30 September 2008

The cost of "fame"...

Well, I've been blogging for a year now. And I've felt fairly "enclosed" within a circle of a few blogger friends, mostly my own children and friends of theirs. But today I found out how large the world is, especially the blogger world.

Evidently I am listed on someones "Blogs I follow" list. And folks have been checking my blog. And I hit a nerve with my (now deleted) "Are you a Republican, Democrat or Southerner?" post. It has never been my intention to make my blog a platform for political agenda even though, while most of my blogs are about grandchildren, family goings-on and "favorite things", my views do come out sometimes, especially if they tickle my funny bone. And this particular blog I considered to be a bit of satire about Southerners and their love of hunting rather than a diatribe against Democrats or terrorists. And I admit, I'm still reeling a bit from some of the comments I received tonight.

I've decided that should I ever write a book, I will have to grow a thicker skin to be able to accept the inevitable criticisms that will come my way. The negative comments I received, which made me feel as if I'd mortally offended some folks, have blindsided me. I should have seen it coming eventually I guess. But it hurts all the same.

Yes, I'm sure I'll be criticized for removing it. And perhaps justifiably so. But it does give me pause about how others perceive me initially, especially when not face-to-face. And in some ways I'm a coward - I don't like to "not be liked" which is how I feel after reading these comments ("bad analogy", "poor taste", "I won't be coming HERE again", "very offensive" for example). This is an absolute first for me let me tell you.

You can't please all the people all the time. And while I can't and don't try to please everybody - that would be impossible on so many levels - I also don't consciously make an effort to be offensive either. So I have removed the post - in case you were wondering if you were going crazy because it WAS there before and now it isn't. There's no use apologizing for any offense given to those who were offended because they made it perfectly clear they would not be back.

Live and learn, my friends; live and learn...

26 September 2008

Seen by my uncle...

Be sure to notice the license plate as well...

I'm sick...and I'm tired...

And did I mention I was sick? I am officially allergic to Houston. This happens time after time. We drove home on Wednesday and I could feel the scratchy throat thing starting to work it's voodoo. Then I woke up Thursday morning (after a fitful night of semi-sleep I might add) to a full blown sinus situation. (I thought "sinus situation" sounded WAY better than using the word "infection" which as SO many nasty connotations...not to mention mental images...)

I can't breath except through my mouth. Which makes me feel like a large mouth bass. Not fun.

And to top the "joy" off, Mike is finally home after being gone for two weeks. Like anyone wants to be around me right now.

So I'm having a pity party.

Think of me, your "snotty" friend, as you utilize your fully functioning nasal passages.

The ability to breathe is highly underrated...

25 September 2008

Not on MY kids!

neige gabriella dress

Anyone who knows me fairly well at all knows I'm a shopper. If you can't find it, chances are, I can. And at a really good price. I even found Brighton sandals for $34.88 at a Nordstrom's Rack once. We're talking shoes that were originally $165.

I'm a leader in my field. I rock. If they gave performance appraisals for finding online bargains and hard to find items, I'd be promoted regularly.

In keeping with my "job title", I subscribe to a daily email called "Daily Candy" - you might too. There is a version for the DFW area (okay, not Houston but at least the same state!) and a kids' version as well. I've found some cool stuff on that site - unusual things I was not aware of and have actually ordered from some of the featured sites they tout. There are new restaurant reviews, resale shops, online retail shops - kind of a Michelin's Guide for retailing if you please.

So I get this one today. I'm thinking - cute! Here's the 'blurb' which enticed me to click on the online store site:

Newsflash: Kids dressed like trendazoids are creepy.

Lose the Juicy sweats. Ditto the leopard leggings. And whoever told you rhinestone studded tie-dye was a good look lied.

Kids will be kids, so dress them like it in Neige. The just-launched website sells the whole collection, so you finally drool over everything at once.

Known for timeless, modern design, Neige clothes are adaptable and durable (think family touch football on Thanksgiving). For the little ladies, hand-knit sweatercoats and jumpers in cotton blend herringbone. For the little guys, long-sleeve polos and classic three-button blazers in rich corduroy.

In other words, take back that “boob man” tee before he gets the wrong idea.

And, hon, while you’re at it, ditch your leopard leggings, too.

So I go to the site. Cute stuff. Love the girls dresses. So I click on one immediately that catches my eye (photo above).

Say WHAT???

First of all, it's $170.

Yes, you read that right.


I rarely spend that for a dress for me, let alone someone who doesn't even have hormones yet.

Then the real clincher - "Dry Clean Only". For REAL?? I mean, I just spent two weeks up north with my grandchildren, and, between them and myself, I rarely made it through the day without some major spill on my person. I don't even do dry clean unless it's for some fancy-schmancy function where I am not likely to be in the vicinity of, let alone be holding, a child.

Now I want to know who buys this stuff and if you do, can you invite me to your next garage sale? I'll be there with my checkbook wearing my washable cottons!

