Monday, December 12, 2016

Changing the Face of Our House on Chicon Street

Over the last few weeks, we've been making some changes to the house as we've finally gotten all of the stuff out of our previous home.

One of the changes on deck is utilizing some vintage, etched glass doors rescued from a bank. We bought these almost 20 years ago and they were simply too large for us to do anything with! They sat in our garage since they were brought home.

Matt's prepping the left column for concrete
On Chicon, we have an open porch and my wife loves it out there. It's where many days have been planned and plots have been hatched and since it's been getting colder and we've gotten some rain, it's pretty obvious that we need to do something to make it more livable. We don't want to enclose the porch, or modify the house, so we had to keep all of that in mind as we started.

The doors, when placed side by side, just happen to be the same width as the porch... so they are going to be used to dress the front porch! I don't want to give away the ending of the story, but, wait... maybe I just did.

The Preparation

We wanted to be sure that they are level at the top, so the base had to be set up to allow for that. The side doors are shorter than the door, so they need to have a small support added for them under each.

But before that could be done... we had to lay out a solid base for each of those frames to be set upon. 

Mixing that awesome 'crete

Three posts and a lot of leveling

Full frontal

Left Side Window

Time for the first side window. Getting its frame laid out at the bottom was first, and then the door had to be lifted upon it, and then framed in as well. Crazy!

All the framing wood

She's in place!

Eyeing up the center door framing

The Center Door

Time to get the center door in place. Got to keep the whole picture in mind while it's getting framed. Plus that thing is heavy.

She's there!

A closer look 

Closer still!

A view from the inside

Right Side Window

After much planning and measuring, we put up the frame so that it missed the beam that is holding the awning over the front. It's just a perfect fit. It required a little re-jiggering of the center door's placement to keep it all centered, but we didn't have to change anything about how it's connected to the house. It will be 100% free-standing when completed. For now, there's a few beams making sure a hurricane doesn't blow it over.

Framing out the last side window

The Trinity!

What's Next?

We're still planning the next stage. The idea is that we're going to add "siding" to it so it looks similar to the front of the house. More updates as we move forward!

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Brief Stay at Standing Rock: It's Not Over. Why Did I Leave?

Yesterday, I was at Standing Rock when the easement was denied. I had only arrived at 1:30am the previous night, and it kills me to say that I headed out after I was certain that the easement denial was real news and not just hearsay. Let me explain...

Personal Background

Some background for those of you that don't know me. I believe in the goodness of man and mankind. It hurts when I see things out of order. Standing Rock is a microcosm of what's wrong with the way we're treating the Earth and I wanted to go there and make a difference. I asked my family if they could handle my being gone for a few days and after some preparation for me to be gone, it was done.

In the matter of two days, I collected some donations and bought all the gear I thought I'd need (with extras for others there, of course), and headed out for North Dakota. Along the way, I picked up things that weren't for sale in Austin because, well, it's summer there about 9-11 months of the year. :)

(I convoyed with a friend, but they would rather not be part of my online travails, so I'm pre-redacting any discussion about that. I'm going to make all pronouns singular to hold to my word). 

The Trip from Austin, Texas (Friday, December 3 and Saturday, December 4, 2016)

Leaving in the late afternoon, it was getting late and I'm totally against driving while exhausted, so I slept in my car ('99 Lexus SUV I'd just bought, with two wheel drive - yeah go ahead and laugh now) in north Texas. It was cold, but not freezing. It was a good way to see that I needed to seriously organize that vehicle if I was really going to be in it in the REAL cold. Woke up and drove all day, stopping only for gas and to buy the aforementioned additional supplies. I posted online that I was on the way and that I would be willing to buy more stuff for the camp, and I got some donations that helped fund more supplies. If my visit did nothing other than generate those donations, I was already happy.

I arrived just before midnight (according to the timestamp on the photo I took) and after driving around to find my contact, getting stuck on an icy hill, and generally feeling around in the dark as a complete noob to the camp, got the car parked and started settling in. I was approached by some people from the camp (there were certain areas that were designated for certain people / groups / tribes) and they wanted to know who I knew with their group. It was a weird situation but made perfect sense. They were concerned because they really didn't know if I was friend or foe.

Bedding down for the night was done after I got the interior a little more organized. It was cold but not insane, so I didn't need to go for the sub-zero style sleeping bag I'd been loaned for the trip.

{Note: there were no blockades, no fines for bringing in supplies, no police stopping anything at all.}

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Waking up, I found that there was plenty to do. I went to a public area near my group, and was happy to find that my offer to help was immediately accepted. After I'd worked in and around the mess hall all morning, I had the opportunity to walk the camp.

I was heading back to my car to finally get it organized for the next night (I heard it was supposed to get pretty bad with 40mph winds, etc. the next day), I stopped, again, to listen to an elder speak to a huge crowd. He was preceded by many people singing songs, telling stories and praying. Each speaker reminded everyone about why we were there and how important peace and love are to the effort. When it was the elder's turn, he gave everyone so much perspective about the fight. Told us that every treaty the United States had ever made with the natives had been broken. Told us of our need to be one with the land and how we are all one. After that talk, I realized that we are ALL doing it wrong. Finally he asked everyone to form the largest prayer circle possible around the perimeter of the camp. He then got on his horse and led a procession through the camp, where campers spread the word of the prayer circle and people started holding hands as he rode by.

