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The last 15 years of my life I not only stayed in the boat, I held on for dear life. I was taught, by those who were successful ( boss, business owners, teachers ) to stay in the boat.
Because I had a pretty bad childhood, I thoroughly believed we were all stuck on the rapids of life together and that the boat was the only safe place. I seen, as a kid, what happened to people who decided to leave the boat. My father became a crack addict after my mother passed away, and at one point him and I lived under a bridge in a tent. I witnessed murder, poverty, and a few other unspeakable things happen.
I seen others living a decent life who had stayed in the boat, and had no desire to get back out if given another chance to get back in.
School was useless in teaching you the real path to lifes success', and because my parents had passed at such a young age, they didn't teach it to me either. I observed others whom never got beaten to death in the rapids throughout my teen years, and it seemed the plan to success was pretty simple : find a job that sucks slightly less than minimum wage and stick with it. Work hard, bust ass every day and you won't get fired.
I shivered with fear every time I looked at people who had fell into the rapids, poor, broke. No vehicle. No fun in life. People who struggled just to eat at times, like I did as a kid living with my father. No rapids for me. Nope. I repeated the mantra of "If you simply work as hard as you can you won't have to go back." I was miserable, but I felt safe in the boat. Work hard for someone, they pay you. You pay your bills. Repeat until death. This became the cycle of life the past 15 years of my working career. Marriage and kids came during this period, and my drive to work harder, and help keep the boat afloat to help keep my wife and kids afloat grew. I became a slave to the boat.
I justified anything I needed to believe in order to stay in the boat. I defended that boat. Protected it. Showed others what happened to those who left the boat themselves, and used my childhood as a point of reference for people. Until one fateful day that I witnessed something so horrible that it made me realize just how bad I was screwing myself by staying in the boat. Someone who had left the safety of the boat a few years back, got dashed upon the rocks a few times in the rapids, and was pulled back into it when things got more rocky was making more than the faithful guy who stayed in the boat this whole time. I looked at the faces of those sitting near me. They could see my unease and slowly shook their heads to voice their disapproval of the unvoiced thoughts and opinions I harbored in my mind. "Stay in the boat" they said.
Despite them and their pleas to stay in the boat, in an act of desperation, I decided to jump out. I fashioned a makeshift raft from all the life vests I collected over the years ( was a hobby of mine ) and jumped with my family. We fell into the rapids. And yes, for a while. We was scared. We was miserable. We choked on the water. Our arms and legs burned from swimming to keep afloat. Our legs slammed against the rocks and bruised. We almost drowned.
Then something amazing happened. We grappled for the shoreline and found others that helped pull my family out of the terrible current. These were those that had previously left the boat and somehow made it to shore. Some jumped when the water was calmer, while some fought the same waves as myself and made it. I could never see them from the boat, because of the thick fog surrounding it. I always thought that those that went into the rapids, the ones who didn't get back into the boat, were lost forever, like my father and so many other people I knew who had jumped in and drowned. But people had made it to shore. Others had done the same thing we done. And they were eagerly helping those who they could find in the water to shore.
I rose to me feet, feeling something I had never experienced in my life. Sturdy ground. I looked beyond the canyon walls and saw that this ground went on for as far as the eye could see. A whole world of possibilities. But I had been fixated on the rapids for so long, I never knew it existed.
I glanced back as the once safe boat continued its tumultuous trip down the unforgiving river. It seemed such a small place to spend one's life. I turned and looked back at the world, taking my first step into it. I firmly grasped my wife & children's hands, walking into the sunset of firm, sturdy ground.
I feel sorry for those still stuck in the boat.