And just maybe my Brighton sandals....

24 September 2008

Wow...like we didn't see THAT one coming!

Well, wonder of wonders, Clay Aiken has decided to "out" himself, in the closet sense that is. Like none of us didn't see that coming? For REAL?

In the article it states the following, "The born-again Christian singer also reveals how he told his mother Faye he's gay four years ago." Emphasis here on the "born-again Christian". I don't hate Clay Aiken. I don't hate homosexuals. But homosexuality? That's another matter. People (as in the general masses", not the magazine) often equate hating the sin of homosexuality with hating the person, which are two completely separate issues. I don't care how you try to rationalize it, explain it or try to take it out of context, homosexuality is definitely something God abhors as evidenced by the scriptures. Call me what you want, I'm only telling you what God said!

I'm a Christian first and an American second. And I'm sure I'll raise ire for taking a stand on this. But I'm tired of "political correctness" whitewashing what scripture clearly condemns.

1 Cor 6:9-11

9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

11Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

23 September 2008

Headin' home...

Tomorrow, Mike flies in from Kazakhstan to DFW. I pick him up and after an errand or two, we'll load up the car and start back home to Katy with Mom and the dogs in tow. I've heard things are fairly back to normal in Katy after Hurricane Ike, but I'm glad none-the-less that Mike decided to come back to DFW so we could face whatever there is to face together. I've been up here two weeks now and have relied on friends to tell me what our house looks like, my mom's house condition, if gas is available, are groceries in stores, etc. I feel like I "skipped out" by being up here but on the other hand, I didn't want to go through that storm with Mike gone. And I've heard some harrowing tales of "that night" with howling winds and falling trees and much uncertainty. Again, I'd have "weathered the storm" if he had been in the country but given the choice, I'm glad we came up here.

As usual, I'm going through my "this time tomorrow" reel in my head. And it usually centers on not being around children and grandchildren and knowing I'm going to miss them and the routines I've gotten into (Gymboree classes, Starbucks runs, library, clothes shopping, playing). I go through a "mini-mourning" when I leave. I know, I know, cry you a river as I can come up just about any time I want and do spend a lot of time up here. But I do love being around the "next generations". We went to Austin on Saturday so I got a "fix" with Tim and Megan and their precious two, Kennedy and Lleyton. Jennifer, Luke and Ben went with me and we had eight hours of fantastic time together that I swear went by in 15 minutes. Yesterday, I went to the Fort Worth Zoo with Mirai, Luke and Ben (as well as their mamas) followed by a lunch at the delicious Pappa's Burgers. And we celebrated Chris' 26th birthday Monday night as well as Luke's 4th this past week. So I have lots to remember and relive in my mind and heart.

Once I get on the road, I'm always fine - it's just the 24 hours leading up to it. But I bought some groceries to take back (not sure what is in the stores - or worse, what is NOT in the stores!), meat is in the freezer so it will stay cold all the way back home and I'm working on laundry "as we speak". Tomorrow morning, Mom and I will strip beds and do more laundry, remaking beds and putting fresh towels in the bathrooms before we close up the house. The dogs are blissfully unaware of the 4-5 hour drive back - Shelby loves to travel but Izzie gets carsick so I have to medicate her 30 minutes before leaving or risk losing that "new car smell" fairly soon into the journey! :)

So homeward we are bound. I'm more than ready for Mike to be home (I was ready about a week ago but that didn't work out...) and soon we can hopefully "resume our regularly scheduled programing".

Life goes on. Thank goodness!

An important service announcement...if you have a 3G iPhone that is...


I went into the Apple Store today to buy an additional a/c adapter for my iPhone as I'd bought a cool lamp with a plug in the base (like they have in oo-la-la-nice hotels!) and was told that there aren't any for awhile as they've been recalled! I looked online at this article and discovered that if you have a 3G iPhone (the new one), you are supposed to go to the Apple website for instructions on how to get a new one and to return the one that came with it (in a pre-paid envelope - yea!) So all ya'll techno-junkies out there with the cool phone, be sure to check out the recall info so you don't "light up your lift" in a way you never intended.

Thank you.

And good night.

22 September 2008

Time for some campaigning...again...

I posted this ages ago, before it was "cool" I guess. No one noticed it. But I have been getting email after email from folks wanting to tell me about it so I'm posting again.

Not that I'm keeping score or wanting to be recognized as the "cool, informed person" on the block or anything.

Okay, so maybe I am. I've been a stay-at-home-mom for 32 years so I guess I fight for credit when credit is due!

I will now get off my soapbox and return to the subject at hand.

JibJab is a hoot. Sign up to get the new ones when they come out and you too can blog about it and no one will remember.

It'll be FUN! (do you note the sarcasm??)


21 September 2008

Happy Birthday to Chris...

