Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 3 - 26th, 2011 - Texas...Houston, Austin, Seagoville - Part 2

Tom and Kathy Stewart's home is so beautiful and perfectly designed I would buy it in a heartbeat, if we could afford it. Every bedroom opens out to the beautiful backyard pool area that is designed to be as livable as the indoors. All of the rooms are so well thought out and comfortably appointed that we immediately settled in and felt welcome. Oh I want a house like this when I grow up!
Lee and Cheryl Baumann were to arrive around 11:00 AM on Wednesday but then Cheryl canceled, leaving Lee to come alone. By some odd roll of the dice, Lee ran into one delay after another causing him to sit in airports for the better part of his day, arriving closer to supper time. Poor Lee! While waiting for Lee, the four of us set off to explore Austin by car. The weather was gorgeous and the day sunny blue and very warm. We stopped for lunch at their favorite Mexican dive and feasted on tacos, enchiladas, flautas, and every other fattening dish we could stuff into our guts. It was delicious! Some time during the course of the day, Kathy showed us her hand which was wrapped in a splint, explaining that she had sustained a fracture and was scheduled for surgery the next day. She was apologetic thinking she had let us down by ruining all of our plans. We told her that was rubbish because our plans were simply to visit them, and since  they and their home are so lovely, we are content to just be there. That night the 5 of us had a sumptuous bar-b-que feast, laughing cracking stupid jokes and lamenting the absence of Cheryl. Early Thursday morning Tom and Kathy set off for the hospital. Frank, Lee and I enjoyed the resort style living, going for a long walk along the lake, taking a dip in the pool and waiting for the return of the Stewarts. Tom sent us periodic updates...still running behind....Kathy sedated but still waiting... By noon, she had still not been taken into surgery. Frank and Lee settled themselves in front of the TV to watch golf. I played games on Lee's iPad. Mid afternoon we received word that Kathy had finally gone into surgery. The surgeon soon discovered she had multiple compound fractures, and her surgery lasted several hours. They didn't get home until around 7 PM. Kathy was rigged up with some crazy looking bright blue foam pyramid that she had to wear to prop her hand up from the elbow. She was ordered to keep it upright for some 3 days or so. Clever Lee immediately began calling her "Smurfette", because the big foam pyramid was indeed Smurf Blue. She was still anesthetized and so weary that we left her to rest and set off to the local boat club on the lake for a good old fashioned homemade hamburger. We enjoyed live music and people watching as the young studs came and went in their power boats with babes hanging off the bows. Now our intended group of 6 had dwindled down to 4. Lee flew out after breakfast Friday morning, and sensing that Kathy was in serious need of peace, quiet and rest, we took our leave as well. The visit was truly enjoyable, and we left feeling so sad to be saying goodbye to these precious friends.
We enjoyed a nice drive back to Houston, stopping at the 290 Diner just on the outskirts of Austin for the famous Chicken Fried Steak. Heart valve cloggingly good!
We got a good laugh when we returned to Debra and Sandy's house. They had moved the television back into the bare-floored living room and were sitting on kitchen chairs, using their large Igloo ice chest as a coffee table. They greeted us with smiles and cold beer. It was great to see them, and we laughed and celebrated the circumstances that had somewhat forced this reunion. The next few days were spent socializing with Debra and Sandy in between their dealing with insurance issues and contractors. The wheels turn slowly unfortunately, and they continued to live in a home with plastic sheeting for a ceiling and bare concrete for flooring but it takes a lot to get these two down. They looked at it as a blessing, and so did we, that we had been there when this happened, that we ended up getting to see them while in Houston, and a further bonus that they would get the new floors they had been wanting. We did drive down to stay with Jen and Trace for a few days on her days off and then brought Trace back with us. My entire family was converging on Houston. We were planning to celebrate Mom and Dad's 60th Anniversary early (while we are here), which is actually in November, and Trace couldn't wait to spend time with his cousin, Tre. The party was set for Saturday at Mom and Dad's. The intention was for Mom and Dad to relax and enjoy the family visit and celebration while the rest of us did the work. The concerted effort yielded a splendid brunch buffet. Everyone was there but for Clint and Sarah. I think it was a lovely and love-filled event for Mom and Dad. It has been years since our little Johnson clan has been able to be together at one time.
By Tuesday, everyone had cleared out and were either back home or heading for home. Frank and I said our farewells to Mom and Dad, and made a sad departure from Jen and Trace. Every time I leave my grandson, a little piece of my heart breaks. We drove up to Seagoville on Thursday to spend our last night with Bev, and D. Our flight from Dallas to Sydney departed late Friday. My sister went into work late that day so that we could have coffee together and spend our last bit of sister-time before Frank and I set off for the land of OZ.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 3 - 26th, 2011 - Texas...Houston, Austin, Seagoville - Part 1

