Welcome to Houston!

The morning of August 27 began with two feet of water inside and out of my house. That was two years ago, but the memory is unforgettable. (You can read my first ever blog post about our Hurricane Harvey evacuation by clicking here.)

When I meet Houston locals and reveal my fairly recent relocation, the conversation usually goes something like, “How do you like Houston?”

“Well, we made it here just in time to flood and lived in a La Quinta for ten months.”

“Oh, Man! I’m sorry to hear that. Welcome to Houston!”

I always exhale that monosyllabic Ha! “I know, right? Thank you. It’s okay. Other than that, I really like Houston, except I do miss my friends. We were in Dallas for over twenty years.”

Anyway, if I’ve ever given Houston a bad rap, today I count my blessings. Welcome to Houston!

Silence by Moriah Alise

While living in the La Quinta, Kody and I dined out for almost every meal, often eating at restaurant bars, making friends, and changing up the conversation. In this way we met Moriah Alise, an up-and-coming, young local artist/former high school art teacher with the drive and determination to open her own District Art Gallery. Moriah invited us to her gallery opening, and her artwork Silence spoke to us. I needed the calm, and I feel blessed to know Moriah and share this piece of her [he]art. Did I say we brought it home? (Well, technically many months later when we finally moved home again).

While returning to District Art Gallery, we’ve enjoyed getting to know another top nationally-known emerging artist, Shawn Artis. All of his pieces have stories, he’s a storyteller, and the one above spoke to me.

Elevation 80 ft., Houston is the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth largest in the United States. We have a large and growing international population, a Chinatown, a Mahatma Gandhi district, and an estimated 1.1 million residents born outside of the USA. Houston is a cosmopolitan destination with world-class shopping and award-winning dining at every turn, and there’s always something to do, even for free (Wikipedia and me).

This is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. I probably stumbled across a photo on Instagram one day and then Googled with intrigue. For followers of Hinduism, the Mandir is a place of worship and prayer and a house of God. No matter your views, you will feel His LOVE and ACCEPTANCE, PEACE and HOPE in this place.

McGovern Centennial Gardens, Hermann Park, Photo Cred Texas Monthly

Welcome to Hermann Park Conservancy, Houston’s 445-acre urban park, situated at the end of the Museum District. This past spring, I chaperoned around 400 high school students here for a day of freedom and a break from school at the park. You might think that would be a problem, but everyone made it back to the busses on time and unscathed. Our kids explored the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The Hermann Park Golf Course is right there, too. Then there’s a reflection pool and a recreational lake with pedal boat rentals and a train and picnic areas and statues and walkways and gardens galore. You can kill a whole day here, no problem (Wikipedia and me).

Then there was that time when my Alma Mater’s symphony came to Houston. I’m a sucker for the symphony, a blessing indeed.

And there was that time when the Indigo Girls came to town and the Houston Symphony accompanied. Um, WOW, and I may or may not have almost been kicked out for not-so-covert, banned recordings.

And speaking of concerts, we attended a couple of more this year. Matt Heckler is a banjo/fiddle-playing genius, who opened for the Lost Dog Street Band in an intimate, standing room only venue upstairs at White Oak Music Hall on Mother’s Day. We returned to the White Oak lawn for Texas songwriter Shakey Graves just a few nights ago, and what a performance! If you don’t know these guys, give them a Google or click here for Matt and here for Shakey.

Then there’s the theatre: high school, college, or professional musical theatre. So many performances, so little time.

So I love the arts. One of my all time favorite outings here in H-town includes feeding my soul at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. ProTip: Thursdays are free. (Oh, and photo cred to Wikipedia for museum façade below).

My friend Misti accompanied me to Van Gogh earlier this summer, and it was amazing, but crowded as the exhibition was grinding to a halt. Now I know. Don’t wait. Go early. Besides Misti and I had a mini-road trip planned to Galveston, just an hour from Houston for beaches, relaxation, more feeding of the soul, and Mexican food for our stomachs.

