Friday, February 14, 2014

The pain of loving Kansas

I love Kansas. And the past couple of days that has been a painful thing to do.

I moved here in 6th grade, after years of moving around the county and world as an Army brat. At first I wasn’t excited about Kansas. I didn’t understand it. I knew as much about it as anyone else who makes the mind-numbing Wizard of Oz jokes. It was flat and boring. At a least a day’s drive to anywhere good.

Years went by and Kansas was where I remained. And slowly I began to appreciate it without realizing it. The vast and rolling (yes there are hills in Kansas) landscapes began to grow on me. The people were nice and fun. And they didn’t all drive tractors and wear overalls. And when you did pass a tractor or pickup on a gravel road, you exchanged finger waves. It’s how we say “Hi”. And if you get a flat tire on one of those roads where it seems like there isn’t anyone around for miles, you can be guaranteed that within 15 minutes a nice person- a Kansan- will stop and help you out.  And when I do want to get on a plane and visit the ocean, it only takes me three hours. Some may think we are in the middle of nowhere, but really we’re in the middle of everything.

And unfortunately, we are now in the middle of this horrible and hateful war on people. People. Fellow Kansans. Our neighbors and friends, sons and daughters. The people we see in restaurants. They are doctors, lawyers, middle managers, sanitation workers and teachers. They are Kansans. They drive on our streets and pay their taxes. They, like us, choose to live in a place with under-appreciated landscapes and a misunderstood way of life. Sure we are prone to look down on each other depending on whether they are a K-State Wildcat or KU Jayhawk (ROCK CHALK!). But if I’m in NYC or California and I see someone with a K-State shirt on, I claim them. Happily. They are a Kansan. Like me. And that is who this war is against. Not just the LGBT community. But Kansans. All Kansans.
Our state government has been taken over by extremists. They are not moderate Kansans. They, dare I say, are not even Kansans. Their drivers licenses may say Kansas. But they aren’t Kansans. If they were,  they wouldn’t take away the services that help our mentally disabled. They wouldn’t take away the social services that help the children of our great State. They wouldn’t pass and implement tax laws that don’t make any sense and place burdens on the backs of everyday Kansans that will soon be unbearable. They wouldn’t pass laws that say because “you don’t live  and believe like I do”, I will no longer serve you – in a restaurant or as a citizen. They wouldn’t be hurting Kansans. They’d be helping them.

Kansas gets enough grief from people outside of the state that don’t understand us. We all get asked “where’s Toto?”. But we can handle those asinine “flat as a pancake” and “you’re not in Kansas anymore” comments because those who say them don’t understand Kansas. They don’t understand the beauty of the Flint Hills or the unmitigated joy one gets in cheering on the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. They don’t understand how great Free State Beer is and how good Yoder cinnamon rolls are. So, we forgive them, because they don’t get it.

But what we can’t forgive is the hatefulness that our elected officials are directing to the Kansans they are supposed to serve. If allowed to continue, the damage they are doing to Kansas will be incalculable.  We just won’t be the laughing stock of this country, we’ll be a cautionary tale. We won’t just lose fellow Kansans, who can’t in good conscience continue to raise their families in our state, but we’ll lose people who decided not move their businesses here. Why would they? They wouldn’t want to move their businesses to a state that has an underfunded education system and doesn’t value all of their citizenry. And what prospective employees would want to move somewhere that questions basic science and doesn’t understand the importance of separation of church and state.

Kansas was established in 1861 because we needed a place- a refuge- for people who believed in freedom for all. We built schools and libraries because we knew the importance of learning about things we didn’t understand.

These misguided extremists cannot have our state. It’s not theirs. It’s ours.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

10 days and counting

We're down to 10 days and counting until the big day.

Rings have been bought. Fittings have been completed. Vendors have been paid. Church has been confirmed. Everything seems to be in place but that doesn't stop me, my mom and future mom-in-law from stressing over the fact that we don't have anything to do. The one side effect of our goal of having a small, simple and elegant wedding is that it's all over but the waiting.

I am happy that Brian and I have reached the point where we are just focused on having fun with all of our friends and family. We feel very fortunate to have found our DJ (thanks Tracy M.!). He seems to be on the same page as to our music preferences and the feel we want for dinner and for dancing. Brian has made me promise not to go around the reception and goad people into dancing. I'll keep my word. I'll goad you now- if you are coming to the wedding- get out there and dance!!! :-)

I'm heading back home tomorrow for a week of prep (picking up the dress, hair, etc.), hopefully a little relaxation and a "final fling before the ring" party. Can't wait to see all of my friends and enjoy downtown Lawrence. I'm a little nervous about the surprises that are apparently in store for me. But have faith that my bridal entourage won't embarrass me-- too much.

