Have you ever looked at a map of the world? Look at Texas with me just for a second. That picture, with the Panhandle and the Gulf Coast , and the Red River and the Rio Grande is as much a part of you as anything ever will be. As soon as anyone anywhere in the world looks at it they know what it is. It's
Texas . Pick any kid off the street in Japan and draw him a picture of Texas in the dirt and he'll know what it is. What happens if I show you a picture of any other state? You might get it maybe after a second or two, but who else would? And even if you do, does it ever stir any feelings in you? In every man, woman and child on this planet, there is a person who wishes just once he could be a real live Texan and get up on a horse or ride off in a pickup. There is a little bit of Texas in everyone.

Texas is the Alamo . Texas is 183 men standing in a church, facing thousands of Mexican nationals, fighting for freedom, who had the chance to walk out and save themselves, but stayed instead to fight and die for the cause of freedom. JohnWayne paid to do the movie himself . That is the Spirit of Texas . We send our kids to schools named William B. Travis and James Bowie and Davy Crockett, and do you know why? Because those men saw a line in the sand and they decided to cross it and be heroes. Texas is Sam Houston capturing Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana at San Jacinto.

Texas is huge forests of Piney Woods like the Davy Crockett and Sam Houston National Forests .
Texas is breathtaking mountains in the Big Bend .Texas is the unparalleled beauty of bluebonnet fields in the Texas Hill Country.Texas is floating the rivers of the Hill Country on a hot summer day.Texas is the beautiful, warm beaches of the Gulf Coast of South Texas. Texas is beaches you can drive on and have many memorable bonfires with close friends.

Texas is that warm feeling you get when someone asks where you're from.Texas is the shiny skyscrapers in Houston and Dallas.Texas is world record bass from places like Lake Fork.
Texas is Mexican foods like nowhere else, not even Mexico .Texas is chicken fried steak and world famous Bar-B-Q.Texas is the Fort Worth Stockyards, Bass Hall, the Ballpark in Arlington and the Astrodome, and now, the Reliant Stadium too.

Texas is larger-than-life legends, like Michael DeBakey, Ann Richards, Denton Cooley, Willie Nelson, Buddy Holly, Gene Autry, Audie Murphy, Tommy Lee Jones, Waylon Jennings, Farrah Fawcett, Janis Joplin, Sandra Bullock, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Landry, Eva Longoria, Darrell Royal, ZZ Top, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan, Sam Rayburn, Howard Hughes, George H.. W. Bush, Lyndon B. Johnson, and let's not forget GEORGE STRAIT- PANTERA, the Big Bopper, Tex Ritter, George Jones, Clay Walker, Mark Chestnut, to name ONLY a few.

Texas is great companies like Dell Computer, Texas Instruments, EDS and Compaq,HEB, Whataburger, Southwest Airlines, Bell Helicopter and LOCKHEED MARTIN AEROSPACE, Home of the F-16 Jet Fighter and the JSF Fighter, Valero. Texas is NASA.

Texas is huge herds of cattle, beautiful horses and miles of crops. Texas is home to the world famous King Ranch.Texas is home to the most amazing sunsets of gold over an empty field. Texas is hundreds of deer running around neighborhoods and fields. Texas is skies blackened with doves and fields full of deer.

Texas is a place where towns and cities shut down to watch the local high school football game on Friday nights and for the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, and for the In Old San Antonio River Parade in San Antonio.

To drive across Texas , is to drive 1/3 the way across the United States. Texas is ocean beaches, deserts, lakes and rivers, mountains and prairies, and modern cities.

If it isn't already in Texas , you probably don't need it. No one does anything bigger or better than it's done in Texas .

By federal law, Texas is the only state in the U.S. that can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. Flag. Think about that for a second. You fly the Stars and Stripes at 20 feet in Maryland , California , or Maine , and your state flag, whatever it is, goes at 17 feet. You fly the Stars and Stripes in front of Klein Oak High or anyplace else at 20 feet, the Lone Star flies at the same height - 20 feet. Do you know why? Because it is the only state that was a Republic before it became a state.

Being a Texan is as high as being an American down here. Our capitol is the only one in the country that is taller than the capitol building in Washington , D.C. And we can divide our state into five states at any time if we wanted to!We can become a republic again at any time the voters of Texas choose,
and we included these things as part of the deal when we came on. That's the best part, right there.
Texas even has its own power grid!!

~ Author Unknown~

Learning to Let Go

I just finished reading the book The Dandelion Spirit  written by my friend, Louise Gallagher.  It is subtitled "A True Life Fairytale of Love, Lies and Letting Go". An excerpt from the back cover says "The Dandelion Spirit  tells one woman's courageous journey away from abuse and into her one true self." 

In this intensely moving book she tells the horrific tale of her relationship with a psychopath, a relationship that ultimately nearly cost her life. She then goes on to write about her recovery from that experience, and how her life has unfolded since then.

I first learned of this book after discovering Louise's blog, Recover Your Joy.  As I've noted here before, her blog is a treasure of hope, inspiration, and yes... even joy!  In corresponding with Louise, I requested a copy of the book, and it arrived in my mailbox in Texas after it's journey from Calgary where she lives. 

