Category Archives: Houston

Go Texan Day – In H-Town

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Contrary to popular stereotype, Houston is NOT full of cowboy types sporting boots, Wranglers, belt buckles and full cowboy duds on a regular basis. That’s Fort Worth – Cowtown, folks! But once a year H-town pulls out all the stops. And that can mean some pretty scary sights here. For instance:

Every year there’s an unwritten ‘Rodeo dress code.’ At least for chicks. Unwritten because I have NO idea where it comes from. But without fail, every hipster female under the age of 50-ish will show up at the Rodeo dressed exactly the same. One year it was flowery mini-sundresses, blue jean jackets, straw hats and boots. Ok, that was doable. And almost flattering to most. But the next year it was – wait for it – plaid shirts (short and tight of course), boots and Daisy Dukes. Seriously. Flattering? Not so much. All I could hear was the endless replay of Stacey and Clinton in my head the entire time.

“Just because it comes in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it.”

Ouch. Really. It was painful.

And that’s not all. Once a year every dude, businessman, CEO, skater, gangsta – all of them – whips out the fullblown western duds. It’s a mix of comical and downright frightening.

But H-town doesn’t stop there. My diverse city is big enough and diverse enough that People of Walmart-worthy sights can be found each and every day. You just have to open your eyes and see what’s around you.

Examples? Yes please.

Take, for instance, the guy I saw the other day in front of my office building. Stopped at a red light, he used the opportunity to jump out of the car and check something in his trunk. Well, more of a hatchback actually. And he spent some time rearranging. Hey, it was a REALLY long red light. That’s not the crazy part. That’s normal. The crazy part was that I thought he was talking on the phone. With one hand, while the other rummaged in the trunk. Until I noticed his Bluetooth headset. Huh? Double phones? Nope. The item I thought was a phone in his hand was actually a razor.

The dude was talking on the phone, rummaging in his trunk and SHAVING. All at a red light. Really.

Or take this other one. It rained the other night. Not unusual in a city that averages 80 percent humidity in December. Thursday is mowing day for the city. So all the landscaping guys were out doing their thing on the medians during my commute. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. But, using their common sense, they were trying to stay dry. Most of them had fashion-worthy protection made out of garbage and/or grocery bags. Tunics, capes, gloves, you name it. It’s amazing what those guys can fashion out of plastic bags. Seriously. Again, not unusual.

But when I saw the two guys who had made PROTECTIVE HEADWEAR out of ziplock bags I was floored. One dude had fashioned a pretty sweet shower-cap lookalike to protect his do. Even though it wasn’t raining. But the other guy? He gets an E for Effort and Creativity.

He’d used the same kind of ziplock bag to make a protective cap for his… baseball cap.

Yep. No lie. Even though his head was dry from the cap, the CAP needed protection.

Huh.

Who says city life is mundane? Open your eyes folks – you can always find free entertainment if you just look for it.

Wonder what kind of creative plastic fashion the cowboys will come up with this year??

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Filed under Houston, Uncategorized

Comedy of Errors

That’s the only way I can describe yesterday. Seriously. The office was actually closed for Presidents Day – something I didn’t realize until last Thursday, so that was a nice surprise – and the minions were off of school. The Spouse had to go in for one of those incredibly stimulating Teacher Work Days (translation – spend the day working through technology competencies online) and the three of us were home alone. So, being the Type A that I am, I attempted to plan the Perfect SAHM Day.

I was a machine. Up and moving way before my normal time, I had dusted, vacuumed, whipped through two loads of laundry and scooped the cat poop before 9:15 AM. Huzzah!! Minion #1 actually got up of his own free will AND MADE HIS OWN BREAKFAST!! Double-score! I was on a roll! Told the minions that we would head out to run some errands around 10. And get this – they were actually getting along and sharing! I settled in with a second (ok, third) cup of coffee and a book.

10 AM – piled into the car with no resistance. Granted, Minion #2 had figured out the Netflix app on my phone, so they were watching a movie – but they SHARED it and actually put the phone in the middle of the backseat so they could both see it. If you’ve got more than one kid – or grew up with siblings – you know exactly the kind of miracle that happened here. Surreal.

Stop 1 – getting the car serviced. Normally a 20-minute job.

