Houston Post Harvey – Taking it Day by Day

I’ve lived in Houston since 1997. It’s flat. You don’t realize how flat until you’ve traveled to Austin or San Antonio. The Texas Hill Country quickly reminds you that Houston’s only hills are its highways and beltways. It’s also full of traffic, and as recently shown on the news, prone to flood. We have bayous and creeks surrounding our flat terrain. Still I love this city for so many reasons such as :

1. Diversity. This is truly an international city. Global companies choose Houston to place as their U.S. headquarters consistently. We attract business and opportunity bringing people from all over looking for work. Annual Greek and Italian festivals along with the city’s international festival, highlight just some of those cultural activities that the city and its suburbs love to celebrate.

2. The people. Because there’s such a diverse group of people in the 4th largest city of America, people learn to interact with others from such different backgrounds and we do it daily. That’s why people came together so quickly to help during Hurricane Harvey. Houstonians help when the cry for help is sent out. They may have cursed at you the day before for not merging onto the freeway correctly, but the next day that person is there to help you evacuate your flooded home.

3. Food. We have the best. Fajitas and margaritas are a staple. Bar-B-Q and chili cook offs are as frequent as weather updates. Spanish tapas bars, hip Montrose eateries, elegant Galleria restaurants, taco trucks, China town, and seafood dives where you can “peel n eat” crawfish and shrimp, dot our city’s landscape.

4. Sports and entertainment venues. We have the harvey picRockets, Astros, Texans, and Dynamo. We still have loyal Oilers fans. Our fans have been deprived of a championship for a long time, but they remain true and steadfast. Houston also attracts the best performances from opera, to country, rock, jazz and we have a symphony that gives free performances to the public in Herman Park.

5. Resiliency. People here pick up the debris and tattered left overs from the storm and get to work. Neighbors help neighbors and volunteers show up in full force to aid in cleaning homes, schools, and businesses affected by the flood.

It’s going to take time for Houston to rebuild. We have flooded before. It will most likley flood again…but hopefully not for a while. We’re Houston Strong and will take life one day at a time. Congratulations Houston! You showed America and the world what we’re made of. Now time for a margarita.

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Ask a silly question and get a silly answer!

Maybe you’ve seen these groups that have emerged on Facebook as the “go to” for question asking.  They’re named, “Ask…” and then the name of the community.  It amazes me the kinds of questions that are asked on these sites.

I enjoy getting recommendations for an electrician, a good bakery, or a fence repairman.  But.  There are some questions that leave my speechless.  One day a man asked, “Hey ya’ll.  I’ve been coughing for three days.  What should I do?”  My first thought was “Dear Lord I hope you don’t have a child to take care of.”  If you can’t figure out what to do, like, see a doctor or visit a pharmacist, then you shouldn’t be allowed to take care of children or operate machinery.

But then the crazier thing is how people think they know everything and have all the answers to the questions!  For the cougher, one person said drink tequila with a worm, another lady gave a homemade recipe for a cream that he could rub…well I’ll leave the rest of that part off.  No one said, “Go see a doctor.”  Geniuses.  They don’t have a medical degree, but hey, they know how to take care of a cough!

Another lady posted a public service announcement and plea to the group.  Her big, shocking ( literally) discovery, was that the new HEB grocery store baskets gave static electric shocks to people.  She wanted everyone to call and complain to the store about how unsafe their baskets were.  Wow.  And all this time I thought we as humans, generated our own static electricity!  What do you know.  It’s been grocery carts all along.  Someone give this lady a research grant.

I don’t know everything, but that’s ok, because when I do have a question, I’ll be sure to visit one of these Ask groups since they seem to know it all…but first I’ll call HEB!

 

 

March Madness…for several reasons

March brings showers and April spring flowers…or something like that.  I enjoy seeing green!  It’s a sign of new life after cold temperatures.  Actually our winter here in this part of Texas was so mild, that I blinked and it was spring!

