Hello Texas, My Site Visit February 14 – 16, 2015

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After working in the Plano temporary office for three days, I flew home Friday night to pick up my Valentine’s Day date. Yes, I had to fly back to LAX at 6:50pm on a Friday night so I could board a flight at 9:15am on Saturday morning. Not the most efficient process, in my mind, but rules are rules.

February 14, 2015 Happy Valentine’s Day! The welcome video showed greetings in a variety of languages. I was on the shuttle with a woman who works at my affiliate and she brought her husband and precocious young daughter. The others who boarded the shuttle are not familiar to me, they flew in on a different airline so I wasn’t sure even sure whether they worked in CA, NY or KY. We didn’t say more than a polite “hello” to one another, maybe I should have been more welcoming in my greeting? Oh well. Too late now.

The announcement about the company’s move dropped ten months ago and since then, I’ve had a lot of time to mull it over. Personally, my boyfriend and I have discussed options about moving in together. His attitude about where we would live has been especially reassuring. He realizes that it would be easy for a straight white dude to move to Texas and if I decide to go, he would move there with me. Having that support has helped me a lot by alleviating the pressure of wondering what my geographical location will do to my relationship. My mom and I talked about the move, as well. I explained that the financial incentive to move is extremely generous and essentially, it could help cover my daughter’s college expenses. My daughter will be graduating from high school the year that my company moves and she is committed to continuing her education and I am committed to funding it for her. The thought of moving farther away from my parents as they continue to grow older hurts my heart so I am not sure if I can do it yet. But I am considering it a lot more seriously than I did ten months ago, On the professional side, I’ve been working on initiatives related to the move and I see the care that our company is taking to help employees make this transition. My position in the company provides access to a lot of the decision-making and I am impressed at how much effort our company is making to bring everyone to Plano. No one will be laid off, everyone who wants to move will be offered a position. There is a luxury automaker that recently announced their intentions to move their HQ location. In this process, they placed their employees are in one of three categories: We want you to move, If you move you might have a job and We don’t want you anymore, “bu-bye”. My company is not taking that approach and for that, I am grateful. It would be no question in my mind to leave a company like that, even though I am confident that my job would not be in the “bu-bye” category.

Since I’ve been to the temporary office a handful of times for work already, my goal was to see Plano through my daughter’s eyes. When I first talked to her about my company moving, she was adamant about not wanting to move to Texas. Honestly, my initial reaction was the same. I never imagined voluntarily leaving the California lifestyle unless it was to live the Hawai’i lifestyle full-time. We wanted to have a “real life” experience in the area so we went to the local mall to see a movie. Truthfully, this was my first experience outside of the temporary office or work-sanctioned dinner so I had no idea what to expect. I was curious to discover what traffic would be like in the area on the weekend. Unfortunately, it was Valentine’s Day AND “Fifty Shades of Gray” is out so the theater was crazy busy with the usual groups of rowdy teenagers and numerous pairs of couples on dates. It made me giggle to see how dressed up some of the people were at the movie theater, I assumed because of Valentine’s Day. I really hope that typical attire for a Friday night movie isn’t cleavage out to there and hooker heels for women. My tank top, yoga pants and slippers don’t meet that dress code at all.

My daughter wanted to see “Kingsman – The Secret Service”. I was excited to see this movie because it looked like a lot of fun. I gave “Kingsman” a B-/C+ because I love Colin Firth in everything he does. Mark Hamill makes an appearance early in the film, much to my delight. He will always have a soft spot in my heart because of the impact that “Star Wars” had on me as a child. The action and fight scenes in the movie were very fun to watch and of course, my daughter swooned over the young lead actor. Unfortunately, there was a point in the movie when the “Obama” president had his head blown up and the audience applauded and cheered. That quickly reminded me that I was not in California anymore.

