texas

(NOTE: This post was part of a previous domain and comments were not migrated over.) Every so often, I get REALLY down about living in Texas. Mostly in the Summer, considering Texas has SUMMERS (!!!) and I’m a sunburn-prone/tank top-hating pale Italian who is from a beach city that just gets summer. In lower caps. Without the (!!!) requirement. This past weekend, we were in Washington in Sean’s hometown, attending a wedding for some dear friends — and it hit me what I am so bummed about missing: Close and deep friendships within a group.

Being that neither of us are in the same cities we grew up in and we’re now at that age where we aren’t going to hang out at bars and clubs, we aren’t meeting people in the dorms, we aren’t yet in the parent stage and a lot of activities need to account for the fact we have a spouse, a full work load and several pets – it’s a bit harder to “break into” close groups now — and the fact that my hometown was such a big city, most of my dear friends are all over the USA and absorbed heavily in things like med school, new friendships, etc. Sean’s hometown is smaller, with fewer people ever having left, so there are still very tight knit friendships there. Like the show Friends. Like where they live within walking distance. Sean and I have said a million times, we could live anywhere if we had each other and good friends. So I know, really, I do love my new city. I just wish most of you were here with me. SEE? See how you’re crushing me by not being my neighbor?!? SO! If you’re burnt out where you are and looking for safe, clean, affordable new living spot? Here are the reasons why YOU should move to the Dallas area (outside of being able to say “Ya’ll” and drink unethical amounts of sweet tea…):

Top 10 Reasons to become a Texan…

#1 – Dallas has jobs. While the current unemployment rate for the country sits at about 9.6%, with some bigger areas like Los Angeles sitting at 12.3%, Portland at 10.7%, Seattle at 9.2%, Chicago at 9.6% and New York at 8.2% — My city currently sits at under 5%, with my county sitting just under 7.5%. Some folks’ first thought is, “Well, sure, if I want to make five bucks an hour.” Surprisingly, salaries in our area (which happens to be one of the richest counties in Texas) are right up to par with other major cities, despite our MUCH lower cost of living. Are you an RN? Salaries here typically average $58k-$72k, which is very similar to the $63k-76k range you might make in Southern CA. Are you an executive admin? You’ll average $44k-56k, comparable to the $47k-60k range in Chicago. A teacher? Unlike most districts around the country, we start our teachers at close to $46,000.00. An engineer? You might pull in $67k-81k in Washington, which almost mirrors the $66-81k average here, all the way up to $136k based on 7 years experience.

#2 – You can afford to ACTUALLY live here. Not merely exist. Our cost of living really makes it for us here, where homes tend to cost up to $215/less per square foot, gas is about $0.70 cheaper a gallon, etc. Even our higher property tax rate doesn’t make up for the difference you’ll feel in your pocket books coming from a larger area, and you’ll enjoy knowing those taxes go directly to the school district your home is in – meaning it goes right to the school your child actually attends, verses to the state where it gets dished out or wasted as they see fit (CALIFORNIA). In fact, if you want to see how we compare, find your current city and then pick the “-Plano” option for Dallas: COST OF LIVING CALCULATOR. It may not be my top state to live in, but it allows me to live healthy and happily, with enough left over to travel to all the places I’d love to see!

#3 – McKinney is SAFE. The USA average Crime Rate Index is 320.9. The smaller the number, the better. Portland hits at 439.7, Long Beach at 353.5, Seattle at 440.3. McKinney comes in at 201.4. Our HOA’s provide a proper list of who is in our neighborhoods and community areas to meet and greet, such as neighborhood pools, parks, bike trails and playgrounds. Though some neighborhoods are overly reclusive and quiet (which some folks prefer), the right streets or subdivisions can provide for constant foot traffic and friendships to be made.

#4 – Home Ownership is not a pipe dream. And you won’t need to live in a shack to do it. One thing I’ve noticed about my city is that it’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find a small home. Two bed, one bath? Uncommon. But you certainly won’t pay for the additional space. Homes here might not skyrocket in equity as fast as some larger, more dense areas, but we can actually make our mortgage payments and still afford a vacation. With the average (newer!!) home going for about $75/square foot, an 1,800 square foot home in a cute suburb can run as low as the $135,000.00 range (about a P&I payment of $766.82) – with a larger and much more upgraded home (think upstairs game rooms, granite countertops, arched hallways and art niches) running about $215,000.00 (P&I of $1,220.25) – rent in upscale apartment complexes can be as low as $750, with an average one bedroom apartment going for $500-650 per month. Chew on that.

