In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I am running on anger these days.  This anger is due to, frankly, conventional, conformist  little-minded neighbors whose focus is on "unsightliness"and "property values" and, frankly, petty vengeance and control freak issues  rather than the impact of exceptional conditions on our environment.  I'm doubly angry because if I had a wooden fence, like most of them, nobody would ever have known what was in my backyard.  Some of them are "no government interference" people, which makes me laugh, because local neighborhood deed restrictions, city, county, and state regulations restrict freedoms far more than the federal government does.  Yet they want states rights rather than federal government protections for everyone.  Most of all, I am angry because this focus not only ignores my health conditions, my age, and my poverty, it ignores the horrendous loss of habitat resulting from the tremendous loss of trees..

In the 2011 drought Texas lost 301 million (MILLION!) trees.  Harris County, which pretty much is synonymous with Houston lost 19 million trees.  I lost six lobllolly pines, all of which were standing on this property and a foot or more in diameter, when we moved in in 1957..  One of them, I suspect, was over 100 years old when it came down, all of them 60 or more.   Within half a mile of me, according to a tree removal guy I spoke with, over a 1000 trees were lost.  I can believe it.  I used to sit on my front porch and had to look straight up to see the sky.  Now, I only have to look E, S .  If I walk out the sidewalk to the side street, and look W to what used to be woods, it's mostly sky.

That is thousands of nesting places for birds.  You might not realize it, but getting to the trees to cut them down and haul them off destroyed undergrowth as well. -- the yaupon bushes, the cherry laurels and other understory trees.  After the trees around here were mostly gone, I had a swamp rabbit in my yard.  I'm sure he came from the larger 1.2-3 acre lots behind me.  When I had to cut down my taller grasses because of the complaints from the neighbors, The bunny moved on.  I hope the migrating kestrel I saw at about that time didn't get him crossing all the open space that now exists around here.  When I removed the brush piles, the treefrogs disappeared.  A Carolina wren who seemed to be checking it out for a nesting spot has disappeared as well.  The anoles which scrambled openly around the logs, as they have been unpiled and righted preparatory to being hauled off, haven't been sighted in weeks.

I also lost a honeybee tree, not that I knew in advance they were there.  I don't know where they went, because they look for a hollow tree damaged by lightening or the dropping of a big limb in a windstorm.

I had hoped to construct a wildlife habitat which would also shelter my lupus-riddled body from the sun. But no, the city wouldn't allow me to keep the 3-5' logs. When they are hauled off on the 21 January 2013, not only will all the habitat be gone, but I will no longer be able to enjoy my own backyard because there will be no place shady enough for me.  If that is freedom of property, I'm a hoot owl.

Houston was known for its greenness.  If you look across the city on GOOGLE maps, close enough to see the areas of dead and removed trees, you will see denuded parks (Hermann and Memorial), and a decimated Houston Arboretum,  neighborhoods where scarcely a tree stands.  

I have three trees that survived.  All of them had thick mats of composted mulch around their root systems, because they are where we dumped up the raked leaves and pine needles from the rest of the yard for 55+ years.  

From the swamp rabbit to the anoles, the bees, the birds, my neighborhood has been almost denuded of nesting places, food sources,  watering places.  Yet we still have deed restrictions calling for St. Augustine grass, no brush piles, yada yada yada, and we continue to pave areas, grow non-native "landscaping plants", and behave as if we are the only occupants of this earth.  

Unsightly?  Unsightly to me are my neighbors' lawns of St Augustine, hostas and monkey grass.  Who will hear when the last bird calls?

Texas drought killed 301 million treesBy Kathy Huber | September 25, 2012 | Updated: September 26, 2012 7:52am
Another of my FB friends posted one of those "Christmas begins with Christ"  from "Keeping Christ in Christmas."   First, we will ignore that the earliest recorded mention of Christmas was from a monk in 354 who noted that December 25 was established as the birth of Christ in 336 AD.Then we shall ignore that ALL of what we consider Christmas traditions come from pagan traditions.  Well, not quite all, the Roman tradition of Saturnalia included gifts to the poor, not to one's self and one's family.

Instead we shall focus on who Christ was and what His Lessons to us were.  He came to let us know His Father loved us so much He would sacrifice His only son for us.  He came to give us His Father's Commandments for life.He also came to tell us we can be forgiven for our sins. 