Our "baby", Chris, youngest of our three, is 26 years old today. Yes, 26 for the first time unlike LAST year's post where I discovered to my horror that I couldn't even do simple math correctly and listed him as being 26!

Hey, I got out my calculator and double checked this time.

This past year has seen Chris enter his final year at university, his 5th wedding anniversary with Jenjer, his daughter's first Christmas as well as first birthday. I know he's ready to have the 2008-2009 academic year under his belt and "get out there" in the workplace without classes to attend. And we have high hopes that the location of "out there" might possibly be Houston!

You've come a long way from the preemie baby you were, born 3 months early at 3 lbs., 15oz during our first international transfer to England. Your father and I do find it interesting that, as the child who resisted moving the most in those growing up years has a desire to live internationally again some day. :)

So Happy Birthday, son. Hope you have a fun day celebrating!

19 September 2008

The Most Famous House in the World...


This may well be the most famous house in the world right now. Who hasn't seen it? It's been the topic of conversation ever since Hurricane Ike plowed its way through south Texas, wiping out towns, changing the landscape and disrupting lives for the foreseeable future. But this house remains fixed in our minds. Why did this particular house stand when all the others did not? Why is this house different? Who built this house? What is the story behind it? Everyone wants to know. Yes, it sustained some damage. I'm sure there are windows out. The stairwell leading up to the side deck looks twisted and unsafe. And there's probably quite a bit of water damage to the interior. But it is standing.

Still standing.

Standing alone in the midst of otherwise total wipe-out by the storm.

It does give one pause. It appears this house did not stand because of fate. It did not suddenly decide to be strong. It was designed by it's owners, with purpose, to withstand a hurricane. They evidently sustained substantial damage during Hurricane Rita back in 2005. They sought expert advice and retained contractors to construct a structure that would be strong and withstand the storms that inevitably would come their way.

They had purpose.

They sought expert advice.

They actively developed a plan.

They followed through with a plan.

Their house is standing.

Awesome. Totally awesome.

So, in my Christian life, I wonder, have I prepared for the inevitable storms of life? Have I sought God's "advice" to shore up my foundation in Him? Will I still be standing when those storms hit? Or will I be one of the unseen houses that has been washed away and is seen no more? It bears reflection, folks; it definitely bears reflection.

We are told in God's word a parable of two men who built houses. One built on the sand and when the rains and storm came, his house was washed away. The other man built his house on solid rock. And he withstood the storm.

Matthew 7:21 - 29
21"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

22"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'

23"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.

25"And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

26"Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

27"The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall."

Convicting? Yes. Heeded? Not by many. We think we will be "safe" and "get by". But preparation is in order. Action is required. Execution is essential.

I am reminded of the song we sing in services, "We Have an Anchor", written in 1882 by a woman named Priscilla Owens:

"Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro’ strength divine.

It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear—
When the breakers have told that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.

It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death—-
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.

When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore."

I have an anchor. I need to cling to Him with all my might. He is my source of strength and direction.

Do YOU have an anchor? Think about it.

For unto us a child was born...

Four years ago today, I sat in a hospital waiting room waiting for the fact that I was a grandmother for the first time sink in. It took awhile just because we (Mike and I) had wanted grandchildren for so long. And seeing as how it's none of our business when any of our children decide to procreate, we wished and longed silently. But our desire was fulfilled in 2004 not by one, but TWO, precious grandchildren in September and October.

Benjamin was our very first grandchild. We had been living in England but had our condo in Bedford, Texas. I spent that summer decorating the "Guest Nursery" as it came to be called. I had ordered special furniture, had a plate rail installed, chenille oval carpet on the floor, custom made linens for the bumper pad, crib skirt and throw pillows - yes, I had throw pillows for a NURSERY! I think I was creating the nursery I would have liked to have had but no way could afford "lo, all those many years before".

Jennifer worked through the summer and took maternity leave just one week before her due date. That Friday evening of her last day, we planned the week ahead, unencumbered by work schedules. We were PUMPED! Saturday started off with a bang, running to all kinds of shops for baby things, nursery items, supplies, things for the hospital, eating like crazy to fuel the frenzy. We got home around 9pm exhausted but happy. I said goodnight and walked into the condo and was hit by the biggest wave of "nesting instinct" I'd had in over 25 years! That baby was coming soon and I still had bits and pieces to do to finish MY nursery! So until about 1am, I hung pictures, arranged furniture, washed linens and made up the crib, got the change table stocked and ready, all that good and FUN stuff.

I was just about to go to bed around 1:20am when the phone rang - it was Jason telling me it might be "time" and they were bringing Emma over for me to keep (their dog at the time, my first "grand-dog"). Thirty minutes later they dropped her off with a promise to call "when it was close to time" and drove off. Could I sleep then? NO. I lay down and tried to sleep but my brain was a frenzy of thought. I was actually going to be a grandmother soon, perhaps within the next 24 hours even! My brain rolled over and over as I wondered if I would be a good grandmother. Would I be the example I needed to be? Would he/she like me? Would I even remember how to hold, bath, care for an infant again? How would I ever be able to get back on a plane and return to England later on? How could you be so in love with someone you had never met???

