Sunday, April 29, 2012

Footloose Weekends

I am spending more time away from home than ever before.  Work is frequently taking me on the road these days so I feel the need to maximize my experiences when I am home.  Mostly, this means spending time with David who is probably feeling more and more like a week-day bachelor as the weeks go by. 

Here is my gentleman standing at the Gentleman's entrance to a historic hotel in downtown Grapevine.  We thought it was the entrance to a bathroom.

After spending a week away from home just down the highway, David and I went to the Fort Worth Arts Festival - my third time in three days.
I loved the Kinetic Art.  I would have brought this home but it was more than $5,000 and David wants to eat while I am out of town.

David is a woodworker/turner and I wanted him to see some of the booths displaying that type of art.  There weren't may of those so after a quick lap of the art booths, we head to Granbury.  Granbury is a small town 37 miles southwest of Fort Worth. 
The Hood County Courthouse in downtown Granbury. 

Our plan is to check out some shops on the square, have lunch and retrieve Grandbaby #1 who is in town with her mom.  The stores on the square weren't anything special, our solitary purchase was a packet of Tylenol.  For town squares in Texas I have experienced so far, I prefer McKinney.  I say so far because a lot (not all) of the squares are in the county seat (where the square goes around the courthouse) and there are more than 400 counties in Texas.  I estimate I may have seen around 10 so I have a few left to visit before I make a final decision.
When I don't know the area, I always think it is a good idea to ask a local for advice on where to eat.  We ask a woman at an art gallery and she directs us to The Brazos Smokehouse.  She tells us we can sit by the waterfall in the back if we ask.  It is really nice she says.  I imagine a nice stream with a little waterfall and on a fantastic day outside, that sounds just right.

Sometimes what you picture in your head and reality are VERY different.  This fountain with a goggled plastic frog is the waterfall we were promised.

Fortunately, the food was good and they played Bob Wills music so we would probably eat here again despite the false advertising about the fountain. 

I had smoked chicken and David had a Shiner and smoked sausage.  If you are ever required to be in Granbury, I would recommend this restaurant.  I really can't recommend a trip to Granbury just for the food and the "waterfall" though.

As I prepare for 2 weeks on the road (home for the weekend between), I am trying to stick around, watch some baseball and do some things David likes to do.

David's favorite thing to do is go to the movies.  I might go out on a limb and say any movie.  Footloose was playing at The Palace Theatre in downtown Grapevine.  This made David's 39th time to see this movie in a theater.  I don't know how many times he has watched it on video (VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray) or on television.  Let's just say a LOT.

I was more entertained by the two 70-something women in front of us than I was by the movie itself.  They giggled as much as the herd of teenage girls also in attendance.  Every time I see Footloose I am struck by how cute and normal Sarah Jessica Parker looks, what happened to her?  The best thing about movies at this theatre is it that it is never crowded.  There were more people in Reverend Moore's congregation than there were in the theater.  David and I are looking forward to the Palace's next offering: Big starring Tom Hanks.
My poetry/photography workshop will be over by the time I return.  And just to prove that I can write something different that might make David smile and hopefully assure him that I don't plan to poison him:

I left my pen on your desk.

Don't lose it.

Don't use it.

It was made special

just for me


so the ink-stained words

would be magic words

that the craftsman

would hear on the wind

and in his dreams.

David makes all of my pens on his lathe.  The top one is wood, it belongs to him.  The bottom one is red acrylic and it is one of mine.  I think I have 6-7 pens in various locations.  I keep one with me at all times along with a small notebook where I write down things like observations, notes for future posts and yes, this poem.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fear Factor

I was looking out my kitchen window when I noticed a man across the street mowing the lawn.  This was nothing special, my neighbor is religious about mowing his lawn every week but it didn't look like my neighbor doing the mowing.  The man was wearing a hard hat.