He opened hearts when He fed the multitudes. Now don't argue with me about how He did it.  Sure, the son of God was perfectly capable of materializing loaves and fishes out of the air.  Isn't the greater miracle that He touched the hearts of regular old human beings, whose natural tendency is toward making sure they get theirs first?  What a miracle that baskets could pass through the crowd and the people were so moved by Christ's presence that they freely placed into those baskets the fish and bread they had intended to feed themselves and their families, so that all present might eat?  Where is the lesson for mankind in a magical production of  loaves and fishes?  Normal human beings cannot do that!  Only the Son of God!  However, normal men can realize that they can manifest the love Christ showed every day, by releasing greed from their hearts, and sharing their wealth with others, as He himself did every day.  What a miracle that they could do as Christ did!

 He accepted sinners as companions, including prostitutes.  "Go," He says "and sin no more."  He admonished those who asked why He allowed such people into His company.  He says, instead, that those who are without sin should cast the first stones.  Of course, nobody is qualified, as humans are all sinners.  Who are we to talk about who is sinning, committing abominations?  Who are we to chide them constantly about their sins?  We are told to judge not.  Jesus or His Father, can ask people not to sin any more.  

So let all those of us who call themselves Christians, put Christ INTO Christmas.  If you are going spend yourselves into debt with your credit cards, do it not for yourself and your family, but for those who have nothing. Give of yourself by working at one of the many Christmas dinners for the homeless, the poor, the people who lost their homes in Sandy, and who are still struggling in New Orleans.Spend the day at a local nursing home or rehabilitation or veterans facility.  Have a neighbor who is coping with a terminally ill family member?  Give them a break, raise their spirits.  Take that fabulous meal to them.  

Above all, teach your children there is worth in everyone:  rich or poor, white or not, young or old, conservative or liberal, church-goer or not.  Jesus told us the Kingdom of God is within.  God is Love.  It is within us all.  We have only to let it shine.

And now I will share with you my favorite non-Biblical Christmas story.  O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.

This is where I not only think, but dream, plan, analyze, pray,. learn, and improve myself and my life.  Today, I want to mark an important milestone in my spiritual journey.

In the early 80s, I made a friend who quickly became my best friend, an almost inseparable companion.  Then a mutual friend introduced us to her best friend.  I disliked the woman immediately. Her aura projected the impression she was the sexiest, smartest, most desirable person in the world.  I noticed she took little snipes at almost everyone.  She told us about coming home to find her husband in bed with a guy.  He was a theater major.  Now I know, as well as anyone, that not all actors are gay.  I also know there's a good chance a theater major might be gay.  I know this because I was in drama in high school and had a tremendous crush on a guy I met there.  In fact, I got my first kiss from him.  His senior year he confessed to me that he was gay.  So when she told the story, I broke out laughing -- because by that time I could laugh at myself, and I had developed a tremendous "gaydar," thanks to my friend, who is still gay, and still the best friend I have ever had.  In fact, I had developed it so long ago that I couldn't believe she had no clue at all.  The woman didn't take to that.  

She was the "don't get mad, get even" type.  She lied to others about me, sniped at me constantly, back handed compliments designed to undermine my self-confidence. After the first big sabotage attempt, all I wanted was to never be around her again.  

She and my best friend, however, were getting close.  I understood it, in a way.  Ii was in the midst of a clinical depression, too tired most of the time to go out and party, too depressed to act happy, Struggling to keep up with graduate school, and working to support myself.  Two of the guys I had dated for years upped and married someone, one after asking me to marry him only a year earlier and then dumping me.  I had room mates who were making my life miserable in a thousand ways, from having mid-week dinner parties just outside my bedroom door which lasted until 3 am (and the hostess sang a cappella, molto voce as she cleaned up).  Two of them moved out without notice, on the first of the month, sticking me with 3/4 months rent which I didn't have without working ANOTHER job).

