Monday, January 24, 2011

Flamingo Jockeys Unite!

Just Chillin'
I actually got to be a flamingo jockey for Randall Kent (my husband's uncle) of Stagecraft, Inc., during the Houston Halloween Show and Expo.  It was hilarious. I had a blast. Yes, I'm a ham. I admit this fact. I have embraced my inner-goober and was allowed to 'ride' a flamingo throughout the George R. Brown Convention Center. I haven't had this much fun in awhile. I met (and got pictures with) at least one celebrity, Bridget Marquardt of the TV series "The Girls Next Door" (pictures to follow soon). There were models everywhere running around in skimpy Halloween costumes or nothing at all (well, they were in full body paint but that's it).  There were raffles, prizes, elaborate costumes, acrobatic performances in mid-air (suspended from the ceiling of the expo), stilt-walkers, fashion shows, bands, open bars. It was Halloween on speed! It was a little overwhelming.

The Gang 
(Back left to right: Darcy and Kris Szecsy,
Middle left to right: Chris and me,
Far right: Uncle Randy)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Peace Corps Deja Vu

This week has had three strange occurrences for me that have either involved my old Peace Corps stomping grounds (i.e. Bulgaria) or with Peace Corps itself. I know I haven't really written much if anything at all about my experiences there. I try. I really do. I begin to tell stories and I can see peoples' eyes glaze over as the words go over their heads. The old saying, "you had to be there," is an understatement in my case. But, those fellow RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) know what I'm talking about. So, let's review the past week:

#1: I get a message from a Bulgarian girl (naturalized citizen) who now lives in the U.S. She's researching the Peace Corps for a project in one of her university studies. She came across my article in A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps Service and was so touched by my story about her home that she almost cried and felt compelled to write me and thank me. Me?! How bizarre to have a Bulgarian thanking me for my service, which feels like it was a lifetime ago. If anything, I've always felt like I should be thanking them, all the Bulgarians that welcomed us unconditionally into their homes, hearts and lives. It was a surreal moment reading her email. Nostalgia knocking at my door. Bittersweet memories that seem to be from another life.

#2: I found out that HGTV is doing a special on home-buying in Bulgaria. Really? Bulgaria? And, not just anywhere in Bulgaria. These Brits are buying a condo in Varna. My old site. It floored me to see my old stomping grounds were both different and the same. My how Varna's changed. For the better, I hope.

#3: Last, but certainly not least our figurehead and co-founder, the head-honcho himself Sargent Shriver passed away. A great man, one we can all aspire to live our lives like. A true philanthropist and peace-maker. "One of the brightest lights of the greatest generation" ~President Barack Obama.

So, I'm beginning to feel like the circle is coming full round. Is it a sign? Or just a strange string of coincidences? I'll let you be the judge.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Home, Sweet Home: It's about time.

Let's rewind to find where we last left our heroine screaming at her phone and the unfortunate loan officer who was on the receiving end of that conversation. What has become of her? Did she finally find a home? Is she homeless? And, will she ever post anything remotely interesting?

Indeed, I have FINALLY gotten the house that we originally wanted. Though it was a rough and emotionally exhausting road. Between the closing, moving in and the incoming train of holidays, our little family has barely had time to breathe. But, (big cheer) we HAVE a nice new home in a coveted, quiet and hidden part of Northeastern Houston in a lovely town called Kingwood (also known as 'the livable forest'). Nice ring to it, don't you think?!

Well, what I and many of my friends did not know about Kingwood is how beautiful it is. How did I not know about this place after living in the Galveston/ Houston area for 6 years prior to Peace Corps?  Kingwood is a suburb of Houston to be exact. Though residents don't like you bringing that up. Their annexation into Houston is a sore subject. I can understand why. There is really nothing like it around. When Kingwood was originally developed it was the 70s, clear-cutting was the ideal form of economic development. It cost less and allowed for faster land development. Cue the visionaries. In walked King Ranch, owners of the track of land who wanted a community that was literally built in the Piney Woods area of Texas with as little clear-cutting as possible. Then Friendswood Development Company stepped in to assist and eventually bought Kingwood. The community is nestled amongst old forests of tall pines, sycamores, magnolias and around 20 other types of trees. It is home to deer, fish, birds, raccoons, squirrels, get the picture. There are nature preserves, parks and over 75 miles of walking and biking trails amongst the woods known as the 'greenbelt'.  Don't believe me? Come and visit and see for yourself.

I've found my own piece of paradise.

As frustrating as the last couple of months have been, I can honestly say, without a doubt, that I'm happy with our decision and it was totally worth it. Every morning I enjoy my coffee, get online from my kitchen table and look out my floor-to-ceiling windows (yes, we like everything ridiculously big in Texas) to watch Blue Jays (and their mates), Cardinals (and their mates) singing and courting in my backyard which backs right up to one of the many 'greenbelts'. Bragging?  Heck ya!  Thankful?  Amen to that, too. We have been blessed, lucky, how ever you choose to see it. We have had amazing help through this process and things can only get better from here.

Here's hoping you find your own piece of paradise out there.