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This looks like me right now. Only the panda is a lot more cute.

Hello! It’s me, Stacey! Oh, you don’t recognize me? Perhaps that’s because my entire face has been taken over by an allergic reaction to some yet-to-be-identified irritant. And boy, is it irritating!

I used to be not scary to look at. But now I resemble a character in a novel about weird creatures with strange eyes. Since we last chatted (does a blog count as chatting?) I have developed an allergy to…something. I have no idea what it is. Next week the allergist will poke me in the back with a million needles filled with every allergen known to man and we’ll see which one of them lights my fire. But in the meantime my skin is blotchy, my eyes are swollen, and I have rings around my eyes that make me look like a raccoon or a panda bear or some other cute animal with cute black circles around its eyes. Only my circles are red and puffy and not at all cute. I would say that I look like a victim of domestic violence, but Jamey has been the opposite of violent–he’s been super sweet and sympathetic and hasn’t laughed at me once, even though I know I look pathetic and ridiculous. So instead I’ll say that I’m the (temporary) victim of domestic allergies, and I am armed with prednisone and some sort of cream that will evidently give me some relief. I’m very grateful for those.

So many great places to explore up here!

So many great places to explore up here!

In other, non-pathetic news: We’ve discovered some great places to explore in our new neck of the woods. I learned how to make a killer calzone, and can’t wait to try it again. We found a place to recycle our cardboard in Huntsville, something we didn’t really expect to find for some reason. My niece Olivia turned eight years old and had a tea party to celebrate. And I joined the nerdiest club in the entire universe, the Houston Economics Club. So it’s not all allergies and misery. I just enjoy a good pity party. 

I’m going to go now and lie down and put cucumbers on my eyes. Y’all enjoy the lists, and maybe next week I’ll have some news about what kind of allergy shots I’m getting. I hope everyone is happy and allergy-free.

Oh, PS: I post this blog to Twitter and LinkedIn, so if you don’t already follow me, give it a try. Or you can just subscribe to the blog and it will come into your inbox unbidden. 

top 20

Olivia

Olivia

Ella

Ella

  1. My nieces: Olivia turned eight on January 27 and Ella turns two on February 9. They are the best nieces in the world, and I”m not at all biased.
  2. sympathy in my time of self pity
  3. my sisters, who go out of their way to make every birthday a special one for their kids
  4. Prednisone. Amazing stuff.
  5. Finding out that I somehow missed a new Holmes/Russell book from Laurie R. King at the end of last year. I’m so excited to read it!
  6. While we’re on the subject, the television show Elementary. I’m admittedly Sherlock Holmes-obsessed, but it’s a pretty good show.
  7. being able to work from home
  8. supportive people in my life
  9. Bob Costas
  10. nerds
  11. trailblazing
  12. rediscovering the Denise Austin Pilates/Yoga Workout (I have abs! Who knew?)
  13. Siri
  14. My fellow Board members and the Executive Director of the Texas Independence Trail Region. What a great group of people!
  15. art on the walls
  16. movie night
  17. The Da Vinci Code
  18. Anne Burrell
  19. 360i, the agency responsible for the most timely Oreo Cookie ad ever
  20. The Great SuperBowl Blackout. That was the best 35 minutes on Twitter I think I’ve ever enjoyed. Even better than the Manti Te’o fake girlfriend revelation.

bottom 10

Chart is from WILLIAM D. TOWNSEND, O.D.'s article "The Wicked Itch of the East" posted on www. optometricmanagement.com

Chart is from WILLIAM D. TOWNSEND, O.D.’s article “The Wicked Itch of the East” posted on www. optometricmanagement.com

  1. whatever evil allergen is responsible for the current state of affairs on my face
  2. SuperBowl calories
  3. disappointment
  4. insomnia
  5. rediscovering the Denise Austin Pilates/Yoga Workout (I have abs. I remember now.)
  6. The over-zealous pedicure lady who scraped my feet raw with that grater thing. Sometimes callouses built by years of wearing four-inch high heels should just stay where they are.
  7. anxiety
  8. Ashley Judd and Dario Franchitti breaking up. They were such a cute couple!
  9. uncooperative yeast
  10. Go Daddy. That ad was something I wish I could un-see, and not because it was a cute girl with an un-cute guy. It would have been gross with anyone.

