Jun 29, 2012

Ode to Girlfriends

I wish I remembered anything at all about poetry. Sans the ABAB rhyming structure, I got nothing.

However, if I remembered anything about poetry I would write an ode to my girlfriends. Because girlfriends can go from the mundane, trivial or downright lack of communication to hashing out life's major conundrums with you in the blink of an eye. Whether it's over girls evening out (the early version of girls night out; much thanks Brit for our lovely evening), via phone calls or text messages, girlfriends are awesome, helpful and accepting.

Who else can call you nuts besides your pseudo-sister?
In a phone call a couple years ago, Melissa and I decided that we all had our own kinda crazy. As in we all have something that make others say "that chick is nuts." But what's important is just embracing your own kinda crazy and working with it. Whether its obsessing over a "what did he mean when he said X" situation or obsessively Pinteresting kitchen cabinets, you just gotta own it. Embrace the crazy.

That said, I greatly appreciate my girlfriends, near and far, who jump right into the crazy with me, who don't question it for a second and who embrace the crazy for all it has to offer.

Thanks y'all; you're the best.

Ladies who totally own the crazy with you

Jun 28, 2012

Deco Day 1

As they say in homebuilder jargon, today we went to deco.

For 2 hours we compared wood floors, counter tops, paints, blind colors, door knobs and more. I never thought about how many little details there are!

I was most anxious about the kitchen cabinet and counter combination. Both because I have the most ambitious decorating goal in the kitchen and also because those colors would set the tone for so much else. It was when we got to that section that I made the designer lady examine my Pinterest pictures with me. Here are the two that were our guiding lights.

Source: google.com via Cheryl on Pinterest

Source: hgtv.com via Cheryl on Pinterest

Thank God Ross was more decisive than me. Otherwise we might not have ever picked out cabinets or counters!

And believe it or not, all these things here will one day come together to make a home!


Jun 24, 2012

First "House" Pics

Yesterday I dropped off our earnest money on the house and did a drive by of our lot for some pre-build pictures. Building won't start until mid to late July so there's not much to see yet but you can at least check out the neighbors.

They don't know it yet, but they are getting pretty awesome neighbors to the right

Thankfully dumpsters are not included with the house

Jun 22, 2012

We're Building a House!

New neighborhood
The title kinda gives it all away huh?

Yesterday Ross and I signed a contract to build a new home up in Round Rock. It will be in a part of town we're very familiar with (friends live in the area) and know we really like. Just to give you an idea, last Christmas-time we ran into the local grocery store and their holiday promotion included live music and a free champagne tasting. Clearly this is my kinda community.

Not our house but gives you an idea of the style
(just be sure to lower your landscaping expectations)
The house itself is 2731 square feet, two stories, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms. All the bedrooms, plus a game room are upstairs and the kitchen, breakfast area, living room and my study are downstairs.

We'll pick out our decor over the next two weeks and the build will start soon. Moving day will be the middle of October.

Yay new house!

Jun 17, 2012

Father's Day Fun

Mom and Dad came out to visit this weekend for Father's Day and boy oh boy did we do a lot.

Saturday we attempted to have lunch at Homeslice on South Congress but the wait was much too long. We ended up with a pretty decent second try though - Threadgills. Dad and Ross, both chicken fried steak lovers married to women who do not make chicken fried steak, were in heaven.

Then it was off to the Bob Bullock museum. Mom, Ross and I had all been but Dad had only ever been for a fundraiser. This time he got the real deal.

Back at the house, we added Nancy and Jack to our festivities and had happy hour accompanied with the stereotypical-family-vacation 21st-century slideshow (using the Flickr app through AT&T and displaying on our flat panel). Except I think we had a more interested than usual audience. Oh! And we gave them their European gifties. Swavorski jewelry for the moms, an old-fashioned ink and pen set for Jack and an Austrian music box for Dad.

