Posted in Adventures, friends, random


I have a tracker on my blog that tells me what cities and countries people are reading from and how they get to or find the site. It’s interesting information to have, and so far, I’ve had hits from almost every continent. So, whoever you are (the site doesn’t tell me that) and wherever you’re from, welcome!

I did find out that someone found my blog by Googling the following string of words:

pics of girls being bad at 2007 lone star bike rally

I bet they were very disappointed when they read about my Galveston adventure!

Posted in Adventures, jury duty, random


I got tagged to go downtown for jury duty today. The following is an account of my day from my totally worn out oddball brain.

5:53 AM People who get up at this hour and are happy about it are cursed. (Proverbs 27:14)

6:20 AM Eat Hot Pocket and brew coffee. It’s good to have breakfast when you have to think early.

7:40 AM I made it! I found the juror parking lot! Apparently breakfast and coffee didn’t help the thinking process. I have already forgotten which level I parked on.

7:51 AM About 200 people in here so far. Some people are in suits or dress clothes, but I am not the only one in jeans. Jeans say, “I care enough to wear clean clothes, but perhaps I am not sophisticated enough for your jury.”

7:52 AM (random people watching and tired brain notes)

Dude. At least take a shower next time. Bed Head.

Going hunting after jury duty?

Sir, could you please put a hat on? You’re sitting right under the light and the glare…

Nice cowboy hat.

I’m pretty sure sleeping isn’t sending a “I’m a good juror candidate,” message.

Wishing I knew how to play games on my phone. I’m coveting the lady’s solitaire game.

Hmm… this must be a rule… at least one seat must be left open between potential jurors, apparently 2-5 if you are sitting next to Bed Head or the guy with the weird twitch.

No talking… I know, it’s too early for me, too.

If you rustle your newspaper in my ear one more time, there will be consequences… and the sleeping guy next to you may be on my jury… so I’ll let it slide… this time.

7:57 AM Did I not get the memo? Most of the white people are sitting in the middle section. What am I doing over here?

7:59 AM (random people watching and tired brain notes)

Tempted to read over lady’s shoulder… and it’s in Spanish. Perhaps not… wait… I think I remember what that word means…why are you reading that in here?

Black Designer Suit Guy, you look miserable and are wearing all black. Either you’re a designer Goth or you’re going to a funeral after jury duty… I’m pretty sure that’s a get out of jury duty free card, so I doubt it. Perk up! It’s not so bad! Next time try a tie with a little color, though.

8:01 AM Girl in pink shirt behind counter tells us she wants our summons…ses…es. Hey, I wanted it for my scrapbook, but you can have it.

8:01:20 AM Dude. Turn OFF your ringer. Blood is running out of my ear! Between your newspaper and your phone, you are really pushing it.

8:02 AM If you’re late, just slide in the back while no one’s looking. Asking what to do if you’re late apparently gets you put in time out. I never did see that guy again.

8:04 AM Exemption video…you’d think if people were exempt they wouldn’t have made the trip.

8:05 AM So you have a tardiness issue. That’s okay. I could so live with that… SIT. BY. ME. PLEASE.

8:06 AM When attending jury duty with your mom, wear matching outfits.

8:07 AM Bed Head, I will buy you some hair gel. That’s all it would have taken to make you look somewhat sane. You look like you just got out of bed.

Girl… white pants? It’s after Labor Day and, they’re way too small.

8:12 AM Another bald guy… and he looks like he shines his head. Mr. Shiny.

8:13 AM You don’t want your name called by girl in the pink shirt behind counter.

8:15 AM Sweetie, 1982 called. They want their hairstyle back.

8:21 AM Very sweet lady recommends John Grisham’s Playing for Pizza. Apparently it’s about this American football player who goes to Italy and plays for… (wait for it…) pizza.

8:22 AM Bed Head is back. GEL!

8:23 AM Really want to ask the girl in the pink shirt behind the counter (who keeps disappearing and reappearing) why I had to be here at 8:00 if we weren’t going to do anything until 8:30.

8:24 AM (more random people watching and tired brain notes)

Woman in front of me has bed head as well.

Guy behind me so needs to blow his nose. Seriously, Mr. Snotty!

Some people should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to perm. I can say that because I used to be one of those people.

8:25 AM Rethink white people in the middle section memo. Perhaps it was, “all white MORNING people please sit in the middle section.” Maybe that’s why I wasn’t invited.

8:26 AM Someone please give Mr. Snotty a tissue! Would it be rude of me to offer him one? Do I want to hear him blow his nose?

“Mommy, how did you meet Daddy?”

“Well, honey, he was full of snot and I just couldn’t stand it anymore, so I offered him a tissue.”

“That’s gross.”

