No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world. –Elmer Kelto
When I stepped off of the plane on my first visit to Austin the humidity washed over me, I remember saying "it smells like vacation!". We came out for a house hunting trip in late March 2007. We had left Salt Lake in a veritable blizzard and magically over a three hour plane ride the temperature rose thirty degrees and the air got humid.
I anticipated sand. Tumbleweed. Rattlesnakes. Half naked men in suspenders and cowboy hats. What I saw was green. Trees, rivers, the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen.
I remember in Junior High going on vacation with Laurie and we would always stop at the first palm tree we saw to take a picture. We loved palm trees. Palm trees are in happy places, fun places, palm trees mean no worries.
Do you know how many palm trees are on my street?
But it's a lot.
And not just palm trees, I have a new found love for crape myrtles and the other flora of Texas.
Bluebonnets! Wildflowers. In the spring the sides of the roadways are painted purple and yellow because they are so thick with wildflowers. I love that we can go wild flower picking and don't have to fear a penalty of a hefty fine : ) Wildflowers are free for the taking, fields and fields of them.
I love looking out the upstairs window to a sea of green trees. It is so green here! There are green belts all over the place, tons of trees. Forests of trees.
Speaking of looking out of windows - I love looking out my bedroom window on Friday nights in the summer and seeing fireworks from the local baseball game.
I love that the sky stretches on forever. And ever. And EVER.
I love that the birds here make it sound like we are on a tropical island. Though I don't enjoy the vast quantities of poop they leave on the porch (nor that they eat more of Swiper's food than he does), they sure do sound pretty!
I love my neighbors. I love that they pull out their lawn chairs and chat the hours away while the kids run around in their swimming suits. I love that when one of them heard I was about to pay a hundred dollars to get my sprinklers fixed, he fixed them for me instead.
I love keeping Austin weird. I enjoy grabbing onion rings at the Shady Grove. Downing a Flip Happy Crepe, or a Hey Cupcake. Nothing beats Round Rock Donuts. I love sitting on a dock at the Hula Hut and enjoying a "submarine burrito". And we all know my new favorite thing is a Kawaii shaved ice. There is a strong will here to support the little guy, there are a million restaurants and stores with local flare.
I love going tadpole hunting and seeing big bullfrogs on our lawn. I love the bunnies that scamper off when we pull in the drive and the geckos that congregate on the side of our house each night. I love the fireflies (a recent discovery on a late night walk!).
I love getting out of a swimming pool and not freezing. We don't need towels, we just hop out and are dry in a few minutes, likewise there is no shock factor when you run and jump in a pool.
Speaking of swimming pools. I love that every neighborhood has one, or two, or three. Ours is hardly ever crowded, feels like our own giant pool.
And neighborhoods! Nothing fosters a sense of community like having an HOA. We have nieghborhood Easter Egg hunts, Halloween parties, pool parties and garage sales.
I love how close we are to such fun things to do; Schlitterbahn! The River Walk! Six Flags! SeaWorld! All less than an hour and a half away. I went to SeaWorld last summer more than I had been in the entire 26 years proceeding that. And I've been pregnant the past two summers or else I would have hit up Schlitterbahn and Six Flags. And is there a more magical place than Port Aransas, TX? The ocean is just four hours away from us.
The toll roads. Bless the toal roads! They are big, they are nice, they save tons of time. Love them. And I love the access roads. It took a bit of getting used to but man, the freeway system here is amazing, conveneint and makes a lot more sense than most places.
I love the warm! Two Christmases ago I got a double jogger and we were able to go take a family walk on Christmas day. If kids get new bikes they can ride them right then and there on Christmas morning.
Speaking of Christmas, have I told you about Burnet Bethlehem? Now THAT was the most amazing experience last winter. A whole, functioning, living breathing Bethlehem. It takes an hour to walk to through the city and explore. This is no "living nativity". It really feels like a step back in time to walk through the streets, hear the talk, smell the camels, and eat the bread, etc.
And while we are on the topic of religion, I love the churches here. Big, beautiful, breathtaking churches. They all have fun activities around Christmastime. I love the variety of religions represented here and have had fun attending different church functions with friends. I've enjoyed learning their beliefs and sharing mine. I love that Texans are church goers.
I am grateful that Gwen got a chance to go to a Lutheran preschool, and for all of the friends she made there. I have never, ever, met so many loving people. Every single person at that preschool knew my name and my children's names and what was going on with my life. Amazing quality people.
I love that here I feel unique because of my religious beliefs. I feel weird. I get a chance to explain why it was ironic for me to get a flask as a Christmas gift and why I wear capris and shirts with sleeves even though it is 110 dgs outside. I like being a missionary by simply living my life and having the proclamation hanging on the wall.
I love my ward. I love that we stick together and help eachother out. Most of us are far away from family but we all have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've had two babies here and have had so many meals brought in and people to watch my kids. I completely 100% look forward to ward activities. The ward talent show ranks up with Christmas on my list of favorite days of the year. I love going to church. I love that I know everyone's names. I love my calling. I love that our friends from church come from all walks of life. Lots are converts, lots are transplants from BYU or Arizona and plenty are just from Texas.
I love hearing "y'all".
I love Zilker park. The nature center with the dino dig, the train rides, the people running on the trails. Did I tell you once two older women were just sitting behind a card table on the trail with a sign that said, "free advice".
There are so many fun and free things to see and do here. Sprinkler parks, museums, trails, lakes, rivers...
The schools are exceptional.
There is full day kindergarten. I was so worried about that when we first got here, but now that I have to lug two babies with me wherever I go it hardly seems worth it to drop off a kid at school for less than four hours : ).
I love that children call adults by "miss [insert first name here]" or "mister [insert name here]"
It's safe. I feel so completely safe in my house. My neighbors look out for each other. I don't feel nervous at all going to downtown Austin.
I love that HEB sells tortillas that they make right there in front of your face. When you buy them they are still warm.
There are miles and miles of hike and bike trails. I haven't had a chance to use them since I have been pregnant for the last two years, but I have been looking forward to it.
I love who I am here. I had a lot of insecurities about myself before, but I feel like out here I have come to my own and figured out who I am. I know who I am as a parent, who I am as a wife, as a friend, etc. I still have insecurities but I also have a fair amount of confidence too.
I love our friends. I love going to the gym with them. I love getting together with them. I adore them.
Ralphie is my brother, er... sister. There are few people in this world that I love more than her. Very very few. I think it comes with knowing that she is the only person in the world who will photoshop out blemishes on my huge schnauz on her 500 inch computer monitor.
I used to think it weird when people would adorn their homes with a Texas star. The whole Texas pride thing was lost on me. But I get it now. Texas is magical. It grabs you by the heart and wraps itself around in there until it literally becomes a part of you. The people, the places, everything. I've only been here for two short years, but I will forever consider myself a Texan.
After several moves around the country and feeling like I had no place of my own in this world, I finally found where I fit in, where I belong. Texas feels like home.
Yes indeed there is something magical about Texas, and I knew it the very first time I stepped off the plane.
"A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner". –John Steinbeck
*um, I realize this post kind of makes it sound like we are staying in Texas. We're not and it is breaking my heart into a million pieces, hence the absence of blogging. Sorry that you had to read this whole blubber fest, I have a feeling my blog is going to be a bit weird for a couple months until I can figure things out again.*