Tag Archives: Sugar Land

Giving Thanks to Our War Heroes

The flag panel partially obstructs the Remembrance Tower.

The flag panel partially obstructs the Remembrance Tower.

Ever since last September when I saw that an unusual-looking building had been finished in our nearby Memorial Park, I’ve wanted to check it out.

Yesterday being part of Memorial Day weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to drive over with the Mister and finally view the Sugar Land Veterans Memorial.

The Mister is dwarfed by the Remembrance Tower.

The Mister is dwarfed by the Remembrance Tower.

There’s a much-bigger, better-known Memorial Park in Houston, but that doesn’t make our smaller version any less meaningful. Especially now that there’s a true memorial along the mile-long, crushed-granite path that surrounds a manmade lake.

The Army insignia

The Army symbol

The memorial is guarded by a concrete flag panel, which serves as a gateway to the 50-foot, pentagonal tower. Each wall features a branch of the military, with its insignia in the nearby sidewalk.

While the outside of the tower looks impressive, it’s what’s inside that truly matters. The entrance is on the lakeside, away from the potential hustle and bustle of the walking path. I was equally jarred by the imposing quiet and the names etched into four of the five panels (none from the U.S. Coast Guard), those from our small community who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

#7832-(marine-names)U.S. Marine Corps

#2397-(army-names)U.S. Army

#2399-(navy-names)U.S. Navy

#2400-(air-force-names)U.S. Air Force

I silently prayed for these brave men and their families, as I hoped that our Veterans Memorial never fills up with names.

Every time I pass by the stark flag and building, I’ll always remember that freedom is not free.

Chilly Appreciation



See what my iPhone 5S’ weather app showed this morning?



Compare that to what it really looked like outside. Although it did rain last night and early this morning, I didn’t see any snowflakes at our house. Plus it had stopped even drizzling by the time I took the weather app screenshot.

When it’s cold and windy, as it is right now (30 degrees but feels like 17 degrees), I always think we might as well have some snow to remind us that it truly is winter. It makes for such a great photo op!


No thanks!

But then I’m reminded that I experienced enough snow and frigid temperatures during my 30 years in the Chicago area to last a lifetime.

Right now I’m appreciative of our “milder” Houston winter, with or without snow!

Running From a Sale

Our standard beautiful Texas sunrise illuminates the race start.

Our standard gorgeous Texas sunrise illuminates the race start.

While I was at mile nine of yesterday’s USA Fit Half Marathon, I reminded my addled brain cells that sometimes it’s best not to buy things just because they’re on sale.

Case in point? The aforementioned half marathon.

Last June I got an e-mail for a cut-rate price for the USA Fit Marathon/Half Marathon. Even though I already was signed up for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, which I slogged through two weeks ago, I was intrigued. Why? The course is practically in my neighborhood, which means no leaving the house at 5:15 a.m. to get to the start. Plus it was really cheap for a long-distance event.

Running downhill on new roads (complete with rebar)

Running downhill on new roads (but watch out for the rebar!)

Of course, I worried that my legs might not want to participate in another 13.1-mile race a mere fortnight after Houston. But, hey, it was so cheap!

Fortunately, my lower limbs pretty much felt fine during the run. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my mental tenacity, mostly because the temperature was 63 degrees at the start, rising about seven or eight degrees by my slow finish (albeit three minutes faster than Houston’s half). I almost missed the wet and blustery cold. Almost! Even though it was supposed to be overcast, the sun baked us, especially in the latter miles when we were subjected to hills.

What goes down, must go up!

What goes down, must go up!

Speaking of which, the course was in beautiful Sugar Land where we pride ourselves on two things: Lots of concrete (yes, the surface was tortuous) and no hills. None!

This was the fifth year for USA Fit’s small but well-organized full and half marathons, and for the fifth-straight time, the course changed. In an effort to impact traffic as little as possible for an event that has an eight-hour time limit, we spent a mile or so going down residential streets and making u-turns over a three-mile stretch. Then after we ran past the start-finish area at the University of Houston branch, we headed for a part of University Boulevard that hasn’t opened to cars yet.

Because it’s not finished.