With that burst of new life comes new energy, new ideas, and some busier schedules.  College basketball tournaments are about to start as well…have no idea where the term March Madness came regarding that! Outdoor recreation kicks into high gear, people begin to spruce up their yards and homes, and vacation planning for spring break is in full force!

As a realtor, this is the time of year that we begin to see people plan on buying their first home, or selling what they have and upgrading to a larger space.  Here is a quick newsletter from the real estate team that I’m apart of: http://imprv.co/awel

Take a quick read and let me know your thoughts and questions about real estate.  Read More »

And the Oscar goes to…yawn.

Princess Grace ExhibitGlamorous dresses, lines of limousines forming and creeping like slithering, snakes, reporters and photographers yelling people’s names, and a bright, red carpet.  It’s all about honoring Hollywood.  People who live what 98% of the world will never experience or know, yet we’re supposed to tune in and clap for them.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love movies and find the celebrity lifestyle intriguing.  But, the last few years of the Oscars have left me unsatisfied for several reasons.

Political speeches are becoming redundant.  I get it.  Hollywood celebs love the Democrat party, want equal pay, hug trees, and think Meryl Streep is God’s gift to mankind.  And for the record, I love Meryl.  However, when everyone gets on stage and says the same thing, the echo effect takes control, and a four-hour long broadcast is quickly about to become five!  I’m all for free speech, but just say your “thank yous” and move on to the next category.  Millennials, whose attention span may be ten seconds, are about done with the accolade parade as well.

The fashion parade and commentary is the same.  Celebrities are asked who they are wearing, how much the jewelry is worth, and my favorite question; “How long did it take you to get ready?”  That’s a loaded one.  And the dresses that the actresses are wearing cost more than what some people earn in a year. It was only fun to watch it when the late Joan Rivers was there to add her snide remarks to the fashion mishaps.  It’s not the same without her.

Finally, the viewership goes down every year.  Stats further bolster my argument, and the cable tv shows dominate the ratings, along with the 24 hour news cycle. Viewers find highly paid actors patting each other on the back a little…well…boring.

Kick it up a notch Oscars producers!  Recognize some people who help America run day-to-day.  Let’s roll out the red carpet for teachers, police officers, fire fighters, veterans and their spouses, volunteers, and so many more.  Instead of giving out $30,000 gift baskets to presenters and award winners, automatically donate to a charity that will make a difference in a person’s life.

How long will it take you to get ready?

Fantasy Football Fatigue

I know when football season is approaching.  It starts with the men in my house planning a fantasy football meeting, slash party, slash draft, slash my wrist (sorry I slipped with that one) kind of event.  But before the event even occurs, there’s the “research” that goes into the players.

July is when I begin to faintly hear the discussions concerning players and their health.  By the beginning of August men become like students finishing their Senior English papers;   on the computer, checking periodicals, combing through statistics, and starting their “picks”.  And for once it’s picks that don’t involve nasal cavities.

Then the draft day comes.  This isn’t a quick meeting.  This involves several hours of talking, debating, finally drafting, and then coming home with the hope that this team will win the Super Bowl.  Then the season games begin!

Sunday lingo on the way to church for some people may be, “I wonder what the pastor will talk about today?  What are we having for lunch?”  Ours starts with, “I should have played John Doe.*  I didn’t.  Now watch he’s going to score all these points and I’m going to lose this week.  My team is horrible.”  Sigh. I’m hoping the sermon will revolve around keeping the Sabbath holy.  Something like, “NFL…Not For the Lord’s Day!”  I can only pray.

When the fantasy team is doing well, it’s incredible.  There are high fives, whooping and hollering, and the testosterone level is excruciatingly high.  When the team is doing poorly, a television remote is bound to fly, tempers flare, and suddenly men are talking to the television like they can really be heard.  “John Doe * you stink.  Why didn’t I trade him?  Is it too late?”  I myself would like to be traded to a wine bar.