Then there are professional sports, which I don’t really do, but we have the Astros and Texans and Rockets and Dynamo. And there’s the rodeo, which is sort of a big deal with big name concerts every night for the month of March. Tickets are already on sale for 2020. And there’s NASA, maybe I’ll check that out one day.

It’s the morning of August 27, and today I’m thankful for so much. Welcome to Houston!

“Security!”

I’m not a frequent flyer. Sometimes I forget the rules. As I approached the security checkpoint, I removed all items from my pockets, placed my carry-on items into a bin which I left on the conveyor belt, then waited my turn in line. When the Transportation Security Administration agent called me forward, I stood on the designated foot outlines and struck my pose, hands above my head, inside the imaging portal. The electromagnetic waves detected a potential threat.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Ma’am,” the TSA officer addressed me, “I need you to see what we see on the screen.” She pointed to the digital image and a non-descript mass on my lower abdomen. “I’m going to have to pat you down. Would you prefer a private screening?” She gestured to a partitioned screening area.

“No, this is fine,” I responded, having never received an authoritative pat-down in my life.

She advised me of the procedure and then traced a gloved hand up each inner thigh ending quite intimately into my groin.

I exhaled a squeal of exaggerated delight, due I suppose, to not knowing what else to say or perhaps attempting to defuse the awkward situation or maybe just trying to be funny.

She held back her laugh as she held up her gloved hand. “Now I’m going to search the inside of your waistband,” and she proceeded with two fingers around my entire perimeter to find nothing.

“Whew! That’s the most lovin’ I’ve had in a while,” I said—fully acting, feeling on a roll.

My intuition told me the officer secretly appreciated my attempt to make light of the situation that most despise, or maybe it was her hand over her mouth concealing her laugh and smile. “Ma’am…”

I don’t remember her exact words, but I felt a slight admonishment for joking about airport security. I realized a little too late that the TEA is serious. More serious than me. And I appreciate the extra security measures. I really do. But sometimes I forget the rules.

***

As I walked away from my near incarceration somewhat perplexed, another realization dawned. My jeans, when I bought them, sold me with the phrase “miracle tummy tuck control.” My jeans, made with built-in flattening power, had transformed not only my tummy, but me—from the most non-threatening person on earth into a potential security risk. Note to self: Wear something else on my return and all subsequent flights. Note to the ladies: beware of body shaping garments. (You’re welcome!)

Body shapers secure fat, right?



Everyone Needs a Denise

It was July 14, 1975. Up the street, a vacant lot and three houses away lived my friend Jennifer. I was five in 1975, and Jennifer turned five that day, so I walked to her house with a gift in hand to celebrate her birthday. Jennifer’s social calendar was packed for a five-year-old. After her party, she would head across town to another birthday party for a girl I didn’t know. Although the details are fuzzy, I remember crashing that party with Jennifer and meeting the tiny, precious, blonde-haired, hazel-eyed Denise. We would grow up together, sharing classrooms and friends and happenings of the Oklahoma panhandle. Little did I know that one day in the distant future, Denise would forever change my life.

Flash forward to Memorial Day weekend 2008 and our twenty-year high school reunion. When I caught up with Denise for the first time in at least nineteen years, we discovered that we lived within twenty minutes of each other. And guess what? We both needed a friend. One dinner at a time, one text message at a time, over months and months, then years and years, Denise learned all my deep-dark secrets, and I learned hers. We shared our imperfections and struggles, our wins and celebrations, and that’s how the girl I’ve known since age five became my bestie. And OMG, everyone needs a Denise.

Speaking of wins, her 20-year-old son Ryan, a junior on the Baylor Men’s Golf team, won the Texas Amateur golf tournament back in June with Denise caddying and coaching him toward the victory. She coaches kids’ golf, by the way, and teaches private lessons, too. In case you don’t have an extra two minutes to watch this news clip and see AWESOME in motion, my favorite part is when Ryan says, “If I got down on myself, no matter what happened, she would be the one to say, ‘All right, we got this. Let’s just keep on moving forward.'” So many times, Denise has kept me moving forward with a little positivity and a little “we got this.”

