Love

Adventures in Nepal, Part IV: Basundhara Park

The next day was gray and rainy. (January 17th, if we’re keeping track.) Emma, Elizabeth and Bee Striit met the two Tibetan students at the hotel again for another photography class.

I like the grass-carpeted balcony!

When the lesson was done, our trio braved the weather and visited Basundhara Park in Lakeside.

This park entrance sign is another example of either ubiquitous ad placement or random tributes to popular brands.

Basundhara Park lies along the shores of Phewa Tal. On a clear day, the Himalayas loom majestically in the background. But even on a rainy day, the lake is beautiful.

Colorful boats!

Elizabeth and Bee Striit.

These boats all had Kit Kat ads on their canopies:

And back to the narrow streets of Nepal.

More to come!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Family, Friends, Holidays, Life, Love, Nepal, Travel, Weather | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Adventures in Nepal, Part II: The Road to Pokhara

While I wait for Elizabeth to sort out more favorite photos from the 100 bajillion or so she brought back, here are more impressions from the bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara.

One thing that struck Elizabeth about Nepalese culture is that there are corporate logos literally everywhere. She got the impression that many of them aren’t even paid advertising, people just like the designs and paint them on their stuff. One example was this small Shiva shrine, which had Castrol Oil logos on the sides and back:

Another thing was the haphazard way structures there are built anywhere they can be squeezed in, seemingly out of whatever materials are on hand.

Tata freight trucks. Like everything else about Nepal, they are bright and colorful.

Breakfast smoothie on a pit stop.

Snowy Annapurna Massif in the far background, the section of the Himalayas that borders Nepal.

Adorable Elizabeth is adorable.

And finally, they arrived at the home of family friends, Sabita and her son Bee Striit.

By happy coincidence, they arrived on Emma’s 23rd birthday! Sabita was ready with a beautiful Ganesha cake and traditional trimmings.

What a warm and gracious welcome!

More to come!

Categories: Birthdays, Celebrations, Family, food, Friends, Holidays, kids, Life, Love, Nepal, Travel | 2 Comments

On Relationships

This was supposed to be my traditional Thanksgiving post about something I’m thankful for. But now that it’s written, I don’t want to wait that long, so I’m calling it a Love Thursday post instead.

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The relationships we grow up in as children program us to seek out similar relationships throughout our lives. This is a well-documented phenomenon, even among those of us who are aware of it and vow to break the cycle.

One of the most common motivators for people who grow up in dysfunctional families is a deep subconscious desire to recreate the original home situation so that we can “fix it” this time around and finally get a happy ending. This is especially true for people who were cast in the scapegoat role as children and blamed for their family’s unhappiness. We think if we had just done this or that differently, everything might have turned out okay. We form relationships with the same kinds of needy, unhappy people we grew up among and spend all of our energy trying to make them happy. When that fails, we are blamed for their unhappiness and the cycle continues. We internalize that blame, we believe it. Like salmon struggling back upstream to their spawning grounds, we batter ourselves against those same familiar rocks over and over until we either escape the pattern or are destroyed by it.

As is tradition, I married a man who very gradually revealed himself to be basically a composite of my narcissistic, manipulative mother and my alcoholic, womanizing stepfather. Astonishingly, this did not result in the happy ending I had hoped for. But it did result in me becoming a parent, and that was a turning point in my journey. I was determined that my somewhat broken life would not produce broken children. I started viewing everything through the filter of how it would affect Luke and Elizabeth’s long-term well-being. Whereas in the past I would compromise on almost anything to sustain relationships that I valued, I started setting healthy boundaries. My marriage failed, but it did teach me an incredibly useful lesson: it’s no good trying to change yourself to please someone else. I’m not talking about self-improvement here, I’m talking about giving up the things that you like and value about yourself because someone else doesn’t like or value them. You’ll only end up changing into someone that neither one of you likes or values.

The thing is, life keeps putting you into the same kinds of situations with the same kinds of people until you finally learn all of the lessons that you need to learn from them. I’m actually grateful for that, because it wasn’t enough for me to just learn to recognize those kinds of people. Even spotting them from a distance, my instinctive reaction was not to back away but to roll up my sleeves and try a new approach. I am tenacious when working on a puzzle or problem, and I mistakenly thought that the way to heal the wounds of my childhood was to learn how to heal those broken people. I’ve certainly had no shortage of opportunities to try. People like that tend to become fixated on people like me, partly because we try so damn hard to make them happy and partly because our own happiness feels like an affront to them and they want to take it away from us.

