A Road Trip In Isolation

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We have been locked away for a many weeks now. The last day that we did something fun was February 28, when we had lunch with my brothers and sisters-in-law and then attended the Houston Rodeo Barbecue Cook-off with friends that evening. My husband had surgery on March 8, and I had an injection of  Prolia on March 13. After that we have stayed at home. We don’t even go inside grocery stores or sit outside with our neighbors when they regularly gather on the driveway across the street. We don’t trust the frivolity because they don’t wear masks nor do they distance themselves from one another. They are mostly young and healthy so I suppose that they will ultimately be just fine, but I can’t take such risky behavior lightly and so I remain responsible for myself just as our governor and president have suggested we all need to be.

This past weekend Mike and I came up with an idea for a way to have a little outing. We decided to haul our trailer to San Antonio with the proviso that we would keep our contact with other people and crowds to practically zero. We made reservations with an RV park that we often use and packed up all of the food that we would need for the adventure. We had hoped to go to a state park so that we might enjoy a bit of nature but they were all booked up, so we decided that we would make do with any place that had a spot for us to park the trailer.

We would normally stop at Buccee’s in Luling, Texas for a bathroom break, some lunch and to gas up the truck but we had promised ourselves that we were not going to eat out or go where there were lots of people, so instead we found a service station that was all but empty, filled our tank and used the facilities in our trailer for relieving ourselves and preparing lunch.

The experience at the RV park was exceptional. The manager was masked and gloved and insisted that Mike use hand sanitizer after opening the door and passing the credit card. We got a wonderful spot in between two very quiet trailers that did not even appear to be inhabited by anyone. We enjoyed a great dinner and were finally able to try out the new mattress that we had purchased from Costco back in early February. We learned that it was the best investment we have made all year because we slept like babies and I did not wake up with the usual aches and pains that the old mattress always produced.

On Saturday morning we had a leisurely breakfast, did some reading and then had lunch before setting out on a drive to Inks Lake. Riding through the Texas hill country is always delightful and it felt even more so since we have only seen the view from inside our house for so long. We passed through little towns like Boerne where the streets were filled with people dining and shopping. Sadly I realized that we would not want to stop there because only one person was wearing a mask and the people were literally on top of one another as they walked along the sidewalks.

When we got to Kingsland we knew we were quite close to Inks Lake and our favorite winery, Perissos. We decided to stop there to buy some of the wines that cannot be found in stores, so we donned our masks and made our way inside for a quick purchase. We were the only two people wearing masks and those who were there looked at us as though we were curiosities from another planet. Seeing that nobody was being precautious we made our selections and left as quickly as possible, stunned that the place was filled with people drinking and listening to the live band as though nothing like a pandemic was still happening in the world.

That evening we went to see our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren all of whom have been very guarded in their behavior since schools let out in March. My son-in-law is still working from home and his company, USAA, has urged any employees who can to continue working remotely. My daughter only goes out to pick up groceries and she has been happy to see most of the customers at her HEB wearing masks and keeping their distance. The children have stayed home mostly finishing the school year, gaming and texting friends.

We met on the driveway and sat on chairs that my daughter had carefully placed well over six feet apart. Mike and I sat on one side and everyone else sat on the other. We talked about what we had been doing since we last saw each other and discussed the happenings in the world. Then we played a game of Scattagories at the suggestion of one of my grandsons because the rules allowed us to maintain our distance without physical interaction with one another or the necessity of using game pieces. Of course we had a blast laughing at the answers and just being together

The next day we decided to take a drive through the heart of the hill country. We traveled to Bandera where we once again noted no people wearing masks as they walked along the sidewalks and went in and out of little shops. A bit farther on we saw crowds tubing in the Medina River. Tents were set up side by side and the water was so congested that it appeared to be difficult to even move.

Our route eventually took us to Kerrville where we encountered a very small group of young girls standing along the roadside holding Black Lives Matter posters and waving at passersby. Every one of them was wearing a mask and attempting  to stay safely apart. They were as peaceful and earnest as can be and they made me smile.

