Dear Karen, Layne, Pat, Tracy, Jeff, Tori, Tom, Devan, Sami,

[And here I am, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, WTF, days after starting this. Keyboard died. Can’t type words without a keyboard. Washer won’t wash, tractor leaking fuel, windstorm blew everything off the front porch, lock on gate has sand in it & won’t open, both toilet valves are sticking, my computer shut down and lost a day’s worth of this epistle, trash is out of control – hauled half to dump; …everything’s normal… Not. Really. -New keyboard delivered this morning. Started writing, 2 hours in I hit save and poof…everything disappears again. – Ran out of big-girl-panties. Had to stop and try again to fix the washer…I did it; yes I did; WooHoo. Panties for mememe!!! I love it when something goes right.]

Where do I begin? I haven’t stayed in touch with anybody and it’s not because I’m wasting time –  there’s just not enough of it. I could start with apologies to all of you but that’s too easy and self indulgent.

Self flagellation hurts.

Hallmark doesn’t make a card that says

Another problem is the kink in my cranium that demands total fairness. If I miss more than one call or text from family, I won’t return the call or text until I have time to reply to all that I missed. It’s that fairness thing that makes me so rude.

Seriously, I’ve interacted with thoughts of each of you on a daily basis. Unpacking these boxes brings back a flood of memories, and, because we all know I’m crazy, I go ahead and have conversations with you in my head. Now I’m gonna try to share some of those crazy woman thoughts.

I used to dream about this place. I had a Little Golden Book when I was 4 or 5 and it told the story of two kids who went to visit their Grandparents ranch. While they were there, they rode their ponies everyday through desert and mountains. There was one picture of them riding down the lane toward the mountains and it looked exactly like this view from 12 Hooper Ln.  

That book and my imagination conjured up a perfect world of long rides and horses tied to the hitchin’ rail. Flicka, Fury, CoCo, Champion, Trigger. They weren’t just old mop handles and bridles made of bits of rope. They were real. They reared, they bucked, they ran like the wind and they always got me where I was going – fast – faster than I could ever walk or run. Once, when Daddy drove up on the tractor as I was riding across the cow lot, he asked if I wanted to go with him to check the cows. Of course I did, but what about my horse? I don’t remember, but I’m sure he must have rolled his eyes as he suggested that I tie it to the back of the tractor. Well, that was a great idea – until he put the tractor in reverse and broke my horse in half. I cried and cried. Daddy didn’t understand but he went along with it and dug a little trench so that I could give my horse – both pieces of him – a proper burial. They were real.

When I saw the view from this place, I didn’t see the worn out properties around here or notice the grit on my skin or the dilapidated condition of the house and barns. There was no planning for the physical effort that was going to be needed or how fast prices were rising for labor and materials. This place was part of my dreams and I thought they had come true. That’s where my fantasy started and 12 Hooper Lane is where I got a cold dose of reality. I mean, I fell in love with a gate and horse pens and a mountain. TV, mice, internet, trash, water, dust, wind, snakes – not on my radar until the papers were signed and I was in charge.

I’m such an idiot. I made this decision, it’s all on me, I deserve the rotten fruit of my labor. I shouldn’t whine but it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I rave about amazing sunsets and sunrises and bitch to hell about slow internet. Mother Nature blew dozens and dozens of boxes across acres and acres and that really didn’t help . – It was kind of entertaining though. How many cuss words are in an acre? – There’s no such thing as “same old thing” or “day to day” here. Every day is different and subject to change or surprise. Laugh/cry, Happy/sad, Fun/agonizing, Entertaining/boring. All of those things, on the same day, in Schizophrenic, New Mexico, a safe place away from Texas and ignorant fucknuts. Surprise! I’m such an idiot again. I chose to live in Otero County where 2/3s of the Board of Electors went to jail because they refused to certify the election for Biden. I’m in the reddest maga county in the state but I love these people. They’re kind and considerate and open and sharing. I wish I could form real friendships with them but, unfortunately, they’ve got some crazy beliefs underneath that basic goodness.

