American women do as far as personal health choices because 'abortion stops a beating heart', I say there are 55,000 beating hearts down on the border right now- and I'd reckon most of them are CHRISTIAN; you'd damn well better take a moment to think about what your Jesus would REALLY do. That guy who said, "Suffer the little children to come to me" and "Whenever you did for the least of these, you also did for me" and "Judge not lest you be judged" and all that stuff. If you can do that and STILL scream at these people, shame on you. Oh, and fuck you.

To everyone else, who wants to be human, and civil, and compassionate, I recommend Operation Matthew 25- started by the Dallas Catholic Diocese and being helped by other groups including one I'm in called What Happens In Texas- dedicated to turning Texas Blue and not especially faith-based but we all...every one of us see the absolute human NEED here and aim to fill it.

Because, my friends, THAT is what America used to be about.

My family and some of our friends will be helping organize the literal truckloads of donated items this Saturday in Dallas, but the San Antonio group needs some help so here's the link for that one-

See? You can be human and not even leave your chair. The Perfect American Charity.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I Do Not Think This Means What You Think It Means

It's a fact that not all gun nuts are also religious nuts, but it is also a fact that a lot of religious nuts are also gun nuts. You see 'em posing with their guns in one hand and a bible in the other all the damn time with big, shit-eating patriotic grins on their faces.

So here's why I'm laying this out here in words and everything. It's because the 'only-gun' crowd aren't paying attention to a damn thing except their 'news' sources and forums and all the places that keep them focused ONLY on guns and have a (gasp) tendency to blow everything up to way bigger than life-size for the benefit of the gun manufacturers so their readers/viewers will run right out and buy up MORE gun shit. Because they're coming to take it all. Any minute now.

Those who are busy squirreling away literal tons of ammo have no clue about anything else. Because nothing else matters. True answer when I asked my personal gun nut what he thought of the Hobby Lobby ruling. "Ummm...I don't know much about it. They said it was women bitching about not being able to get free condoms or some shit, right?"


Took a gander over at the Hobby Lobby fan page on Facebook. Surreal. For every question regarding the declarations by the owners of Hobby Lobby of this being 'totally about religious freedom' there is the same cut/paste stock answer from Hobby Lobby.

"Why does Hobby Lobby include stocks for the manufacturers of the Evil Four 'abortifactant' types of contraception in their 401K and other retirement plans?"

The Greens have no desire to deny access to contraceptives or interfere with the personal reproductive choices of Hobby Lobby employees. They object to being forced to violate their moral conscience by paying for a small subset of contraceptives that the FDA states may terminate life. They still offer 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives covered under ACA as part of Hobby Lobby's comprehensive employee health plan. The remaining four, which the Green family objects to, are still readily available and employees are free to obtain and use them at their discretion.

"Why does 95% of the crap sold at Hobby Lobby come from China, a country well-known for its VIGOROUS, government-enforced family planning policies?"

The Greens have no desire to deny access to contraceptives or interfere with the personal reproductive choices of Hobby Lobby employees. They object to being forced to violate their moral conscience by paying for a small subset of contraceptives that the FDA states may terminate life. They still offer 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives covered under ACA as part of Hobby Lobby's comprehensive employee health plan. The remaining four, which the Green family objects to, are still readily available and employees are free to obtain and use them at their discretion.

"Why did Hobby Lobby not have a problem with providing contraceptive care until the ACA was enacted?"

The Greens have no desire to deny access to contraceptives or interfere with the personal reproductive choices of Hobby Lobby employees. They object to being forced to violate their moral conscience by paying for a small subset of contraceptives that the FDA states may terminate life. They still offer 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives covered under ACA as part of Hobby Lobby's comprehensive employee health plan. The remaining four, which the Green family objects to, are still readily available and employees are free to obtain and use them at their discretion.

Here's where the gun nuts smile and say, "See? Silly wimmen- they don't want to take ALL your contraceptives, only a few of the ones they think are really bad."

Does that not sound familiar to ANY GUN NUT AT ALL??? ANY OF THEM??? Here. Lemme simple it up for ya-

"See? Silly gun nuts- they don't want to take ALL your guns, only a few of the ones they think are really bad."

Now how does it sit?

