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In recognition of our move to Seattle, here are a few movies to get us in the mood!! #HOURCOUNT: 46

 

I had a blog post a couple of days ago about (wait, am I still on the hour count? We’re at 81 now) some of the reasons we’ll miss living in San Antonio. If we wanted to make it all about family, we could easily do that, but this is more about things that I will remember from this time in my life.

So, I will now continue with Part Deux (shameless Hot Shots! movie plug) of Things I’ll Miss About San Antonio

The Walkway

In 2007, my in-laws finally moved up from Mexico City. Carlos and Yolanda are great people, and I’m glad I have them as in-laws. With our third baby on the way, we were determined to get them to the U.S. Yolanda (who had been given the name “Tita” in recent years) will soon be taking her citizenship exam, as will Emi when we move to Seattle.

So when we finally were able to arrange this for them, the house next door to us became available from an elderly woman moving into a nursing home. So Yolanda and Carlos started renting the house, and then eventually purchased it. Within weeks, the house was transformed. It became theirs. And Carlos made a walkway / lawn path with concrete steps. For five years, it’s been a physical and symbolic link between the houses. The kids love that little pathway, and have worn it out with trips to Tita and Tito’s house. And when the kids get in there, they INVADE. Out come the toys: big, small, noisy, tall … and they all will get packed tomorrow. My guess is that’ll happen at about #hourcount 69.

The walkway will now serve more as a divider for sections of their lawn. It’ll probably never see the same attention as it’s received these past five years.

The Medical Center

When the babies were little, we didn’t want Mommy to go a day without seeing them. So that presented a logistical challenge, since Emi would sometimes be on call at the hospital multiple nights over a rotation throughout Med School, Residency and into Fellowship. So some days we would coordinate a window of time when we could visit mommy.

When she was in medical school, this sometimes included trips to a small park just outside the hospital. It was a great space for the kids to run around and play with us during the breaks Emi had from her grueling schedule. And med school was just the tip of the iceberg. Residency took grueling to a new level. Some people may complain about working too hard, but let me be frank: watching my wife go through 10 years of postgraduate training to get to this point, working 80-hour weeks (sometimes more) with 30-hour call nights, especially dealing with the stress of what goes on in intensive care settings of a hospital … I have seen what hard work is. Ladies and gentlemen, my wife. I am so freaking proud of her that she got this amazing job in an amazing city. Nine days until we’re in Seattle.

Emi Last Day in Medical Center, UTHSCSAMany of those nights were a quick kiss and cuddle but we tried our best to spend some time with mommy.

The Medical Center has obviously been a central place for Emi, but the kids and I will have lots of memories there. And while UH, UTHSCSA and Santa Rosa all have their unique memories, the things that happened at Methodist Hospital (three times) are the best things I will take from the Medical Center.

“About” San Antonio

I’ve already set the precedent for this piece in the first part of this post. I don’t mind expanding this list to towns and cities within easy driving distance from San Antonio. So I wanted to include mention of local towns and spots around town that we found in our regular daytrips.

There’s the Pipe Creek Christmas Tree Farm The University of Texas at Austin  … Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop in Austin … the Gristmill in Gruene … Poteet Strawberry Festival … Love Creek Apple Orchard and The Great Hill Country Pumpkin Patch AGS Cake Supplies … New Braunfels Children’s Museum (McKenna Children’s Museum) … Brackenridge Parkthe Zoo … the Witte MuseumSan Antonio Missions games with Ballapeño and Henry the Puffy Taco …

 The Teachers

Throughout the years, each of our kids have had amazing experiences with different teachers. We had the kids go through Rainbow Station Learning Center from 6 months until they got to Kindergarten. This was a great establishment (highly recommended) and we trusted them with our children for six consecutive years. When Eric Anthony was less than a year, we took him to a different facility with a teacher, Natalie, that we still fondly remember. Since then, he’s been lucky enough to have great public school teachers as well at Scobee Elementary. We give SO MUCH credit to Kathleen Gorsche, the Scobee principal who was a great advocate for the kids, and whom we always trusted did everything she could for the benefit of the kids.

