At Home in Heath: Equal Opportunity for Methodists

In an effort to be sure we’ve left no stone un-turned, we visited First Methodist Rockwall recently. Growing up Baptist, Methodist always seemed like the biggest rival in our evangelical conference, so I felt like a traitor as I walked in the door.

In my single days, Lovers Lane Methodist was sort of the “it” church.  I actually went there for several weeks and attended a Sunday School Class that was studying a book you may have heard of, How to Survive the Loss of a Love.  It’s a great book and I’ve used principles from it in many situations, but at the end of the study I realized we hadn’t opened our Bibles once.  This wasn’t my style of Sunday School.

Shortly after that I discovered Northwest Bible Church and I didn’t have to look any further.  Even though I’ve journeyed through many other churches with Bill, for a variety of reasons, I still feel like my home church is Northwest.

My next Methodist experience was a phone conversation with one of their ministers.  Someone from Northwest introduced us (long before I met Bill) because they thought we’d be a match made in heaven.  I never actually met this minister in person and I don’t remember his name, because our theological differences became immediately apparent in the first phone call.  I simply believe what the Bible says about sex and he felt it was up for interpretation.  His interpretation was that when he was dating someone he expected them to put out.  That relationship wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Theology is important to me, so that was sort of the end of the line for me and the Methodists.  Enter Mr. Bill.  Coming from a liturgical background he’s not a fussy about theology.  He saw a nice building and thought it might be a nice church.  He’s not as wary of snake handling.

Let me tell you, if you are looking for a great Methodist Church, it’s right over there across from the new county courthouse.  The facilities are lovely and a new building is coming up right now.  We were greeted and welcomed and greeted and welcomed to beat the band.  The seats are comfortable, the sound system is good, the music was great – the selections, soloist and the choir.  It’s obvious that they have a whole lot of ministry going on.  High marks all around.

The sermon was about Crabby and Grabby…I mean Esau and Jacob – Crabby and Grabby were the nicknames the preacher tagged them with.  Somehow the story skipped from youthful competition to end of life reconciliation without really addressing all the tough stuff in the middle.  Bill tagged it Theology Light.  You can’t judge a whole church by one sermon and Bill liked a lot of things about FMR, so who knows, I might be destined for Methodology – or would that be Methodism.  I’ll have to find that out before we visit again.

There’s really only one more church on my list.  After that we’ll be doing the second round, which will be Sunday School Classes.  You may think I’m crazy for blogging about this, but in my world, it’s more important than granite!

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Travel There: Tower of the Americas

The view at Chart House atop the Tower of the Americas

The view at Chart House atop the Tower of the Americas

San Antonio’s Chart House Restaurant

Top of the Mark at the Top of the Tower

If there is one thing I hate, it’s a reviewer that can’t find anything good to say about any place they stay or eat. I wasn’t loving the place we stayed the first night in San Antonio, but I wasn’t going to let that color the rest of my experience.

I was the one who wanted to stay in a cheap hotel, but I had high hopes for the rest of the stay.  One of the reasons I’d opted for the first night in a bargain was because I really didn’t expect to arrive in San Antonio until late that night, but travel is really all about dealing with change.

I’d expected sight-seeing in Austin, another town I love, but taking the tollway just got me to my favorite city a little faster.  having a meal in the Tower of the Americas had been on my list for a long time.

The Way It Was Before

Way back in the summer of 1967 when I visited Hemisfair as a child with my family, we did not have dinner in the tower.   If memory serves me right, I’m pretty sure they didn’t pay the price of ride up the elevator either.  I think something like that would stick with me.  I remember the wonder of walking through all of the amazing pavilions and adored the Museum of Texas Cultures, but all my memories of the tower are from the ground looking up.

In subsequent visits other things kept me from visiting the tower:

  • budget
  • bad reviews of the restaurant
  • not enough time
  •  traveling companions who thought it was a tourist trap

I thought that the “not enough time” issue might come into play on this trip, too.  I always have so many favorite things to return to in San Antonio that it’s hard to find time try new experiences.  Arriving hours before I expected paved the way for an experience I’d wanted to have for a long time.

