After five years of flying solo as a marketing consultant and freelance editor and writer, I am closing the Adroit Narratives, LLC shop. From this experience, I learned there is a myth regarding entrepreneurship: no one builds a business by herself.
While there is tremendous satisfaction in running your own payroll to direct deposit to yourself, the reality is it takes a village to raise a business. First, you find trusted vendors, such as lawyers and CPAs, and figure out which platforms you will use to run the business (I recommend QuickBooks and ADP). Next, you must find customers or clients.
For starters, get your website and social media accounts up and running. I also recommend crafting a logo with a graphic artist, not downloading a generic one. And, yes, good old-fashioned business cards are a must. In the days before social distancing, in-person business networking is essential. At the outset of my business, I was active in BNI, a networking group that meets weekly to reinforce marketing messages among members and to give each other referrals.
The most important people to an entrepreneur are customers. These are the people who see the value in your service or product and pay you on a recurring basis. This is the backbone of a business. Over time, you develop strong working relationships with these people and appreciate them professionally and personally.
Now, the only constant in life is change. Earlier this year, I saw a LinkedIn post about a role at a public relations firm that really intrigued me. It involves the energy industry, which is one of my favorite topics and an opportunity for professional development in a new, but related realm for me. I start the Monday after Thanksgiving! In this tumultuous year, I am very grateful for a new professional opportunity.
I am also very grateful to my mainstay clients for supporting my business and for being understanding that I was wrapping it up. If you get the opportunity to start a business or want to scratch the entrepreneurial itch, I recommend it. You learn a lot about business and a lot about yourself. No matter what you do, be open to learning, be outgoing, and be appreciative.
What would grandma do? Pondering the pandemic, I wonder how my late grandparents would have handled this unfolding natural and economic disaster. After all, now that we are seeing unemployment levels approaching that of the Great Depression, maybe we can start to relate to what our elders endured.
Part of my thought process stems from a tweet wondering if we’ll be so deeply affected by the new normal of the covid-19 lifestyle that our new habits will stay with us for decades, just as children of the Depression were thrifty and did not take anything for granted. For example, my grandma never threw out food.
Even if there were just two or three raviolis left after one of her epic Sunday dinners, those ravioli would be caringly nestled on a saucer and wrapped with just the right amount of cellophane. They would make just a lovely lunch the next day. (I do this myself too.)
Come to think of it, should I have been wiping down grocery items with a water-bleach solution all along? I mean, it is kinda gross to think about how some items may not have really been fridge-ready. Now, I view not wiping down bottles and jars as a luxury from a past life of ignorant bliss. Was I insufficient in my produce care by only rinsing food with water?
The Depression kids became the Greatest Generation with their contributions to World War II, including my grandpa who served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater. He was on a supply ship. He left when grandma was pregnant with my mother and returned when mom was a toddler. Can you imagine that hardship? Grandma had a job and family members who helped care for her daughter. Always be grateful for what you have when you are also missing something.
Thus far, I have been fortunate that I have no lost clients due to covid-19’s economic fallout. I recognize that could change. I am fortunate to live with a wonderful boyfriend and grateful we have been together for 11 years. (Tomorrow is the anniversary of when we first met!). He is smart and steady, and putting up with my hand-wringing and mental exhaustion.
I had already worked from home and have enjoyed the benefits of being able to toss in a load of laundry or run the vacuum during a brain break. But, I used to go to the gym. I used to love grocery shopping. I enjoyed going to restaurants and just generally being around other people. I like chatting with strangers in the market or at bar or a festival, etc. I am an extrovert. But, what do I really have to complain about? I am alive. I’d like to keep it that way and enjoy the post-covid world.
Grandma was always engaged in current events and I’m sure being raised in a family of news consumers made me a news junkie. My paternal grandfather would get up before dawn to read newspapers and told me he had wanted to be a reporter, but couldn’t go to college. He was proud I majored in history and journalism and went into news when I graduated. Nowadays, keeping abreast of the news is more draining than usual.
So, what would grandma do? Laugh. Put things in perspective. Keep on keepin’ on. And cook really good food.
Speaking of food, if you have funds to spare or want to share some of your stimulus check with less fortunate neighbors, consider donating to your local food bank. If you live in Harris County like me, check out the Houston Food Bank.