Before long we were in Fredericksburg where we found some shade in Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park and ate the lunch I had packed for our long ride. As we later drove down the main thoroughfare  I observed about twenty five percent of the people wearing masks, but it appeared to be nearly impossible to keep a safe distance from others because the sidewalks were jammed with people.

We head back to the RV park using side roads that took us through the loveliest of vistas, including a brief stretch of Luckenbach, Texas.  We listened to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings on our radio and felt contentment in just being in such a beautiful place. We even got to pass through Kendalia, the town where my grandson William was able to find a home for his pig Daisy so that he might rescue her from slaughter.

We returned for another visit with my daughter after dinner in our trailer. We played a contrived version of “Hedbanz” which my grandson put together to provide us with hands free, contact free fun. Once again laughter filled the air especially when the next door neighbor drove up and looked a bit askance at the post-it notes on our foreheads.

We gauged our little trip as a success and think we might be able to venture out even further once I have concluded my sessions with the children that I teach. We have learned that with our self contained cocoon we do just fine. We don’t need to eat at restaurants or visit stores or museums or other amusements to have a glorious time.

We still plan to be careful because we know that the dangers of the virus are still with us. Only this past week someone we know attended a family funeral, spent some time with extended family in Galveston and then learned that one of the people in the group had only days later tested positive with Covid-19. So far only one of them has tested positive for the virus but all of them are going into quarantine. They will no doubt have to do some contact tracing to inform anyone with whom they interacted before they knew that the virus had entered their family circle. The extent of people that they have seen is unbelievably large and will affect the lives of countless individuals. That’s why I am still being very precautious. We may be tempted to just wish this virus away but it seems determined to stay. For now I’ll stick to my road trips in isolation. 

God’s Wink

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This is a busy time of year with people traveling all over the world to take mini-vacations or meet with family and friends. My husband Mike and I joined the road warriors last weekend by taking a small trip to San Antonio to camp for a few days and see our grandchildren and other friends who live in the area. It was going to be our first venture in our trailer since Mike had his stroke back in July. I was a bit reticent about going, but understood the doctor’s advice that we have to continue living in spite of the scare we had only months ago. He told us that camping is just fine as long as we don’t go too far off the beaten path, so early on a Sunday morning we headed west on Interstate 10 in search of fun, adventure and relaxation.

Things were going rather smoothly until we had gone a few miles outside of Houston. It was then that we heard a loud thunk, and Mike realized that one of our tires had blown out. Luckily he maintained his composure and steered the truck and the trailer without incident, while I thought of the many times that I had witnessed overturned trailers with damaged tires. I was thankful that we were still upright, a fact that Mike attributed to having double axles on the trailer, something that he had insisted upon when we were searching for ours.

Unfortunately we were on a busy highway too far from an exit to continue driving in order to get to the safety of the feeder road. Mike had to proceed slowly while searching for a wide shoulder suitable for parking our rig. When we found a decent place he insisted that he would change the tire, but I was instantly worried about having him exert so much effort. I knew, however, that I would have to allow him to decide for himself because he doesn’t take nagging too well. With that in mind I kept my thoughts to myself and prayed that God and the angels would watch over him. I really did not want to witness him having another stroke.

He struggled with the unfamiliar jack for the trailer and couldn’t seem to find a good steady spot for raising the structure. In the meantime the traffic was speeding by so quickly that I found myself worrying that someone was going to accidentally swerve and take both of us out. My only comfort was that we were both wearing red for the season which I hoped made us more visible. When it became apparent that Mike was not doing well with the task I finally insisted that we call AAA. I was thankful that he conceded immediately and that we had fully charged cell phones and a GPS system that gave us the exact address of our location.

We were inside the truck dialing for help when a young man suddenly appeared at Mike’s window. He asked if he might help us to change the tire, and of course we said that we would be most happy for him to do so. He appeared to be big, strong, confident and drove a huge well equipped but battered old truck . He definitely seemed to be up to the task, and I was silently saying prayers of thanks that he had arrived, because I knew that our wait for AAA would have been long and I really did not feel comfortable being so vulnerable. I believed that it was just a matter of time before a distracted driver hit us, complicating our precarious situation even more.