Wait. Where did they all go? They all hollered, "SLIPPERY SLOPE!!!" grabbed their precious armaments and went to ground like gophers when a big bird-shaped shadow cruises across the meadow.

Because that's the thing, here (as I patiently explained to my own gun nut).

Yes, this is about the fact that your employer has no right to tell you what you do on your off-time or how to make your personal decisions, unless your personal decisions include taking drugs while working or being an embezzler. If it doesn't affect your WORK, it doesn't affect THEIR BUSINESS. Period.

Because especially in a company the size of Hobby Lobby, the personal philosophy of the owners is completely separate from the business entity. The owner isn't traded on the stock exchange; the business is. The owner isn't handing out contraceptives; that is included in the health insurance the company provides to its employees as a benefit PAID FOR AT LEAST PARTIALLY BY THE EMPLOYEES THEMSELVES. "Here- I will allow you to have this tray of cookies, I will allow you to PAY for this tray of cookies, but you may not eat any of the chocolate chip ones, because I think the Devil invented chocolate chips therefore you, my employee, may not eat any of the chocolate chip cookies that you have paid for."

But lets not even consider the FACT that Hobby Lobby did in fact cover ALL the forms of contraceptives until the ACA came along, or the FACT that their retirement funds do include stock in the very companies that manufacture said evil devices and drugs, and that they for SURE get most of the shit sold in their stores from the very large country that says a family may only have one matter how that's accomplished- in effect Hobby Lobby and their customers are funding the largest number of abortions on the planet.

Lets look at the bigger picture- one that was only hypothetical for about 27 minutes after the ruling.

The MEN who voted in Hobby Lobby's favor in this piece of shit decision said, "It's OK- don't worry- it's very limited. We made sure of that."

Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped at LEAST half a dozen companies from immediately before the ink was dry jumping on the "I think this is icky, so I'm not paying for it" bandwagon.

Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.

The power of the corporation has been increased exponentially. All those previous 'may not discriminate on the grounds of...' laws and whatnot? Now moot. All someone has to say is, "I think this is icky and my religion doesn't believe it" and it's HANDS OFF for trying to enforce anything.

Gay people? Icky.

Women? Icky. (because we bleed every month and are unclean and shit)

Minorities? Icky.

And just in health care- vaccinations? Blood transfusions? All VERY icky according to some religion or other.

I do not think it was a coincidence that just prior to the Hobby Lobby ruling, the SCOTUS decided that making protesters stay 35 feet away from the entrance to women's clinics was unconstitutional on the grounds that the sidewalks are public property. So now ANY woman going to say Planned Parenthood for say AN ANNUAL CHECKUP AND PAP SMEAR can be screamed at, bullied, and have photographs of dead babies shoved in their faces because...freedom.

***Just a little aside to mention that the Occupy movement also used public spaces, and were met with pepper spray, beatings and jail time. Just sayin'...

I think it was an ice-breaker. It emboldened the Religious Right *(far Right) so that they'd be good and jubilant for the Hobby Lobby decision- a little snack before the main course if you will. With such stars in their eyes they had no holding back to think this through...all they can see is "GOD wins AGAIN! America is being TAKEN BACK- PRAISE JESUS!!!"

But it's a precedent now.

Religious belief now trumps the Constitution (where it says there is to be NO state religion) and the God of the Christian bible can override anything anywhere for any reason.

But several states have enacted laws (?) saying that Sharia Law can never be the Law of our Land.

Doesn't matter now. The SCOTUS has just ensured that a holy book is not only above the Law, it IS the Law.

And the Law is to be applied equally in every case and every situation.

Chocolate chip cookie, anyone?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Weird. I Thought I Already Had a Home

Dear Oregon,

It's not you. It's me.

I admit, we were swept away and delayed for hours by the Magic that is NW Washington state. We didn't plan it. It wasn't intentional. We were going to dabble our toes in Seattle and just to the north and west of there and head your way- spending a leisurely day enjoying your pleasures from North to South before checking into our hotel at a reasonable hour.