Hello! Look at me posting two blogs in one month. Looks like 2013 is off to a running start! 

All in all life the past few weeks has been good, with just a few small things to complain about and make it interesting. I started a new job on February 7 as the acting Director of the North Houston Economic Development Council, a job I think I can really enjoy. As some of you know, I have been in the economic development world for several years, and I’m looking forward to broadening my horizons and helping to grow the economy of the north Houston region. Watch for new economic-development type blogs coming in the next few months–I’ll expect all eight of my regular readers to follow them!

What my commute looks like on a rainy day.

What my commute looks like on a rainy day.

My job comes with an hour-long commute, something I’ve not had before and I am slowly getting used to. So far it isn’t too bad, except when it’s raining. For some reason everyone driver in Houston turns into an idiot when faced with any kind of precipitation. There’s a stretch of several miles of my commute that is a two-lane construction zone, and I drive through it with white knuckles on the best of days. So when it’s pouring outside it just stresses me out–particularly when there are large trucks on either side of me, which there often are. I have no idea how Jamey did an even longer commute every day last year. I have it much easier than he did because (a) my commute is half an hour shorter, (b) I don’t have to drive through downtown Houston, (c) my office doesn’t even open until 9 a.m., and (d) I’m only in the office three days a week.  I also know that it’s all temporary until we find a place in between our two jobs. And yet I complain. I’m the ultimate wimp.

But apart from my commute, life is pretty good. Huntsville continues to be beautiful and charming, the job is interesting and challenging, all of my bills are paid, and our little apartment is becoming more homey as we put things into their places and hang our art on the walls. It’s been pretty cold here lately, so Jamey has been making use of our little fireplace. I can’t tell you how lovely it is to come home after a long day to a warm cozy fire and the soft pretty light of our living room with Jamey and the cats waiting for me. If only I had a chauffeur, a live-in maid and a personal chef my life would be complete. 

I have to say just a quick word about football: While I have enjoyed this year’s playoff season much more than I have in the past (mostly because I actually understand the game), I have to admit that I’m a little footballed out. Also, I’m tired of the commercials. So I, for one, will be very happy to see the Super Bowl on February 3 (even if the Texans couldn’t quite get it together this year) because it will mean that football is done for a few months. 

I hope all of you have a fantastic week. Enjoy the lists!

top 20

Eat your heart out, Norman Rockwell.

Eat your heart out, Norman Rockwell.

  1. home sweet home
  2. hot cocoa
  3. using the stairs as an exercise tool
  4. having time off each week
  5. Henry and Patrick, the guards at my work who make sure I get to and from my car safely every day.
  6. my new hair salon
  7. the HEB store in The Woodlands (I refer to it as the “VersacEB”)
  8. Silver Linings Playbook
  9. new challenges
  10. Jon Stewart. How many other comedians does Paul Krugman take to task in his column?
  11. the inclusion of poetry in the inauguration ceremonies
  12. sleeping in
  13. the Twitterverse response to Manti Te’O’s fake girlfriend revelation
  14. Tina Fey and Amy Pohler hosting the Golden Globes
  15. good examples
  16. bed linens from Restoration Hardware
  17. flexibility
  18. Evernote
  19. reconnecting with professional colleagues
  20. Google Chrome commercials

bottom 10

So cute. And so cruel.

So cute. And so cruel.

  1. the return of cute, cruel shoes
  2. being cold
  3. having skin problems all of the sudden
  4. Lance Armstrong. I hate being disappointed by people I admire.
  5. baking disasters
  6. insipid arguments
  7. sneezy cats
  8. inconsistent wireless signal
  9. commuting in general
  10. commuting in rainy day traffic
The beautiful Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque.

The beautiful Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque.

Happy New Year!

I love the year when it’s all shiny and new like it is now, with all of its promise and potential. The year 2013 is just five short days old, and while we have no idea what will happen in the next 360 days, we can hope that it’s mostly good and enlightening. 

