Tag Archives: Houston

11 Inspiring Quotes from the World’s Best Writers

I love quotes don’t you? So I’ve included here a link to a great blog post by Laura Pepper Wu as reposted by Catherine, Caffeinated.

11 Inspiring Quotes from the World’s Best Writers.

I also wanted to share what a BLAST I had at the Menilfest last Saturday! There must have been close to a thousand people come through during the day. Sometimes the crush ofIMAG0821 people was so thick I could see through them. The Dry had great sales but I have to give credit where credit is due and that is to THE WASP! I had my wasp costume with me and I had it on a dress dummy. I’ve tweeted the pictures but I’ll post them here tomorrow.

Also on Sunday a long section of lower Westheimer near our house was blocked off to traffic so that people could walk on the road! It was called “IMAG0832Walk Houston”. The organization will host another road block next month in the Heights.

We walked but not on the road. We walked over to see the tearing down of the old building on the corner of Montrose and Hawthorn. It was the multistory building where the famous Cody’s Rooftop Bar was a huge attraction for years. It was the only place in Houston where a live jazz band played all the time.

The weather was delightful here in Houston. If you were here I hope you got outside. If you live anywhere else. I’m Sorry.

Kidding! I hope you also had lovely weather and walks where you live, too.

A Small Note About New Content

If you want to explore more about this blog look under the pages “About” and “Welcome to My Blog” for some new pages which will soon be ongoing project areas.

Oh! And I just discovered a new favorite book. It is called “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Wow, the writing is gorgeous. The story is about a girl shuffled from foster home to foster home. She has attachment issues. The book opens with her eighteenth birthday as she is being kicked out of the “system”. This makes the story sound awful and sad. It isn’t. It is so well written with the past and present of the girl’s life woven in such a seamless manner that I found it hard to put down, and hardly able to wait until I could get back to reading it to the end. The girl learns by heart the meanings of all the flowers and then makes a living because of it. It is a daring and hopeful adventure. But at its heart the book is about redemption and forgiveness. Two of my all time favorite subjects in a story. I hope you take my word for it and read this wonderful book.


Happy Anniversary to Us

I’m trying to think back to when we were first married. We were so young. We thought we were so old. Thirty two years ago today we were married. It has been an interesting journey.

inches from the dashboard
inches from the dashboard

He admitted that if I hadn’t said anything, he wouldn’t have remembered. That would be a first. He has always been the first one to say it on the day of. He has always been the one to remember. So let me tell you why this year is different.

We are trying to get two houses on the market this week. Houston is experiencing an amazing seller’s market but we really can’t know that for sure until our houses sell, right?

One house is the one where the renter left in the middle of the night. The neighbors told me about the commotion waking them, and wondered why she would do that to me. I found out that she was gone on the first of the month when I told her I was coming to get the rent so she wouldn’t have to mail it. I have always had a good relationship with the renter so I was puzzled as to why she would move without notice. I found out the real reason a week later when Aaron “Rents” pulled their van into the driveway. They were looking for their furniture. which hadn’t been paid for. Okay. I get it. The renter stole the rented furniture. She plotted it well. I remember how she called me because of a leak under the sink fifteen days before she disappeared. I had it repaired immediately. Later I wondered why she didn’t take that opportunity to tell me she was moving. It was because of the plot to steal the furniture, yet  she wanted to leave the house in reasonable repair. Well, I say reasonable repair without detailing the holes in the walls and the unreasonable layer of in the kitchen. There are great globs of white paint spilled on the hard-wood floors, deep scratches where something has been dragged across the wood and patches where it looks like water sat for some time. Today I discovered a layer of gunk around the baseboard. What is it? I don’t know. I think a nice thick coating of dark floor stain is in order.

The picture is of my husband while we are delivering a window from Home Depot to the house. It hardly fit in the car so we have the seats scooted as far forward as possible, the seat backs are nearly jacked-knifed into the dashboard. This is immediately after our anniversary dinner. Needless to say this is quite dangerous.

