Home hosting

Home hosting

RM and I have hosted many international guests — both teenagers and adults– in our home from countries from all over the world over the last fifteen years.   The countries they represent include Germany, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia,  Italy, Ukraine and Mexico. So when the World Cup played out this year, we had lots of teams to root for including the ultimate winner, Germany.  Each hosting experience brings something different and new for us to appreciate.  From the sweet gifts they bestow upon us, to the breaking of bread and tasting of foods both common and new, to sharing backgrounds and stories and learning about their perceptions of Texans, it has been a gift to both of us and to our family as a whole.  Enduring relationships have formed over the years which are ones we treasure. So many people shy away from opening their homes to guests from afar but after you have done it once, it is really a breeze.  You have to be willing to share yourself and be open to others.  For example, don’t worry that your home is not perfect.  Guests want your house to feel like a home and we all know our homes are a continuous work in progress. Guests do want a sense of their own space so make sure they have a private bedroom and easy access to a bathroom.  Here are some other tips:

1.  Cook for them and let them help you especially with the setting of the table and cleaning up after.  You don’t have to make special meals for them but you do want to cook the foods you love to prepare and that have a local significance.  In Texas, they will gobble up Tex-Mex and BBQ.  Ice cream is a universal love.

2. Insist on lots of water to drink (go easy on the ice) as Texas is hotter than most climates especially during peak tourist season during the summer.

3. Share your neighborhood and city with them and take them to the off the beaten track places like the locally owned boutiques, restaurants, and music venues.

4.  Check for temperature control as our houses are often cooler than they are used to in their home countries.  Offer to adjust the temperature, provide an extra blanket or to modify ceiling fan velocity.

5. Let them stay in the shower as long as they like – we have awesome showers in America.

6. Be sure to have conversations with them about their work, friends, family, hobbies and be patient with them as they find the right words.  They want to practice their English but it may be hard for them to find the right words.  Offer help with what you think they are trying to say but normally just pause and  listen very attentively and be patient — communication will happen even if you have resort to charades and pen and paper.

7.  Laugh often and share music and the arts – they always bring people together.

8.  Offer access to the internet if you can as this often helps with home sicknesses and a sense of peace.

9.  Allow time for sleep and for them to have some personal space and time to reflect on what they are experiencing.

10. Give them hugs often and quiet reassurance that they are among friends.  Expect them to have some challenges with digestion and feeling ill — offer over the counter remedies and if necessary get them to the doctor if they need care.  You would want the same.


Happy hosting to all and please come to Texas when you want to experience hospitality at its finest.  We will leave a light on for you…



When you travel – even short distances – you learn about a community culture and regional differences. C3 and I traveled to the southeast quadrant of Oklahoma this week-end in an area bordering Arkansas.  Here is a list of our observations:

  • The local version of their convenience store chain is referred to as Tote-A-Poke.
  • The names of the towns are pronounced much differently than they appear in writing.  For example, the small town of Poteau is French for post and is pronounced p oh – t oh
  • One of the most unusual historic sites in the region can be found in Heavener Park down in a deep ravine.  The steep rock stairs going down is an adventure even without the stone etchings at the base.   Some believe that Vikings came here more than 1,000 years ago and left a sign of their passing carved on the face of a massive boulder. The huge rock, now called the Heavener Runestone, is the centerpiece of a small park in Heavener (pronounced like heave-ner not heaven-er).  The sight is free to those traveling in the area.
  • This year is a banner year for bugs in Ouchita (pronounces Wosh-it-a) Mountains.  While we were safe and cool in the cabin, the cicadas, june bugs and other nocturnal critters were making music to beat the band.  It was so loud, that we had to turn the TV up to drown out the noise.  I told you we were cabiners not campers.
  • If you like to gamble, this is mecca.
  • Drive the Talimena National Scenic Byway along with many bikers and I don’t mean like on Tour de France.  This is serious Harley country but they share the road very nicely with ladies driving Camry’s — as we discovered as we enjoyed the beautiful vistas (not overlooks) on this 50 mile motor tour.
  • There is a Dollar General or Family Dollar in nearly every small town but no Starbucks.  Fortunately, C3 and I favor Folgers anyway.
  • Everyone is friendly, waves and is willing to explain everything about their home town.  I spent quite a few moments with the friendly gift shop staff at the Runestone.  I have links and research to prove it.
  • A must stop is Treats & Treasures Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain in Talihina which features hand-stirred drinks, hand-dipped ice cream served in homemade waffle cones, banana splits, root beer floats and much more.  This 1940s soda fountain uses original soda recipes, original equipment and original booths.
  •  While Oklahoma is famous for its red dirt, in this part of the state it looks more orange to me.  Probably because there are so many OSU fans in the region that the dirt turned a new shade out of respect. If we have to root for an Oklahoma team, let’s cheer on the Cowboys.
  • In this part of the country, salad is a vehicle for Ranch Dressing and everything is better fried.  Sort of like west Texas.