“I know, baby, but let Mommy teach you a new word. It’s called hindsight.”

No, I’ll let Mr. Snotty sniff on.

8:28 AM Interesting ‘do rag, but you wear it well.

Mr. Shiny has changed locales and is now sitting behind me. He’s built like Mr. Clean. I think he scared Mr. Snotty, because he hasn’t sniffed in a few minutes.

8:29 AM Am convinced getting up an extra hour early has not helped me be more alert now, nor does it help me complete simple, every day tasks (like opening a powdered green tea packet) any easier.

8:30 AM OH. MY. WORD. Save me, Mr. Shiny, from Mr. Snotty!

8:32 AM They’re locking us in. Suddenly, I want out.

8:33 AM If I were Jene’ I would have run into at least one person I knew by now. In a group this large, possibly three.

1982 Hair, 1982 wants the clothes back, too. Use your jury money and go shopping.

8:34 AM Room is fairly full, but still there’s at least one seat between each prospective juror (except for the daughter/mother matching outfit combo).

The jury instruction video plays again for the late people. There should be a penalty for being subjected to it again because someone else is late.

8:36 AM I need new glasses. It may be the light in here. Weird. I could read the closed-captioning a few minutes ago.

8:38 AM Son, I know that hair color doesn’t occur in nature… and I think that color doesn’t occur in nature. And it shouldn’t.

8:39 AM Pulling on locked doors will not make them open. You’re late.

8:40 AM Language problems will get me out? Ich spreche nicht English. Mental condition? I have one! My life is NUTS right now! No? I can’t concentrate in the morning. Really. It’s got to count for something.

CELL PHONES OFF, PLEASE! Maybe mine shouldn’t be on vibrate. I might jump or scream. I think that might be inappropriate.

8:45 AM Video says I will take an oath. I get to swear! This is so exciting!

Mr. Shiny has scared the snot out of Mr. Snotty. This is good news. I don’t think I want to marry him. “You had me at Kleenix.”

8:47 AM Is a small bladder a medical exemption?

8:48 AM I just got to swear! I mean, I was just sworn in.

8:49 AM Man, those white people in the middle section are LOUD.

Daughter/Mom matching outfit combo are making small talk with Mr. Shiny. He has a nice voice. Maybe I’ll offer him a tissue.

8:50 AM No more videos. Entertain me! Can we watch Regis & Kelly in 10 minutes? Where does the girl in the pink shirt behind the counter keep going? Don’t want to put headphones on, I might miss something important… like Spanish instructions or Mr. Shiny talking.

8:52 AM Need to talk to girl in pink shirt behind the counter about the screen saver. The Windows logo, though it does jump around the screen, is boring.

Mr. Shiny agrees with me. He wants to watch something. Turn on the TV!

8:53 AM Mr. Snotty is at it again. If I offer him a Sudafed instead of a tissue, would I still have to marry him? Then again, passing around meds in the jury room is probably against the rules.

Lady, keep Mr. Shiny talking. Please. My future happiness may depend on it. If we’re in the same jury panel this could be love. Forget Mr. Tardy… although he just walked by again…

Dude. Are you really wearing a Michael Jordan workout suit to Jury Duty? Really? If you are wearing Hanes, I don’t want to know.

Lady, you would look 20 years younger if you cut off about 20-24 inches of your hair. Really. Talk to me later. I know people.

8:59 AM Allowing Sassy to get bored is very, very dangerous!

Uh, sir, Paul Bunyan called. He wants his shirt back.

9:00 AM Hey, loud white people in the middle section! My mind can’t wander with all this noise. SHH!

9:01 AM Jazz music might be helpful… or Regis & Kelly…wait… there’s action up front.

Oooh! Jury panels have corresponding primary colors! Can I be blue?

No! No! Goodbye, Mr. Shiny. I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Mr. Tardy and Mr. Snotty are still here. They’re all lined up against the wall… looks like a lively jury panel. Bed Head, Paul Bunyan and 1982 Hair are still here, too.

9:03 AM Resist urge to wave goodbye to Mr. Shiny…wait… wait… they called my number! I’m in the red group! Well, okay. I guess red is fine.

9:05 AM The Bailiff takes us downstairs and does a really mean thing all of us so early in the morning. He changes our numbers! I am now referred to as Juror #52.

65 of us are on a panel, which includes Paul Bunyan, Bed Head, The Hunter guy and… Jeff Goldblum.

9:20 AM Am herded through courthouse security, which is as extensive as going to the airport. Tip: wear shoes that are easy to take off and on.

Every time I talk to Clean Cut Dad he tells me not to worry. It’s all looking good. The statistical odds are in our favor.

