Monday, March 28, 2011

The Trial Weekend!

Austen is back!!!

For a day or two...(maybe three). This past weekend Austen left for a weekend trial of his month of survival and solitude.

We had agreed that at the end of the weekend he had three options.
1)Stay on until the end of April.
2) Come home.
3) Figure out what he does and doesn't need and re-prepare (catch his breath) for a day or two at home, before returning until the end of April.

Austen has chosen option 3. I asked him if he was sure ..he gave some specific reasons but most important know..I'm a little hungry. Actually...I'm starving!

But he remembered his manners. Austen and his friend Mason (whose ranch this is) took us on a to what is now being referred to as Austen's house. 

 We discover that starving  was not really the concern. But wild-hogs? They were a concern.

 If you look closely at the door, you will notice that it's just propped up. Not wild-animal proof.

So tomorrow, Austen and Mason are fixing the door so it actually know..just in case a hog wants in.

Cody and his girlfriend Ellie come with me to pick up that Austen kid. Mason and Austen show us the lake (now puddle) where Austen caught a bass. They offer us rabbit jerkey that they smoked over the weekend..after they ate a rabbit. And yes..that is a THEY. Because apparently solitude does not include Mason. Mason is Austen's life-line. Mason sleeps with his walkie-talkies next to his bed. (In case Austen needs him) Austen checks in with him twice a day to let him know he is alive. And? Austen and Mason splurged on roasted rabbit and a late night conversation together, before Austen's return to solitude.

The rest of us? not allowed.

Austen quickly adapts to civilisation. He requests tacos on the drive home. Oh chimi-changa, 1 bean and cheese taco and 2 beef fajitas. He wasn't kidding! He was hungry. Apparently one fish and a rabbit are not sufficient for 3 days in the woods. Hmm...Austen announces he is bringing a tomato plant with him when he returns.

We listen to Flogging Molly and Teddy Bears in the car. Then Austen takes off to hang with some friends..because really..he is a pretty darn social kid.

Today Austen is thoroughly enjoying the luxuries of the modern world..tomorrow, back to the ranch to repair a door. Austen feels he is now better prepared.

So in a few days?

The adventure really begins...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bandito Update

Yesterday, at Grandma's request, Grandpa managed to get a photo of all the Banditos!  Thought it would be a good time to give a quick ( bullet-point) update on each.

Bandito numero uno aka Brian-Scott or Brian the Lion (first on left..with the sunglasses on his head!):

  The kiddo is about to graduate!! This May Brian-Scott graduates from UT Austin with a BA in E.E. 

   Plans? Find a job/internship for summer..return to UTAustin for graduate school. He is staying in the same apartment and everything;)

  For now Brian continues work with his senior design team on a really awesome project. But the stress-level for the team has been off-the-charts!

Spring Break came at a good time.

Bandito numero dos aka Cody, Odio or Colt. (second from left holding/ throwing(?) numero cinco)

   The kiddo is about to graduate! This May Cody's life as a homeschooler will be officially over. 

There is a rumor we will have some-sort of homeschool graduation something or other. I really need to get with the other parents and work out logistics! 

Also? Cody is about to have his 18th birthday! (gasp). Once again, we have no plans at this point. It has been very difficult to get any feedback from Odio on what he would like to do. Cody has never been big on celebrating birthdays.

Odio plans to work..somewhere..this summer and start at Schreiner University in the Fall to study information systems. 

For now Cody continues to review some pre-cal, read some British Lit and is applying for numerous scholarships. Because while between federal aid, merit scholarship, work-study and parents he has covered tuition, books and room. Odio still must figure out a way to pay for his meal card (which is required for Freshmen). Odio is trying to avoid taking out a loan. But that is a back-up.After all, the kids gotta eat!

Bandito  numero tres aka Austen or Austen Poston from Boston. No..he's never been to Boston..just has a mother who creates ridiculous rhymes. (second from right..the dreaded boy)

   The kiddo is NOT about to graduate!  Austen is, however, about to spend a month living off the land ..almost..he has a 1/2 built cabin from the 1800's to sleep in. Austen leaves in two weeks for his month of solitude and survival at a friend's ranch. Originally we had planned for Austen to do this in May..but see graduations above. Hence..the bump to April. Besides Austen, too, will be looking for a summer job. So actually being available to work in the summer would be helpful in the job-hunting department. Also? Austen needs to spend May getting himself logistically in gear to attend St. Phillip's Culinary Arts program (dual-credit) in the Fall.

But back to Austen's month of silence and survivial. He will check in with our friends (walkie talkies!) twice a day so we know he is okay. 

My little Thoreau  (or Mountain Man? Grizzly Adams?) is spending a trial weekend this weekend. Please hold him in your thoughts/ prayers, etc. over this next month. It is something he feels he really needs to do. I take a deep breathe and trust that he will be okay. Austen has been planning this for over a year. He will be armed with his bow and arrows (which he has been practicing daily for quite some time now) and a 22 for small game and predators. (think..lions, and tigers and bears! Okay. Okay..maybe just mountain lions and wild hogs..We are hoping the noise will scare them off!)..and yes..a few other things..including his first aid kit.