The Way It Was This Time

With a map, instructions from the hotel clerk and a GPS we set out for downtown San Antonio.  Just as the clerk promised we found parking at RiverCenter Mall with no trouble.  Somewhere inside my head is a map of the Riverwalk, but it always takes a little while for that map to sync with all the development around the popular attraction.  We could see the tower and my mind told me where we should go, but we kept running into obstacles that my old mental map didn’t know about.  It didn’t help that the “You Are Here” map provided by the city next to the river did not have the promised red dot telling me where we were.  Still it was only a minor irritation, because I followed my gut around the obstacles and soon recognized we were on the Hemisfair grounds – then all we had to do was look up.

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The tower at night

If I was ever in San Antonio with time to kill, I think I’d kill some of it just enjoying Hemisfair Plaza.  It was a very pretty place, but I had my eye on the top of the tower.  There was a booth selling elevator rides and the ticket salesmen pointed us to the other side of the tower for the Chart House Restaurant.  We sidled up to the desk and asked if they had room for us.  To my great joy, they did.

We had to walk back around the tower to the elevator, but this time we were inside.  After a short wait and a quick conversation with a couple of guys who were also on their way to dinner, we arrived.  From the picture above, you can tell that it was a pretty spectacular experience.  The view alone was amazing.  The restaurant was also nice.

I’ve been in Dallas’s Hyatt Regency Reunion Tower and the Westin’s Peachtree Plaza Tower in Atlanta, so I can tell you that the experiences are very similar.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the same architect designed them all.  I can also tell you that this was not a me-too experience.  San Antonio is a town very different from Dallas and Atlanta.  The spontaneous opportunity turned into a evening I won’t forget for a long time.

We were not seated immediately, but that was OK.  We hadn’t had reservations and it was obvious that a lot of other people did.  What was not OK, was that if I was going to wait I would have liked to enjoy a drink.  The hostess pointed us at several groupings of leather chairs and told us to wait.   I assumed it would be a short wait.  There was an observation deck above, which may or may not have had a bar, but if I’d known we’d be cooling our heels for a while I would have at least gone exploring.

Still, I wasn’t an unpleasant experience.  I sat in the big comfy leather sofa and enjoyed the view.  I also enjoyed the arriving dinner patrons.  Many were dressed to the nines, suggesting the meal was a special event.  The restaurant was also recovering from a big busload of diners.  Observing them go down the elevator in batches of a dozen was somewhat interesting.

After the noisy bus tour was back on the ground, a sort of calm settled of the restaurant and I smelled a fragrance I couldn’t at first identify.  I pointed it out to Deb and we agreed it wasn’t a food smell and kept trying to guess what it was.  Saddle Soap!! The leather sofas had been recently cleaned with saddle soap.  There was no residue and the fragrance was subtle, but I enjoyed the little smell association game.  Finally, they seated us.

Seated at the Top of San Antonio

We were looking north-ish when we first sat down – sort of toward our lovely Microtel.  Not that we could pick it out from up there.  As the evening played out we enjoyed the view until we were south-ish, but by then the city had disappeared into the darkness and all we could see was the lights.  One disappointment was that you cannot see the Alamo for the big Marriot which is attached to the RiverCenter. That would have been quite wonderful.

What was wonderful was the food.  The prices were a little steep.  Not that they were expensive for what they offered, they were just more than I usually pay for a meal.  We made choices around the outskirts of the menu, not so much for the cost, but because that’s what sounded good.  And of course, we ordered Margaritas!

I started with Lobster Bisque – thick, creamy and delicious – just the way I like it.  It was not the best I’d ever had, but it was a treat.  Deb chose a salad and it was HUGE.  Our next course was side orders – sauteed mushrooms, asparagus and an OMG order of Lobster Mac & Cheese.  Good thing Deb and I had decreed that nothing had any calories during this entire weekend, otherwise we would have just scored about two days worth of them.  OH – and we had a souffle for dessert.  My mouth and stomach were in heaven and the view was out of this world.

Farewell to a lovely experience.

Farewell to a lovely experience.