10 days left of being a single girl. Weird. Two years ago, I honestly didn't think I would ever get married and I was okay with that. I was being extra kind to my nieces and nephews, as I figured they would be in charge of what assisted living home I was going to be in one day.

And then that magic little computer delivered Brian to me in my inbox. Thank you magic computer.

17 months since that fateful email match, we are about to become one.  It has been really humbling to hear from friends and family that are driving two days or flying in for less than 24 hours just to be part of this special day with us. It has started to occur to me how overwhelming it is going to be to see friends from college, co-workers that have turned into wonderful friends and family, from near and far, in the same room. To quote George Costanza, "worlds are colliding!" and I can't wait to see it. And I really, really hope my make-up lady has industrial strength water-proof mascara.

So, 10 days from now, I'll be getting hitched to my best friend. My partner in crime. My traveling companion. The love of my life. And we'll march into that reception as Mr. & Mrs.and we'll get to celebrate our new beginning with our Louisiana and Kansas family and friends. And there will be dancing. Oh yes, there will be dancing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cat Show

This weekend is looking to be a busy one, so I figured I’d do a quick update on last weekend’s activities before the Jayhawk Mania begins in a few hours.

Last Friday – March Madness begins! We watched the Jayhawks, of course. The reality of living in an SEC town has never felt more evident then now. I’m not even sure they know what March Madness is down here. I do know that LSU spring football has begun. Ahh- the differences between Kansas and Louisiana continue. 

Please, no pictures.
Saturday was wonderful because we had no plans. We vetoed the St. Pats parade (which is supposed to be amazing down here) because we … well, we just didn’t feel like it. However, when we were looking at the weekend calendar, there was one thing we could simply not say no to—a cat show. Now, most of you know that I have two cats. The furry loves of my life. However, I’ve taken great measures to not be a crazy cat lady. You will not find any sweatshirts with cats on it in my closet. But, much like a car wreck, we couldn’t say no to watching what, we hoped would be, one of the strangest sub-cultures we’ve ever encountered first hand. So with the drum-beat theme song from the “Dog Show” skit on Saturday Night Live in our heads and hopes that we would be encountering endearing feline fanatics similar to those canine crazies in the great Christopher Guest movie, Best in Show, off we went to Gonzales, LA.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.
First, we paid our $5 to enter, which was followed by a hand stamp of a cat! Awesome!!!  Let me set the scene- The cat show was taking place in one of those big metal buildings you find at any decent fair grounds. It had four aisles of tables holding up the fabulous felines in their amazing abodes. Not your typical kennel that I use to transport mine to the vet. NO- these were like mini tents with clear plastic sides so you could see the cats in action. And by “in action” I mean curled up and sleeping. Some of them were awake and trying to catch a feather on a stick that their owners were waving frenetically in their faces. 

I do think I should be honest and say that I did find myself geeking out a little. I mean the cats were so cute. There were old cats and young cats. Short and long hair. Even no hair- which oddly enough, Brian seems to like. They even had a curly haired cat, which according to his adoring owner is the most rare cat in the world. And I, of course, now want one.
After strolling up and down the aisles (and realizing that I may have a slight cat allergy), we headed over to the judging area. There were four. The cages were set up on tables in a horse shoe with the judge in the middle. Each cat sat in their cage, staring down the competition. Some were talking trash, trying to intimidate the cat in the next cage. Some were grooming, knowing that their time to shine was coming. And others just lounged back with a slight air disdain like that of … well, a cat. 

If he would have fit in my purse and if I didn't think his owner would tackle me before I made it to the exit, #90 would be my cat right now.
As we were watching the judging, the owner of the curly haired cat came up and stood next to me. He, too, had curly hair. Silver and styled in a modified mullet. It must be the kind, mid-western vibe I gave off because he started confiding in me. He had two cats in the competition. A father and a son. But the son didn’t have a chance against the father. The father had won several national championships. The owner went on to tell me that the judge does not know that though. It would not be right. They can’t have any pre-conceived notions about the cat. We watched the judge remove the “son” cat. Black and white with curly hair, he was adorable. Looked like a winner to me. She placed him on an elevated table. She held him on his chest with one hand and petted him down his back to the tip of his tail. He was handling it like a pro. It was at this point that I imagined my cats being judged on a table- out in the open. It would go something like this- the judge, after opening the cage door, would have to place half their body into the cage to reach my cat cowering in the corner. Once they had dragged Rosie/Simon out of the cage, meowing and hissing, the cat would have climbed up the judges shoulder and made a leap for freedom. At which point, we’d be off to the races with my cat doing their best impression of an Indy car, running laps around the building. Not pretty. 