We ended 2012 well, with a trip to the Dominican Republic. It was a fantastic vacation, and I recounted our experience in a whole separate blog post here. When we got back to the USA we were here just long enough to unpack our swimsuits, then we repacked our suitcases with warm winter clothes and flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico to spend the Christmas holiday with half of the Ford clan (Sarah and Kellie and their families stayed in California this year). We had a great time hanging out with my parents and Jackie and Evan and playing with my new nephew, Finn and trying to make him laugh and smile. Jamey went all out and made my Christmas extra special, even thought we had agreed that we weren’t going to exchange gifts since we went on vacation and got new iPhones. We enjoyed a fantastic Christmas dinner, had breakfast with my high-school friend Kevin and his wife Courtney, and ate at our favorite Albuquerque dive (The Frontier) twice.  

After we came back from New Mexico we took a beautiful scenic drive to San Antonio to ring in the new year with Jamey’s family. We enjoyed a fantastic, fattening New Year’s Eve feast (the fattening part was at my request) at Jack’s house with the fam. Then Jamey, Carly, Jack and I watched a movie (the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) until midnight, when we went outside and toasted 2013 with peach bellinis (teetotaler Jack had milk) while we watched and judged the fireworks display going on all around us. On New Years Day we ate ourselves silly with the traditional Osborne Family New Years Feast. Carly and I couldn’t stand it anymore and we went for a nice long (7 mile!) walk and felt like we earned the chance to have a third helping. A lovely visit all in all.

I’m very spoiled in multiple ways, and grateful that I have a great husband and family to share the holidays with. I’m also really happy to finally be living in the same place as Jamey. I start my new job on Monday, and I’m excited to see what that holds for me. I’m also excited to settle in to our little apartment and get to know the City of Huntsville. I don’t make New Years resolutions, but I do hope that in this coming year I can love my life and enjoy individual moments more than I have–this past year I often got so worried about the big picture that I failed to appreciate the smaller moments that make everything worth it, and I want to savor more of those moments this year. I can’t wait to see what the new year has in store for me, and I’m hopeful that this new start will live up to its wonderful promise.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013. Enjoy the lists, and have a fabulous week!

top 202012-12-30_ThereIsANewBeginning2

  1. new beginnings
  2. The music and story of Les Miserables. While the film version has its ups and downs, the music is amazing and the story is inspirational. It’s been fun to revisit it.
  3. rest and relaxation
  4. fireworks
  5. peach bellinis
  6. the Houston Texans (and JJ Watt)
  7. Texas A&M (and Johnny Manziel)
  8. posole
  9. weather cold enough to warrant a fire in the fireplace
  10. family
  11. morning walks
  12. feeling rested
  13. catching up with old friends
  14. The TED talk on the Transformative Power of Classical Music by Benjamin Zander. Mr. Zander inspires me to be a better person and a better leader.
  15. the lovely warm blankets my mom made us for Christmas
  16. new recipes
  17. thank you notes
  18. the scent of fresh coffee
  19. Joel Stein
  20. coming home

bottom 10

I wonder what our founding fathers would say about our current Congress and its shenanigans?

I wonder what our founding fathers would say about our current Congress and its shenanigans?

  1. our dysfunctional Congress (I think they’ll be on this list for a while)
  2. ruining my newly manicured fingernails just hours after getting them done
  3. large smells in tiny places
  4. the schizophrenic temperatures in our apartment: upstairs is toasty warm and downstairs is FREEZING
  5. accidentally bringing my mother’s car keys home to Huntsville with me
  6. dandruff
  7. spoiled mint (makes for really awful mojitos)
  8. unhelpful salespeople
  9. the Whataburger in Giddings, TX
  10. fake champagne

No Words

NOTE: This post should have been filed under “non list blogs”, but I wrote it on my iPhone in the car as we were headed out of town. Most of the time you’ll find actual top 20 and bottom 10 lists here, but the situation warranted an emergency post on my part.