But Washington whispered, "Just one more ferry- look! If you take the Edmonds/Kingston at 12:20 I can show you things. I can show you Port Gamble with its historic buildings and cemetery on the hill, I can show you the glittering blue diamond water of the Hood Canal where eagles soar in front of the backdrop of Mt. Ranier rising seemingly out of the depths of the water. That will be out your left window while the huge pines and giant fronds of ferns brush up against your right. For miles and miles and miles. Here-take a right in Hoodsport clinging tight to the water and drive up this mountain- skirt Lake Cushman and take the two lane to the one lane to the dirt road. Right here, at the Staircase Ranger Station which IS the end of the road, get out and start walking."

"The ferns are waist-deep while tiny little flowers blanket fallen logs in shades of pink and white and yellow- rhinestones grown into the pattern of green mosses. Now look up. Can you see the tops of these trees? At their very narrowest top they are as big around as the biggest oak in Texas. There is no hugging these trees- arms spread wide barely make the slightest arc around the base of the trunks."

"Listen- nothing but the sound of the wind, the cacophony of water roiling over and around massive boulders in the river- watch the Canada gees teach their offspring to navigate this highway, patiently and over and over again the parents take them through the smaller milder sections till their charges can stay upright instead of going toes-up for a second and then bob rightside up; blinking the river out of their eyes and sneezing it out of their nose...and then they move to ones a little bigger and faster and repeat."

"Can you imagine dinosaurs living here?"

"Can you imagine bigfoot living here?"

"Can you imagine yourself living here?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.

So I'm sorry, Oregon- all we managed to see of you was black highway and a truck stop for gas. We did drive through Portland at night and it was beautiful. Alec said that a friend of his 'warned' him about Portland- said it's nothing but homeless people and hippies. We made a wrong turn and ended up down inside for a few minutes and that was a pretty accurate description. Alec's comment- "Ah. So it's Big Denton. Cool."

I'm sure today will show us that you are every bit as beautiful as Washington. And I know that you managed to charm me with your mandatory full-service gas station attendants.

Me- "What? Really? I haven't seen full-service in over 30 years. Are you SURE?"

Attendant- "Yes, ma'am. And thank you for not threatening to shoot me like the last Texan who pulled in here."

But Washington laughs at your attempt to woo us away from there.

Washington whispers, "You have good friends here, the social climate is as appealing as the actual climate, the part of me you fell in love with is driving distance to...everything while being remote and magical- you know you've found perfection."

And then Washington smiles and adds, "And as of July 1- recreational weed is legal here."

Damn you, Washington. You know you had me at Temperate Rainforest...

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Trip of a Lifetime

Yes kids, it's that time of year again. Time for the Dixon Family Walkabout.

And lemme tell you- the level of fear in the boys' eyes as I fanned the 25 pages of Mapquest routes and 50 pages of printed out info concerning our hotel reservations, park information and other assorted places we're going to stop has never before been seen.

I believe I may have outdone myself.

And that's saying a lot.

I came to my roadtrip-planning mania genetically, through my mom. I didn't get her perky little nose with freckles sprinkled across it, but I did get this.

As kids, we took road trips to wherever the NPPA's convention was being held- National Press Photographers' Association, my dad was on their board for a time. As a board member's family, we got breaks and freebies once we got there as far as hotel and whatnot, but we just had to get there. Press photographers don't make a whole lot of money.

So we'd roadtrip. We roadtripped to Pittsburgh and we roadtripped to Florida. We trained to LA, losing a/c just as we got to Arizona on our way back. We took a cooler of food and ate lunches at rest-stops and roadside parks. We traveled on the dust of a shoestring budget, but we went EVERYWHERE.

My first husband didn't understand this. His family was much more well-off than mine, but they went to the same cabin on the same lake the same week of every summer. He declined to do the Yearly Road Trip.

We don't speak of my second husband.

Ward has always been into road-tripping. At 16, his parents let him drive, alone, to Cape Canaveral to see the liftoff of the first manned spaceship. From Texas.

At 19, he took his baby brother (aged 13) to Yellowstone.

His first wife was not into road-tripping.

We're a match made in Heaven, ya'll.

We've been all over, several times. Alec has been road-tripping since before birth. After one trip to Wisconsin we found out when we got home that we'd had a stowaway. He's got 34 states on his list of 'States Visited', and this year, we're fixin' to add another 8, leaving only Alaska, Hawaii, the far Northest tiny states, Florida and Michigan.

You know- those states that aren't really 'on the way' to anywhere.