When I was in college there was a class offered called “Sports Psychology”.  I honestly used to think that it was about men and why they get so worked up about sports!  Then I learned what it was really about.  I like my idea better.

So girlfriends, wives, sister wives and such, brace yourselves for a couple of months.  Next it’s playoffs, then the Super Bowl, and then we’re free…until fantasy baseball in the Spring.

*John Doe isn’t actually a NFL player.  The author doesn’t know many players’ names.

A new page…

I acquired my real estate license a while back.  Between that and juggling family, I have been so busy and neglectful in blogging.  So, to pick up where I left off, I’m trying to commit to blogging at least once a week.

Today is September 11th, and no one can look at that date without remembering what it represents; a day of unfathomable tragedy.  No one would have predicted that on a Tuesday morning the worst terrorist attack in the nation’s history would occur.  People awoke that morning, got their kids ready for school, made breakfast, dressed and showered for work, and commuted into their place of employment, not knowing it would be their last day on earth.

The truth is that none of us are promised tomorrow.  In James 4:13-14 NIV, it reads “Now listen you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are  a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  The reality that the verse points to is that life is short and things can change in mere seconds.

Now fifteen years later I watch the memorial on television.  Family members take turns reading names of those who lost their lives that day.  Among them are moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, firefighters, police, and other first responders.  I hear a diverse chorus of last names, and a bell ringing for the times that the planes hit the trade center towers, the Pentagon, and the flight 93 that crashed with everyday heroes on board struggling to take back control.  One man who was remembering his older brother said, “Fifteen years feels like fifteen seconds.”   Another read the name of his wife that he lost, and looked at the crowd asking, “When will peace finally come?”

Another school year has come and my kids are one year closer to graduating. My high school reunion, 25th, just occurred.  I look at everyone and remember them as seniors, but truthfully we are forty somethings with families.  Time isn’t slowing down and never will.  Cherish days, make memories, say “I love you” more often, and ask yourself, “If this was my last day on earth, where would I go?”

The Bible doesn’t answer all of our questions about heaven and life after death, but we do know that Jesus himself wants us there.  On the cross while he was waiting to die, the two other men hanging on either side of him had differing views.  Once yelled at him to prove that he was the Messiah and to save them all.  But the other criminal reacted with “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But his man has done nothing wrong.  Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Then Jesus answered him and said “Truly I tell , today you will be with me in paradise.”( Luke 23:39-43 NIV)

There’s comfort in knowing that we will see our loved ones again someday.  The families this morning at the 9-11 memorial service echoed that sentiment repeatedly.  But don’t forget to acknowledge who Jesus is just like the criminal hanging there.  Don’t put off accepting Him…there might not be a tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

We’ve Got “The Look”

Blog photoI’m afraid we’ve developed into “that couple” with “The Look”.  The look isn’t glamorous or trendy.  It’s not one that I’ve desired, but I believe it’s found me like it will find every adult eventually.

“The Look” sneaks up on everyone.  Then one day you realize you have it and there’s no going back.

I’m talking about “The Look” given to other parents when their children are misbehaving, are out of control, crying, whining, and any other annoying thing you may think a small child or baby would do.  I have personally received those looks!

I can remember sitting in Olive Garden with our soon to be one year old.  He was sitting in his high chair and looking all around at other tables.  He was waving and being so cute.  At some point crankiness set in and he began to fuss.  The fussing turned into crying and before we could enjoy the rest of our linguine, he was in a total meltdown.

It was like a code blue situation in a hospital.  My husband and I began reaching for toys, snacks, a bottle, and anything to resuscitate the happiness back into this screaming baby.  We knew we needed to vacate the premises immediately.  But before we could enjoy our last bite of their delicious bread sticks, we had to pay.  Looking around for the waitress, we began catching “The Look” from other tables.  Adults were hurling icy stares in our direction with tight lips and shaking their heads in disapproval. In my mind I know they were sending messages “Why can’t you stop him from crying?” and “You need to leave instead of ruining our meal.”  I can’t say that I blame them.  We didn’t want our meal ruined either, but parents never plan meltdowns of a baby or toddler…they just happen.  And they happen in the most inconvenient and crowded places.

