Snakes on a Trail!

Rattlesnakes, mostly. Western diamondbacks, mostly.


We’ve been in Texas for YEARS now and I have rarely encountered snakes. Usually they are stretched out on the road as I whizz by in my trusty Honda.

Hubs has seen more than me, and his encounters are more with live snakes – he’s usually working at dawn or dusk (the most active times) and he has more occasion to be outside in fields and whatnot.

But one thing I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, now that we live in the foothills of a mountain range, with a great trail system right around the corner from our house, is watch out for snakes. Since the pups and I try to get out to walk regularly, this is useful information.

I do not take this warning lightly, because I know next to nothing about how to spot snakes, and generally I tend to be attentive to dangerous things I know little about. However, I also take this advice with several grains of salt depending on who is offering it. When my spouse tells me to be on the lookout for snakes, especially around dawn, I wake up a little earlier (pre-dawn) and start using a flashlight for better visibility.

When the dog-mother whose precious baby dogs get their own live-in babysitter and birthday parties tells me that snakes are around every bend… okay maybe.

This area of the southwest is tree-less so guess what kind of snakes we have? PIT VIPERS. I love how ridiculously scary that classification term sounds: PIT viper. Not just a regular viper, but one that hangs out in shallow, hard to spot pits of doom.

Interesting factoid: pit vipers are named for heat-sensing pits in their heads, not because they live in pits (which is also generally true).

I looked up native Texas snakes because, well, why not? There are four in the state, three are pit vipers: copperheads, cottonmouths, and the most common and prolific in our neck of the woods, the rattlesnake. Western diamondback, to be precise, although we have a whole bevy of rattly-beauties.

by jeanette m otis on flickr
{image by Jeanette M. Otis on Flickr}

There’s also the colorful and elusive coral snake, which is a cobra, rather than a pit viper. The main differences are the type of venom and how they deliver poison (foldable teeth vs. non-foldable). Coral snakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths aren’t huge in our neck of the woods. Apparently they all like trees and water. Wusses.

I haven’t seen any snakes on walkies yet, nor heard any (Rattlesnakes blend in really well in grassless brown desert, so they are not very visible. But they are very hear-able). I hope it stays that way.

However, if I do encounter a snake I will stay calm and still, back away slowly, and then run home and write about it here.

A Little Yellow Flower

We live right at the foot of a mountain range, right in the middle of a desert. So there’s not a whole lot of growing things out here.

But there ARE growing things out here. I’ve been walking daily with the dogs and pause for a moment pretty much any time I see a color other than the yellowish green of scrub and cacti.

These little guys caught my eye the other day. Thank goodness for phones with cameras.

flora |

Real Estate Agents Are Ridiculous

Holy smokes in a cat-herding hand-basket of spaghetti. What a joke this “buying new home” process has been. We have laughed a LOT over the last month… with the understanding that this is a kind of dark humor born of the depths of weird doublespeak and fundamentally shady standards.

{The feature image for this post is so smarmy that I just had to include it. SNARF SNARF.}

My first draft of this post was SO LONG, mainly to try to explain the mental gymnastics one has to go through to even understand U.S. home-buying real estate.

The super-short, very pared down version is this: we didn’t use a real estate agent to buy or sell the house we’re currently in. We live in such a small, rural area that word of mouth and a local real estate attorney was all we needed to get the contract and lending obligations done. In fact, this house never even went on the real estate market – when we bought it was because we heard it was available through a friend and when it was time to sell we had four different people interested before we were even done cleaning!

under contract

Contrast this with our new location – a large city and a robust real estate market and hundreds of homes for sale. Any time we saw a house the selling agent would do a double take in shock and awe when we said we weren’t working with a buyer’s agent. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around it.

What that means, now that we’re only two weeks away from moving in to a new house, is that we tend to get ignored when we have questions or document needs. Title companies, other agents, inspectors, even the lender (to some extent) are used to working with agents. They are NOT used to fielding calls and answering questions directly from the buyer. So the responses have been mostly surprised and sometimes strangely dumb.

I actually had one guy call and scold me for not using an agent. And the seller’s agent called and told me our lender (a major bank) was a “terrible decision” and that I should go with “their guy” who could get the whole loan processed in three weeks or less.

the most interesting realtor in the world

Seems to me that the assumption is that we are stupid, or foolish. Going against the flow so dramatically (I had no idea…) as to not even HAVE an agent at all kind of marks us as weirdos in a major real estate market.

The plus side to all this is that I have control over the timeline. No one is lagging on sending documents to our lender. Nothing we say is getting lost in translation as it passes through two or three middle men. I have a solid idea of where the listing agency is in their “to dos” for this sale. Mostly, I’m not having to rely on one person for all my information. Worth it.

If all continues to go “well” we will be done with the Real Estate Agent Circus and in our new home in two weeks. That’s pretty cool, and also scary! MAJOR change, and one that is not a sure thing until all the paperwork is signed. I never realized how big a deal it was to pack up your life and head to a new place without a sure spot to land! We’ve always had a rental or apartment lined up. This is kind of a “pack up and hope for the best” situation!


