For one thing, it did not rain on our entire trip (it rained on our wedding day and during most of our anniversary getaways). We like rain as much as the next guy, and I've matured a lot since I used to shriek when a raindrop hit my hair, but it was nice to leave the umbrella at home and enjoy blue sky. As we walked to the Gristmill on Thursday night, we both kept saying, "Gruene looks cleaner this year, but it wasn't dirty last year. Why does it look different?" That would be the absence of rain puddles and mud. There were white twinkle lights everywhere. During dinner we had a front row seat to a real mesquite fire, a waiter stirring the flames every so often. Dear God, that smell; it lingered on our clothes and we did not mind. I ordered a steak bigger than I could eat. We held hands and stared at the flames. Johnny Cash and Patty Griffin played overhead. We returned to our room - the Hill Country Lodge - and turned on our own fireplace (ceramic logs). That moment ignited my gratitude over the next two days.
Before leaving home, Johnny called the Gruene Apple to see if the cook (the son of the owners) could whip up anything for his poor yeasty wife? I would have been happy with one hard-boiled egg, but we didn't expect anything. I winced at the thought of their cinnamon roll casserole with a pecan praline sauce, but I quickly gave thanks that we packed a batch of y.f. peanut butter cookies and other snacks. As my husband fixed his breakfast plate, I darted over to brew a mug of orange-cinnamon tea. I heard the cook ask Johnny, "Are you the one who called about your wife?" That kind man baked plain eggs in wontons just for me, and anyone else with a strange medical diet. I could have cried, but instead I thanked him a few times, and once more for good measure. I really love eggs - his thoughtfulness meant a lot to us.
There were a few moments where I felt like crap, but I curled up in a comfy bed with soft blankets and rested. I whined. I grumped. I prayed. I read books - I don't get far without a notebook and something good to read. Johnny was nearby, reading about Theodore Roosevelt. I heard a lot about Teddy Roosevelt on this trip as he is Johnny's newest hero for life. I can see why. He was quite an impressive man which is bittersweet with our upcoming Presidential election. No such men running (though we tend to favor Ron Paul).
After checking out of our room, we paid a visit to Lone Star Music right down the driveway. We heard alt. country and Texas music inside, and scanned the CD racks. I realized that this music is truly a part of me, and even Johnny - did you think I could marry a man who didn't appreciate some of "my" music? Likewise, Gruene represents such a big part of the Simmonses. We are both native Texans and while we don't personally wear cowboy boots or hats, my grandfather wore both with pride, and so did my father-in-law. Johnny and I are what you might call artsy, so the modernity of Hotel San José and eclecticism of Austin appeal to us, but so does the laid-back country style of Gruene. Take a look:
[I'm having a cold Shiner here next year!]
[a coffee grinder]
As you can see, we went antiquing which makes me laugh. My Mom used to drag our family to antique store after antique store, somehow not hearing the groans of my Dad, me, or my brother. And yet, I requested antiquing of Johnny this year. (Mom, are you happy now?) I didn't buy much - a cup & saucer (I'll show you later) and children's wooden blocks in my future babies' initials. Call me nutso if you want, but I can picture those blocks somewhere in their nurseries, and it seemed right to snag six blocks for 50 cents each. I admit that today I looked at those blocks on our dresser and thought, "Why in the heck did I buy those? How dumb." But that's a little bit of what faith is all about. I believe God has shown me two kiddos and who knows, there might be another, but in those clear moments where it seems right to buy blocks as a memorial to God, you better believe I'll do it - to remember what God will do.
While I'm in the mood to divulge my oddness, I was also adamant about stepping inside Gruene's Grapevine to buy a bottle of our favorite Texas wildflower honey wine (in a cobalt blue bottle). Wouldn't you know it was the last bottle in stock? I cannot take a swig right now, but I do believe God wanted me to buy it; to pop open the cork after He's healed me and say a toast of thanks to my Maker. God requested stranger things of His saints, all for His glory.
* - [Also, unrelated to Gruene - we just mailed a check over to McGonigel's Mucky Duck for an Over the Rhine show on February 6th! Mucky Duck is my favorite music venue in Houston - so small and intimate. I've seen some of the greats there: Buddy & Julie Miller, Ellis Paul, and Lucy Kaplansky, to name a few. I've been wishing Over the Rhine would come to Houston for years now. To see them at Mucky Duck will be such a treat, and Johnny can feast on Guinness pot pie.]