Posts Tagged ‘san luis obispo’


Two things made an immediate impression upon me on our first full day in Austin:

  1. It is VERY humid
  2. The city’s green roots run VERY deep

I should mention that our decision to move to Austin was based on three factors (this is quickly turning into a list post, isn’t it?):

  1. Denette’s sister, Shawna, very graciously offered to house us while I searched for a job
  2. Austin is one of the greenest cities in the US
  3. The job market was still strong even in the midst of the recession

However, a funny thing happened on the way to Austin. (That sounds like a song title, doesn’t it?) Actually, even before we left California, I had gotten a call from Sherry, my former business partner, about a potential job with Providence Health & Services in Washington. Ironically, this was the company I had been consulting with for more than a year, a company I had come to have a deep respect and appreciation for. I jumped at the chance. Throughout our trip to Austin, I was receiving periodic updates about the possibility that the “chance” would become something more. Once we got to Austin a position had crystallized and we started working on details. Since I wasn’t diving right in to a job search upon arrival, we had an opportunity to explore Austin very thoroughly.

The city was all it was cracked up to be. Right off the bat we found two incredible coffee houses:


and Ruta Maya.

Progress is more traditional coffeehouse; Ruta Maya is an exceptional agglomeration of coffeehouse, bar, music venue, and occasional yoga studio—with a cigar shop thrown in purely to add to the eccentricity. As they have done in the past when I visit cities, these coffee houses formed the anchor of our exploratory trips: we would often start the day with a coffee (and lessons for the kids) before heading out to discover another corner of interest in the city.

One of these corners of interest was the Nature and Science Center, a place akin to Ruta Maya in its agglomeration of mostly related elements. There were exhibits on all the topics above, plus a natural artifact trade center and an entire section devoted to Green technology and living sustainably. We happened to go on Free Museum day, when there was not only free access but lots of additional displays and activities, including a carboard and tinfoil solar oven in which the kids made s’mores.

The heat and humidity of Austin would have taken some getting used to; the friendliness of the people, the eclectic quality of the town, the progressiveness of the city’s policies, and the overall focus on sustainability made us feel welcome and right at home.


But fate had something else in store for us. Instead of a southeasterly trending line, our move ended up taking on the shape of a very squiggly isosceles triangle. I accepted the position of Recruiting Manager with PH&S; I would be working at their Everett location, for Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, to be precise. On a plane I went.

This might seem like quite a change from our initial trajectory, and superficially it is—there aren’t many days in Austin that require an ice scraper—but in many ways there are strong similarities between Austin and many cities in Washington. It’s also a serendipitous one. While I loved many things about Austin, the natural environment didn’t speak to me in anything more than a conversational tone. And given the preponderance of poison oak, ivy, and even sumac, it would probably have always kept me at arms length.

Western Washington, on the other hand, sings to me. And we dance, oh, how we dance. The green, the cold, the rain, the ocean’s pungent tang, the Cascade’s dramatic skyline, and, above all, the trees, sing a beautiful rhythm that I can feel the moment I step off the pavement. This is the climate that creates in me an almost overwhelming sense of an earlier life. I feel connected, whole, energized, and preternaturally aware.

From what I’ve seen so far the city of Everett itself reminds me in many ways of the city of SLO: it’s smaller, with a recognizable downtown core of older homes and businesses; it’s surrounded by some ugly spots of sprawl; it has a small cadre of engaged and aware citizens; and it has a polity that is sometimes progressive, sometimes utterly backward. A wonderfully eclectic local coffeehouse, Zippy’s Java Lounge, will form the anchor (no surprise, right?) for our continuously deeper investigation of Everett and it’s conscientious movement towards sustainability and a green sensibility.

Good news! We found a house to rent and will be moving in February. One of the first things we plan on doing, of course, is finding a suitable place to place a couple of raised beds. The worms won’t be far behind. Followed, I suspect, by audio and video of events, people, and general goings-on. I can’t stand on the sidelines for too long…it’s not in my nature. But you already knew that. 🙂

Buckle up for more fun.

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Hey all!

Well, I’ve FINALLY finished this episode. The past few months have been…epic. Lots of things going on in the Blackwell household, the biggest thing being the move to Austin.

But enough about me. This episode has it all: intrigue, humor, excitement, fun, children, and Tom Ogren. Take a look. Leave a comment if you would like to encourage our behavior.

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So. I’m moving. To Austin. As in Texas. Packing up the family and leaving in two weeks.

