Sunday, August 4, 2013

There's a fine line between boredom and chaos...

It's been a few years since I've done a show house for Historic Ellicott City but I'm doing it again this year. I've done five of them before but this is the first time I'm doing it under my name alone. Of course my dear, sweet friends from The Pink Cabbage are helping me out but, at the end of the day, it's gonna have my name on it. Wow, stress! But the good kind. The deal on the show house is that a different designer decorates a single room in the house. The funds that are made from the show house go to help keep historic structures in Howard County, Maryland intact plus there are scholarships and other benevolent deeds that come from the money. Just a couple of months ago I was feeling pretty bad about myself. I felt like my only worth was cooking, doing laundry, and getting a teenager where he needed to go. I felt I had no life or purpose for myself or in the world. Hence the title quote. I prayed and prayed for God to lead me to some purpose. Up popped this show house opportunity then, as I said in my last post, came the ministries. In between have been trips to Texas and NYC. I also have another personal project I'm working on but that's confidential-sorry, don't mean to be a tease-it's to protect other people. Anyway, I have plenty to do and fill my days with-yay!
Here's the room as I first found it. It's called the Governess Quarters. I loved the blue and white toile wallpaper right away. This house has not been decorated since it was last a show house, 18 year ago, so it's dated. I think this was the nursery; the toile print is one of children but I was ready to work my magic with it. The only issue was there was damage on the wallpaper near the window. I asked that if I did a wall of curtains to hide the damage on that wall could I keep the paper and it was thumbs up yes. The deadlines on these deals are a short in the beginning; the design board is due ONE week after being accepted as designer. So I went out running around like a chicken with no head or legs getting things for this room to be approved for the design. 
You can probably tell but the photo above of me and the head of the design committee, Carroll (we have worked together a lot and get along very well), that he was happy with what I'd put together.
Then came the day right before I left for Texas, a call from the show house chairwoman telling me that the workers in the house had accidentally removed the wallpaper from my room. Ugh. I thought I was done, thought it was over. I was already stressed and tired (not to mention I had already spent money on things for the blue design) from getting all the things in line to go with the wallpaper. I called my wonderful cohorts, Jody and Karen, and they talked me off the ledge. And, of course after I had time to think about it, it was beginning to look like a bit of a blessing. HEC was willing to work with me to help me out with painting the walls any color that I wanted and they approved of. The world actually became my decorating oyster. I'd always wanted to decorate a pink room so here was my chance. Yes indeed, a blessing in disguise. What is that saying I've heard so much lately? When life throws you a curve yell out "plot twist"!!!
Plot twist! Here's a sneak peek at what I've got in mind for the room. I'm very excited. I start painting tomorrow. I have to finish early because I'm meeting my mama, who lives in Oregon, in Texas for the first Texas A&M (where I was born and raised) football game I've been to in over 2o years. I will have a couple of days after I get back to do the finishing touches but I need to have most of it done before I leave. Then when I return from Texas I'll be working in the sales office at the show house. Bored-no, not even any time soon. Thank you God.

My new mission

Well it all started with facebook, of course. I reconnected with a couple of guys who went to school with my sister (a little 0lder than me) then met up at our hometown reunion in February. Actually I had reconnected with one of them during his ride last year when I found out he was riding through Maryland; didn't see him but it started the reconnection and learning about the ride. This is, as the sign says ,The Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge. There are many reasons why people make this ride; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, all the above. These guys have several reasons they ride but one is for charity. That charity is called Miles for Missions. Last year I was only on the very periphery of what the ride was about but as the ride got closer this year I learned more and more. And I learned a lot about the ministries they were riding for and they became close to my heart. I became close to David and Carla who started Miles for Missions; David through watching him ride live on his camera, listening to his Christian music as he road and with Carla through her posts on their facebook pages, messaging, and even through phone calls of support. It's a very intense experience, of course for the riders, but also for those who are following (Hoka Hey provides a tracking feature on their website to watch the riders live in animation). The testimonies of Carla and David's faith was awe-inspiring.
So I started, even before the ride began, checking out the ministries they were riding for. I got involved enough with the charities and with David and Carla that they asked me last week to be a board member of Miles for Missions. What an honor. It's just taking off so I have tons of ideas and can't wait to get to work with them and these great ministries.
Restore Her was the first one that got close to my heart. Started by the folks who opened Stillcreek Ranch, a ranch for at-risk boys, Restore Her is a home for mostly girls who the F.B.I. and other agencies find who have become part of child sex trafficking in the U.S. Both are located in my hometown area of Texas. This is one of the very few places where these children can go to escape and be saved from this heinous situation. And, of course, there is not housing for all these children who are being rescued. They need more money to build more homes for these kids. Who could look away from this issue? Check it out. They welcome any amount. It's not how much people give, it's how many people give.
Another part of Miles for Missions is David's work on getting water to people in El Salvador. He also helps with building homes and helps in general but the funds mainly go to getting water to the folks. Can you imagine life without water? Above is a photo of David cranking water from a new well for the people in the village. I'm very excited to be part of something so wonderful with people with such huge, loving hearts and who inspire me daily.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Texas will always be my home trip