David Bowie Ch-ch-ch-CHANGES

Moving Right Along

My last post was about moving, or changes leading up to moving. We’ve been living in the same general area of Texas for almost eight years and we are suddenly on our last 30 days. This time next month we will be living far away, in a new house and a new city, unpacking and prepping for our first days at our new jobs.

That’s right, I got a GREAT job! The offer, like everything else about this move, happened kind of suddenly and all at once. In less than a week I went from submitting one or two resumes a day and hearing back from NO ONE to being 100% employed. The interim included a phone interview, a day’s drive, two flights, frantic shopping for some professional garb, and a joyous job offer.

In just a few short weeks so many good things have happened! Hubs got an outstanding lateral transfer, we sold our house in DAYS, we found an outstanding house to buy in our new city, and I got an incredible job. Holy smokes! SO MUCH GOOD!

click photo for credit

It’s getting to the point now where I am starting to be anxious that something needs to go wrong. Everything has gone so smoothly and just so WELL for us that I am getting that suspenseful feeling you sometimes get during movies: “Things are going too well for these people; something BAD is going to happen!” In my head, I know it’s an unrealistic fear, but my emotions are another story. I’m absolutely not used to so much going so right in such a short amount of time. I really don’t know how to handle it!

What an excellent thing to type. Things are going so well that it’s starting to feel unreal. THAT is something to remember and hold on to.

Just wanted to share the good news, and somehow mark this excellent season in our life. Wahoo!!



So, we’ve had some changes here in our little bubble. Hubs’ work is transferring him to veryWest Texas (El Paso). Strange to live in a part of the world where moving 8 hours away keeps us in the same state! The turnaround time is pretty short so we have kept busy packing, cleaning, showing the house, and (for me) wrapping up local freelance projects.

El Paso |

Both of us are excited to soon be living in a city, rather than two hours outside of a city. We both grew up in cities, met in a city, spent our first few years together in the suburbs of a big city. Since then, we have been living in a bit of a rural oasis – big enough for us to get by (we do have a movie theater!) but definitely not what we are most comfortable with. Social interactions are distinctly different in a city suburb vs. a rural town. So are work opportunities…

And can I just say I am psyched about the opportunity for a career reset. While the last year has done wonders for my peace of mind and mental health, I miss a regular schedule, I miss someone else dealing with billing, I miss long-term goals and organizational movement. I miss the camaraderie that comes from daily work with other people. I miss a regular paycheck.

Man, do I miss a regular paycheck.

In other things to look forward to, we get a one-two punch on the foster/adopt front. El Paso is in a different CPS (Child Protective Services) region than San Antonio, so we might have better luck with the central office red tape. That’s not a sure thing, but it is something to look forward to. AND we will be LIVING within a few minutes of the central office, and all its centralized training and processing. This means we won’t encounter the weird limbo netherworld of rural foster care that we struggled with here. I’m excited about that.

And then, again, if all that doesn’t work I will be gainfully employed somewhere and we will be in a better financial position to pursue private adoption if we decide to go that route. So that’s another good thing.

All that being said, there’s some ambivalence about this move. Three years ago I was in a “get me out of here!” mindset and would not have looked back. That had more to do with my emotional and mental state than anything else.

I’m in a different place now, brain-wise, and it shows in how I’ve settled into this life we’ve built for ourselves. Life is quieter in some ways, but I’ve made more connections in the last 2.5-3 years than I did in the previous 10. Things just aren’t as frantic or as painful.

I guess I’m not trying to run away as much.

Unlike every other move in my life (there have been many) I feel like I’m leaving things behind, not just going somewhere new. There are people I will miss, and places and parts of the community that I will regret not having in a city environment. Three years ago I would NEVER have said that. Now I’m trying to figure out how to coerce people to move out there with us…

Just when that starts to get to me, however, I remember that now we will be within only a few hours of this:

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta |
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

And an easy day’s drive to this:

Breckenridge, Colorado |
Breckenridge, Colorado

And a weekend visit to my new niece who also happens to live here:

Las Vegas, Nevada |
Las Vegas, Nevada (from

And I can dip my feet in here on occasion:

Pacific Ocean, California coastline |
Pacific Ocean, California coastline (from

I think we’re gonna’ be okay.

Choose Joy 2015 – First Thoughts

This has been a tremendous weekend. It’s strange because it’s been one of those times where no ONE thing happened that was earth shattering, but instead it was kind of a three day process of Things Happening.

I won a trip to a faith-based infertility and adoption conference in California. It wasn’t just the registration fee that I won – I also won airfare, hotel, transportation. Zero reason to keep me from going. And even so, I was nervous and hesitant. Because I wouldn’t use the word “faith-based” to describe my lifestyle. At all. And, in fact, that didn’t really change this weekend.

However, I’ve been following this event for several years, and it has always looked like a strange and wonderful microcosmic bubble of support and understanding and sharing. I wanted that. And holy smokes, I got it.