A fair bit of our Texas visit was spent on the road and playing hopscotch with Fate.  We arrived in south Houston, spending several days with Jen and Trace, then on Sunday we moved up to northwest Houston. I attended a Lady Bobcats luncheon (my former Cy-Fair HS girlfriends), that lasted into the late afternoon; and then that evening we settled in at Debra and Sandy Sandoval's house. They were away in their camper exploring the western and mid USA and had asked us to house-sit and drive Debra's car that had been sitting idle. We were very disappointed that they were traveling and that we wouldn't get to see them on this trip, nonetheless, were quite happy to stay in their lovely home while they traveled. 
Wednesday morning we had planned to drive to Austin, but awoke in the wee hours to the sound of pouring rain. Uh, wait a it actually raining INSIDE???? I groggily made my way toward the sound of the downpour to find that, indeed, water was absolutely pouring from the ceiling, through every light fixture, A/C vent and the ceiling fan down into the Sandoval's living room, kitchen and guest bath. Lordy, Lordy! I ran to wake up Frank and then dove into the kitchen cabinets to fetch every large pot, bowl  and bucket I could find. After placing them I grabbed every towel I could get my hands on and began sopping up the pond that was forming in their home. Meanwhile, Frank ran outside to locate the shut-off valve to the main water supply. Having accomplished that he ventured into the attic to discover an arc of water shooting across the length of the house stemming from the hot water heater. He tried to stave the flow by shutting off the valve when he noticed the high-pressure hose had blown. Eventually he got the leak checked and we sopped up most of the water, got furniture moved and rugs taken outside to dry. Then we sat and pondered the situation. Should we cancel our trip to Austin? We hated to call Deb and Sandy but had no choice - their house was now a mess. When we phoned them they felt the same tug of conscience - they were clear up in Utah. Should they just come home? It would be a very long drive, but then after calling the mitigation specialists they realized they would not enjoy one more minute of their trip with this hanging over their heads, so they made a decision to make tracks and head for Houston. We phoned Kathy and Tom in Austin to tell them the disappointing news and then sat around to await the mitigation team. They didn't arrive until after 1 PM. They sequestered us to the master bedroom while they proceeded to literally demolish Debra and Sandy's beautiful home. It was heart-stopping to hear the pounding and wrenching and ripping and tearing out of the entire ceiling and wood floors. Me being the nosey Nellie that I am couldn't resist a peek outside the bedroom from time to time to witness the utter devastation and to snap a few action shots for Sandy and Debra in case they needed some photographic evidence for insurance. I was rewarded with scowls and shouted demands that I remove myself from the war zone immediately. After a while it got to be almost a game of me playing groundhog and them ridding themselves of my nuisance. Eventually, by 7 PM the team left with literally a semi-truckload of the Sandoval's disassembled home. What was left was a pathetic shell, littered with bits of insulation and sheetrock, dotted with large fans. We got out the brooms and the vacuum and set about trying to tidy up as best we could. It was a very sad and disheartening sight. We could only imagine how they would feel when they hit the door on arrival. We had been in touch with them the entire day, tracking their slow progress. In the meantime, Tom Stewart phoned imploring us to just hit the road, making clear to us that there was nothing for us to do but sit and breathe the dust until Debra and Sandy arrived. Debra and Sandy felt the same, so at around 9 PM after I had finished washing and drying the sodden towels we got on the road to Austin, arriving at Kathy and Tom's home a bit after midnight.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

July 6 - August 3rd, 2011 - Colorado - good friends and good times

When Frank and I fly to the US, we say we are flying home. Home is comprised of Virginia, where his mother and sis, my brother, aunt and uncle live; then there is Texas which was my Home for over 40 years and where my little sis and her family reside, and where my daughter, grandson, parents, and one brother and his family live. Houston is my true Home. Denver, Colorado; however, is what Frank considers Home and where his two children live. When we are in Denver, we somehow consider it more of a vacation than any other "home" in the USA. The primary reason for this is that we have no familial obligations, and so are somewhat free to just kick back and enjoy a good bit of R & R.

Scott & Chris Morlan hosted us for dinner and a sleep-over our first night. We were joined for dinner by Lee and Cheryl Baumann who were in town visiting his kids and grandkids. The next morning, Frank and Scott left very early for the boys' annual golf outing (with Lee Baumann and Rick Rentschler) in the mountains. Jeri Lyn picked me up and swept me away to her house for our girl-weekend.
Monday kicked off with annual doctor visits, lunches, coffees and dinners with our various friends. Our social calendar stays quite full whenever we are in Denver. Frank played a lot of golf and I did a lot of shopping and visiting. Chris Morlan was kind enough to loan us her car for most of the time, and somehow between Frank driving Chris's car and my getting lifts form friends we did all right.
The weekend of July 22nd - the 24th, we were invited up to Jeff and Jeri Lyn's holiday home in the Winter Park area along with two other couples, the Marchants and the Stollers to attend the annual Winterpark Jazz Festival.  The Martin's "mountain" home is absolutely spectacular, is nestled into stunning acreage along the golf course. What a serene getaway they have there. The weekend was filled with golf, long walks, fantastic food, laughter of good friends and Jazz Music. I made two lovely new friends in Karen Marchant and Deb Stoller.
The next week was filled with more social visits and dinner. On the 27th, we were honored to be the only guests to join Jeff and Jeri Lyn for her birthday dinner, which was absolutely fantastic. The rest of the time,Frank tended to zig while I zagged. I drove up to Longmont to spend a couple of days with Tammi Bailey, and then the following weekend we trekked up to Greeley for an absolutely marvelous weekend with the Rentschlers. It was the first time that we were able to spend a good bit of quality time with our god-daughter, Naia. She is growing into a most beautiful, intelligent little girl. Frank and Rick played golf whilst Nina, Naia and I spent the day at a local Children's festival. We had such good fun watching Naia paint stained-glass pictures, make sand sculptures and get up to her elbows in all the arts and crafts available. All too soon the weekend was over it was time to head back to Denver.
For Frank's birthday on August 2nd, we invited Jeff and Jeri Lyn to join Karen, Bill and ourselves for dinner. It was a fine ending to our Colorado visit, for the next morning we flew to Houston.