As we make our way to IAH for a fun vacation, the flags at half-mast along the way are a sobering reminder that the country is in mourning for the 27 people who were slain in Connecticut on Friday, 20 of them children. Even as I type that it seems so surreal to me, and impossible to wrap my head around.

I don’t have any children of my own, but this tragedy touched me, like it did the rest of the country, because the victims were so young and so innocent and so undeserving. And what makes it the most horrible, to me, is the fact that they weren’t casualties of an adult altercation–the gunman went to an elementary school, a place where he knew that small children would be, and he intentionally targeted them. At this point I don’t know the motivation or the reasons (can there possibly be a reason for something so heinous?), but that fact alone chills my blood and challenges my sense of balance in the world.

There are no words to adequately explain the grief and sympathy and sense of overwhelming heartbreak that I know I share with so many people. There’s nothing I can say in 140 characters that would seem adequate in any way so I’ve not posted anything of my own on social media. All I can do, like everyone else, is wonder why.

I’m heading out of the country, and I have several days of rest and relaxation ahead of me. I know when I return the flags will be back at full staff and the news media will move on to some other story. But right now it’s still fresh in my mind and my conscience, so I wanted to write a few words, however inadequate they may be.

IMG_2663Gosh it’s been a long time! For those of you who read my blog regularly (all three of you), I’m very sorry–I’ve been a bit busy. For those of you who occasionally check in, or who are just joining us, welcome! I usually post much more often than once a quarter. 

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of my life in the last six months: We put our house on the market in July; Jamey turned 50 in August; Jamey’s lease on his apartment in Huntsville ran out in September so he moved back to La Porte (and resumed the insane 90-minute-each-way commute to Huntsville); we sold the house in October; I quit my job with the City of La Porte in November (with a choir of angels singing in the background); and we moved to Huntsville the week of Thanksgiving. To celebrate this new chapter in our life, and to recover from a ridiculously stressful move and lack of Thanksgiving holiday, we are going to the Dominican Republic for a week before Christmas. I’m super excited about that. 

250px-HuntsvilleTXSignHuntsville is absolutely beautiful. There are tall pines all over the place and the air is crisp and clean and everyone is really nice. I’ve only gotten lost once so far, but I’m sure that will change over time. Our new place is very tiny–we’re renting a small condo in Huntsville until we figure out where I’m going to land, then we’ll find a more permanent place to put down our roots in North Houston. So we’ve had to learn to live small again, and that’s not a bad thing. Jamey has worked really hard to put in extra lighting and install additional storage shelves and artwork for me so I can feel like I’m at home. Since he’s been doing this in his off time while he’s working at his very time consuming and stressful job, I doubly appreciate his efforts. I have found a new position, but I’ll get into that in a future blog since there is an announcement pending. I can tell you that I start January 7, it’s in economic development, and it’s an exciting opportunity for me. 

Finnegan Corey Ottesen, the newest edition to the Ford Clan.

Finnegan Corey Ottesen, the newest edition to the Ford Clan.

In the middle of all of the insanity in the last few months we had a moment of pure joy: my youngest sister Jackie and her husband Evan welcomed their first child into the world on October 16. The whole family is bananas over little Finnegan Corey Ottesen, for good reason–he’s adorable. I went to see him in October and we’re going to go back to Albuquerque to visit him, his parents, and my parents for Christmas and I’ll be happy to see him again and to introduce him to his Uncle Jamey. Also: my sister Kellie celebrated her 33rd birthday in August, my nephew Jaxon celebrated his 7th birthday in September, and my mom celebrated her 62nd birthday in November.

So here we are, in the middle of another holiday season in a very different, and better place. I wish all of you a happy, merry, bright holiday. Whatever it is that you celebrate, I hope you do it surrounded by people and in places that you love, and that your celebration brings you peace, comfort and joy.

NOTE: If any of you wish to subscribe to the blog, just click the little button on your right. You’ll get an email every time I post, and that’s all it will entail. I promise not to send you spam or email you videos of my cats.