IMG_0648Then it was the big moment, five years in the making: Dad's first outing to the Dell Diamond to see the Express play. It was sunny, hot, full of beer and junk food. Just like a baseball game should be. But even better, the sun went down about 30 minutes into the game so then it was warm, full of beer and junk food which is my preferred way to spend a baseball game. The Express scored first but did not end up on top.

This morning Ross headed to work and I took Mom and Dad on a new-home tour. First we had breakfast at Java Cafe in Round Rock (very nearby new house and served as a preview of the area). Dad loved his "Big Daddy Special" in honor of Father's Day. It included steak - what's not to love? Afterward I took them up to see our hopefully soon-to-be neighborhood. They really liked it. And when we got home, Dad went through the whole spec sheet with a fine-tooth comb and declared it an excellent buy. Our (hopefully) new house is Dad approved and certified!

Jun 13, 2012


As you know, we've been scouting out a new house. Well we recently got a little more serious about it and applied for pre-approval on a loan. Good news - we were approved!

The thing that made this pre-approval a little stickier than normal is that we anticipate still owning our current home. Which means we needed to be approved not only for a new mortgage, but still be able to carry this one at the same time. We intend to lease this house out (1167 square feet, 2 car garage & a yard can be all yours in October!) but the lender can't take that into consideration since it would ultimately remain our liability. Anyways, long story short, we needed to be approved for a BIG amount.

Step 1: check
Steps 2-100: ongoing

Jun 12, 2012

Think Twice

A couple nights ago I finished Think Twice, the story of twin sisters, one good and one evil. The story began with the evil sister, Alice, trying to bury the good twin, Bennie, alive. Bury her alive! While Bennie is escaping and dealing with the repercussions of being buried alive, Alice goes into the city and impersonates her sister. It's really interesting and frankly impressive how Alice pulls off the impersonation of her sister throughout a surprise visit from an old boyfriend, client meetings at the law firm and more.

I wasn't wild about the very end but the chase part, which was most the book, was good. Both characters were clever in their deception and run for the goal.

Verdict: Sure, why not.

Jun 10, 2012


Mmm brisket
This afternoon the fire department had its first family BBQ in quite a while. Technically organized by the union (and therefore paid for with union funds and not taxpayer dollars), it was at a park up in Georgetown. A couple of the guys who are competitive BBQ-ers set up shop early in the morning and got the meat going. Mmmm--mmmm it was good.

Ross liked seeing everybody outside of work where you can just yuck it up a little more and relax without worrying about getting called out to an emergency.

Hot Dog
I really liked meeting all the guys and their families. It was baby-palooza out there; I swear there were at least 10 kids younger than school age.

And of course, we brought our baby too. She was one-of-a-kind and attracted much attention (and BBQ scraps) from the firefighters, wives and two-legged-babies.

Jun 7, 2012


On my recent biz trip I brought along and devoured Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta. Holy smokes it was good.

The whole premise of the book is that there are these unwritten rules about how charities are supposed to be run but these rules hold charities back and render them ineffective, or at the very least, unable to live up to their full potential.