And that’s when everything changed.

“Ma’am, there’s something that’s not working here, and we’ll need to get it replaced as soon as possible.” ** And can I just tell you how much I hate it when anyone over the age of 20 calls me ‘ma’am’??

“OK, can I just pull over now and have you take a look?”

“Well, no – see, we’re really backed up today. But you can call Corporate from here and book an appointment to come back. ASAP.”

First of all, I’m confused why they can’t schedule their own stinking appointments. But I smiled, nodded, called the 800 number and got an appointment – for 3:30 in the afternoon. Ok, so the roller rink was out. But surely there was something else fun we could substitute, right?

Stop 2 – Haircuts for Minions. I don’t make them appointments. I have NEVER made them an appointment. We always go to the same place, walk in, and walk out 30 minutes later with two fresh cuts. Hannibal Lector said it best here: “But not today…”

Apparently, since school was out, every other parent in H-town made their kid an appointment for a haircut today. At the ONE place we always go. Was told that there was ‘at least a 40-minute wait.’

WTHeck? Really? A place that cuts kids’ hair expects me to wait 40+ minutes and try to keep two BOYS entertained? On a school holiday? Seriously, they could have planned ahead and scheduled more staff. I wasn’t having it. We left – to go to the other haircut location. And it started raining. And we drove uphill, through blinding hail, both ways…

… to find that there was only a 20 minute wait there. Sigh. After all that, I was bound and determined that these kids would get their hair cut. So we waited. I gritted my teeth and smiled when the A/C blasted us into chill-blivion. I gritted my teeth harder and smiled when a woman with three kids signed in after us and got taken back first. She had an appointment.

Lesson learned, OK?? Got it! I will NEVER take my sons for haircuts without appointments on a school holiday again!

Minions were – still – surprisingly well-behaved, so we stopped and got ice cream to soothe their shorn-headed dignity. Then it was on to get Minion #1 new glasses – since he has somehow managed to break both nose pieces off of his. Don’t know when or how, but it is what it is. Quick jaunt into Vision Center, right?

On ANY OTHER DAY, yes. Presidents Day? Heck no. Two opticians. One occupied with a lady who spoke little, if no, English. So she passed the woman over to the Spanish-speaking optician. Ok, our turn, right?

Wrong. The first optician patiently waited for the second one to translate for her instead of just switching customers and helping us.  Really? I’ve worked in retail. Believe me, I’d want the harrassed-looking woman with two kids dripping ice cream on the floor (that was me, at that point) out of the store as fast as possible – and would have done anything to make it happen.

Not these opticians. No way. I held my ground. Dangit, we were there to get glasses and we weren’t leaving without ordering glasses.

Until I realized that the Spanish-speaking lady was ordering not one, but five pair of glasses. For five different people. Who weren’t there. She was nice enough to try and take their preferences for frames over the phone – while we all waited.

Stick a fork in me. I was done. Sticky drippy sugared-up minions back in car and home.

That only took three hours. Oh, and two hours later I was at it again, back to the auto shop. At least by then the Spouse was able to get the minions from me and take them home. So much for my perfect SAHM day with the kiddoes.

And the kicker?? This morning I get tears from Minion #2, who said, ‘I want to stay home with you today. We didn’t do anything fun yesterday. It was boring.’ You have to insert the 7-year-0ld whiny voice on the italics to get the full effect. Trust me.

Sigh. I agree, kid. I agree. Teachable moment – life happens.

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Filed under Houston, kids, life lessons, Moms, working moms

Soapbox Time

What in the world has happened to education around here? Oh, right. It’s a business. First and foremost it’s a business, and that means that the focus is on money. Focus on test scores so that the kids will score high enough that the districts get money to pad their ever-shrinking budgets.

And what is lost? I’ll tell you – here in H-town, it’s kids’ exposure to the arts. I’m not talking about middle and high school orchestra, band, choir and theatre. Nope. Those are alive and well. But where do those programs get their numbers? Kids. Little kids who grow with an interest in the arts. And if they’re not exposed to it at a young age (by a teacher with a clue who shares their own love of the arts), then secondary programs are doomed.

