Thursday, March 30, 2006

Good news, bad news

It's a mix today: Reporter Jill Carroll is released from captivity in Iraq. The lone survivor of the Sago Mine explosion was released from the hospital. Purdue women's basketball coach Kristy Curry has taken a job at Texas Tech in Lubbock. One year after Terri Schiavo's death, her husband speaks out, and living wills are her legacy. Still no public answers as to why Mary Winkler shot and killed her minister husband.

And my favorite: The Oregon family that was dramatically rescued after being trapped in the snow for several days has been arrested on meth charges. My girls were so moved by the rescue; do I tell them the latest twist?

Here on the home front, the front door has been fixed and no longer sticks. The loose carpet upstairs has been tacked down. And the area rug for the family room is in.

Currently reading: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Currently listening to: A mix CD of songs about Texas — from Doc Watson and Marty Robbins to Buddy Holly and Kinky Friedman. And as a bonus, Steve Goodman's ultimate country song: You Don't Even Know My Name.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mah Jongg, anyone?

I got my 2006 Mah Jongg card in the mail yesterday (thanks, Mom!) I wasn't quite sure where it came from —— I never joined the league —— but my dad told me he got one, too, so that answers that question.

So I glanced at the card today, read over some of the rules. And now I want to play.

Our Mah Jongg group was small, casual. It was started by JoAnn after she hurt her arm and could no longer bowl, and after she decided other group games weren't very challenging. "Challenging" doesn't even begin to describe Mah Jongg, especially for the newcomer. So many rules, so many options for hands; not a game for the weak at heart. Mah Jongg takes stamina, requires concentration.

And it's not a game that tons of people play — certainly not tons of women under 60 who are neither Jewish nor Chinese (!) (Most of my last group wouldn't qualify under those guidelines.) But I miss it. I miss the challenge. I miss the women. And — you know this, JoAnn —— I miss winning. Nothing like the feeling when you get Mah Jongg.

That's a group I need; I'll need to form a Mah Jongg group here.

In the meantime, I guess I'm stuck with Sudoku.

Free time

What does one do when one has the whole day to oneself?

It's my newest life incarnation. After the past several years of working part-time, driving the girls to various and sundry after-school activities, and numerous volunteer commitments — not to mention a social life — all of that is in the past.

When we first arrived in Texas, I was stressed, slightly depressed. Then we moved into our house, and I was frantic, trying to get the house in order before company arrived.

Now the company is gone, the house is in order, and I have time. Lots of it.

So, I clean the house. A lot. I read. I shop. I've been to a couple of call-outs for help at the grade school. But what I really need to do is find an activity. Volunteer work, maybe. Though not at the school — the lines are clearly demarcated, and I'm not sure I dare venture into the territory of serious PTO moms. You know the type — they're intense, they're competitive, and their children are always a little more important, a little more loved than yours. I think I'll pass.

No, I'm looking for a different group. The kind of women who read, and not just the pop fiction of the day. Life needs to be about more than whose house was done by which decorator and the kid competition. And there are the politics — real ones, not the neighborhood ins and outs.

So, here goes:

WANTED: Social group for newcomer to Coles Crossing. Three girls, first-eighth grade. Loves shopping — Target good, Wal-Mart bad. Fashion yes, but no makeup at that 7.30 a.m. bus stop. Books, music, theatre, some sports — NCAA only, except for MLB. Dinner, movies, field trips — all good. Hate Kirstie Alley, Kathy Lee Gifford, Katie Couric and the women of the View; love Colbert Report, Will & Grace reruns and the occasional Oprah afternoon. Diversity encouraged.

Any takers?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Back to normal

Friends are gone; we are all back to normal ... or whatever our version of normal is.

Such a nice visit. While I'm sure I'll make friends here, I'm not sure I'll ever find a friend the same as H. Still, I'll find my niche. It was nice to have someone to talk to, to confide in. Even to bowl with, which we did today, with her kids. I did well ... and as we all witnessed, it was only because those bumpers were up (for the kids, you know). Without them, I'd have had a big ol' gutter ball right at the end.

The rain seems to have stopped. A little sunshine always helps my day. And we have a new form of sunshine, in the guise of a new HDTV box. Now that we have a 37-inch TV screen, we certainly need a clearer picture.

Time to help with homework. Theirs, not mine.

Monday, March 27, 2006

So many friends, so little time

With friends and family in town, I have been so busy. It's a nice change from my life of getting the house in order. Alas, it means no time for the daily catch-up. But all too soon they'll be gone, I'll be back to my normal routine, and I'll have more than enough time to share thoughts on my mundane existence.