"Honey," I called to David, "Is that Dick mowing his lawn and if so, why is he wearing a hard hat?"  It was Dick.  David found out that he was wearing a hard hat because he had been attacked.  Twice.
These two hawks mated in this tree in front of my house.  It was quite an event, loud and violent.  No, I don't have a picture, what kind of person do you think I am?  Afterwards they moved across the street and had a baby.  Now they attack people that might threaten the nest, namely my neighbor Dick. 

So now Dick doesn't mow without his hard hat.  I saw him checking the mail with an umbrella.
I understand his fear.  I have some fears myself.  Some, like being attacked by hawks a third time are normal, even healthy fears.

This rattlesnake habitat was near a beach I visited in Galveston.  I was happy it was so clearly marked.

Some of my fears are just strange.  David is working on his bid for sainthood because of one particularly ridiculous fear.

Poor David.  He is not allowed in our bedroom when I am in the bathroom.  There is a door between the bathroom and the bedroom but that doesn't matter.  He knows this rule but sometimes I hear him brushing his teeth when I am in there.  When this happens I have poem ideas pop into my head.

Some of my fears are completely unfounded.  When I was taking photography at the college I did my final project on "Things that have been abandoned".  I took pictures of a couch, some tires on the side of the road.  I had the idea to go to a junk yard and see if I could get some images.  I sat in my car outside agonizing about going in to ask.  I finally worked up the courage to go in and explain what I was hoping to do.  I was sweating and my heart was beating hard.  The man didn't even look up when he rudely replied, "No, you can leave."  So I left, my heart pounding out of my chest, on the verge of tears.
I took this in the parking lot.  After I swallowed my heart back down to its normal position and dried my tears.  It was a film camera and I needed to keep everything dry.

I don't know why it was so hard for me to ask and why the rejection was so hard for me to swallow.  This happens to me a lot.  What will someone think?  What will someone say?  What if they hate me or think I am stupid/fat/strange/irritating/etc/etc/etc?

Our keynote speaker at the conference last week was Eric Wahl and it was a message that I needed to hear.  Mr. Wahl was told as a child that he wasn't a good artist because he couldn't color inside the lines.  So he gave it up and it wasn't until many years later that he returned to art.  Now he travels around speaking and painting.  He spoke about fear.
He painted this picture of Bono from U2 in about 3-4 minutes.  Sometimes he applied paint directly to the canvas with his hand.

He asked if we had ever heard of the show Fear Factor - the show where people do all manner of crazy things like eating mechanically separated chicken.  Mr. Wahl gains a "volunteer" by throwing a ball in to the audience.  The volunteer is given a sealed envelope and a choice:  come up on the stage and do what the envelope says or give it to anyone else and they must come up and do it.  He gives the envelope away to a woman who VOLUNTEERS to take it.
Up on the stage she opens the envelope and screams, "Are you serious?"  She gets to keep the painting of Bono.  Not only that but he brings her a box to carry it home in.

The box had a painting of John Lennon on it.  He did the paintings of Marilyn Monroe and Steve Jobs in under 5 minutes each too.  Steve Jobs was painted upside down on the canvas.

This young lady was ready to do anything.  She had no fear.  All week I spent time with her and she just wanted to do it all, experience it all.  I want to be more like that.  I am working on it.
Even my Kermit the Frog fears for me.

This blog has helped.  I would never have done the armadillo race before but I knew it could give me a good story to tell.  I am going to Florida with my parents, my niece and my granddaughter later this summer.  I have fear of spending time in a swimsuit on a public beach but it will be worth every second for the stories I will bring back.
This is a man who obviously has no fear.  Maybe dad will bring the Speedo out of retirement for our trip. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week in Review: Fort Worth, TX

Our annual conference always feels like the longest trip of the year and being close to home in Fort Worth didn't change that a bit.

This was a swanky hotel for me.  They even embossed the toilet paper.  When I showed this to David he asked if we could start doing this in our guest bathroom.  Does anyone know where I can buy an embossing tool with an S on it?