On Sunday, we joined the bus tour that would take us to Uptown/Downtown Dallas. Highlights of the tour were:

  • The Arbor Hills Nature preserve in Plano, TX. This is a 200-acre park featuring vast areas of natural beauty for walking, jogging, hiking, orienteering, and other outdoor activity.  It just struck me that there would be a preserve to go to if I moved to Texas, rather than just having a beach and the mountains all around me in California. That become a HUGE a shift in lifestyle and mindset.
  • I learned a little bit about the culture of shopping in North Texas, which seemed to be HUGE. We drive past the Shops at Willow Bay, and were warned that most malls don’t open until noon on Sundays. But our tour guide and most other people I’ve met in North Texas always pointed out the shopping centers and outlet malls. They are a respite from the heat and shopping seems like a competitive sport to many people I’ve met in Texas. Designer attire, luxury vehicles and impeccable hairstyles/grooming seemed to dominate my initial impressions of the people I met on my first expedition to North Texas.
  • In addition to most of the stores opening at noon on Sunday, liquor stores are closed on Sundays. However, but you can purchase beer and wine after noon in the grocery store, just FYI.
  • We zoomed by a bunch of locales:
    • A West Plano mixed living area in Willow Bend area, near the Tom Muehlenbeck Recreation Center. We held some meetings with the CEOs of the local hospitals in this center on our visit in August. This recreation center looked state of the art, with a huge swimming pool that looked extremely inviting because of the 100 degree weather.
    • The tour guide mentioned Lake Texoma that is north of Plano but I know nothing more about it.
    • Apparently I should eat at Lockhart’s downtown Plano for BBQ
    • In-N-Out Burger has a presence there but Wataburger is the official burger place of Texas.
    • East Plano is the older part of Plano and the homes have bigger lots and the population is more ethnically diverse.
    • Collin County Community College has campuses in Plano, McKinney and Frisco.
    • We drove by Highland Park and University Park which apparently has very expensive real estate and a great school district.
    • White Rock Lake in Dallas has non-motorized boating and I would assume Dragon Boat teams because they have crew rowing in their photographs. Also, I saw disc golf, which my boyfriend would probably enjoy.
    • Uptown Dallas was the place I wanted to see most. Lower Greenville/”M Streets” is known as a very popular place to live because it is 2 miles from White Rock Lake and near bars and restaurants.
    • Lakewood area also sounds like an active and fun neighborhood. Knox/Henderson is the northern edge of Uptown and there are entrances to the Katy Trail, a biking/walking trail that takes you right into downtown Dallas (very popular & it has completely revitalized this area).
    • Uptown is very popular with young people and empty-nesters. I like to think of myself as a “Young Empty-Nester.”
    • McKinney Ave is in the heart of Dallas.
    • We drove through West Village in Oak Lawn and saw that you can take a free trolley (M Line Trolley goes to Uptown & Dallas Arts District. Free parking! West Village is luxury apartments above and walking/shopping/movie theaters below. Turtle Creek is high rise living with Azaleas blooming, Lee Park is in Turtle Creek (the tour guide kept saying how pretty this area is in the Spring.)
    • Klyde Warren Park connects Uptown and Downtown Dallas on Woodall Rodgers highway

We saw a lot of Dallas on the bus tour. It made me think I could live in Dallas for at least a couple of years, as I would be considered a “young empty nester.’  Doesn’t that concept of being an “empty nester” make me sound like I will have one foot in the grave? Damn. I’m thinking that living in Uptown will afford me opportunity to live a single person lifestyle, hitting the hip bars and shaking my booty on the dance floor. Empty nester sounds more like a boring old lady wearing support hose with blue hair than a woman with eight piercings, two tattoos and cute little bangs.

After the tour, we had dinner at Whiskey Cake with my dear friend Melissa and her mama. I’ve known Mel since before my daughter was born and her mama even attended one of my daughter’s birthday parties in Los Angeles. It was so nice to be with friends who live in the area. And Mel has such a positive energy, I love spending time with her.

My daughter is open to coming back to Plano with me for another visit. She wants to go horseback riding for the first time and she wants to visit the local colleges and universities. I also have a lead on a hula school in Dallas and hope to find a Shorin Ryu dojo in the area that I feel connected to enough to train with their sensei. Hopefully, my boyfriend will also join me on a trip in the next several months. The decision to move for my company is a big one that impacts my future and every aspect of my life. It is comforting to know that I am not making it alone. Texas life is definitely not California living.

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