The second house is a sweet little gem in the heart of the city (Houston). The front yard is in a horrible way. Probably because I’m a gardener and can’t bear the weeds creeping from one end of a flower bed to the other. We’ve had renters here, also. They are busy guys who don’t know too much about gardens, I suppose. Details of garden mess? There are trees that have come up as volunteers – from birds planting them or squirrels forgetting where they put their stash – they’ve come up inches from the pavement so they have to be removed. It’s a shame when you can’t get a nursery-bought tree to grow but there are the wild birch, pecan, and camphor seedlings doing so well they must to be uprooted. The old shutters have finally shuffled off their earthly coil, which means they are crumbling to pieces and I can no longer glue and tape them together. The dust must be power-washed off the exterior of the house. The porch paint is chipped. That is all. The work must all be accomplished on Friday, that is the day after tomorrow. Yikes.

Then my husband’s mother has been in and out of the hospital twice since the first of May. They can’t find what is wrong with her. She has a low-grade fever and doesn’t want to eat. Then they found fluid around her heart but determined that it was a result of the vague inflammation that can’t be found. Zounds! What to do? What to do?

The grand girl isn’t feeling well, hasn’t been all week. Her temp is up and she is coughing at night.

This is keeping us from being current on birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries at the moment. So the husband is forgiven for forgetting. Plus, he is doubly forgiven because he quickly rallied and gave me a great gift card and took me to Carrabba’s Italian. It was scrumptious.

Please forgive us both if we haven’t been keeping up very well with you and yours. Happy birthday, Happy Memorial Day, Happy Anniversary, and cheers!

Snakes Alive – In H-Town!

Nope! I’m determined to bring those stats up with one more post for 2012. And I will – by talking about snakes.

Grass snake eggs
Grass snake eggs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take that WordPress statisticians!

This past summer I was replanting a garden under the old, wax-leaf Ligustrum growing at the curve of our front porch when I first saw the grass snake. It was exciting. I haven’t seen one of these dark bronze-colored grass snakes in years. I suppose living twenty-five miles west, in Sugar Land, next to the creek with all the large or dangerous snakes there just wasn’t much room for these lowly grass snakes native to the Houston area.

As a child I lived in South Houston. It’s a small town just west of Pasadena, TX. We lived on Avenue B. My younger brothers and I spent a lot of time outside. We were always digging. We dug up lead bullets that were white with age – probably from the days of the battle of San Jacinto which wasn’t far from our house as a crow flies, we dug up oyster shells, old rusty knitting needles, pieces of pottery. We had a regular archeological dig going and didn’t know it. I think I spent my childhood mud-encrusted. My brother Jon and I would haul crawdads by the bucketful from the ditch. Used a string and piece of raw bacon to lure them from their holes. Some call them crayfish, crawfish, or mud-bugs. People eat them. We tried to explain that to my mother. She would not touch them.

Spec’s deli has a nice macaroni, cheese and crawfish dish available that is yummy.

In the process of digging and other mud adventures we caught plenty of green anoles (the Texas chameleon lizard) and grass snakes. The dark copper or bronze colored grass snake has a beautiful face, much like you might imagine would be the face of a snake in a children’s book – big round eyes and a bit of a smile. They don’t get any bigger than twelve inches long and not any bigger around than a pencil, head to tail. They never bite. Never. I would say that is almost true of a Texas rat snake but almost is not never. The rat snake tries to avoid contact but will strike out of desperation to get away. Even the green anole lizard bites. They have bony ridges on their jaws that feel like tiny teeth. I don’t like getting bit. The bronze grass snake does not bite. I have never seen pictures of this snake in any encyclopedia, or snake book. The snake has no markings at all, is dark bronze to light copper and has a buff colored belly. Because I can’t find it on the internet, I don’t know its official name – hence bronze grass snake. If anyone has any other ideas please advise.

As close as we are to the big buildings of downtown Houston, I’m sorry to say the air pollution is awful. The small things are usually the first to go with pollution as bad as it is. Our porches are dusty, and can’t be kept clean, because the dust is smog that has stuck. So that is one reason I was so pleased to see the grass snake.