Here’s a top 20/bottom 10 to help with the merriment:

top 20IMG_2659

  1. starting a new chapter
  2. planning a much-needed vacation
  3. trees
  4. drinking coffee on our tiny back porch
  5. gainful employment
  6. homemade tortillas
  7. having dinner with my lovely step-daughter in Galveston
  8. wrapping packages
  9. The Litter Robot. Seriously, if you have a cat (or two or three) and live in a tiny place it’s a great investment.
  10. iPhone upgrade
  11. cold spells
  12. long drives on country roads
  13. getting organized
  14. sleeping in
  15. talking to my sisters every day
  16. The film Flight, which I finally went to see. Denzel Washington is awesome, as always, and it’s a good film that makes you think.
  17. This year’s fantastic holiday movie lineup–Les Miserables, The Guilt Trip, Zero Dark 30…so many movies, so little time.
  18. ice cream
  19. good friends
  20. surprises

bottom 10

  1. Being financially dependent–even temporarily. I HATE not having my own money.
  2. exhaustion
  3. laundry
  4. broken nails
  5. clutter
  6. the words “fiscal” and “cliff”
  7. ridiculous password protection systems
  8. headaches
  9. too few windows
  10. people who drive slowly in the left lane

Some of the roughly 200 Fords who showed up for this year’s reunion. Yes, we do have a big family, and yes, we do hold our reunion in a canyon.

Is it August already? How did that happen? July was so busy it just flew right by me. This whole crazy year has just flown by, now that I think of it. 

We worked really hard on our house the first couple of weeks of July, and then we went to Utah for a Ford Family Reunion, always a fun experience. There were about 200 people there, and they did a special program to honor my grandfather who turned 90 earlier this year. All of my sisters were there, so we planned a surprise dinner for my parents to celebrate their 40th Anniversary (which was on June 11). We all live in different cities and states, so it was kind of amazing that we were actually able to pull it off–that was largely due to the efforts of my sister Kellie, who is ever-so-slightly OCD, but a really fantastic party planner. My dad gave my mom an iPhone for their anniversary, and we gave them an iPad–so they’re now hip and cool like us.

August is Birthday and Anniversary Month in the Ford family, as you’ll see from the top four of the top 20 this week. Jamey’s birthday this year is a big one, so I hope it’s especially happy for him. His family doesn’t get nearly as excited about celebrating birthdays as mine does, but we’re going to celebrate in style because how often do you turn 50? We’re planning a cruise in November to celebrate with his kids, so that should be lots of fun.

I’m really enjoying the Olympics this year. I don’t watch them quite as obsessively as my husband does–or as my husband would if he wasn’t living in Huntsville without a television during the week–but I really do enjoy what I watch. The whole idea of the Olympics is awesome. I wish we could translate that same spirit of Citius, Altius, Fortius into academia. Or politics. 

In other news, our house in La Porte is officially on the market, so if anyone is interested in a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a fantastic floor plan, let me know!

Have a great week, enjoy the lists, and be good to each other.

NOTE: If you’d like to get this blog delivered directly to your inbox, just click the “Sign Me Up” button on the right-hand side of this page.

top 20

  1. The Birthday Boy. Looking good for an old man!

    Jamey, who turns the Big 5-0 next Tuesday. I’m so proud of all that he’s accomplished in his 50 years, and I just love him to death.

  2. My sister Jackie, who turns 26 next Wednesday. She is seven months pregnant, so I hope she gets to put her feet up and relax the whole day–she deserves it!
  3. My brother-in-law Craig, who turns 33 next Thursday. Craig is an awesome brother-in-law, husband, and father and I’m glad he’s part of our family.
  4. My sister Sarah and the Birthday Boy Craig, who also celebrate TEN YEARS of marriage next Wednesday
  5. forgiveness
  6. taking the high road
  7. the aftermath of a good workout (see bottom 10, number 4)
  8. planning surprises
  9. The US Olympic Team. I love hearing our anthem played at a medals ceremony.
  10. the Olympics in general
  11. TED (the awesome inspirational talks by innovative thinkers, NOT the horrible movie starring a vile teddy bear)
  12. The Daily Show back on the air
  13. Restaurant Impossible
  14. preparing to start a new chapter
  15. seeing all of my sisters in Utah
  16. hanging out with my aunt JoAn and Uncle Don
  17. introducing my parents to the Joy of the iPad
  18. giving up our seats on Southwest Airlines and getting vouchers in return
  19. anticipation for Ken Follett’s new book, Winter of the World
  20. The Asia Society in Houston. It’s a really great organization, housed in a stunning building in downtown Houston.

bottom 10

  1. being a worry wart

    The Travelers Insurance dog, the ultimate worry wart. He and I are kindred spirits.