9:34 AM Am informed, on the 18th floor of the courthouse that The Bailiff just led us to blocks away, that we now have a two hour break. UGH!! This is cruel and unusual punishment in the morning!

9:42 AM I am bored. Should I go to the cafeteria?

9:55 AM Sitting in cafeteria. Good idea. Eat sandwich and watch a man who could be Jason Momoa’s little brother (seated at the next table) eat the cold pasta he brought to eat at jury duty.

Mr. Shiny is here! Apparently his jury panel is on a break, too. He seems friendly and outgoing.

Don’t see anyone from my jury. Perhaps they’re fighting over the 12 chairs available on the 18th floor. Wait, there’s Jeff Goldblum.

10:02 AM Beyond bored. Jury duty has been even more boring than the last time when I never left the gathering room all afternoon.

11:03 AM Just spent an hour talking with another juror. She’s an author and aspiring publisher. Tell me God’s not into the details. She was really easy to talk to.

11:58 AM Standing with a different group from my juror panel. We’ve been standing since 11:30 when it was demanded that we return. Nobody’s come out to tell us anything. Oh Mr. Bailiff?

12:12 PM Finally inside criminal court. Sit down in the back row. My legs are not happy right now.

Judge thanks us for waiting so long. We all know at this point that if we are picked for a jury we will be making the return trip Friday morning. When he says he’s going to do his spiel and then we’ll take another break, for a moment I thought there was going to be a riot.

1:19 PM Judge finishes juror education. He’s very thorough and I understand what it means to be a juror now. Clean Cut Dad reasserts that since we are #’s 52 and 53 that statistically we stand a good chance of not getting picked, which is great because the Judge predicts that this case won‘t be over until Monday at the earliest. Judge did say that the back row usually doesn’t get picked, but it’s not unheard of. In that case, can I go now?

1:38 PM Called Dana and told her to pray I don’t get picked, because that gives me only 2 days to finish a lot of work and I don’t need the stress. I’d love to serve on a jury, however, just not this week. Maybe some other time (but a long time).

1:57 PM Back in courtroom… Judge is nowhere to be found. Find out that another juror close by is a salesman for Hershey’s. I can tell he loves his job.

2:17 PM Still waiting, but at least all jurors are accounted for. Several have already been dismissed for various reasons (illness, people who have decided they can’t judge, etc).

2:22 PM Judge is back! We’re in business.

The prosecuting district attorney begins Voir Dire.

She starts asking all sorts of abstract questions like, “if convicted, could you give the defendant the full range of the sentence?” She wants to know if we would do this in general, not necessarily specific to this case. I am not good at those abstract things… especially when I really want to know all the facts first, but I get it.

I like her though. She handles all of the off the wall questions well and explains everything. I don’t object to anything so far. She’s actually holding my attention and five minutes ago I wanted to curl up and go to sleep. She reminds me of a svelte Camryn Manheim. It would be worth it to be a juror to see this woman in action.

2:52PM Defense attorney takes over. He’s old enough to be my dad. He says a lot of words, but the distance between two points is a long, winding, and frustrating road. Much of it has nothing to do with his case. My attention is wavering, and though I’m fighting hard to keep it, it’s all I can do not to get up and do some yoga stretches. Those benches are like the old church pews. No padding whatsoever.

After all his words, he wants simple, direct yes or no answers. One juror kept saying “probably,” so he said, “if I sent you a wedding invitation, would you check yes or no?” She said, rather shortly, “Well, you’re lost on that one, I don’t believe in marriage.” The judge, who had been doing paperwork while he was listening from his bench, looked up and was trying not to laugh. It was getting pretty hostile. One guy on the back row said, just above a whisper, “is there a question in all those words?”

He takes up his full thirty minutes. I’m doing yoga stretches in my mind.

3:35 PM Judge starts calling out juror numbers who are immediately dismissed. I am not one of them. Clean Cut Dad starts worrying that his statistical favor may have left the room with the lady who didn’t believe in marriage.

3:44 PM Judge begins to call the numbers for the actual jury. He gets to my row and he takes a few, but Clean Cut Dad and I are FREE! The thirteenth juror called is very confused. She keeps saying, “but there are already twelve.” The Bailiff explains to her what an alternate is and gently leads her to the jury chairs, which are padded and look incredibly comfortable.

3:50 PM FREEDOM! We pack the express elevator and get out of the building much faster than we came in. I follow Clean Cut Dad and a couple of other ladies back to the juror parking garage (because I was talking to Clean Cut Dad and the man dressed to go hunting after jury duty and wasn‘t paying attention to where I was going just after 9 AM. Imagine that.

3:54 PM I pay for my parking and I’m ready to go!