Pallotta goes into many many rules but let me touch on the ones that resonated most with me.
  • Charities can't take risks primarily because if they fail then money that was supposed to go to a cause has been "wasted." Of course, with big risk comes big reward, even if it takes a few tries. How many people are going unserved because charities can't take a risk with funding sources, program delivery and more?
  • Employees of charities should be working out of the kindness of their hearts and willing to sacrifice some (or lots) of pay. Demanding a compensation package that accurately reflects their skills and worth is supposedly greedy and taking from the cause. However, it is somehow moral to get rich while potentially harming people (tobacco anyone?) but immoral to get rich helping people. Imagine if charities could match the private sector in salaries. Maybe Warren Buffet or Bill Gates would have made their fortunes curing diseases.
  • Charities can't advertise. Again because it is "taking" money from the cause. Buying a Superbowl ad, or even local paper ad, is seen as frivolous spending despite the awareness it creates. However we all know from our personal consumer experiences that the more awareness we have of something, the more attractive it is. For example, you didn't want an iPod until you were aware of it.
  • The most important figure for determining a charity's effectiveness is the percent that "goes to the cause" versus the percent that is overhead. While I doubt anyone would salute ineffective or mismanage charities, this figure is virtually meaningless since 1) there are no guidelines as to what "going to the cause" actually means. For instance, the electric bill at a community clinic is considered overhead by most but is certainly required to have the lights, computers, screening equipment, etc on. And 2) it says nothing about effectiveness. A soup kitchen that spends 90% on "the cause" but serves watered down soup is not more effective than a kitchen that spends 80% on "the cause" but is serving hearty vegetable soup.
  • Charities are expected to act like a business but without any of the same allowances. Since a business can rake risks, pay employees almost whatever it likes, advertise, sell stock, spend on infrastructure how it see fits etc, it has a nearly endless set of allowances not afforded to charities. This is a pretty all encompassing point.
It could be easy to read this book and think "well, charity is doomed." But of course, it's not. Charity and the charitable sector have been around for centuries and aren't going anywhere. However if we want to see our charities grow stronger, do more good and enhance our communities even more, we need to empower them.

Here's my attempt at providing a few guidelines any one of us can do to make it happen.
  • Give unrestricted gifts. When you make your donation, don't specify how it has to be spent. Trust the org to use it wisely (the vast majority do) and if they need staplers or bathroom cleaner or staff health insurance, just let them spend it that way. It all helps the cause in the end.
  • Ask about the change made and not the percent "going to the cause." Volunteers or staff will be thrilled to tell you how many kids learned to read, the amount saved by keeping someone out of jail and the number of kitties with new homes. You'll be able to better determine how much good the org is doing and probably feel really satisfied with your donation or volunteer service. It's a two-for.
  • Advocate for better salaries. If you read about a nonprofit exec "getting paid too much," look into it before declaring the person devil spawn. Have they increased fundraising dramatically? Enhanced services? Improved effectiveness? And if you have the chance to serve on the board, support staff salary increases or bonuses to help retain the most effective staff members.
Happy do gooding!

Jun 5, 2012

Boats & Alligators

That's right. Boats and alligators. In the same blog post. And in Orlando, in the same hotel.

On Sunday I flew to Orlando for a 2 day biz trip. The conference was at the swanky Gaylord Palms Resort (my first time at a Gaylord, an experience in and of itself). It was a huge complex of hotel rooms, restaurants, conference rooms, pools, shopping and more. And since there was nothing anywhere nearby, it's a good thing all of your whims could be met within its walls.

IMG_0628In the center was a large atrium that housed an indoor rainforest-Everglades thing. In which there were baby alligators (and turtles).

Because you know, that's normal for a hotel.

And then there was this side atrium area, Key West themed, that had a pool posing as an ocean/gulf and in that was a boat. Inside. A boat. And you could eat there. Which I did (food = mediocre).

Again, because you know, that's normal for a hotel.


Jun 2, 2012

Back on the Ranch

Now that travels are completed and we're back on the (suburban) ranch, things are pretty normal. I'm working, Ross is working, Lexi's being cute.

There is one exciting out-of-the-ordinary thing going on though.

On Memorial Day we called a home builder to start discussing our next house. I've been pining away after this one house for a while now and it was time to start getting serious. We called the builder and confirmed there is ONE LOT left in the neighborhood we want for the house we want. However, the house we want isn't anywhere in town as a model home and we're not about to build a house we've never seen an example of in person.

After examining the floor plan together online and taking the virtual tour, we decided we were serious enough about it to have the saleswoman schedule a walk through with a family already living in that floor plan. (Obviously we didn't want to disturb these people if we weren't serious but we are...so we'll inconvenience them for 10-15 minutes without feeling too bad...assuming they agree to it.)

Right now we're waiting on the builder to schedule that walk through but it will hopefully be in the coming week. And then if we like it, I guess we'll start getting into the nitty-gritty of financing it. Fingers crossed all around!