I received those looks in stores, restaurants, airplanes (my favorite), and of course church. Right in the middle of the Christmas Eve candlelight service with all the beautiful candles lit, my son started singing, “Happy Birthday to you!”  It was Jesus’ birthday after all.  But the old couples looking at us sternly were not in the mood to celebrate!

One time in Target, my then three year old daughter was having a meltdown about some crayons that I wouldn’t buy, or a dog treat that I wouldn’t get for the dog, or some other item that she kept asking me to purchase.  I kept saying “No”  as strongly as I could, when she stomped her feet and stated she wasn’t leaving.  “The Look” started popping up from other adults watching to see how I would handle this showdown.  I did what every mother of a strong willed child has to do on occasion and called her bluff.  I remember saying, “Fine.  I’m going home.”  I proceeded to walk towards the check out lanes.  Soon the pitter patter of little shoes was close behind me screaming, “Mommy don’t leave me!”  Now more looks.  Great.

Then children grow, become less of a public embarrassment, and it happens.  One day I hear a meltdown occurring in the produce section of the grocery store.  I turned to look and see what grotesque creature was ruining my shopping for a Pinterest recipe that was already doomed to fail (because they usually do).  I gave “The Look”!  The baby was bright red and the mother was quickly placing apples in a bag.  My look was saying “Really?  You’re worried about apples?  You’re kid is as red as the one you just picked out.  For heavens sake run and don’t look back!  Leave the basket, grab your child and go!”  I couldn’t believe my impatience but it didn’t stop there I’m ashamed to say.

In the mall at a children’s clothing store, a lady was next to me with her stroller that was so large I assumed it was NASA’s latest Mars Rover project.  Her toddler was running around the store getting into everything while I was trying to shop.  I kept giving her “The Look”.  Interpretation, “Can you please quiet your kid and move the space mobile?”  Ugh.  I did it again.  Each look made me feel horrible later on.  Why did I just look at another mom this way?  Why am I not being more empathetic?

We’ve aged and so have our kids, and by doing so we have forgotten how hard it is to parent little ones.  When they’re babies they can’t tell you why they’re crying.  Moms and dads are just as frustrated as the poor baby.  We also are accustomed to more quietness.  As our kids have started reading books or watching television, they just naturally begin to quiet a little.  The house isn’t inundated with temper tantrums about a dirty diaper, being hungry, or Barney singing “I Love You, You Love Me”.  Thank you Lord that part of childhood is over.

Our kids begin to act in a socially acceptable fashion and follow our cues.  Now when we go to restaurants they are old enough to order for themselves.  They are more likely to reach for our cell phones and play games than to cry and throw food. We still see babies out in restaurants, church, and stores.  They bring challenges to their parents, and one day they will grow older and their parents can enjoy being in public again.  And those adults will begin to give “The Look” to their younger counterparts just as we have.  It’s a cycle.  It’s life.

We’ve got “The Look” and will try hard not to use it.  I will from now on only promise to use it for situations that are really dire and when messages must be conveyed…”Lady your Mars Rover stroller is taking off…hopefully with you and your baby on board!”  There I go again.

Farewell to Summer…and other things

Blog summer photoI’m always a little sad to see Summer go.  Ok I’m a lot sad.  I love the time around late May; just in between Memorial Day and the beginning of June.  School is just about to let out, and it seems like June, July and August will be such a long, fun-filled time.