What finally got me off of that hamsterwheel was realizing that my misguided efforts were not just detrimental to me, they were detrimental to the people I was trying to help. Letting someone mistreat you and suck you spiritually dry isn’t any better for them than it is for you. It doesn’t heal them of anything, it just makes them resentful and contemptuous and cruel.

The most difficult part of this journey was discovering that most of the relationships I had valued and worked to maintain over the years would (and did) evaporate the instant I stood up for myself. I lost my oldest friend that way a couple of years ago. This was a friendship that I thought would be rock-solid until one of us died, but she walked away without a backward glance the first time I stood my ground in a minor disagreement.

This is the legacy of my childhood, these one-sided relationships, and what I am most grateful for in 2017 is that they no longer sing their siren call to me. I can still spot them a mile away, and I still wish them well, but I have no longer have any desire to engage. Their unhappiness has nothing to do with me, and I prefer to keep it that way.

Happy Love Thursday, and may all of your relationships be the healthy kind.

Categories: Family, Friends, kids, Life, Love, Love Thursday, Marriage | 1 Comment

Travelling to the South, Part I

In March a fortune cookie told me it was time for another road trip:

So this week I cashed in some vacation time and we headed down to Austin. The trip was part recreation, part research. Once Luke turns 18 we’ll be free to relocate to wherever we please, so we’re checking out our options. There’s a lot to like about DFW, but we had never planned to grow old and die here.

We headed out bright and early on a Monday morning…and a warning light appeared on my dash display as soon as we pulled out of our parking lot.

My gallant Saturn, may she rest in peace, died a sudden and unjust death last fall when another car ran her out of her freeway lane and into the concrete divider. My new car has more bells and whistles than I’m used to, so I didn’t recognize the ominous-looking caliper-and-exclamation-point icon. Not going to lie, I was imagining the worst. But I stopped to get ice for the cooler as planned while Elizabeth googled warning light symbols for my car. Turned out it was just a low-tire-pressure warning. Whew!

The next stop was our favorite local donut shop, The Donut Wheel in Hurst. We have become indoctrinated in the Texas way of the kolache and needed a dozen sausage for the road. I recently read that the sausage ones aren’t really kolaches at all, they are klobasniki, but I’ve never actually heard anyone call them that.

Once properly provisioned, we headed to a nearby Firestone to put air in the tires. The warning light went out, and as an added bonus I’ve noticed a big improvement in gas mileage.

Of course we stopped in West, the kolache capital of Texas, to resupply. We went to a different bakery this time, because I’d heard good things about their cinnamon rolls.

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Check out the nice scuff on my shiny new bumper. Just a few months after I replaced the Saturn, I got rear-ended by an uninsured driver. Their front end was all crumpled in, though, so I guess my little scuff could have been a lot worse.

Anyway, the cinnamon rolls turned out to be intimidatingly enormous, so we got a dozen fruit and cheese kolaches instead. They were yummy.

I was expecting traffic to start being awful somewhere around Temple and stay awful the whole time we were in Austin. Surprisingly, traffic wasn’t an issue at all, even within Austin proper, until our return drive.

When I first started planning the trip, it was all about the outdoor activities. But then the forecast showed temps above 100º both days, so we started thinking of ways to stay cool and still have fun. I asked Luke if he’d like to tour the State Capitol Building, and he gave me an enthusiastic yes. That was our first stop as soon as we rolled into the city.

It is gorgeous, every inch of it.

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I found a self-tour booklet for Luke and let him lead the way, since he’s the political/history wonk in the family.

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I loved all the little architectural details.

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Even the door hinges are lovely!

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In the early 1990s, an expansion was added beneath (or sunk into, I guess) the north plaza of the original building.

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I wanted to explore the whole grounds, but once we were outside the heat made Luke cranky. I took a quick tour while he waited on a shady bench. I mostly saw tributes to Confederate soldiers and Texas’ role in the Civil War…

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…but my favorite sculpture was a large scene honoring the pioneers that settled Texas.

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It really was too sweltering to spend much time outside. We found a nearby motel and the kids napped through the hottest hours of the afternoon. I woke them up when it was almost time for the bats to emerge from the Congress Ave Bridge.

We wanted to explore the hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake, so I parked down by the softball park near Longhorn Dam and we walked up the boardwalk side of the bank toward Congress Ave as dusk gathered.

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The unbearable crowds we’d been warned about never really materialized either. We saw people out and about, jogging or walking their dogs or just enjoying the parks and trails along the river, but we never felt crowded at all.