3:56 PM Apparently I did not, as previously thought, park on levels 8 or 9. I saw the lady I got on the elevator with this morning (who also couldn‘t remember which level she parked on), and we decided to go to level 10 together. Relief! Car is on level 10. I can’t wait to get inside it.

4:20 PM Going home I-10 was a great idea until…I hit 610. The last four miles take 15 minutes.

4:50 PM Walk into my house and am ready to collapse! Jury duty has made me very tired!

This is the first time I’ve been selected for a jury panel, so today was very educational. Above all, this has given me dialogue and writing material to last… at least until the next time my number is drawn for jury duty.

Posted in Adventures, friends, pics



Dana, Candie and I had a great time in Galveston today. It was the second day of the Lone Star Bike Rally so the streets were lined with every kind of motorcycle you can imagine.

We ate lunch at Fish Tales on the Seawall. I had the most amazing crab cake sandwich! The motorcycles would rumble by, but whenever Dana tried to talk, they were the loudest. It was funny. Poor Dana.

I love having a zoom lens… this was a great shot.

We cruised The Strand then went to the beach for a short break. We took some pictures and relaxed and I dug my toenails into the sand.

While we walked, I found this great conch shell. I stuck it into the sand. I didn’t bring it home… I’m trying to cut back on what I bring home from the beach.

Conch Shell
A feathered friend.

The best news of all… I was in the sun for more than a half hour and didn’t burst into flames! Seriously, though, I had a blast with two great friends and we laughed until our stomachs hurt. That’s my idea of a good time.

Posted in Adventures, health


Don’t worry, I’m fine. I merely accompanied the injured this time.

My friend E has a 14 year old daughter, C (names changed to protect the clumsy). C tripped on her way to greet the pizza delivery man… unaided, in her living room. The ripping sound she heard, I’m sure, was scary enough, but when the pain hit her, E knew the injury was pretty serious by C’s reaction. E called the pediatrician and she told E to take C to get X-rays.

If you live in a small town and have made multiple trips to the emergency room that turned out to be short, easy visits that you complained about nonetheless, you must come hang out in the ER in Houston. You’ll never complain again. Fortunately, E did not take C to BT Hosp. where, I’m told, if you’re not bleeding, carrying the plague or have bones sticking out where they shouldn’t, you wait…and wait… because most severe accident victims go to BTH. The same can be said for the well known children’s hospital. E instead chose the southwest branch of one of the hospital networks in town.

Here is where our adventure begins. At 7:45 PM the pizza delivery guy shows up and knocks on E & C’s door. E is lying down, as she had THREE TEETH pulled earlier that afternoon and that can take the wind out of a person’s sails for sure, so C jumps up off the couch and charges toward the door. Unfortunately for C, the instructions carried along her nervous system were interrupted by her teenage awkward stage, and she came down hard on her ankle at a skewed angle. I, too, have done this, but I cannot blame my teenage awkward stage. I did something similar 18 months ago…but I digress.

The ripping noise of the awkwardly skewed angled ankle was followed by pain and a flood of tears and a call to the pediatrician. My phone rang at 8:15. E was calm, but asked if I could come help out since a) she had THREE TEETH pulled earlier that afternoon, and b) she’d yet to take any pain killers and was sure the pain would hit her eventually, and c) she’d visited an ER in Houston before and company always helps.

I was halfway through Pirates of the Caribbean when the phone rang. I was in my jammies, curled up with a glass of milk, an Oreo, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, and I was totally vegged. E calmly tells me what happened and asks for my help. “Of course I’ll help,” I tell her and I went from vegetable to super hero with one twirl in the telephone booth… okay, not really, but in spirit, I do wear the super hero cape. Truthfully, it took me longer than 30 seconds to get dressed, finish my milk, find my cell phone and say goodbye to Johnny and Orlando.

8:40 PM (yes, it took me 13 minutes to go from vegetable to super hero — but this is really good for me during a non life threatening emergency — and 7 minutes to get to E & C’s) I walk into the apartment and C has carefully put her shoes on and is ready to go. I observe her injury (the cape gives me great medical wisdom — I wish) and let C know that if she was a cow, I’d have to shoot her, but since she is not bovine in any way shape, or form, I assure her she’ll live. She grabs Tig and Bub (a stuffed tiger and penguin) for moral support. She decides that rather than lean on me, she’d rather hop on the good foot and take her chances. I did not take offence because well, I’m a recovering clumsaholic and if she was leaning on me and my knee or ankle gave out… well, E would be transporting two people one, a victim of her teenage awkward phase, and the other, a woman stuck in her teenage awkward phase.