Eric Anthony will start 4th grade at Blaine Elementary when we get to Seattle. Anya will go into first grade. She excelled with Ms. Cisneros, as did Eric Anthony. Donna D’Angelo was especially sweet as their GT teacher, and even brought Eric Anthony a complete set of World Book Encyclopedias (a development which enthralled him) to take home.

William will enter Kindergarten, but had great care of the Rainbow Station teachers, from Amanda in Gold Room to Ms. Tonya in the Satellite infant room. Tonya quickly found that as an infant, William was making rhythms. He was enthralled by making music and drumming.

At Rainbow Station, we also loved infant room’s Mrs. Anna Ihle, who every day would have “salon time” with Anya and would do her little tufts of hair into ponytails. Anna was sort of like my Yoda for helping me do something with Anya’s hair. There is no try. There is only hairdo.

And Last But Not Least …

How to wrap this up? I think what I will most take from Texas is not a specific memory of a time or place. But I will remember it as the time I learned how to be a husband and a father. I learned to work on my own and to be successful out of the gates. During these 11 years in Texas, we strengthened and developed. I will remember buying a home. Being let go. Adapting to the responsibilities that come with so many lives. I learned that I need to keep on learning and improving. Except for my Guacamole. That’s beyond improvement.

SO! There we go. There are 10 things that I will truly miss and want to remember about our ten years in San Antonio. Next stop Seattle … the journey begins soon. #hourcount 80

 

The kids love Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sully are a couple of their favorite characters, and at Disneyland they love the ride (and get gleefully excited about what Ros might say to them at the end of it).

And now, the countdown begins for … Monsters University.

The images and trailer are from Yahoo! Movies.

We’re down to 132 hours.

We’ve always known basically when this move would happen … my wife, Emi, is completing her three-year neonatology fellowship this weekend, and we’ve known this whole time that this day would come.

But now, as we prepare to leave San Antonio to return to the west coast, reality is sinking in.

One hundred and thirty two hours.

Not to jinx it, but I think we are doing pretty well considering how we’re down to the wire. The boxes are nearly all packed, the clothes for the road trip picked out, and meals have been on paper and plastic for a few days now.

We’re now at the point of having our last experiences in San Antonio. For example, today was our last Wednesday here. The kids have gotten into the game, pointing out things that it will be the last time for. Some of them have gotten us a little melancholy, and have reminded us of all of the great things we have experienced here in the Alamo City.

San Antonio was a great place for us to raise our babies. We moved here in April 2002, for Emi to start medical school. She graduated from UTHSCSA in 2006 with her MD, and continued here with her pediatric residency, completing that in 2009. Since we were well-rooted here, we stayed here for her fellowship as well. All throughout, we explored the area, and raised our kids to appreciate everything the area had to offer.

This led me to think it would only be fitting for me to write a little bit about the things we will miss about this great city. Of course, as with any city, there are drawbacks (July heat, to name one) but this is about the things that we will always remember about out time living here. Of course I could load this list up with anecdotes about the kids learning to walk, their first words, and all sorts of family things … but this list is more focused on San Antonio itself.

Wildflowers in Spring

Bluebonnets, Texas state flowerThere’s a song by Nanci Griffith called Gulf Coast Highway … the version I’m familiar with is a duet between Emmylou Harris and Dave Matthews.

Some of the lyrics have stuck with me … the chorus ends with “come some sweet bluebonnet spring.” Another lyric is “This is the only place on Earth bluebonnets grow, once a year they come and go, at this old house here by the road.” It’s a beautiful song, but nowhere near as beautiful as the expansive fields of bluebonnets on those sweet spring days. It’s a time when you know summer is just around the corner, and you want to drink in the perfection of Spring before you get baked by the heat of the Texas summer. The kids love to explore and make bouquets for Mommy. We have to be careful of snakes (especially since Mommy saw way too many snakebite cases come through the hospital when she was a resident) but it’s a wonderful experience, and I will miss seeing the vast stretches of deep blue flowers alongside country roads.

