Moving to Texas

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My husband Derek and I have moved to Houston, Texas. This blog will be a way for friends and family to see what we are up to.

Derek  is pursuing MFA in Studio Art – with a concentration of graphic design at the  University of Houston. It is a three year program. While he is in school, I am working as a Publication Editor for Houston Community Newspapers, a division of the Houston Chronicle.

It has been an adventure, and a culture shock for sure. We have moved from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, which has a population of about 3,300, to Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., population 2.1 million.

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Arboretum’s new Ravine Trail

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Derek and I go to the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center all the time. It is one of our favorite places in Houston. It is a good place to get away from the “city life.”

Last Friday I saw the Arboretum post on Facebook that their new Ravine Trail was open to the public. It was a beautiful day so Derek and I headed that way.

The Ravine Trail was always there, but its been closed for the last three years, and closed for eight out of the last 13 years.

It was closed because it was previously unsafe to the public. The trail goes over a ravine and it has experienced flooding and erosion.

The trail is different than the others at the Arboretum. This trail is a switch back trail with changes in elevation. There are two bridges that go over the ravine and the views are nice. When we were looking at the ravine we saw a snake trying to eat some fish!

I was able to write about the new trail for work. I am glad that I was able to use the photos I took for the article. You can read it here: https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/memorial/news/article/Houston-Arboretum-Nature-Center-opens-new-13807184.php

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Reflection and worries – part 2

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A few months ago Derek started the process of applying for professor jobs. He applied to one in a semi-rural snowy mountain town, a place that I wasn’t too sure I’d be happy living in. Derek got a call back a day later, and my anxiety shot up. You can read about that here: https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/reflection-and-worries/

Well, nothing more came from that interview, but there have been other opportunities since then. Each week my anxieties change. I wish I could be in the present and not worry about the future. What is going to happen will happen. Easier said than done.

Derek applied to a few schools in December and January. Aside from that one call back, we didn’t hear anything.

There was one school and place, not in Texas, that I would have been ecstatic to move to. Derek heard back from that school, and was told “no, however…” It turns out that this school thinks Derek is a good fit for a two-year fellowship. A fellowship at a large school such as this one would really set Derek’s career off. The deadline is Monday, and Derek completed the application for that one last week. My thoughts change about this job possibility almost daily. I would love to move there, but I have reservations about it being only two years. What would happen after that? I’m ready for some long-term stability.

He also applied to a school right here in Houston. That was back in February. I have no patience. I feel like he should have heard back from now, but multiple people have told me that academia is “slow.”

We thought that the round of job openings for professorships were over after the January deadlines. So we thought, maybe a teaching job wasn’t going to happen for Derek right away. However, a few more have been opening up recently. It makes sense, schools probably know of a lot more openings now. Teachers decide to move on or retire by the end of each school year. He has a few in mind that he will apply to once he graduates, which is a week and a half way.

At least I can say that I feel better about the possibility of moving to these places instead of the snowy mountain town, but this doesn’t change the fact that I would prefer to stay in Houston. Derek will apply to some design firms right here in Houston, just in case none of the professor jobs work out.

We have no idea what will happen. I feel like when I reserve myself to thinking that we’ll leave, that’s when we’ll end up staying, and vise versa.

I have been putting a mental list together of some of the easier things we want to do in Houston this summer if we have to leave by mid-July (Most start dates for professor jobs are August 1). Go to NASA, Brazos Bend State Park, etc. Some of the bigger things won’t be plausible, like weekend trips to Dallas and Austin. I am comforting myself some by reminding myself that we could always take a week long vacation from where ever we live in the future and visit both Dallas and Austin. The two cities are not disappearing any time soon.

I am quickly losing patience. I hope we hear back from some places, even if its bad news, soon. I just want to know for sure or not what will happen to us. Stay tuned.

Art Car Parade

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Derek and I attended the Houston Art Car Parade a few weekends ago. I have been wanting to see this for the last two years, but was never able to due to schedules.

The Art Car Parade consists of hundreds of just that – art cars. They range from cool to quirky and downright wacky. There were probably hundreds of them, the parade was two hours long!