Now, let’s talk trash removal. There isn’t any. I chase it down, break it down, load it and haul it to the dump, 5 miles away. End of story.

Cable TV. There isn’t any. I run a wired antenna from the middle of the room to a window to watch local news in Albuquerque. Streaming is subject to black holes, sun storms and Elon’s temper tantrums.

The only internet available was HughesNet satellite. I used 150 gigs/mo, paid for 100, got throttled and couldn’t stream TV for 1/3 of the month. I was going crazy connecting/disconnecting computer, security, TV, and still couldn’t upload pictures – for $200/mo. I spent hours on the phone begging providers to please, bring me some decent internet. Somewhere along the line I found out that Starlink satellite was now available here. $80 less per month and it couldn’t be any worse than what I already had. It was so exciting when the satellite came in the mail. I installed it and it was like going from a tricycle to a Ferrari.

12 Hooper Tech Tower and to the left a mobile Toyota Ladder.

I hate mice and they hate me. Ethel hates mice too and she’ll patiently watch a box for hours if she thinks there’s a mouse in it. I took the fight to the little bastards with a case of Fix a Crack foam and filled every hole and cranny. I thought the war was won when they were foamed out of the house but, no, they had more surprises for me. Like shredded Kleenex and mouse droppings in the cup-holder of the truck. I could see the headlines; “Elderly Woman Driving 60 MPH Killed By Mouse”. To prevent the tragedy, I ordered live traps from Amazon. Stupid mice – busted by the lure of a dog treat. However, the war moved to the laundry house. There was a sock left in the washer and, as I reached in to pull it out, I stopped. The sock was moving around the drum like a ball on a roulette wheel. I pulled my glasses off the top of my head to verify that, yes, it was a mouse. I had a trap that fit inside the washer and in short order another mouse was on its way to the south forty. This incident could have been the worst disaster ever (except for the “elderly woman killed by mouse”). What if the mouse had been stationary and I grabbed him? Or, possibly worse, I just threw the clothes in without looking. At the end of the cycle I’d toss the clean clothes and clean mouse into the dryer. Gawd almighty, that would stink worse than rotting fish in a pile of dog shit.

This place has left me in awe and in depression, usually at separate times, but, sometimes together. What have I done? is often the last thought of the day. The emotional ups and downs and the physical pain and challenges have been pretty heavy. I don’t like to lose!!! and admitting defeat was mostly not an option.

Now, I’m a little more focused. Eventually, I’ll have to sell this place and it won’t be because I’m a winner or loser. It will be because there are some things that 5 year old kids and 72 year old women just can’t do. Little Golden Book fantasies and Golden Years memories have something in common; converting dreams to realities are pretty unlikely at either stage. 

Hiring people to fix what I can’t, has been a mixed experience. Hiring from the trades has been great. Plumbers, electricians, well and septic – they all charged reasonable fees. Expensive but they did a good job and I paid about the same as I did in Texas over a year ago. Then there are the “handymen”, “carpenters”, and “drywall” professionals. They aren’t, weren’t and never will be professionals. They mostly lost jobs during the pandemic and reinvented themselves. They did some work on their own house, they laid some tile for Grandma or they were apprentice carpenters when they got out of high school. My most recent handyman was a car salesman before the pandemic. I would have run him off if he hadn’t had a skilled helper who actually did all the work. The final bill was a surprise. After I stood my ground we came to an agreement that I wouldn’t pay the extra $2000. All of the unskilled handymen have gone crazy with their bids. A 5-10 day job will bid out at $8-12,000 for a 2 man crew and I furnish materials. It’s insane. I’m at a standstill because I don’t want to put more into this place if costs are going to exceed value. I’ll do what I can do but I’m slow and it’s hot right now.

So this is basically why I haven’t stayed in touch. There’s so much to do and it takes me so long to do it and I always hurt at the end of the day. Occasionally, when I see how far behind I am on my To Do list, I go the opposite way and do nothing because I’m so depressed and frustrated. Depression is possibly just an excuse to take a day off but, I pull up my big girl panties and get back in gear.

