Monthly Archives: April 2014

This Place is Gorgeous

When we came to Austin we made the decision to downsize and find a really nice apartment to live in. We spent a lot of time searching. For some reason there are apartment owners who do not want to lease to people with multiple pets. Having a dog and two cats eliminated about 75% of the potential places to live.

Once you narrow the search down to places that will take pets, it gets easier to figure it out. This place has been perfect. It backs up to a nature preserve and sits right on the Colorado River. Our back deck overlooks the nature preserve. We have sat out on the deck on watched the wildlife move along the fence. The funniest thing is watching the turkeys scale the fence and come take a walk on our side. Not particularly graceful, but always enjoyable viewing.

We moved in to our apartment in October, and the weather cooled much quicker than normal. This weekend in Austin has just been beautiful. After hiking and sightseeing yesterday, it got warm enough after our walk to go down to the pool for the first time. We have utilized the hot tub on a few occasions, but his was our first foray into the pool.

It was delightful. The water is still cool so it is a very refreshing change from the nearly ninety degree air temperature. It’s a little too cool for Peggy so she mostly just gets in up to her knees. Of course, that is also true for most of the summer, too.

We have really enjoyed it here. The management company has been very accommodating. We are pretty sure we have a very high-priced call girl living upstairs from us, but other than stiletto heels at weird hours of the night we have not been disturbed by her trade. The property is perfect for dogs, and Peggy and Allie love to walk down to the river. The cats have even adjusted to mostly just being out on the back deck, though Sandy does enjoy going for walkabouts on the roof line.

If we move to Baton Rouge we know we are not going to find anything like this. It’s just another thing to consider as we move through these next couple of weeks. This place is fantastic.

We’re going to enjoy it while we can.

We really do live in a beautiful place
Trying to coerce her into the water with me

Austin

People in Texas spend their entire lives wanting the opportunity to live in Austin. Some of them come here for college and enjoy it so much that they want to get back here. Some of them come to visit and think how much fun it would be to live here all the time. Others want a lifelong career lying sideways in the public trough.

Then there is Peggy and me. We have really enjoyed it here and now we are talking about leaving only six months into the adventure. We have the cool apartment, the downsized life, access to all the cool things Austin brings to bear.

This weekend we went and did some of the things we love here in Austin. We took Allie and climbed up to the outlook over the river. We went to the Iguana Grill, one of the few decent restaurants in the area that actually looks out over Lake Travis. Great food, gorgeous sights, even in the midst of the drought.

And we talked. The company in Louisiana wants me to come back to Baton Rouge for another meeting, and this time they want to meet Peggy, too. A supportive spouse is incredibly important in the role I will be filling and they want to make sure Peggy is OK with the move.

Peggy is worried about this development. I am thrilled. She is absolutely my secret weapon — once they meet her there is no way I won’t get the job if I want it. I have always said that she is the most concrete proof of my sales acumen. Like most wonderful women, she really doesn’t know what the fuss is about. It’s part of the reason that everyone who meets her loves her.

Peggy and I were again scheduled to go to Mexico for a week. The company wants to have the meeting while we were planning to be gone. Since that means I will not have to take extra time away from my current job — which is very important to me — Peggy and I altered our plans. We will once again be going to Cajun Mexico for several days, with an important side trip over to Baton Rouge for one of the nights. I’m glad we get to stay at L’Auberge all the time because it really comes in handy when plans change.

We’ll see what happens next. For now we are enjoying Austin for all it’s worth.

The scenic overlook near the “Peggybacker” Bridge
The view of Lake Travis from Iguana Grill

Life is Funny

Peggy is in Dallas visiting her Mama. I am not.

I was in Baton Rouge today visiting my son and his fiancée.

Well, that is not the whole truth. I have actually been in Baton Rouge today meeting with a potential employer. On the way out of town I had dinner with Mike and Caitie to make sure they were OK with Mama and Daddy potentially moving to Baton Rouge. They were not against the idea, so that excuse for not taking the job is gone.

They’re going to offer me the job. My conversations with the CEO were too specific for it to mean anything else. They even had me interview with the two vice presidents who would be reporting to me. Everything went really well.