Why did this happen to me? We often ask ourselves that when change is forced upon us. What if you flip that around and the answer is this is happening for you.
A dear friend was initially surprised when her husband left her because she had been a loving wife, but upon further consideration she saw in hindsight there were problems in the marriage and realized she felt underappreciated. Then, the divorce became a pain. A real pain. She was a woman of faith and persevered with prayer, a lot of inspirational quotes (which she often shared on social media), emotional support of friends and family, her own abiding deep strength and a great sense of humor.
She also had a vision. She decided to pursue what she really wanted. She wanted to be independent. She wanted to move to the mountains. She wanted to return to nursing. She wanted a cabin in the woods. She made it all happen.
After the divorce, she bought a lovely cabin on a beautiful property in the mountains. She and her mother spent time together there and she wanted to renovate a building on the property for her friends and mother to stay in.
She made new, great friends. She kept up her love of fostering hounds and caring for her own dogs. She got a job at Home Depot in the garden department, which she loved, while pursuing her return to nursing. Then, she got a job as an ICU nurse at a regional hospital and was so happy about it.
She was living her best life. The life she wanted for herself on her own terms. And she was really happy and very loved. It came as a total shock when she passed away at age 59 between Christmas and New Year’s. It seemed so unfair because she was so young and really hitting another stride in life. Yet, it was a consolation to know she was enjoying all the things she really wanted before going home forever.
Think about it. What if she had passed away before making huge, life-fulfilling changes? There is no what if because she got to where she wanted to be.
So I ask myself and invite you to question, am I where I want to be? Will I achieve what I want in the coming years too? What do I need to do now to make my best life happen today and in the future?
Make the change. Health condition? Get a second opinion. Hate your job? Seriously look and persist. Bad relationship? Reevaluate. If it really isn’t good at the core, prepare to move on. Feeling unappreciated? Find a constructive way to express that.
Did you have New Year’s resolutions? One of mine was to start getting up at 5:30 a.m. to make time to exercise, read and write before starting the work day. Guess who makes me go walking at 5:30 a.m.? A coonhound named Cinnamon Sally. Sally was my friend’s foster dog.
Now is the time to tell you how I met my late friend, Sonya Renee Anderson. She was my boyfriend’s cousin. Moreover, she was the beloved cousin of many in a large, tight-knit family. She was the most enthusiastic about the annual family reunion and put herself in charge of the next one, telling her cousins it was time for their generation to take over for their parents (who are all alive).
This year’s family reunion without her means we won’t share in her beautiful smile, we won’t get a big hug from her and she will be greatly missed. But we will celebrate in her honor.
We had the blessing of getting to visit with her this past October, when she tried to convince us to adopt Cinnamon Sally. We demurred because we already have two dogs. We did consider it. When Sonya passed away, we realized we had to go get the dog and bring her home.
I think about Sonya a lot these days. She was an inspiration to me when she was alive. Now, I trot after this silly hound and reflect on what Sonya would tell me if she was still with us.
If it wasn’t for Cinnamon Sally, I wouldn’t be sticking to my first New Year’s resolution. In the little over three weeks we’ve been walking together, my waist has gotten a little bit smaller. Now, it’s up to me to achieve the other resolutions: write a book, start cycling again and make more money.
So, I ask again, are you living your best life? Why not? What’s stopping you. Make the changes. Make it happen. And have fun.
If an ex-pat spent his or her whole adult life overseas, they would still be an American. I will always be a Yankee, I suppose, although as the pains of middle age overtake me (hello, sciatica!), I have spent more years below than above the Mason-Dixon line. My first forays were childhood visits to South Carolina, which seemed so mythical all wrapped up in warmth and Spanish moss.
My paternal grandparents lived in Sumter, S.C., across from a lake full of Cypress trees and home to alligators. Their backyard was perfumed by a huge hickory tree. Nothing like this existed in my hometown, Montclair, New Jersey, and I considered it all to be marvelous.
Sumter, South Carolina
They had a carport too, which was novel to me, with a utility room off to the side where Granddaddy kept a fridge full of Mr. Pibb. I don’t think that particular soda was available up north because Dr Pepper was. I loved Mr. Pibb, probably just because my grandfather did.