Luke and Elizabeth were mildly taken aback by Austin’s very casual dress code. In the Metroplex, at least in the areas we frequent, you would never see guys walking around in nothing but shorts and sneakers, or women wearing just sports bras and spandex shorts, the way you do in Austin. As Elizabeth put it, “DFW is King’s Landing and Austin is Highgarden.”

Another thing we noticed was an inexplicable absence of mosquitoes. Walking along a woodsy river at twilight in July, we should have been eaten alive. I don’t think I got a single mosquito bite the entire time we were in Austin.

I was expecting big crowds around the bat-bridge at least, but there was plenty of room for everyone. We decided to watch the show from up on the bridge itself. We got to the top just as the bats began to emerge.

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I had imagined a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it event that lasts less than a minute, but it’s nothing like that. The bats just keep on coming. Suddenly the lack of mosquitoes made sense.

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When the bat-exodus finally ended, we continued up the trail with the intention of hiking the entire loop around the lake.

We saw Stevie Ray Vaughn…

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And got some sweet views of the Austin skyline lighting up.

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Eventually we realized that we would not have time to complete the loop before the trail closed at 10pm. Since a series of bridges crosses the river/lake, we decided to cross the next bridge we came to and head back toward the car.

But somehow, even after we had crossed the next bridge and headed “back,” the city lights were still getting farther and farther away.

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Finally we decided to just stop, turn around and backtrack to the car.

If it had been daytime, we would have easily seen the problem. But it was completely dark out by then and we were unfamiliar with the area. We were about halfway back to the car before I realized that the bridge we had crossed must have been the one spanning the Barton Creek tributary rather than the river itself. That’s not a mistake we could have made in the daylight.

We didn’t make it back to the car until around 10:30, but no one bothered us. The illuminated buildings provided some nice scenery along the way.

The most noticeable change after the 10pm curfew was that the joggers and dog-walkers were replaced by homeless people settling into the corners for the night.

I had been in so much of a hurry to see the bats that I completely missed the belts the first time across the boardwalk, but I looked for them on the way back. They are all along the railings: little sculpted metal belts with bits of song lyrics engraved onto them. You can barely see the letters in the glare of my camera flash, but this one says, “In dreams I walk with you.”

Our car was right where we left it, and we were all ready for a good night’s sleep.

Thus ended our first day in Austin. Much more to follow!

Read Part II here

Read Part III here

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Artwork, environment, Family, food, Humor, kids, Life, Love, Road trip, Travel, Weather | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Thankful, 2016

The kids and I explored the trails at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano earlier this month when the weather cooled down for fall.

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It’s one of the nicest parks we’ve seen so far, but we caught it in the evening rush, so it was bustling with people out walking their dogs and unwinding after work. We even had to park in a shopping center up the street because the regular parking lot was full.

Arbor Hills has miles of woodsy trails and a pretty overlook with a nice view of the surrounding area.

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I am thankful to live in a place with so many beautiful spaces to explore.

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Luke’s robotic’s team took a respectable third place in a field of nine teams at a competition in Dallas.

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It was a fun experience. I am thankful that Luke and Elizabeth have so many opportunities here to develop their creativity and talents.

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Bass Hall hosted a free screening of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to promote their stage production. Elizabeth had to work that day, but Luke and I went and had a great time. The Hall was decorated for the holidays and offered Christmas-themed gifts for sale. I was ridiculously excited to find an ornament-sized replica of the angels from the Grand Facade.

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After the show, Luke and I walked around a bit.

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I am thankful to live so close to two beautiful cities that enrich our lives in so many large and small ways.

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An unexpected car repair put my plan to buy a treeless saddle on hold and added a scary level of uncertainty to my holiday budget. Elizabeth responded to this by, quietly and with no fuss, doubling the amount of money she contributes to the household each week from her paychecks. She did this on her own initiative, without being asked – in fact, I assured her that she should not feel at all obligated to cover my debts –  for four weeks, until we knew that I would be able to pay the repair bill and still get the saddle. I am so thankful to have such a kind and gracious daughter. I am thankful for both of my children, they are the joy of my life.

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The first time I rode Mahogany in her new treeless saddle, I could feel the relief in her whole body. For that first test drive we stayed in the arena, just walking and trotting in big, easy loops while Mahogany gradually relaxed and her movements got freer and more confident. The saddle is supremely comfortable for both of us. We are still getting used to the new dynamic, and I may end up buying a different saddle pad to solve a few minor issues, but overall we both love this saddle and I wish I had bought one years ago. Yesterday we had a nice cruise out on the backroads, and Mahogany was so happy and responsive.

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I am thankful that this seems to be the answer to so many of the problems that we have been struggling with.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, environment, Family, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trail rides, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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