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Sunday, October 21, 2012

We Needed You to Know

Dearest family and friends,

I promise this is the only time I will ever write you a letter like this. In fact, I am only brave enough to share these thoughts with you because I know you care. I know you care about both of us - my beloved Melinda and me. The mutual respect we share has provided the courage needed to share these words with you.

To begin, I am not asking anything from you. If your understanding and support is offered it will be a blessing I could never have asked for. For true understanding is a gift. In this case it would carry a significance and meaning that is life-changing.

We live in a country where freedom and individual rights are not like privileges which can be given or taken away.  They are written into our Constitution and the laws which govern us. Generation after generation of brave men and women have fought to protect these rights and freedoms including both of my grandfathers. We honor them every time we exercise the rights we have as US citizens, and each time we protect the individual rights and freedoms of our people.

Although our country hasn’t always gotten it right byway of civil rights and liberties I believe that we strive to. New generations come along and demand more equality for our people. Freedom and individual rights are what we stand. That is why this is a sacred land and a place I am so proud to be from.   

The thing is, today, right now, Melinda and I are still being denied our rights as US citizens. We are not full citizens under the law. We would never ask for special rights but we want the rights you already have. The legal right to marry is actually only one of hundreds of legal rights we are being denied because we love each other. We are tax paying citizens under the same laws as you just with different treatment of them. This is contrary to everything I know about our country.

Although a Presidential election is so much bigger than any one issue the bottom line is this election is about our civil rights; which makes all others issues a far second. Regardless of the collective choice for President, on November 7th, you will still have your rights. However one of the nominees for President has promised he will continue to deny us our rights.

Not only has he promised to choose a Attorney General who will spend millions of US tax dollars to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, he has promised to forge a campaign to Amend the Constitution of the United States to permanently deny Melinda and I the nearly 1,300 tax and legal rights that come with marriage and our ability to take care of each other. Our ability to take care of our children. Our rights to be treated fairly and equally under the law. What is more American than that?

I know the value of your vote. I respect your choice. It is solely yours. But, because you care about us, I felt compelled to share that if the next President believes Melinda and I should be denied our rights as US citizens than chances are so will the one or two Supreme Court Justices he selects. That makes this election about far more than four years. It makes it about the rest of our lives. It means this election will determine whether or not our children will ever get to see their parents have the rights of full US citizens.

I know voting for Romney may be a vote for many things you believe in. He may represent things you want for the next four years. I respect that. But a vote for Romney is also a vote against us and our rights. I wish this wasn’t his position but it is. And, we needed you to know.

With love,

Alexa Benson-Valavanis  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Blessing in Every Bite

The warm, sweet taste of a peach right off its branch. A simple, unmistakable reminder of the many blessings which grace our days. We are grateful. We are so grateful. Today's harvest at Just This Ranch.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Grape Harvest

This morning we found the sunlight trapped inside delicate and sweet, green and purple skin. With love from Just This Ranch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Just This Morning

 The sunflowers were welcoming the sunlight,

The "teenage" hens were hunting for worms in the grass,

The Sun-Tea was brewing,

Our first ear of corn was sprouting a cute hair-do,

And some of us, were just trying to wake up!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Old Fence...

I got a lot of crazy looks and people shook their heads at me and smiled, thinking I was going to save a stack of old fencing for years and Never Re-use it!


Here is what I have to say in response:

A potting Bench

 A Recycled Wine-barrel Table

(Inspiration from Pinterest)

Our Beloved "Barn Bar"

A stack of crates...
                  that have so many uses

 A large frame

And a bonus photo of AJ on the Barn Bar!  
No summary needed, but an Old Fence is quite a find!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Best Part of Waking Up...

When you live on a farm there are always little surprises. Though we knew our Chief Hen, Cheese, was warming eggs we were delighted to find our newest additions.

Aprille, Bringsmae, and Flowers

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

February 2012 | Why Marriage Equality STILL Matters

Two years ago I wrote an editorial on marriage equality.  When I wrote it I had not yet met the love of my life.  I had not yet met the future mother of my children or the one person on earth with whom I would share every joy and sorrow.  

Even so, even though I had yet to meet the person I would promise forever to - I knew I deserved that right.  Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II against tyranny, hatred and discrimination so I learned as a young child what our nation stood for. I never questioned whether or not I would be treated equally. I never questioned whether or not I deserved the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I certainly never wondered if I would be able to get married to the person I loved.  Of course I would.  For what is a life without love? And, what of love if you cannot promise "to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health..." 

Well, I am still an American and I still don't have the rights my grandfathers fought for. I’m not going to speak to the differences between domestic partnerships and marriage. If you believe separate is equal than my heart aches for the world you must see. But, if you believe that all American citizens deserve equal rights under the law than I ask you what I asked of you two years ago, please speak up.  Tell your friends. Tell your children. Tell your state and federal representatives. Speak out for equality. 

Two courts have ruled that to deny Melinda and I the right to marriage is unconstitutional. The fact that Melinda and I cannot get married and raise our children under that legal protection is not something I am willing to accept. It does not matter how long it takes the only end to the fight for civil rights is when everyone of our citizens has them. 

Two Years Ago...