I actually love this ugly, old place. We have so much in common. Our end goal has always been to fix the infrastructure and put some lipstick on the pig. Adding a guest house and inviting everybody out to enjoy the awesomeness is what I pictured. And, maybe a horse & human B&B. Maybe an artist’s retreat. Maybe an animal sanctuary or maybe split a couple of acres off and add a small house and sell that section. Endless possibilities and ways to make it less of a burden for the kids after I’m gone and a place to gather before I’m gone. But here I am, in the ugliest, dirtiest, least inviting, most unfinished place on earth. On the plus side, I’ve gotten a lot done; it has a new septic system, the deep well maintenance is done, new filter systems make the water cleaner and better tasting than town water, the piles and piles of trash have been hauled off, the laundry house, floors, electrical, and plumbing are much better than they were and there’s no longer the fear of the ceiling falling down. The mice (hundreds of mice) are pretty much gone and the new ductless air conditioners are fabulous.

I’ve had a contractor run off in the middle of what he was hired to do, without paying his workers. He told the workers I wouldn’t pay him (as he was using my money to buy materials for other jobs) and the workers left me friendly threats in the form of spent shell casings and drive-by reminders. Security cameras moved to the top of the to-do list.

All of my belongings were scheduled to arrive a week after the contractor guy disappeared. Thanks to Ray and Colton flying in, we managed to half-ass texture and paint the walls, patch holes and clean up just enough to bring furniture and boxes in. Still had electric wires hanging down from the ceiling, dirty water coming out of the taps, and old appliances – none of which mattered – because boxes and furniture filled the house from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Unpacking was a long-term logistical nightmare and I still have boxes and doodads piled in corners. None of the outbuildings are secure and won’t protect anything of importance. Things will improve when I get dirt work done and new gravel down. I’ll be able to bring in a pre-fab storage building for overflow.

Monsoon Season is a real thing here. I thought it was just descriptive terminology but it’s actually an official, measured season. Neighbor Alice gave me all kinds of ominous warnings and I thought she was just old lady rambling (she’s my age). Season runs June thru September, but this year hasn’t been real monsoon-y. We’ve had 2 very welcome rain events. Yesterday was one of them. We haven’t been real hot but the wind from the Pacific and Mexico has been constant and everything was dry. Dry, and lightening almost every evening, we’ve had a lot of wildfires in the mountains. I haven’t used the shredder in a couple of months because of sparks if I hit a stump or rock.


Tularosa Basin is a term that I probably should have researched. Having driven by the Tularosa Basin Museum in Alamogordo, I laughed to myself that maybe they should have put it in Tularosa. That was all the research I did. — I am a dumbass.

The Tularosa Basin is incorrectly named. It should be called the New Mexico Up Your Butt Wind Tunnel.  200+ miles of wind, straight from the Pacific and Chihuahuan Desert. I’m at the midway point and that seems to be where it likes to dump all of its accumulated dust. Constant, never-ending, pink dust. 5 big air cleaners, robot vacuum cleaner, giant dusting mitts, a case of Endust and the dust is always here.  All of you sweet, everything-sparkling-clean, midwesterners, will meet your match here. You’ll have a breakdown. THE DUST ALWAYS WINS. I’m beginning to turn pink. No joke. Caucasian people here aren’t white; they’re pinkish.

This is a hard-living place that doesn’t hide its bare dirt, the ever blowing pink dust or wicked thorns that seem to be on every plant. Why should it? Not too long ago, people tried to defeat it by pumping massive amounts of water on crops that weren’t indigenous.  I’ve been told that the area was pretty with green alfalfa in the fields and orchards of pecans and pistachios. Then the time came when there just wasn’t enough water to go around. Hay fields turned into bare dirt then gave way to mesquite and creosote brush. There are still a lot of nut orchards but the state just released a study that highlights the cost-benefit value of growing nuts. Water is more valuable to the state than what they get from pecan and pistachio production. The demise of orchards will turn more of the land into brush and dirt. BLM land is right across the road from me and extends all the way to the Mescalero reservation border. Mother Nature and the government are constantly creating change here. It’s fascinating.