I don’t get it. Back when I first started teaching, every kid in most districts around here had at least one opportunity during their elementary school years to experience the performing arts up close and personal – a live performance, trip to the museum, you name it. But here? That was the first thing to go when the budget started getting tight. It burns me up. No more field trips, no more excursions to the museum or the symphony. At least not in the districts around my ‘burb.

What are people thinking?? Obviously they haven’t read or considered this excellent article from The Washington Post. It’s not just the arts programs that suffer – it’s the whole child. What do we want as our society’s legacy? Constant connectedness through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – or a lasting legacy of fine art. Consider this: we base our opinions of ancient societies based on artifacts and literature left behind. And right now our legacy of Tweets and status updates is becoming the norm.

It makes me miss home even more, because obviously schools and school administrators up in Big D have their heads on straight. Those kids still get the field trips to the arts, and many also get weeks spent in outdoor classrooms experiencing science firsthand. WHAT’S WRONG WITH H-TOWN?? IT’S THE FOURTH-LARGEST CITY IN AMERICA, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! Maybe it would help if our parents and teachers were more vocal – oh, wait, arts teachers continually lobby for greater presence. They’re already doing that. But to no avail.

Can you tell I want to move home today?

And just a side note – I hope some homeschooling parents read the Washington Post article too. I had a conversation about homeschooling just the other day with a friend who actually gets it – and does the deed properly, putting their kids first and foremost.

But the arts are still lacking for those kids too – unless they have exceptional parents who place a high priority on the arts, they’re not getting it. Those kids may be lucky enough to learn biology from a biologist and history from a medieval scholar – but that’s not the whole child. Listening to an iPod 24/7 or finger painting three times a week do not constitute exposure to and education in the fine arts. And the arts are a necessity for every child.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Agree with me? Leave a comment. Disgusted with and ready to shoot me? Leave a comment. My point here is to make you think, and inspire some kind of action. Because I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want humans three hundred years from now to think our greatest accomplishment to the world was the Tweet.

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Filed under Arts Education, Budget, Field Trips, Houston, Performing Arts, Public Education

Mardi What??

I’m confused. I admit it. I’ve lived in H-town for thirteen years and I still get confused every year around this time. This whole Mardi Gras thing? I just don’t get it.

Part of the problem is that I grew up in rural Iowa and suburban north Dallas. As far as I know, there are no French people in Iowa. At least, not in our little corner. Everyone was German. We had the last names to prove it. Thiebauds and Thibodeaux? Nowhere in sight. But there were Bachmans, Langbehns, Mugges and Schultzes aplenty. And probably the best Oktoberfest in the state. Kraut, beer and brats? Yes please.
And in the ‘burbs north of Dallas Mardi Gras was Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday that we all learned about in French class. One day. One. One day where French people partied and ate all they could before Lent.
So what gives around here, folks? It literally seems like every suburb, nook and neighborhood has their own Mardi Gras association, crewe, parade and floats to prove it. Heck, in the ritzier parts of town there are actual debutante groups named after each crewe and ‘presented to society’ during the season. AND IT’S NOT JUST ONE DAY! THIS STUFF LASTS NEARLY A MONTH!!

You start seeing King Cakes in the stores just after New Year’s, I swear. I still don’t get the whole concept. A King Cake is basically a giant, mushy cinnamon-filled donut that’s decorated with nasty icing, green, purple and yellow colored sugars – and has a creepy plastic baby baked inside. Thirteen years later and I still don’t get what the deal is. I love donuts, but not squashy ones where you can taste the frying grease – and that’s pretty much what King Cake tastes like to me. They have them at work, church and school. But here’s the kicker – you can’t really eat the thing without ending up with green or purple teeth, lips and tongue. THAT looks professional! And I have no clue what the deal is with the plastic baby. I’m sure it means something if you get it, but the only thing I almost got from it was a cracked filling when I chomped on it. And I’m pretty sure gnawing a plastic baby into pieces won’t get you good luck.

And then there are the parades and parties. Galveston devotes two entire weekends to Mardi Gras. Last time I checked, Tuesday doesn’t fall on the weekend. What’s up with that? Every ‘burban Party City, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s has an entire Mardi Gras section starting just after Christmas. I had a hard time just finding plain ol’ birthday supplies two weeks ago for minion #1’s big day.