Granddaddy was even more Yankee than his son and grandkids because he was born in Montreal and didn’t move to New Jersey until middle school. The child of Scottish immigrants, he was bilingual in French and English, and his new classmates were amazed he spoke English so well. He found that rather amusing.
Decades later, after 40-odd years in South Carolina (he lived to 88), Granddaddy still pronounced the words out and about as if they rhymed with boat. I guess you can take the kid out of Canada, but not the Canadian accent out of the man.
He absolutely loved to read the papers and would get up early to sit on his screened back porch with coffee. One thing I dislike about living in Houston is this part of Texas is so hot and humid most of the year that sitting on a screened porch is less than ideal. Funny thing, though, I remember some scorchers visiting Sumter in the summer.
I went to college at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where the weather was a happy medium between frigid N.J. winters and blazing hot environs further south. I remembered hearing that Southerners supposedly drank Cokes in lieu of coffee on hot mornings and gave that a try once with an egg sandwich before class. Gross. Come to think of it, I didn’t see anyone else get a Coke with breakfast. My strongest scent memory of Lexington is honeysuckle, which would erupt and envelope the landscape. I returned this spring for a reunion and the landscape seemed frozen in time, especially nearby Goshen Pass, where my parents met in 1960 on the Maury River. Once you are steeped in such spaces, they stay with you and often call on you to return.
Maury River in Virginia
I’m going to skip in this blog over my time in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., because I just don’t really consider those to be in “The South.” (Feel free to debate this and yes, I know there were Confederate sympathizers in Balto., but still, it is its own category. I called it “the forgotten city” because its historical importance seemed to have faded from the collective American consciousness. I highly recommend visiting. The people are awesome (“hey hon”), the architecture is beautiful, the food is amazing and the museums are cool. But, I digress.).
Here in Texas, there is something special you cannot grow up north. We have a citrus grove with Meyer lemons, Satsuma and grapefruit trees. Sadly, our lime tree does not bear fruit after a bitter freeze one year. Growing your own Meyer lemons is deeply satisfying, especially since it doesn’t take much effort. This tree grows like a weed and must be cut back from time to time.
Our Satsuma’s fruit
One year, it was so heavily laden with fruit, it fell over during a torrential rain. We propped it back up and it healed. The winter after it sat in Hurricane Harvey floodwater, it didn’t look so good. But that was last year and now it’s completed its comeback. So, tonight, I am going to back salmon in olive oil with Meyer lemons and Satsuma from the side yard. And this is one of the many wonderful things about living in the South.
My boyfriend told me last night that, for my own well-being, I need to stop getting worked up about the news. He cares about keeping up with current events as well, but given our different personalities and psychological make-ups, he is handling it better than I am.
In college, I knew I wanted to be a reporter and was relieved to find a job in business news because I didn’t have the nerves to cover crimes. It would have upset me too much. Instead, I covered conflicts that played out in press conferences, interviews and legal documents. This suited me because I enjoy reading, considering, discerning, questioning and debating.
Now, it seems each news day is a bad news day. For example, the health insurance law protections for people with pre-existing conditions may be going out the window. I am self-employed and have psoriasis, a genetic condition that can become painful without treatment. So, that upsets me.
Friday morning, the first news item I saw was Trump advocating for Russia to rejoin the G7(8), despite the annexation of Crimea, support for Assad, hey, meddling in the U.S. 2016 election, etc. That ticked me off, so I sought refuge in Facebook, hoping for a cute dog video. Wrong. The first thing I saw was that Anthony Bourdain had killed himself. That sapped the happy energy I had awakened with, so I plowed into work and felt good again, being distracted by productivity. But the sadness gnawed at me, tugging on my anxiety, almost imploring it to come to the surface.
When a psychologist diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, I was annoyed the name of the condition is so vague. Give me some tangible specifics and I can grapple with those, even with enthusiasm and a drive for problem-solving. The amorphous sounding terminology concerned me. I asked her if this was like psoriasis, something hard-wired into me I would have to live with.
No, she said, you can essentially think your way out of this. You can gain control over feelings that would otherwise throw you into an anxious state. Great, let’s do this behavioral modification and talk therapy! If I had not met her, I have no idea what state I would be in now. With her guidance, I overcame a lot of obstacles, suffice it to say. Granted, I do take an anti-anxiety medication, which I find really helps.