Fortunately, it’s just cleanup and pouring cement in medians that still needs completing. And even though the concrete was hard as . . . well, cement, it was nice and smooth. No potholes like in the mean streets of Houston.

Unfortunately, there were two nasty hills (nasty because to me hill = hell, especially late in a race) that had been built to carry the road over creeks. I had been visualizing and savoring in the pancake flatness that is our lovely community only to be hit upside the head and my aching left achilles tendon with these mini mountains.

Love the medal!

Love the medal!

You would think that that final hill would propel me towards the race’s end. But, alas, not at all. We still had a little over a mile along a wide sidewalk to traverse before we took a sharp left turn to that wonderful finish line.

So very Texas

So very Texas

As well as the cutest finisher’s medal I’ve ever received!

So now that my 11th half marathon is in the books, you might think that I’ll be taking it easy, enjoying much-shorter training runs and races.

But you would be wrong.

In about five weeks, on March 3, I plan to be at the starting line of the Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Half Marathon, which I ran two years ago. Why? Need you even ask?!? Last July, when I signed up, the entry fee was only $22!

Well, it sure seemed like a good idea at the time!

Farewell to an Old Friend

Despite the scrapes and high mileage, the Villager was a beloved car.

An old, much-loved warrior has died. Literally.

Our 1999 Mercury Villager no longer stands watch outside our house, ready, willing, and able to take us places. After 13 years of service and about 130,000 miles, Old Red has retired to greener pastures somewhere else.

Until I got my Honda Pilot, the Villager was my favorite car. It was more than a vehicle—it’s a symbol of my sons’ childhoods. The minivan was what they grew up with, transporting them all over the Houston area, as well as to Hebrew and Sunday schools, sports practices and games, and to friends’ houses. Plus we’ll never forget the long trips we took in it, ones to Carlsbad Caverns, Chicago, and DisneyWorld.

The kid manages a wan smile before driving off to school last semester.

Much to their dismay, both boys eventually drove the Villager to high school—apparently Mom’s hand-me-down minivan wasn’t cool enough for the parking lot, especially one like ours with plenty of newer cars. My younger son finally dubbed it the “Swagwagon,” a tongue-and-cheek reference to its lameness. But, hey, it was long paid for and extremely cheap to insure, which comes in handy with teenaged boys.

After we bought the 2006 Toyota Highlander for my older son to drive and the 2010 Ford Fusion for Mr. Swag himself, the Mister and I decided it was time to find the minivan a new home. Even though we wouldn’t get much money for it, we settled on selling it to Texas Direct Auto, which is where we bought the Highlander.

Hoping to eke out a few shekels more, I drove the Swagwagon to Mister Car Wash about 10 miles from our house. Not that clean and shiny would mask all the scratches, of course, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. All went well until I tried to start the Villager for the ride back home.

Oh oh! The engine wouldn’t turn over. One of the workers jumped the battery, and the minivan started once more. Whew, dodged a bullet, I thought.

Why in the world would I tempt the Evil Eye?!?

As I drove home, the Villager started to shake violently. The boys had complained a few times about this happening, but I figured they were exaggerating. Nope! This was the real deal . . . would the Swagwagon and I meet our untimely demises in a fiery explosion on the streets of sweet Sugar Land?

This is NOT a good spot for a dead car.

Well, one of us did die; fortunately, it wasn’t me. Even though that nagging voice of sanity in the back of my head said, “Just pull off in a parking lot and have the kid pick you up in the Fusion,” the idiot part of my brain thought, “It’s not too far; we can make it!”

Not only didn’t we make it, but the minivan sputtered to a grinding halt in one of the worst-possible places: One of the two early left-turn lanes in front of Hwy. 59’s feeder road on a very busy street. Nightmare time!

The car’s flashers really were on.

I quickly opened the windows, turned on the Villager’s flashers, and called AAA Texas. Then I waited in the 93-degree heat for a tow truck, as I waved cars that foolishly came up behind me to go into the next lane. One almost smashed into me, which is why I kept my seatbelt on the entire time.

