...and the way the sunshine made a cross in the road when I was (literally) lost one day...
No idea why. Could be my imagination, but seems to be the case.
East Texas is just the best, that's why.
"Live your locale, love your locals!" Nan, owner of Tomboni's in Longview suggested this as a tagline and I love it. You can't get much better than a local, family-owned East Texas restaurant. And I'm eating my way through all of them! (Pictured (left) is a steak--cooked MEDIUM RARE, of course--from 5D Cattle Company in Avinger, Texas.)
My family and I attended the opening ceremony at Spring Park when Lady Bird Johnson herself dedicated Hughes Springs as part of the Wildflower Trails of Texas. Since then every spring Hughes Springs and many other East Texas towns have festivals and pageants and lots of fun activities celebrating those pretty flowers. Pictured (right) are Indian Paintbrushes which grow like crazy all over the sides of the roads.
If you want to know what REAL people are like, and where people are even more beautiful on the INSIDE than they are on the OUTSIDE (which is hard to believe because look at my friends!!), come to East Texas. Sure, you'll find a few uglies here & there because such is life. They probably moved from somewhere mean. But overall, you're going to find the best of the best in the Piney Woods of East Texas! #TrueStory
After almost a decade of being a public speaker, bestselling co-author, and all kinds of public-eye things, in 2017 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I'd already been misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia so I knew something was wrong with me (and yes, I can hear my sister Lisa's eyes rolling from here so STOP IT, Lisa!). Because of this I constantly struggled to keep up, only able to do "so much" before crashing into that ever-present wall. But wow, when MS finally grasped its stranglehold on my body I realized my life would never be the same. I couldn't imagine things getting worse, but as so often happens when you say that, yeah....but let's back up a bit to 1981.
I was a Sophomore theater major attending what was then called North Texas State University. That summer I competed in the Miss Texas Pageant as Miss Lake o' the Pines. I won a Talent scholarship for my extremely dramatic interpretation of Ferenc Molnar's "Lilliam" (again, I can hear Lisa's eyes rolling...). For the record, the winner that year was gymnast Sheri Ryman who, bless her heart, injured her knee in rehearsal and could barely walk the entire day but miraculously performed her talent without a hitch that night and won the whole dang thing....
My dream was to pursue an acting career and as fate would have it, I had a chance to go to California. I took off in a '79 Chevelle with a handsome guy--completely platonically, by the way--who looked like Jan Michael Vincent (BEFORE he ended up in Celebrity Rehab...) Without so much as a glance behind me I left college, an apartment full of furniture, and the Great State of Texas and headed for Hollywood. And although I spent more time pursuing not-so-great relationships than my career, I still had good 20+ year run as an AFTRA/SAG actress. I appeared in television shows (including lots of episodes of Young and the Restless and ABC's Sledge Hammer), commercials, and my name was in TV Guide which made Lisa extremely proud. I was also in a movie called 'Sunset Strip' with soap star Tom Eplin. Okay, I know it sounds like a porn movie but it absolutely was not. It also wasn't what you'd call a "good" movie either. I played Judy Raye and I was kidnapped, tossed into the back of a car and thrown off the Hollywood Freeway overpass before the opening credits, thank you very much. No Oscar for this one.
Still, not bad for a girl from Hughes Springs, Texas with zero connections in LA.
So for the past 35+ years, I only visited Texas once a year, mostly at Christmas. I thought of both Texas and California as "home": Texas was my past, while California was my present and future. My son was born in California in 1985 and a few years ago he married his beautiful bride in a glass chapel overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I have wonderful friends in LA, and of course there's that weather, those beaches, the mountains. It's all just so "pretty". And yes, maybe a little hollow and coo-coo at times...And yes, of course I missed my Texas family and friends. All the time. And I missed Friday night football...and chicken fried steak...and catfish, hushpuppies, greens...
Then life took a turn, as it always does. During my Christmas visit in 2016 Lisa and I realized our parents had to move out of their house in Hughes Springs. They lived about 45 minutes away from Lisa (and the hospital) in Longview--too far for their needs. But because she worked full-time, Lisa couldn't take enough time off to pack and move them by herself. So I stayed about a month moving them to Longview and putting their house on market, then flew home to LA assured things were fine.
The following year, again during my Christmas visit, Lisa and I realized that things weren't so good after all. Our parents needed full-time help.
At first I was completely rattled. I loved Texas, but I also loved California. I'd built my entire life in that state. My son and daughter-in-law and all my friends were there. But ultimately it came down to who needed me the most. That's when I turned to God and asked Him to guide me.
So yes, ultimately God brought me back to Texas.
Ever since, maybe for the first time in my entire life, I've been on His path, not mine. And perhaps because of this He's been leading me to some of the best people I've ever known in my life--back to old friends from Hughes Springs, Texas, and to new friends in Longview and all over the ArkLaTex.
My Virginia friend Dr. Fredric Eichelman keeps telling me I need to write a (3rd) book entitled, 'Don't MS My Texas', based on my newest journey back home and the struggles I've had with this stupid disease. I probably will write that one someday but in a way that's the reason I'm doing what I'm doing now.
With this website I'll be expanding on my little #EatLocal and #SupportLongview campaign that I began on my personal Facebook page on July 6, 2019. I did it in response to a post on Facebook by Nan, the owner Tomboni's Bistro (one of one of my favorites in Longview). Nan's stunningly honest post was about how they weren't able to fill their reservations this summer and were concerned about staying open. But mostly she wrote about the importance of supporting small businesses. So I booked a reservation that night, took pictures and blogged about Tomboni's with the hashtags #EatLocal and #SupportLongview. And since I don't cook and only eat one solid meal a day (I make a green juice for my other meal), I decided to do the same for other small restaurants that might need some "love", too. And I kept doing every day until well, it turned into all of this!
In addition to East Texas local restaurants and small businesses I will also share my adventures traveling and exploring around my beloved Northeast Texas HOME. I'll write about weekend and day trips, and events with friends and family, many of whom you'll see in multiple pictures. You'll also get to know many of my California friends who've been coming to Texas to visit me. There's an airport here in Longview, and the Dallas airports aren't far, either--so the folks who mean so much to me are never too far away.
But mostly I want all of you, whether you live in Texas or not, to get a good understanding of why this place means so much to so many of us. And why no matter how far you may wander, or how many side-trips you may encounter, Texas is a place of healing. And whether or not my body is healing here, my soul certainly is.
P.S. I just got a phone call from my son: He and his wife have confirmed it--they just secured a rental house and booked a moving van. They are moving to Longview next month! Praise God!
P.S.S. I can honestly say, despite my physical struggles and some of the darkest, saddest times surrounding my family and me, I've still personally never been happier in my entire life. I really had no idea that I hadn't been so, living all those years in my beautiful hillside house in Los Angeles. I recently told a friend--the holes I didn't even know were there have been filled up being back HOME in East Texas.
(Thank you, Jesus--YOU did that. Amen.)
One of my original goals was to #SupportLocalRestaurants, those non-national brands that are usually family-owned and managed. They need local support much more than the guys with unlimited breadsticks or pancakes that are covered with sugary goo. Gotta support the Mom & Pop places or there won't be any left to support!
Faith, Family, and Friends. East Texas is all of that wrapped up in so much natural beauty you just won't believe it. And believe it or not, almost every weekend there are festivals (everything from wine to hot links) and celebrations of some sort. And there's hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, & everything else you can imagine! So get out here, and if you can't, read about "my" East Texas for awhile until you can!