This area is hard and ugly and dirty and if that’s all it had to offer, I’d have been gone months ago. But there have been enough amazing moments to at least keep me on the fence. When a hummingbird tried to get nectar out of the flowers on the shirt I was wearing, it was a Nat Geo moment. Then there was the dust devil that created an upside down tornado and left a rainbow in its wake. I was so excited, my hands were shaking and nobody to share it with. We have a lot of Blue Scaled and Gambel quail and they hatched out dozens of chicks. Funny little chicks skittering along behind Mom, getting distracted, getting lost and found and some even getting eaten. There’s a group of 3 hawks, always searching for food, often finding mice and lizards and birds but also getting their butts chased off by a regiment of noisy little birds. 

That quick intake of breath, brought on by the incredible sunrise and sunsets, is actually good for old people. Dust storms that turn day into night are exciting but I don’t run out to take pictures of them anymore. I’ve seen a lot of amazing things but the most amazing, and # 1 bucket list item, was seeing 2 herds of wild horses in the mountains on the Mescalero Reservation.  WOW  Maybe Golden dreams can become Golden moments. No pictures of the horses because it happened so fast and I was driving. But they were really real.

If this place overwhelms me sooner, rather than later, it’ll be OK. I thought it would all be about accomplishing something on my own, being me and not just half of us. But it wasn’t. It’s been about space and silence; about settling up, figuring things out and about letting go of the sadness and regrets.

Todd’s been here several times. We don’t talk or anything like that. We just hear each other.

A couple of months ago I found a document in a blue binder, on my red chair, with a white toothpick on top of the binder. It was a document that I didn’t even know existed. It wasn’t there when I went to bed; it was there when I got up;  a document that my Dad wrote to the VA about his war experience – a record that I had wished existed, because I needed to disprove some statements in the WW2 oral history project. Neither Melody or Candy had ever seen this document. Other than me, no one had been in this house for 4 weeks. I don’t use toothpicks, especially Todd’s toothpicks that are in a cabinet with Todd’s coffee stuff.  

Ray and Melinda came up for a few days. They stayed in Ruidoso because I only had 1 bed and bath that were useable. Candy and Melody were here in June. The first week, I was sick with bronchitis and allergies but that didn’t stop us. We did it all. From White Sands sledding to eating pistachio ice cream every time we passed McGinn’s Pistachio Farm. Their visit gave me the chance to play tourist and find out more about the area.

The girls are enjoying the new place. Their pen is pure dirt and they love it. I don’t. Ethel’s a hard worker but she does enjoy her TV. Lucy? Well, let’s just say she’s a good observer.

I may not have a guest house ready for you and this house may not be fixed up enough but I’d be honored to get rooms for everybody who wants to come for a visit. Inn of the Mountain Gods is beautiful and Ruidosa has lots to offer. The Apaches have tribal ceremonies and a 4 day rodeo on July 4th. September has a balloon festival at White Sands. Spencer Theater is on top of a mountain in Alto. Tularosa is Spanish Colonial with the original, operating viaduct. Come see me and we’ll do something.

This maundering missive has to end. All of this crap about me is just borderline narcissism and stupid stuff that bores all of us. I want everybody to know that I still want to be part of your family. I’ve seen other families slip away from each other after their connecting person dies and I don’t want that to happen. I’ll try harder to stay in touch (quit screaming; I promise never to write this kind of BS again.). I quit doing Facebook because it was consuming too much time. I’ll start checking it for your updates (do y’all still use it?) but I won’t post anything on it. I usually don’t work outside on Sundays so that’s a good day if you want to catch up. If you take a pic of something, Share; No Text needed. I love visuals. Just like I love and miss each of you.