Friday, November 10, 2017

How I See It

So it's been three months!  Three months since we uprooted the last decade of living in Pennsylvania and hightailed it to Texas.  Everyone keeps asking me for comparisons and what I think.  So here it goes...

First and foremost, it has been a major blessing and a miracle how much this feels like home already.  It's been astounding to realize that we feel much more assimilated in our church, schools, and community than we have ever felt would be possible in 3 months.  I can't help but think that it has more to do with our attitude than anything.  Something about going on absolute faith, knowing that God has something there for you, really does help to settle things down and put your whole heart into the move, but here are some things I have noticed.

Size Really Does Matter:
Daily down here, I hear about the size of Texas - the state itself, I'm bombarded with the hulking trucks zipping down the freeway, and I see spreads of land that my brain could never fathom before here.  Bigger is better is a colloquialism they truly believe in.  Including their school PTO budgets.  I've never seen anything quite like it.  In the spirit of bigger is better is the similar vein of anything you can do, I can do better.  It's not quite so invasive, but still a periphery concept that is fast gaining momentum.

Urban and Suburban (which is which):
This has been the biggest surprise to me our whole move so far.  Everyone down here thinks of the North (especially Pennsylvania) as all city.  Clearly they have never visited as anyone who has been there knows we are the Turnpike State with huge anchor cities on each of the states eastern and western edges and a whole lot of rural, raw, green earth everywhere in between.  Small towns are the life blood of Pennsylvania and growth has leveled off and even dropped in recent years.  Counter to that, Texas is one of the fastest growing states.  They have 3 out of the 10 most populated cities in America in their backyard.  Their small towns are booming and in most every measurable way, this feels far more urban to us than we have ever previously known.  So despite this being the town Travis grew up in, it feels totally different.  More on growth here!

Friendly vs. Cold and Emotionally Distant
It's true what they say.  This state is friendly.  This is not your garden variety, wave and say hello as you pass friendly.  Although they have that going for them...this is all of your neighbors stopping by to greet you as you move in, that person in the grocery store picking up your crying toddler to help you in those crisis moments is the norm, and everyone learns everything about you because they are truly interested kind of friendly.  I have been genuinely surprised time and again at how friendly you can be: no one opens their own door, everyone greets with hugs, and compliments are the first words spoken.  It gives you all the feels.  Adversely, Pennsylvanians can come off as distant and harried.  People might mistake you for being cold or unfeeling, but what they are really seeing is single minded focus that may not include you in their line of vision.  But don't worry, once you break through that "icy" exterior there lies the warm, ooey gooey center.  A friend in Pennsylvania, though hard won, is a friend for life - a true, blue, died in the blood, has your back, thick as thieves, brother in arms.  TBD if Texans are all surface in their niceties or if they have roots that travel deep too!

Have You Found God:
Texas is known for being in the south, ever heard of the Bible Belt.  It's real.  Everyone knows, loves and talks about Jesus.  He's real, he's here and no one is afraid to mention it.  It's not considered taboo to bring him into any conversation.  Pennsylvania overall may not be quite so church going openness, but where we came from - Lancaster County, we were home to some of the nation's largest Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren church populations.  What we may have lacked in actual numbers felt more than made up for in depth of conviction, actual conservative values, and personal sacrifice in the name of religious belief.  This has been the most similar category of the move so far.  Both are a God loving and fearing people.

Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum:
Both states love their hole in the wall diner type establishment that excel at comfort foods and home cooked favorites. After that, it's all over for food comparisons.  Texans like to think of themselves as foodies and have enough food brands specific to this area:  Frito-Lay, Whataburger, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Big Red Soda, and Dr. Pepper - this last one I have never seen so much drunken in my whole life.  They even have their own grocery store chain, HEB, but seriously, this is the bulk of it.  They live on bbq, meats, and starches.

Now consider, Pennsylvania is the snack food capital of the world.  It may not be healthy, but it is delicious.  With a large German influence, the dinner foods are rich and heavy and often play on sweet and sour themes and a fair amount of bread product.  After that, you look no further than to see 3 major cities (DC, Philadelphia, NYC) close by and so you get an influx of ethnic food abounding.  Everyone argues over what is the best and what is not, but the ethnic choices are almost unlimited.  Both states are enthusiastic eaters and I can get behind that!  That being said, Texas does pie and I love pie.  I wish they had more fruit pie, but they have such an abundance of pie I will never  rarely complain.

Good Old Fashioned Manners:
Texas is kicking butt.  Truly, the manners are like the friendliness.  It is out of this world, over the top (but in the best way), amazing the manners.  Everyone, kids included, yes ma'm and no sir"ing" at every chance.  They look at you while talking to you, they shake hands and hug and give respect to most every adult.  It really is A-MAZ-ING!