Bandito numero quatro aka Calvin or Calvin Alvin..because his Aunt happens to be  Austen's horrible name rhyming mother. (pictured 1st on right)

Calvin just came back from a mini staycation downtown S.A. He had a blast! Now he is finishing up his sophomore year in high-school. Calvin has applied for a culinary arts program at the local high-school Now he waits to see what happens. If he doesn't get in, he has several electives in mind for a back-up.

Finally we come to Bandito numero cinco aka Levi, Bug, Bug-a-lug...same Aunt as Calvin... and Wilson.

Levi has learned to respond to all the names above. For 10 months? I find that pretty-darn impressive. More exciting,  Levi just had his baptism this past Sunday. Below Bug is pictured with Pastor Sandra after the service.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why I Go To Prison..(and a little rambling about the human condition)

It is almost noon on a Saturday afternoon. Big B and the boys are working in the back yard trying to set up a pool.  Bug is with my sister. I am dressed in my jeans, long-sleeve shirt and flip-flops. I am spending the day catching up on laundry and study.

3 books to read, a couple papers to write and I am set for my parish ministry training class next weekend. (sigh) I am SO not an academician. More a hit the ground running kind-of person. But I have grown up in academia..I know how to play the game..and I do love learning. Just not formal study, per-se.

I think this need to meet people where they are at is what has drawn me to ministry. To partner with people.

I think my friend Don said it best.

Don is a fellow PMTP student and serves at an asst. minister in small-town Tx. Don and I met shortly after a week in which he had served in three funerals and was preparing for one more. Two of these were involving children. In other had been a heart breaking week.

But Don? He just looked at me and said You know Nicole, I went into ministry because I wanted to be noble. What I have found is that instead, I spend most of my time just showing up. Holding hands. Praying...and crying.(pause)I do an awful lot of crying. Then he looked at me straight in the eyes and said..But I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I hope to be like Don.

But I am getting distracted... The point is, tomorrow I return to prison!

For the past year I have been slowly increasing my involvement as a volunteer through the chaplaincy program at a local medium-security men's prison. At first I went for a Kairos weekend...just to help from outside and one afternoon inside to attend a closing ceremony. Then..well...once you see a need....

Now? I'm hooked! I love to go to prison. Why? Because it keeps me grounded. It reminds me what it's all about.It is a place that moves me to listen, to laugh, to listen, to pray, to listen, to cry and to listen for that still small voice.

So I continue to study..and plug through various theology because the guys on the inside? Keep me motivated.

I have been doing some soul searching to see why I am drawn to this environment. I realize that it is because prison is a small microcosm of the human condition in general.Just easier to identify.

I see men, who do not know how to trust. I see men who view those around them as predators, learn to trust. And as they learn to trust, they learn to respond instead of react. I see these men slowly reach out to those they most fear. I see these men reach beyond limitations that are impossible to imagine. And this transformation I see..then transforms me. These men minister to me.

These men force me to look at my own biases, privileges, stereo-types. They help me embrace the goodness in humanity in the midst of total chaos. They help me realize that many of the conflicts and divisions in the free world are simply ripples of the same fears they face on the inside.

For instance..just this past week. On the first day of Lent actually. I found myself getting very defensive. I didn't start out that way...

Lent has always been a special time for me. I enjoy it because it is a time of reflecting on what it means to sacrifice for others. A time to remember what Christianity is all about. I often give up something for remember that I am imperfect. (I have this delusion, at times, that I am). To pull myself out of my comfort zone. (I.E..I am cutting out coffee for lent..) to remember to not get in a rut. To take risks. Mostly? To know that I can take risks because I can trust. Because just like my brothers- in -white, I too, must remember to trust. And sometimes? Trust is a hard thing.

And the giving up of coffee? Is an outward act, to remind me of the inward stuff that I want to work on.

Now, that said. I know Lent is not for everyone.

I have a son who is agnostic, a son who is atheist. I have many dear friends and family members  of other faiths or non-belief.  But Lent is special to me..but when I click on my facebook.

My, oh my..the lent-bashing is rampant!..and I start to get defensive. I know that those who are lent- bashing are reacting out of their own defenses.They are not intending to bash..but rather having fun with what appears down-right silly. Some of this is done out of their own hurts from those in the religious communities. I remind's not personal.  I turn off the computer.

Later that same day, I uhmm..turn the computer back on. I see a post on same-sex unions

 I am glad to see some support for those in same-sex relationships But as I scroll down, as often happens..organized religion..or people of faith are blamed for the lack of civil rights for same-sex partners. I think of all my friends and family of faith..who have worked hard to fight for civil rights for ALL people. I think of my many homosexual friends who are strong in their faith of choice...And I react (not respond), publicly..on facebook.

Later,  privately in a message to a dear friend..I try to shift the blame of this lack of civil rights to a certain political party..and then I realize what I have done. I have let myself get defensive and react...and in turn attack another group.