At 3:45 or so, Jason called and told me if I didn't want to miss it, I'd better get to the hospital because Jen was progressing rapidly. I went to the closet to throw on clothes and in true female mentality stood there and thought, "What do I want to remember wearing when I become a grandmother?" I knew Jennifer wanted a boy so I wore a blue checked shirt for "boy luck" which was stupid really considering the baby's gender was of course already determined and wearing a certain color was not going to change THAT! But I wore it anyway and prayed all the way to the hospital (which was only 5 minutes a way). I prayed that I would be a good grandmother, that Mike and I would always be a positive Christian influence on this child and the one Tim and Megan would be having in a few short weeks, that this baby would LIKE me (yes, I worried that this baby might not like me...), that I wouldn't be a pest of a grandmother...all kinds of thoughts and prayers ran through my brain as I tried to carefully maneuver my car through empty streets after a sleepless night fueled on anticipation, love and adrenaline.

I got to the hospital as Jennifer was delivering and had to wait only a few minutes in reality but it seemed ages. Finally, Jason called me and told me it was a BOY and he'd be out in a few minutes.

A boy. Benjamin. My first grandchild. A grandson. I sat there and soaked it all up. And I silently prayed thanks.

There is something indescribable about your child giving birth to their first child and I got to experience that two more times. But the reality is, no matter WHICH child it is, first, second, fourteenth (ha! got your attention kids!), there is an overwhelming sense of joy and peace when those babies safely arrive into the arms of their loving mamas and daddies. It's more than cute nurseries at home. It's more than propagation of the family. It's wonder and awe at how we are created and made. It's wonder and thankfulness when, considering how many parts have to be formed and kick into action to function properly, they arrive with all their parts working (the whole "ten fingers and ten toes" phenomenon"). And the realization of the awesome responsibility we have as parents and grandparents to bring these tiny humans to safe emotional and maturity harbor. From the moment they are put in our arms, we are being entrusted to teach them to leave us, to be independent, to function with wisdom and guidance from above. Everything counts. Every action. Every word. Our very presence. It all counts.

So on this, my fourth anniversary of being a grandparent and not inconsequently Benjamin's 4th birthday as well, I wish Ben a very happy birthday. You are a joy and delight in our lives. And I'm very thankful that not only are you here but, as Sally Field said in a speech once, "You like me! You actually like me".

Happy Birthday, Bear. Papa and I love you.

17 September 2008

Ah, "Randomness" is going around...and I think I've caught it...

I feel SO honored and annoyed that I, a "gently aging fifty-something" has been tagged to do the "Six Random Things About Myself" by Emily...Emily, daughter of Beth, granddaughter of Pat, one of the heirs to the Autrey Dynasty...THAT Emily. :)

Hey, it's great to know celebrities, even if they ARE, say, 24 years younger than you.

1. I did not let my children, as teenagers buy (or listen to if I was in the near vicinity) ANY "music" by Madonna. But I was (and still am) an Elton John fan. Granted, when I first became a chaste groupie, it was because MIKE liked his music so much and he hadn't come out of the closet yet (Elton, NOT Mike...don't even GO there...) But we DATED to Elton John so it's stuck in the psyche of our "early days" and hearing one of his songs brings back so many wonderful memories...of new love, of getting married, of being below 125 lbs...

However, Mom was NOT amused when "The Bitch is Back" just happened to "randomly" come on just as someone from church came calling...I am SO bad...

2. I have size 11 feet. No joke. My lovely husband claims they HAVE to be that big to be able to fit in my mouth, where they truthfully are much of the time. Do you know how un-FEMININE it feels to have feet bigger than your husbands? By two sizes?? On the flip side, having a more difficult size to find, I don't feel guilty spending sizable (ha!ha! I made a pun!) amounts of money on shoes when I do find them (thinking Brighton shoes here...not cheap folks, not cheap...but neither am I!)

3. I'm a techno-junkie. I have Mac desktops. I have a Mac laptop. I have iPods, iPhones, a new Nano. I shop online. I'm one of those annoying people who read their emails while waiting for food to arrive in a restaurant (but only with Mike - because he's reading his as well - we understand each other so well!) I started my aggressive quest to learn about computers and how they operate when the boys were teenagers because, frankly, the thought of them knowing more about those machines scared me silly. I mean, think about what teenage boys might get into! I monitored their viewing online for a LONG time before they even knew what a "temporary cache" was. It was my secret parenting weapon. Big Brother had NOTHING on Big Mother!!