Sooooo, Matt decided he had to attend the world's largest sneaker convention in Houston on July 28th. Really? I thought, Texas in July? I hadn't been to Texas in the summer (okay technically not past May which was in the triple digits last time I was there in May) and was a little skeered. But it's Texas so, umm, yeah I'm going. By the time we made the decision to go the plane flights were way too expensive so I decided we were driving. I mapped the trip so we could go see my longtime, dear, wonderful friend, Tim, who I grew up three doors down from and who lives near Nashville. What a great visit we had with him. Matt had met Tim at our 35th high school reunion in Texas a couple of years ago so it was easy for them to slip into comfortable conversation again.
We went out to dinner then back to Tim's gorgeous home for more catching up. Above is the love of Tim's life, Toby. Toby is like a wind-up toy who is absolutely precious. The way he cocks his head when asked a question, well, you'd just have to see it. Matt fell in love. I think Toby took a real shine to him too. Tim was wise to keep a close eye on Toby as we left; he didn't trust Matt completely not to run off with his beloved dog. The only thing that kept us from taking him was knowing how much they love each other; we'd never come between a love like that.
If there is anyone in the world reading this at all or anyone who doesn't know this, I was asked to be one of the three administrators of my hometown facebook page about five weeks ago. What an honor it was to be asked. I've been a member since very early on which is almost three years now. The person who started the page left long ago and it was not being administered to. We did some digging and finally Jim, above right, had the page handed over to him. He asked John, left, then me. Mostly I was asked because Jim and John know how much I love my hometown and knew how honored and serious I would feel about being an administrator but they also knew that I could pretend to be appropriate enough to handle it! We started out with 3,200 members five weeks ago, now we have over 3,800. You might not think that there's much to do as admins on a silly ole fb group page but you'd be so wrong. Can you imagine making sure over 3,800 people behave, follow rules, not offend anyone else, and keep things interesting all at the same time? Well it ain't easy. We take shifts then we usually are all on at the same time each night. I've really enjoyed working with these guys and getting to know them. I had only met John once at our hometown reunion in February and hadn't seen Jim since he dated my sister (they are five years older than me) in junior high! These guys were so sweet to drive from Houston to Bryan to have lunch with me while I was there. Have I ever mentioned how much I love small world stuff? Well not only did I have that connection with Jim but John and I figured out that we had a really wild connection. John had worked at the Houston Zoo and in many areas with animals and he knows the men who were the animal dealers when my daddy had our Funny Farm, an exotic animal farm we had when I was growing up! We discovered this over lunch; neither of us could get over how coincidental that was.
I wanted us to have our photo taken with our Aggie rings while we were together. Of course, those guys earned theirs themselves, mine is through my daddy. Still, Aggie rings, a bond.
While Jim, John, and I were having lunch at Chicken Oil Co. the guy sitting at the table next to us overheard us mentioning a bunch of names he recognized. He introduced himself as Bill Allen from Hairy Bikers, a t.v. show on the History Channel where bikers do cooking. He had some great stories for us and he was a real nice fella.
And if there weren't enough ways for me to feel like the queen of Bryan, the sweet people from our hometown facebook page invited everyone out to meet for dinner in my honor. What a great crowd we had and the seating, the way people who didn't know other people got to meet, the stories-it was fabulous. You see Greg standing behind me, the guy who I saw in NYC just the week before? Small world, check.
There were other fun times and there were challenging times. Lucas and Kristen were moving into their first "grown up" house and we "got" to help. Of course we were happy to help but we all know how much moving stinks and July in Texas doesn't make it better. Grumpy ruled many times. There was also a family pool party, lunch with other friends, shopping for the show house (next post). Matt shot his first gun, caught a bunch of big fish, and had his first run-in with fire ants. He and I also bonded over great music, close conversation, and seeing a lot of the beauty that is our great country. Plus, on the way home, I took the route to go through Monroe, LA so we could go the Duck Dynasty Command Center. We had the added thrill of getting to see Jase somewhat up close and more personal than just on t.v. It was a lot of driving for one person but, as always, I had no regret doing it. It was very hard to leave but made slightly easier by knowing that I'm going back in just over a month to meet my mom for a football game...smiling.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer in New York City