Self-Care, the Good Habits
Truthfully, sometimes when the news is just shockingly awful, I turned to wine and music to relax. That’s fine, unless you drink too much wine. To avoid that, I like to make rose spritzers with Topo Chico. Last night was a Friday night, when I normally want to stay up watching a movie, but after the news, I was toast. My mother and I had had a difficult conversation and I was drained by the associated anxiety. I went to bed, wearing a sleep mask and cuddled by a big, goofy Catahoula. I needed that self-care.
When regrouping, I like to focus on gardening, reading, writing, cleaning, cooking and crafting. A nice bubble bath really helps too. Plus, Pinterest is a form of therapy because I am focusing on finding things that make me smile: beautiful fabrics, lovely gardens and delicious food to add to my repertoire. In other words, pack your life full of things you enjoy, every day, analogous to watering your flowers.
Always add to your experiences. I’ve been looking forward to going out on my man’s boat, but it’s not quite ready. Instead, he surprised me by suggesting we go to a kite festival today!
I’m in full support of gun rights and gun safety, and that’s why I have been aghast to hear the rapid-fire reports of a machine gun in our suburban Houston neighborhood in recent days and nights.
To clarify, we live in unincorporated Harris County, which can sometimes seem like the Wild West on suburbia given its lack of zoning and a fair amount of crime. But, we are policed here in our area by the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. The deputies have been getting a lot of calls about full-automatic gunfire, which seems to be coming from one of the bayous in the neighborhood.
The shots are being heard across a wide radius, judging by the comments on the NextDoor app. Now, some folks commented they think it’s just fireworks, but they have been corrected by military vets and others familiar with the actual sound of gunfire. Or, by anyone who has watched news coverage of a war zone or a war movie.
This is not semi-automatic gunfire like that of an AR-15. My man, who lived in Beirut at the outset of its civil war, came in from the patio the other night to tell me he heard a machine gun. I said, “you mean full auto?” and he said, “yeah, full auto.” I stepped outside and lo and behold, it was an unmistakable sound.
I’ve been at the gun range with my bolt-action rifle target shooting amid people with semi-automatic rifles and I know what the latter sounds like. This sound carrying across the neighborhood is not semi-automatic.
This egregious behavior went from an initial shock to furious comments on social media. We first heard it at night, but Sunday afternoon, we heard it again. Byron and I drove toward the area we suspect it is coming from, a waste site on a particular bayou (there are several here that feed into the neighboring Addicks Reservoir). We pulled up to a realtor standing outside an open house he was hosting and he agreed it’s a machine gun, noting he had been in the military. Just as I started to dial the sheriff’s department, we saw a deputy’s patrol car pulling up to a man standing beside his truck. He had just called the sheriff’s department to report the problem.
The NextDoor discussion is getting more urgent with people adamantly expressing that we need to keep calling to help the police triangulate the source of the sound. One of the most involved commenters has related the Sheriff’s Department is deploying a helicopter and K-9s, and come to think of it, we did hear a helicopter flying low the other night.
I firmly believe Americans have a Second Amendment right to bear arms, whether for self-protection or hunting. But, full automatic rifle, a.k.a. machine gun, is severely restricted and regulated, for good reason. And, whoever is doing this is incredibly reckless. It would be reckless to shoot any firearm wantonly in a residential area. During dove season, we often hear shotguns on a large, nearby property and those shooters are not endangering anyone.
The machine gun on the bayou is hopefully a fleeting phenomenon that will be shut down by law enforcement.
We never fancied ourselves to be the type of people to post a crazy-looking, hand-scrawled sign on our front-door warning looters they could be shot. To avoid any misunderstanding in our disaster zone with law enforcement, a companion sign asks police to call the homeowner. This became critically important, as documented on our front-porch security video (more on that later).
Hurricane Harvey’s devastating aftermath unfurled a new normal that includes such lifestyle changes as having a “slow no wake” navigation sign on the back of your vehicle, using a gasoline-powered generator to keep on the fridge, fans, WIFI and satellite TV, and washing coffee pots and cooking pans in the backyard.