We learned that our angel was from southeast Houston, the area of town where I grew up as a child and the place where Mike and I had lived for over thirty years after we were married. The man told us that he worked at the intersection of Almeda Genoa and Telephone Road, a location very familiar to both of us. He was a pleasant fellow so typical of the people that we have known from that part of town. I didn’t ask, but I imagined him helping people stranded by the floods of August in that area. Somehow I suspect that he had been there being a Good Samaritan because when we offered to compensate him for his time he insisted that it was his gift to us and wished us a Merry Christmas as he left as quickly as he had appeared.

In the meantime a Waller County sheriff had come to assist us as well. He directed traffic to help us return to the highway, and watched to be certain that we were safely on our way. I know that Waller County was also badly affected by hurricane Harvey and I felt that he too was no doubt responsible for saving lives back then just as he was looking out for us. I felt an enormous amount of gratitude for the kindness of the two strangers who had come to our aid.

We thought that our travails were behind us but when we later stopped for gas Mike took a survey of the tires on both the truck and the trailer only to find that yet another tire was slowly leaking. His inspection revealed a piece of embedded metal that had created a slow but steady leak. Our troubles were not yet over, but we were close to our destination and decided to search for a business that sells trailer tires. Luckily there was a Discount Tire store only ten minutes away, and Mike was certain that the tire would make it there without incident. We took a deep breath and headed off in search of new shoes for our home on wheels. Imagine our consternation when we arrived and realized that the place of business was still under construction. It was beginning to feel as though we were players in a tragic comedy of errors, when our vision cleared and just behind the not yet ready tire store we saw a huge Walmart.

After driving to the auto section we learned that they had exactly two tires of the kind that we needed and took care of our needs immediately while commiserating with our dilemma. The price was reasonable and the men who worked there were eager to help us as quickly as possible. Within less than about thirty minutes we were all set and finally heading for our campground and what would ultimately prove to be a great time in the Texas Hill Country.

The news is filled with horrific stories of violence, crime and ugliness. It isn’t often that we hear of kind acts, but the reality is that they abound. The reason that bad things are so often featured is that they are actually rather uncommon. On any given day generosity rules the day, and often we simply take it for granted until we are in a situation similar to the one that Mike and I so recently endured. When we find ourselves in trouble and someone takes the time to help us, we appreciate them far more than words or compensation will ever demonstrate. So it is with the benevolent gentlemen who turned a frightening situation into one that renewed my faith in mankind, strangers who will never adequately know how much we appreciated them. It literally felt as though God Himself had winked and smiled upon us when these souls so generously stopped whatever they had been doing to render aid.

In this Christmas season it would behoove each of us to take the time to look around and find troubled souls who need our assistance. Perhaps all that they need is a phone call, an invitation, a visit or even just a smile to lighten the burdens that they carry. We might all learn from the goodness of the men who helped me and Mike when we were in a bind. It’s up to each of us to spread the good news that mankind has not lost the way. The true meaning of Christmas is peace on earth, good will toward men.

Enjoy the holidays. Celebrate with family and friends. Remember those whose hearts are heavy. Be an angel and reveal God’s wink to someone.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays. 

Our Time

download.pngThere are moments in our lives that leave us without words. They body slam us to the ground and we find ourselves lost in a maelstrom of anxiety and confusion. We suddenly see clearly and yet feel unfocused and muddled. Time becomes so relative that it practically stops. We see the world around us acting as though everything is normal and we want to scream out, “Hey, don’t you know what just happened?” We’ve all had those kind of experiences and they are raw and visceral, hurting while making us just a tiny bit stronger even as we feel so vulnerable and weak.

This past week has been like that for me and my family who had gathered together in the beautiful Texas hill country to celebrate the freedoms and abundance that we so enjoy as citizens of the United States. We’d just had lunch on Monday and were laughing and talking and trying to decide what to do for the rest of the day when we heard a strange thumping on one of the doors. Once, twice, three times it interrupted us, and so my son-in-law Jeremy went to investigate at just about the time that we all heard my husband Mike’s voice weakly exclaim in a very slurred voice, “I can’t get up!”

