Friday, February 13, 2009

A Texas Ghost Town

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A Texas Ghost Town
For several years now, I’ve been fascinated with and researching an old ghost town. She was once a thriving seaport along the Texas Gulf Coast. Her life was brief; spanning only forty-two years, but her legacy to Texas was gigantic.
She was known as the “Dream City of the Gulf”, “The Mother of Western Texas” and “Galveston’s Sister.” I am a native Texan and had never heard the name of this old town until a few years ago, when I stumbled across her, quite by accident, while surfing the web.
Her name changed several times over her short life, like a woman widowed and remarried more than once. She was born with the German name, Karlshaven (meaning Carl’s Harbor) in honor of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. But she also became known as Indian Point and eventually Indianola. (That even sounds like a woman’s name, doesn’t it?)
As an infant, Karlshaven opened her empty arms to German immigrants landing on Texas soil in the early 1840’s. The Adelsverein (Germany’s society of nobility) promised German citizens wishing to settle in Texas, transportation, a protected colony and housing. An average household was required to deposit 600 gulden (approx. $240) and single persons 300 gulden. Half of their money would be used for expenses for promised items, while half would be placed on a line of credit in the new colony. The credit could be drawn on for food, tools and farming equipment.
The Adelsverein, however, sent the first shiploads of immigrants westward before the colony was ready. When the voyagers landed along the swampy Texas coast, they had more of an adventure than they expected. The colony was non-existent. There was no housing. And the line of credit had evaporated like the dew on a hot Texas morn.
Many immigrants didn’t make it past the first two to three years. Cholera, typhoid fever and starvation were just a few of the enemies found in this new land. Of those who survived, many moved inland. But some stayed along the bay waters deficient in trees, shelter and income. They worked hard. They wouldn’t give up. They placed their trust in “der liebe Gott” to see them through.
The “Dream City of the Gulf” was born.
Over her short life span, she would see floods of immigrants, American settlers, invasion of U.S. military troops, hordes of camels and prosperity. She would become the County seat, the home of a famous shoot-out in one of Texas’ most notorious feuds and the target of wind-ravaging hurricanes.
I’ve read and studied about my old friend, Indianola, for quite some time now. Tomorrow, we shall meet for the first time. She rests only a short two to three hour drive from my home. My husband and I will rise early in the morning and travel to visit the ghost of a civilization that once thrived in history.
I promise to take pictures, to report to you what I find and to share more with you in future blogs about “The Mother of Western Texas.”

Sketch of Indianola c 1850.

Paging Mr. Whipple

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Paging Mr. Whipple
I told myself I needed a topic for my blog. (Yes, I talk to myself.) I sat in the little closet connected to the "wash room" (the one with the throne), contemplated and rejected several ideas. Then I noticed it. The roll of toilet paper. It was new. And I hadn't put it there.
I closed my eyes, then cautiously opened one. The roll was still there. Dear Hubby had changed the roll of TP without being asked, told or prodded. Elation surged through me. (That's writer talk for "I was totally shocked!")
My hand trembled as I reached to inspect the quilted lily-white cloud. Downy softness tickled my fingertips. I wanted to hug Mr. Whipple and the urge to squeeze took on new meaning.
I tugged at the roll. Something was wrong. My gratitude ambled toward the door and strolled away. The toilet paper had been placed on the holder improperly. The cruddy, thin, one-ply wonder unrolled from the back.
Many couples, families and former friends have debated over the proper way to place toilet paper on the holder. Please pay attention and I will clarify the issue.