9:05 PM I follow behind C as she hops to the sign in desk at the ER while E parks the van. C leans against the wall while I grab the sign in sheet on the receptionist’s desk and look around for a place for C to sit down. Of course, this is the ER in Houston. Not a seat or wheelchair to be found. A very impatient security guard tells me C cannot lean against the receptionist’s station. I told him that there was no place to sit down and he didn’t seem impressed. After a long, deep breath I told him that C needed a wheelchair and told him she’d badly sprained her ankle. Fortunately for Mr. Impatient Security Guard, his attitude changed and he returned with the necessary equipment, and I moved C out of the way. I wasn’t sure what the cape would make me do if he’d been less than nice.

As we waited for E, I started to fill out the sign in form while C took in what was going on around her. Not only was the waiting room full, the hallway included about 10 people, including us. I filled out what I could on the form, then handed it to C, who continued with her SSN, address, etc. I reminded her she was single, she didn’t have a maiden name and helped her spell ankle. For some reason, I found that difficult, but we came to an agreement on kle. Then E found us and took over the rest of the form.

Having been warned by the roommate (a nurse, she knows these things) that we were all in for a long night, we went to look for a place to sit down. A few minutes later, two seats cleared out in the ER waiting room, so E and I wheeled C in and took them. Note here that I did not run C into anything that would cause her pain while I was driving the chair. No wheelies were popped, no corners taken on one wheel. Remember, I am wearing my super hero cape and am suddenly responsible.

The waiting room at the ER is full of people who are too sick or injured not to be there, but not sick or injured enough to be whisked away quickly. Several children were in the room, along with a parent or two each, but sadly, I noticed at least two people who were by themselves, trying to stay awake and alert until their names were called. Most people in the ER were somber and serious, and I could feel the tension in the room, so what do I do? I try to make the injured teenager and her mother (did I mention she had THREE TEETH pulled just hours earlier?) laugh. I love E’s laugh.

9:55 PM C’s name is called, and she and E disappear into the ER.

10:05 PM E comes out to tell me C is on her way to what the hospital refers to as “Fast Track.” We follow C and a nurse (whose legs are programmed for the hospital autobahn) down the hallway to another waiting room… where we see others who were liberated from the ER waiting room… and we… wait.

10:40 PM Still waiting in “Fast Track” … E mentions she’s thirsty and C says she is as well. After a minute or two, E mentions her thirst again. Eventually, her words reach the earphone attatched to my super hero cape and then the words reach my brain and I realize that I should go find a vending machine. Another ER employee (whose legs were also programmed for the hospital autobahn) pointed out the machine and I got us 3 Sprites and a bag of Doritos for me (if I don’t eat I turn even more “blonde” than I already am, and since I am wearing the cape and am responsible, I decide eating now and staying lucid would be a good thing).

I return and a lady sporting blonde dred like tendrils steps out and calls out a name for the consultation and payment portion of the evening. She asks for a lady named, “Albino.” Albino is not present. We wait some more.

10:50 PM A bathroom break for E & C while I wait to make sure C’s name isn’t called while they’re gone.

10:55 PM The lady wishing to know the whereabouts of Albino appears again and totally butchers C’s name, but we recognize that C is the one she wants. E & C go to a room marked, Patient Access Services (PAS) and C appears about 10 minutes later, obviously bored with the whole PAS consultation and payment portion of the process.

11:22 PM E returns from PAS. They have everything settled and told her that C’s chart has been pulled and she’ll be with a doctor soon. Soon in “Fast Track” is like a caution lap at Daytona. Time should be fast, but it’s in slow motion instead.

11:33 PM C is whisked off to another room, followed by E. I stick around in “Fast Track” (only one visitor per patient allowed behind the big doors) and watch as supposedly ill children tear apart the “Fast Track” waiting room with more energy and vigor than most sick children. (Before I pass judgment, I hope that whatever was wrong with these kids is minor…and I also realize at this point that these kids probably didn’t have a primary care physician and this was probably a rare time when they actually saw a doctor).

Kids of various ages buzzed about the room, but one little one, a boy about 18 months old I’ll call EJ, had eaten several lollipops, a bag of Doritos, a Dr. Pepper and other assorted candy while he waited to see the doctor. No wonder he stood on the couch and screamed, “MORE CHIPS!” at the top of his little lungs.

Enter Sassy Mama, and her two children Diva and Cutie Pie. Diva is about 10, CP looks to be about 6. A nice man with cookies with the word, “VOTE” on them came into the room (behind Sassy Mama and CP) and gave a cookie to Diva who had walked around the couch to throw away something. Diva then made fun of CP for not getting a cookie. Diva licked her cookie all over to ensure that sharing will not be forced upon her (SM said that they both had sick germs but shouldn’t share them) and continues to taunt CP. Sassy Mama tells Diva that if she doesn’t shut up, she’ll have to throw her cookie in the trash. I walk around the corner to go to the bathroom and found the cookie man and asked him if he’d go give CP a cookie and save his sister’s life. He smiles and goes back to “Fast Track.”