February 2010 | Why Marriage Equality Matters

I know we have pressing matters to tend to. Our homeless need shelter, our sick need care, our schools need resources, and our children need to be left a world they can thrive in; a world with clean water and air, with art and innovation, with religious freedom and equality. In fact, these are the very objects of my affection and what I’ve dedicated my life’s work to insuring.

So, I understand busy. Each one of us is occupied in various and numerous ways. We have our “urgents” and our “importants” battling for every minute of our days. There is only so much we can get involved in. Perhaps, our gay friends and their fight for marriage equality will have to wait a bit longer for our attention? I say this and I am gay.

So, I can only imagine where this issue ranks in your to-do list. But, the truth is, marriage equality is no more a gay issue than slavery was a black issue. In 2010, hundreds of thousands of Americans are being treated as partial citizens. The very men and women we trust to fight our wars, protect our streets, teach our children and heal our sick can’t get married.

I can’t get married. I am an American citizen, living under the same constitution as you, abiding by the same tax laws as you, yet without the same rights as you. Doesn’t that matter?

Marriage matters. It matters in our society. It matters in our laws. It matters in our hearts. Equal rights and equality protection under the law - matters. For as long as we allow discrimination in our laws it will remain in our hearts.

I recently heard the story of a Missouri state trooper, Dennis Engelhard, who was killed on Christmas day. He was helping a motorist when a car driving past lost control, hitting and killing the 49-year old trooper.

Dennis was gay. He had committed his life to his partner of fifteen years. After his tragic death, the state denied the normal pension benefits that would have been given to any other spouse. In Missouri there is no legal way for same-sex couples to marry. They are not protected under the very laws that Dennis fought to defend day in and day out. Marriage matters.

There are countless stories like that of Dennis Engelhard being told in a small courtroom in Sacramento, during the Proposition 8 trials. If you haven’t read the arguments for both sides of this issue yet, please spend a few minutes at

Within the testimonies of each witness and expert one fact prevails. There are societal, psychological, emotional, and economic ramifications linked to marriage. Denying marriage to an entire class of people has negative consequences which extend beyond those individuals, and impact their families, their friends and their communities. Moreover, denying same-sex couples the right to marry has a negative impact our economy as a whole. Oppression is oppression no matter what way you look at it and is harmful to society.

I’m writing this editorial as a friend of this community and a firm believer in the values we built our nation’s democracy on. I also believe there is no greater foundation than that of our family, friends and faith. It is that foundation which led me to public service, and has provided the compass needed to negotiate the difficult waters I’ve faced. It is not easy to be gay in America.

But, I am not writing this as a victim. I’m not writing this to stand on a soup-box or run for office. It simply occurred to me that maybe no one has asked you yet; asked you to get involved. If that was the case, I wanted to be the first.

It will take all of us to abolish institutionalized discrimination from our state and federal laws. Only then will we have a nation worthy of our children.

~ Alexa Benson-Valavanis 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Heaven's Drink

Rain drops slide down the old wooden house's frame tap-dancing along the way. The chimney smokes sweet dry oak trees. The dogs settle in for a deep afternoon nap as I start to keep track of time. I know soon my darling cowgirl will return.  The chickens who at first scratched about undeterred by heaven's drink now find refuge in shelter. The goats like a warm funnel cake from the county fair remain intertwined. How this has become my life is beyond understanding? Where thoughts once lingered now only gratitude remains; overwhelming uncontrollable gratefulness. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Morning Light

For Melinda Lee  

There she lay
in the morning light
naked, save the shadows
cast by her own curves
flawless, complete

Her soft blue eyes
remain closed
untouched by fear
holding only the slight
remnants of sorrow
from living raw and alive
in a numb world

Reluctantly I move

unwilling to stir her, 
to pull her 
from the dreams
keeping company
with her heart

Instead I remove my shirt
slowly press my chest
against her back
wrap my small hand
around her waist
and, breathe in

I breathe her in
I breathe her 

so deeply 
so completely
into my soul

The morning light
unabashed, dances on
through the fruit trees
inside the dawn
as our witness.


Just Love.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Country Sunrise

The white porcelain mug
rested on her fingertips
her lips yearned for the sweet
familiar taste of morning
with its warm hazelnut finish
and soft sunrise

Her eyes held the orange kiss
between the earth and sky
a horizon which promised
uninterrupted time

minutes free to live, to love 
without the constant
interpretation from God's believers
about what form love should take

As if they know what it took to make
the heavens and the seas

For that gentle moment
inside the new dawn
when the cold morning's breath
met the rooster's song
she bowed her head

She prayed for freedom
from the fear in their hearts 
knowing she would offer it back to them
if it wasn't love they needed so much more. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

End of the Dirt Road

For Melinda Lee.

My love
like a tall slim street lamp 
illuminates each room she graces
barefooted and breathtaking  
in ripped jeans 
and quiet brilliance

Not far from her reach
a country morning hums
dinner plate dahlias burst
and untamed oak trees dance
against the sleepy sun's yawn 

Our minds tiptoe towards light  
still intertwined in last night's dreams
our bodies tangled in soft sheets
with no reason in the world
to rush awake 

A house at the end of the dirt road  
amid almond trees and wild gratitude
I fall into the bliss 
of finding the very woman 
I was born to love. 


then there were six

then there were six

Cheese of Mac & Cheese along side Roger the Rooster