After five years and ten months of living in Austin, it's high time I pointed out some positive things with sincerity.
So here it goes.
Top Ten Things I Love About Texas
10. The Sunsets. I love striding out to the front yard in the evening to watch the sunset. Even with 100+ heat with ridiculous humidity, I can't help but be happy and grateful as the sun illuminates clouds in pinks and purples. I have seen magnificent works of art in the sky, and each evening it's a different painting.
9. Restaurants. I like food. La Madeleine, North by Northwest, and The Steeping Room are among my favorite places to escape.
8. Tex Mex. This deserves its own category! We missed Tex Mex when we were in Raleigh. It's fried, it's salty, and is best with an ice cold beer! Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas were non-existent in North Carolina except for a Don Pablo's in Asheville. Tex Mex is a comfort food we like having around!
7. The immigrants. I recognize that this is more of an aspect and definitely not a thing. I'm sure it's not politically correct, but yes, I love the Mexican immigrants. My Spanish is terrible, but they never seem to mind. They are the most friendly people in Texas and the most family oriented. They work hard and are grateful! They love being in America. Some come here with college degrees, but because businesses don't recognize the universities, immigrants have to start from the bottom of a company. They scrub the toilets or work odd, long hours or do things for half pay to prove themselves. It usually doesn't take them long before they are recognized for their hard work and are promoted. They save, buy homes, and make sure their kids study for school. Many are in absolute poverty as they try to attain the American dream for their families. I'm not blind to the problems in the poorer Latino communities, nor am I blind to the problem of America being the teat that feeds the world (can our government really afford that?). Still, I think the prejudices against Latinos are unfair and are perpetuated by sensationalist news.
6. The Hill Country. The Hill Country, of which Austin sits on the edge, is beautiful. It's not as breathtaking as the Rockies or Appalachians, but it reminds me of parts of California, complete with "Falling Rock" signs along the streets. Lake Travis is a part of the Hill Country, and I love taking time to sit on a hill and watch the sailboats below.
5. The Stories. Texas stories are different. They are about grit, getting things done, and being tough. They aren't romantic. They are hard and real, and anything fantastic about them is more Tall Tales than Fairy Tale. And yet there is always an element of humor. A true Texas story will make you laugh til you split yer side.
4. Roses. If you're smart and don't sympathy buy rose bushes on clearance from WalMart like I did, then roses are marvelous to grow here. Native Texas roses are not as big and bountiful as in the Northwest, but they are beautiful. Knockout Roses are grown everywhere here, and I never get tired of seeing them.
3. Whole Foods. Whole Foods was founded here, and it has a huge influence on the area. HEB competes with their Central Market and Central Market brands. Whole Foods has brought an awareness of not only organic foods but also of international foods to the region. They make the store atmosphere fun so that it's an escape to shop there. The baggers are the best trained of any grocery store anywhere! I never have to worry about fruit getting squished or raw meat hanging out with the bread.
2. Amanda's Kitchen. My oft mentioned friend Amanda and her husband live in a 1400 sq. ft. house with six kids ages fifteen and under! (Her oldest was married this January, so there was a time she had seven kids in there!) Her kitchen is the place to be whether sipping ice cold water on a hot day or steaming hot coffee when the cold front blows in. I have laughed and cried there. I have talked about poopy diapers and questions of theology, all in the same afternoon while sitting at her table. Amanda doesn't have a kitchen anywhere else and is completely unique to Texas.
1. We live in Harvard. Our home was brand new, though already built, when we bought it. It is called the Harvard plan. I loved that little fact when we signed the closing papers, and it still makes me smile when I think about it. This home has been a place of learning not just letters and numbers, but of human frailty and God's unending love. I have come to love our home. This is now officially the place I have lived the longest in, ever in my entire life. I daydream of making changes to the floorplan, of moving closer to Austin for a shorter commute for David, or out of state and away from blistering heat and scorpions, but no matter what the future holds, I will always love that we had this Harvard home.