I arrived on Sunday and it was over at 11 am on Friday.  I don't think I got to bed before midnight any night I was there and anyone who knows me at all knows this is late.  And then there was this other small matter.  Monday night after training, a colleague and I rounded up a couple of clients to get out for a walk.  I tried to ignore signs that I should stay at - or at least near - the hotel.
I was still trying to ignore and pretend everything was fine when I took this photo of a mural in a park by the Trinity River.

I finally confessed to my colleague I needed to leave the group and walk back as fast as possible.  I got to the Tarrant County Jail and knew I wasn't going to make it.  In desperation, went in.  If you ever need to break someone out of jail, fake an illness.  The man at the desk took one look at me and let me right in.
Me and my body have a tenuous relationship.  I have to be very careful about what I eat.  This is one of the few meals I selected for myself this week.

I am supposed to be meeting a group for dinner in about an hour so once I get to the hotel, I take as much medicine as possible. 
Daddy Jack's is a seafood restaurant where the menus are all different drawings by children.  My colleage says, "Remember when we ate here last time?".  I said, "I have never eaten here before."  "YES YOU HAVE!" she gently reminds.  I don't remember it at all and because my great-grandpa went by the name Daddy Jack, it should have stood out to me but it definitely didn't. 

This dinner was bad idea as well.  I wasn't completely over my earlier issues as I realized around the time the bill came.  Luckily the restaurant is only about a block from the hotel. 
I faked feeling well the rest of the week and did the best I could with meals that were almost all decided for me (and everyone else). 

I had plans to stay after our conference ended to take in the Arts Festival again with my artsy friend who also happens to be my sister-in-law.  It wasn't meant to be even if I had been feeling well.

The weather was beautiful all week...until Friday.

I did make it out to the festival Thursday and again on Saturday but never with her, we couldn't get our schedules aligned.
In a 6 degrees of separation moment, it turned out my colleague knew this band, The Fingerprints, who played Thursday at the festival.  Her husband went to school with some of them.  I think Coors might have been a festival sponsor but I could be mistaken.

The best thing that happened all week was my rare one-of-a-kind find at the Arts Festival:
Another small world moment.  I am at a restaurant with a group in Sundance Square where the festival is happening.  My husband sends me a text that our daughter put on Facebook that she is at the festival (don't you love technology?).  I walked over to the restaurant where she was to get my hands on grandbaby #1.  When I went to leave she said, "but I want to go with YOU."  Good thing I didn't take her because I had just eaten so an hour after my friend took this, I was dying again and realizing I was completely out of medicine.

I will be making a trip to the store this week to replenish my traveling medicine cabinet since I am home this week. After that I am off into the world again for back-to-back trips - Omaha and Amarillo.  Hopefully the humiliation I (accurately) predicted will finish wearing off before then because I have big plans for these two exciting destinations.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fulfillng my Promise of Humiliation

If someone in the future happens to ask me, “Have you ever blown on the ass of an armadillo?” I can say, yes, yes I have.

It was almost cruel  since these poor babies seemed so scared.  Not as scared as one of my coworkers who was horrified to find she was actually expected to TOUCH that THING.  They are a bit squirmy.

At our annual conference we always host a big party on Wednesday night.  This time it was at the Circle R Ranch in Flower Mound, TX.  When they said we were going to have armadillo races, I assumed they meant a few armadillos racing towards a finish line while we bet from the sidelines.  That isn’t the way it works at all.

Instead you crawl on your hands and knees behind the animal while blowing on the rear end.  Not my finest moment...or my best side.  But.  I did win my race and the prize:

Several people asked if this was real armadillo milk.  There is definitely liquid in the can but I don't plan to drink so it does it matter?  Next time my dad comes over and wants coffee though...

We also had a mechanical bull, which I abstained from.  When my coworker was pressuring me to do it I explained that bulls mount cows, cows don’t mount bulls.