Of course we all jumped to attention at that point realizing that he was behind the guest bathroom door and that something had gone terribly wrong. Thanks to the good thinking of my daughter Catherine there was a little key perched on the door frame that allowed her to open the locked door quickly. There we saw Mike lying on the floor lodged between the toilet and the vanity with his feet splayed in such a way that he was keeping us from opening the door all the way. It was his face that caused our hearts to stop, for his left eye and the corner of his mouth were noticeably drooping while he proclaimed that he thought that he was having a stroke.

I shouted for someone to call 911 and I think that my grandson Andrew responded first. Meanwhile son-in-law Jeremy had worked his way inside and managed to comfort and reassure Mike and pull him into a sitting position. Son-in-law Scott and grandson Jack attempted to remove the hinges to the door so that the EMTs would be able to get inside when they arrived, while Andrew, daughter Maryellen and I searched for Mike’s medical information from his wallet. Admittedly I also used this time to have a complete and total meltdown out of view of Mike. I didn’t want him to realize the depth of my concern so I let it all out so that I might recover quickly enough to show him a brave face.

Meanwhile all of the younger grandchildren, Ben, Eli, Ian, Abby and William were in the front yard waiting for the first responders to arrive, which they did very shortly. Those young men who emerged from the fire truck and the ambulance were a beautiful sight as they strode inside so confidently, ready to get down to the business of assessing Mike’s situation and rendering aid. By then the family crew had managed to get Mike situated in such a way that the opening to the small room was sufficient for the rescue workers to do their work.

After quietly taking control of the situation they had Mike safely ensconced in the ambulance with me in the front and Scott sitting in the back with the paramedic. By then all of the physical symptoms that we had seen in Mike had disappeared which was somewhat reassuring, but our fears had not abated as we raced to Methodist Stone Oak Hospital in San Antonio.

Soon Mike was in the care of the very professional emergency room team that included Dr. Mansur and nurse Alyssa, strong, compassionate and highly professional women who became my idea of perfect angels in that moment. Before long Maryellen, Catherine and Abby had arrived to sit with us as well. Mike smiled and mentioned how happy it made him to have all of his girls together.

By then his vital signs had stabilized and I suspect that his blood pressure was better than mine because I felt as though my heart was going to literally jump out of my chest. Still it was wonderful to hear him being his old self, laughing and joking with the medical personnel about being a Rockets fan rather than cheering for the Spurs. All of this was reassuring to all of us, but we were not yet ready to celebrate.

Hospital time is unlike that in the world outside its walls. It is a ritual of hurrying up and waiting. The wheels grind slowly, particularly on a holiday weekend when the staff is half of what it normally may be. We tried to remain patient as the medical personnel slowly but surely performed one test after another on Mike, all with great precision. Eventually they announced that he would be staying overnight for observation so that the various diagnostic procedures might continue in the morning. We reluctantly left feeling exhausted and confused.

The following day was a repeat of waiting endlessly. Mike demonstrated that his mental acuity was intact as he answered a question about the date by stating that it was July 4, 241 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and then proceeded to quote the document. I can’t remember a moment when I was prouder of his knowledge or happier to see that it had not been destroyed.

It was well into the evening before the hospital discharged Mike instructing him to follow up with visits to his doctors and a neurologist. It seemed as though the whole city was celebrating the holiday and we had to pinch ourselves into the realization that the world was indeed still rolling along. Later we sat outside Catherine’s house and enjoyed fireworks displays that gave us a tiny bit of hope and the first moments of happiness that we had felt in the last forty eight hours.

I’ve made a long story a bit too long. We have all been left traumatized by the events, but we are trying our best to hold on to the fact that Mike is still here with us. We know how much worse this might have been. Our new reality for the moment is uncertainty filled with questions. Ours has been a frightening journey but we now know that we were never all alone. We have a renewed affection for first responders who toil almost unnoticed day after day until we need them. We have a great appreciation for the doctors and nurses who stand ready to help in emergencies. We realize the magnitude of the love that surrounds us from friends and family. We know that the road ahead will be different but we are ready to accept its challenges.