Part of what makes infertility so terrible is the way it isolates. It’s a loss that is completely unseen. It’s a loss that doesn’t usually include an event or any kind of mourning period.

With most other kinds of grief there are social and mental boundaries sort of built in – it only happens once, it’s a huge deal, other people understand, Hallmark makes cards for it. They do 5Ks for it. You know? There are ways to remember positively, and ways to share the loss, and ways to feel not-alone. And the whole “it’s been XX years since XX grief” allows you to not only mark your grief in a very real way, but also allows you to get some mental distance from it.

None of this is a thing with infertility. It is an ongoing grief because it is an ongoing loss (a death-magnitude loss) throughout the entirety of childbearing years. It is a specific kind of grief – one that only a limited number of people share. And it is unseen. There are no photos of now-gone loved ones to remind others (or us) of a life well-lived. There are few anniversaries. No 5Ks and very few support groups to create any kind of community or safe space to work through it.

Infertility is a lonely grief.

Sharing it online has been helpful because it allows me to connect with others who are dealing with similar stories. It also allows me to share what I’m dealing with in a way that is emotionally safe – posting online and moderating feedback means I’m not exposed to weird comments or judgement the same way I would be if I was sharing “in real life.” People say some awful stuff but it’s not because they’re mean or unfeeling. It’s because people don’t know this grief. It’s not familiar, and so they (even the really good ones) say dumb things.

So sharing in real life is rare.

One of the intense and incredible things about this weekend at the Choose Joy 2015 conference was being in a huge group where everyone feels the same way as me. They are dealing with the same kind of grief. They have similar stories and similar triggers, and struggle with moving on in the same ways as I do. In the eight years we have been trying to have kids, I’ve never once experienced that. Ever. There is no camaraderie in infertility. It is a thing that a woman (or family) experiences alone. And that is so different from how we, as humans, are wired.

The “not-alone” feeling was driven home for me right near the end of the weekend, when I happened to be next to two women who had the good fortune of having been able to birth some kids. They forgot themselves and spent a few moments co-lamenting the misery of summer pregnancies. It was such a little thing for them that they didn’t even realize how painful it was for those around them.

In that moment, though, instead of being upset, I was kind of fascinated. I realized that I have heard this kind of thing millions of times in my adult life. I have many, many friends with kids, and having kids comes with a host of trials and tribulations that are miserably real. I expect this kind of commiserating. It’s how we operate; It doesn’t bother me (anymore) because I know that sharing struggle, commiserating, is so integral to being a human and being a woman – you build a community around common experiences, and usually around common hardships.

I haven’t had that. It’s pretty much been eight years of suffocated suffering (that’s weird to type) but I got it this weekend. I got to share, to commiserate, to say “holy smokes I KNOW how you feel” and get that response in return.

I didn’t even realize how much I craved that simple human connection.

So many people came out of the woodwork when we started having miscarriages – miscarriage is a 1 in 3 event (meaning most couples have had at least one). Infertility has a 1 in 8 occurrence rate. And yet, except for very brief glimpses into that pain (and only six years ago, when we were regularly losing pregnancies), we don’t talk about those things. We don’t commune over those things. There is no common ground between us an those around us in relation to infertility. We don’t lessen the pain by sharing with those who can empathize – we really can’t. And we suffer for it.

But this weekend I got to do that. I got a community. I got to share. I got to listen as a fellow, as someone who could empathize. And just that simple thing of being able to commiserate, to give and take, with people who deeply understood because they’d been through the same stuff… it was insane.

I so needed it. I so needed the experience of feeling that others are dealing with this, and that I’m not alone, and that even if it might be forever it won’t always feel like it does now.

I’m not alone.

How incredible.


There’s this great line in the Guy Ritchie film Snatch where a bunch of gypsies ask one of the regular characters, “dee yee lak dags?” and the response is one of confusion.

They finally realize the question was about dogs and we go from there. It’s an interesting little scene and one that I quote relatively often. That’s mainly because I have dogs, and I like them.

Been road-trippin’ lately, and covering some serious miles on some excellent interstate highways. I will love I-10 for life simply because of it’s 80mph speed limit.

My dags have come with me on this one, and it’s interesting how much more I like driving huge long distances when they’re in the car with me. I’ve spent my fair share of man hours alone in cars for days at a time – it’s not tons of fun. Something about having some beings along for the ride that makes the whole process kind of adventure-y and less ordeal-y.

Not sure why, but my dogs pretty much avoid going to the bathroom for however long we are in a car. If it’s 12 hours, they wait 12 hours. Also, they mostly sleep. There’s no puking, whining, window scratching, and they don’t feel the need to sit on my lap. They’re just THERE. It’s really nice.

They also play well with others. In our journey they’ve bunked with a cranky old Corgi, a sedate Golden Retriever, a wild and crazy Boxer, and two mutt puppies who match the energy level nicely. Not one issue, no injuries, fights, or even much growling. (The cranky Corgi does snuffle a bit when anyone gets too close but who can blame her? She’s old and her hips hurt.)

I sincerely doubt the cat would travel as well.