Not only have studies shown that there is less probability of spreading germs with the paper in the correct position, but the obvious designs on various rolls would suggest the manufacturer's intent. In a recent poll conducted online 1,543 people voted that the edge of the roll should pull from the front while only 500 uneducated simpletons thought it should unroll from the back. (I ask that the 500 please not identify themselves.)
Once the huffs and puffs I had emitted into the air cleared, a strange and unfamiliar sensation washed over me. Could I be wrong? (Not about the way the toilet paper "should" be. I know I'm right on that one, but. . .) Did it really matter if hubby hung the TP incorrectly? I wasn't inconvenienced by a lack of the necessary item at an inappropriate time. Wasn't that the whole point of the roll and holder: to provide expediency and practicality in a time of need.
This started me thinking of other areas where I sometimes let "little" matters steer my attitude. The person in front of me on the freeway moving too slow. The drive-thru forgetting ketchup to go with the fries. The tele-marketer that interrupts the final moments of a made-for-TV movie. The sun pausing to rest behind the clouds.
Little things that shouldn't become big things. But somehow, sometimes, some way . . .they do. Things that, when we have all eternity to enjoy being in the presence of Jesus, will not matter. Philippians 2:5 reads, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (NIV) When we put things in perspective, (like toilet paper and tele-marketers) we give God a chance to help us change and grow in our attitude and in our spirit.
So I say "thank-you" to my sweet husband, who thought enough of me to not only change the toilet paper roll, but become a partner with God in making me all that He wants me to be.

1800 Words at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

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1800 Words at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Tonight I watched President Bush's farewell speech to the nation. It was a little over 1800 words. That's not a lot of words to sum up eight years of service. He spoke of gratitude to Vice President Cheney, his administration, wife, children parents and thanked the American people. He shared highlights of events from his presidency. He offered advice to the nation. Then he asked God to bless our country. Twelve minutes. That's all it took to say goodbye.
And then the media wrapped it up. Despite past criticisms, so many commented on the good job performed by George W. Bush as he kept our nation safe during two terms as President of the United States.
I sit here at my desk and wonder how long it would take to say goodbye if my job as wife, mother, daughter, friend, writer were coming to a close. What if I had only twelve minutes to summarize what I have accomplished in the work I feel I was chosen to do? Whom would I thank? To whom would I offer gratitude? What highlights of my life would I mention? Would I have advice worthy to pass on to others?
Of course, I would mention my husband, Steve. He has supported and loved me through thirty-eight years of marriage. He's calm, easy-going and puts up with my idiosyncrasies. (Please no comments from the press section.) My children have grown into loving, responsible adults of whom I am very proud. My grandchildren delight my heart. And like George W. Bush, I have had parents whose "examples have provided strength for a lifetime."
The highlights of my life wouldn't be accomplishments, but people. I have been blessed with two kind and loving sisters and a wonderful brother. Nieces, nephews, friends - the list is long. So many have added flavor, interest and love to my life. I've tried to remember that people are always more important than things, and so many of you have proven that statement true over and over.
I gave a lot of thought to five sentences near the end of the speech. . ..
"It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your President. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of our country and uplifted by the goodness of our people. I have been blessed to represent this Nation we love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other: citizen of the United States of America." (George W. Bush Farewell Speech; 1-15-09)
I tried to relate those sentences to my call in life to be a follower of Christ and rewrote them for myself.
It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as a disciple of Jesus Christ. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of my Lord and uplifted by many others walking in His way. I have been blessed to represent Christ, whom I love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other: Christian.
Yes, there will always be good days and tough days. Being a Christian doesn't exempt us from that. But what a privilege we have to live a life worthy of the calling of Christ. That's the legacy I want to be remembered for.
So there it is. It didn't even take me 1800 words. I don't know how long my job on Earth will last, but it is my desire to someday hear my Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."


