Even in my thirties, well actually, especially in my thirties, it is thrilling to get to do something for the first time. This was one of those experiences for me. On Sunday, I was asked to sing the “anthem” song for the traditional service. I chose the song “Forever Reign” written by Jason Ingram and Reuben Morgan. I felt like this was an opportunity for me to play a very simple accompaniment at the piano and sing from my heart. So, I did. I feel really blessed to have had this opportunity to play and sing. It was a real humbling and wonderful experience for me. I have been amazingly blessed throughout my entire life to be able to sing with some of the most talented and gifted pianists around. So, honestly, it is hardly ever necessary for me to play for myself. But, I enjoyed it and hope you will too. Moustapha (my husband) recorded it from the balcony.
If you know me very well, you probably are familiar with most of my sides.
There is the mother of four side. A little bit quirky, allowing a drum set to be played regularly in my living room. A little bit of a rule follower, believing a nap is the key to a happy life. And, a little bit of a mess, believing that if I spend too much time cleaning, we’ll never have as much fun as we are meant to!
Then, there is the wife side. That one goes hand in hand with my mother side. She is loving, patient, and sometimes driven crazy by her husband. The wife side of me is very happy and in love and grateful to my very loving and supportive husband.
Next, there is the art/music/creative side. She bakes, she decorates, she paints, she sings, she writes music, she leads worship, she plays the piano and sometimes does nearly all of these at once.
The side you may not know, is the civic duty/ political side. I’m not talking about Republican, Democrat, Independent or whether my daughter’s tea party was a political statement. No, I’m talking about local politics in Houston. I’m interested in it. I love to work with my neighborhood and have been active in my civic association since we moved here at the end of 2004. This year, after thinking I would take a break, I am serving as President of the Civic Association. I have really enjoyed it. Last week, in particular was a big week for me and for our neighborhood. I spent a lot of time with my stomach in knots, but in the end, it was worth it.
Here’s what happened in a brief synopsis:
The City of Houston offers neighborhoods inside the loop the option to protect their blocks with the Minimum Lot Size Protection. City of Houston Planning Our neighborhood is fairly small. We are approximately 8 residential blocks. We are now nearly all protected by the minimum lot size. It sets a lot size minimum for the next 20 years and restricts development to single family residential on the lots that are currently undeveloped or were being used as single family at the time the application was put forward. Being that our neighborhood includes some non-deed restricted properties, this protection is huge for the residents. It protects them and gives them certainty for the next 20 years.
In September, we had an application denied by the Planning Commission. It was heartbreaking. My husband and I had spent countless hours on the application for this one block and in just a few minutes, we were denied. It was hard. Thus, began the process to get a new application in and approved. So, I continued having conversations with the neighbors on the block who helped with the first application. I met with our district councilmember. She met with the director of planning. I wrote letters and received a direct response from the mayor of Houston. After the dust settled, it was clear, our only option was to complete and submit a brand new application.
What does that mean? It means that we had to contact every supporter on the block to get an updated signature of support and we would need to increase our support by adding more support signatures. It seemed a bit daunting. There are 45 properties on the block. But, we believed we could do it and we did. One of the active supporters on the block started us off with a signature from a recently sold property. This was a new signature. So we started off strong. And, we went after every signature. We got them. and we did it fast. We gained more support and ended up with 62% of the entire block supporting the application. But, this was not enough. I continued to have conversations with our District Councilmember, the planning department and I reached out to the Mayor, asking neighbors to join in. I even attended a fundraiser for the Mayor knowing I would have her attention for 2 minutes and used this time to talk to her about this application. The Mayor was a part of the drafting of this original ordinance when she was a Councilmember. I believed strongly that she would support our application. I then met with the neighbors and we organized a presentation to use our time wisely before the Planning Commission. We presented very well. And, the Planning Department did a great job explaining our application to the Commission. We had 6 speakers in total speak in support of the application. We presented pictures, evidence of complete compliance with the standards of the ordinance and testimony by neighbors. You can click here:
http://houstontx.city.swagit.com/Council_Commissions/ Select July 7. Item IV. to view.
In the end, the hard work paid off. We were rewarded with the minimum lot size protection which is in addition to the setback already on the block. I am thankful to all of the support we received from the city of Houston, from the neighbors on the block and in the neighborhood. We are going to benefit greatly from the protection for the next 20 years. Congratulations, everyone!
And, so, there it is. A little taste of my political/ civic duty side.
There are many more sides to this El Momma. But, for now, I will give in to my calm side, take a break and rest before doing my daily routine of Yoga. Namaste.