So, just the fact that cat was standing still meant they got my vote. Once she evaluated the son, it was on to the father. Again, curly hair but this time orange and white. He did have the bored look of a cat who had been to this rodeo before. I didn’t notice a huge difference in the judges evaluation between the son and the father. But their owner whispered to me that the judge was clearly more impressed with the father. Once the judging was complete, the judge consulted her notes, gathered the ribbons and placed them on the appropriate cages. This is clearly the cats favorite part because now they have hanging ribbons on the front of their cages. Let the shredding begin! But wait- something was amiss. The owner was craning to see what ribbons had been placed on the cages of his cats. He informed me that he needed to go to talk to the judge because she clearly had made a mistake. Uh oh. Looks like the son had finally eclipsed the father. Brian and I decided to take our leave at this point. We didn’t want to be witness to what was going to mar a beautiful day of judging. 

What I need to avoid becoming.
We made our way out… until I saw the humane society table. NOT FAIR!!! They had kittens. Gray ones. They rubbed their little heads on my fingers poking through the bars. Brian started slowly making his way to the exit. I know it was the smart thing. We just moved here. We are getting ready to head up to Kansas for a few weeks to get hitched. We already have two cats and if I added one more I think I would officially cross into the crazy cat lady category. One last note- they did have a “house cat” judging category. Rosie’s training on the leash begins next week. I’m kidding. Maybe. (I took lots of pictures but the stupid app I used on my phone isn't giving them up. Sorry.)

How do we top last weekend? Two words- crab boil. We’re heading to Thibodaux for an authentic Cajun crab boil- with crabs that have yet to be caught. My cats are going to be so jealous. 

Go Jayhawks!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's official....

I am a Louisiana resident.

After 3 very frustrating weeks (which brought me to the brink more than once), the Louisiana DMV has deemed it appropriate give me a Louisiana license plate and driver's license. Yes, it is possible that my procrastination led to some of the stress of having a car with expired tags for a couple of weeks. But I also found out that Kansas does things differently (shocker) when it comes to car titles, so I was at the mercy of two governmental agencies and their ability to communicate with each other. I will say, all of the people at the DMV in Baton Rouge that I dealt with, over the course of FIVE visits, were very friendly. I do think they need to update their website because the process to register an out-of-state car is quite a bit different (and more expensive) than they lead one to believe.

So here she is, my car with a LA tag. It just doesn't look quite right. But never fear- that Jayhawk isn't going anywhere!!!!

Go Hawks! (and Norfolk! How great was that!)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Going Home

It’s Pi day and I’m celebrating by baking… Mocha double chocolate chip cookies. You celebrate your way and I’ll celebrate mine. 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been meaning to sit down and update but for some reason have not been able to make myself. 

A stoller. On top of a car.
A lot has happened since last I posted. I went back home to Lawrence and had my wedding dress fitting (where after many prayers the night before and no carbs for two days- it fit like a glove! Whew!), solidified reception details, got an AWESOME chest cold, ate at Bo-Lings- TWICE! Hung out with my nephew and nieces, got to spend a lot of time with my mom (including a 7-hour search for the right strapless bra- good times!), worked on crafty little wedding details, saw a stroller on top of a car on Mass St. (no worries- there wasn't a baby in it.) and last but not least- had the most amazing bridal shower. 

Cute decorations!
Yummy food!

Cutting the cake under the watchful eye of my niece.