The good thing coming out of our mostly submerged subdivision next to the overflowed Addicks Reservoir in Northwest Harris County is a new fellowship in the neighborhood. We have 144 single-family dwellings that are usually well-kempt. Historically, people here give friendly waves and tend to socialize with their immediate next-door neighbors.
Some of the neighbors had flooded before, with Hurricane Ike in 2008 and with the Tax Day Flood of 2016. This is by far the worst. But something funny happened when evacuees started clomping back in with waders and boats. A friendly spirit buoyed people. A Facebook group started filling up with neighbors who had not yet met, and while their homes were still flooded, they asked when we could have a neighborhood cookout to get to know each other. Our waste treatment plant is damaged, so we don’t have sewer service, but people are ready to party.
Who is Houston
That is Houston. If you’ve never been here before, allow me to explain. When I moved here in 2006 from Washington, D.C., I was amazed how Houston is so friendly. You have the best conversations in office building elevator rides or at the grocery store. Houston is like a funky, sophisticated hybrid of the congeniality of a small Southern town and the cosmopolitan amenities of the multi-cultural megapolis that it is. It does not matter if you are from a small Texas town or the other side of the world, the only constant is friendliness.
In prior months, I saw an article suggesting that while the Houston region is extraordinarily diverse, it is fractured socially among demographics, even geographically. That gave me pause as I wondered what the author is talking about. Our neighborhood looks like the United Nations, just like this region as a whole. Think of a ginormous set of contiguous suburbs that are primarily diverse.
Basically, if you are not friendly or helpful, you won’t fit in here. Texans are also very resourceful; suddenly flooded streets in this region were filled with john boats, kayaks and lifted-up pickup trucks. My boyfriend and I are in one of the only houses in our neighborhood that did not flood (water came up to the caulked doors and into the garage). We watched on TV and Facebook what we called the Redneck Nation coming out to save people. No one is going to make fun of a monster truck again.
A Tale of O. Harvey
We were not able to get out in our own boat for a few key reasons. Just before the storm, Byron had bought a john boat for a gator hunt. The Friday morning before Harvey’s landfall near Rockport/Port A/Corpus, a delivery truck driver brought me the 210-lb. engine in a crate. The outer bands were already bringing rain and I saluted him to drive carefully to get home to deal with his own affairs ahead of Harvey.
We then nosed our vehicles up the sloped driveway to the garage doors with the hope of keeping them dry. When the street became laden with rainwater, we moved a vehicle to angle out the boat. We realized we might have to employ the boat well ahead of the gator hunt. The water began to rise and our immediate neighbors started communicating at each others’ doors. Byron and I realized we needed to get the big engine on the boat. Once secured, we turned our attention to our gasoline supply. We patted ourselves on the shoulders for having filled tanks ahead of time.
Then, it hit me. I asked Byron where the motor oil was for the boat motor. We did not have any. We asked a neighbor, but no luck. Soon we were surrounded by shockingly and frighteningly high floodwaters. To borrow from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” water, water everywhere, but no operable boat engine. Forgive another literary allusion, but I realized we were in a modern-day scenario befitting an O. Henry short story.
Think of the O. Henry story, “The Gift of the Magi,” in which the wife wants to buy her husband a fob for his watch for Christmas and he wants to buy her combs for her long hair. She cuts her hair to sell to pay for the fob, and he sells the watch to buy the combs. Well, at least they had each other! We wish to commend the armada of volunteers from Texas and beyond. We owe you one.
Hello, Men with Guns
I have Byron, who I first met in an outdoors club. We have had hunting and camping trips together, including roughing it for a week in the Arizona desert, which prepared me for camping at home. Byron spent formative years in Lagos, Nigeria, moving in after a civil war there, before his family moved to Beirut, Lebanon, only to see its civil war break out. The man is cool as a cucumber, no matter what is happening. Which brings me to the gunmen at our front door at a time where the only way into the subdivision was by boat (unless you knew we could open a backyard gate into a backroad that had become an ad hoc public boat ramp area).
Upon waking, we saw a security notification on our phones and checked the video: at 4:46 a.m., two men came to our front door with AR-15s, and one of them actually swung his leveled rifle at the front door. If you are not a gun owner, let me tell you some gun safety basics: consider every gun to be loaded (#1) and do not point a gun at someone. In this scenario, don’t ring someone’s door at 4 in the morning and point your semi-automatic weapon at the door.