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Change - November 17, 2008
I've recently made several changes in my life and decided I would join the 21st century and blog. (For those who are even further behind the times than I am - and that can't be many of you - a blog is a web log or journal, kept in reverse chronological order.) Most of the blog topics circulating in my brain this morning have to do with all the changes confronting me on a daily basis.
Just two short months ago, I lived in the country on a small amount of acreage. While Steve was gone to work, I had the cows, chickens and goats to keep me company. (And I mustn't forget the emu that constantly tried to court me.) Now, we are settled in our new home in a subdivision and life has taken on a different routine.
The two months have been very busy. Early in September, we began watching the course of Tropical Storm Ike, which later formed into a hurricane. The afternoon of September 12, the winds began to blow and we hunkered down with our daughter and two grandsons at the house in the country. We watched from the one unboarded window to see trees snapping and debris flying. The wind no longer whistled through the trees, but howled with an intensity I remembered hearing as a child when our family rode out Hurricane Carla. When the winds and rain finally stopped, we found that Ike had destroyed a portion of the back of the house, fences, parts of the barn and many trees. None of the animals were hurt and we were all safe. I'd like to say that daily routines went back to normal, but life is not that easily reset after a major hurricane. Power and water were not restored to our area for two weeks. In that time, however, we had to get repairs finished on the house and grounds as we had a contract to sell.
We ended up moving twice, while waiting for our new home to be ready for occupancy. It seemed like a long time in between the moves, but by October 15, we were in our new home. I've made many new friends and am enjoying my life in the "burbs".
We chose this neighborhood for several reasons. My sister and her husband moved here last spring and we loved it the minute we drove in. We now live on the same street as my sister, only nine houses separating us. And today, my parents are closing on a home the opposite direction from my sister's, with nine houses separating us. More changes coming as we all get settled in.
Our subdivision is beautiful and is a community for active seniors. (Steve says he hopes they don't make him be too active.) I'm enjoying the activities planned for the community and events held at the clubhouse. Since most of the houses around us were also just moved into, I hosted a brunch last Saturday for the ladies to get to know one another. It was a lot of fun and gave us all a sense of belonging.
I've started walking every morning with my sister and another neighbor and find myself enjoying it. I don’t like to use the word "exercise", but the pace these girls walk is not a stroll. We briskly saunter around the community lake, enjoying the water view, the fountain sprays, the waddling ducks and the early morning company. I come home energized and ready to tackle my day.
A couple of other changes have taken place recently also. One is that I have finally decided to take control of my diabetes. I let it get out of hand, by ignoring common sense rules for diabetics. I never monitored my blood glucose levels. I always said that I could tell what the numbers were by the way I felt and that (of course), I was fine. The problem was that I was only really understanding the blood glucose levels when they were extremely high or extremely low. By that time, I would usually be past a simple fix and had to deal with the problem more drastically. With the help of my doctor, we have experimented with some different diabetic medications, their dosage and timing. Along with the walking and now watching what I eat, I have my blood sugar levels under control. In addition, I know they are under control because I monitor my levels three or four times a day now. I'll blog more on this later and share what I have learned about diabetes and life from the lessons God is teaching me.
Another recent change is the diagnosis of high function autism for one of our grandsons. This is a diagnosis that has been a long time in coming, but with it, we feel that we will be in a better position to give him what he needs to succeed in life. Mind you, Tyler did not just now develop autism. He has had it since he was young. He has not changed. We have. The diagnosis has brought understanding and with understanding comes hope and the ability to cope with the struggles along the way. My daughter and I are scheduled to attend the Texas State Conference on Autism in early December. We want to learn all we can to help this child through life. I'll also be blogging from time to time on what we learn about autism.
As I write this, I have to ask myself, what, if anything, have I learned from so many recent changes in my life. I've learned that God loves me. When the storm blew through our area, yes, we had damage. However, God spared us. We felt the effects of the storm, but he was obviously watching over us. So many of the other things I've written about today are the storms of life, repairs to a home, moving, health issues, the concerns of an autistic child. But through all the changes, God remains constant. When we were in our temporary home, God spoke to me with several new devotional ideas. I praise Him for the fresh intake He gave me on scriptures. Here, in my new home, He continues to minister to my spirit through His word. With my diabetes, God made my body. Just because I chose before to ignore built in signals to my system, doesn't mean God's design wasn't what He wanted. He has things to teach me and I will learn them through listening to the wisdom He brings my way. Just as Tyler didn't change with his diagnosis of autism, but those around him are changing as they learn, God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. God doesn't change, but we change as we learn more about Him. My prayer today is that all those who read today's blog, will learn to accept the changes that come in their life and embrace the One that will forever be the same.