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Author: ecsouza

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.

I had a bit of a panic this weekend when my Gmail and two other email addresses compromised for about 12 hours. Facebook too. Doesn’t appear to be data lost – only a strange domain transfer request for GoDaddy in my Gmail.

As my friend Devanie Angel suggested, I double verified my Google account, and that protected me from further intrusion attempts (from someone in Caracas, Venezuela, apparently, according to Facebook). However my Bluehost email accounts were hacked again. So I changed the passwords again, to something scoring 100% on their password strength scale, and haven’t been hacked since.

I have run MalWare Bytes, SpyBot and Trend Micro HouseCall. I ran a Full System Scan in Norton (around 6 million files). There were 66 tracking cookies set, but no Trojan Horses or anything else. Other computers in my home network are clean too.

Maybe taken from cell phone? Emails and Facebook passwords have been entered there … AT&T says nope.

So … we’ll see! I certainly hope this fight is over, in any case.

Since we’re moving to Seattle and are planning to go to Mariners games (as many as I can arrange!), here are some Mariners products from my friend’s Fanatics site …

There are hundreds more Mariners products, but I am just putting a few on here.

 


Nike Seattle Mariners White Stadium Adjustable Hat

Seattle Mariners Navy Blue Newborn Baseball Bib & Booties Set

Majestic Seattle Mariners Navy Blue Newborn My First Tee T-shirt

Nike Seattle Mariners Khaki Stadium Adjustable Hat

Nike Seattle Mariners Navy Blue Wool Classic Adjustable Hat

Majestic Seattle Mariners #51 Ichiro Suzuki Navy Blue Players T-shirt

Seattle Mariners Hanging Cell Phone Antenna Charm

Majestic Seattle Mariners #51 Ichiro Suzuki Navy Blue Youth Player T-shirt

’47 Brand Seattle Mariners Navy Blue Franchise Fitted Hat

Nike Seattle Mariners Navy Blue Swoosh Flex Hat

Seattle Mariners Sof-Grip 3-Pack Pen Set

Majestic Seattle Mariners #51 Ichiro Suzuki Navy Blue Replica Baseball Jersey

New Era Seattle Mariners Navy Blue On-Field 59FIFTY Fitted Hat

Seattle Mariners Team Logo Neoprene Mousepad

New Era Seattle Mariners Green 9FIFTY Le Arch Snapback Adjustable Hat

This was written June of 2003, just after we had Eric Anthony …

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How it all happened …

Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce had an interesting time making it to the “outside” world! Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce

Emi was diagnosed with preterm labor at 34 weeks. We had gone to a Doctor’s appointment in early April, and found out Emi was already starting to dilate, so she was sent to the hospital for observation. She had been experiencing contractions all throughout the pregnancy, but we had thought they were Braxton-Hicks, and not the real thing. However, they were enough to get preterm labor starting! Emi stayed in the hospital for three days, missing a Neuro test – one of the course’s three tests for the year (meaning Emi’s next Neuro test was worth two-thirds of her final grade – more on this later). We were pretty nervous, since a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks (give or take two weeks) but we were reassured somewhat by a perfect sonogram and no other signs of problems.

The doctor, Robert Schorlemer, told us we should probably expect the baby to come within the next two weeks. Talk about a shift in our thinking! We were pretty well prepared well enough in advance, but it was tough to not have a more definite idea of when the big event would take place.

A week later, Emi was considerably more dilated, and was put on bedrest after another brief hospital stay. Can you imagine trying to convince a hummingbird not to fly? However, Emi wasn’t feeling that great, and we understood the longer the baby could wait before birth, the fewer health risks Eric Anthony would have upon delivery.

Emi’s mom, Yolanda, flew up from Mexico City, and helped us prepare as much as possible. She was a Godsend! There was still a lot to do (can anyone say “Nesting”?) and the days passed slowly. I focused on getting everything prepared so I could take some time off work, still doing everything I could to make Emi more comfortable. She was very strict with her diet and the strongest medication she took through the pregnancy was a couple of Tums, I think on two occasions in the early morning hours when her reflux was too much for her to sleep. Neither of us slept much those last few weeks … everyone was telling us to enjoy the last days of being able to sleep in, but with Emi’s discomfort and my nerves, I don’t think we were able to sleep any more then than we are sleeping now. Slightly different, though … indigestion and freaking out have been replaced with diapering and feeding.

Dr. Schorlemer told Emi that when she got to 38 weeks, she would be taken off bedrest, since that would be in the “safe zone” for the baby to be delivered. She was still having contractions constantly between five and ten minutes apart. How tiring it was for her! The doctor was continually amazed that the baby wasn’t coming yet, since she was so far dilated and effaced!

The days continued to pass and every time we did something, we would jokingly comment “this might be the last Monday before the baby.” “This might be the last episode of ‘Buffy’ before the baby.” “This might be the last time we say ‘this might be the last time before the baby’ before the baby.”