Since this trip was my belated birthday celebration, when we met Cousin Brenda she had a belated birthday present for me.  Along with some lovely fragrance gifts for my house, she also gave me one of those gift cards you can use for whatever you want.  What I wanted was dinner at the Tower of the Americas.  Thank you Brenda.  We didn’t have to wash dishes to leave the tower.

Maneuvering back to the car was no problem.  My internal map had synced with the city.  We did have an adventure getting back to the hotel.  First the GPS couldn’t figure out where we were when we left the parking lot and then there was the back road approach to the hotel, but all’s well that ends well – right?

Our next stop?  The McNay!  You’re going to love it, so come back next week.

 

 

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Filed under Architecture, San Antonio, Texas, The Chart House, Tower of the Americas, TRAVEL

At Home in Heath: Three Sabbaths

Still on the hunt for a church, we continue to visit local churches. The closest church to us is a small Christian Church on the edge of Buffalo Creek.

My dad went to a Christian Church in Melissa until Mom turned him into a Baptist.  I also have an aunt who attended a Disciples of Christ Church in Dallas.  First Christian Church Rockwell has Disciples of Christ in parentheses after its name so they’re connected somehow.  I haven’t researched it all, because I’m not that far into the decision making mode, but with Dad and Aunt Tommie’s endorsement I felt like it was safe to visit without any concern of joining a cult or handling snakes.

I can tell you this.  No matter what church we decide to join, there isn’t a church anywhere that’s more friendly.  When I said this was a small church, I really do mean small.  Perhaps a hundred, certainly not more than a hundred and fifty folks were there for the service.  They knew immediately that we weren’t regulars and they showered us with attention.  And we’re talking good attention – not sign here on the bottom line and become one of us attention.  More, we’re so glad you came to worship with us today – so let’s be friends attention.

The service was a little more liturgical than a Baptist ceremony, more responsive readings and that sort of thing, but the music was wonderful.  For one thing they sang songs I know.  I love praise and worship music, but I’ll have to confess most of it seems like the same song on repeat.  After the first or second time around, I’m ready to move on, but for some reason they keep on going over it and over it an over it.  Among the glorious old hymns that I love, FCC Rockwall threw in a Gloria Patri and the Doxology.  We even did a praise song or two, but they kept it brief.

As much as I enjoyed the opportunity to sing these old standards, FCC Rockwall took it up another level.  The accompaniments were a harp, violin and guitar.  It was all good, but the guy on the violin must have been an angel visiting from on high.  What a virtuoso!  I guess you’re getting the vibe that it was all so far, so good.  Even the preaching was good.  Not as deep into exegesis as I might prefer, but when it gets as deep as I prefer, it puts Bill to sleep, so this was a good thing also.

A part of me was saying, “this might be it,” but there were other parts.  One part is the methodical part of me that reminded me of the other possible churches we hadn’t even visited.  Another part was wondering if I’d fit into a church so small.  I’m used to larger congregations and venues,which mean more programs.  I haven’t decided yet, but the wonderful email from the pastor in the next day or so didn’t hurt.

The next Sunday we went to Ridgeview Church and I got my exegesis.  Talk about a church with programs.  These folks have it all happening.  It’s bigger than the Christian Church, but not big – if you know what I mean.  One concern was their disregard for the clock.  I was ready for it to be a little longer than a hour, because they started 15 minutes before the hour, but the hour and fifteen minutes passed and they were still going strong for another half hour.  A full half hour of that (at least) was praise and worship music.  I know it was a half hour at the beginning of the service and they threw more in as things progressed.

So far all the churches we’ve “shopped” have earned a second visit.  That Goldilocks feeling of too big, too small, too hot, too cold is very present.  I’ve actually made my second visit to the Christian Church.  Bill was tied up with landscapers on a recent Sunday.  That’s not exactly a Sabbath thing to do, but with all the rain we were just glad to have someone show up.

So I ran over the the First Christian Church and enjoyed their early service.  The crowd was even smaller for than the later service.  All the vibes were good this time around, too.  Sadly, the smaller service didn’t rate the amazing accompanists that the later service did.