Still concerned about my car being sleep-ready for the evening, I headed back. I also was parked on the edge of the camp, so eventually the circle made it to me. As they were joining hands, I stepped out and took my place, with the car doors still open.

It took a while, but everyone came out from their tents and structures in the center of the camp and joined hands. I could see both ways and up a hill and everyone was linked at once. I've never seen anything like it.

When everyone that I could see was standing holding hands, a couple of people came around and heralded that the easement had been denied. Coincidence? Sure. But that was one of the most amazing moments I have ever experienced. If you haven't figured it out by now, this fight is nowhere near over. Stand strong Standing Rock!

It Can't Really Be Over, Can It?

It was at this point that I didn't know what to do. I headed over to the media area to get my head around it. Was it real? As I approached the area, I could hear people talking about it and turning it over and over while they all considered all the ways that they knew that this wasn't *really* over. After listening to a few interviews, it was certain. The easement was denied. And no one believed that the pipeline was dead. No one.

By the time I got back to the car, I'd started hearing about the weather that was coming in. Remember that everything is, essentially, a rumor, because there was no data, so what I heard was that there was a little snow coming with 40mph winds. And it was going to get even colder. I felt I had to make a decision. Stay and get "snowed in," or leave and report my experience.

In short, I decided to leave. Once I managed to get online, I posted about it on Facebook. I wrote the majority of the below in response, before I decided to put it all in a blog post.

It's Not Over. Why Did I Leave? 

My friend, Dana Frank, asked me an EXCELLENT QUESTION about my choice to leave Standing Rock after the Army Corps denied the DAPL easement: "Why did you leave? It's not really over up there." Exactly. Why did I make that decision? I'll share my thoughts. Feel free to help me pick these apart, but first realize that I'm just a human and I'm not perfect. Dana knows that, but with the very real concern that there are people treating this like their personal Woodstock and not as a movement, it's worth it to explore my decision further.

My all-too-brief personal volunteer experience (explained in more detail above) was spending half of my day with a mess hall and moving construction materials around, staging them for new builds that were starting. The rest of the day, I attended a brief orientation, spoke to quite a few campers, listened to the elders speak and remind everyone why they were there, and walked the camp.

View from the media area
Could I have stayed? In all honesty, I would have ZERO problem staying and working as a volunteer for the rest of time, really. The whole camp was self-sustaining and I'm used to camping in shitty cold weather. I had the gear to make it work, but I have a family that I have to factor into these decisions.

When the "victory" was announced, I could tell that this was a big decision point for each and every person in the camp. For me, I had to consider staying through a big weather event which could strand me for the foreseeable future or should I leave my gear and my donated gear for those that are going to stay for the long haul? I chose the latter and I *do* feel conflicted about my decision, honestly. Here's my thinking...

Are These Reasons Or Excuses? You Decide.

The camp was gearing up for a huge meeting / celebration to allow everyone a chance to appreciate the victory and discuss the seriousness of what it's going to take to get to the next stage, which at this time is still up in the air. I had to make the decision to leave before they started that celebration, because I knew that if I stayed for it, I'd get snowed in and very likely be there longer than I'd originally planned.

Another view from the media area
Part of my decision to leave before that celebration / refocus was made because I didn't have the ability to stay more than a few days. There was some weather coming in that would very likely strand me there for longer than I could ask my family (disabled wife and kids that need my support in person) to deal with. Additionally, my (new used) vehicle just isn't rated for big time snow / ice. It can handle a bit, but when it's REAL, like it was going to become, it wouldn't be feasible to have left anytime soon.

Part of it was that I knew that the next battle is going to last until well after Trump gets into office.

Reporters getting data from official sources (pre-announcement)
Part of it was that I went to offer physical, spiritual, and "optic" (as in being another body for news to see and report) support as well as deliver donations and supplies. As short as my time there was, I was able to provide was a strong(ish) back and locate people that would most benefit from what I had brought, rather than throw those donations in a pile. There's nothing wrong with donating like that, but when you can look someone in the eye and know you're making a difference, it's far more tangible.

Part of it was that I wasn't able to report the reality of what was happening on the ground due to lack of internet access. The news reports get a LOT of stuff wrong. The only way to know that is to be there in person. I knew that there wouldn't be internet access, but I was hoping I'd be able to travel from the camp to the casino to get to some wifi to share the REALITY of what was happening on the ground. When it occurred to me that was not going to be feasible, I didn't think I would really be of a benefit to providing news. When I left (let's just say getting my car out of the camp was "interesting"), I pulled into the casino and wanted to give it a shot, but the parking lot was super icy and I realized that if I actually parked, I'd never leave.

If anything comes of my stay at the camp, I hope that my reporting of what I had seen and the donations I left with those brave souls makes a tiny difference. I'm a vessel and I know it. Ultimately I think I did all I could with the time I had and that my decision to leave was the best one I could make for my family, given the situation.


I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I'd regret not going in the first place if I had the chance. I know I would have. I'm so glad I got the opportunity. I don't think I'm going to regret having left at the time I did, but only time will tell.

It's not over and it will NEVER be over while the fossil fuel industry exists, and it certainly won't ever be over as long as there is money in politics. Ever.

Consider Helping The Cause

If you feel the need and have the ability, please contribute what you can to the movement. Water is life.


Some extra stuff that didn't really fit above

There was a camp rule to not take pictures of people's faces, so I went up to the media area and shot some panoramas. The first is before the announcement, near noon. The second is just after the announcement, where you can see people making their reports live. People were genuinely stunned.