Finally we made it to 38 weeks, and Emi was taken off bedrest. We celebrated by going out to dinner (“this might be the last time we go out to dinner …” oh, you get the idea) and going to Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity in North Star Mall. The days continued to pass and Emi neared the original due date – and finals week! Emi’s final exams began on Friday, May 16, and concluded with her Neuro final on May 23. Since she had made it this far, she hoped she would be able to last through Finals Week … or else she would have to take remedial exams over the summer, which she definitely didn’t want to do with a newborn!

Emi’s dad and brother flew into town and spent a few days, hoping to get to spend some time with the new addition. However, they both left, and Yolanda extended her plane ticket for another two weeks.

The tests began and still no baby. We had been told two due dates and for most of the pregnancy, based on measurements the first sonogram or a tiny embryo, we had been going with May 19; but the official due date was May 22. May 19th came and went. So did the 20th, 21st and the 22nd. Just one more day and she would be done with her exams. However, she started feeling “funny” on the night of Thursday, May 22. When she told her mom she was going to bed early that night, we all thought something might be happening – though we were cautious not to over-react. I went to bed at midnight and awoke about three hours later by Emi, who was sitting up on the edge of the bed. She said she was having “serious contractions” and they were seven minutes apart. We discussed whether or not to go to the hospital then and there, but we decided to wait to see if she would be able to attend her last Neuro exam or not. We decided to take it one hour at a time, and by 8 a.m., after spending time with a heating pad, in the shower and in the glider, she decided she could take her exam.

So off we went. We packed up the car and drove to her school, which was across the street from the hospital. Her classmates were pretty amazed to see her, and even more surprised to find out she was in active labor!

About two hours later, Emi finished her exam, and we drove her to the hospital. She was admitted at noon and was 5-1/2 cm (you need to be 10 cm to deliver). Her water was broke in the hospital, and that brought on the “serious” contractions again – but this time much more serious. Shortly after (not short enough!) she was given an epidural, which made the contractions much more managable. At 3:30 p.m., the nurse came in and informed us that Emi was at 9 cm and nearly ready to start pushing!

The pushing started around 4 p.m., and lasted nearly two hours, at which point Emi delivered our beautiful child, Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce at 5:56 p.m.

For work, I’ve been doing internet marketing, focusing primarily on “CPA” (Cost Per Action) marketing. This means every time someone fills out a form on one of my websites, I get paid. It’s also called “CPL” – cost per lead. I do this through my company, Delta Leads.

There is another direction I’ve been working on for Internet marketing … this is “CPS” – Cost Per Sale. This is when you lead site visitors to merchant sites, and I would earn a commission from any purchases made on merchant sites that I have directed the visitors to.

Many of these merchants are organized through a company called ShareASale, based out of Chicago. The merchants stretch all across the board in practically every consumer group imaginable. Through ShareASale, you tell the merchant you want to try to advertise for them, and they either accept you or not.

A year or so ago, I set up a site with Mike Greene called www.ShopKidsClothes.net … the issue I had was getting all datafeeds (spreadsheets of products, descriptions, costs, images, links, etc, set up by different merchants) to have common field sections, so I could display easily groups of products from a variety of merchants. I followed the blog posts of Eric Nagel, whom I greatly respect, and learned a lot about how to integrate the datafeed into your site. I also got a lot of help from ShareASale’s Jason Rubacky, who spent hours with me explaining how he does things, and helping brainstorm ways to make it work.

While at ShareASale’s annual ThinkTank conference in Austin, TX, I met with many merchants, and was approved with companies I’ve been interested in working with for quite some time.

One of these companies, Tea Collection, is the provider of kids clothes that my wife and I have been buying for years. Another company, The Land of Nod, is something I will be working with as well.

There are many ways to promote their products, but a popular way is to create a site with WordPress (like this site is a WordPress site, using the Thesis theme). I’m updating the ShopKidsClothes.net site to manly promote the Tea Collection products, as well as having a section for sports apparel from my friend Wade Tonkin’s Fanatics site.

WyzAnt Tutoring, which is basically a well-organized and personalized classifieds for tutors, offers challenges in taking advantage of a large pool of member data (tutor information) and matching that with potential students needing services based on class, grade level and location.

So, that’s the plan for now … I am still pushing the heck out of Delta Leads and trying new recipes to keep things fresh and moving forward. But it’s a great time and a fun challenge to try to utilize everything I’ve learned to this point to get organic traffic to a site and to get them to convert … en masse.

 

 

We’ve been teaching the kids to play guitar, but I think we probably need more help. We’ll give the Learn & Master Guitar Home School Edition a shot!


I type this with hands more sore and tanned than they were 48 hours ago. Last night I got home from ShareASale‘s annual ThinkTank event, held in Austin along Lake Travis at Lakeway Resort and Spa.

Brian Littleton, ShareASale President and CEO, and his team put on one heck of an event. There were plenty of organized opportunities to meet directly with merchants and affiliate managers to set up new relationships. And it was great to meet the ShareASale staff … a fun group of people!

