The House

Once I was thinking about transferring jobs (read March/April of this year) and that the likelihood was growing that I would be moving to Baton Rouge, I started looking online at houses for sale. Everything I loved was out of my price range and everything in my price range needed a tremendous amount of updating. After a couple of weeks of frustration, I realized that this was becoming consuming to me. All I wanted to do was look at houses that I couldn’t afford and be upset by it. When I finally prayed about it, God made it abundantly clear that I needed to look for a place to rent.

After I interviewed, I would search online for places while in Kansas City and then drive around after hours looking at neighborhoods when I was in Baton Rouge for work. Place after place would get marked off the list. I did find a couple of apartment complexes that would be ok but they were expensive and didn’t have good availability. Plus I really wanted to live in a house.

On my last trip to Baton Rouge, I found around four houses to drive by that were for rent and in my price range. This was one of my quickest trips to BR – I left KC at 8am Wednesday morning, landed in New Orleans around noon, drove to Port Allen and had meetings until 6pm then had meetings from 6am to 11:30am, drove back to the airport to catch a 3:30pm flight back to KC, landing at 10pm. Only one house that I drove by that Wednesday night was one I would want to live in so I called the listed realtor at 9:30pm and asked to tour the next morning on my way to the airport. She agreed to meet me at the house.

The house was new – 5 years old – in a gated one street subdivision. Two car garage. One story. 3 bedrooms. 2 bathrooms. Builder grade everything. Not bad to rent. I called my mom on the way to the real estate office to put in an application and she suggested I ask the realtor about running some numbers to purchase the house since it was also for sale.

By the next Monday I was pre-approved for the list price on the home and had submitted an offer on the house since the mortgage payment would be several hundred dollars cheaper per month than the rent payment. The sellers did not really want to negotiate and after several counter offers, we had agreed on the purchase price but not on the closing costs and status of who was getting the refrigerator. I was frustrated and called my mom for some advice.

This was a Wednesday morning and I was meeting her and my Dad on Friday in Boston for a fun weekend prior to speaking at an annual conference held in Boston starting the following Monday. Mom asked me what my plan B was if I wasn’t going to buy this house? I told her that God must have one but it’d be nice if He would share it with me because I didn’t know when I was going to be available to go back to Baton Rouge to look for a place to live. She started asking me about our plans for the weekend – I was supposed to be planning our activities for Boston since we were leaving in two days. Meanwhile, she’s google-ing houses for sale in the same zip code as this house.

After a few minutes, Mom asked if I had seen this house on Barrett Lane – it was 200 more square feet and $25k less than the house I was negotiating and way cuter. I hadn’t looked at any other houses for sale in the area because God had taken that from my heart months before. She told me that I should buy this house she had just found. I hung up with her and called my realtor.

I’m sure my realtor thought I was nuts but she agreed to find out more information about this house on Barrett Lane. A few hours later, she was facetiming me from the front door and taking me on a walking tour of this house. It was adorable. Terrible paint colors but adorable.

She asked if I was going to try to fly down the next day on my way to Boston for a tour. Her face fell when I told her no. She thought that I had loved it. I told her I was going to buy it without touring it in person. I think she dropped the phone at this point. First time homebuyer who isn’t going to tour the house and lives 900+ miles away.

When she called me back later to work out the numbers, she told me that there were two other offers on the house but the sellers were willing to accept my offer before making a decision the next day. Apparently the house had been under contract before but the previous seller’s financing fell thru so they had re-listed 5 days prior. This house wouldn’t have even been listed when I was searching for housing (for rent or sale)!

I came in over asking price and asked for them to leave all the appliances. They accepted my offer and by the time I was in Boston, I was calling for home insurance, set up the appraisal, and waived the home inspection (one had been conducted 30 days prior with the previous buyers which I accepted).

August was a blur – I’m sure I’ll post about it in the coming days/weeks but suffice it to say I only spent 4 days in Kansas City and two of those days were to pack the Uhaul I was driving across the country.