I did ride the bull when we did this several years go.  I like to think I am older and wiser now.  There is a photo from the previous time that I am not in possession of so I can't share it here.  I know, I am really disappointed too.

There was a band and a dance floor and I did get out there and do the Electric Slide with some of the women and one of the men.  That particular man was here a few years back when we had our party at Billy Bob’s Texas.  He convinced me that he needed someone to teach him how to two-step.  It took about two steps for me to realize he was a LIAR.  He ended up being the belle of the ball as the only man there that both knew how to dance and was willing to do so.

We two-stepped again this time but the dance floor stayed as empty as it was when I took this picture of the band.  I guess we were the only two-step qualified people this year.

I heard we were having “gunslingers” there too and that also turned out to be different than I expected.  I thought it would be a skit type of situation but instead, they taught us how to fire the revolver and let us have a go at each other. 

The guy who showed me how to cock and shoot the gun explained the rules:  when the bandanna hits the ground, draw and fire.  I said, "What if I draw before that?"  He said, "That's called cheating."

As the owners of my company – one of them my boss – looked on, me and a coworker went to draw on each other but both turned and fired at our boss instead.  Needless to say, he was a little surprised.

Almost as surprised as my friend Tim who found out he couldn't use these stairs to exit the building.

Four hours later me and my can of Armadillo Milk were tired and ready to head back to the hotel.

My dogs were barking (as they say).  Nice to sit by the fire a while.  They passed out cigars but I didn't take one.  We did have someone try to light theirs in the fire pit.  I got my camera ready to film the ensuing tragedy but she managed to avoid setting herself on fire.

Friday is our last day of conference.  I am ready to go to bed at a normal hour and in my own bed but I had a great time.  And I am happy to say that some of my customers aren’t just customers anymore, they are friends.

Friendly feet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Downtown Cowtown

This week’s travel starts by getting in my car and driving exactly 19 miles from my home to downtown Fort Worth for my company’s annual conference.  I know people do it but I find something inherently wrong about sleeping in a hotel when I could be in my own bed.

The Tarrant County Courthouse is directly behind our hotel.  I presented myself here to obtain my marriage license 25+ years ago and continue to present myself here when I get a jury summons. 

I think people come to Fort Worth expecting everyone to be wearing a cowboy hat and to have their horse tethered to the hitching post out front.  That is a little bit stereotypical, but not entirely wrong.

I own 2 pairs of cowboy boots but mine definitely don't look like these.  I bet these don't even come in my size.  These are in a storefront down the street from the hotel.

After all, Fort Worth is nicknamed Cowtown.  They still have an active stockyards.  If you have ever been to Dallas, don’t assume they are the same because they are not.  They may only be 60 miles apart but they are completely different cities.  Dallas is more urban, more hip and cool.  You won’t see many men in cowboy hats and the horses belong to the police department.  Fort Worth really is still Cowtown at heart.

How very Cowtown that we are sharing the hotel with a Grain & Feed Convention.  It was pretty easy for us to tell the participants in our event from those in the Grain & Feed event when someone was accidentally lost.  Guy in the overalls?  Definitely not at the correct event.

We are in an area of downtown known as Sundance Square.  Sundance Square has lots of restaurants, bars, theatres (of the live variety) and shops. 

Once upon a time I briefly worked downtown at this building.  The building was later damaged in a tornado and repurposed into mainly condos.  Ironically, if I had never worked here, I wouldn't be in Fort Worth now since I met the person who hired me for my current job while working at that job.

It has been a long time since I worked downtown but one thing that stood out as I walked around the first day was how clean it looks, something several other people here have mentioned to me.

A topiary bull guards this corner.  You aren't supposed to ride him so I didn't.