And then the next day I saw the grass snake again. And the next. It lived under the Ligustrum. I reached down and picked it up. Of course it tried to get away but the way to catch a snake is to remain calm and catch it. I showed the snake to my daughter. She wasn’t that impressed but had never seen one before. I didn’t show it to my husband. He hates snakes. Living out by the creek for six years made his dislike of snakes worse. He didn’t need to know there was a snake – no matter how tiny and harmless – living in the front yard.

I let the snake go under its Ligustrum. I never saw it again. It probably lives next door by now. The neighbors don’t care to be picking up snakes.

Back To The Ol’ Texas Homestead At Last! 18

Six Flags over Texas
Six Flags over Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From My Mother’s Journal 1970:


Monday August 24


Finally got a good night’s sleep. We have officially been on the road nine weeks. After breakfast drove and drove and drove around Dallas to get to 6 Flags Over Texas. $24 cash to get in.


The Chevy Show was misnamed. I thought it would be about cars but instead you sit in a seat and the screen in front of you showed a front view from a helicopter, fast cars, boats, planes, and a snowmobile as if you were a passenger in these. It almost made me seasick.


The run-away mine train was an honest to goodness roller-coaster, which Jon, Becky and R enjoyed. Jeff and I went on the “Mine-Train”, a bit tamer ride.


We had thought that 6 Flags Over Texas would be a lot bigger than AstroWorld, but it isn’t true. Besides, AstroWorld is constantly adding on new rides and growing bigger.

English: Texas Cyclone at Sunset. Taken 1 day ...
English: Texas Cyclone at Sunset. Taken 1 day before the closing of Astroworld forever. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We did notice that 6-Flags was very clean and appreciated the nicely cooled bathrooms. I guess my favorite ride was the spelunkers’ Cave with its splashes of cool spray.

The kids liked the Spindletop.


With meals, snacks, parking and entrance fee the day costs us over $40. I can’t imagine what a larger family would cost. That was for four people and a child.


We spent Sunday and Monday night at the Holiday Inn. R remarked that for 2 nights, 2 breakfasts, and 1 supper, it cost about $22.00 a day less than the Holiday Inn in Chicago.


Tuesday August 25


We heard on the news last night that Houston ranks #6 in nation for population and Dallas was #8. I’ve been thinking about the kids going to school next Monday August 31st. We’ll have Jeff in Elementary School, Jon in Jr. High, Becky in High School, and Bobby in college.


On Highway 75 going towards Houston I’ve noticed how dry and brown the grass is along the roadway. A big truck was spraying water on the trees in the median – I guess trying to keep them alive. The stretch of road between Streetman and Buffalo was not highway and seemed very dangerous – with cars passing too fast or cars moving too slow, dangerous driving. There were signs that said “Daylight Test Area – Turn On Headlights” on this stretch. We stopped at one Nickerson Farms that had a sign that said “Shirts and shoes required inside”, so I guess they’d had some problems.


It has been our experience on this trip that some places should have a sign that reads “only those who bathe daily and use deodorant will be admitted.”


Stopped at Huntsville State Park for 1 hour between 4 & 5 PM. It is not crowded today. Apparently there have been two days of rain here added to the fact that all school districts except Houston Independent School District began yesterday. The park was great, not too hot. Jon and Jeff went fishing but didn’t catch anything. It made a nice break to rest even if it cost $1.00 just to get in. I approve of this entry fee as it does eliminate some undesirables (those who would trash up the park and not bathe).


We would have used our camper exclusively if 1) all parks had clean, working showers, and flush toilets. And plenty of them. It is ridiculous to find one shower for women and one shower for men in a camper ground that is housing three-hundred campers. And wouldn’t it be nice if those showers had hot water as advertised and not SUN-WARMED water available at 3 in the afternoon only. WHY do females throw their personal sanitation wear in the toilet and block up the sewer system for an entire campground?


We would have used our camper exclusively if 2) the camp ground guide-book had been more explicit as in if there are TWO campgrounds with the SAME name within a few miles of each other this was made known so there would be no confusion.


We would have used our camper exclusively if 3) our tent had been more waterproof.


We would have used our camper exclusively if 4) we hadn’t been so crowded. As the kids have gotten bigger so there just wasn’t enough room. Even though our camper sleeps six, it was elbow-to-elbow all the time. Cramped space makes for gripes and complaints from everyone.