Next on my calendar is the trip to San Antonio I’ve been talking about on Wednesdays.  On that Sunday, I’ll be heading to San Jose Mission for the Mariachi Mass.  Then I’ll be back and we plan to visit First Methodist Rockwall.  I’m not a Methodist, but Bill likes their building.  Come read how it goes.

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Travel There: Beware of the Bargain

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The lovely picnic area, right next to the rusting dirt movers!

We all know that if it’s too good to be true, then it’s probably not true – and with few exceptions, you get exactly what you pay for.  Deb and I wanted a cheap hotel for our first night in San Antonio and that’s exactly what we got, so no surprise here.

Now I’m not so cheap or adventurous that I’d purposely stay in an awful hotel, but I will look for bargains.  In fact, I’d first planned to stay somewhere in San Marcos or New Brunsfel, but all the reviews of their bargain hotels made it sound as if these hotels had served one too many drunk river rafters – dirty and smelly being the biggest clue.

But I know Microtel.  I’ve stayed at several of them and they have all been great.  They weren’t always the latest and greatest, but you got a lot for not so much dough and they were clean.  Enter Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham San Antonio Northeast.  I know, for $45 a night in San Antonio I should have figured out there was a problem, but I didn’t.

How about a cookout?

How about a cookout?

Maybe our first clue should have been how difficult it was to find.  On the map it looked as if it would be easy to get to, but maps can be deceiving, because what’s in a convenient place might be hard to reach.  Our GPS had to take us around and around and around until we finally broke a few laws and made it to the parking lot.  Then there was a sigh of relief.  The outside looked as if it had been freshly painted and the landscaping was under control.  The cars all looked as if they were driven by people with a sense of propriety and the lobby was nice.

There was one couple ahead of us in line, but I was more interested in the breakfast bar than I was this anonymous couple.  That was until I figured out who they were.  He was a rugged type, with a beard that was a day or two old.  He was wearing a black t-shirt with “The Trucker’s Prayer” emblazoned on the back.  I found that to be at least a little bit interesting, because they’d arrived in a crossover van.  It didn’t seem as if English was his first language.  In comparison, his companion was a beautiful young woman with cafe au lait skin.  Her hair was in a semi up-do.  She had on great shoes and a cute short set with very, very short-shorts which showed off a pair of perfect legs. She flashed me a great smile.

And that small blue awning across the parking lot.  That's the pool with it's great view of the highway.

And that small blue awning across the parking lot. That’s over the pool with it’s great view of the highway.

I figured out that the clerk was trying to explain the hotel’s cash policy to the man.  If you pay cash, you have to leave a $50 deposit at the desk.  When you’re through with your stay, they inspect the room to make sure everything is OK and then you get your $50 back.  It seemed reasonable on the surface and then the woman cooed, “Just put it on your credit card, baby.”  Something clicked in my brain and I figured out what most of you had already realized.  This was a hooker with her john.  That made them very interesting.

The conversation went on for a few more clicks, but the baby was not going to put it on his credit card and the Microtel wasn’t going to change their policy, so eventually the pair left.  The funniest thing was that the female half of the pair turned around at the door and said, “We’ll be back,” in her outdoor voice.

I want you to know I do not hold this episode against the Microtel.  They can’t help who walks in the front door and they had a policy in place to keep that kind of stuff at bay.  The clerk was very nice to us and very helpful with suggestions and directions to the Riverwalk.  It also wasn’t the hotel’s fault that I don’t drive those luggage carts real well.  Deb helped me load our bags and walked ahead to open the door.  Unfortunately, the cart decided it was more interested in the swimming pool than it was the interior of the hotel.  Nice clerk person appeared out of nowhere and got me going in the right direction.

The clerk had given us the very first room past the lobby, so that gave me a pretty secure feeling.  Deb stuck her card in the door, but it took both of us to shove the door open.  Whoever chose the carpet, which was still pretty new, had selected a style that was too deep for the door.  Each trip in and out was like a tiny weight resistance session.