My best friend began sounding like this other woman, to whom I referred as "The Pit Viper."  First she betrayed a confidence to the very people I didn't want to know it.  Second, she started telling I was "jealous" of this other woman "because men like her better." Please.  "Jealous" was the term that I learned in junior high school girls who were being mean to other girls used about their bullying victims.  Then she told me I was ""jealous" because she was spending so much time with the other woman instead of me.  My response to that was "You can spend 100% of your time with you if you want, although I can't understand what you see in her.  What I'm telling you is that MY rule is that if you want to spend ANY time with me, SHE cannot be there.  I do not want to spend ANY time with her at all."  After weeks of not seeing my former best friend -- ironically because she tried to sabotage my relationship with a guy I was seeing and HE told me "That bitch is NOT your friend.  You should get as far away from her as fast as you can"-- I called her only to have her tell in about 2 minutes into the conversation that I was "too dependent "on her.  My response?  "I'm sorry you feel that way. I won't bother you again." I hung up and never called her again.  She apparently noticed, because several months later, she called me and said "We haven't seen each in forever.  Let's have dinner, just the two of us." I told her it would have to be at a certain time because I had a busy schedule, which was true.  When I pulled up to the chosen restaurant, The Pit Viper was sitting next to her.  I could see it through the window.  I almost pulled out and left.  Then I decided to confront the situation.  The Pit Viper almost immediately shoved an album of photos of the things they had been doing together in my face.  I looked at one picture, shut the album, and said, "I'm so glad you two have found a happy life together.  I just came in to say goodbye."  The Pit Viper then began talking about her former best friend's upcoming wedding and how they would look better than the bride, and how the bride had "settled" for a guy she could get instead of someone she loved,   My former best friend hardly said two words the whole time.  I looked at her and saw a sock puppet.  When I finished all my errands for the day,  I called The bride-to-be, and told her I couldn't come to the wedding because the only ride I had been offered was with my former best friend, and I couldn't stand a long drive in her company any more.  Then I hesitated and finally told her what her former best friend, who was supposed to be her maid of honor, had said.  I told her I was reluctant to tell her, but if it were my wedding, I wouldn't want to think my maid of honor was trashing me like that.  She was furious and called the woman up and fired her and told her not to dare show up or the police would throw her out.  Naturally she called me to bitch me out.  I hung up as soon as I heard her voice -- all fifteen times.  They all started out "You bitch!"   Personally,  I have always reserved the word "Bitch" for women like her who backstab, sabotage, undermine and compete with every other woman for anything, including the attention of men the other woman would never dream of dating.  Which is why, in the end, she ended up sleeping with a guy who was a former student of mine, and now my running buddy, but who was nobody I ever dreamed of having as a boyfriend.  Sweet as he was, he was about as intellectual as a lilypad, and six inches shorter and very much younger (he was 21 but in all honesty acted about 18).  When TPV called me from his bedroom the next morning while he was "in the shower," I laughed and said "Wonderful!  I hope you gave him the best sex he ever had.  He's a nice kid and way overdue." She told me they were going for breakfast, and had a date the next weekend.  When he met me to run at noon, I asked if he knew she had called me that morning to tell me about their night before and that they had a date, clearly trying to get under my skin, he erupted in anger "Thunderthighs had no business calling you!  I don't like bitches trying to hurt my friends.  I'll be breaking that date she bragged about!" When he did, she again called me and said "We need to talk."  I said "We have nothing to talk about. Not now. Not ever."and I hung up on her.  That was the last time I heard from her.

I saw my former friend once more at the urging of a mutual friend.  Within 5 minutes, I knew she was trying to get me to say things she and TPV could laugh over later.  So I told her that I was dating someone (true) who had his own business and treated me like a princess (also true), was in line for a good job (also true), and having a great time with both friends I had neglected while hanging out with her, and new friends (also true).  Not long after, I left Austin for my new job in Dallas without saying good bye.  About a year later, she contacted me to tell me she and TPV were coming to Dallas for the State Fair.  My response was "Oh how nice for you!  I hope you have a great time, but I will be out of town (true) and must decline your invitation to get together." 

I had seen her jogging on the Seawall in Galveston at Labor Day, without any desire to turn around and catch her.  I never spoke of her.  If anyone who had known us both asked me about her I referred to her as She Who Shall Not be Named, as in "Oh I haven't seen nor heard from She Who Shall Not be Named in years!" 

I got in a forgiving mood, and sentimental, after I got engaged and I called her.  I apoligized for what I had done to hurt her.  She told she me was far too busy to come to my wedding, as she was getting married herself about 4 months later.  Her tone of voice said "I'm too good for the likes of you." I sent her a card when I knew her wedding date was imminent.  