But the in-town stuff is apparently much more involved. Here’s what I mean. I heard an ad on the radio yesterday for a popular in-town store. Advertising ‘your one-stop shop for all your Mardi Gras needs: beads, decorations, boas, heels and more!’ Huh? Ok, I get the beads, but who knew I needed a feather boa and heels to celebrate the beginning of Lent? Oh, and I left out the best part! The store advertising all of these fancy party supplies is an adult novelty emporium – so you can also pick up your Mardi Gras lingerie while you’re there! This is sounding more and more like the Anne Rice ball my hairdresser went to one year. I got to hear all about that one for hours with a head full of bleach. He was so proud that he’d gotten his teeth filed to vampire points and capped silver during the festivities – and showed me, up close and personal. I found another salon after that day.

The Spouse and I must be really boring folk. I mean, we don’t even buy a King Cake, much less bust out the yellow, purple and green lingerie. Oh well. This is one time where I really don’t mind being boring.

So the only conclusion I can come up with is that this is a regional thing. And if we lived in the Big Easy, it would make sense. But H-town? Galveston? It’s not like we have some humongous French/Canadian/Cajun population roaming the streets. Sure, we have our share of Kibodeaux, Thibodeaux, Thiebaud, etc. – but that’s just a name. And holidays involving eating plastic babies just don’t get me excited.

Makes me miss my two hometowns even more. In Big D the highlight of the year was the State Fair (sorry Big Tex!) And you can’t miss Oktoberfest in small town Iowa. I’m drooling at the thought of a big juicy brat dripping kraut juice down my arm right now.

But no nasty King Cake please. My aunt’s strudel beats it hands down. And there’s never been a plastic toy in there… yet.

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Filed under Galveston, Houston, King Cake, Mardi Gras, Parties

A Positive Spin

Date Night was refreshing and, of course entertaining with all of the H-town people watching. I’ll go into that another day. See, our weekend has been pretty much completely consumed with one thing:

Operation Shovel-Out-R’s-Room-to-Find-the-Missing-Rice-Necklace.

In his defense, he gets this from me. He treasures this necklace so much that, last week, he put it away in ‘a very safe place.’ Such a safe place that he can’t remember where it is. Only that it’s somewhere in his room. This has to be genetic. I’ve done this countless times. So many times that I’ve started writing important things down on Post-its. And then promptly forget where I put the Post-its. So yesterday the Spouse took on the supervision of both minions to get the rooms cleaned out and up, with the goal of finding the rice necklace. They worked all day.

And guess what? This has turned into a family project. R just looks at the disaster that is his room with a deer-in-headlights expression. He’s frozen. Give him a direct command and he just stares at you – he’s that shell shocked at this point. I finally got him moving by promising a sweet treat of his choice if the room gets done today. I’ve spent the last hour and a half in there with a shovel.

Now I get why my cousin’s husband made the ‘nothing comes in this house unless something goes out first’ rule when they got married. And to think I was horrified by it at the time…

Moving on… Remember my January resolution? The one to be more positive? I’m focusing on that for the rest of this post. The Spouse pretty much called me to task yesterday when he found me stewing over (and, in his words, ‘ready to start a virtual cat-fight’) over a spew of negativity I read on the web. So what am I going to do about it?

I’m going to put a positive spin on our local H-town news.

Over the last year or so, the Spouse and I have taken to calling the local news the Pep Report. Can’t remember why, but it was funny at the time. And usually it’s free entertainment. It’s honestly so easy to get pessimistic and negative about today’s news, so here is my positive spin on local events.