We didn’t pay much attention to anything else, because we were ready to head to the Riverwalk.  More about that later, but coming back to the hotel AFTER the Riverwalk, now that was an adventure.  The hotel is in a sort or industrial area, which is part of the reason it’s so hard to reach.  The GPS on my phone discovered another way to get there on the return trip.  We exited and the GPS told us to take a street that on any other occasion we would have avoided, but the GPS showed that it was the most direct route and any other choice would be a repeat of our earlier around the world experience.  So we ignored those little voices in our head and crossed into no man’s land – or maybe I should say no-woman’s land.

The narrow two lane street had thick vegetation on each side and at a certain point the vegetation gave way to junk yards and re-cycling centers wrapped in chain link fences – or at least that’s what it looked like.  The road got very rough and suddenly it felt like the car had fallen into the Grand Canyon.  Deb kept right on driving and said, “If we get a flat, I’m gonna keep on driving.  We’ll just worry about it in the morning.”

We didn’t have a flat and, with the exception of that too-thick carpet, had no other troubles getting to our beds.  We were soon happily asleep.  Now I know the Microtel can’t be responsible for the condition of the streets around it, especially small back-roads the GPS decides you should take and they certainly can’t help who walks in the front door, but the odds were starting to stack up against them nonetheless.

The Yuck Factor

The Yuck Factor

Mornings for me mean a bubble bath and that’s when the trouble started.  When it comes to the hotels and motels of this world, I consider cleanliness to be my primary concern.  I laugh my way through bad decor, small rooms, rude desk clerks – in fact most of the foibles that you can run into, but you better be clean.  This is where the Microtel missed the mark.

Really?

Really?

Then there was hair dryer. I guess they must have a problem with losing hair dryers, so now they hard-wire them in place.  I can understand that, but did they have to cover up the other plug.  I had to wander around the room looking for another plug with a line of sight to a mirror, because I needed some curling iron therapy to cope with my wild hair.

 

The nasty tub corners sort of ruined my stay, but I got cleaned up and we headed to the breakfast bar for a bite, anyway.  I don’t blame the Microtel for my wild hair either.  I explained all that a few posts ago.  Like most of the things we’d experienced at the Microtel, the breakfast bar was more than decent.  They had boiled eggs, which I like, and an assortment of other things, so it more than satisfied the need at hand.  The morning clerk was a grandmotherly sort and that really made me want to like this hotel better, but the specter of the nasty tub corners couldn’t be erased.

More yuck!

More yuck!

 

Deb and I have a certain cure for everything.  It’s called laughter.  We started to enjoy all the little quirks we found.  We even went outside and shot these pictures so you too could enjoy our stay.

Come back next week and I’ll tell you all about our dinner at the Tower of the Americas – but don’t stay at  Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham San Antonio Northeast, unless grime is your friend.

 

 

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Filed under Accommodations, Road Trips, San Antonio, Texas, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, Travel Writing

Travel Here: Frank Martin Gilligan and Joe Gavito

Get yours here: FrankMartinGilligan.com

Get yours here: FrankMartinGilligan.com

It started earlier in the week on Facebook of all places.  I have a cousin down Houston way who is heavily into their music scene.  If Gene Alton likes a band, then it’s a good band.  He posted a video that I don’t even think I watched, but I noticed one of the comments was from Joe Gavito.

Now Joe Gavito probably isn’t a household name where you live, but he features large in one of my childhood memories.  I moved to Dallas in 1966 at the age of eleven.  Back then I had no idea I was going to love Dallas as much as I do.  I was pretty partial to Augusta, GA which had been my previous home.  I can tell you this, Mapquest says there’s about 930 miles between Dallas and Augusta, but when you’re eleven years old, it’s more like 930 galaxies.

See, I was the cat’s meow at T.Harry Garrett Elementary School. My friends were Grayson Bailey, Caroline Swink, Patty Harrison, Margie Ann Bowers, Donna Rice and Martha Bowling.  None of us liked Judy Moody, because she had a mean streak, but we all harbored crushes on her brother Tommy and that new guy, Paul, who had moved in at the end of the street.

We lived in the right neighborhood and attended the right church.  I even took ballet from the right ballet school, piano from the right teacher and belonged to the right scout group.  My dad had the right kind of job and we owned season tickets to The Masters.  Life was good.  I was about to enter sixth grade and I’m sure that along with my peers on Persimmon Road, I would have put on my white gloves and attended the right social dancing classes.