I have to admit I was hoping not to like the people and not to like the company. I really love the company I work for. I mean, I really love the company I work for. I have a great relationship with the CEO, though I have to be careful to include my immediate boss in any communication with the CEO. But the company is one of the best in the world at what we do and one of the most financially sound insurance companies in the world.

So why did I take the meeting? Baton Rouge is certainly a large part of the reason. Other than my brother in San Antonio, every member of my family lives within a couple of hours of Baton Rouge. My father will be only ninety minutes away instead of eight hours, and at 81 that is something to consider. Mike and Caitie live there, and they will be getting married there in March. And financially speaking, this company might be one of the very few that is in a stronger capital position than my current employer.

Now the real conversations start. Are they going to offer enough to make it worth considering? Is the job they want me to do something I can see myself doing for the next ten years? Do I really want to make Peggy move again when we have only been in Austin for six months?

I nailed it today, so now we have to actually start thinking about this stuff.

As I was in the airport waiting to board the plane, I received this picture:

Peggy and her Mama

I don’t think there was a message in the picture or in the timing, but it is certainly something else we have to consider. Moving closer to my father means moving farther away from Peggy’s mother. Who has Alzheimer’s. Peggy will still have to travel to Dallas a couple of times each month to visit and check on her. That will be a lot tougher from Baton Rouge.

We will both be home tonight. And the conversations can begin.

As my father always says, “It’s hell being popular.”

South Padre

When you grow up going to the beach in Alabama and Florida, the beaches in Texas take a little getting used to. I moved to Dallas when I was fifteen, and everybody talked about going to South Padre Island. I had been to Galveston and to Corpus Christi and was not impressed with the beaches, so I was not too interested in going to South Padre, even for Spring Break.

I went back to Louisiana for college and we would travel to Gulf Shores or Destin, the “Redneck Riviera” and the “Emerald Coast”. It wasn’t like I was turning up my nose at South Padre, but I never went.

When Mike was about nine I had a business conference on South Padre Island, so I took Peggy and Mike and made the trip. It really is a beautiful place — at least when Spring Break is not going on. The most memorable thing that happened was watching Peggy and Mike on the beach trying to get back to the hotel with his inflatable boat. I had just gotten down to the room and was looking out of the window at the two of them coming back from the beach. A huge gust of wind came up and lifted both of them off the ground. Fortunately, neither of them was injured, and they didn’t lose the boat! 

My company hosted a meeting on South Padre for one of our large customers this week, so Peggy and I returned to the island for the first time in several years. We came down a little early and spent a couple of nights so we could enjoy it without work encumbrances. We are staying right on the water. This is the same time of year that we were here with Mike, which means it is a wonderful view but it is still some kind of windy.

We had a great time the last couple of days exploring the area and seeing all of the things that have changed since our last visit. Two hurricanes hit the island in 2008 causing significant damage. This is our first trip back since the hurricanes, so there have been a lot of changes. A lot of the properties look brand new, some because they are new and others because they required significant repairs after the hurricanes. The builders and planners have done a wonderful job of making the island look great while retaining the original charm of South Padre.

I’ll be working the next two days while Peggy relaxes. She deserves all the relaxation she can get, and this is a beautiful place to do it. We have a dinner tomorrow night that is her only obligation, so she is free to do whatever she wants to do.

Life is always good at the beach.

Steps from our room
Dinner was great, too

Patterns

I’m a patterns guy. Not like Albus Dumbledore looking at knitting patterns. Patterns of behavior and action. It is really one of my greatest strengths when dealing with people. And not the least because I recognize them in myself.

This week I took a phone call from a recruiter. I have been receiving calls for the past eighteen months from a particular company but I have been uninterested in discussing the opportunity. I attended a professional golf tournament last week with my former boss, and he asked me why I wasn’t talking to them. When I asked how he knew I wasn’t talking to them, he let me know that he was the one who gave them my name and contact information. The guy that is retiring there is one of Ken’s old friends. Ken thought I should at least listen to them.