4. I love looking at houses. I love SHOPPING for houses. I love DECORATING houses. And I love looking at blueprints of houses. And yes, I love BUILDING houses - the layout, the colors, the tiles, flooring, carpets, the fixtures - oh, bliss - FIXTURES! Sinks, toilets, hardware...sigh....Yes, HGTV interests me greatly - who KNEW they had a channel dedicated to all things home, heart and the pursuit of tasteful and balanced interiors?? (Remember, I lived overseas until December 2005...)

5. I love Indian food and can't find good Indian in the US. In England, there was an Indian food restaurant in every village if not on every corner - almost as prevalent as nail salons in the US (still quite odoriferous but much tastier I might add...) Our favorite, what we ordered every single time, was Chicken Tikka, buttered Nan bread, Aloo Gobee (curried cauliflower and potatoes with tomato and mushrooms) followed by an After Eight dinner mint to put out any spice flames still smouldering on our taste buds.

6. I didn't like Mexican food until I was in my teens. Growing up in Texas, this is like going to AA and admitting being an alcoholic. "Hello, my name is Cheri and I hate Mexican food." I still don't like beans much but unfortunately have completely gotten over any aversion to lard fried corn products with copious amounts of melted cheese on them or large quantities of avocados mushed with garlic, cilantro, lime juice and minced tomatoes.

So there you have it. People magazine will headline me next week - I just KNOW it! The paparazzi will have a FIELD day and it will all be YOUR fault, Emily.

I hope you're happy.

15 September 2008

Dodging the bullet...

Short and sweet. It's looking like we came through Ike UNSCATHED...power was back on by 8am on Saturday, trees leaning a bit but not uprooted, no popped windows, roof intact (although when I get back to Katy I'll have the insurance guy check it to make sure!). I haven't seen it yet but I talked to my next door neighbor (thanks, Daphney!) and our friends, the Bryants, who actually stayed in the house last night pending their power coming back on today (it did). So I have high hopes that we got off with little more than nature's slap on the wrist which is more than I can say for anyone just 5 miles east of us.

I'm still in Keller but plan to return to Katy either this weekend or early next week. Thanks for all the emails, phone calls and PRAYERS sent our way for safety! We appreciate it so much.

Now if the economic winds just won't blow down the banks...

13 September 2008

Where in the world is Cheri?

Many of you have emailed or called wondering if I'd left Houston or not. Yes indeed - I left Thursday morning with my mom and two dogs in tow. We arrived in Keller about 3:30pm Thursday afternoon. And looking at the news and coverage for Hurricane Ike, I'm glad to be away from there. Mike is overseas. So both of us are (hopefully) well away from it all. No telling what we'll find when we go back late next week but we have insurance (including flood insurance).

Even though Katy is in west Houston, they are predicting 70-80mph winds for our area. This may well be the biggest storm affecting our family in our lifetime. Jason's parents have stayed in Katy as have most folks I know. I had planned to come up here before Ike even was a threat since Ben's 4th birthday is in one week. And with Mike out of the country, I had no desire to hunker down by myself.

Thanks for your calls and emails - and most of all, prayers!

09 September 2008

Jason will be so proud...

Last Saturday, with a "honey-do" list longer than usual (owing to our month's absence from Katy), we set forth to do errands with many stops. The usual suspects: cleaners, lunch at Chick-fil-a, a couple of returns, the local DIY - in this case, Lowe's. I'm a "Lowe's Girl" - never find what I'm looking for in a Home Depot even though there is one around the corner and we have to drive several miles to a Lowe's.

Loyalty has it's price.

Anyway, we went to Lowe's for one reason - to get the materials to help keep an oak tree in the front yard alive. It's the "runt" of the litter and lately, whenever we have winds and storms, it literally topples over! So we decided to add more soil, stake it again and try to nudge it back to firmly being rooted.

But it's the end of the summer. And we were in the garden area. And we have a gap in one of our back beds where an Italian Cypress didn't make it two years ago. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? A 7 foot yaupon pom-pom tree - on sale (but no tiny reindeer)! We like to call yaupons "Dr. Seuss trees". You know of which I speak.

It's different from the Tasty Freeze Ice Cream trees.

spiral evergreen trees

So this tree had been $169.50 but was marked down to $42.50. A bargain. And we had a spot in the backyard with it's name on it.

Now those of you who know me well know that I could kill a silk plant. Which is already dead. I can make it deader. So to buy a living plant, one that will have to be planted by ourselves, is a great leap of faith - for both me and the tree. Would you believe me if I told you it looked at me and said, "NO! NOT YOU! ANYBODY BUT YOU! SAVE ME! SAVE ME!!"?

I didn't think so.

Mike is skeptical about buying a tree but decides to humor me. Well, I can't have just a tree - I must have further decoration around the tree! So I buy two planters of knock-out roses with sweet potato vine (also on sale - $19.99 down to $10 each!) and two large pots of yellow Ixora (not on sale but they were really pretty and different...and one MUST do one's part for the economy...).