In Dallas I was nobody.  We lived in a rent house in a modest East Dallas neighborhood and were still looking for a church.  There was no ballet or scouts and my piano teacher was not remarkable in anyway.  Dad still had the same job, but it didn’t carry the same cachet in Dallas and he’d forfeited his season tickets.  And social dancing? HA!

I didn’t look like my Dallas peers either.  When we got word my dad was transferring, Mom had already purchased my wardrobe for the following school year.  My wool plaid skirts, knee socks and penny loafers were all the rage over in Augusta, but Dallas had moved on to mini-dresses, fishnet hose and kitten heels – in sixth grade.  No one in Georgia would have dreamed of heels until they were in their teens!

I suffered through my sixth grade year and dreamed of social dancing classes in Augusta.  I wondered who had been lucky enough to be Tommy Moody’s partner and if there was any chance it would have been me if we’d stayed there. (Probably not, since over the summer I’d shot up at least a head over everyone in my class, especially Tommy Moody.)

Then came the invitation to Cynthia Rodger’s birthday party – Cynthia of the long blonde hair, mini-dresses, fish-net hose and kitten heels.  Now I can imagine a conversation in which Cynthia’s mother told her that if she was inviting the rest of her class to the party that funny girl from Georgia would also have to be invited, but I was too unsophisticated in those days to even think of that.  Instead I was over the moon.  I was going to Cynthia Rodger’s birthday party!

I remember very little from the party, except for Joe Gavito.  This suggests that I probably did not have the rapturous time I had hoped to have at the soiree, but it’s still a party I can’t forget.  We were kids.  Eleven-year-olds.  I still had a hard time chewing gum and walking.  Joe Gavito sat down at a drum set and played Wipeout.  It was the coolest thing I had seen up to that point – and I’ve never forgotten it.

Nearly five decades had passed when I saw Joe Gavito’s name in my Facebook feed, but something prompted me to ask if he happened to be the Joe Gavito who attended sixth grade at MT Reilly.  Lo and behold, he was.  He even remembered the awful cat’s eye glasses that I wore – something else that had been just the thing in Augusta and absolutely the worst thing in Dallas.   What’s more he was still in the music scene AND he had a gig around the corner from me on Friday night.  Talk about coincidences!

I decided right then and there, in honor of the magic Joe created so long ago, I was going to hear him on Friday night. My husband reluctantly agreed to go, with the same excitement one might expect if I’d asked him to join me for dinner with my college sweetheart.  My best friend agreed to go, because she always agrees to do whatever I want to.  I extended the same invitation to several others and ended up with about seven interested couples.  Before the end of the week, two couples had conflicts and my bestie’s husband got sick, but we still had a table-ful.

The official name of the act is Frank Martin Gilligan.  He’s a singer/songwriter in the country/western vein and Joe plays backup.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I was just in it for the fun.  Frank started off with a few cover songs and then moved into his own music.  The cover songs were good.  His songs were great.  He’d sound good singing pretty much anything, as he demonstrated by singing both Willie Nelson songs and a hit from Les Miserables.  When he added his own amazing lyrics to the sound, it was rapturous.  I hate to sound like a groupie, but my best friend studied opera and she agreed on both counts.

We planned to stay for one set.  We stayed for two and Deb was still there when we left. Between sets I chatted with Joe.  That’s when I found out that Frank Martin Gilligan had been the moving force behind Mason Dixon.  I remembered Mason Dixon!  Frank had dropped out of the music scene to raise his family, but that task being done he’s returned to his first love – and that’s a good thing for you and me.  Joe says that thanks to the internet, the new CD, Silver Dollar, is enjoying some success through online downloads for the media.  In fact, Frank got a call from a DJ in Australia that wanted him to know how much they were loving his music Down Under.

The title song “Silver Dollar” is a ballad about the path an 1890’s Silver Dollar might have gone, in it’s journey to a friend’s pocket.  I loved this feel-good song about the history of our great nation, but it wasn’t the only selection he played from it.  I caught tears in the eyes of my companions during “I Remember Who She Is”.  See if you can listen to it without crying.  The CD is one great hit after another.  You’ll love it.

