Two weeks ago, I decided I would plan a surprise weekend getaway for King Ranch and myself. King Ranch has an often trying job that is an hour commute one-way and so by the time Friday rolls around, he’s typically spent. To boot, we have a very busy toddler who is a phenomenon to pediatricians everywhere because he’s the only human that exists who doesn’t actually sleep. Also, I don’t remember the last time King Ranch and I had a night alone…it’s been at least two years.
You may recall that I’m a native Houstonian who still has family (specifically, my folks) who live there, so I conspired with my parents to secretly plan on watching our Little Foot for a night while King Ranch and I would stay in a swanky hotel downtown. All I continued to say to King Ranch was, “don’t make plans on Saturday night.”
He figured out about an hour into our drive on Saturday that we were headed in the direction of Houston and as we arrived several hours later at my parent’s house, I exclaimed that, “Surprise! We’re spending the night at my folk’s house!” He tried to look excited.
Inside, I unpacked our suitcase and gave him an ensemble which I’d put together and instructed him to get dressed and meet me downstairs in 30 minutes (that’d be enough time for me to get dressed up, too). When he came downstairs, he was asked to close his eyes tightly and when my mom gave me the signal that indeed, his eyes were closed, I blindfolded him.
From there, I shuffled him into the car and headed towards downtown.
King Ranch, I should mention, does not like to be out of the know. He likes planning and researching and so sitting in the passenger seat, blindfolded, no clue as to where we were going or for how long, was a place that was far beyond his comfort zone. I justified this challenge for him, however, because we’ve had multiple conversations lately about how growth happens outside the edges of complacency. I’ve had so much anxiety over my writing endeavors that’s pulled me so far our of what feels safe and so I thought he could use a little of that, too.
We arrived downtown at the historic Lancaster Hotel where the valet helped me from the car and pulled my bag from the trunk before realizing that I had a prisoner in the passenger seat. I kept King Ranch blindfolded in the lobby as I checked us in, through the elevator ride, and into our room. It was there that I finally removed his blindfold.
I’d never stayed at The Lancaster Hotel but I’m sure glad I decided to book it. It is centrally located to Houston theaters and dining, is packed full of Houston history and stunning decor without being snobby or elitist, and get this…
…So King Ranch and I are huge Kevin Spacey fans and on a whim, I asked the hotel during my booking if they could include a framed picture of Mr. Spacey as Frank Underwood from the TV series, House of Cards, in our room upon arrival (specifically on the bed in a pile of rose petals) AND THEY ACTUALLY DID IT.
High five, Lancaster Hotel. Love y’all.
King Ranch and I spent the evening walking around downtown Houston, laughing about how I actually pulled off the surprise and how nice it was to spend some time together, just the two of us in the twinkling, city lights. We also talked about how odd it felt to be dressed up and wandering around the big city because we both felt like lost, country bumpkins in awe of the towering buildings and speeding cars around us.
Being a native Houstonian, I’ve never had the opportunity to see the city as a visitor and so this weekend was surprisingly so much more than just a romantic getaway for King Ranch and myself. It was an illustration of how far we’ve come since leaving this town almost two years ago to our ranch life with donkeys, chickens, and rolling fields of hay. I never suspected I’d feel like a stranger in Houston—it’s always been my town. I know all the great spots like La Carafe—the oldest building in Houston that’s also a badass wine bar and haunted, to boot! Poison Girl Cocktail Lounge which is a gathering spot for the montrose art scene—especially for the writers! Anidote coffee shop in The Heights, Juan Mon’s international sandwich shop near Midtown, and Chapultepec Lupita, a neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant off of Richmond Ave where you go after you’ve closed down some bar. But this weekend, I was from out-of-town. King Ranch and I were two, little country mice in awe of the speed of such a large city.
It’s odd when you realize how far you’ve come—how you can’t remember the last time you wore a pair of high heels and have to buy band-aids at the hotel shop because your heel calluses no longer exist but your boots back home are sure broken in. I spend so much time thinking about how quiet the country is compared to the big city but as I laid there awake watching the purple-gray, city sunrise glow between the curtains, it was far more quiet than the chorus of roosters we have that are in a constant turf war in our backyard back home.
I go back and I read early blogs that I posted here almost two years ago and I remember that I was so lost. How was I ever going to live a life in the country having lived almost 30 years in Houston? How was I going to be a mom? A decent partner? How was I going to make it?
This past weekend, however, visiting my hometown and seeing it through the eyes of an outsider, I realize how far we’ve come. I realize that we are making it up here. We’re settling into a life that sounds so strange to the people we spoke to in Houston but feels so normal to us. I rescue donkeys and teach yoga for a living. That’s no longer a foreign or strange concept. That’s home.
Once we arrived back at the ranch, I of course spent some time with my sweet donkeys, three. Tyrion, especially, was hungry for attention. So I’ll leave you with this video we took.
And at the risk of sounding ultra preachy, maybe challenge your own comfort zones. Explore a little outside the edges where the wind is blowing dangerously and where the cliffs seem too steep. I know it’s dark and dangerous, but you’ll be fine. It’s so worth the risk. What I’ve learned is that if indeed, home is where the heart is, then my heart is split in two—one side is a city-slick while the other is a donkey-wrangler. I’m good with that.