I have let myself get caught in that human tendency of reacting and finger-pointing when I am defensive or feel life is not fair.(Which it still is not, for my friends in same-sex relationships).

But the truth one is exempt. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Wiccan, Atheist, Agnostic..the list goes on. No one is exempt from biases and prejudices. No matter how hard we try. It is part of the human condition to try to put people in groups..or stereo-types in order to understand things.This is not an excuse for ignorance. It does not mean we don't look at our own biases and work hard to move beyond them. As my dear friend, Heran, once said Ignorance can only be excused so far.

But it is also the human condition to forgive, to reach out, to move on and to truly celebrate each other in all our uniqueness.

So this is what I am reminded of in prison. We all screw up. We all make mistakes..and life is not fair. But you make the best of it, and you enjoy your fellow humans anyway.

For this point in time, the State of all their wisdom, are proposing ridiculous budget cuts to the Texas Criminal Justice Systems. Off the top of my head..I can tell you that proposals are running to cut breakfasts, chaplaincy, re-entry programs..and to increase the number of early-releases of Tx. offenders to make room for offenders from Arkansas. It is pure craziness.

But my brothers in white? They take it in stride. They are not happy about all of these changes. They are worried. They are scared. Yet they encourage each other..individually and as a group, to not play the victim. To keep their lives appreciate and enjoy those around them, despite the fact that life is not fair.

And as I watch them in action I am, once again, humbled.

So apologies to my friends I have offended or made uncomfortable this past week. I am working on my reactions..I am learning to respond. And I truly care for each of you.

But now I am off. Because the goodness in humanity is coming disguised as a few families in cars. These families are showing up to help Big B and the boys with their "pool party". (I.E....lots of digging). One family brings some cantaloupe and oranges.. and one nice guy brought me a trombone!!!!

Ha ha! Now I can celebrate humanity New Orleans Style!

uhmm...after I write my I can be like Don.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Learners Permits and Mushroom Houses

Austen is driving!

Yep. He has been seizure free long enough to get his learners permit. He even waited an extra 6 know..just in case..

Am I scared?


But I am also pleased for him. This is a fairly standard right of passage (so to speak) for many teens. A right of passage we never imagined possible for Austen.

Since he was 9, Austen has assumed he would never drive. When his brothers got their permits and licenses we would look at Austen and say..Oh know. And he would sigh and say..Yeah..I know..I can't drive. It's okay..I'll ride a horse. (or plane, bicycle, gyrocopter, etc. insert alternative options here)

His brothers and friends would always pitch in with

Aww..don't sweat it. We gotcha covered man. We'll take you wherever you need to go.

 When he was flying planes with Civil Air Patrol, Austen would contemplate how to design a car that could also have a co-pilot. After all, if you can fly with a co-pilot..couldn't you drive? But mostly? He just spent his energies and dreams in other directions.

Austen's seizures began to subside. Against all odds. And once we learned to control his brain swelling with diet? Well, then the dreaming of driving became more frequent. Austen cracked open the drivers ed.handbook.

Oh Austen..I would begin.  

Just in case Mom..just in case. I know it probably won't happen.

So here we are. Trying the unthinkable. Taking it one day at a time. I take a deep breath..and enjoy this sense of normalcy he has..even if it is just for a little while..My boy is armed with a learners permit..and boy is he using it!

Are you going to the store? I'll take you. 

How about the post-office? I'll take you. 

And he grins from ear to ear as he chauffeurs me around town.

But more exciting than the permit? Is his new /used car.

A blue,very blue on the inside, Mercedes. Who knows? Austen and Big B might even get it running by the time he gets his license. They spend several evenings a week on repairs.

But Austen is not the only one around here with new transportation. Bug has found a horse! Yet another of the new/used rocking horse variety. (also in need of repair) But really..who cares?!

Bug spends most mornings riding his horse in  our secret garden. Yup we are creating a secret garden

It's so secret, that I have posted it on facebook, and now I am blogging. Pssht. so much for secrecy around here! Actually, we needed a space on the back deck that was a tad more baby/toddler proof than what we have now. Hence the garden on the deck!

The older boys put up netting and a picket fence around the deck to keep Bug from falling off. Bug and I plant tomatoes, peppers, basil and mint in containers. Bug discovered the joys of mud! Wow..what a mess! Unfortunately, the garden is secret enough the plants haven't figure out they are supposed to grow yet.

But we're sure trying!

But no garden is complete without know..a mushroom house.  Cody and Austen put together a mushroom playhouse. It was quite a fiasco, let me tell you.

 Meanwhile, Bug spies from the bookshelf as the boys build his mushroom house. In Bug's behalf.. he did try to help. The older boys, however, banished him from helping until they were almost complete.

Austen assures him that this house is for him. Check it out, dude. This is  going to be like having your own room. You're pretty lucky. I mean, really, this mushroom is almost as awesome as the tree-house!

Finally the house is placed in the secret garden.

And so life goes in the Texas Hills. We are having entirely too much fun!