The first night some colleagues and I wander out for dinner and end up across the street from our hotel at Cabo Grande.  It was very nice, not too pricey and best of all, not too loud.  They have “tableside” guacamole, which I personally find weird – I don’t need to see you prepare my guac, just bring it to me already made.  Trying to get 5 people to agree on the ingredients you are allowed to put in the guac when you prepare it tableside is an issue as well.  We ended up with what amounted to smashed avocados. 

Risky's BBQ is probably the most sought-after restaurant Downtown.  I abstained because I don't care for BBQ and it is the catered meal later in the week.

The hotel we are at is the Renaissance Worthington which is very large, very nice and decidedly western-themed. 

This skull was lurking outside of the room where I taught my class.  The wallpaper in the halls looks like leather and I have an ostrich-hide bench in my room.

We had our event here about 5 years ago and we took everyone to Billy Bob’s Texas for a night out.  A bar fight broke out over a woman (what else?) and some of our customers thought we might have staged it (we didn’t). 

Back to Billy Bob's.  No fight this time, just some friendly-ish games of pool.

This year we head over to Circle R Ranch in Flower Mound, TX for Texas BBQ, armadillo races and a mechanical bull.  In other words, likely humiliation will follow in future posts so stay tuned.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

When Words Fail

I am trying to write here every other day but yesterday and today I have started and abandoned more than one possible post.  I feel like I am forcing it.  So instead, I am going with a photostream that fits my mood and what I think the universe is trying to communicate to me right now. 

This has to be the primary message trying to make itself clear these days.  Slow down. Stop multi-tasking.  Stop trying to do everything.  I didn't pay my credit card bill until 4 days after it was due.  I was balancing my register and wondered why it hadn't posted.  I got it in the register but never set up the bill pay.  Four days may sound minor but I haven't been even one day late in 11 years. 

My mood this week was...stormy.  Ask David, I am sure he would agree.  Yesterday I was talking to a customer and thought I might cry.  And nobody better comment about that being normal at my age.

Fortunately I was working from home most of the week.  After years of never being alone, I find that I need time alone.  My favorite time of the day has become after David leaves in the morning when I lay by myself in the semi-dark quiet of our bedroom.

This image represents change and possibility to me.  I feel like so much has changed in the last few years - we became grandparents, we became empty-nesters - and there is more change to come.  I can feel it.

An invitation accepted.  For years I didn't use my vacation unless someone was sick or school was out.  Now I get to use it for me.  So when my mom called and said "Want to go to Florida in August", I said yes, yes I do.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Take me Out to the Ballgame

David and I like baseball.  We tend to be pretty independent of each other but baseball is something we share.  To celebrate the beginning of baseball season, we went to see Field of Dreams at The Palace Theatre in Grapevine.  (The Palace Theatre was built in the 40s and still runs movies about once a month.  We have seen Viva Las Vegas, White Christmas and several other classic movies there.)  This time we met a celebrity.

Rangers mascot Captain at The Palace Theatre with David.

This week we took in our first Texas Rangers  game of the season.  There was an ad earlier in the week that Wednesday night was Dollar Hot Dog Night so off we went.
The team is younger than me!  The stadium sits between Six Flags over Texas (where we normally park) and this monstrosity:

I took this from the second deck of the baseball stadium.  I think the Cowboys stadium looks like a spaceship.

I tried to talk David into eating a BoomStick - a 2 ft. long hot dog that weighs over 2 lbs (including bun, chili, etc.) and costs $26.  Sadly he abstained so I can't share a picture of one but you can find one here if you are really curious.
We have been to games in Kansas City and Los Angeles (Angels) and I have been to Wrigley Field (not a Ranger's game).  This doesn't give us a lot of experience with other fields but I think the ballpark in Arlington is a great venue.

The view from our seats in the Lexus Club Terrace, our preferred area.  I like it because it is one of the first to be in the shade.  I had to raise the camera way up to take this because the first picture looked like this:

They have an entertaining mix of regular features they run between innings during what would be a commercial if you were watching on TV. 