The highlight of the parade was seeing Gulf Coast’s truck. Derek worked for Gulf Coast, a literary magazine, for a semester last year, and he helped design the vinyl wrap on the truck. He was happy to get to see it in person. (See the first photo below.)

The weather called for partly cloudy skies, which was true, up until an hour and a half into the parade. A nasty gust of wind came through, which got people screaming. We were sitting across the street from the VIP bleacher section, which was covered with tents. I think everyone was worried that the tents would fly away! Thankfully a bunch of people held the posts down. After the wind came through, the temperature dropped. About 10 minutes later, it poured. It poured on and off for the last half hour of the parade. Thankfully, since we were in downtown, everyone took shelter underneath the building entrances. We did not have to miss any cars, and the rain made for some interesting pictures!

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MFA Thesis Exhibition

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All of the students at University of Houston graduating with a master of fine arts put on a show of their artwork, the MFA Thesis Exhibition. Derek has been working toward this show for the entire three year program.

The opening reception for the show was held last night, and we both had a great time. Derek’s pieces in the show seemed to be a big hit, and attracted a lot of attention all night long. Some of the elements were hands on, so Derek was happy a lot of people got involved.

Derek’s artwork in the show as a whole looked at the history of mass media and the early press, and various problems that arise during different times in history.

The individual pieces in the show included: (these are his words, not mine!)

  • Three abstract pieces that are speculations on the future of virtual reality technology. 
  • A roll of paper that features tweets from the @TEN_GOP twitter account, which was a fake account that effected American politics in 2016. For the tweets, Derek needed to make his own emoji font in order to print the tweet collection. The roll of paper is 72 feet long!
  • A sentence on the wall, made with vinyl, which is the definition of the graphic design term, gestalt, which Derek compares to the long-term, emergent effects of mass media.
  • Two recordings, one explaining his work, and the second was the original 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds by Orson Welles. Though its possible that the panic that this broadcast caused was exaggerated, it is one of the earliest case studies in the effects of mass media.
  • Pamphlets that he has created from historical documents from the 1600s to today. There is a book binder machine, and Derek invites people to take some of the pamphlets and make their own books from them.

It was so great to see people coming up to Derek all night long and shaking his hand and hugging him, students, classmates, friends and professors. It was good to see some classmates that I’ve come to known over the past few years.

I even met the wife of one of the classmates, for the first time in the whole three years, and she said, “I have heard so much about all of you!” to which I replied, “We have heard so much about you too!”

There was a toast to all of the graduates in the show, and when everyone was applauding, I tried so hard not to cry. I succeed for the time being, but both Derek and I agree that there will be no stopping the tears during graduation.

Some of my friends from work, who have become friends of Derek too, came to the show. It was great to have their support too.

The pamphlet binding part of his show was a success, and lots of people took pamphlets home. Everyone seemed to be in awe of the roll of tweets too. Someone came up to Derek and said his work was “brilliant.”

About two months ago, Derek was extremely stressed out, but then everything just clicked and came together rather quickly. The last two weeks were hard, getting everything put together and set up, but that big hurdle is done now. Last night was a great way for everyone to say, “WE DID IT!” In the meantime, Derek, and the other exhibitors, have to give artist talks next week about their work. He also has two write two big papers for another class. Graduation is 41 days away!

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Aunt Susie comes to visit

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Aunt Susie visited for four days earlier this month, and I’m only now getting a chance to write about it. March has been a busy month, more on that later.

We spent the first day together in Galveston. We went to the Rainforest Pyramid in Moody Gardens. Derek and I also did this last December. A highlight of the day there was watching a snake eat a rat whole, (so fascinating) and seeing two different types of monkeys in the trees. Derek and I missed out on the monkeys the first time.

I took her to lunch at Shrimp ‘n’ Stuff in Galveston, which has become our new favorite place to eat. We also sat on the beach for an hour, and then shopped at the Strand district. We ended the day at La Kings Confectionary. At La Kings, Aunt Susie asked if they made egg cremes (it’s a New York thing) and the guy behind the counter said yes, they do get requests for them, but he had never made one himself before. So another worker, and Aunt Susie, walked him through it. You learn something new every day.