Mom and I

I honestly hadn’t really thought of the whole bridal shower “thing” when we decided to get married. There were actually quite a lot of “bridal” things I forgot about until reminded by mom, friends, sister-in-law, helpful vendors. So I really didn’t have any idea of what theme or type of shower I wanted. When I found out that Ashlee and Becki (because I’m really not a fan of the terms “matron of honor” and “bridesmaid”, I’ll refer to them as my bridal entourage) decided to make a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” shower, I realized my entourage is even more amazing and creative than I already knew them to be. 
Becki, Ashlee, me and Mark
Michele and I

It was a small affair held at my parents house. Becki and Ashlee truly out did themselves with the decorations and food (Ashlee’s husband, Mark, assisted as he is a very talented pastry chef and isn’t too bad with the savory items either. Stop by TheMerc and check out their bakery. All of that deliciousness is because of Mark!) My wonderful future mother-in-law sent up a King Cake for the occasion as well. 

It was really nice to see my friends and get dressed up in our little black dresses and wear tiaras (yep- I made everyone wear one- sue me- I’m only planning on getting married once and I’m doing it up right!) Becki even put together a “Brian and Heather” trivia game. Trivia! She knows me so well!


I only lost it once. Among all of the amazing culinary tools that people were generous enough to give us, there was a gift that made me realize how much I love and am missing Lawrence. My thoughtful friend Michele hit the nail on the head with Jayhawk and sunflower candles from Waxman Candles and a Lawrence, Kansas brick. It was perfect. 


As I was trying to go to sleep that night (I had not yet taken the ever-so-effective Nyquil), I was trying to understand why Michele’s gift had made me cry. It dawned on me that I am finally from somewhere. All my life when people have asked me where I was from, I would always answer “Nowhere. I’m an Army brat.” Even after having lived in Lawrence for close to 20 years, I never claimed it as it being my hometown. Now that I’ve left, I’m more from Lawrence then I’ve ever been. And when people down here ask me where I’m from, it doesn’t even dawn on me to say “nowhere”. I am quick to answer “Lawrence, Kansas.”  Not Kansas, mind you. Lawrence, Kansas. There is a difference. 

I was home in Lawrence for 10 days. It was a nice long visit. I got to hang with my friends and family. Get me a dose of snow for the winter (of course I would come home during the one week of cold weather they had in Kansas this winter.) But 10 days was also a long time to be away from my Louisiana home and Brian (and the kitties). As I was waiting for my plane home, I realized that I was pretty lucky. No matter if the plane is landing in Kansas City or New Orleans, I'm going home. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

86 days and counting...

From my blog inactivity (sorry Mom) you'd think nothing was going on. Not the case! Things have been busy and about to get busier! We are 86 days away from the BIG DAY. Gulp. I'm getting ready to get on a jet plane and fly back for dress fittings, a bridal shower and countless other details that my mom and sister-in-law will remind me of.

But as for what has been going on in South Louisiana, here is a quick rundown.

  • Brian and I are continuing our day trips around Louisiana. We did another day in New Orleans but stayed away from the Quarter this time. We went to the New Orleans Museum of Art and saw a great exhibit on the past 100 years of the museum, including some beautiful pieces by Dale Chihuly. (If you don't like to buy from wedding registries, I know that Brian and would be open to any Chihuly works you would care to surprise us with. :-) )

Vanilla Gelato and the macaroon
We also walked along Magazine Street and went to some of its great antique and vintage shops. We also stopped in at Sucre. It is a very popular sweet shop and bakery. ( I think the main guy has competed on one of the Food Network competition shows that I can't get enough of.) It is adorable inside and I started salivating immediately. Unfortunately, I again, had order envy. Brian and I wanted to try several things to get a feel of what they offered. I got a S'mores cake (it came with vanilla gelato) and a salted caramel macaroon. Brian got an AMAZING Chocolate and Peanut Butter gelato concoction and a King Cake Macaroon. I've never had a macaroon but they always look so pretty on TV. In reality- meh. I don't know what I was expecting but I was bit disappointed. The S'mores cake was good but not great. So, when in New Orleans, definitely visit Sucre but stick with the gelato (or their handmade chocolates- we didn't get any but Brian vouches for them, which is good enough for me.) 

We concluded our day in a great jazz bar, DBA. It is just off the Quarter on Frenchman's street. We went to listen to John Boutte.He's a little guy with a great big voice. It was so much fun!  A lot of people have gotten to know him recently through the HBO series, Treme. Check him out!

  • Brian and I got our office set up. The biggest task- assembling the desk. It took 5 hours. 5 long hours. And we're still engaged, so I think that's saying something!