When I return to “Fast Track,” several more people had been taken into see a doctor, but nobody has been able to locate Ms. Albino. Sassy Mama, Diva and CP, however are still there. Diva is at one end of the couch crying while CP eats his cookie. Apparently, Diva just couldn’t let things go and her cookie was now in the trash. CP then decided to pull out a Buzz Lightyear doll (the talking one with lasers that shoot), and he ceased to be CP and turned into Annoying Brat. Soon, Sassy Mama decided he was annoying too and Buzz Lightyear disappeared just as I was about to rip the only magazine I had found in half in frustration.

12:14 AM E returns and lets me know that a half hour ago, C saw a doctor and X-rays were ordered. A light appears at the end of the tunnel.

12:20 AM C goes to X-ray. EJ gets to go see the doctor.

12:40 AM Doctor gives diagnosis to E & C. Sassy Mama and her children get to see the doctor. I’m one of three people left in “Fast Track.” Ms. Albino has never appeared. One man in particular has been in there as long as I have. He’s in a wheelchair, and he’s pulled his sweatshirt up over his head and gone to sleep. A few minutes later, another group of grownups has brought in another boisterous child and I’m no longer inclined to take a nap.

1:12 AM E comes out, followed by C, who is on crutches and is sporting a temporary cast and a “really cool ice bag,” and a prescription for some kickin’ painkillers. Lovely parting gifts for those who endured the ER.

1:30 AM E needs to stop and get gas on the way home. No problem. I take the time and interview C about her experience. Her one quote: “I’m really tired.” Me, too, C… me, too…

I arrived at home about 1:50 AM and let E & C know I made it home. I took off my cape and at 2:06 AM my head hit the pillow and it was the last thing I remember until my alarm went off at 6:30 AM… I hope to catch more zzzz’s tonight.

Oh, and the moral of the story: when the pizza man rings the doorbell… rise slowly and take deliberate steps across the room.


Posted in Adventures, kids


Helpful terms and definitions:

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) – a commission founded in 1891 by the Texas legislature to protect consumers from the railroad companies that were over-charging farmers and other customers. In 1917, because the Commission regulated the mass transit industries of the time, the Commission asserted its jurisdiction over pipelines. As a result, the Railroad Commission began regulating the oil and gas industry since they had the closest ties to the industry via pipelines. For more info, go to

Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas State Flag – “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible.” For more info about Texas State Emblems, see

Politician Magnet – any baby under 2 years old.


1:15 p.m. Jene’ and I enter the Senate Chambers. The Senate Chambers is usually off limits. Today, however, it has been opened to those invited to the swearing in ceremony. It’s a cool feeling when you stroll into the Senate Chambers and groups behind you are trying to get in thinking that just anybody can do what we just did. They are referred to the Senate Gallery on the floor above us while we are told we can actually go beyond the ropes and sit in chairs normally reserved for senators. How cool is that?

I meet Victor’s parents, Bernardo and Alicia Carrillo. Bernardo and Alicia came from Mexico when they were kids. Neither of them passed the third grade, as they had to go to work to help support their families. They are much older than you would expect, as Victor was born when they were in their late 30’s. Bernardo looks like his chest is going to explode with pride, while Alicia’s smile lights up the room. They sacrificed so much to see their son be able to live the American dream.

I sit down with Julia, Jene’s youngest sister, who is my age. Julia has three kids: Benjamin, who is 9 and is so smart, he sometimes sprains my brain as I try to keep up with his questions – for example, how the lights in the Senate Chambers were made – and his explanations – this time about static electricity. Damaris is almost 2. She is a long, lean blonde toddler who has the prettiest blue eyes. She is sitting on Julia’s lap while Jene’, who is standing behind me, holds Julia’s youngest, Grant. Grant is almost four weeks old and is content and quiet during the ceremony.

Victor enters the Senate Chambers with Texas Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. As I snap a picture or two, I notice that my camera has reached 23 pictures. Noticing the TV camera behind my head, I start to feel an overwhelming sense of dread as I figure out what to do, because I know my camera will rewind after the next picture. I decide to try to time the last picture during applause.

Jene’s dad, Jasper, is called upon to pray to open the ceremony. Jene’s dad is a pastor and is known for his, well, lengthy prayers. Julia leans over and says, “Do they know what they’re getting into?” and I laughed and said, “Did they give him a time limit?” Later, Victor teases Jasper that the governor leaned over during the middle of the prayer and said something like, “He is aware, isn’t he, that he’s supposed to be finished by now?” “Gotcha!” moment.