Now, I have this brand new car. Not even one single payment made on it yet. Time to break in in...but gently. We grab a painters drop cloth (cheap plastic thingie), the stakes and soil for the aforementioned ailing oak and head to check out. The entire bill was less than the original price of the Seuss tree. I'm feeling a bit smug but Mike's mouth is a thin tight line. Out to the car we go.

I open the back hatch and unfold the painters cloth which sticks together like toilet paper on your shoe in a public restroom. Finally get it sort of open and we wrap it around the pot end of the tree. Mike starts feeding it into the Pilot while I'm at the passenger side trying to keep the paper under it while pulling it up as far as it will go.

Wouldn't you know, they WATER those things at Lowe's! Evidently, daily as well. Either that or my new tree had an incontinence problem. So I'm working to bunch up the cloth around the pot so it won't get on my new car and wishing Lowe's stocked Depends. I put my car seat up as far as it will go and we BARELY get that sucker in the back! Five bags of soil go in next to it and we stick the Ixora and roses wherever we can find space.

As we drive away, I say to Mike, "Well, I guess my car isn't "new" anymore."

We get home and lo, and behold, the painter's cloth had held and we had very little soil or water on the seats or carpet. What water escaped fell on the all weather rubber mats I'd had installed for the sake of transporting grandchildren through Chick-fil-A and Starbucks drive-thru's. I am so a bastion of efficiency.

Yeah, me!

My car is STILL new...

We unload everything and I, in true new car ownership anal-retentiveness, get out the shop-vac and immediately vacuum the car. We lug all the loot to the backyard and I start placing things where they should go.

That's when we discover - we don't even own a shovel.

Just like in the romance novels, "Our eyes met across the crowded room. The rest of the world ceased to exist as we communicated silently, 'We are so stupid'..."

Back in the car and we deigned to go to Home Depot this time. I was sure they sold shovels and quite frankly, I don't give a fig what shovel we buy. I'm picky about a lot of things but shovels and gardening implements of any sort - not really opinionated about them as long as I don't have to use them. Also, they don't come with "Gift with Purchase" bags of fun cosmetics so therefore go under my interest radar.

To make a short story long, Mike digs the holes, I use the toy shovels and hand rakes we got for the grandkids (to use at the beach) to pull the soil around the root ball and mound up the soil, and then we water them well. It is finished. We take a step back and realize, we done GOOD!

I like Ixora - and I didn't even know it! Now that's not a name you hear very often. We could have named a daughter that - Ixora Ladora.

Or maybe not. But it goes well with the whold Dr. Seuss tree thing, right?

I like looking at the house from this angle - the bench is a retirement gift to Mike from BP when we moved back. Quintessentially English Lyuten's bench. So I put on my flip-flops, get comfy in my ratty jeans and make believe I'm some English aristocrat...who desperately needs a personal stylist.

These three bears have traveled with us ever since 1994 when I bought them in Naperville, Illinois. They represent my three children and have been in our garden wherever we live. They are very well traveled bears! Don't go in for religious icons but when it comes to my kids. well...

Just wanted to make sure you got to see it from EVERY SINGLE ANGLE IN CASE YOU MISSED A LEAF OR SOMETHING!

I love wisteria and ours "goes to town". We are constantly cutting it back but I love it's fragrant purple flowers too much to ever get rid of it.

Look who came to visit and patiently waited until I got my camera out. I think he posed for me. Wait till he finds out he is NOT going to be featured in "The English Garden" magazine.

I hope he isn't best buds with a swarm of wasps.

This is what I see when I come out of the back door. When the waterfall is going, it is "auditory Prozac" - you just relax and feel yourself unwind. Seuss never had it so good.

I think he's gonna make it. Or at least die trying.

08 September 2008

The baby who can read??

I just saw this on AOL and it's rather amazing! Check it out. And perhaps a little frightening. But I'm impressed. So much for the spelling out between parents thing like we all do when we don't want the kids to hear!

Fortune cookies...

We have a lot of fun with fortune cookies. We aren't superstitious but we do enjoy the messages that come on those little white slips of paper inside those cookies. I don't even EAT the cookies but make sure I get my "fortune".

And anyone who is watching the news knows that there are two major stories running ALL THE TIME - the election and the multiple hurricanes churning towards the US of A. In fact, Ike is possibly headed straight for Houston.

Just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And Mike is leaving for Kazakhstan (again) today. So we met at our local Chinese restaurant for a quick lunch before he was picked up for the airport. We were in a rush so almost didn't bother with the cookies. But at the last minute, I said, "Let's see what they say!"

Rather a coincidence but here's what MINE said:

"A new adventure awaits you this weekend."

Good enough. New adventures. Sounds like fun!

Then came Mike's:

"After a big storm comes tranquility."

Should we be worried?

06 September 2008

About that car...

Yes, a week ago yesterday we bought a new car for moi. After Tim and Megan's Cobalt went to that great big junkyard in the sky where all good cars who have protected their occupants from certain death go, they asked if we'd be interested in selling them my 2005 Honda Pilot.