We had to close after my first day of work (apparently the bank wants you to be employed when they write a big check on your behalf). The sellers were less than helpful in providing me with access to the house prior to closing and in setting up when closing even was. In fact, when I started driving on Thursday August 27th, I didn’t know if I would have to live out of the Uhaul truck until Monday August 31st. But God is a good provider – the sellers moved out of the house Saturday morning and I was able to get the truck unloaded that afternoon. Grass was high, house was dirty, sellers took stuff they weren’t supposed to (the flag pole that was one of the big motivators of me buying the house in the first place) but I was in.

Closing was chaotic. I am very thankful my Mom was able to come with me. The sellers brought their twin 18 month olds would screamed and ran around the entire time. I write and execute contracts for a living so I read every line of every page in the entire process – much to the seller’s dismay. By the time we were done, I had bought a house and was ready to celebrate with a margarita!!

Here’s a glimpse of my new home. More to come.

House

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The Interview

Kansas City was a season of God withholding what my heart desired and granting what my heart needed. It was a season of intense struggle for me but was a season of intense glory to Him when He led me out of the valley. This is the story of climbing up to the next rise to see a glimpse of His promised land.

My job had been deteriorating for a year, or maybe even two. I was traveling almost continuously to Baton Rouge Louisiana or Freeport/Houston Texas and the people I was working with and for were becoming less and less appropriate. The gore-y details don’t add enough to this story so I’m not going to share them here but by the time I left, 4 hours didn’t pass at work without someone cussing me out or telling me I wasn’t good enough (as a person, as a female, as someone who is under 30 years old, as an engineer) to be in the position I was in or getting blamed for something I didn’t do.

God provided me a new job. He orchestrated long ago, for my Dad to be in the same industry as me, and for him to have mentors and friends. Those mentors and friends caught wind of my situation and offered an interview.

The night before my interview, I was driving around Baton Rouge trying to figure out a part of town that I could see myself living in if I liked the job the next day. I was balling – tears streaming down my face – as I cried out to God that I didn’t have any friends in Baton Rouge and I have wonderful community (finally!) in Kansas City so why would I want to leave? And why don’t I quit construction all together because I didn’t believe that men in construction could be inclusive of a woman like me.

Fast forward to a breakfast meeting that lasted almost 6 hours where I struggled to comprehend that men in power in the construction industry were patiently listening to my opinion on the current state of affairs in our business. They wanted to know what I thought about how to run a project, how to leverage technology to produce faster results, how I could teach others my leadership skills, if I would be alright moving across the country for a job in a different culture, if they would be able to afford my salary to even hire me in the first place.

Lunchtime meant introducing me to another female engineer – the lead process engineer on the largest company project, also under 30 years old, and from Texas with a family full of Aggies (she’s a LSU grad but I won’t hold that against her). She and I were able to talk like we’d been friends for years. God was showing me to trust Him and He will provide me with new community.

I wanted to work for a company affiliated with CII (construction industry institute) because I hold a couple of leadership positions within this volunteer organization to help further the construction industry and didn’t want to walk away quite yet. I also felt obligated to finish the project I was currently working on at my old job regardless of how I was being treated, I was speaking at a national convention on behalf of my previous company, and one of my best friends was getting married in Jamaica in August so I needed a little time to finish everything up from Kansas City. In His generosity, God provided a slow down in the project at the new company so my timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I was able to “finish” everything prior to turning in my two weeks notice.

Months later – I look back at my time in Kansas City and I still miss my community and church family. I wish it was colder here in Baton Rouge. but my job has already afforded me tremendous opportunity both for my career and for space in my personal life. I am still excited to see what God is doing with me here.

Current Events

Lately I’ve been pretty down on myself, more specifically on my body image. I’ve been working really hard to loose weight with my thyroid condition. Progress has been pretty good until about 6 weeks ago. I try not to freak out when a pound or two show up on the scale but in the last 6 weeks I’ve gained 10…time to talk to the doctor…again…

In the meantime, I’ve re-focused on eating clean and working out. So yesterday was a workout marathon in response to my work trip to Baton Rouge Louisiana where I ate cajun food (and lots of it!) for two days.