  • A couple of weeks later, I was invited to a real English Tea by my future mother-in-law -Ms. Murray is what so many call her. It was completely charming and the food was delicious. But the best part was meeting the other women Ms. Murray invited to the Tea. They were completely charming and welcoming to me. They were funny and had great stories. It was like something out of Steel Magnolias.  They wanted to know all about our wedding plans ( I assured them my colors were not Blush and Bashful), how Brian proposed, how I was liking South Louisiana, etc, etc. It was great!

  • And I saw my first Mardi Gras parade- sort of. We went to the Mystical Krewe of Mutts parade in downtown Baton Rouge. Instead of the big floats, the stars of this parade were the four-legged citizens of Baton Rouge. There were so many dogs in costume (along with their owners)! It was great. They paraded through downtown (and it was a big parade!) Beads and dog treats were thrown to the crowd. The parade started with the King and Queen and was followed by the Prince and Princess (who paraded in absentia- for obvious reasons). It was a beautiful and sunny day and a lot of fun! The perfect introduction to Mardi Gras. 

That's about it for now. I'm sure there will be lots to share after this trip back to Kansas. I'll be sure to tell you What's Next.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Musings on a day trip- New places, old antique stores, too much cheese and the Mississippi River..

Ahh.. Kansas.
I lived in Kansas for 25 years. Having now left, I am beginning to understand how much I love it. I didn’t realize that I did. I always liked to make cracks about its politics and seemingly lack of culture. So, who would have thought that I would miss its rolling landscapes but I do. 

But also having lived there for a quarter of a century, there weren’t many day trips that were new. I’d enjoyed going into Kansas City or going to Abilene but I’d been there and done most of it. Now I’m some place new and I am in love with the fact that no matter what town we go to, it is brand new to me. 

One of our favorite things to do in Kansas was to just head out and drive. It was all new to Brian and I enjoyed showing off the state and seeing it through a newbie’s eyes. And now- I’m the newbie! A couple of weekends ago, we decided to just drive and see where we ended up. We ended up in St. Francisville. It is a charming little town with beautiful historic homes. There were antique stores and “antique” stores. We got suckered in by a couple of the “antique” stores- we should have known by the pink and cream and painting that they  weren’t going to be filled with grandma’s old kitchen utensils. Rather they were filled with jewelry, little bedside lamps for $70 and candles and lotions. Fortunately, we found real antique stores- the kind that aren’t pretty inside, make you sneeze in the first five minutes and have old 45’s mixed in with really old farm tools and headboards. 

Chicken Magnolia- yes.
We had lunch at Magnolia CafĂ©. It was a mixed experience. Brian and I split a cup of amazing gumbo. It was almost as good as Brian’s gumbo and this is saying a lot. He ordered the Chicken Magnolia sandwich. I got a Shrimp pizza. As soon as the plates were set down, I had order envy. (This is become an all too common occurrence since I met Brian. The man always seems to know what the best thing on the menu is going to be.) This was another case of serious order envy. 

Shrimp pizza- no

As with most things, it came down to a matter of ratios. The shrimp were quite delicious. The problem was the cheese. But, Heather, how can that be?? Cheese is one of God’s most amazing gifts. There are very few cheeses that I have met and not liked. And this was good ol’ mozzarella. What’s not to like?? Well, simply put- there was too much of it. Way too much. Probably twice as much as there should have been. And they didn’t cook it long enough to get the cheese a yummy golden brown in the middle. And the crust didn’t have much flavor. So, all in all, I was not a fan of the pizza. However, I will absolutely go back… and get the Chicken Magnolia and the gumbo. 

Spanish Moss
Live Oaks

After lunch, we drove around some more and saw some amazing Live Oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Romantic and creepy. Did you know that Spanish moss is actually fungus and you don't want to get it on your trees. But the tourists like it. Tourists- sheesh.

Bridge to New Roads, LA.
Then we went home via a brand new bridge over the Mississippi River. Brian had not been over the bridge yet and he wanted to see it. He (and most people down here) have a love affair with Mississippi River. They see a beauty in the constantly moving brownish-gray water that I haven’t found yet. Brian says it comes from growing up here and having so much of your life revolve around the river and its ever-changing personality. Their lives and livelihoods are dictated by how high the river is and how fast it’s moving. 

The river also dictates the geography down here. City borders and streets are rarely straight, which can really be confusing for a newbie. Especially someone from Kansas, where the 1 mile square grids of country roads make it nearly impossible to get lost. In Kansas, you orient yourself by the sun and it’s easier to find north. Down here you orient by the river and you don’t always know where you are or where you’re going. But there is almost always something new around the bend.