One more thing.  Joe Gavito was not playing drums.  He’s moved on to the guitar.  He juggles between two instruments as he accompanies Frank and he’s great on both of them, but one was a very small guitar from Tacoma that he says is called a traveling guitar.  Whatever it’s called, it sounds like a mandolin and Joe is a maestro at picking on it.

So, you missed a great show at Culpepper Steak House last Friday night, but I’ll be keeping an eye on Frank’s Facebook Page , because I don’t want to miss it when he and Joe are back in town.

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Filed under LIFE IN THE METROPLEX, Lifestyle Articles, Music, Rockwall, Texas, TRAVEL, Travel Writing

At Home in Heath: More Sabbath Adventures

Searching for a new church is a Goldilocks experience. This one is too big, that one’s too cold and you keep looking until you find one that is just right.

The mega-church was too big and too modern for us, so I hit the computer to get a list of other local churches.  Sadly, one of the things I discovered was some of the reasons many people are turned off by church this day and time – not all church people are nice people.

As I wandered around the internet listings, I did what most of us do.  I read a few comments.  In a way, they were kind of humorous.  One person was highly insulted that he’d visited a church twice, with the visits being about a year apart, and both times the sermon was about money.  I wanted to tell him that most churches set a Sunday or two aside each year at about the same time of the year and focus on the budget.  They are responsible to congregation for the way they spend their donations and the Bible has plenty to say about money.  I’m sure this guy had just happened in on the same thing twice.

Some comments were so hate-filled that I wondered what had possessed the authors to show up at the church in the first place – and then I wondered if they’d gone at all or they’d just spread a little hate around for their own personal pleasure.  Then there was Miss Righteous.  “If you’re looking for a church on the internet, then you’ve missed the point.”  I had to read it several times to believe I was not making a mistake.  Are you kidding?  If you are looking for a church in 2015, why wouldn’t you look on the internet?  No wonder people are staying away from church in droves.

On the Sunday after our mega-church extravaganza, we woke up to rain.  Mr. Bill volleyed a suggestion that perhaps it was raining too much to go to church.  I wasn’t having any of that.  I went right on with my preparations and prayed the weather would cooperate.  The downpour lessened, but the rain wasn’t going anywhere.  Bill reluctantly traded his pajamas for something more appropriate and came along.

A traditional Baptist church was our destination this time.  We were running late and the service was well underway when we got there.  In fact it was Mother’s Day and a baby dedication was in full swing.  We found all the decorative trappings the mega-church had shunned.  We’re talking white baseboards and crown molding, pastel pew cushions and a pulpit large enough to hold any sermon.

If someone were looking for a stereo-typical Southern Baptist church, this was the full monty.  The pastor had a Texas drawl that crawled from Amarillo to Beaumont and he employed it full throttle during his extended conversations with his Lord.  The sermon was akin to a down home chat – something shared over a meal of cheese grits and pork chops.  Best of all we sang hymns.  I opened up my throat and belted out several of my favorites.  Bill on the other hand, having come from a more liturgical background, isn’t as fond of singing his heart out.

The same music that warmed my heart also ran a few red flags up the pole.  After the baby dedication we sang a few praise songs.  Well, we tried to sing a few praise songs.  There was a guy up front leading us and the words were shown on a screen, but the sound system was so bad that I couldn’t hear the leader or the instruments or the folks around me.  I was throwing some notes out there, but I’m not sure they were the right ones.

The sound system worked better for the special music, unfortunately.  A precious trio got up to sing, a girl with her mom and grandmother.  I’ve got to be honest with you, even Bill knew they were off key.  It was sweet to see them singing together, you just wanted to turn down the sound.

As we headed to our car after the benediction, we agreed we’d gotten closer to our goal, but we’d probably need to fine tune things a bit.  Check back next week and see what we’re up to.

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Filed under Heath, LIFE IN THE METROPLEX, Lifestyle Articles, Texas, TRAVEL

Travel There: On the Road Again

Ready to hit the road!