Sidebar: the work trip went well. I travelled with someone I hadn’t travelled with before which is always challenging. My project manager and the corporate quality manager went with me to kick-off a section of work for this project. So far, so good on this scope of work. A trip to Bergeron’s for the Avery Special, Louisiana Lagniappe for crawfish cakes, crab cakes, red wine, louisanne black drum and then Zataran’s Kitchen for sausage and chicken jambalaya made for some good eatin’!

Typically when I get home from travelling I just want to sit on my couch, by myself, and clean out the DVR or go to sleep in my own bed. However, my roommate is pretty good about not letting me do that alone. Friday night she suggested we go out with people she has met at church.

I had a great time! We went to Denim and Diamonds, a country line dancing bar north of the river. I’ve never seen so many line dances to so many different songs before and I’m from Texas!! It was awesome to meet new people and spend time dancing, it had been 2 years since I’d gone line dancing.

So Saturday morning, I went to bootcamp at 9:30am to celebrate one of my ol’ ladies turning 51. She asked that we all come and see where she has started working as a personal trainer. She kicked our butts!

Bootcamp Workout: 40 min AMRAP of 20 reps each exercise

  • Straddle box jumps
  • Overhead squats
  • Kettleball Swings
  • Tricep curlbacks
  • Burpee Push-ups

I finished 4.5 rounds. The couple beers the night before were not as inclined to be working out as I was…

CrossFit came at 11am

WOD: Grace – 30 clean and jerks – 4:18 with 55#

Finisher: 2 min front squats 55# – 18 reps

I was pretty gased from the burpees earlier but I’m satisfied with my workout. Grace is one of my favorite hero workouts – much better than Fran haha

I got my haircut and then went over to LifeTime Fitness in Lenexa. I used to be a member there with a personal trainer. When I started my new job, I quit the gym because it is so expensive and so far out of the way from the rest of my “new” life. I still keep up with my personal trainer. He had picked up my race information and shirt for me when he was Austin since I couldn’t run because of my ears. He gave me a pass to workout with him since I drove over to pick up my race stuff.

It was great to see him, even for just two minutes. I did 100 reverse crunches with a 6# medicine ball between my legs and then 30 pull-ups. I practices some clean and jerks with  some back squats. At this point, my legs and low back were done so I went downstairs to sit in the hot tub (the real reason I wanted a pass to the gym). Unfortunately, there was a thunderstorm with lightening so they had closed the pools. I went home and little disappointed, and very sore…

The plan for last night was to go to sleep early but after taking a 3 hour nap, I went over to Blue Moose to meet my ol’ lady to celebrate but I went to the wrong location. I didn’t feel like making the 100 block trip south to the right restaurant so I went over to the house of some people I met Friday night to eat dinner and talk. Originally, we were going to play games but we were all pretty tired and just hung out. It was awesome to talk about the Bible, creationism vs evolution, CS Lewis, Orthodox Jews, and country line dancing with some amazing people. I’m blessed to be meeting great people! 🙂

Flights 3-7

I’m curious to see how many flights I take this year. 2012 showed me 80+. So…I’m going to try to document which flights I’m taking and where I’m going. I consider each time I have to be in an airport the beginning of another flight (even if I stay on the same airplane, it’s a stop).

Flights 1 & 2 – Kansas City, MO direct to New Orleans, LA and back for work meetings in Baton Rouge, LA

Flight 3 thru 7 – Kansas City, MO to Dallas, TX to Houston, TX to Corpus Christi, TX, work, Corpus Christi, TX to Houston, TX to Kansas City, MO.

One of the two project going on in Corpus Christi, TX will finish (hopefully) next Thursday. It’s the time in every project where the hard deadline is rapidly approaching and everyone is stressed out. However, I’ve never experienced a project team that suddenly has amnesia and no longer understands their responsibilities to be able to complete the project. It is also interesting that we are having some major quality issues now when they have shipped 80 of the 89 modules very successfully.