  1. First and foremost, H-town police finally caught the Naked Prowler. This unidentified guy spent the last couple of weeks terrorizing local residents by knocking on doors at odd hours of the night with his pants around his ankles. Multiple sightings were reported, but the guy evaded capture. (Although how he managed to get away so quickly without falling or pulling up his pants I’ll never know.) Turns out he is a 20 year old college kid with an apparent drug problem. Go figure. And the positive spin? All of the residents who were targeted just happened to be older women who lived alone. I’m sure that added some much-needed spice to their New Year.
  2. Apparently the new crime trend around here is attempted carjackings at gas stations. Targets are loners sitting in their cars texting or talking on the phone while the tank is filling up. One guy – also a college student – managed to avoid getting jacked and was gracious enough to consent to an interview. According to him, ‘It’s just wrong that they would try this on me. I’m just a college kid. I don’t have any money and can’t afford to lose my car. I hope they get these guys soon.’ Good point. And the positive spin? The jackers ran away, so he was able to keep his car and only lost his $500 cell phone. Whew. Thank goodness. I’m so glad that student aid covers top-line cell phones these days – must-haves for any college kid.
  3. A missing toddler was found. Turns out she was picked up from daycare by her grandmother, who didn’t tell her son that she was doing so. The positive spin? The kid’s dad now knows that his mom is prone to violent and unpredictable outbursts.
  4. And finally, apparently there is some kind of big football game today involving the Texans. In Boston. Since I’m a blueblooded Cowboys fan from way back I really didn’t know. But, thanks to our local news team on location, I now know where to get the best cannolis in Beantown. And in case I can’t get a hotel room there, I have a handy list of where to stay in Providence – only 50 miles away.
  5. If you have toddlers, apparently the hot new device is the iPotty. So your 2-year-old can now spend 20 seconds trying to do their business instead of only 15. But hey, the docking station does come with a pee guard.
  6. My personal addition – since the game starts at 3:30, I know exactly when I’ll be doing my grocery shopping for the week in an empty store. Score!!

Catfight avoided, mood lifted, local news update at 10.

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Filed under Crime, Houston, Local News, Moms, Optimism, Resolutions, Texans, Toilet Training

Getting There is Half the – What??

Yesterday was a rude awakening, in more ways than one. First off, apparently everything that hasn’t been happening at the office decided to happen in full force Monday. My day off. So of course, the first thing I got to spend time doing yesterday (after I got the full rundown of Monday’s events) was to play catchup on all of the projects left for me while I was being Mom at home. Then – and only then – was I able to start on new work, like setting up the new assistant’s computer and training her on basic company software.

But of course, all of this couldn’t happen until I actually got to work, which – as it turns out – was yesterday’s adventure. And I’m still not quite sure why. See, the metro forecast called for rain – lots of rain – which, here in H-town means that every meteorologist in the entire area was salivating at the prospect of heavy flooding. It gave them a chance to create all of their worst-case-scenario graphs, charts and maps. Usually we all just laugh, roll our eyes and go on with our daily business.

Apparently yesterday was different. Apparently yesterday was the ONE day that all of us commuters decided to actually take the forecast seriously and embrace the doomsday flood prospects. Because from the first turn out of my suburban neighborhood, everyone was crawling along the roadways like ants through honey. You would have thought that fog limited visibility to five feet or less, or that the driving rain and feet of water on the roads brought traffic to a virtual standstill.

In reality, it was misting softly, no fog, an occasional small puddle and pretty dry roads. And given that I was headed into work an hour early because of a lunchtime appointment, I was relieved and ready to rock and roll on the road.

Not so much. My back way to the highway? The one that goes through a school zone? Since school started yesterday – along with the imagined rainstorms – that meant that, instead of 25 mph, apparently the speed limit was changed to 5-10. My normally ten minute jaunt to the interstate took 40 minutes. That’s right. 40. The zero is intentional.

And once on the highway? Crawling. A reported wreck on another highway further into town slowed things down even further, since the interstate has an exit ramp onto said highway. Stalled 18-wheeler in the center lane? Check. This one always baffles me. Honestly, can’t you tell when you’re having car trouble and at least move over? I do. But then I tend to be paranoid about weird shakes and noises in my car anyway.

One hour in, and guess what? That’s right – still not raining.

My normal bottleneck? The one that I always feel guilty about circumventing? Yep. Still the same. Actually that was the ONE part of the drive that went as usual. No faster, slower or stranger than usual.

An hour and a half after leaving my suburban home – and success! I managed to travel the 21 miles to the office. And I still wonder – what causes traffic like this? It’s not like the road was closed or impassable due to flooding/low visibility/rain, etc. I never understand.