I’ve often written about the serendipitous nature of life. I’ve urged everyone to seize the day and embrace the love. After our most unusual week I realize that such thoughts are far more than mere platitudes. They are guideposts for living. We really don’t know what is in store for us from one moment to the next. We truly do need to stop long enough to see and appreciate the incredible beauty of life. It is more important than anything to express our love and our gratitude as soon as we feel it. None of us have the assurance that we will see another day. This, here and now, is our time and it is up to us to use it well.    

Magical

downloadI’ve been retired from a four decades career in education for almost six years and I still can’t seem to avoid following the academic calendar. Perhaps it’s because a school bus stops in front of my home each morning to pick up the neighborhood children and I am daily reminded that the process of educating our youth has endures with or without me. Maybe it’s because I still tutor students twice a week at two different schools and in the evenings. I suspect that it’s mostly because I followed the August to June routine for so long that it has become embedded in the heart and soul of who I am. So it is that I continue to immerse myself in spring break rituals each year even though that special week for students and teachers shouldn’t make much difference to me now that I am free to do whatever I wish whenever I wish.

I made no plans for the annual March respite this year and yet the serendipity of my activities made it one of the most memorable and relaxing weeks that I have experienced in all of my years of partaking of the annual spring fling. It began with an evening track meet in which grandson Eli broke the district record for the 1600 meter run. Watching him plying his craft is akin to viewing a gazelle. His form is a breathtaking sight of beauty. Even better is his determination to continually compete with himself to be his personal best. I am in awe of him and watching him on that night was magical just as the rest of my spring break adventure would prove to be.

Husband Mike and I traveled to bluebonnet country the following day, enjoying the lovely blue carpets of the state flower that are so glorious each spring. We had bonafide Texas barbecue and sampled fruit kolaches that warmed the Slovakian half of my heart. We walked among the rows and rows of flowers at the Rose Emporium and brought home two more gorgeous bushes to join the collection that we already have. It was one of those absolutely perfect days that reminded me just how much I truly love the people and the sights of the place I call home.

The weather took one of those unexpected dips in temperature a day or so later just as it always seems to do this time of year. It was a perfect moment for making paprika stew for my grandson Andrew who had arrived for a sojourn from his studies at Purdue University. We had one of those old fashioned Sunday night dinners with him and his family. We caught up on all of his news and lingered at the dining table with stories and lots of laughs, ending our meal with pies that we had purchased at a bakery in a small town known for its sausages, baked goods and ice cream. It felt good to fill the house with our children and grandchildren. It had been quite some time since they had been able to steal a few hours from their busy school time schedules. Not wanting to end the joyful feeling of the evening we all agreed meet up again the following day for a musical light show at the Burke Baker Planetarium followed by dinner in Rice Village.

Just when it appeared that I would return to a somewhat uneventful week my granddaughter Abby who lives in San Antonio called me to request my presence at her home for the next few days. Mike had things to do, like taxes (ugh), so I hit the open road on my own. The drive has become second nature to me since my daughter moved there a little over ten years ago. I break down the distance into discrete parts that tell me that I am moving ever closer to the other half of my ever growing family. The weather was spectacular much as it generally is in March. The bluebonnets were even more profuse than they had been only days before and now they had been joined by the red Indian paintbrushes that shouted out, “This is Texas at its very best!”

My daughter is about to move to a new home so she was busy sorting and packing belongings while I was there. She reluctantly took a small slice of time to join us for gourmet burgers and milkshakes at Hopdoddy as well as a round of bowling at a rather unique emporium. Afterward we played board games and watched old Star Wars movies until late into the night. It felt so much like the kind of activities that we used to enjoy back when we my daughters were just girls and we spent our spring break time chilling out and enjoying life in slow motion.

While my daughter returned to her duties the children and I continued our adventures with a visit to a small hill country town called Boerne where we found treasures in the many different antique shops, including a slightly damaged kachina doll that grandson William named Footless Fred. We laughed with delight as we scored a tiny house fit for the gnome garden that the kids are designing, an old Stars Wars book, a poncho, and a set of quilted placemats. We ended our day with a side trip to Guadelupe River State Park where we skipped rocks and told one silly joke after another.

