Life in the HOV Lane

As a Houston commuter, there was nothing I envied more than people that found their work soulmate – that perfectly scheduled, perfectly located coworker to attain the elite status of flying past all the plebeians on 59 North in their own special lane.

Now that I’ve been given back that extra hour and a half every day to do with as I wish, it’s made me a happier, calmer person. Perhaps because instead of cursing the 610 interchange, I can do this immediately when I get off of work:

And if I’m able to break away for lunch and do a little grocery shopping, I don’t have to stalk cars in the crowded Central Market lot and pay $4 for  a bell pepper, I can pop on over here in 10 minutes:

Then and Now: The Great Gatsby

I was definitely at my most creative during college. Maybe because I was, ya know, learning, stimulating my brain, exercising my mind, all that stuff. But I think it had more to do with the downtime. To perpetuate a cliche, I spent a lot of time riding university buses with my journal open and pen in hand. The last four (wow, four?) years since have seemed like a literary desert. Making a living can do that to a person.

Recently, traveling more for work has given me a taste of that luxury again. (There really should be more situations in life where you have to turn of all electronic devices and just sit.)

A while back I heard that they were coming out with a remake of The Great Gatsby and since have had the urge to re-read the book to serve as a better mental comparison when sitting in the theater.

For my first business trip, I decided to put it to good use and actually do one of those things I tell myself I’m going to do. What surprised me most when I reached my goal (just three hours into my trip) was how incredibly different the book was from my memory of it in high school.

Gatsby Then:  Opulent, beautiful, perfect world that reminds me of scenes from Meet Joe Black filled with people that drive too fast and a garden and pool area I want. Some metaphor about the optometrist billboard and the “all seeing” eyes on it judging the characters. Also will never forget the phrase “breast flapping” to describe Myrtle’s death scene. How does someone get hit by a car so their breast flaps open? Gross. Weird.

Gatsby Now: The scenery was hazy, much less vivid. Perhaps because I read it more quickly than in school (how they dragged that book out into a five week unit, I’ll never know) or because my mental picturing skills are completely out of shape. I found myself paying less attention to the scene than the storyline.

The storyline. Dear Lord, the whole book is about entangled love, cheating, guilt. As a sixteen year-old you kind of glaze through it, accept it. Actually being married makes a world of difference when reading it. As a teenager you feel bad for Gatsby because he’s alone. As an adult you grimace at the complexity. You really get the theme that no one can ever really have a happy ending in one of those situations, so it manifests physically in the book’s climax and ending.

The obvious conclusion? What other books have I read completely wrong, seen through the lens of an adolescent mind?

I might need to turn this into a series.

Living in the Projects

They say it’s hard to escape.

Here’s what I put myself through in the past six months:

The hutch.

below on the left is my inspiration piece I saw a while back on Design Sponge. Have to say it’s the closest any of my painting projects has ever come to the “real” thing:

The dresser.

The chalkboard. The chalkboard. The chalkboard. (Because apparently my rule is not “measure twice cut once” but “cut once, buy three chalkboards because you cut wrong”)

Not pictured: The three – count them THREE rooms I painted within the past 6 weeks. That’s right, I’ve single-handedly rolled 7 gallons of paint. My right bicep is now disproportionately stronger. (Insert dirty joke here)

And even now as the paint fumes finally die and my brain cells futilely attempt regrowth, I have this insanity laying on my floor:

The Three R’s

In my new neighborhood, there is absolutely no infrastructure for recycling plastic and aluminum, only paper.

I’m not the greenest person around, but I do care a little about saving the planet (and a lot for my well-established OCD habits and kindergarten indoctrination). As such, it pains me greatly to throw away recyclables. For the first week I separated my trash piously, but after days of internet searches and driving around town for convenient drop offs, I finally succumbed and threw away my precious collection in the normal bin. It made my skin crawl.

If it were the old days, I would have been given valium and a scotch. In a reusable container.

Victory Garden

For anyone going through rough patches in life, I recommend gardening. The incredible tangibility of watching something grow, and collecting the literal harvest of your efforts endows a sense of control in a world filled with far too many unknowns.

Going from a black thumb to harvesting 60 something tomatoes doesn’t happen overnight. In my flair of enthusiasm, I found myself one Saturday standing shaded by the big red and yellow striped tent of  Houston Garden Centers collecting packets of seeds like poker chips, only to hover in the backyard later that day, both frozen and sweating, asking “what now?”

(Thankfully, I have a sister who spent 12 years in girl scouts and was able to walk me through the process as if I were Helen Keller learning to read.)

Despite my shaky start and lingering confusion on annuals vs. things that die after the season passes (whatever they’re actually called), I’ve found myself with a new love.

The whole wonderful process, in photos:

Spoils of a day antiquing in Rosenberg and using Amazon prime to find the cheapest metal letter stamps around.

Batches one, two and three of the harvest. Discovered yellow “Sunny Boy” tomatoes are absolutely delicious – even for a non-tomato fanatic. The figs really are all my dad’s doing (he planted the tree years ago), but had to be thrown in there because they were absolutely delicious.