Happy travels whether near or far.




Road Trip and Camping? Our kind of camping.

Road Trip and Camping? Our kind of camping.

My favorite movie of all time is “On Golden Pond” with Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda playing an aging couple, Ethel and Norman Thayer.  They spend each summer at their cottage on a lake called Golden Pond. They are visited by daughter Chelsea, who is somewhat estranged from her curmudgeon of a father. Chelsea introduces them to her new fiance, Bill, and asks the Thayer’s to permit Bill’s young son Billy to stay with them while she and Bill have some time to themselves.  Do you remember the line about “suck face”?  If you don’t, you really need to watch this movie as it is timeless, sweet, and funny (in my opinion).  I named C1 after the daughter in the movie and coincidently, C1 visited the lake that is featured in the film when she traveled to New Hampshire last year.  She says it is as picturesque as it appears in the film.  My girls are tired of watching the movie with me so I have to sneak a view when they are not around.  This is way easier to do now that they have flown the coop.

This week-end, C3, home for a few days from college, and I are headed to a cabin, just like “On Golden Pond”, but in the woods of eastern Oklahoma, to spend a few days getting back in touch with nature, away from big city life, to take some time to walk a few trails and see the stars.  Note…we are not going camping but we are going ‘cabining’ which is the only type of outdoor sleeping experience my female clan is willing to try.  Nature is sometimes not all it is cracked up to be after a few hours without life’s little necessities.  The cabin is fully furnished and has running water, heating, a/c, washer/dryer, all the appliances, and beds.  While not on Golden Pond, we are located near the Talimena National Scenic Byway. This drive offers us more than 50 miles of vistas from Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita National Forest (pronounced Wash-i-tah).  We will hike, play board games, read, sit on the porch, make a fire, roast marshmallows and explore the area.   No deadlines, no homework, no chores, just three days of rest and relaxation exploring a little bit of heaven in eastern Oklahoma.  So load up the trunk with a few necessary supplies, and ROAD TRIP!



How to stay cool – Tracy’s Tips

How to stay cool – Tracy’s Tips

This time of year in North Texas we really start to heat up.  Temperatures regularly reach 100+ degrees.  This week there is promise of a slight cool front and rain and we can’t believe it.  We never get rain in July so I am very cautiously optimistic about the forecast.  After living in the fort for nearly 27 years, I have developed survival skills for me and my brood to beat the heat of July, August, and September.  Here are my recommendations:

  1.  Make/buy popsicles and lick them slowly until your tongue turns a neon bright color and the surface temperature registers below 50 degrees.  I wonder how one would take a temperature of her tongue?   Did you know that FW now has a store that sells only popsicles?
  2. Go to the movies – Texas movie theatres are so well air-conditioned– reminiscent of trips to the local meat locker with my mom.  Brrr and take a sweater.
  3. Take a cold shower after work – it refreshes you and you feel renewed if you have to go back out in the elements.  You may even want to take a shower over your lunch hour just to make it through the afternoon especially if you have to go out much.
  4. Don’t go outside between 2 and 4 p.m. – just don’t do it.
  5. Happy Hour is 2-4 p.m. at Sonic – you can risk it for a slushy limeade but only if you go in a car with a high functioning air conditioner.
  6. Sleep in your birthday suit.  Have a robe handy in case of emergencies.
  7. There is always 7-11 and their famous Slurpies – watch for brain freeze.
  8. Take a dash through a sprinkler and then stand facing a breeze.  You will get goose bumps on your arms for about a minute.  Repeat.
  9. Crank up the a/c and don’t move.  Read a book and consume copious amounts of iced tea.  Place a fan directed just at you.  Don’t allow anyone to sit on the couch with you – too much body heat.
  10. Drink lots of water and apply ice packs to forehead, under arms and behind knees.  Feels divine and shocking at the same time.
  11. Go on vacation to Canada.
  12. Get an automatic car starter so you can get that a/c running before you get in it.
  13. It is worth it to park in the shade and walk a little farther just so you don’t return to a car steering wheel that burns like hot lava.
  14. Go on a night hike taking with you a flash light and a cup of ice to suck on as you explore the nocturnal activities happening along Ashland.  Hike slowly and in flip flops.
  15. Get up with the chickens, while it is still dark, and water your garden with the hose.  Periodically, direct the hose on your feet and when necessary down the back of your neck.
  16. Soak in any body of water you can find – swimming pool, swimming hole, creek, lake, pond, swamp, reservoir, tidal pool (not likely in North Texas), or stock tank.  Always pack a swimming suit and a towel just in case the opportunity arises.
  17. Go on vacation to Alaska.
  18. Lie on top of your bed covers, directly under the ceiling fan, turn off the lights, and rest for 30 minutes.  Move as little as possible.  This is not a nap but a proven cooling off technique.  Works really well with hot three olds and menopausal women.
  19. I know your dentist tells you not to but go ahead and chomp on some ice.  Chomp on a lot of ice.  Sonic ice is wondrous.
  20. Did I say, Bluebell?  Vanilla bean is my favorite.  Eat ice cream slowly with a glass of ice coffee and work on a jigsaw puzzle at a slow pace.