The only things I can possibly think of are commuters’ dumbassery and poor road planning. Really. And the positive? I can honestly say that every day is a new adventure! Spontaneous! A bright surprise! The morning commute is never predictable! Yippee!!

Now if I could only get used to having my cheese moved daily…

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Filed under commuting, Houston, Traffic, Weather, working moms

Over the Platform

Today’s post has absolutely nothing to do with the New Year and/or resolutions, life changes or goals. Sorry. Actually, I’m not. Given that everyone in the office seems either stressed out or in the familiar post-holiday funk, I need to liven things up a bit. The result is today’s post. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, but I lacked any kind of inspiration to write about it.

That all changed on Tuesday.

What happened Tuesday? Well, one of my fam’s New Year’s Day traditions is leaving the ‘burbs for the city and hitting up the mall. Early, mind you. It’s honestly the best time to go – usually empty until around lunchtime when the hung-over masses emerge from their cocoons and hit up the food court for greasy cures. This year was no different. Except for one thing.
I should have known something was up when our usual secret parking garage was packed. Packed. Not just full. I’m talking packed – as in, every parking space on both levels was occupied, tens of cars were circling like vultures and people were actually hopping out of vehicles to scout out newly-open spaces on foot. Really. Once we finally snagged a space and made it to the relative safety of the department store in question, we realized why.
THE ADDITIONAL 50% OFF SALE
I’m not sure why this was such a big deal. It’s the city, after all. Bargains are always out there for the frugally-minded adventurer. But, for whatever reason, this particular sale brought out throngs of crazed shoppers intent on grabbing as much as possible. Worse than Six Flags on a summer Saturday, or the State Fair on Texas-OU weekend. It was bad.
Anyway, I’m getting off topic here. But I had to paint the picture for you as I tried to navigate through the store and into the mall. Past one of my required departments. Shoes.
Now I wouldn’t say I have a shoe obsession by any means. Compared to some of my friends, I’m downright thrifty. But I always like to look, and my Spouse appreciates a few suggestions here and there. He’s figured out that shoes are a pretty good go-to if he’s stuck for a gift idea.
So there I was, perusing the shoes as best I could through the masses, and one thing really stuck out.
WHAT THE HECK IS UP WITH THE EXTREME PLATFORMS??
I’ve got nothing against platforms. Seriously. I’ve got several pair of them at home and I do actually wear them. But everything that I saw this week was so over-the-top extreme that I had to document it. We’re talking Unwalkable Shoes here. I’ve got a friend from college who calls them ‘valet shoes’ because the prospect of actually walking in some of these is a no-go. Or at the very least, a recipe for disaster. I get that. If your lifestyle requires that you attend Events dressed to the nines, go for it. Mine doesn’t. But even if you are such a fashionista, I’m thinking even you would have to pass these up:


That is, unless you’re a sixteen year old from the year 2132 named Judy Jetson.

Really? Who on earth would even try to wear these? And of those women, who would ever think they would look good? I’m thinking that even Debbie Gibson or Madonna in her heyday would call these out for Extreme Neon.
Maybe they’re leftover from the last run of Mamma Mia. Hmmm…
But the more I looked, the less unusual these shoes seemed. Apparently the trend is toward extreme stilettos with extreme platforms. No wonder more and more women look like Amazons. It’s getting out of hand.
And before anyone starts telling me that I’m dated or behind the times, I’ll say it again. I do have – and regularly wear – stilettos, platforms and combinations thereof. I mean, I was cleaning out the depths of my closet the other day and found my prom shoes:

 See? I’ve come a long way since then. But I’m too klutzy – and not enough of a slave to fashion – to venture down this extreme road. I’d break an ankle, at the very least. Several bones at the worst, and I’d probably manage to take a few others down with me. So these are definitely a no-go for me.
What do you think? Crazy regional trend? National phenomenon? Oooh – I’ve got it! It’s a governmental conspiracy to incapacitate women. I could go all political here! But you know what? I won’t. I’ll leave that to other people who will have more fun with conspiracy theories than me.
And yes, I did have to put in today’s mindless fashion post. But in case you’re wondering, I DID come out of said department store with a lovely green sweater – after only waiting five minutes in line. SCORE!!

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Filed under Fashion Trends, Houston, Moms, Platforms, Shoes, shopping