I’m ready for this scope to be finished. I am sure my attitude is not adding to the solution but after spending 18 hours on-site Tuesday, I’m ready to be done. From where I’m sitting, they will be able to finish next Thursday. It’s just a shame that the incredible job they have done to-date will be blemished by the last few days of work…

My next flights are at the end of this month – highly unusual to have 10 days in my house but I am looking forward to it. Restaurant Week starts on Friday 🙂

As a CrossFit newbie, half marathon racer, and thyroid disease sufferer, I should not participate in Restaurant Week but I’m going to…every night for the whole week. There are some amazing restaurants I’ve been wanting to try in KC and they all have 3-5 course meals for $30 for the week.

I’ve got a budget set for 2013 (part of my internal resolution-like aspirations for this year) and this endeavor into Restaurant Week will max out my foodie budget for the month of January (and perhaps a few more dollars) but I’m justifying it in this way: I will not have to go to the grocery store since I will take a full leftover box home from every restaurant meal. I am also going to start trying to take two classes at the gym each day or take one class and then go running. We’ll see how this goes. I’ll probably document my reactions on here as well (sounds like I’ve got lots of blogging to do in the near future) with some pictures.

Baton Rouge

I get to go visit the subcontractor I’m managing for work once a month in Baton Rouge Louisiana to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing and to facilitate a meeting with upper managements (theirs and ours). Last week was such a trip.

If you’ve ever traveled with me then you know that it goes according to plan about 2% of the time. If I don’t get stopped for extra screening or a free bag content –rearrangement, then my flight is either delayed, cancelled, or re-routed. Add the overly large and/or smelling person that sits next to me and you should think twice before volunteering to travel with me.

My co-worker Greg has no such option of traveling without me for these monthly meetings. He’s a good sport about it but he also doesn’t stand next to me in the security lines. Our last trip to Baton Rouge was no exception.

I got through security in Kansas City with a pat down the sides of my ribs (by an overly friendly and eager female TSA agent. Sometimes I wish I could ask for a man to do it because they would be a little more careful about where they were placing their hands). Our flight was on time – we flew thru Dallas – so I figured my extra security was going to count for the required inconvenience and we were going to be good the rest of the trip…wrong!

We landed in New Orleans (Greg likes to fly Southwest (I do too for that matter – at least they act like they like their jobs more often that not) so we flew to NOLA  instead of Baton Rouge). We got in our rental car from Avis – rockin’ the mini van – and started for Baton Rouge.

About 40 minutes into the hour drive, both our phones and emails start ringing. It’s people from the Kansas City office, it’s people from the subcontractor’s main office, it’s people from the subcontractor’s module yard, it’s people on their cell phones. When we finally started answering, we were informed that Interstate 10 going east into Baton Rouge (directly on our route) was closed due to an accident and our subcontractor was trying to reach us to give us alternate directions to their module yard.

We followed their directions and made it to the module fabrication yard with minimal extra effort. Again,  I figured this would be the end of our travel hiccups.

The construction manager gave us a small tour of the construction trailer (approximately 200 sq ft with 8 people’s desks in it – fairly standard issue) before we all drove over to the subcontractor’s main office via the back roads of Louisiana.

Wednesday afternoon was spent discussing the first change order amount and process as well as going over the schedule with the estimators, project controller and construction manager for the subcontractor. They were very productive meetings and I felt significantly better after the meetings.

At 4:45pm we decided to brave the traffic to make it to our hotel which was 0.75 miles from the subcontractor’s main office. Unfortunately, the accident on I10 required the assistance of a firefighting crew who had stretched a thick fire hose across the road so we had to drive around to the next exit, go under the overpass, and come back around to the hotel. It was going to be a 2.5 mile trip which ended up taking us 1.5 hours!

Greg and I have a restaurant we go to every time we’re in Baton Rouge for dinner. It’s called Parrain’s and it’s off of Perkin’s Road which is very close to the hotels we typically stay in. I order the same thing – ponchatrain fresh fish. It’s delicious! This trip was no exception. At 7:30pm  we decided to brave the 1.5 miles to our restaurant.

Getting there was no problem. The food was delicious and we must have provided an excellent source of entertainment since both of us were falling asleep sitting across the booth from each other. At 9pm we headed back towards “home.”

About half a mile before the hotel there was a road block. While we were at dinner, the Baton Rouge Police Department had moved the barricade from between our hotel and the interstate to between our restaurant and the hotel. Greg pulled the van up to one of the officers and I rolled down my window to talk to him.