Why, yes indeed. Most happy to do so.

Which meant I needed to find myself a new vehicle posthaste. So I started my search online while up in Keller a couple weeks ago. I knew what I wanted. But no one seemed to HAVE it! I wanted the new souped up 2009 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD with RES (which I thought had something to do with brakes or the engine - turns out RES is Hondaspeak for "rear entertainment system" - couldn't they have just said "with DVD"?). Simple enough I thought. Well, for awhile it seemed that NO ONE IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF TEXAS ORDERS 4WD VEHICLES! And not a few dealership "salesmen" let me know in no uncertain terms that

1) No one NEEDS 4WD in the Houston area

2) No one NEEDS 4WD in the state of Texas

3) I was an imbecile for wanting a 4WD

4) I was stupid to think I'd FIND a 4WD anywhere except possibly El Paso

5) I didn't know what I wanted and they were there to set me on the straight path of car selection righteousness.

They didn't know who they were dealing (or NOT dealing) with.

Let's just say those "salesmen" failed miserably in their quest to get me to purchase anything from them...ever....

Did they honestly think that to open a "conversation" about a car choice with a volley of insults towards my intelligence was really going to get me to reconsider? One guy said, honestly, "WHY do you want a 4WD? You don't NEED it in Houston! It's not necessary!" Not that it's any of HIS business, but did he ever consider that, oh, perhaps I don't drive in Houston ALL THE TIME?? That if I want a 4WD that's MY business? Not to mention that a) I currently drive a 4WD and b) a 4WD has better resale than a 2WD?

Whatever, that potential "deal" was dead in the water.

One dealership gave me a quote with the correct model number and, after getting all excited about the price with the options I wanted being a good number, I called only to find that no, indeed, it was for the 2WD model, that the quote had a VIN and stock number that was for a 2WD and that the fact that the 4WD model was ON the quote that in no way implied it was, GASP! actually a 4WD vehicle! Let's just say that a certain Honda dealership in Katy who might or might NOT be called Honda Cars of Katy will NEVER get my business in purchasing a vehicle.

I believe in the great State of Texas, that is called "Bait and Switch". And there are laws against it. And Honda Corporate will hear about it.

But anyway, back to my "birth story", I received an email from a dealership I had vowed to hate for all eternity back in 1997 when we were trying to find and buy Jennifer her (back then) revolutionary new model called a CR-V. A small SUV was a novel idea then. And we were living overseas so the search had to be done rather quickly. We made the usual rounds to dealerships in the Houston area with the "this is what we want, what do you have and how low can you go?" schmeel. We get to this dealership and the guy, when pressed for a price, tells us - I kid you not, "I'm not going to play that game. I'm sure you've been to dealerships all over Houston and want me to give you a number and then you'll say, 'well, so and so has it for x amount'. I'm not going to do that. If you want this car, tell me you want to buy it and then I'll give you a price."

Mike and I both stared at this man incredulously. I could see steam starting to come out of Mike's ears. We both got up and walked out without a word. I think it took 15 minutes for Mike to calm down from that "lovely" experience.

So I was loathe to even talk to this dealership. Finally, after exhausting our supply of dealers who conveniently did NOT have any 4WDs and were rather insulting in letting me know that, I broke down and called them. I fessed up that they were the LAST people I wanted to talk to given my less than stellar previous experience with their sales team several years ago and told them I'd give them one more chance. I made an appointment and went the next day.

Second chances can be good. They obviously had cleaned up their act in 11 years (guess I should have figured that out or else they'd have been out of business long ago...) and my "internet salesman" was the nicest man - sort of a young Morgan Freeman with a better complexion - even sounded like him! Anyway, we take a test drive and I relate my insulting experiences with other dealer. He looks a bit alarmed and said, "This is a 2WD. Let me check my inventory when we get back." And I'm thinking, here we go again.

But when we get back, he comes back and apologizes saying he didn't read the email specs correctly and that I did request a 4WD. And that he should have known that and would I wait while he found out if they had any inventory? They did have one, but only one. By then, Mike has shown up. I had driven the 2WD and so asked Mike to test run the 4WD. Let's just say, we walked out and, other than getting used to the color (black with black interior which I erroneously thought I didn't want), it was love at first sight!

I was leary of a black car with black interior in Texas - does the term "heat absorbtion" mean anything to you? Black just soaks it up. But this car is so well insulated, and the windows are tinted with UV blockers as well, that it really doesn't get any hotter than my previous grey interior. And it just plain looked GOOD. Really good.

It was beautiful.

Mike went back to work and I started the negotiating. Took me about 3 hours but I think we came to an equitable price. They seemed happy. I was certainly happy. I had extra accessories added so didn't take it with me that day. They installed wood grain panels in the interior, running boards with lights (yes, Kennedy and Ben, you can climb in and out of my car now without fear of you falling to the pavement!), door edge guards, fenderwell guards, splash guards (I'm well "guarded") and a few other bits and pieces. We drove back the next evening to collect the car and it is GORGEOUS!