We then reviewed the footage in a video editing program on my computer and could zoom in for some stills. I called the Harris County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number (we live in unincorporated Harris County) and the dispatcher sounded shocked. An officer called me right away and within minutes, two deputies were standing on our patio reviewing the video. Two more deputies arrived and then the supervisor in charge of all patrols in this area. Officer Smith was outstanding!
Good guys: Harris County Sheriff’s deputies respond to our call regarding unidentified gunmen.
He looked closely and said they were not his men and did not appear to be any other Harris County law enforcement (we have constables too). He asked me to give him the images so he could circulate it. The officer also related there is a volunteer group of law enforcement officers who had come in from other jurisdictions to provide patrols.
There had been a call to our sheriff’s department around the time of our porch visitors from someone reporting four men with flashlights. We don’t know if these were those men or if they had been looking for those men. Later that day, Byron reconnected by phone with our State Representative, Dwayne Bohac, who came right away prior to this incident when I reached out to him to discuss the neighborhood’s devastation.
Our new friend: Texas State Representative Dwane Bohac, R-District 138, on a fact-finding mission and meeting constituents after Hurricane Harvey.
Byron is HOA president and concerned for the welfare of all the homeowners, especially as the preponderance of them flooded. Representative Bohac came out in waders to see firsthand the scope of the damage. He also has followed up to see how it is going. When you are in a widespread disaster, you need to communicate.
The Facebook group has helped a lot, but visiting face-to-face with neighbors has been the most informative. We met a multi-generational family that lives on the opposite side of the subdivision, closer to the creek that enters Addicks Reservoir. One of the sisters related that as the water rose around them, they had opened some windows and heard people screaming from the house next to our retention pond. The people inside were inundated, could smell natural gas and could not get through to 9-1-1, she related. She got through.
U.S. Coast Guard rescue being performed in our submerged Harris County neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey.
The neighbors were saved and soon enough, strangers in a boat showed up for her family. They loaded her grandparents, both in their 90s, onto the family couch to float them to the rescue boat. Once out on the road behind our house, she said the family collected and then her dad had a funny question: “Is that my couch?” Those rescuers must have had a really big boat!
We have been incredibly lucky to hold down the fort with our dogs, but there rarely seems to be a moment’s peace in a crisis. I was looking forward to Saturday Night Live for much needed comic relief, but instead local newscasters announced they were going to keep on with continuing coverage, which turned out to be footage of people cutting out drywall. There have been deaths and near deaths across dozens of counties, a brand-new mandatory evacuation had been announced earlier and a chemical plant was controlling a fire, so I get the point of breaking news. (I am a former journalist.) Wet drywall isn’t news. Just as I was bemoaning the lack of laughs, someone rang our door.
Our hearts pounded as we scrambled to look at the live video on one phone and answer the phone call on another device (our sign to law enforcement). They called. They were real law enforcement. I saw the guy in charge holding his hands over his waders to show he posed no threat.
I felt bad for scaring them! While Byron spoke to this officer (from the San Antonio area), I peered out the window by the door. His face was so nice! He looked earnestly at me as he signaled all was cool. I wished I could have thanked him, but they were gone. They were checking on people. God Bless.
Natural Disaster Etiquette
If you have friends or family in the zone of a colossal disaster and you wish to express concern, be aware that calling them at 7 a.m. might not be so considerate, as intended, if they were up all night in a sleeping bag wondering if their house would flood in the manner of a scene from “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?” or recovering from the adrenaline rush of late-night doorbells.
Basically, don’t ask for details about to what extent people are naked and/or afraid, or what they are eating, etc.
No self-respecting Texan goes without breakfast tacos just because of a hurricane.
Similarly, expressing political outrage on Facebook about Melania’s stiletto heels for her hurricane wreckage tour is stating the obvious to people who are using camping toilets with specially designed plastic baggies and showering on their patio with a garden hose. Besides, if she had shown up looking like someone outfitted her by Cabela’s for an early teal duck hunt, people would have mocked her for that. The clothing is irrelevant.