Yes, this is a big deal. We’ve lived in SLO now for a little over 10 years. Both of my children were born here; my sister has lived her for six years; and, of course, my mom is here. It will be hardest on her.

I don’t make this decision lightly. I know what I’m leaving behind: the weather, the beach, our friends, Bellevue Santa Fe Charter School (where both Logan and Kaia were slated to go), and my family.

But, when I shift my perspective a little to the optimisitic (which is my tendency), I can see that I’m only really leaving behind a few things, fixed by geography. The beach and the weather are a total loss. It’s hot and sticky in Austin; the beach is 3 hours away–and it’s more like a lake so surfing is out.

But everything else comes with me, thanks in large part to the wonders of the Internet. Although talking to my mom over iChat isn’t exactly the same as having a cup of coffee in her living room, it’s a damn sight better than corresponding with handwritten letters sent by snail mail. And Facebook will keep us connected to SLO in ways that we couldn’t have been 10 years ago when we moved here from Grass Valley. (I have NO idea what’s going on in Grass Valley).

There are also many things that excite me about Austin: the progressiveness of the people and the local government; my sister in law and her family; the job market; the outdoor opportunities.

I’m also excited about the opportunities this presents Hole in the Fence. Imagine how cool it will be to observe the similarities and differences between sustainability programs and services, philosophies, approaches, and attitudes. In many ways Austin and SLO are similar, in others they seem very different. I can’t wait to explore and learn. I hope you’re as excited as I am and that you’ll make the journey with us. Virtually, at least.

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My mom and I went to a mixer put on by Solstice Green Directory. It was my mom’s first. She was a bit trepidatious.

“Relax,” I said, “I’m in my element at these things.”

And I really am. I love hanging out with groups of like-minded people with a shared goal. I do this on a regular basis for my HR gig.

But those aren’t nearly as much fun. At least, not usually. There was that one cruise in Puget Sound…but that’s for another post (and probably a different blog).

So I walked boldly in to the Avila Bay Club, signed in–and went right for the food, which was incredible: salads, fresh fruit, a gorgeous little portobello mushroom wrap with goat cheese and other savory spices, and crispy, flavorful pizza from Pizza Fusion. And then there were these little chocolate covered creampuffs…

Okay, where was I?

Right, I was being charming and outgoing. Showing my mom how it was done.

Only I wasn’t. My mom was way ahead of me, already engrossed in a conversation with Chuck from Hayward Lumber. Interesting fact, the owner of Hayward is the chairman of the Forest Sustainability Council and Hayward only uses FSC lumber. That’s the part I overheard, at least. I’m sure my mom could tell you more.

I was being upstaged. I quickly found an unsuspecting vic…fellow socialite and introduced myself.

After that (and my Stella Artois) the evening went splendidly. People seemed genuinely enthusiastic about our show, and we managed to get several businesses lined up to interview. Among them were

  • Pomar Junction Vineyards is a SIP (Sustainability In Practice) certified vineyard. In fact, they’re one of the charter members. I’m looking forward to gaining a fuller understanding of SIP generally and Pomar’s practices specifically.
  • SLO Veg delivers local produce to your home on a weekly basis. And all the produce is either certified organic or pesticide free. I love this business model and I want to learn more.
  • SLO Green Build is a local non-profit that advocates the use of green building principles. They’re very influential in SLO town and I want to know more about how they’re involved in effecting change.
  • Pizza Fusion is on the verge of becoming the first restaurant in SLO to be certified organic–and only the fifth in CA. Brandon has been amazingly inventive in creating and finding organic solutions conducive to running a profitable food service business, solutions many other local businesses can adopt to their benefit.

And then there is Solstice itself. And the amazing group of dedicated individuals who run this directory that is far more than a directory. They are helping to organize and facilitate a green movement within SLO. A movement who’s time has come, I think.

I was speaking with Jeane, a newly LEED certified architect who just moved up from LA. She hadn’t anticipated such a vibrant green community. She was uplifted seeing all the people and businesses who were so devoted to creating a more sustainable future.

And my mom. Well, she closed the place. We were some of the last people to leave. I had to fairly tear her away from some of the Solstice ladies.

I think we’ll definitely be going to the next mixer. And I think my mom will be leading me in.

A big shout-out to everyone who went! It was great meeting you!

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Hey all:

After mucho technical difficulties, I’ve managed at last to get the full interview up. I hope you enjoy the topics. Adam’s a great guy to talk to, and I hope we can do it again in the future. So here, without further ado (or technical issues), is the video.

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