Then I found out after Katrina that she was living right on the shore in Mississippi.  I wrote a note saying how scared I had been and was so glad to know she had survived.  I told her she had hurt me more than anyone ever had, and I forgave her because I understood why she did it.  I mailed the letter and felt immensely more at peace.

Not too many months ago I started having dreams about her calling me up out of the blue wanting to talk about the letter.  She would tell me her husband and ä couple of friends I talked to all thought I wanted to resume the friendship."  Each time I had the dream, I would tell her that first of all I never thought she'd open the letter, so I certainly wasn't trying to resume a non-existent friendship, since that friendship underwent a nuclear implosion  over two decades ago, and we didn't know each other any more.  I would awake and think that was that.

As the dreams kept recurring, I tried alternative answers, and wondering why I kept having them.  Finally, in my dream, I said "you don't know me anymore, and I don't know you.  You are part of my past, and I will always love you and wish you the best in life, but I think it's best to leave you in my past.  I wrote the letter as a spiritual exercise. I needed to forgive you, and I found I had to mail it to give it the best shot that you would ever realize you needed to be forgiven.  But, honestly, I never ever expected, because of your attitude the last time I spoke to you, that you would read it.  I never name your name.  To me, you are still She who Shall Not be Named."  The was the last time I was troubled with the dream.  I realized then that  peace of mind not only required me to offload my anger by telling her about it, not only to forgive her  and let her know she needed forgiveness, but to be utterly unwilling to mix her life with mine and let her know that.

Chances are she trash-canned my letter.  It was 7 years ago or so that I wrote it.  Chances are she will never contact me.  What I needed though, was to be prepared to make it clear I wanted nothing from her.  I needed to know that I will never trust her again.  I needed to know that Forgive and Forget  didn't just refer to the offense, but to the person.  To forget that the good times did not outweigh the hurt she caused me by her betrayals.

I also realized that I needed to forgive myself by being used by a woman that I refer to as She Who Stayed Too Long.  I am sure that she has convinced herself and some mutual acquaintances that I was at fault.  The fact that she has not contacted me to pick up her stuff, almost 5 months after spending her last night here, including textbooks and family photos and her college diploma tells me she knows she owes me an apology.  She is however, too cowardly to make it.  I forgive her, because I realize that living inside her head would be hell, and I thank God I do not.  I will sell what can be sold, and throw out the rest.  Maybe some day she will find it in an antique store, or sitting out for heavy trash on Fridays.  I will never trust her again, nor respect her.  Now I will forget her too.
OK.  I'm a generous person.  Although I have almost nothing myself, I give to the local food banks.  I donate clothes to the Salvation Army.  We give food to the homeless.  Is it too much to ask that of the 100 or so lemons my tree produces every year I get more than 1 or 2?

That's right.  ALL the rest are picked off my tree, many of them before they are yellow,  apparently by idiots who think they are limes.  There's one (of about six left) that we have been watching for optimum ripeness.  Ron goes out today to get it, and it's gone!  

So I'm trying to figure out how to stop this.  We planted the tree, nursed it through frosts, water it, feed it, mulch it, and we get just one or two lemons a year.  Tonight I typed a letter telling people to quit stealing our lemons, especially when still green because they are not limes!  We are printing a copy for each lemon left, and placing them in baggies, and attaching, with a red ribbon bow, one to each lemon left on the tree..

I am also planning to get a sign like candidates out.  It will say:

We are tired of getting only 1-2 lemons 
each year off our own tree!


ON TREE     RIPE        US           YOU

Then we keep a running count from the time the lemons start forming until they are gone.

Or maybe both signs.

The funny thing is, I live in a neighborhood in which almost everyone,  has an income twice the size of ours.  Some of those behind us are multimillionaires.  THESE are the people who are stealing from our tree.  Most of them are also Republicans and churchgoing  "Christians."   PFAH!

We are living mostly on peanut butter, tuna fish ($0.39/can), and chicken, and the food we grow that isn't stolen, and REALLY good buys we find occasionally..  We need these lemons for the vitamin C.  Unfortunately, the S and SE sides of our property are all outside the fence.  This is where the sun is.

Any comments?