We all three of us have the desire to 'go', even though I'm mightily terrified of flying and I know that I'm going to have to get over that soon- there are too many places we want to see that require it...we're running out of contiguous states.

People ask me, "So where are you going?" and I say, "Everywhere".

They sigh and try again. "What is your destination?" I answer, "We don't have a destination- we have a turn-around point."

Because that's the great thing about driving. You can see a ton of stuff on the way there and home. A ton.

Check out for just how much there is to see. I've found things within 20 miles of our house I never knew existed. I figure out where 'lunchtime' will be on our route and key in that city's name. It's awesome. We've lunched at the World's Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City KS- and Alec got to add to it), the Sock Monkey Museum (just west of Chicago) and in front of Santa Anna's leg (Springfield IL).

Because that's the sort of fabric America is made of, ya'll.

A few years ago I figured out that for LESS than the cost of a Days Inn or Econolodge, there are places to stay the night that add to the trip instead of merely being a place to crash and shower. Look up hotels in your desired area and then scroll way, way, way down past the chain hotels and motels and you'll find the independent mom and pop lodgings- there's even a website for that- . I generally check the reviews at Travelocity to make sure they're not 'rent by the hour', but so far we've been nothing but thrilled with the places we've stayed.

We've stayed in a yurt in Arkansas, a llama farm in Wisconsin, and this year we'll be staying at 2 pheasant hunting's off-season. Although we had to really think twice about what would be better- a Days Inn right on the interstate or a cabin in the middle of the Kansas rolling hill is chock full of tough choices...

We stay in a lot of historic hotels. They're generally located conveniently and the staff usually consists of people who know the history of the place and love it. We'll be returning to one this year- the Kalispell Grand in Montana. It costs less than the Kalispell Motel 6 and is just a few blocks away from it. Motel 6? Or...this? From the Canadian border to New Orleans, so far none of them have let us down.

While most of the time the Travelocity reviews are spot on (and brutally honest) I have to laugh at some of the reviews regarding historic hotels; a lot of them on the National Historic Registrty. 'Everything very out-dated', 'In desperate need of updating', 'Small rooms', 'Shabby'...Apparently some people are unaware of what 'historic' means.

We travel instead of. Instead of going to the movies or going shopping. Instead of paying for haircuts and manicures. Instead of participating in almost any other hobby other than Alec's guitar and art lessons and my going to guinea pig shows. We do without so we can do this, and we have the blessing of having Joe to care for the farm while we're gone and who very generously adds to the travel fund because he knows how important it is.

Even on a shoestring, it ain't cheap. But it's important.

It's important because it gives perspective. Humans get entrenched in their little worlds and come to believe that how it is within their field of vision is how it is everywhere. Oh, sure you see all sorts of stuff on TV and the internet from all over the world but it's not real. It's on the TV or internet like soap operas and 'reality' shows.

You have to Be There.

You have to Be There to get a feel for a place; feel the weather, hear the sounds, smell the smells and eat the food served by the very real people who live there- people who are different from the people at home while being the same as all humans are the same- to feel the connections and differences all at once.

It's important to realize that all the above cannot be achieved by staying in chain motels and eating at chain restaurants and only seeing the 'touristy stuff'. Oh, sure the accents of the clerks will be 'funny' and there will be minor regional differences on menus, but other than's as enriching as just watching it on TV.

Empty brain calories, ya'll.

And time is short. Our family knows that time is short at all times and in the best situations. I'm typing this as Ward gets his yearly 'noes to tose' PET scan, lab work, and chest X-ray to be sure he's still OK, that he's not harboring a stowaway of his own in there...a very unwelcome one.

Even without that spectre, just the normal stuff of living- will I always have the ability to take off a few weeks in a row to do this? Will we have the money to do so? Alec is 14- he may have a summer job starting next year and not WANT to go...

Life is change. For good or bad, life is change and it changes in a literal heartbeat; a fact that's been pounded into us over and over and over again.

So look out, America- the Dixons are hitting the road again next week for over 6,000 miles. Seeing friends along the way, stopping at five National Parks and at least as many obscure attractions, eating out of our cooler or at locally owned places and staying in historical hotels and motels along the way- places that are literally one of a kind in all the history of everywhere.

The Trip of a Lifetime...but we know they all are.

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