A blessing behind me

When AAA Texas later told me they couldn’t rescue me for at least an hour, I was almost glad a city motorcycle police officer came up behind me (and confirmed that the flashers were indeed working). I say “almost,” because the Villager’s inspection and license plate stickers had expired; I didn’t want to get a ticket. But the cop thankfully ignored the infraction and called a wrecker, which had me moved off to a parking lot within a few minutes.

The tow truck driver, who works on cars, thought the fuel pump was the culprit with the dead minivan. There was no way we were going to put one more dime into our aging vehicle, so I called Purple Heart to make a donation. They towed it off into the sunset, and that was the end of our Villager saga.

When I think back on Old Red, I’m going to try my best to remember the good times we had and not the horrible experience at the end. Right now, though, I think a few years will need to go by first.

The Old Man and the (Younger) C

Roger’s pitch is on its way to the batter.

As the mom of two precious boys and married to a man who also adores them, I’m a sucker for father-son bonds.

Sidebar: Which is why the scene between Kurt Hummel and his father on last night’s “Glee” premiere left me crying.

Koby was steady behind the plate.

So when our friend Eric asked if we wanted his two extra tickets to see Roger Clemens pitch to his oldest son Koby for our Sugar Land Skeeters, there was only one response: Absolutely! Especially since it was Bollywood night complete with amazing post-game fireworks. Minor-league baseball doesn’t get any better than this!

Father and son chat while walking back to the dugout.

Our younger son already was going to the game with his friend Ricky, sitting in the outfield lawn section (which is not for old folks like the Mister and I, who have a tough time getting up without a forklift). When we saw that there were empty (albeit season-ticket) seats in our row, I told the boys to join us and get closer to the action.

The kid looks good behind the Nikon!

Wanting to be just like mom (or maybe he wanted a better look), my son took my Nikon D700 complete with Nikon 70-200mm lens and started snapping away at Clemens the elder on the mound.

This was our view of Roger from our seats on the first-base side.

He did a great job capturing Roger rearing back with the ball! I might need to turn over the big equipment to the kid more often.

As manager Gary Gaetti walks out to yank Roger, father and son hug on the mound.

Fortunately, I was behind the lens when Roger exited the game in the fourth inning. Before leaving, he and Koby shared a wonderful hug that got me reaching for a tissue. This was the first time the son had caught his seven-time Cy Young Award-winning father in a professional baseball game. It truly was a special moment for all of us lucky enough to witness it.

Toby Keith sat in the Skeeters’ dugout for most of the game.

The Clemens duo might have been the attraction that night, but our little city drew a celebrity to the game: Toby Keith. The country-music star is a pal of Roger Clemens, and he attended to support his buddy. I thought he looked great in his own Skeeters’ jersey!

Let’s have a party!

The Skeeters’ management took advantage of the appearance by passing out red Solo cups to the fans to hoist when Keith was introduced. I just wish they had made them useful by filling them with Diet Coke.

The fireworks look good to my iPhone 4S.

The hoopla continued with Bollywood-style dancing, the usual condiment races, the spirited singing of “Yellow Rose of Texas,” and those great fireworks. And the best part of all?

A 4-0 Skeeters’ win, with Roger Clemens getting credit for the victory, as well as sharing the experience with his own precious son.

Cue the happy-ending music!

Elvis Rocks the Fireworks

A lotta shaking going on . . . due to a slow shutter speed.

As I’ve mentioned before, our Sugar Land Skeeters put on a great fireworks show.

Red-dy or not!

Our minor-league baseball team decided to shake things up last Friday night by making that bright display Elvis-themed. It was the Skeeters’ first game with former major-league ace Roger Clemens in uniform.

These remind me of spiders . . . red spiders.

Kind of like the King meets the Rocket. With majestic rockets bursting in air!

More spiders

The colorful, post-game display almost made up for us not seeing Clemens pitch.

Green-gold lighted streamers silhouette the scoreboard.


More greenish fireworks hover around the scoreboard

What made these Elvis-related? The nostalgic music accompanying them.

Love the rockets’ red, gold, and white glare!

There were no King of Rock and Roll sightings at the game. Maybe he left the field early.

That hound dog!!

The Rocket Rocks the Ballpark

Roger Clemens shares time in the dugout.

We enjoyed a bit of excitement in our small burg last weekend.