After the prayer, Christina leads the crowd in the pledge of the American flag and then the Texas flag. I asked her later if she knew the Texas pledge and she said, “No,” but that she had memorized it expressly for this ceremony. I also asked her if she was nervous, and in true Christina fashion, in three very quick sentences, said yes.

Laura rose to sing the national anthem a capella. Any singer will tell you, no matter what, this is a not a song for the faint of heart to attempt, let alone attempt it a capella. Laura knocked it out of the park. I haven’t seen that many grandparents or family members swell up with that much pride in a long, long time. The crowd was very impressed as well and I try to take advantage of the noise and snap another picture. My camera reads 25 and does not rewind.

The Lt. Governor, David Dewhurst, is introduced. I snap a picture and the camera begins to rewind. The applause does not last as long as I’d like it to and as he’s saying that he liked the anthem so much and that he needs Laura to help him campaign, my camera begins its noisy and lengthy rewind.

Julia has already left the room with Damaris, who just couldn’t sit still or keep quiet that long and I don’t know too many toddlers who would last as long as she did. So, I’m sitting there alone with a TV camera behind my head and my camera is rewinding. Thankfully, the acoustics in the room were such that I don’t think that many people actually heard me. Jene’ was behind me next to the TV camera and she didn’t hear it. Crisis averted.

Next, the governor gets up and tells us how wonderful Victor is. He talks about his daughters, Laura, Christina, and then he fumbles around for his notes, because he forgets about Grace. Grace is over playing on the floor all the way across the chambers, so I did not hear this, but Joy said that as the governor fumbled around for her name, Grace piped up, “And Gracie, too!”

Victor is finally introduced and he begins his speech. He talks about his humble beginnings, his degrees (I can’t remember them all, but they include geology, geophysics and law), and then he talks about his wife of 18 years, Joy. Victor tears up, as he often does, because Victor is just really sensitive and caring and most people who know him would be surprised if he didn’t wipe his eyes at least once during such an important milestone in his life. Victor made it through that and then talked about his parents. He introduced his family, the parents, the in-laws, the other two RRC’s, Michael Williams (who wears cool bow ties) and Charles Matthews, and his new staff.

Then Victor is sworn in, he exits the platform and the reception begins. As we wait in line to get through the door to the reception area, Jene’, who is still holding Grant the politician magnet, is approached first by Michael Williams who wants to know if Grant can vote yet. Then, the Governor and Lt. Governor make their way by to look at the politician magnet. Grant, still content and quiet, meets the governor. (By the way, Grant has yet to meet his Daddy, Jeff, who is deployed somewhere in the Persian Gulf – please pray for him!).

At the reception, the Senate photographer keeps taking pictures of Jene’ and Grant. Jene’ finally asks the photographer who she’s with, and she tells Jene’ these pics will go into the archives and we are all a part of Texas history now. Grant, before he’s a month old, is now a part of Texas history. I know he won’t remember this, but his brother told me that Grant is fortunate to see the capitol and experienced all this so early, and that, at 9 years old, he felt as if that was a bit late to get started getting involved in being a part of Texas history.

Grace was not enjoying the reception, and was coaxed by Jene’ to go “do stairs,” to keep her occupied. After three trips up and down three flights of stairs, Jene’ was done in and Grace seemed satisfied. They came back just in time for the family parade over to Victor’s new office. I had just been handed the politician magnet, but all the politicians were gone by this time. When I got outside, my eyes began to water from all the pollen flying through the warm spring air. After a few blocks, I couldn’t see, so reluctantly, I handed over the baby to his mother. I figured he would be safer with someone who could actually see the traffic as they crossed the street. So much for quality time with the little guy who actually got to meet the governor.

Victor’s office is just down the plaza from the capitol building. We went up to the 12th floor (the top floor) to the RRC suite of offices. Victor’s office is bigger than, well, my whole apartment. It has a great view of the capitol building and the rest of Austin. The bathroom is almost bigger than my bedroom. Christina excitedly showed me all of the features, the TV with cable and VCR being one of the highlights for her. Then there were the elephants in the bathroom (elephants, Republicans, get it?).

Joy brings in the lamps for Victor’s office. She unpacks them and puts the styrofoam packing on the floor. Grace’s eyes light up as she drags one of the pieces that is larger than she is over to the TV area. She begins to tear it apart and styrofoam balls go flying everywhere. Damaris, who sees the “snow” action, decides to join in. Soon, there was quite a mess on the floor, and I’m sure the custodial staff loves Victor now. Grace had little styrofoam balls caught in her curly hair, which were stuck there, as Benjamin explained, by static electricity.