It was my intention to read it as I read most books, in just a couple sittings, immersing myself in chapter after chapter until I reach the end.  I soon learned that would not be possible.  As I started to read, I began to see bits and pieces of my life upon the pages mingled together with her story and her words.  I began to recall experiences and feelings long since stored away. 

On several occasions I found it necessary to put the book down for a few days, to give myself some distance from the fear and pain I remember too well. But always I was drawn back, able to continue in the knowledge that this story has an amazing ending, it is a story of self-recovery and salvation.  I wanted to discover how Louise managed to travel the distance from who she was then and what her life was like, to who she is now, and the wonderful, joyful life she has restored to herself.

Louise's story is not mine, not in the details. None of my ex-husbands could be accurately labelled as psychopathic, which involves so much more. But all three of them clearly exhibited mental health issues that caused my life to be at times a living hell.  My daughter is 36 years old now.  I lived in one abusive relationship after another from before she was born up until four years ago. That's a long time to endure abuse.  It's a long time to walk on egg shells, to keep secrets, and to put on fronts to the world. It's a long time to go on living long after you wish you were dead.  It's a very long time to dream of freedom, and a long time to cling of hope.

Like Louise, I am a survivor. As I wrote in the preface to my earlier blog entitled "Picking Up Pieces", when I finally broke free of my last husband I embarked on a journey to rediscover myself and recover my life.  Recovery doesn't come easy. Healing takes time... a great deal of time, and perhaps some scars will remain forever. But just as in Louise's wonderful story of triumph over evil, I too have come out on the other side... wiser, and yet willing to risk everything to find true love such as I have been blessed with now, and to truly live again... to cherish freedom as never before, and to finally begin to know what it is to feel joy!

As I read Louise's amazing book, I could have taken a yellow highlighter and marked passage after passage that spoke for my experiences as well as hers.  I keep reading on in stunned silence, shaking at the revelations of what it is like to live in the prison of abuse, thinking "me too", "this is how I felt too!"  As much as I have read about abuse over the years, I really had no idea how common my experience was. I remember a friend telling me that I had been living that way so long that I no longer recognized it as abnormal. I had begun to accept it as just the way life is.  That's the greatest lie of all... it is not  normal, it is not the way we were intended to live. Our spirits were meant to be free of oppression, we were meant to soar, and indeed, I am finally learning to fly!

This post is dedicated to Louise Gallagher and her book, The Dandelion Spirit. In it she has not only shown me myself and how my life was, she has shown me the path to recovery and joy.  My life will be forever changed because she had the courage to share her story. I am eternally grateful.  I believe that nothing in life happens by accident. Teachers are sent at various times to help us find our way, and Louise is surely one of these.  If any of what I've written here about living with abuse resonates with you, read the book. I promise you it will be a life-changing experience.

Venturing Into Dark Places

This week's assignment for Monday Memories is to write about about someplace different or special that you've visited at some point in your life.  Why don't you join me and share an adventure of your own?

My husband works three Saturday's a month, so we have only one two-day weekend each month to spend together.  We try to plan something fun to break up the monotony of our work routine.  This past weekend we decided to head over to Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico, about 150 miles from where we live.  It had been a long time since either of us had been down in the caverns. My ex and I took our kids some 25 years ago!

We spent an overnight in Carlsbad, and headed out to the Caverns early on Sunday to avoid the crowds.  This was a great choice, as we opted for a self-guided tour, and had the winding trail thru the cavern pretty much to ourselves, encountering only few other people along the way.  Because the long walk including many stairs descending over 800 feet into the cave from the natural opening is very hard on old knees like ours, we opted for the elevator trip down and up, which takes merely a minute!

The trail we took winds up, down, and around thru the main large room of the cave. They claim it's 1.3 miles, but it's a strenuous hike that takes more than an hour and feels much longer. As you can see from the pictures, the cave has just the right amount of lighting to enable you to enjoy the amazing formations while still giving you the feeling of being in the shadowy dark. It is quiet, damp, and cool - comfortable with a light jacket. Being one who is very uncomfortable with ledges and steep drop-offs, I was grateful for the safety railings which line both sides of the entire trail, and the occasional benches provided as rest spots.

The above ladder is from the early 1900's and descends 150 feet into a hole.  Ah, no thank you, I'll stick to the path! (Obviously, it is no longer used. Imagine what courage it took for those early spelunkers to descend swinging on this while holding onto lanterns for visibility!)

Stalactites (hanging from the ceiling) and stalagmites (rising up from the floor) come in all kinds of varieties and create a surreal, almost magical feeling like being in the bowels of an old castle or maybe a troll's hideaway!

We arrived at the end of the trail loop tired and feeling the burn of our leg muscles, but we totally enjoyed the magical experience. On the way back up to the surface, the operator turned off the lights inside the elevator so we could watch the stone walls of the elevator shaft rush by as we flew upward... very pretty in an eerie sort of way, as you realize that your elevator car is entombed in solid stone on four sides for a distance of 75 stories!

At one time Carlsbad Caverns was listed as one of the "Seven Wonders of the Natural World", and it's easy to see why. Taking a tour is a must-do experience if for some reason you find yourself traveling near the dusty little city of Carlsbad in the remote southeast corner of New Mexico.

During the summer months, there is also a sunset "bat flight" program at the Caverns, where you can watch thousands of bats exit the mouth of the cave for another night of hunting. I haven't seen that, but have heard it's pretty amazing.