In 2015 my son was hospitalized, and believe it or not, I was a complete wreck. Denise was there to say, “You got this.”
In 2017 Hurricane Harvey flooded my house, and here is Denise showing up to help with the packing, the trashing, the decision-making, saying, “You got this.”

In that same news clip, Denise says, “You don’t see very many mothers [caddying], but if anything, I hope I’m encouraging more mothers to get out there.” That’s my Denise, the ultimate encourager. Life’s too short for anyone who brings you down, and I’m so very grateful for my forever friends who lift me up.

It is July 14, 2019, and I’m hopping in the car, driving the four plus hours from Houston to Dallas to crash her party again today. Forty-four years later. I wish Jennifer could crash it, too.

Whatever challenges you meet today, just remember, “You got this.”

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Mountains (But You Can’t Take the Mountains Out of the Girl)

When I stepped into the blue rubber raft from the safety of the river bank, I had only two things on my mind: Carpe Diem and survival.* I said a little prayer with faith and gratitude for peace and hope. Before the bus ride to our launching site, I had skimmed the release of liability and waiver of legal rights and acknowledged that whitewater rafting can be HAZARDOUS AND INVOLVES THE RISK OF PHYSICAL INJURY/DEATH. Then I signed on the line and proceeded to pick up my wetsuit, spray jacket, helmet, and life-preserver.

Colorado’s abundant snowfall last winter through May translates to deeper, faster water and what may have been the best white water rafting season in decades.

Shout out to my brother Scott and his beautiful, adventurous wife Gerri for having a 30th wedding anniversary and a reason to celebrate with friends and family, to Rapid Image Photography for the complimentary photos, and to Zach, Ivan, and Kerrie of Clear Creek Rafting Company for the safety debrief and an adrenaline-fueled float through the Rocky Mountains. No one fell off of the raft. No one died. And the river of life keeps flowing, sometimes with faster, deeper waters and cold splashes in the face, sometimes with the possibility of tipping, relying on your life vest, and swimming to safety.

When I stepped back into my ordinary life from the perfection of vacation, I had only two things on my mind: Carpe Diem and survival. I said a little prayer with faith and gratitude for peace and hope.*

Breckenridge, Colorado in July

Happy Independence Day to my American friends! And Happy 4th of July wherever you are!

*Inspired by S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, “When I stepped into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”

Sunshine Galore

Summer kicked off with toes in sand and wind in hair for this teacher (Galveston, TX).
Pool side views of sunlit clouds at the Hotel Galvez.
A quick trip to Oklahoma, morning walks around Sunset Lake, sunshine in pursuit.
Somewhere in the Texas panhandle, the sunrise was a must-stop-and-photograph.
Same trip home for a sun shot near Canadian, TX because look how gorgeous.
At home in the back yard.
Did you know that vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, supports bone growth and structure, reduces inflammation, supports muscle function, potentially staves off heart disease, possibly prevents cancer, and supports brain development?
https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-vitamin-d

The Sun Never Says by Hafiz

Even 
After 
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

This post brought to you with gratitude to JoAnn of Midnight Harmony for my second Sunshine Blogger Award nomination. JoAnn is a fellow mental health advocate who blogs about all-things-Florida and reminds me to stop and enjoy the flowers. JoAnn, I’m humbled. Many, many thanks to you for the blogger love and support for my rule-breaking.

In keeping with the theme, enjoy my sun shots and the 14th century wisdom of Hafiz. Ironically it’s raining here as I tap out this post, but I carry the sun with me. I carry it in my heart. “Look what happens with a love like that.”

Food for Thought and Mental Health

Thanks for participating in #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth.

Family and friends often ask, “How’s Drew?”

I wish I could say, “Phenomenal.” In reality, he’s okay, and I remind myself of our baby steps forward…(click this link for our story and a prayer).