#5 – Nature exists, even if it gets hot sometimes. My city aims to keep parks abundant, oak and maple trees lining streets, and we’re aiming for the title of Crepe Myrtle Capital of the USA (Spring time is gorgeous when they all bloom hot pink and white). We are surrounded by large lakes and small lakes (though some I admittedly would not suggest swimming in, just stick to kayaks and boating), have a PGA-tour golf course and are a short drive to Oklahoma and Arkansas, where unexpected hot springs and pretty mildly-mountain-y hiking trails and camping grounds would surprise you. We get a mild Fall in the 50-70s, but still get orange colored leaves and a nip around Halloween. Winters are fairly short, bringing just enough cold and a dusting of snow to make it FEEL like Christmas, without actually becoming snowed in and tough to drive (think a week or so of low 20s at worst). Spring time is nice, rainy and typical. The only downfall, for ME, is that Summer makes its’ presence known by arriving full-force by July and hanging out like an unwanted house guest until September. Not all of it is triple digit, but the humidity is something to be reckoned with if you aren’t used to what “muggy” feels like. McKinney/Dallas offsets this by having literally everywhere you go blasting with delicious a/c, Summer festivals near bodies of water, planted trees, etc. And if you can just deal with hanging around inside for 6-8 weeks for fear of melting outside, you’ll be fine. The grass is always greener, right?

#6 – History and Community are not lost on us. Downtown McKinney has such an authentic historical feel, with historical architecture on banks and buildings, charming shops, and a Farmers Market. More hippie? We have plenty of organic small-farm markets you can drive to as well. The town events are even adorable – such as Oktoberfest, carolers during the holidays, Krew of Barkus Mardi Gras Dog Parade for all the puppies in the city to enjoy (plus dog parks and an annual day at the Cotton Bowl meant strictly for loose pets to have a blast), movies in the park, horse-drawn carriage rides and a revival that extends even to the early century homes in the area, and train rides with Santa.

#7 – It’s red here, but not THAT red. Dallas, much like Austin, is a large metro area that is doing its’ best to not be quite so “Texan.” As the rising costs of living and economic burdens have plagued more popular progressive cities in Florida and California, Dallas has seen a LARGE influx of liberal and open-minded individuals move in and mix things up a bit. In fact, for three years in a row, McKinney was the fastest growing city in the USA. We also have a growing population of immigrants from India, Haiti, France and several Asian countries. I was surprised to see the “Obama” stickers I did see, we have Meet-Ups for Atheists and Free Thinkers and Eco-Nerds and you might be surprised to know that Dallas county voted “blue” in the Presidential election! Some statistics even suggest that by 2012, Texas will be a swing state, much to some native Texan’s disliking, LOL. Plus one perk of being centrally located and a short drive to one of the largest airports is that road trips or flights to either side of the country aren’t hard to do!

#8 – We do have a nightlife. It doesn’t overwhelm the bedroom communities like the one I like in (but what bedroom communities are overwhelmed by nightlife anyways?) but if I feel up to driving into the heart of Dallas, there is an eclectic art scene and night life to be found!

#9 – Our schools are great schools. In fact, you can check that out on GreatSchools.net. Because our property taxes feed right into the districts in which we live, we are able to afford higher teacher salaries and perks and newer schools/teaching tools to help advance our youth. Happier teachers and cleaner/modernized classrooms lead to happier and better prepared students. Three of the best school districts happen to be nearby: Frisco, McKinney and Allen. Growth and the fact we have the $$ for that growth allow the systems to keep building as the students need the space, keeping the teacher-student ratio at a healthy balance.

#10 – Experts agree. In 2008, CNN Money ranked McKinney at the # 14 city to relocate to (read reasons here). In 2009, Forbes Magazine placed us at the # 9 spot to move (read reasons here). In 2010, Money Magazine (again) agreed and handed McKinney the # 5 spot for best places to live (read reasons here).

And if you need one more reason to relocate to McKinney/Dallas? I’M HERE. Ready to host game night. So ::tosses hair over shoulder:: I look forward to seeing you soon!