I'll never not miss the four seasons of Pennsylvania, the buds popping forth in spring, the lush green vegetation everywhere and the height of the surrounding trees, the color show of leaves come fall and the blanket of white snow in the winter, but Texas has more beautiful, perfect, sunny days than anywhere I have lived to date.  With so few overcast days, I spend a lot of time in my backyard hammock under the trees where the breeze blows reading books.

Laid Back or Incompetent:
This will be by far the harshest, most critical thing about this post.  And I'll admit, I'm probably still a biased "Yankee", but what they say about Texans being laid back is true.  So true, so frustratingly, painstakingly, annoyingly true.  Their response time to emails or issues is like molasses being poured through a very small funnel in a Minnesota record low winter.   Unless it is important to them, they will not take the time or energy to be efficient.  I'm convinced most of them wouldn't even know how to be fast and effective, even if they wanted to.  Add to that work that is not focused or detailed oriented. The drawback of being laid back is that your attention to detail is sometimes not as acute.  Oh, how this state will make or break me in this area!

Appearances and Such:
The Texas woman is not one to be messed with when it comes to her appearance.  She will generally fall into one of two categories.  She is either a country girl or over 40 and she fits the idyllic mold of bigger hair, full face of makeup, bright lipstick, and sparkles, or she is a city girl and under 40 in which case she is beautiful, lithe, well maintained, bleach blond hair, contoured makeup and accessorized to be auditioning for the next spin off of Real Housewives of ... or Stepford Wives.  This is not a critique but an observation of 100% diligence to being made up before going out in public every time.  So imagine my neighbors' surprise when one morning while running late, I went out to the bus stop with my kids in my PJ's and a robe over top.  It was a chilly morning and the bus stop is my corner of the neighborhood.  Pennsylvania may have a bit to learn in this department as I have been witness and myself been casual to these displays of self care.  That being said, looking so put together all the time does raise a red flag or two in my book, but that's a post for another time.
For as much as every Northerner may think that the south, including Texas, is a bit back woods, every Southerner thinks those Yankees sure are weird.  But truly the similarities are more than the differences.  Both are filled with good people, country music, a love of nature, a desire to fish and hunt.  Both love their country and state with a fierceness unparalleled by most other states.  Family is a big part of living and both are wishing for just a little less government interference. They are filled with people who I love or will grow to love.  So here's to our new home.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What's In A Name?

Wyatt and Kody are tame in the cowboy themed pool of names here in Texas.  Names like Sterling, Ranger and Magnum are everywhere around us and not one person has asked me how you spell Wyatt!

Likewise girl names are boy names and I am ever befuddled and amused as Isabella introduces me to friends like Reese, Hunter, Kody, Layne, Frankie, etc...

Just another day in the culture shock that is Texas!

Friday, September 29, 2017


After a cross country move, a forgotten password, and the world's longest most intense password recovery process, I am in.  I have missed blogging and will be catching up immediately.  I am going to date them (as they occurred) just so I am chronologically accurate.  But know that everything from June to current has been done retroactively.  (All of this is for the blog book to be read and treasured for generations to come) Hopefully!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Camping With Cousins

So my niece Haley is basically awesome sauce!  And through a set of circumstances we became ridiculously close in the last two years of her high school.  That closeness led her family and mine to become more close than we had been.  It was such a good experience and it made leaving that much harder.  But before we left, we took a combined camping trip up to northeastern PA to the Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Run, Run, Run

The end of the year always brings running events.  We had the elementary school fundraiser, Race for Education.  The middle school also has Track and Field Day.  It's very fun for me to always watch, run, and cheer like a maniac.

It's almost like I love to be the loudest, craziest, cheerer just to embarrass my kids.  Somehow it bonds me to them even more.  They may be embarrassed, but I have convinced myself they secretly love it!

We'll never know for sure.  Well maybe we will, but it won't be for another 30 years, in the midst of their midlife crisis, I'll get to hear about all the ways I failed them as a parent. Probably not, but I'm mentally preparing myself just in case.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Field Tripping - It's a Verb

 I love my kids. 
I love them so much I go on all their field trips and volunteer all the time. 
I want to be near them. 
I like to have shared experiences with them. 
I like to be able to talk with them and this is the thing that sparks lots of conversations.
 I love my kids so much that I do the same field trips over and over again.
I've seen our town's wetlands, gone to County Envirothons,
and Philadelphia has nothing I haven't seen. 
But I love being with my kids, and we do talk.
So I think my plan is working.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Old Man Knees

In early May, Travis had to have scopic knee surgery for a torn meniscus.  It went surprisingly well.  He has healed like a champ and he is learning to take it a little easier on his body, because despite what his mind thinks, he knows that his body parts might not be as young as he feels. 

Even better than the knee surgery was my first opportunity to see Travis under anesthesia.  It was pretty funny and a little sad.  Sad because it took him forever to come out from under the medicine and he was very vulnerable which I know he would hate if he could remember.  Additionally as he did start to wake up enough to get dressed and ready to come home, his uninhibited state was one of randy"ness".  It was very comical and despite his wishes, I had to put the kibosh on any ideas he kept proposing.