  2. bad sound mixing
  3. lack of sleep
  4. actually working out (I’m really very very lazy)
  5. dark circles under my eyes from exhaustion (see number 3)
  6. feeling like a crazy person (see number 3)
  7. downward spirals
  8. anxiety (see number 3)
  9. Restless Leg Syndrome. I’m pretty sure I have it. (I don’t think I can blame that on number 3)
  10. wasps

Yeah…it’s raining.

It’s pouring rain today, which is great for the plants and the soil and the environment in general, and really terrible for my hair. There are flash flood warnings for four different counties in the area, and everyone is being urged to avoid driving into giant puddles of water, or the bayou, or the Gulf of Mexico. It always baffles me that they have to warn us not to do that, but every year it seems like dozens of cars are carried down the bayou because their owners thought they were smarter than Mother Nature. Morons.

I looked pretty decent when I left the house this morning, my hair all teased and sprayed and Texan-ized. But when I got to work and opened my umbrella into the torrential rain, the wind picked it up and turned it completely inside out. I’m always the last one to work (relax–I’m also usually the last one there at night), so all of the good parking spots close to the covered walkway were taken. So I was parked across the parking lot from the building and I had to run to the door in the rain, getting completely drenched in the process.  At least I had the presence of mind to grap some flip flops before I left, so I didn’t have to toddle across in my three-and-a-half-inch-heels (and ruin them).

Now some women look really sexy and “come hither” with wet hair.  Sadly, I’m not one of them. I just look really frumpy, like I forgot how to comb my hair. So I’m wandering around City Hall in my soggy clothes and bedraggled hair and flip flops, basically looking like a homeless person. I’m sure the City is proud, proud, proud to have me representing them today. For the sake of our citizens, I hope the site selector for Starbucks doesn’t come waltzing up to the front desk looking for the economic developer so he can find a place to build here.

Hopefully you’re a little more dry and a little less bedraggled than me today. Enjoy the lists, and remember: Turn Around. Don’t Drown! 

UPDATE: They’re doing foundation repair on my house today. In the rain. So I left cozy City Hall and came home, where I still look like a homeless person, but now I look like a dazed homeless person from all of the jackhammering. My cats are Freaking. Out.

Also–Texas Real Estate Business featured a quote from moi in their Enewsletter that goes out to 8900 readers in Texas. Super nice of them. You can read it here if you’re interested (and didn’t already see my post on Twitter and LinkedIn). 

top 20

  1. rainy mornings
  2. won ton soup
  3. Woody Allen
  4. technology
  5. my 90-year old grandfather, who has made it through two surgeries this past month with flying colors
  6. looking forward to seeing my sisters
  7. sincerity
  8. teamwork
  9. good neighbors
  10. My optometrist, Dr. Pham. He always makes me feel like a rock star because I can pass the eye test.
  11. happy coincidences
  12. The film The Magic of Belle Isle. Charming, which you’d expect because it stars Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen.
  13. The film The Big Year. Also charming. This was unexpected because it stars Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson.
  14. friends who call to check up on me
  15. free apps of the week at Starbucks
  16. Aaron Sorkin
  17. the sound system in my Honda CRV
  18. The Onion
  19. Group texts with my sisters and my mom. They are hysterical.
  20. Matt Nathanson’s song “Modern Love.” It’s super catchy.

bottom 10

  1. being a bureaucrat
  2. being a soggy bureaucrat
  3. waiting
  4. Viacom. I think it’s criminal to withhold The Daily Show.
  5. boredom
  6. insomnia
  7. Kashi bars. Blech.
  8. falling down
  9. bad wine
  10. humiliation