ESPN paid us a visit! Along with plenty of other national media. Little Sugar Land, 26 miles southwest of Houston, hit the big-time.

All because of our new minor-league baseball team. Oh, and some dude named Roger Clemens. Now all our opponents in the Atlantic League (as in the East Coast) actually know where in the world Sugar Land is.

Former all-star Scott Kazmir is about to deliver a pitch for the Skeeters.

When it was announced that the Rocket was going to pitch a few innings for the Skeeters last Saturday night, our community went wild. After all, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and strikeout king posted a phenomenal major-league career.

Even though Clemens is 50 years old (a mere pup in my book), fans still believed he could deliver the goods and help our Skeeters win. Unfortunately, the game already was a sellout, thanks to the post-game performance of the Human Fireball (which actually used to be Clemens).

The Mister and I have an eight-game ticket plan. And, of course, with our luck, we had ducats for last Friday, the night before the Houston native’s appearance. But we knew we would at least see Clemens in the dugout, and that would have to suffice.

Sidebar: When I posted on Facebook that we had tried to get tickets for Saturday’s game for my younger son and a friend, one of my pals said she wasn’t going to use her pair. So the kid and Cody got to see an aging legend work three and a third innings, striking out two batters while allowing a mere hit. And the Skeeters won 1-0!

First baseman Aaron Bates starts to throw the ball around the horn after a putout.

Just as we expected, the Rocket was in the dugout during last Friday night’s game, watching what turned out to be an exciting contest with the Skeeters rallying for three runs in the eighth inning before dropping a 4-3 decision to the hated Bridgeport Bluefish. A cool breeze actually was blowing, and the Elvis-themed fireworks were much anticipated.

During the game I wondered what Clemens was thinking when he was faced with the reality that he was at a low-minors baseball game. Of course, there were lots of good plays made by both teams.

Those really are mighty big gloves!

But every half inning there’s some kind of fun and foolishness going on that’s never seen in the likes of Minute Maid Park or Yankee Stadium. Such as big-glove boxing.

Wonder who will win.

And the running lottery balls.

Play is about to start!

And, of course, my personal favorite, the race among the taco, pepper, and pitiful, always too-slow, never-winning cup.

Oh oh!

It’s enough to make a grown man who has pitched in the World Series and been an 11-time all-star ponder his place in the baseball universe.

Snapping Away at Cullinan Park

Dewberries look tasty.

My friend Jess has encouraged me to shoot at Cullinan Park here in Sugar Land for as long as I can remember.

This was one of the few wildflowers I spotted.

So last Saturday morning, I decided to finally check it out . . . with Jess as my guide.

A large, white flower absorbs the sunshine.

The two of us had a great time walking the trails, chatting away and listening to the birds chirping. I discovered that Cullinan Park is a local, natural treasure.

A heron takes off across Oyster Creek.

As I prepared to leave for the park, I had one main thought: What camera equipment will help me best document this adventure? How will I be able to shoot both near (macro) and far (telephoto)?

Sidebar: My second thought? Don’t forget the bug spray!

A butterfly enjoys the local cuisine.

I opted for a two-camera approach. On my Nikon D700 was my trusty Nikon 105mm macro lens for closeups. Attached to my monopodded Nikon D300 was my Nikon 70-200mm lens for long-range photo ops. I used both and was glad I had brought everything along.

A large dragonfly just hangs around.

Although the park isn’t very big, it’s filled with interesting sights and sounds. I was hoping to see some dragonflies, and I wasn’t disappointed.

A green dragonfly tries to blend in with his surroundings.

We spotted a few of the flyers in the woods among the butterflies.

A blue dragonfly rests on the lake’s plant life.

But we scored big at the park’s lake. D-flies were buzzing about, enjoying the water and plants.

A green dragonfly is happy to pose.

Although I was sad that there were no alligators to shoot, just watching the dragonflies flit about made me smile.

Is this curious caterpillar hungry?

After our adventure, Jess and I sat on benches, resting and talking. This little critter shared where I was sitting, so, of course, I snapped some pix with my macro lens.

I wonder what he’ll be the next time I stop by Cullinan Park. Which I’m sure will be sooner than later.