Hill Country Peach Runs

When you think of peaches, you might think of Georgia. I, however, will always think of Fredericksburg, Texas. About an hour north of San Antonio, this small town is in prime peach-growing country. A couple of weekends every spring and summer, we’d drive to Fredericksburg and either pick or buy boxfuls of delicious peaches. One of our favorite spots was a roadside stand owned by Studebaker Farms, nine miles east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290. We’d get fresh tomatoes (delicious) and bags full of white flesh and other peaches.

Fredericksburg Peaches, Studebaker Farms PeachesWe’d sit in the car with beach towels spread across our laps and gorge on them. By the end of it, we’d have a mountain of peach pits filling up whatever receptacle we could find … usually empty Starbucks cups. Sometimes the peach fuzz would irritate us a little bit, but we’d clean them the best we could and demolish pounds of the sweet stone fruit. They also sold plums and other fresh fruits and vegetables, but I will always remember the aroma and taste of the peaches. Fredericksburg also had a great park downtown, as well as stores that sold (mostly) locally-made preserves, honeys, salsas, freshly-made fudge and tons of other items. Affectionately known as “The Sample Store” because you could try all of the goods, Rustlin’ Rob’s was always a popular stop on our Fredericksburg peach runs.

The drive back, more often than not, was on the Old San Antonio Road. It winds through the Hill Country and it takes an hour or so before you get to Comfort, TX. It’s a gorgeous drive, and one of my favorite road journeys in Texas.

The Cantaloupe Box

One of the things Emi enjoyed doing in her rare free moments was making and decorating cakes. She started when the kids were small, making birthday cakes based on whatever theme the kids wanted. Her mom did this for her and Carlos when they were little, but Emi (as she is wont to do) took it to a whole new level. She researched how to decorate cakes and before long, was making amazing creations of all shapes and sizes. The woman who claimed she couldn’t bake when we were first married, became the best baker and decorator I’ve ever seen.

cantaloupe boxI ended up making a site to display her cakes … www.emisconfections.com … she got so into it, along with doing the kids birthday cakes, she started making them for friends’ parties, holiday events, a wedding and more. And every time she made a cake, she would always transport it in a sturdy, wide cantaloupe box. It was used for tons of cakes, but we were always careful to not get it dirty, and to clean it constantly. That box became a symbol of sorts for Emi’s caking – and in turn, for a way for her to have an artistic outlet after treating patients and dealing with the stress of residency and fellowship.

Chess Games with Dean and my Stone Oak friends

In 2007, like many people across the country, I was at a career crossroads. The company I worked for, GreenPoint Mortgage, was closing, and I was going to need to find a new source of income. I had worked from a home office since 2001, and we were two weeks from the due date of our third child. I decided I would open my own small company, and so EC Creative Solutions was formed.

Dean Hollis

One of the first local clients I connected with was Dean Hollis, who owned a couple of local businesses and needed web design and marketing help. I liked Dean right away, with his big persona and “I know something you don’t know” grin. We talked about what needed to be done, and then he invited me to have a beer with him and a couple of his friends. So we sat out and smoked cigars, played chess and drank a few beers and hardly talked about business at all. We ended up doing a few work projects, but more than anything, I enjoyed my friendship with Dean … we spent many afternoons playing chess and smoking good cigars at a local pub. I expanded my entrepreneurial outlook and with Dean became part owner of a newly-formed tech school and of a Yoga studio, owned by his wife. Along with my paying projects, these gave me a great feeling of working on a team to get these new businesses off the ground. I was given an office space at Rizer Tech (the biotech school) and started working more there than in my home office. He introduced me to Mike Greene, a programmer with whom I’ve worked and been good friends with ever since.