I really love the company I work for, and I enjoy what I do every day. But here’s the thing — when these guys started calling me, Peggy and I were firmly (and comfortably) entrenched in Houston. I wasn’t about to uproot our entire existence to move to New Orleans. Then, two things happened. My company asked me to move to Austin, so we got un-trenched. We sold the house, downsized, made ourselves infinitely more mobile. And I found out the company calling me is not located in New Orleans. They’re in Baton Rouge. World of difference.

The day I told Peggy I was going to take the call, she was preparing to go to Dallas to visit her mother. We had a brief conversation during which I shared with her the two points above and that Ken had told them to call me. We discussed a couple of pros and cons, then Peggy got up and said, “I’m going to start packing.”

I said, “I haven’t even talked to them yet!” She meant for her trip to see her mother. She has been laughing all week about that.

I had the conversation. I’m interested. It might be as much interested in going back to Baton Rouge, but I wouldn’t do that if the opportunity is not right. They’re interested. If I go down and interview they are going to offer me the job. That isn’t arrogance, I just know what I bring to the table, and I know what they need.

Peggy asked me this morning if I wanted to drive over to Marble Falls and go to the Blue Bonnet Café. This is where the patterns thing comes in. When she asks to go for a drive somewhere it is because she wants an uninterrupted opportunity to talk. We’ve been doing it since we were kids and didn’t want to discuss things in front of her parents. After Mike was born we would drive around until he fell asleep and then discuss whatever important thing we needed to discuss. I knew that was what she wanted to do, and I was very excited to hear her perspective.

We had a great drive and a great conversation. We had a great lunch and saw some great wildflowers. And when we got home I let the recruiter know that I would take the interview. It will be a couple of weeks because they have a road trip planned with their largest producers. That is exciting to me because some of the people on the trip with them already know me. If they bring up my name they will hear good things. Then I’ll meet with them when they get back home.

First, though, I have to call my son and make sure he is OK with it before we even begin to have the conversation — he may not want Mom and Dad moving into his town. I will at least give him the option of telling us “No” before the conversation goes any further.

Then we just have to figure out what we really want to do…

No Blue Bonnet Café visit is complete without the obligatory coffee cup selfie…
…or the sign picture. We’re so predictable!

Bluebonnets

The bluebonnet has been the state flower of Texas since 1901. In 1934, the Texas Department of Transportation adopted the rule that highway rights-of-way not be mowed during the flowering season for wildflowers, including the bluebonnet. As years passed, with the support of Lady Bird Johnson, certain areas along Texas highways were seeded with Texas wildflowers. A springtime tradition was born.

Today, you can find tourists cheating death on a daily basis from March to May, stopping their cars on crowded roadways and trying to capture the elusive perfect bluebonnet photograph. It is quite amazing to see people of apparently normal intelligence risking their lives in this way.

Each Easter in Texas, families dress up their children and go in search of the best fields of bluebonnets to take family photos. And, of course, to trample the beautiful flowers.

If you have never seen the wildflowers in spring it truly is worth a trip. Each year the highway department puts out a pamphlet of where the best wildflower viewing is to be found. Not just bluebonnets, but Indian paintbrushes in beautiful red, yellow coreopsis (also called tickseed — they look like a black-eyed Susan except the middle is closer to purple), and the fabulous Indian blankets (also called firewheel) grow all over the state during the spring. It can be a steadily changing color palate as the varying wildflowers bloom at slightly different times in the spring, and it is breathtaking.

All of that is background information. I have complained (in a good-natured fashion) for many years about people creating a road hazard by pulling to an abrupt stop to walk in the flowers, to take pictures of the flowers, their children sitting in the flowers, their dogs peeing in the flowers, whatever.

Now that we live in central Texas where the wildflowers are the most prolific, my wife has been sending pictures to me of my dog in the bluebonnets. I get tickled each time I receive one of the text messages with the pictures, but it is very hard to explain to someone without sounding like a grumpy old man. Peggy knows my schedule and waits to send the pictures when she is fairly certain I am in some serious meeting. I find it delightful.

And my dog really does look wonderful in the bluebonnets. Don’t you agree?

The girl don’t look too bad, either…

Allie is clearly impressed with the natural beauty around her
Now she’s just ready to go home