Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's Just Like Having A Baby....In A Way

I dream about this place all year long.  I still find the initial adjustment to be an interesting process.  I arrive after spending days in a car driving across the eastern United States.  It is like giving birth!  Think about it, I  look forward to being here for 9 months, then comes the labor of the long drive, followed by the initial recovery from the pains of that labor, then the awkward first days getting used to this new life and finally the reward of new life.  I guess with all the babies being born in our family the analogy of birth seems very appropriate!

For nine months my memory idealizes this place.  The weather is always better  here, the food is fresher, the skies are clearer.  We have so many people around us to visit and who just drop in for a visit.  I live much healthier here.  Life goes by at a lovely, relaxing pace.  All these things float around in my mind while I am away.  As with anything, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Like a pregnant woman, who dreams about how sweet that baby is going to be once it is born.  You idealize life with a new baby, even if you've had one before.  We always remember the good stuff and forget the bad stuff.

Sunny days and sandbars
In my case, labor comes in the form of 40 hours driving through 17 states and 1 province in 5 days.  This year I left Houston while tropical storm Bill was making his presence known.  Once I got about 2 hours away from Houston, Bill was not an issue for a few days.  We met up with him again in Pennsylvania.  It seemed we were chasing him all the way here.  We could see the storm in the distance, we would get very close and catch him only to take a lunch break, a bathroom break or stop for the night and Bill would march ahead of us.  Out of the 40 hours of driving I think we drove through 4 hours of rain total, not bad for following a tropical storm!  But it was definitely a labor...of love to get here.

Bill escorted me out of Houston
Driving through Virginia made me feel very patriotic
Virginia rest stop.  Good thing Virginia is beautiful because it takes a long time to drive through it!
We caught up to Bill again in Pennsylvania right before we stopped for the night.....
He just loomed over us for most of the rest of the drive until
 he just had to let go and welcome us with rain just like he had done in Houston.
Once labor is over there is joy... and recovery.  We were very happy to finally be here and finally be out of the car!  The reality was a bit different than all those fantasies I have all year.  My beautiful farmhouse is a Venus fly trap over the winter, dead flies everywhere!  There is always so much cleaning to be done upon arrival and this year it was not done with the windows open on a sunny day.  It was done on a cloudy, cool day with a fire in the fireplace.  Not complaining!  I left behind some very hot, humid weather, this felt perfect for a day of work.  It takes but one day for me to remember that this ideal place is a lot of work.  Just like those pregnant dreams of quietly cuddling with your new baby and the reality of sleepless nights, aching body parts and an inconsolable baby.

I'll be honest here, for the first couple of days I question myself.  I live in Houston, surrounded by a huge shiny city, in a nice suburban neighborhood with anything and everything one could ever want or need in close proximity.  It is about as far from this rural setting as the east is from the west.  It takes me a couple of days to shift gears from city to country.  But for those couple of days I occasionally question my sanity.  I'm not in Kansas anymore....    This became quite apparent when we approached the border in Maine and stopped for lunch at this fine Irving station diner....
Diner food at it's best
a far cry from Houston's top 100
I just love the vacuum cleaner next to the pie dessert for me!
This was the moment I realized I was still carrying my city snob with me.  The food was good and the waitress was very nice.  I needed to check my city girl at the border and embrace my farmhouse girl.  After about three days, my blood pressure goes down and my focus begins to change, I see beauty in simple things like the birds at my bird feeder and the flowers that pop up everywhere.   I spend time riding around the yard on a lawnmower instead of on the freeway in traffic.  This is the settling down in my new life just like a new mother has to finally settle down into her new life with her new baby.  It also has different priorities.

And just like that new mother who can sit and look at her new baby for hours on end, I can sit and look out of my windows for hours on end.  Sitting for hours on end looking at anything does not lend itself to productivity but it can lower your blood pressure and make you very happy.  So even though my baby "the farmhouse" is a lot of work... puts me in my place at times and requires much effort to reach every year, at the end of the day it is all worth it to spend 3 months in a different world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Just Give Him A Number

 After 37 years of marriage I may have found the key to my husband's motivation.  All he needs is a goal.  I've always known he was competitive, sometimes to a fault.  What I have recently discovered is that if I want him to do something all I need to do is put a number in front him.  Like a sales goal.... sell 4 million widgets, reach your goal and get that bonus.  Yes, this explains why he is such a good salesman, he finds his dangling carrot and pursues it until he reaches his goal.  Every salesman has certain goals, concretely defined, to which he aspires every year.  Reach that goal and you are rewarded.  Simple formula... goal, work, reward.  Sometimes it isn't really work.  Like when it comes to drinking beer or eating at restaurants.