·         Stealing 3rd.  A local kid runs from the opening in the gate in left field to 3rd base, grabs the base and runs back.  If they do it in the time allowed, they get to keep the base.  I have never seen a kid not make it, the girls holding the finish line tape move it if needed.

·         In the past, they had a "dot race" where three colored dots raced around a track on the outfield board, then they took it partially live and they had dots run on the field.  They recently changed to Texas figures Sam Houston, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett.

David had Sam Houston, I had Jim Bowie.  Sam Houston won.

·         The singing of Deep in the Heart of Texas and Take me Out to the Ballgame.  Take me Out to the Ballgame is the beginning of the 7th Inning Stretch and is always followed by the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

·         Kiss Cam & Flex Cam.  We took the kids when they were teenagers and our daughter was adamant that if they put her and her brother on the camera, she was NOT going to kiss him.  I have seen a couple of awkward moments.  This time there was a marriage proposal, lucky for him she said yes.  Flex cam is mostly kids and drunk adults flexing their muscles for the camera.  The kid in the row in front of us made it on camera.  I bet he talked about that all day today.
As much as I like to go in person, there are a number of reasons that I don't like to go.  Here is a partial list.

·         Dirty and/or crowded bathrooms.

·         People who don't need to be in the bathroom that are.  You are IN THE WAY and get OFF your cell phone!
·         People who don't watch the game (talking about anything other than baseball, texters, cell phone talkers, the lady in front of us who applied her makeup 3 times, people/food servers who stand in the way while the game is going on).

This lady sat in an $80 seat to eat a $12 pile of nachos, text non-stop for 4 innings and then be on a call for 1 inning.  She left in the 7th, there are 9 innings in a game.  What does the cost per inning watched work out to?

·         Drunk people

·         Smelly people (man next to me)

·         The Wave - enough already; the public announcer also hates the wave and puts messages on the board to encourage people to stop.

·         People who boo the home team.  Totally unacceptable.

Maybe I feel different because I played baseball.  Not softball, although I played that too, both fast and slow pitch, women only and co-ed, but I also played amateur women's baseball - men's rules.  I know the difference between a passed ball and a wild pitch, between a save and a blown save and when a save is even applicable.  I come to the game to watch, I don't understand why other people don't.
Taken before the game.  We don't get up and wander around, we don't leave our seats other than between innings and even then only if completely necessary.

David and I play a game both at home and at live games.  The idea is that you "put in the call" for a player and if that player hits a home run in that at-bat you get a point.  I went with Hamilton in the 5th, David went with Moreland in the 9th.

Fireworks shoot from the top of the stadium for a home run by Texas.  Kinsler and Andrus went back-to-back.  My call was gone by then.  I was willing David to use his but my mind powers didn't work.

I should mention, if you are ever at a game with David, he does NOT like it or give you credit if you put in the call for a player on the other team.  I did this when we went to a Rangers-Angels game.  I got it right when Napoli hit a home run - for the Angels.  Luckily he is now a Ranger so he is no longer off-limits, but back then he wasn't and David was unhappy with me the rest of that game.

To make it up to him, I had a Napoli jersey made for him before we went to LA last year.  Here he is headed to our seats with our little pile of $1 hot dogs.

I collected a few one-liners during the game:

·         The only face I want to see is the face of a hot dog staring back at me.

·         What if I wanna surf porn?

·         You're mine, just so you know.

·         I didn't mean to spit on you.

·         Calm down , they're not coming to get you.

·         "Infield" is pretty vague as a description.

·         He doesn't smell good.

·         It makes me sad that I weigh more than Joe Nathan (the Ranger's closer).

·         They waited all that time for mayonnaise.

Final score?  Seattle 4, Texas 3 - blown save by Nathan. 
Score in the "call" game?  David is currently ahead 1-0.  I am not worried though, there are plenty of games left to go.