One thing that we noticed, during this camping season, was that common courtesy and decency were sadly lacking. What happened to “regard for others?” The experience was so unlike past years. Why was this year so different? True, there were a few friendly campers, but as a whole those were the exception rather than the rule. This was strange. We all noticed it.


As we get closer to Houston the grass is greener along the road. We just entered Harris County at 5:40 PM. Mileage 59,569 Gas here is 31 cents a gallon. Good to be home!


Noticed a sign in Houston “Time ripens all things, no man is born wise”. In other words like the Pennsylvania Dutch saying “Too soon old – Too late smart”.

They say things in a different way up north, they drive faster and with less regard for other drivers, they act abruptly toward each other and strangers, but we found the exceptions to those generalities, too. We aren’t that much different, them and us.


Hippies Try to Invade Peaceful Setting: KaPOW! 10

The Vacation in 1970 in My Mother’s Words:

July 18

Ate breakfast at a PA Dutch diner “Zinns.” Left motel at 10:45 A.M. Driving through many small towns. The thing most noticeable is the cleanliness, no trash blowing across highway or smashed along curbs in the towns. We saw a lot of signs advertising cabinet makers. Passed a large factory for kitchen cabinets. The farms and homes look neat and well-kept with lots of flowers around them.

Many towns in this area end in  “ville” like ‘Shoemakersville, or Pottsville‘, some end in “burg” as in “Millersburg” or “Gettysburg.” Pottsville is high in the mountains with beautiful views (I-81) but terrible road surface. Passed a coal mine on the left. Highway smoothed out but 26 miles to go to Wilkes-Barre. Stopped for a “so-so” lunch and got directions to Mehoopany, PA to visit with Pop Underwood (The Underwoods live next door to us on Grammar Street). We stopped at a small country store to ask and the lady knew just where we were going, knew him in fact.

Mileage 54,464 GAS 14.3 gallons @40.9 cents =$5.84

We drove a winding mountain road (before Mehoopany) and finally got to his cabin on the river. We stayed there this night and all of Sunday (July 19). Really enjoyed it. Clear river, kids swam and fished. Becky got bit by a dragonfly nymph. I’ve never heard of such a thing. It drew blood. Pop took them for a motor boat ride. I enjoyed cooking for him.

July 20

11:30 A.M. Sad to leave Pop Underwood all alone up there. It is such a beautiful property up in the mountains like that, I can understand why he spends the summers here and not in Houston a block away from his son’s family. They are all so busy during summer – not home most of the time.

We were surprised to learn that Pop’s neighbor shot the tires off a hippy van when a group of them tried to enter the property. It isn’t surprising they tried to get onto the property. They are all looking for the free handout, etc. It is very quiet up there. Peaceful. But if the hippies come it won’t be.

We traveled into New York and then into New Jersey, then back into New York for overnite. Kids went swimming. R went to the washateria. Stayed at Howard Johnson’s and ate there. Room was okay but too expensive. Had to walk in mud to the restaurant. They should watch this. Too much trouble will spell problems for them in future.

Christmas 2011

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...
Image via Wikipedia

This year Christmas came early in the form of a perfect grand baby. Her birthday in September felt like summer – weather wise. Here it is December and the leaves have turned color. So we have a lovely Fall for Christmas. And grand baby has doubled her birth weight into a dimpled little round thing with great lungs.

Thankfully this old house has extra thick walls. This doesn’t help my daughter to sleep because baby sleeps  in her room.

Christmas brought activity that didn’t involve a tree or lights. Amongst many calamities, serving a hot meal, making sure the dog got outside occasionally, or staying calm took priority rather than a trip to the attic, decorating, un-decorating, and then re-stocking the attic. Call me Scrooge. Seems we are spending the important holiday moments at someone else’s house with someone else’s decorations anyway.

Besides, I am feeling Scroogish.

Perhaps I feel this way because we didn’t drive around looking at lights in the neighborhood, or because I didn’t turn up the volume to endless holiday songs whilst wrapping gifts, or the fact that we visited Santa at the mall with the baby before Thanksgiving. Christmas just snuck up and walked past while I was looking the other way. I suddenly realized it while singing carols in church last Sunday. Whoa! It’s Christmas.