It was with a certain level of reluctance that I headed back home toward the end of the week, but the kids had things to do that they had been putting off while I was in there. I too needed to get back to reality, but not until I enjoyed what may well have been the most magical day of my spring break.

Mike and I began the final Saturday of my mini vacation by meeting Andrew once again for a farewell lunch. He looked so happy, rested and ready to tackle the next six weeks at Purdue. Like me had had been energized by the people and places that he most loves. He had an optimistic and determined twinkle in his eyes and I felt quite comfortable sending him off to joust with his challenging  engineering and mathematics classes. He will be halfway through his collegiate journey by May. He sees the light at the end of the tunnel and it is a beautiful experience to listen to him voice very adult and wise pronouncements about the future and life in general.

From our sojourn with Andrew we traveled to the home of one of my former students, a young man named Bieu. We have known each other for well over twenty years now and he faithfully maintains a constant connection with me just as he promised he would when he was just a boy in my math class. On this day he was hosting a crawfish boil, another March tradition in the Houston area. He had great pots of the lobster like creatures turning a bright delicious red as the water bubbled around them. He cooked potatoes and corn as friends and family enjoyed the cool afternoon in his backyard.

I continue to marvel at what a fine person Bieu has become. I am as proud of him as if he had been my own son. I laugh that he was the one who most closely followed in my father’s footsteps by earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University. I feel quite certain that my dad would have loved Bieu and his family as much as I do had he been around to meet them.

I ended my glorious week that evening at the seventieth birthday party of Josefina Carrillo. She once worked for Mike at a bank in southeast Houston and he insists that she was his best employee ever. I also had the privilege of teaching her daughter Josie at South Houston Intermediate. Because southeast Houston has always been a small and very friendly kind of world the connections to Josefina go even deeper. Her son married the sister of one of my daughter’s best friends from our old neighborhood, so it was like old home week at the gala.

We feasted on fajitas and sipped on margaritas while a mariachi band played “otra mas” tune after another. There was dancing and enough smiles to light up a city. We learned that many of the people who had come to honor Josefina had lived in our old neighborhood and been involved in the same circles that had defined our lives for years. The kinship centered on the birthday girl bonded us all together and we had an incredibly lovely time remembering how many joys and blessings we had all experienced.

As I think back on my week of simple pleasures I realize how lucky I have always been. I not only have happy, healthy children and grandchildren but a host of friends who have brought sunshine into my life over and over again. I thought of how so much of my good fortune came to be because of the time that I have spent in what must surely be the most inviting city anywhere, Houston and its surrounding areas. Where else would I eat New York style pizza, crawfish and Tex Mex all in one day? Where else would I be so welcomed by Vietnamese and Hispanic families within the space of only a few hours. Where else would the people be so hospitable? Where else would I have enjoyed such a magical spring break? Where else would I rather be?

Howdy

1d230bcc4636998c02292d3ef09b2982I’ll never forget the feeling of disappointment that Texans felt when Alaska became a state. The home of the Alamo known as the Lone Star state had reigned as the largest in the nation, a distinction that it not so secretly enjoyed, only to be toppled by a faraway newcomer. Suddenly our second place status stole some of our bragging rights and mostly silenced our boasts about the enormity of our home. Still, anyone who has ever travelled from El Paso to Orange not only understands the daunting distance of such a drive but has seen the dramatic changes in the landscape that lie along the highway. Texas is a place of incredible diversity and describing it in a few words is almost impossible.

I’ve been as far west and as far east as one might go in Texas. I’ve seen the plains of the north and the deserts of the south. I’ve observed the people in both small towns and large cities. I’ve come to realize that there is no one size fits all representation of the diversity of my state which in some ways is a microcosm of the world at large. I would be hard pressed to choose one place or area that might serve as the essence of all that is Texan.