New outdoor shower area
In the same vein, do not tag your hurricane victim friends with articles by national magazines or news organizations written to argue how stupid their region’s existence is. Or, criticizing their elected officials as hypocrites or some such. As Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, we can criticize each other in our community because we are a family. Think about how you would feel if people outside your family said something bad about your mama, during a crisis, no less.
Mayor Turner also had advice for anyone getting ornery around here: “Check Yourself! Check yourself.” We are getting through this together as the amazing, strong and beautiful region, and Texas strong family, we are.
Can you determine your own fate? Before extrapolating a lifetime, contemplate how you decide the fate of your day, any given day.
Happiness is Something You Decide Ahead of Time
I bought a sign that tells me so at a craft store. It rests on my bathroom vanity to remind me in the mornings who is in charge of my day’s outcome. That would be me.
A mantra sign in my bathroom!
Granted, something you cannot control can happen, but how you react is up to you too. How hard is this in practice? Very, especially when we get into routines and forget our own advice.
Last night, a friend shared a postcard on Instagram that reads:
Imagine If We Obsessed about the Things We Loved About Ourselves
Wow, I needed that reminder. I tend to create to-do lists with unattainable schedules and then beat myself up for not meeting goals. To be sure, these objectives need to be identified before anything can be accomplished with purpose and results. But, I must be mindful to reflect on accomplishments and experiences, large and small. How often do we celebrate the small moments? The incremental change?
This morning, I awoke with my to-do list front of mind and raced to the office to get going on it. I also reviewed affirmations of what I like about myself. What attributes do I have to contribute? What little things do I like? How do I shape my days? The day progress and things popped up unexpectedly, but things that are most welcome.
I had new experiences and met new people. I got back to my office and knocked out some work too. I’m mostly prepared for tomorrow, but not completely, and that’s OK.
My big goal for tomorrow is to carve out a little time in the afternoon for me, to stretch, to think, to smile.
Mr. Higgins, a.k.a., The Sage Leopard
I started this blog as a passion project to celebrate what I love most, including my dog, my cooking and my quality time outdoors. Life is ever evolving, which is wonderful. There are also constants, which for me include great cooking, dogs and laughter. Those are things I choose to celebrate.
What do I love about myself? Admittedly, it seems like a cringe-worthy contemplation, of someone self-centered and vain. Remember, though, we become what we choose and so to better ourselves we should visualize what we appreciate and what we want.
Do you seek “me time” where you can just shut out the nuisance noise of the world and find solace, curiosity or beauty? My boyfriend will say he needs to get out in the woods. Hunting is his quality time.
The thing I need most to escape is psoriasis and the accompanying anxiety.
On the road to quality of life.
It’s not a just skin-deep challenge. The inflammation is something I feel inside too and that stresses me out. Of course, stress leads to more inflammation and tension. It’s an anxiety vicious cycle. I don’t relate this to throw a pity party, but to relate some pointers for any challenge in life:
Confront your problem, don’t let anyone else minimize it.
If something is no longer working for you, do something different.
For a chronic problem or condition, find the things that give you every day joy and fill your days with those things too
What does psoriasis have to do with recreation and the outdoors? A lot. When it first presented, I was a tween and swimming competitively. A chronic skin condition is no fun when you already feel gangly and awkward. Fortunately, I had some topical medications to ease the symptoms and pain. My enjoyment of sports was not curtailed and I went on to play field hockey and lacrosse.
I love running, but lately I was having real trouble with movement. I did not want to run or go to the gym. My skin was so extensively covered, it hurt to move. Plus, once I got warmed up, it seemed the legions interfered with temperature regulation and I would give up.
I actually skipped training for a long-distance bike ride that took place in October. It was a century and I love the route. Sigh. Why would I let this condition interfere?
Self-portrait the day after I started a new medication.
For years, the psoriasis was under control with a FDA-approved drug you may see advertised on TV. Its effectiveness went from miracle drug to dud. Once it waned to the point where I was 50% covered in psoriasis, it was time to throw in the towel.
It had impeded my physical abilities and hampered my quality of life. It was time to pursue something new. First, I needed a 30-day washout period for the old drug to leave my system and the effects to be recorded. Then, I went to get the new prescription, a drug that is also advertised on TV. Well, there was a snafu that delayed the specialty Rx and my skin got even worse. Finally, it was dispensed and after one week, I could feel my skin again. We had been hunting in Georgia and I was having a little trouble with the hike.