Drink 200 beers, get a plate on the wall...done.
His latest pursuit is to eat at all of the top 100 restaurants in Houston.  It is a worthy pursuit.  There is a finite number of choices and the reward is obvious, delicious food, presumably.  This is a goal I can support.  It is so much better than accompanying him while he drank 200 different beers at the same fine pub.  For a girl who doesn't really drink beer this goal left me longing for a proper wine bar!  But, food and restaurants.... you are talking my language!  The list covers all the bases.  There are high end fancy places, food trucks, new trendy places, pizza places, Vietnamese places, home cooking places, you name's on there.  Even BBQ, much to my dismay.  I am OK with him trying some of the 100 without me!

One place I might have missed without "the list"
and missing this place would have been sad!  Great place!
This quest began with an insert to our newspaper many months ago, "The Top 100 Restaurants in Houston".  The dangling carrot!  We enjoy eating out but find ourselves going to the same nearby places over and over.  To quote my friend Barbara, "We need to get out of the cul-de-sac!".  Every once in a while it's nice to explore your own city, especially if it is the 4th largest in the country.  We did this when we lived in Toronto and enjoyed being tourists in our own city.  Why not do it in Houston?  There are lots of places we haven't tried yet.  We have found some definite winners, others that for whatever reason were not as impressive as advertised but no real losers yet.  We have gotten out of the neighborhood and that's a good thing.  Of course, after we finish with the 100 restaurants we may need to have a new goal.  First person to lose the 10 extra pounds we gained eating at the top 100 restaurants.

Last weekend's excursion lead us here.  We both agree,
we will be back!
It was at this very table I came to a realization, 37 years in the making.  TJ needs a goal or he just isn't going to do "it",  whatever "it" may be.....eating out, riding a bike, drinking beer, selling locomotives or chemicals or services, planting a garden, playing golf, swimming... just to name a few.  Give him a number to reach and watch him go.  So from now on I'm taking a different approach around here.  First person to cook 50 meals, first person to do 20 loads of laundry, first person to walk the dog 30 times will be rewarded,   Think it will work?   Me neither!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Read A Book!

When was the last time you went into a bookstore?  Are you like me, do you own an e-reader and simply download your books these days?  I don't remember the last time I went to a Barnes and Noble to just browse around and be inspired before yesterday.  OK, I take that back, the last time was probably in February when I went to pick up a book about Croatia and didn't want to wait for Amazon to deliver.  I remember looking through the International travel section, drooling over all the places I haven't yet visited and dreaming about wanting/needing some of those other travel guides some day.

Dreams and adventures on a shelf
Every time I go to a bookstore, which is not as often as it used to be, I get excited and a bit sad.  I fear with the digital age, paper and print are going the way of vinyl.  Books will become retro, vintage and cool but only to a select market.  I always enjoy a good browsing session in the bookstore.  I notice books I would never see searching on Amazon.  I get to see the actual book, read it's jacket, flip through the pages, and let my senses guide me to places I'd never find on the Internet.  There are just so many books and so little time to read them all, especially if you read at the speed of a 5th grader like I do.  One advantage I find in reading books instead of e-books is I can skip around or just skip over things.  This works especially well with genres like how-to books, travel books or non-fiction, not so well with fiction unless you don't care about "who done it".

A Curious Mind....a book I would have never stumbled upon on the Internet.
I am curious!  This could be a nice pick up, put down or jump around book.
I should always have a jump around book going as well as the book I'm reading on my e-reader.  This will keep me in the book stores regularly and let me read a variety of books.  So, if you find yourself with a few spare minutes  hours, stop into a bookstore and just enjoy yourself!  Otherwise, they are going to become the next Blockbuster.

The library is another place a person can get lost.  I remember we used to take our children to the library every two weeks.  Our second daughter would always say she didn't want to go and sometimes pitch a fit about going....imagine that!  Inevitably we would select books for everyone and check out right about closing time and have to go from aisle to aisle looking for our reluctant daughter.  We always found her in some corner surrounded by a pile of books and fully engrossed in one of them.  The one who didn't want to go was the one we had to drag out at the end of the night.  Bookstores and libraries are just like that!
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