Soon, it is time to go, so we say our goodbyes, and head to Chuy’s our favorite TexMex place (we have two in Houston as well) and eat lunch/dinner. It’s 5 p.m. and we are ready to get on the road. After a quick stop to take my picture in a field of bluebonnets and a short field trip to Wal-Mart in Bastrop, we get home around 9:30, ready to go to BED. I feel compelled to tell you that Jene’ had parking angels at both Chuy’s and Wal-Mart.

As tired as I still am, I wouldn’t have missed this day for anything. It’s not every day you get an opportunity like this. And, in November 2004, I’ll get to vote for Victor. How often do you get the opportunity to vote for a politician who lives out his faith, and is a person of integrity who actually wants to work hard? I wish y’all lived here so you could vote for him, and if you knew him, you’d wish that, too.

Posted in Adventures, kids


Helpful terms and definitions:

parking angels – It doesn’t matter where we go, what time of day it is, or how far away we go, 9 times out of 10, Jene’ will find a good parking spot. Good, as in within the first five spaces away from the front door.


It’s the first day of Spring, and on the way to Austin, we see many fields of Texas wild flowers (bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, etc) that line Highway 71. Jene’ suggests that if it’s still daylight when we go back to Houston I should have my picture taken with them. We get to Austin around 11:40 a.m. Jene’ is driving and we are on our way to Congress St to find a place to park within walking distance to the State Capitol.

Jene’ calls her sister, Joy, wife of Texas’ newest Railroad Commissioner, Victor, whose swearing in we are in Austin to attend. Joy is at Jene’s aunt’s house in Austin getting ready for the ceremony. We have some lamps in our car for Joy, and it is decided it would be easier to drop off the lamps now, rather than after the ceremony, so we go to Jene’s aunt’s house.

Joy, who does not normally care to wear makeup (she last wore makeup on her wedding day 18 years ago), meets us outside for the lamp exchange. She has applied makeup and her face is too dry and she knows it doesn’t look good. She also knows Jene’ will be the honest one who will tell her it looks bad and also tell her how to fix it. She asks Jene’ how it looks and Jene’ says, “You look about 10 years older,” and Joy actually looks relieved. “So should I wash it off?” Jene’ answers, “Yes, and I know how we can make it look better.” Jene’ and Joy go upstairs to mix her foundation with moisturizer (Jene’ is like Heloise with attitude) while I say hello to other relatives downstairs.

Joy and Victor have three daughters. Laura, who is 15 and very beautiful, is also an accomplished guitar player, singer and songwriter. Christina (Nina as she is called by her little sister) is 11 and hides none of her emotions. You know exactly how Christina feels all the time. She has a very expressive face and outgoing nature. Grace is 2 ½ and is a real handful. She evidently has developed a fear of going places recently.

While Joy is getting her makeup fixed upstairs by Jene’/Heloise, Christina is trying to convince Grace to finish her lunch. Grace’s clothes have not been changed and her curly hair is sticking out in every direction. It is after noon by this time and the ceremony begins at 1:30. Grace sees me and says, “I don’t want to go!” Everyone else is trying to convince her we’re not really going anywhere, everyone is just dressing up for fun. Grace then starts this tearful, frustrated exchange with Christina.

“Nina! Mommy!”

Christina picks up Grace to take her upstairs.

“Nina! Eat!”

Christina rolls her eyes in disgust, backs up and puts Grace back in her chair.

“Nina! Mommy!”

“Nina! Eat!”

This happens at least three more times, and finally, Christina puts Grace back into her chair and says, “eat, then we’ll go see Mommy.”

“I don’t want to go!”

Laura, the teenager, has come downstairs. She crosses her rams, looks at her baby sister and says, “Grace, you’re going whether you like it or not.”

“I don’t want to go!”

I retreat upstairs to see how the make over is going.

Jene’ and I soon leave the house and to resume our search for a parking space near the capitol. Jene’ is silently praying for parking angels (see above) as we drive up Congress St. After a fruitless search, we turn onto the street in front of the capitol and see a few odd war protest signs. I’m all for everybody being entitled to express their opinion, but please, for Pete’s sake, at least make your signs and yourself appear somewhat intelligent.

We decide to follow the signs to the parking garage. Jene’ drives a couple of blocks and says, “I don’t see the signs anymore, so I’m turning.” As she is turning, I see the sign up the street, so we go to round the block to get back to the parking garage. On our way back to the main street… a parking spot appears. It is the second space from the street that runs directly in front of the capitol. Jene’ smiles and thanks her parking angels as she runs across the street to get change for the parking meter.

Jene’ and I make our way up to the capitol building (not as long of a walk as I had anticipated – thanks parking angels), go through the metal detector and stand in the rotunda and wait to see signs of the rest of her family. We find a cousin and go upstairs to the senate chambers.

This episode will continue in Part 2 of Shae’s Great Austin Adventure!