Momming Ain’t Easy

Jerusalem with My Mother.
#thankful

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a mama’s girl. I dropped out of pre-school, and my mother was my safety net. She chose her battles and her strategies, and in the end I finished out the year. I remember her tucking me in each night with a “Good night, Sugarplum” or a “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” I remember her chauffeuring me back and forth to school each day and the aroma of banana bread awaiting in our kitchen. I remember changing clothes for dance lessons or gymnastics and jumping back in the car with mom. I remember when those lessons moved south by two hours to Amarillo during 5th and 6th grade and forty minutes northeast to Liberal during the 9th. How many hours did we spend together just the two of us? She was in my every audience at every recital, every swim meet, every school activity. And after my freshman year at OU when I found myself pregnant, she helped me move from my dorm into my first apartment and accompanied me to childbirth classes. Even though I lived five hours from home, she drove ten hours round trip each week and held my nineteen-year-old hand as I became a mom.

Beautiful Inside and Out

My mother taught me unconditional love, stood by me during the best and worst of times, and prayed with me and for me non-stop. Somehow my best doesn’t seem to compare.

Once upon a time, I was a soccer mom, Lauren was highly competitive, and we criss-crossed the U. S. for the love of the game. One spring evening about thirteen years ago, I remember sitting on the sidelines watching practice with Jane, another mom, who confided, “Natasha told me that Lauren pierced her belly button.”

“Oh, really?” I said.

Lauren was a freshman in high school at the time, too young to be showing anyone belly buttons or belly rings. Even though I may or may not have revealed more than my belly button at her age, I sat through soccer practice devising my mom-plan. The next day the girls would be boarding a plane for a tournament, location now forgettable. Practice gear needed laundering, and I would wait until we returned home to “discover” the piercing for myself.

I remember smiling at Lauren after practice and saying, “Nice workout!” I remember the ride home as if everything was completely normal. I remember walking into Lauren’s room once home, pointing at her Texans practice t-shirt, and saying, “Take that off. I need to start a load of laundry.”

On cue, Lauren flipped up her shirt, and I gasped with added Mama drama, “What have you done?”

“I pierced my belly button,” she may or may not have said, the memory a teenager now.

I pointed at her navel and said, “Take that out—It’s going to get infected.” Ripped out on the pitch would have been the scarier possibility, but I hadn’t thought through my words or possibilities or consequences, only my detection tactic in keeping the confidence of both Jane and Natasha.

And on cue, Lauren pulled out the piercing and handed it over. At the time, in my mind, removal of the belly ring was punishment enough.

*****

Flash forward a year, same teenager, now a tenth grader.

Lauren’s friend Savannah vacationed in Amsterdam the summer before sophomore year, and Savannah returned with a wonderful souvenir for Lauren—a sterling silver pair of marijuana leaf earrings. I have to give Lauren some credit for showing me the earrings, but I warned her, “You cannot—ever—wear them to school.” Lauren attended school where I taught, and no way ever could she be seen—ever—with cannabis leaves in her ears.

I remember riding shotgun to school one day, Lauren driving with her learner’s permit, a typical morning and a smooth ride considering the fifteen-year-old behind the wheel. At the end of the same day on the way home, Lauren drove once more. This time, I remember the glint of sterling catching my eye from Lauren’s ears. I remember sitting at a red light and commanding once more, “Take those out.” I extended my right hand, palm up. “Give them to me.”

Lauren unscrewed the backs, dislodged the earrings, and placed them in my upturned palm. I can still picture the open field on the passenger side of the street. I remember rolling down my window with her jewelry in hand. In slow motion, I still see myself tossing the silver weed as far as possible into the weeds. I’m pretty sure she hated my guts for that.

Momming ain’t easy, even though my mother made the job seem effortless, but she’s a saint. Sometimes emotions stand in the way. As far as I know, there’s no parenting manual on actions to take when your teen-aged daughter pierces her belly button or sneaks around with marijuana leaves in her ears or hates your guts. I think we all do the best we can, and after that, I’ve found prayer my best hope.

And you know what? Here she is now, age 27, my adulting daughter, BBA in Finance, earning a salary, supporting herself, buying her first car without help, and smiling from ear-to-ear.

And anytime I ask my self, 
What would my mother do?
I know, and I pray.
I love these guys so much!