Ready to hit the road!

Any day I’m traveling is a good day. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good hair day. Looking in the mirror for the first time that morning was a startling experience. Maybe I should have just washed my hair again, but instead I decided a few hot rollers would do the trick.

bad hair day

The taming of Big Hair!

Bad hair aside, I was almost giddy at the prospect of traveling.  Deb texted she was on her way to pick me up, so I stacked my luggage outside the garage and went about those last minute things you have to do before you leave home for several days.  Hubby was going to be there, so I didn’t have quite as many to do.  He’d keep the home fires burning.

My partner-in-crime arrived.  We loaded up the car, took a few photos and headed south.  The first stop was a brief one in Waco.  No sightseeing, even though Waco is a great little town for that, just a little restroom break, a morning snack and a some gas – then we were back on the road.  The morning snack was pretty darned good.  I don’t usually go to Burger King, but it was convenient.  Deb had some kind of coffee concoction that was really more like a chocolate shake with a little coffee flavoring.  Since we decreed that nothing we ate during the weekend would have any calories, I had a cinnamon roll.

Cousin Brenda and the sneaky 'fro.  It's sstrying to make a comeback!

Cousin Brenda and the sneaky ‘fro. It’s trying to make a comeback!

Next stop was lunch with my Cousin Brenda in Round Rock.  The city’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s just north of Austin, but they also have a pretty good outlet mall.  We met Brenda at Mimi’s Cafe. Can you say Cinnamon Spice Muffin?  When they said Cinnamon Spice, I thought Spice Cake, but am I ever glad the waitress set me straight, because I almost opted for a Blueberry Muffin.  Instead, out came this amazing pastry filled with walnuts and dusted with cinnamon sugar arrived at the table.  My official entree, which was delicious, was a chicken crepe, but the muffin stole the show.  I’m sure the blueberry was equally delicious, but for some reason, I was all about cinnamon during this trip.  That and my hair which constantly wanted to explode into a frizzy mess.

With Round Rock Premium Outlet Mall just next door, we should at least drop by right?  We’d thought about making a sight-seeing stop or two down in Austin, but Brenda said that the traffic wasn’t worth it.  She told us about a new toll road and said we should be headed south on it by three.  That only left us an hour and a half, so we shopped with some very good luck.

This year has been so crazy that even though my bestie gave me a handful of gift cards to Bath and Body Works for Christmas, I had never gotten around to using them.  Since this was the first store we saw, I whipped out my cards and went to town.  I love my daily bubble bath, but I usually opt for whatever bubbles I can find in the grocery store.  The gift cards allowed me to stock up on all kinds of amazing scents that the grocery store will never smell.

A few more steps down the sidewalk a few steps were a pair of my favorite clothing stores, Jones of New York and Kasper.  The good news was the great sale they were having.  The bad news?  It was a store-closing sale – and not just those stores, all the JNY and Kasper outlet stores.  I can’t tell you how much of my wardrobe comes from those two outlet stores.

Apparently, someone bought them out and decided to get out of the outlet business to focus on their department store business.  That makes me sad, because I am not a department store shopper.  I really don’t need any clothes because I still haven’t worn everything I inherited from Mom and Aunt Edie, so I don’t hang out in department stores.  I’ll visit an outlet store, because it’s less hassle and I find real bargains on clearance.  Every once and a while I’ll stop by the outlet mall and find a few items at give-away prices to keep my look fresh or to replace something I’ve worn to thread-barrenness.  Kasper and JNY have been two of my favorites, I guess because they were favorites of Mom and Aunt Edie.

I did virtually steal a navy blue sundress and a sweater set, because the prices were jaw-dropping.  If you have an outlet mall near by, run over there and check out the savings.  Gorgeous stuff, great prices.

The hour and a half we had for shopping disappeared into the plastic bags hanging on our arms, so it was time to go.  We hugged my cousin’s neck and took her toll road to San Antonio.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you all about our interesting stay at an not so marvelous hotel bargain.

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Filed under Lifestyle Articles, Restaurants, Road Trips, Shopping, Texas, TRAVEL