For now, consider my silence my blessing.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A beautiful day

Is there anything better than a Sunday?

Today has been the perfect day. The sun is shining, the house is clean, we've spent the day with the girls. And — even better — with friends.

My favorite friends from Lafayette are spending part of their spring break with us. It's not just us — they love Texas (he went to college in Dallas, SMU). But they also came to see us. It's been fun to hang out with them, and it's nice to know they care enough about us after we left that they came to see us in our new home.

Their three kids are all roughly nine months older than ours, but they threw a boy into the mix. Still, our six kids get along pretty well together — especially the two sets of girls. When I look at our eldest daughters, who have become tall, blonde and beautiful, I cannot believe they are the same little girls I watched play together as toddlers.

They've grown, just as we have. And our friendship.

It's been wonderful to see them; I will hate to see them go, as it will make me acutely aware, again, of what we left behind.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

All the news when you need it

Headline on this morning:

Star Jones Reynolds recovering from breast lift.

Thank god for the update. To think I might have had to worry all day about the outcome of her procedure.

Another victory for 24-hour news.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A picture worth a thousand words

Willowbrook Mall: Not a mall the calibre of the Galleria, with shops like Manolo Blahnik. Still, a mall full of beautiful people shopping at Williams Sonoma, Bebe, Ann Taylor, and Sephora. Yet amongst the rail-think blonde women and the spiky-haired, toned men, there was a woman, probably mid-70s, portly ... walking very slowly alongside her much taller husband. And they were holding hands.

They were the most beautiful couple of all. It's a picture I'll carry in my head all day long.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Everything you wanted to know about Texas but were afraid to ask

Of all the things I knew about Texas before I moved here — and I did know a bit about the state that is number two in land mass and has more electoral votes than any other state I’ve ever lived in — there are a few that gave me pause, not limited to, but including …

• The Texas flag is allowed to fly at the same height as the U.S. flag — something about the fact that Texas was once its own nation.
• In the public schools, the kids say the pledge of allegiance to the United States and the Texas pledge.
• A full minute of silence follows said pledge(s).
• The Alamo is not just a tourist attraction.
• The bugs are giant.
• As are the houses.
• Not everyone speaks with an accent or even says “y’all”

And there’s all kinds of fun, freaky stuff about Houston, which probably applies to many major metropolitan areas — many of which I have had the opportunity to visit, but never inhabit as an official resident:

• You have to dial all 10 digits anytime you dial a phone number. No 1 before the area code, but area code included. Every single time.
• To enroll the kids in school when living in temporary housing (two weeks) while the house is under construction, a signed sales contract is not enough proof that one intends to dwell in said premises. It required a visit to the district office, a letter from the builder, many signed documents, and an oath signed in blood … well, maybe not that last one, but I’m sure it was next. Miraculously, they waived the tuition. We took in the closing statement, but we STILL have to take in our Texas drivers licenses and a utility bill. Even with the closing statement. Wow.
• Some freeway interchanges are six stories high. Not kidding. Terrifying,
• The morning news gives you the traffic update (“The 290 inbound is backed up all the way to Barker Cypress; to the inner loop is a 25 minute drive.”) And the evening news gives you the murder update. When do you get the weather closings?!?

When will I call this place home?

How did I end up in Texas?

Is it true? Do I really live in Texas? Home of the Bushes? Tom DeLay? How, you may ask yourself, did a nice, liberal girl from the Midwest end up in Texas? We're talking someone who likes to live near downtown, who loves century-old homes, the "urban" life of a mid-sized city. This is what happens when one's better half has a job with a Fortune 500 company (we'll call it Big C) that has offices all over. Since we've been married, we've lived in Illlinois, Indiana (two times), Germany, and now, Houston, Texas.

I never saw it coming. When we got married I think I was ready to relocate, to find someplace interesting where we could settle down. I didn't really think Illinois was my dream destination — nothing short of Manhattan or London would equate that. But we settled in, had children. Each move has gotten harder. This one has been the most challenging by far.

But when you're with the one you chose, you can make it work. And we will. Ultimately, Houston has a lot to offer. Better weather, lots of musuems and cultural offerings, shopping (!), a house with a pool. We're out in the suburbs for the fantastic schools. Lots of driving, lots of strip malls.

We'll just call it an adventure. It'll be fun.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

We shall see.