I Heart Texas

Like many, my husband and I have been glued to the coverage of Hurricane Harvey devastating Southeast Texas. While we watch this from the safety of Las Vegas, we are both originally from the Lone Star State and have many loved ones who live in Houston and surrounding areas. Each day, we call home and scour social media to see how our friends and family members are faring with the storm. It’s quite a feeling of helplessness–besides donating and keeping this part of the country in our thoughts and prayers.

We’ve checked on people daily, nervously asking about reservoir levels in Houston area neighborhoods. This morning, we learned that several levees near my husband’s hometown of Beaumont have either failed or are nearing a breaking point (source: NBC News). Some family members’ homes have sustained water damage; however, we don’t know the extent yet.

Yet, though all of this anxiety and devastation, I’ve never been so proud to be a Texan. Seeing photos of strangers helping one another and people pulling together brings tears to my eyes. College friends from across the state headed south to Houston, boats in tow to help the rescue efforts. My stepfather is heading to a small town called Woodsboro to help clear damage from the hurricane, and my mother and I are so proud. A friend in Oklahoma has offered to shelter friends’ pets in Houston, kindly driving several hours to pick the animals up. My dad and stepmother have opened their home to my in-laws, should they need to evacuate. And my social media feeds are full of ways to donate, contribute, and help make a difference in the lives of these strong Texans.

This post isn’t a travel post (although I couldn’t blog without including some photos from my home state). Texas’ state motto is “friendship”, and it is evident the way people are helping others during this disaster. Although I live in Nevada and love my adopted city of Las Vegas, this week my heart and soul is in Texas. I am sending my thoughts and prayers to those that have experienced loss from Hurricane Harvey; I heart Texas.

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August 2017 Travel Photo of the Month

As someone with a background in green buildings and sustainability, I love seeing new life breathed into old buildings. In San Antonio’s Pearl neighborhood, a fabulous shopping and dining district has risen from the ashes of the former Pearl Brewery. Imagine a place where kids play in a water feature while parents sit nearby and sip coffee. Shoppers peruse 13 unique stores, and guests marvel at the brewery-turned-luxe Hotel Emma. The Former Pearl BreweryOn a recent summertime visit, my best friend Holly and I had a double date with our mothers. We enjoyed mimosas at the lobby bar at Hotel Emma before cobb salads for four at Southerleigh. The moms–kindred spirits who were cheerfully in awe of the transformation of old to new–and daughters alike were inspired by the story behind the restaurant Cured (story here). An leisurely afternoon at the Pearl should be on the list of any visitor to the Texas Hill Country!

The Art of Kindness

“Let me stop you right there and catch you up on how this works,” the man at the American Airlines Platinum desk said to me this morning on the phone. After his extremely condescending explanation about how we should have used more miles to purchase an upcoming trip–even though we were already booked mostly in business, I had what I thought was an epiphany: can customer service and loyalty really be dead in the airline industry? It was an extremely frustrating conversation that ended up with me sadly hanging up and shaking my head.

1.7 Million Miler = Rubbish
Having spent a considerable amount of the last decade on an AA plane for a previous global role, I figure I am fairly knowledgeable about how this works. Yet the last several experiences on what used to be my carrier of choice in the sky, I feel that the special touches as a frequent flier become more diminished each year.Today’s occurrence was nothing new…yet I started to think about companies that really do stand by customer service and trying to always make it right.

Fitbit gave me a full replacement on my wearable device when it wasn’t properly tracking my steps. Apple has traded not one but two iPhone SEs when the cellular reception was weak. Even though it may be a provider problem, they stood by their product. As I thought of the customer loyalty that Apple has, I had a figurative “light bulb aha! moment” and thought of a recent happening that might just restore my faith in an airline and make me a converted and true customer for life.

Let me set the scene: a family member very close to me had emergency open heart surgery a few weeks ago, and many of us flocked to Lubbock, Texas to be by her side. I was there a week, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the lovely people at both the Wyndham Hawthorne Suites and the amazing team at Covenant Health a special thank you for their kindness during a hard time. And one thing happened at the airport when I was trying to catch a Southwest flight home on standby that I won’t soon forget.

Tired Traveler Seeks Seat Home
My loved one was recovering beautifully, and I attempted to get home–to a certain desert city of sin–on a holiday weekend. Yes, I knew my chances that Friday afternoon were slim. Yet after an emotionally draining week, I had to try. You can imagine my sigh when plane one left the gate without me on it… I went back to the podium to ask Melissa, the gate agent, my chances for flight two. I missed it by one person, then promptly burst into tears.

Melissa immediately came around the service counter and enveloped me into a hug. I felt embarrassed about my emotional reaction and even farther away from home, yet her kindness (and the hug) made it somehow better. The story ends on a happy note: I got to spend one more night at the hospital with family, and I ended up making it home the following afternoon with no problem.

And the moment I checked in for my flight, Melissa had my security pass pre-printed and ready for me with a smile. We chatted briefly–and I was again touched by her kindness when she worried if I was able to find a hotel room in a college town on the first football weekend of the season. I assured her all was well and asked if there were a supervisor I could share her wonderful treatment of me. She demurred, and soon after, I was on a flight home.

The Moral? Kindness Can Be a Core Value
This week’s post is not my typical travel blog, yet the story and thought behind it is something that will stick with me for a long time. Emulating loyalty and kindness is certainly worth aspiring to, and I would much rather be on that end of the customer service spectrum. Thanks to companies like Southwest Airlines, whose actions of loving their passengers seem to go viral weekly, role models to emulate really do still exist. 

LUVing the Friendly Skies Over West Texas

LUVing the Friendly Skies Over West Texas

Destination: DIFFA Dallas

This week, I’d like to invite you to join me for a journey to Dallas, Texas, where I spent this weekend supporting a wonderful cause at House of DIFFA Masquerade 2014. At its annual fundraising gala, the Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS’ (DIFFA) Dallas chapter raised over a million dollars to fight HIV/AIDS. I am fortunate to know several people on the board of this charity that annually pour their hearts and souls into making this event fabulous, and fabulous it was.

From the glamorous masquerade theme to a high-octane runway show, House of DIFFA 2014 was a night of spectacle, excitement, couture, and luxury. While this event is not necessarily in the travelogue sphere, it’s certainly worth writing about and showcasing a wonderful organization to support. And who knows…perhaps you’ll be inspired to travel to Dallas next year to experience DIFFA’s next over-the-top soiree. I know I’m hoping to be there.

Public Art: A Cow Love Story

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This gallery contains 20 photos.

My love affair began in 2000 when I looked into the flame-retardant fiberglass eyes of a cow. Since then, I have run into the Cow Parade (and similar tours of public art) in cities from Copenhagen to Chicago and Prague … Continue reading

The Great American City

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This gallery contains 18 photos.

In honor of the upcoming quintessential American holiday–the 4th of July–I decided to blog about my favorite US cities. This week’s theme is not rooftop bars, but it could be. Join me on a tour of some of my favorite urban … Continue reading