I live in San Antonio, about a two-hour drive from the resort. I hit the road about 9:30am on Wednesday, giving me plenty of time for a leisurely Hill Country drive. And it was beautiful! Our recent rains have helped the area turn green, and a warm spring day can be glorious.Lakeway Resort and Spa, Lake Travis resort, Austin Texas

Checking in was uneventful, except for soaking in the ambiance of the Texas lake resort. Antlers and guitars were prominently featured in the motif. One guitar was signed by members of the Beach Boys, as well as all of the people from that event.

I headed right out to the golf course, where I met up with Brian Littleton and Lindsey Savoie, Merchant Development Manager (and heckuvan organizer). Brian was living up to the challenge of Best Dressed per foursome, decked out in hot-colored lightning-bolt pants. However, he graciously picked me as the top in my foursome, due to my plaid shorts and cap. We even have proof, as this made it into ThinkTank’s concluding video.Brian Littleton, ShareASale President Brian Littleton, lightning pants

Brian also put us to shame at the opening tee. After Joe Sousa (not my cousin) knocked a straight fairway shot further than I’ve ever hit a drive, Brian offered a $20 bill to anyone able to hit one further than Joe. Of course none of us were able to match the distance. So Brian stepped up to give it a shot … and promptly crushed it. I knew I was in for a challenging afternoon, and declared that I would be happy to drop along the way when necessary to keep things moving.

I am happy to report that I didn’t humiliate myself too badly on the course. I shot the only par on the second hole. I stopped counting after that.

After nine holes, I needed to get back to the resort to check in on work, and to rest for a bit before the evening’s networking welcoming reception. Clad in my personalized blue “My name is Eric Souza and I am an Affiliate” t-shirt, I headed to the reception.

While everyone else was mingling inside, I walked around the back to call and say goodnight to my kids. It was a gorgeous spot overlooking Lake Travis with the sun nearing the horizon. The only other person out there was a friendly bartender named Nam, who kept me stocked with water and Shiner Bocks.

It was nice to have a quiet spot to sing our usual lullaby to the kids. And shortly after, people started making their way to the deck to watch the sunset. It was a great spot to meet new people and chat. And then when the group migrated back into the room (partially motivated by Missy Ward assuring me that there was indeed a sushi corner) the socializing kicked into high gear. There were 18 tables of OPMs and appetizers to walk through. And at each table, they stamped a card which at the end of the night, would serve as a ticket for a drawing for two round-trip tickets to … Hawaii! (Note the foreshadowing!)ShareASale ThinkTank2012

I walked through and met old friends and made new ones. My list of favorite people is expanding!

As the evening was wrapping up, I grabbed a spot near Affiliate Boys of Summer podcast compadre Greg Hoffman and Fanatics‘s Wade Tonkin. We chatted for a bit, until the Hawaii trip drawing. I didn’t even realize they were pulling names until I heard … “Eric … Souza?”

It was quiet for a moment and then it sunk in … she called my name! When the initial shock wore off, I hooted a quick “Woo0Hoo!!” and walked up. Even now as I write this, I still can’t quite believe it!! And let me say again, THANK YOU ShareASale. This is incredible. I called my wife (woke her up!) and told her … she playfully didn’t believe me at first. 🙂

The rest of the trip, I’ve had a few offers for backups in case my wife can’t make it. Most notably, the Affiliate Boys of Summer guys, whom I told could be my dates so long as they wear bikinis. I think that swung the balance back to my wife.

The next morning was highlighted by the individual meetings. What a great idea this was, to organize merchants at stations and “speed-date” the affiliates with them in 15-minute chunks. I have a couple of irons in the fire with new relationships as a result of these meetings, and I’m eager to get them going!

The afternoon was spent on Lake Travis in a skiboat and a WaveRunner. Attendees were welcomed onto a yacht and a pontoon, which were tied together in a nearby cove as a Lake Party Central. But most of my time was spent in the front of the skiboat, and trying to relive my youth on a slalom ski and kneeboard. It was fun to get a little hydrosliding in, but the skiing was actually accomplished by guys like ShareASale’s Sales Director David Zelken (and apparently ShareASale’s push-up champion) and Nick Marchese, ShareASale Sales Specialist and Kermit the Frog impressionist. Sorry I didn’t get any shots of you skiing with the mask – classic! Glad the video crew got it.David Zelken water-skiing on Lake Travis in Austin, TX

The afternoon was a blur of wind-in-the-face fun on the lake, alternating between boat time and WaveRunner time. And by the time we got back to the docks, it was already nearly 6pm. I cleaned up and packed, since I had to drive home after the second night’s events. But I didn’t want to miss Shawn Collins and Missy Ward’s Affiliate Summit-sponsored poolside reception. I wasn’t able to make it to Summit because my wife was on call Tuesday (meaning a 24-hour shift in the NICU) but I was glad to see them at ThinkTank. It was another beautiful evening, with excellent catering an an open bar. I had stayed with water all day, knowing I would have to drive home after all was said and done.

The video itself – hilarious! Aside from the mashed potato bar and prime rib, that was the talk of the night. So much fun – can’t wait to see it again (despite the display of my skiing flops!).

So I said my goodbyes, sang my farewells and drove back through deer-thick roads until getting home about 12:30 this morning.

Thank you again, ShareASale, for putting on an excellent event.


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