Thursday, September 25, 2008

Then and Now

We're still praying for our friends in Baytown and surrounding areas who are recovering from Hurricane Ike. We understand half of Baytown still has no power, and the clean-up process has a long way to go. Here are some pics our friend David Smith took of our old neighborhood:

Our old house. The blue tarp on the back corner (where Julia's room was) shows the house sustained damage in the same spot where a tree landed during Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Down the street from our house. These houses back up to what's known as "Slapout Gully" (which feeds into Burnet Bay) and sustained a lot of flooding.

A big tree down about five houses away from our old house.

A couple of blocks from our old house. I don't know how to describe how beautiful Baytown's neighborhood of Lakewood -- and our old street in particular -- used to be. We lived on North Burnet Drive, which is the last street before the bay. The houses across the street from us were waterfront houses. It was an older neighborhood with huge magnolias, vibrant azaleas and lush oleanders. We even once had wisteria that wound its way across our back fence. You can imagine what it was like for me to move from dry, drought-ridden Abilene into southeast Texas' very own Garden of Eden in 2001. I hope Baytown and Lakewood can eventually become what they once were.

And now on to Kemah. We lived about 30 minutes from the Kemah Boardwalk and we loved going there. It had restaurants, a midway, shops and a hotel.

Here's Jenna at Kemah in 2005 with a view of some of the shops over her right shoulder...

...and what the same area looks like now.

The midway area as it looked when Chad and I rode the ferris wheel on my birthday several years ago...

...and the midway now. There was also a carousel where we took some great pictures of Julia and my dad when she was a toddler. After Ike, horses from the carousel were found scattered throughout the park.

The Kemah Boardwalk entrance back in its glory days...

...and the entrance now.

The Saltgrass restaurant as it looked when our good friends Bill and Margaret Ehlig took us there a few days before we moved to Arkansas...

...and the Saltgrass now.

So please keep praying for everyone on the Gulf Coast who lost so much. The news media has basically moved on to other things, and it never gave Baytown much attention anyway, except for the refineries there. But there are still lots of people hurting and trying to figure out how to rebuild their lives.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Memories of the Coast

Because I've either lived on the Texas Gulf Coast or had relatives living there as long as I can remember, I have literally a lifetime of memories of that area...especially the beaches of Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula. That photo is of the girls and me at Crystal Beach in 2005, when Julia was six and Jenna was not quite one. I have deadlines looming for now, but I'm planning on blogging my coastal memories when I get a chance.

We've also learned that Lakewood, our Baytown neighborhood, sustained some pretty major damage from the hurricane. Actually, we keep hearing the term "war zone." We're not even sure if our old house is still standing. Our friends the Springers lost most of their house to a giant oak tree during the storm, and we understand they are one of many families who has suffered that kind of loss. (The Springers visited us here in AR for a few days last January. That's a photo of Julia and Meagan's joyful reunion when we picked them up at the airport.) A few months ago I blogged about how much I loved Lakewood, and you can read it here.

On a happier note, I'm still working on a feature about gourmet shops in the area for the Nov. issue of Arkansas Life magazine. Thursday, to combine a lunch date with research, Chad and I went to the Boulevard Bread Company in the Heights. It is locally owned and they bake a jillion different kinds of bread fresh every day. There is no other place like it around here -- I may never go to Panera again! I ordered the hippiest thing on the menu, which was a vegan hummus sandwich. I know it sounds kinda gross, but it was SO yummy and I've been craving it ever since. I guess I'll be going back soon!

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Today in central Arkansas, while everyone was packing into Wal-Mart for batteries and bottled water in anticipation of the remnants of Hurricane Ike, we were at the Humane Society picking out this little guy:

He's six months old and very sweet and cuddly. He can't stay out of Chad's lap. (Kind of like me when we were dating -- haha.) He's black with a wide, white stripe down his tummy and he looks very handsome. They were calling him "James Bond" at the shelter. Then we tried naming him after a designer and came up with "Versace," which Julia changed to "FUR-sace." But that still didn't seem to fit. So we decided to name him after the next person who called our house. But "Lynn" didn't seem to fit, either. We finally decided on "Espresso," which we think is perfect.

We still miss Spanky, but we think Espresso will be a fine addition to the family.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Great Storm

A photo of Galveston's seawall this morning. The statue commemorates the 1900 Storm, which killed 6,000-8,000 people and remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

We are praying for friends and family in Baytown, Houston, Beaumont, Galveston and other areas within Ike's reach.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another cook in the kitchen

Julia, our resident Bobby Flay fan (although she thinks he's a bit arrogant), has been making us omelettes in the mornings. She does a great job -- even on the tricky fold-over part. (She's still honing her cooking skills. This morning she forgot to turn the burner on and wondered why it was taking so long to cook.)

Over the last year or so, Julia has become quite the foodie. Food Network has replaced Disney Channel as her favorite thing to watch, and I have a feeling we will be shopping Williams-Sonoma instead of the Target toy aisle for her birthday. We're planning an Iron Chef birthday party in our church kitchen, where kids will be given some random ingredients to make into dessert.

Speaking of food, I'm getting to do something really fun AGAIN for an article I'm writing for this magazine. I get to go to this place and interview the owner today. Watch for the story in the November issue!