He was a big, well-built motorcycle cop standing with his arms crossed. I told him were in town on business and were staying at the Drury Inn and asked if we could go thru the barricade. He told me “no, that they were evacuating the area and no one could drive over there.” I told him “with all due respect, what are we supposed to do? All of our stuff is in the hotel since we are traveling on business. When we left for dinner it was fine to be in the hotel.” He replied that “it was his problem but we were not driving down there and foot traffic was going to be highly discouraged.” His sucks-to-be-you attitude was rather irritating but Greg pulled the car away from him.

I told Greg to park in the medical center parking garage at the other corner of the intersection we were in and stated that they were going to have to legally define “high discouraged” for me because I wanted my belongings if we were going to have to stay at another hotel.

We started walking towards our hotel and were stopped four different times by different BRPD asking us what we were doing and where we were going and telling us we weren’t supposed to be in the area. No one volunteered to help us and no one really seemed that concerned about the evacuation – just that they were supposed to be making us do it.

There were no less than 15 police officers in the hotel lobby yaking on their phones in the lobby. They were definitely irritated at our presence but we went up in the elevator to get our stuff. I made it downstairs before Greg did so I asked if there was anyone from the hotel staff to give me a refund since we couldn’t stay there. An officer informed me that everyone had left because of the evacuation. I told him that I wasn’t leaving until I got a refund. Miraculously a hotel staff person appeared and gave both Greg and I our money back. We then hiked it back to the car.

There were 60-ish BRPD Officers that watched us or were standing close to us on this 1 mile round trip walking adventure. You would have thought that if it was important for us to be out of the area immediately that they would have volunteered to escort us in their squad car to the hotel, up to the room, and back to our car but they weren’t really concerned with much more than their conversations. I am glad I don’t live in Baton Rouge regularly.

Greg and I ended up driving to a Double Tree by Hilton Hotel. I walked in and asked if they had two non-smoking rooms for the night. The desk guy was super friendly and nice and asked me what size beds we wanted. I said king would be great but we would take anything non-smoking since we had been kicked out of our previous hotel. He said he figured they were going to get some guests coming in because of the evacuation and asked if we had flown through Baton Rouge that morning. We told him no that we had flown through New Orleans and drove. He told us we were lucky because the Baton Rouge airport had been shut down that morning. Someone didn’t make it on their flight so they ran onto the tarmac and lock himself if the cockpit of another airplane. The FBI had swarmed the place.

The rooms we got were king suites and one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever been in! It was so nice to be able to have a fantastic place to lay down at 11pm after such a long day! He definitely did a great job since Greg and I are going to start staying at the Double Tree for our future trips.

We spent Thursday morning answering questions and RFIs, meeting everyone on the site, taking the official yard tour, inspecting some damaged material and coming up with our game plan for the big meeting that afternoon at 1pm with upper managements.

Our overall project construction manager and our project manager showed up in time for lunch at ACME Oyster House. My seafood etoufee with fried tails were amazing!! It’s great for me to have the opportunity to talk with my upper management. It’s hard to get five solid minutes of their time in the office with all the work demands they have but they ultimately make the decisions about my pay raises and bonuses.

The main event was at 1pm and it went amazingly well. We have a couple things to do differently for the next one but those are mostly formatting and agenda changes, not content changes. After a driving tour of the module site, they were driving back to Houston.

Our subcontractor took Greg and I out to dinner Thursday night. It was very nice to have jack-and-diets and a five course meal on someone else’s tab. J It’s also fun to get to know these guys on a personal level, outside of the office. They fish, have season football tickets to almost every team in the SEC, have wives and kids, lake homes, and run marathons.

Thankfully, Friday went  more smoothly travel-wise. The drive to New Orleans was quick and easy, flight was only delayed 30 minutes, I was only patted down on the collar of my tank top, and we made our connection in Chicago – barely. Greg and I ended up running almost 2 miles thru Chicago OHare to change plane but we made it! This was especially important since my friend Courtney from Austin landed in Kansas City 5 hours before I was scheduled to.