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We spent one afternoon at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We enjoyed walking around and seeing the different animals, and even got to see a milking demonstration from a cow named Pickles. I think our favorites were all of the babies that were just born that week, some that same morning. We also saw a sheep judging and a cow judging.

We stuffed ourselves on good rodeo food (cinnamon rolls and then perogies for dinner) and then we saw the rodeo and the Tim McGraw concert. Both of us were ‘meh’ about Tim McGraw, but he did put on a good show, and he played my favorite songs of his so I am glad we ended up staying for the concert.

We spent time with Aunt Susie’s friend Steve at the rodeo. Steve and Aunt Susie used to work together, and he moved out to the Houston area just a few months after we did. We met him before last year. He is a really nice guy. The three of us all had a good time. Steve convinced a young cowboy to lasso Aunt Susie. She was scared, but he did it on the first try!

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We also spent some time at Hermann Park, and then did a little bit of shopping at Rice Village. We took Aunt Susie to Susie Cakes for dessert!

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On her last day, we decided on a whim to drive out to San Antonio. We checked out the Alamo, where we met Bella the Alamo Kitty, and Aunt Susie helped her get a drink from the water fountain. We had Tex-Mex for lunch right on the River Walk, which was something new for us compared to the first time we visited S.A. We also checked out the Cathedral of San Fernando, a gorgeous Catholic church. Right inside the entrance was a tomb that held the remains of the Alamo heroes: Bowie, Barrett and Crockett. That was a bonus find for me, because I love the Texas revolution history so much. We also checked out the Bexar County Courthouse. Our last stop was Mission Concepcion, where a wedding had just ended in the church!

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We had a great time together and we were quite busy all four days. I’m glad that I will see her again so soon, next time in Italy!

 

The trip of a lifetime

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It’s funny how a problem can turn into the best thing that has ever happened to you.

The problem: Our experience with flights to and from Houston have been less than ideal, and are inconsistent.

For instance, my Aunt Susie has visited a few times, and she has always had trouble finding flights that worked for her schedule and price point. We never understood this. She is flying from a major airport, Newark, NJ, to Houston, which is the fourth largest city in the U.S., and not to mention that there are two airports to choose from. She has made it work, but she has had to go over budget to make the trips happen, and she has had to fly at inconvenient times.

The scenario: We were planning on going to St. Lucia at the end of May, as a celebration for Derek finishing graduate school. We booked a hotel about six months ago, and we had not gone any further in the planning. I looked at flights a few times, and found that flights from Houston to St. Lucia were averaging $1,800. What? Why?

My Uncle Paul looked and looked at flights but could not find anything cheaper. So he said, “I’m sorry, but it looks like St. Lucia will not work. Where else would you like to go?”

I have a detailed bucket list – 38 trips in all, St. Lucia included. I sent him the list. I didn’t really care where we went, so long as it was still on my list.

My dream vacation, at the top of the list, is Sicily, Italy. My family immigrated from Ragusa, Sicily in the 1800s, so it would be a trip to the motherland.

For a few days, Uncle Paul asked me questions here and there, and looked at different destinations. Hawaii, Croatia and Paris all came up, but Uncle Paul kept coming back to Sicily. They asked me, “How much money do you have saved for Sicily?” They knew I have been saving for Sicily dollar by dollar for the last six years. They also sent me some tours to look at, but I was told to “stand by.” The waiting was agony.

After three days, my Uncle Paul broke the news by texting me a picture of a piece of square Sicilian pizza. I cried. And then cried some more.

The irony was not lost on me that this trip was technically supposed to be for Derek, but I originally picked a beach vacation, and he’s not the biggest fan of the beach. He burns too easily, even with generous amounts of sun screen.  Italy, even though it is my dream trip, will be a better fit for Derek too. He will soak up the art and architecture, not to mention the wine.

I never thought I would say that I was thankful that flights from Houston to a destination were too expensive and we had to cancel a trip, but it worked out for the best. Eight days in Sicily (flights included) ended up being cheaper than a 5-day trip to St. Lucia. So, thank you Houston airports for being both too expensive and inconsistent!