The hill country around San Antonio and Austin certainly might be the heart of Texas. Those cities after all are fairly close to being at the center of the state and as the home of the Alamo and the capitol they can lay claim to historical and political importance. Both places also lie a rather lovely area of the state with majestic vistas and an old west feel. They are in the part of the state that most closely complies with the imagery of Texas and Texans that most outsiders have when they conjure thoughts of this far more complex place. Certainly the progressives, intellectuals and artisans of Austin are a great deal different from the refinery workers of the blue collar town of Port Arthur, but they both call themselves Texans. 

I suspect that if I were to ask citizens in all of the other forty nine states to name one Texas city, they most often would mention Dallas. If I were to require them to describe Dallas they might speak of wealthy cattle and oil barons living on ranches with names like South Fork. Television has a way of fixing ideas in our mind that often wander far from actual reality. The real Dallas is a modern metropolitan wonder with congested freeways, skyscrapers and malls filled with everyday people who look and act little differently than their counterparts in Los Angeles.

The Gulf Coast of Texas is yet another area unlike the stereotypical visions of the state. It is a place of worldwide commerce, meandering bayous, rapidly changing weather and an amalgam of cultures and cuisine. It is a magnet for beach bums and innovators alike. It has evolved over time from a strange mix of ideas that created a kind of crazy quilt that can’t be easily defined. It is friendly and welcoming and generally nonjudgemental, a place where it seems possible to accomplish the impossible and where rocket scientists dream big alongside welders.

Then there is the far west of Texas that is home to miles and miles of farms and ranches that stretch so far into the distance that they appear to be endless. It is a lonely place of wide open spaces, an area where one might find solace in getting away from the rat race of the modern world. It is wild and requires toughness to withstand. Out west humans compete with the harshness of nature under a sky perennially filled with stars. It is one of the last outposts of a way of life that pioneered the expansion of the United States. It is mankind in competition with the elements and in tune with the wonders of the earth. It is a place of both harmony and dissonance, verdant farms and drought ridden ghost towns. It is a place of peacefulness and one that requires toughness and determination to survive. 

Texas is a grand state of unimaginable size and diversity and each March with the regularity of the clock it bursts alive with the colors of wildflowers, most notably the bluebonnets. Near Chappell Hill and Brenham the lovely indigo colored blooms create beautiful carpets in fields and along the sides of the roads. The people of Houston drive from the business of the city to enjoy the sight of the lovely buds that seem to embody all that is best about Texas. I wonder if there is any other state in which its citizens are so taken by the annual flowering of the countryside. For those of us in Texas venturing forth to observe the bluebonnets in all of their glory is a pilgrimage that must not be missed in the spring.

The small towns that host the visitors fire up their pits and roast briskets and sausages that have a distinctly Texas flavor. They offer blueberry pies and fruit kolaches for the hungry travelers, made from recipes handed down from one generation of Texans to another. In a beloved creamery there is ice cream unlike any that is made in other parts of the world. It melts sweetly on the tongue and says, “I am in Texas,” in a sensory way that must be experienced to understand. There are crafts and antiques to view along with Mother Nature’s finery. It is a festival of Texas culture that warms the heart and brings out smiles on even the grumpiest faces. It is a not to be missed tradition.

I’m a Texan through and through, but I am only one variety of the remarkable citizens of our state. Our ancestors came here from the world over, all hoping for an opportunity to live better lives than in the places from whence they came. Many dreams have been realized here and even today Texas is growing in population by leaps and bounds simply because even the commonest person has a chance to succeed with just a bit of imagination and a willingness to work hard.

Texas still has relatively inexpensive land and a variety of jobs. It lives up to its name as a welcoming place. Its monicker comes from the Spanish word “tejas” which means “friend.” We do our best to be an inviting host and we don’t mind at all if someone decides that they would like to tarry long enough to make our state a home. My husband’s kin came from Georgia and England. Mine were from Virginia, Kentucky and Slovakia. We embrace neighbors from Mexico, South America, Vietnam, Germany, Russia, Nigeria, and all across the globe. Texas is a regular United Nations  with a distinctly open and friendly nature. It is a one of a kind creation of many minds and ways of living. It is a place quick to shout, “Howdy!” It is my home.