One more thing: for a pre-Halloween scare, go to my dad's blog and read his column about the haunted house he used to live in. And go here to read my old blog post about the same house.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Grocery Gaming

This was our first week to do The Grocery Game. The Grocery Game helps you match up coupons with sales in stores to get groceries for ridiculously cheap, and sometimes free. You actually need to save up several weeks' worth of Sunday coupons, which we haven't had time to do yet, but we still got some good deals. Like a box of 24-count Tylenol PM, which started out at $5.49, then went on sale at Walgreens for 3.49, then I got a $2-off coupon from the Sunday paper, then an in-store coupon brought it down to 49 cents. I kind of wish I had saved this kind of money on something more exciting than sleeping pills, but STILL. At Walgreens I spent $3.71 on almost $14 worth of stuff, and also got some good deals at Kroger the next day. It will get better as my coupon file expands. One TERRIFIC thing about The Grocery Game: Wal-Mart is not included in their list of stores, so I drive to Benton to go to the Kroger there. The money I save on groceries more than makes up for the gas. I may never have to go to Wal-Mart again! One downside: Target is also not included in The Grocery Game's stores. If it ever is, my life will be complete.

A disclaimer for those who know us in person. Jenna is going around telling everyone she has a brother named "John." I guess it's her new imaginary friend. At school last week, her teacher was helping all the kids draw pictures of their families. When I picked Jenna up, she showed me her family picture. It was Daddy, Jenna, and "John," a guy with a beard. No Mommy and no Julia. "Uh, Jenna? Do we have someone in our family named 'John?'" I asked. Her teacher said, "She doesn't? She told me she did!"

I'm all about imaginary friends. Hey, I had a squirrel who rode around on my shoulder through most of elementary school. But I just want to make sure everyone knows Jenna does not actually have a brother named John that we've hidden away somewhere. And I'm wondering what do to with this "family" picture, which looks more like the premise for a 21st Century After-School Special: "Jenna and her Two Dads" or something like that.

Now from the Julia front: the other day Julia and I were in the car and Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" came on. "Hey," I said, turning it up. "I used to really like this song." Julia looked extremely annoyed and said, "Turn it down. It's too loud." So I said, "You know what we used to say when I was a teenager? 'If it's too loud, you're too old.'" She just looked at me like I was completely insane.

That's the problem with us '80s people. Our parents didn't understand our music then, and our kids don't understand it now.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jenna, Labor Day and the skinny on things...

Yay for Jenna starting Mothers Day Out today! Yay for me having time to blog! And get work done! And watch shows I can't watch when she's around! Yay!

We usually do something as a family for Labor Day, but this year, it was just Chad and me. The girls stayed with a friend from church and we went up to Heber Springs to stay at a cabin that belongs to some friends of ours. (I've decided to always have friends who will keep my kids and friends who own cabins.) Sunday night, we drove over to Eden Isle Pike and ate at the Red Apple Inn. Other than that, we slept a lot and watched Gustav updates on TV to make sure our Beaumont, Baytown and Houston friends and family weren't getting blown away. Oh, and we played Mario on the old Nintendo -- one of my favorite things to do at the cabin.

Now for my latest soapbox, which I promise to blog about this one time and then not bring up again. I PROMISE. Something's been nagging at me and I think if I blog about it, I'll have some peace.

Last week, a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote about a woman she sees at the gym. The woman has apparently had several children and is still thin and in great shape. The columnist kept using words like "alien" and "anomaly" to describe this woman since she doesn't appear to be lugging around any baby weight. I looked up "anomaly" to make sure I was understanding it right. My dictionary defines it as "peculiar" or "abnormal."

All right. Can we talk about this for a second?

Let me lay it all out so you'll know where I'm coming from. I don't weigh what I did in high school (I was ridiculously thin back then), but I do weigh less than I did before getting pregnant with my first child. My jeans size is still in single digits. I've never had to struggle with my weight, and I realize I am blessed.

The truth is that thin people still have issues about their bodies and can be sensitive to negative comments. Here are some examples from my own experience:

1) "I hate you because you're skinny." Or "You make me sick." I got this a lot in high school. Not so much now, which is good because I never figured out a way to respond to it.

2) "How did you get so skinny?" This is usually accompanied by what I call "The Onceover" -- a frowning person looking you up and down like something has got to be terribly wrong with you. I still get this one, and I don't know how to respond to it, either. I've thought about telling these people that I have stomach cancer, because that would be easier to explain than the truth: this is just the way I am.

3) "She has GOT to be anorexic." This wasn't said to me, but about me by a group of girls at my high school who didn't realize I was in a stall in the bathroom they had gathered in. I hid back there until they were gone because I didn't want them to know I had heard.

The truth is that no one, no matter what they look like, wants to have their body picked apart and criticized by people using words like "hate" and "alien" and "abnormal." Or "skinny bitch," as the classy Joy Behar so often calls us. There is an assumption that thin people have no issues about their bodies, and it's not true.

There is a more significant issue here. Here's part of the letter I wrote to the columnist:

"What I truly hate about our society is that when it comes to body
types, women can't win. If we're overweight, we're criticized and
ridiculed. If we're not overweight, we're ostracized and considered
fair game for comments such as the ones I listed above. This doesn't
happen to men, and it's not fair."

Why can't society just leave us -- and I mean ALL of us -- alone? I'm trying to raise girls in this craziness...girls who, no matter what they grow up to look like, will at some point be made to feel bad about the way they look.

What I have learned over the years is that true friends don't care about what you look like. Real friends will never ask why your body looks a certain way, or say that they hate you or you sicken them because of the way you look. I just wish we could all view each other this way and forget about what we all look like.

Labels: , , ,