Dean had found a lot of success, but the economic downturn (and the death of one of his partners at a telecommunications company) caused his main performing business to fail. I knew he was having trouble keeping things afloat, and I was concerned about him because I wasn’t seeing that same joy. We spent long hours talking over beers and chess about things we could do and projects that we could try to push forward. But in the end, things just weren’t working for him.

Dean took his life in December 2009. I wish I had known the depth of his despair, so I might have been able to help him somehow. He inspired me to look for ways to grow and to work for myself in ways I don’t think I had the confidence to do before.

Fishing and Hunting south Texas

I’ve always loved the outdoors, and grew up catching lake trout with my grandfather in the summertime. San Antonio is about a three hour drive from one of the best saltwater fishing spots in the Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, TX, regularly hosts international fishing tournaments, and if you’ve ever watched fishing shows on ESPN, odds are, you’ve seen some action from Port A (as it’s called locally).

Eric Souza FishingThere are charter boat companies that take fishermen offshore for 12-hour trips … usually these bring you 20-30 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and either tie off on one of the natural gas rigs or find other good spots where you can hook into some of the biggest and best fighting fish you can imagine. I went out on numerous charters and filled my freezer with Red Snapper, Ling, Tuna, Amberjack, Shark, King Mackerel and Wahoo. One time, I went on a 24-hour trip, and fished non-stop the whole time the boat wasn’t moving. I caught 40  vermillion snapper (about 2-3 pounds each), three red snapper, four huge kings, a 25-pound blackfin tuna, a huge jack crevalle, and finally just before we were going to end the trip, I caught a monster 118-pound spinner shark. It was the most exhilarating fishing experience for me ever.

I also met up with Jeff Snyder, a south outdoorsman extraordinaire. I contacted Jeff, a former marine and host of outdoors TV and radio shows, to see about fishing on Lake Braunig or Calaveras for freshwater redfish or hybrid striped bass. He said we could do that, but since it was nearing wintertime, he asked me if I had ever been hunting. I hadn’t, so he invited me to join him on his ranch near the gulf coast to hunt for whitetail deer. He wanted to clear his property of some “spikes” (male deer who genetically wouldn’t be producing strong antler racks) and suggested it would be a good introduction into hunting. It certainly was. He taught me about how to fire a rifle, and about what I was supposed to do on the hunt. I don’t know what it’s like to stalk or to hunt on public lands, but it was quite an experience to hunt with Jeff on his spread just off the Frio River, bordering a national park area filled with wildlife. We spent hours in an elevated blind, and saw all sorts of birds and critters. Eventually as dusk came, the deer came with it. And with the spike I took that night (cleanly from about 150 yards with a .257 Roberts rifle), I knew I would want to go hunting again.

Since then, I’ve gone out every year for the past six years, and have taken either spikes or a buck each time. One thing I didn’t do, which I could have, was hunted for the feral hogs that roam the countryside. These hogs grow to enormous sizes and are terribly destructive to the region – especially on farms and ranches. A couple of times, I spent time on a ranch with Mr. Marion Pringle, a former NASA official and all-around great guy. He and his lovely wife, MaryAnn. Mr. Pringle has a high-fenced property and guides hunts on his 470-acre ranch in Hondo, TX. One morning, we were in a blind in a lush meadow when we spotted a group of the hogs. He wanted to clear out any hogs from his property that he could, so we were going to try to each take one at the same time … but they were spooked by deer movement and scattered before we completed our count to three.

I have a few other things on my list of things I will remember about San Antonio, but my time is slowly getting away from me.

I will post a Part Two to this, including the Medical Center, the Three Parks and the concrete cylinder walkway … but I’m not sure when I will have the time to do it. After all, we leave for Seattle in … 130 hours.

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