When I was very young and living in South Houston, Christmas was a big affair. Huge. My parents went all out with the decor. Lights, the tree touched the ceiling, streamers from corner to corner of the living room like a used car lot. We had a cardboard fireplace taped to the wall with a tin electric fire. It didn’t put off any heat. The nearby gas heater did and that was enough. Some Christmases the warm weather outside made even the fake fire warmish. That’s weather in Houston.

We didn’t receive gifts or toys during the year, ever. Instead my mother bought what she bought all year long and saved them, wrapped, in some t0-this-day-secret place until Christmas morning. What good, I ask you, were three brothers if none of them could discover the secret hiding place? Was there not a curious bone in any other them? Humpf!

I learned years later from my older brother that we were poor! I never knew. I thought we were kings and queens living as we did in our yellow asbestos shingle home with the white rock roof. I was inordinately proud of that canary yellow house. Even if the rock rained off the roof when the wind blew and the tar would drip when the weather got really hot. There was a pot of tar in the back yard that I would play in when it was soft.  I grew up happy in my world of dolls, lizards, mud pies and climbin’ trees. My brother Jon and I went fishing in the summer, caught crawfish in the flooded ditches in the spring with a string and a piece of bacon, (it was the novelty capturing these alien bug-like creatures – we didn’t discover eating them until we were grown), and we rode our bikes to grandma’s house every season of the year for more trees to climb and her chocolate chip cookies. Life was good. Poor? No way!

Maybe that’s why my mother used the same tinsel every year (and scraping it off the tree after Christmas was tedious) and she cut napkins in half throughout the year (also tedious).

There is something about being appreciative of things when you are small, something about seeing value in everything outside of the presents under the tree. Like enjoying the box more than what was in the box.

Maybe my parents had the right idea about not giving us anything (new) all year. Maybe the anticipation was the really special thing about Christmas. These days it is all too easy to give and get all of the time. What else are those shelves of items along the check out lines for? For you to suddenly realize what you needed. Or for the kids to scream and throw tantrums for. (The only time I ever shop-lifted was a package of Chiclets from the line. My grandmother caught me chewing the gum and made me take a hard-earned nickel to pay the store manager. I seriously never stole a thing ever again.)

Our grand baby doesn’t care about Christmas presents, decorations, or tinsel. Though she does love shiny things – her eyes get huge and she has that way of smiling that melts me. This year she doesn’t even care about the box. All she wants for Christmas is us – those who love her.

And that’s what she is getting.

Merry Christmas Y’all!

Welcome to Utopia

English: City Hall of Pearland, Texas Español:...
Image via Wikipedia

This book Welcome To Utopia: Notes From A Small Town is a good read. The perspective surprised me, a native Texan, because I grew up in that small town atmosphere. This account comes from a New York City girl, Karen Valby, who moves to Utopia, Texas for the purpose of writing this book. She follows some regulars at the Utopia General Store “The coffee drinkers” branching out to all the people who intersect them in life.

It wasn’t an earth-shattering, life-changing book, just a good read for someone who has been there. I’m not one of the “Coffee Drinkers” in life but my father was so I guess I’m one of those whose life was impacted by that little Texas ritual. My father always found time to sit and drink coffee and chat about anything and everything. Wherever he was or whoever he met, it was the next question after his greeting…”Do you have time for a cup of coffee?”

The dictionary says that Utopia is an imaginary place described as perfect or ideal in all aspects. Karen Valby points out that Utopia is definitely not perfect. Most of its young folk want to leave but many find themselves pulled back into what they know to be familiar and then learning to like it.

I remember going to school in Pearland and how I couldn’t wait to leave. I didn’t want to grow old with the Texas twang snarling my speech, and a dead-end job at the local insurance agency. I didn’t want to have a husband and two point five children.

I did, too. I went to Chicago almost immediately after high school. It was an exhilarating experience. After a few years and dozens of people falling asleep listening for the END of a story I was telling, I learned to speak faster with more clipped non-accented words. Now I’m hard pressed to come up with Texan words, though I do “dish up” folks from the stove, and I usually am “fixin’ to” do something, most of my “Texian” has disappeared from my vocab-bank. I completely lost the “R” in the word ‘wash’, as in “I’m doing the warshing up.” It’s gone. I don’t say it anymore and I blame Chicago for that. While living there I was once asked to please spell ‘wash’. Then that person asked “where is the ‘r’ then?”