So thanks to Lewis Bryd at John Eagle Honda for making me a believer again. And thanks to Honda who makes such a good car that I just keep sticking with them. Wash, rinse, repeat...

It's just a really cool car!! And yes, doesn't EVERYONE store their car in a garage with a 30's highchair painted rust red and a plethora of seasonal wreaths? Makes it more "homey" don't cha think?? I'll try to get a photo of it outside "in all it's glory" once I get all the squished bugs off the windshield and front grill following our trip to Austin on Labor Day...

Happy Trails to you, until we blog again...everybody sing!!!

A taste of things to come...I hope!

I opened the door to let the dogs out this morning and noticed something different. I stood there for a minute trying to figure out what it was - it was so foreign but delightful.

Oh yes, it was...


I checked the thermometer and it was only 75 degrees F! It's been 85F or higher every morning when I let them out so having that coolness was absolutely delicious. Don't know if it will stick around for awhile or not but I'm soakin' it in, folks! I've left the door open so the dogs can come and go at will plus we get all the fresh air (and hear all the golfers go over the little wooden bridge behind our house on their Saturday morning quest to golf that elusive low score - hope lives on...)

Mike heads back to Kazakhstan on Monday so today will be (hopefully) filled with an extensive "to-do" list. Change out a/c filters. Figure out what is causing our baseboard to separate in one area (afraid it's moisture and if so, what is the source...I think my house just went "cha-ching!"...) Get the shirts into the laundry and pick up what was left last week. Get my car cleaned (oh yeah, I have a new car...did I mention that??) Prepare our Flexible Spending Account for medical expenses to file (which might have to go to the baseboards...sob!) Stake a recalcitrant oak tree that likes to take a bow in inclement weather, trim some branches from other trees and try to tame the wild wisteria that threatens to take over the back yard. I think wisteria is a completely under-rated topic for future horror films - the way the shoots look like tentacles creeping forward, seemingly innocuous only to grab it's victim and drag it back into the underbrush....but I digress. Lots to do today. Now let's see if I can fire up the huz to get them done! Coffee, lots of coffee...

05 September 2008

Oh I can't wait...but I must!

Walt Disney World has introduced a NEW Toy Story ride and I'm anxious to see it - but will have to wait until we go again in January 2010. Go here and see some videos and ads about it. (If you don't have Flash Player it won't work - but then, if you're a blogger or READ blogs, you MUST have it.) I wonder when the third (and final, I hear) Toy Story movie will come out??

Looks like fun! And I think it won't be "too old" for the grandkids - wah-hoo!

03 September 2008

Does this bother anyone else???

For those of you in the United States, perhaps you've seen the television ads by the Corn Growers Association pushing the "it's as good for you as any other sugar" high fructose corn syrup lobby. A wife offers her husband a Popsicle and he says, "Doesn't that have high fructose corn syrup in it?" to which she replies, "And what's wrong with that?" He stammers and looks confused so she says something along the lines of, "It has the same nutritional value of any other sugar and just like everything else, it is okay in moderation!"

I resent that they made the protest against HFCS so weak. The inference was that he was a victim of here say and she was there to enlighten him. Nothing about how it hits the bloodstream immediately, how it can overwhelm the insulin mechanisms causing huge spikes, how it is in so many foods that kids have access to, and the studies that point towards the links between obesity and the vast amounts of HFCS in so many of our foods produced today.

I found an article online and one statement really got my attention:

"In fact, a trail of medical studies dating back a quarter of a century doesn't paint a terribly sweet picture for fructose. High fructose consumption has been fingered as a causative factor in heart disease. It raises blood levels of cholesterol and another type of fat, triglyceride. It makes blood cells more prone to clotting, and it may also accelerate the aging process."

That is a direct quote from a nutritionist.

Watching these ads congers up in my mind old ads about some punk back in the 50s offering a cigarette to some unsuspecting child on a school playground. "Hey kid! Ya wanna smoke? It's okay, it won't hurt you..."

I'm really annoyed. In fact, I'm downright MAD.

02 September 2008

What we all know...

I saw this on AOL today. It is intriguing to me. Not surprising at all. But it does prove a point - that MOST men - British ones for certain and I suspect most on Planet Earth - can SEE better than they can THINK.

(My lovely husband NOT included...I always have teased him that I knew he married me because he loved me and NOT for my looks.

Frankly, that's a GREAT relief!)

I also find it interesting that this girl had the same personality whether "frumpy/plain" or "sexy/dolled up". It was other people's perception of who she was (and perhaps what THEY might gain??) that changed.

Anyway, watch it and let me know what you think. All those popular, pretty girls in high school? I guess in one way or the other, they might still be "working the streets"? Hmmmm......