After two-and-half weeks, I’m feeling so much better, inside and out. My anxiety has eased and I feel ready to return to the gym. Last weekend, we had gone duck hunting and I felt so good. I could sit comfortably for hours.
Getting outside is the best medicine.
Let me repeat, I was comfortable for hours. A chronic condition sometimes results in aggravating or even constant pain, which I had experienced for a couple of months before the new medicine took effect.
I am regaining quality of life. I can sit in peace, whether sitting at my desk working or sitting in the woods thinking. Even when I am in pain, I still focus on the things that give me quality of life: cooking, dogs, walks, cycling, breathing in life.
Growing up, I liked to flip through my parents’ cookbooks, especially to look for baking recipes. In 8th grade, I crafted a cookbook for a history project, writing out in calligraphy on parchment paper “receipts” from the Colonial Williamsburg era. I even cooked a meal from these 18th century receipts for my English and History teachers. Judging by the looks on their faces around the dining room table, I may have overdone it with the nutmeg and other spices for the meat.
When we would take the long drive from New Jersey to South Carolina to visit my grandparents, my palate opened up to new tastes, including grits. My grandmother, also a native of New Jersey, had a stack of Southern Living annual cookbooks. I would pull them off the shelf and flip through the recipes, admiring the pretty pictures and imagining being a grown-up cooking a roast or baking a Bundt cake.
Grandmother took note of how much I liked the cookbooks and told me I could have them someday. Fortunately, she had many more years after that to enjoy her kitchen and home. After she passed, my father related he could not find the cookbooks, but he brought me her colorful mixing bowls, which I cherish and use just about every day.
As a grown-up, I’ve subscribed to different cooking magazines, but my favorite is Southern Living. Maybe because they are accessible recipes for the home cook and for everyday dining rather than elaborate masterpieces for culinary artists. Or maybe because I like to flip through the magazine and see pretty pictures of homes, travels and recipes. Moreover, I love them because they remind me of visiting my grandparents in South Carolina. I was, and am, so taken by cypress trees, Spanish moss, palm trees and alligators.
This Thanksgiving weekend, my eldest sister recalled a family road trip from New Jersey to Texas and back with multiple stops in between. It was summertime and their sedan lacked air conditioning. It turned out my mother realized in Houston that she was pregnant with me. We all think it’s funny that I moved to Houston as an adult.
When I first arrived for business, I saw palm trees, which made me so happy. And, yes, we too have alligators, but fortunately I don’t see them unless I go to a nearby state park. Still, some neighborhood kids claim to have seen one in our subdivision retention pond and they do hang out in our bayou. I let my dog swim in the pond, but not the bayou, and keep a wary eye on the situation.
We just got back from a road trip we now take at least once a year to North Georgia, where my boyfriend’s family is from on both sides. An important errand was to the grist mill to pick up bags of grits and cornmeal. The real deal stone-ground grains cannot be beat.
While in Georgia, we also returned to a cousin’s home. I stood in the kitchen admiring her cookbook collection, including a stack of Southern Living annuals. When I told her about my grandmother’s collection, she immediately said I could have her Southern Living cookbooks.
I agreed to take them, but said she can have them back anytime. In the meantime, I have a lot of flipping pages to do! I usually let my magazines stack up for a few months and then go through to tear out the pages of recipes I want to keep in a binder. Now, I have the books to read!
I just pulled out the 2000 one and the first page I opened is about “The Fruitcake Tradition.” I’m not so sure I want to try that, but appreciated the introduction to the recipe notes this is in tribute to a grandmother. Ooh, what about prosciutto bruschetta with cantaloupe chutney?
From the 1984 book, there is a basic crepes recipe. I was just telling my sister about my crepe maker! There is also a section on how to use a food processor to save time when slicing vegetables and fruit. If you lived in the 1980s, you’ll reminder how the Cuisinart took American’s kitchens by storm. I actually have my grandmother’s machine and love it.
I may never have to look up another recipe online with this array of cookbooks serving an encyclopedia of making everyday cooking grand. I’m so excited and will likely share some of my discoveries with you on this blog!