There’s the planning part that makes everything so adventurous.  Museums that we want to visit and good fishing holes that need to be tested are discussed. Saltwater, freshwater, types of fishing bait, and the infamous, “Mom!  My line is tangled again!”, are part of the summertime daily chat.  There are also the “Where are my goggles?” and “Has anyone seen my swim suit?” questions that reverberate throughout the house.  The smell of sunscreen and the bright sunny forecast start our day off happy.

Random trips to the neighborhood pool are followed by a quick trip for snow cones which then turn into lazy, hot evenings of just taking our time.  There are no schedules, except for the neighborhood swim team practice.  There are no tests, projects, or last minute homework.  There are no lunches to pack; my personal favorite!

Simple things during this season make ordinary life so special. A quick visit to see family, collecting sea shells, making minnow traps, treating a sun burn, and taking the long way home help fashion a sense of timelessness.

A walk into a store in early July, however,  brings a blissful summer day back to reality.  Backpacks, school supply displays, and signs shouting “Back to School” make my stomach turn.  It’s barely July 4th and school is already being thrown in our faces.  And to add to the melee, Christmas decorations begin making their unwelcome appearance in some stores.  I would rather deal with backpacks than pre lit trees in 95 degree heat! I tell my kids to turn their heads; we don’t want to witness this jarring reality check.  I especially want to enjoy this time with them keep them away from what inevitably will happen; each child turning a year older and getting closer to leaving home.

August arrives with full speed.  Teacher assignments are received in the mail and I begin to plan for the school year ahead of us.  My oldest will enter middle school and begin a new chapter in his life, and I will unenthusiastically pack those darn lunches.  Buses will start showing up on our street, and crossing guards will make their appearance at the same street corner as the year before.  I’m clinging to my Summer memories, not ready to make new ones for this pending season of change.

The Fall season is now replacing Summer, and I am forced to look at pumpkins lining grocery store entrances.  Labor Day has come and gone, and soon Christmas sales will suffocate an already diminishing Thanksgiving holiday.

Somewhere I think I hear a fishing pole calling our names…I’m ready to go back.

Grocery Store Dread

Dread is defined as “to anticipate with great apprehension or fear; to be afraid of, worry about, be anxious or have forebodings, unease or angst”.  For example, “Jane was dreading to visit her in-laws”, or “The thought of a cramped elevator filled Bob with dread.”  For me personally, the idea, the very notion, and the ever gnawing feeling of hunger is prompting me to do the one thing I really dread…going to the grocery store with my kids!

Yes it’s summertime and all but inevitable that they will have to accompany me to the store.  Normally, when school is in session, I have time to work around their schedules and mine to make a quick trip without having two voices constantly interrupting my train of thought.  When I go to the store alone I have my routine down pat.  I enter and grab a disinfectant wipe and wipe down that disgusting cart.  Did you know that grocery store carts and movie theater seats are some of the worse carriers of germs?  Anyway, disinfect first and then I make my way.  I go through the produce first, quickly scanning for deals and avoiding the unfortunate mark up of organic.  I wind through the seafood section glancing at the lobsters and wondering who pays for these things?  I do, but not at $15 a pound!  Then it’s through the deli section and through the meat and chicken.  I dodge through processed food aisles with cereal and snacks which I try to avoid (except for the occasional box of Lucky Charms, because they really are “magically delicious”).  I continue to make my way, check items off my list, quickly charge through the frozen foods because it’s always too darn cold, and make way back up to the checkout lanes.  If I’m organized and stick to my list, I can easily make it in and out in less than an hour.

Yesterday was a different story.

I had to go to the store.  The shelves in our pantry were slowly diminishing to down to cornstarch and a can of pumpkin.  Sigh.  The kids were coming with me.

Now at the store I’m trying to stick to my plan but I have two little beings who are constantly pumping me with questions.  “What are we eating for dinner tonight?”, and “Will you buy me candy if I’m really good?” I always laugh at that one.  Trying to work my way through produce, one of my munchkins insist on picking out their own fruit and weighing it, while the other one is whining about me not letting him push the cart.  I remind him that I would like to keep my achilles in tact and at the rate he clips the back of my feet, I’m going to lose.