I am a girl of opposites. I love New York City but I want to live out in the country outside of my hometown in Texas. Well, I was blessed that I got to experience both this summer and, in the picture above, both came together. While in NYC in mid-July,  by coincidence my good friend, Greg, who I've known since junior high was there with his daughters on a business/vacation trip. We all met for drinks at his hotel. His daughter snapped this pic and we posted it on our facebook pages to the surprise of many of our friends. 
The next day Matt wanted to go to his favorite haunts, Flight Club, it's THE place to buy sneakers in NYC. While Matt was busy drooling over sneakers I was checking out the crowd. I've always had a nose for celebrities so I was checking out this tall guy who was with a guy who seemed more like a bodyguard type than just a friend. We were in the store for about 1 1/2 hours so I had plenty of time to get a feel for him. When we left the store it was about the same time as this guy but in the meantime we had watched him check out his SIX pairs of sneakers (they are expensive) and people on the street started to talk about him and get their photos taken with him. I asked someone who he was (Matt hadn't recognized him) and it turned out he was Travis McCoy, a rapper celeb and Katy Perry's ex. Matt did not want to have his photo taken with him (being the too cool teenager) so after I stepped beside him for Matt to take my pic with him, he relented and let me snap the one above (dropped the too cool in favor of a good story and photo to back it up). 
While Matt was still standing next to Travis the guy above walked right in front of Matt (yeah, just like in the photo he took of him above) and Matt's jaw dropped. He was speechless. The Matt started to point at him still with his mouth open speechless. This was not like Matt, this was not Cool Matt. I knew it had to be someone pretty darn big to make him react that way. So I reached out my hand, shook his, and told him what a big fan I was (what's a girl to say?). After the fuss was over and we walked away I asked Matt who he was and he told me Trinidad James. Another rapper. Google him if you have any interest. He's a deal, not a huge deal, but big enough to make it a really fun story for Matt and really fun to have the photos. Yep, I can sniff out a celeb anywhere.
For the next couple of days we did blah, blah, blah. JUST KIDDING. We did the city stuff. The weekends are so great there. Just go outside and things are happening everywhere. Above is a view from the High Line walking path that opened a couple of years ago. I found out about it on the facebook page of a childhood friend in Texas. It was beautiful and very cool.
One of the great things is that on the weekends you can just walk from park to park and there are basketball tournaments, like above, going on. So many parks have stationary chess tables, boccie ball, street shows...endless amounts of free entertainment and things to do. 
Very cool photo snapped at a park of a little pick-up baseball game with the cityscape in the background. Always something cool going on.

Family reunion

The gang, 2009.
So back in 2006 a family moved in next door to us. An army wife and husband with four boys between them. Of course they were from Texas. They brought our cul-de-sac together; they taught our neighborhood how a neighborhood is supposed to be-close. We became very, very close. I have posted about them several times before. But, in a nutshell, the couple divorced, the wife moved away and we became even closer to the husband and the boys.
Then the husband, Cedric, got sent to Iraq for the 6th time. Cedric's brother, Allen, came to stay with the boys but he needed support too. So I stepped in as mama to the boys, especially the oldest and youngest. The second photo is of the oldest, Andre', and me. 
They lived here for almost three years-a long stay for their lifestyle. Then Cedric got transferred to Georgia. The photo above is at a dinner we had as families right before they left for Georgia. They stayed with us for a few days before they left after their things had been picked up by the movers. Just when I thought I couldn't get more boys in my house they brought in Cousin Shaun too. It was crazy, wild, wonderful. A huge, wonderful family all hanging out together. I was in heaven. Remember, Cedric was also included to keep all these boys in line!
I know, the photos aren't lining up with the story, live with it. In April, Andre' (the oldest), who had joined the Air Force a few years ago was being transferred from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to Afghanistan with layover for training in Maryland-yay! That's the top photo; the first time I'd seen Andre' in about four years. We got to see him a few times before his mom and Alec (the youngest and like a brother to Matt) came from San Antonio to see Andre' before he left.
We met up with Alec and Andre' at the bowling alley first. There was about 10 minutes of awkward time-gone-by feeling between Alec and Matt then, boom, brothers reunited and inseparable for the rest of the stay.
Alana, on the right, has lived next door since she and Matt were very young and she was always part of the great group of kids that played constantly together while Cedric, Alec, and Andre', and the rest lived next door to us. The kids had a great time playing basketball one night; it was just like the great old times. They are so young to have these long periods of time not seeing each other. My heart was so full watching them step right back into the past.
The night before they left we went to ride go carts and had a pretty wild time. We got to have Alec all but one night that he was here including this last night. So many years had gone by without seeing them but through the fabulous medium of facebook, had been able to keep in touch and coordinate this visit. There was a time we weren't sure if we were going to have them in our lives forever but I think we've proven that wrong. I pray that we will always stay this close and I ask for prayers for Andre' as he is in harm's way in Afghanistan. Alec has gone to live with his dad in Saudi Arabia for the next couple of years. It'll be interesting to see when we will all be together again. How blessed we are to have them in our lives.