I’ve run into people I went to high school with who still live in Pearland. I had good friends I’ve reconnected with. I’m glad for that but just as glad I’ve had the experiences I’ve had, too.

And I’ve come full circle – in Houston with a husband and two point five children (I count the dog as the point five).

Still not Utopia. But it’s all good.

The Ferocity of Predators

A strange story about a hawk and a turkey.

It begins with the hawk I spotted soaring over our back yard. From the upper back porch I could watch the hawk fly between two huge pecan trees. Having lived near a hawk’s permanent nest in Sugar Land, I had the feeling the hawk for establishing territory for a nest. It may be there is already a nest in one of the trees. Even with the worst drought in recorded history in Houston, those pecan trees are thick with leaves.

Here it is, practically in the flat middle of the big city and that hawk was happy. Lots of prey – rats, pigeons makes it a good living space for a hawk.

I can tell you – watching the hawk that week after we moved brought such joy bubbling up. My sadness at leaving Sugar Land was finally in the past. I could mark the moment.

A week later my husband and I were walking to a little Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood. As we were fixing to turn the corner I saw something that ground me to a hot, dry halt. Fury, rage, frustration, all those things shot through me.

The hawk’s wings had been severed and were now hanging on a dumpster behind the flower shop.

It is illegal to shoot any bird of prey. But this was MY hawk. My hawk was dead. I knew I had missed something. I hadn’t seen the hawk flying lately. Throughout the evening whenever I thought of it, my stomach ached to DO something.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife as soon as I could. I was given the names and phone numbers of the warden. I called, left messages. Finally I called the TPW again and was given the number for the dispatch. I called that number and got through to a human. However I had the feeling that the lady at the other end of the line thought I was crazy.

“I’m reporting that a man shot a hawk,” I said.

“Did you see it happen?”

“No. But the wings are displayed on a dumpster. Like they’re pinned butterfly wings or something.”

“How do you know it is a hawk?”

“It’s either a hawk or an owl.”

“You say they are pinned? To a dumpster?”

“Well, he has them splayed out and held down with something.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

I gave her my name and number. I waited to hear. All day. Nothing. The next day. Nothing. I snuck down the street and took a picture. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking too interested. The owner of the flower business uses that lot behind him to practice his archery. That’s why I know it was him. He shoots at an archery target next to a fence that people are walking past. That’s crazy.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife again. Explained what I was calling about and asked why no one had called.

The dispatch lady on the other end said that it was the first time she was hearing about it.

“Well, the wings are still there,” I said.

“You say they are hawk wings?”

“Yes, the neighborhood hawk. It’s missing.”

“And where do you live?”

“In Houston, near downtown.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

Did she think I was crazy, too?  No one called. Ever. Now I’m mad.

What to do? What to do? In the cool of the evening the neighbors sit outside. I asked them if they’d seen the wings?

No, but they weren’t surprised. That guy at the flower shop, they told me, once hung a bunch of dead fish on his fence to chase away customers of a breakfast shop across the street from him. They said they would tell the neighborhood lady who is involved in wildlife rehabilitation. She would know what to do.

She told the neighbor to call the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation. He did. He came over this morning to tell me. He said the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation department called the Texas Parks and Wildlife and sure enough – a warden called my neighbor. Yes. He had seen the wings and yes, the owner of the flower shop would be getting a visit from him.

Ahhh. Justice.

The neighbor said that he has been assured that our names won’t come up. The flower shop guy is reputed to be nuts. He looks threatening with that bow and arrow. He could DO something.

This is the dumpster. What kind of bird did these come from? With the hawk missing what would you think?

And here’s a follow up. The neighbor told me this afternoon that the warden called him and told him that those are wild turkey wings and that the guy had a permit to kill a wild turkey. Opinion time. Do those look like wild turkey wings? AND where is my hawk? Overcome by the drought? The display remains macabre.