As we wander through the aisles I feel defeat approaching.  My plan is starting to unravel.  I pass other moms in the aisles with the same looks on their faces.  We’re not enjoying these trips to the store.  We’re trying to survive like POWs;  prisoners of war whose grocery carts are like work wagons that we’re pushing.  Once in a while I will bump into a mom I know and we exchange the look.  The look that says, “How did we get here?  It feels like yesterday that we were celebrating 21.”  I hear a cry that jolts me back to present time.  My kids are fighting over which brand of macaroni to buy.

Each aisle produces new sorts of questions and ideas.  “Let’s buy lemonade and do a lemonade stand!”, and “Yes, and let’s get cookies and brownies too and we can have a bake sale.”  In 95 degree heat and humidity that feels like a hot, wet blanket?  Think again kiddos.

Finally, I’m beginning to see a light.  It’s the frozen food section and I realize I’m almost home free!  A few quick passes grabbing milk, and ice cream, I begin to make my way to the checkout lanes.  I hear voices behind beginning to cry about why we’re not stopping to try sausage samples, or why am I not buying the dog more dog treats, but I AM NOT STOPPING!  I quickly search for a couple of checkers that I know are fast or don’t do the “small talk”.  You know those who always ask annoying questions like “How is your day going?” and “Did you find everything you needed?”  I usually say “fine” but I really want to respond with “How do you think it’s going?  My kids won’t stop talking and asking my to buy things”, and “The only thing I need is a pina colada and a nice quiet beach to enjoy.  Does your store carry that?”

I see my old friend, “what’s his name”, and he quickly checks us out.  He’s retired and has zero patience with kids and he sees I want out quickly.  No coupons, no ice, no help out to my car…just give me my receipt!

He tears off the receipt and I go for the exit.  The glass doors slide open, the sun beats down its warmth on my face and FREEDOM!  We’re done.  We made it.  Groceries are loaded, kids are in the seats with belts attached, air conditioning is blasting, and we head home.  Pulling into the driveway it feels good to finally be over with it.

Sigh…now time to unload.

Run!

In Pamplona, Spain today the Festival of San Fermin, also known as the Running of the Bulls, had its first day of what else…running!  For the next several days people will allow themselves to run along side massive animals with the possibility of being trampled or gorged to death.  Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “The Sun Also Rises”, brought even more notoriety to the event, and people continue to flock annually to Pamplona from around the globe.

Watching the live coverage today reminded me of a trip my mother and I made to Spain several years ago.  The Spanish lifestyle was something we had to get accustomed to you on our ten day voyage.  By day eight we were still trying to figure out exactly what time Spaniards ate dinner and when they went to sleep.

Here in the States our routines are more regimented.  Most people work from 8 to 5 with a one hour lunch.  Typically an American worker has two to three weeks of vacation.  There is a rush hour in most major cities in the morning and evening, and people work this routine Monday through Friday, week after week, months on end.

In Spain, however, work is treated in a more carefree, spirited fashion.  Businesses open later in the morning, they close for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and then reopen in the evening before closing much later than our accustomed 5:00 p.m. closing time. The Spanish don’t seem to let time control them but rather the other way around.  They enjoy their time with family and friends with late, evening dinners and frequent tapas bars.

In a tapas bar you let the waiter know what items should be brought to the table, or bar if you prefer to stand, along with a bottle of wine or sangria. Everyone shares the food and drink and pays little attention to the time.  The Spanish simply enjoy life.  They have a passion for food, wine, and people.  The laid back atmosphere on that trip inspired me to do the following: find a great tapas restaurant in Houston (Mi Luna is a great one – see milunahouston.com), learn to make sangria, and slow down to enjoy life.

I would love to go back to Spain someday but not to run with the bulls; instead run with a passion for living and back for another glass of that Blog photosangria!