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(NOTE: This post was part of a previous domain and comments were not migrated over.) I’m not exactly a sports-watching type of girl. In fact, I wore a shirt that said “Fourth and Inches” for years simply because it was close to my height (4’9 3/4″) before Sean pointed out one day it was a football term — but even I have noticed that if you live in Texas, you better love football. You better sweat football. And you better prepare to name your first born after one of the Dallas Cowboys. Their new home is Jerry Jone’s obnoxiously over-the-top football stadium (because yes, everything must be bigger in TX) and when it was built, the media could not get enough of it. According to Wikipedia, it is “the largest domed stadium in the world, has the world’s largest column-free interior and the largest high definition video screen which hangs from 20 yard line to 20 yard line (that’s 72’x160′ folks).” It’s faced it’s fair share of criticism as well, having essentially stolen people’s land/homes to build it, having insane ticket prices in comparison to the previous venue (care to buy a seating option so you can buy your season tickets? That will be up to $150k please), etc etc.

So when a friend of Sean’s, who happens to have season tickets, offered us his pre-season tickets for the Cowboys verses the Raiders (Sean’s team), we jumped at the chance to finally check this bad boy out!

We get to Dallas and we’re passing “Park Here!” places that aren’t officially in the stadium’s lots — like little one off business’s offering parking for extra cash. As we pass one of the last ones, it reads that parking is $20.00. I laugh and make the comment, “If twenty bucks is a deal, I’d hate to see what the stadium parking is, watch it be like fifty bucks!” And we snicker, and Sean jokes how funny that would be since that is the exact amount of cash we brought. Except um, yes. That’s EXACTLY how much the CHEAPEST parking lot is once we get to the stadium. I’m sorry but… $50??? That’s pricier than Disneyland, which is sort of my standard for overpriced places. Holy cow. So we shell out our $50.00 and then proceed to walk… wait for it… over a half mile to get to the actual stadium. I just paid $50.00 to walk 3/4 a mile. LOL. Oh, Jerry Jones, you dog you. We passed the $60.00 and $70.00 lots in amazement.

The stadium itself is insane. It’s giant. And it mildly resembles the Death Star. Since it was still 98 degrees and 47% humidity out, by the time we got to the stadium, we were sopping. As we approached and realized just how big this thing is, Sean joked, “Watch our entrance be like, on the complete other side!” LOLZ. Except it was. Damnnit. From then on out, Sean and I stopped joking about things. The good news (and environmentally sad news)? The whole thing is air conditioned. Sweet baby Jesus, I needed that. Anyways, got inside and it’s even more astounding inside when you can see just how high it goes and how many people fit in there. 80,000 seats and it fits 110,000 people with their “standing only” spots. Good lawd. We also realized that Sean’s friend had good season tickets, and we got to sit in the 11th row from the field itself! WOOT! I was sort of expecting to be at the tippy top, a la the Weasley family at the Quidditch World Cup (Ashley, that’s for you).

Game was fun, stadium was neat but insanely overpriced, the TV screens were formidable presences, and the aisles themselves were insanely narrow. If you needed to scootch out for anything, everyone had to stand up and lean back just to let you buy. Other than that, it was fun! Naturally, we left at the beginning of the fourth because we were falling asleep and felt sick and the Raiders were still down at 0… only to get home and find they came back in the very last moments and won by 17 points. Oops!

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(NOTE: This post was part of a previous domain and comments were not migrated over.) Now that I’ve spent some time bringing everyone up to speed on both my budget and my bowel movements, I thought I’d shift gears a bit and backtrack to a trip we made while my in-laws were in town! Their visit brought lots of perks for us:

01. My wonderful MIL, Ellen, painted both our guest bathroom and my future creativity hub (two projects we can finally call DONE in this hizouse!)

02. They treated us to both a ceiling fan for our master bedroom (in Texas, ceiling fans are right up there with winning the lotto and the baby Jesus) AND a surround sound system — which, for movie addicts like us, is like an orgasm wrapped up in speakers and sub-woofers.

It ALSO meant that, for the first time in the nearly three years we have resided here in Texas, we drove into downtown Dallas to go exploring! Sean and I tend to stay north of Dallas, in our adorable little suburb, but we were excited to go and check out one of the area’s more famous – albeit tragic – spots: The Grassy Knoll. I had the tendency to pay attention in history just long enough to pass the class, so I really didn’t know many details about JFK and his controversial murder. I had seen the footage and couldn’t even fathom being Jackie in that moment — a moment where you want nothing more than to remain with your husband but need to book it quick to safety. I couldn’t even imagine; but to pop on our little audio guide headphones and tour the Sixth Floor Museum was actually quite neat and I totally recommend it.

Dealey Plaza Sign

Sean at the Grassy Knoll

Pigeons

More Dealey Plaza

Texas School Book Depository

Elm

Where it took place

Tulips by Sean

Dallas

Red Museum

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