Stay cool out there and let’s hope for some much needed showers.  Did I just hear a crack of thunder?  Go stand out in the rain!

summer rain 1


Original Art Work Makes a House a Home

Original Art Work Makes a House a Home

Last night, RM and I went to the Fort Worth Community Arts Center for the monthly gallery reception.  RM is planning to show some of his wood turning pieces at this same venue in December.  December 5th at 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. to be exact.  We wanted to see how other artists displayed their work, set up the gallery and what type of appetizers and beverages they served their guests.  It was a lovely event with all of the galleries busting with art work and lots of Fort Worthians out and about supporting the artists.  I spotted one portrait of a young artist that I kept coming back to.  Lovely colors, peaceful face and something about her sitting there looking at her easel that just told me I needed to take her home with us.  The price point was perfect.  The artist’s name is Sara Ward and she makes her real money as a florist.  I didn’t get to meet her which would have made the evening even better.  I told RM he really needed to work the room at his event because half the fun for the patron is getting to know a little bit about the artist.  The work we purchased will continue to hang in the art gallery this month before I pick her up.  Go check her out if you have a few free moments.

Do you buy original art work for your home? We have always invested in a few pieces even when we were struggling to make ends meet in our early years of marriage.  The art work makes our little house on Ashland so much more “homey”  especially with the special memories, travel, and people associated with every purchase.  Many of our pieces were made by our family members or passed down from one generation to another.  RM’s parents bought us our first original piece of art for a wedding present.  It is a picture of a Kansas prairie that has been in our home for thirty years reminding of us of our home state. C1 has painted many pieces for us over the years including a lovely sunflower motif that I cherish. We by no means have a collection but we do have a sanctuary full of love.

Funky things to do in the Fort

Funky things to do in the Fort


We are hosting a guest from Italy this summer for four days so I began thinking about funky things to do in the Fort and yes, Dallas.  Here is what I have listed so far but would welcome suggestions as our guest has been to Fort Worth before and has done the more traditional sight-seeing.  I had some help from my work colleagues in developing this list but wanted to share with others who are equally proud of our city and can’t wait to show it off to visitors over the summer months.

  1.  An evening run to a little ice cream shop called Melt; located on Rosedale for rose petal ice cream and other unusual flavors – we will see how it competes with gelato.
  2. A drive around town in our pickup to show her some of Fort Worth’s big well pads and sites so she sees our natural gas production first hand and learns a new term, “fracking”.
  3. A trip over to Big D for the George Bush library. Oscar de la Renta Exhibit at George Bush Center if she is interested in fashion, visit Klyde Warren Park after or have coffee at the Crooked Tree (Emma’s recommendations)
  4. A trip to Justin’s Outlet to try on boots or a chunky belt (if she doesn’t already have a pair). If you’re in the mood for a treat, stop by the neighborhood bakery Stir Crazy Baked Goods (http://www.stircrazybakedgoods.com/index.php)
  5. Making smores in the backyard.
  6. Swimming at the new pool in Forest Park.
  7. Walking the Trinity Trail behind Trinity River Campus.
  8. RM’s pizza – as good as any we had while visiting Italy several years ago.
  9. Dinner downtown on Sundance Square at one of the new restaurants. Suggestion is Bird Cafe to  enjoy the upstairs patio and fire pit.
  10. Music on the patio at Central Market.
  11. Coffee at Brewed.
  12. Checking out the blown glass pieces at SiNiCa.
  13. Movie Tavern for pancakes and a movie.
  14. Shopping at small businesses like the Flea, Wrare, Museum Shops and others.
  15. Pastry and coffee at Swiss Pastry House.
  16. Panther Pavillion has Sunday Fundays where we can rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and canoes. Maybe we will watch her from the shore.
  17. Live Oak has live music on the rooftop in the evenings so may check that out.  Next door to Brewed so that is a plus.
  18. RM can engrave something or turn something for her and she can check out the shop and the laser engraver on wheels.
  19. Introduce her to our neighbors and our street. Now, that’s funky!
  20. Farmer’s Market on Saturdays at the circle.
Mighty 4th of July

Mighty 4th of July

bottle rocket

The 4th of July is the holy grail of holidays for my older brothers. I woke up the morning of the 4th wondering if I would live to see the 5th. My dear brothers, especially Ed, looked forward to this day with relish, saving their money, working at the Boy Scout fireworks stand, with ode to punk clouding their senses like Mary Jane did a few years later. The punk was righteous. Black cats were too. Ant dens were lined with firecrackers and blown to bits as was any plastic toy no longer fit for service. The three boys played terrorizing games of lighting the fuse and then egging each other on for that last…possible..moment to pitch it before it exploded under the fleshy leg of a fellow 4th of July addict. Nothing was safe especially not the little sister. When I was five, I hung onto the porch on our house on Main and played my innocent games of lighting black snakes until they burnt into coils leaving permanent black marks on the cement landing. I would gather the courage by nightfall to light sparklers and run around the front yard writing my name in the night air. My brothers on the other hand were re – enacting World War II, launching bottle rockets off the bow of the house from old Coke bottles and lighting an arsenal of firecracker packets time and time again. I finally grew weary of all of the noise, noise, noise, noise and escaped to my bedroom after watching the final Roman candle racing across the night sky.

Ed loved the 4th so much because his birthday fell on the 6th so it was like the 4th of July was his own private birthday celebration. One year I spoiled his birthday bash. I loved to run through the sprinklers in my bathing suit especially after all of the fireworks were depleted. Cathy and I set up the sprinkler system (she was three years older than me and could do everything). We changed into our bathing suits and we were pretending to be gazelles or more likely Bambi leaping over the sprinkler in fine ballet form, stretching our legs out and pointing our toes. After an especially high leap, the next thing I remember is being carried inside and the contrasting sight of the  color of my blood against a white porcelain tub. A chunk of broken glass was imbedded in the arch of my foot — made possible by a broken Coke bottle fractured by a bottle rocket left in the yard after WW II. After a frantic trip to Dr. Ball’s office, stitches and the rest (a lot of pain I might add for my brothers reading this blog), I was able to come home with a foot bandaged that impressed all the neighbor kids. Ed got a talking to, felt bad, and bought me a hard back book of fairy tales that I treasured so much that I routinely brought out every 4th to read to remind me that my brothers did love me even though they often nearly killed me with their well-intentioned escapades of fun.

The Blame Game

The Blame Game


I was involved in a project this week that involved multiple stakeholders inside and outside the organization with a very aggressive schedule and many complicated action steps to complete the project by a hard and fast deadline.  I was not the project manager but I was an important team lead representing one large stakeholder to the project.  While we did complete the project by the deadline, the process was emotionally draining and relationships were damaged as we resorted to what I call the Blame Game.  As leaders, it’s important to realize that we respond to others based upon how we see ourselves. If we are confident and mentally strong, we embrace change and realize that failure is an integral part of learning. If we’re fearful of rejection, we tend to look for excuses that explain our lack of performance. As I reflect on the experience, I wanted to learn more about why we so quickly respond to our own deficiencies by blaming others.  Pointing fingers at one another really doesn’t help the situation.

Blame—is incredibly selfish behavior: People who make excuses tend to overemphasize themselves while at the same time denying the negative aspects of their behavior.

Blame—brings a feeling of control: The person who blames others is usually in the weak position.

Blame—lessens the feeling of helplessness: People who feel helpless often do not have the skills to deal with the problem at hand.

Blame—spreads like a contagion: The attitude of helplessness, making excuses, and blaming others can spread.

Blaming others is a poor strategy. Not simply because everyone can see through it. There’s a more essential reason why blame is a bad idea: Blame prevents learning. If something isn’t your fault, then there’s no reason for you to do anything differently. Which means, in all probability, you’ll make the same mistake in the future. That will lead to more blame. It’s a cycle that almost always ends badly.  So next time, when I am once again in a similar situation, I will accept the blame.

Contrary to what I may feel in the moment, taking the blame is the power move, strengthening my position, not weakening it. First of all, because once you’ve taken responsibility for something, you can do something about it, which gives you strength.

But also because it takes courage to own your blame, and that shows strength. It immediately silences anyone who might try to blame you — what’s the point if you’ve already taken the blame? The “blame you” conversation is over. Now you can focus on solving problems.

Being defensive makes you slippery. Taking responsibility makes you trustworthy. You might think it puts you at risk because others may see an opening and jump on you. But that’s not what usually happens.

Taking the blame serves as an example. When you take the blame, others get embarrassed about not taking the blame themselves. When they see you don’t get shot, they feel emboldened to take the risk.