February 2009


 I’m on my last of nine nights on the road. If I wrote a beat-novel based on this experience, it would probably go something like this:

There is nothing like seven hours driving across the southeast, windows down even in the freezing cold, not listening to jazz but its grandchild, hip hop, and trying to ignore the sensation in my gut like a string pulling me back home where I’d rather be, any day . You can say I lack that “free spirit” but this is traveling with a mission and a mission ties you down just like roots, a husband, home, babies, bills… And sometimes being tethered to someone is the best thing in the world, when you get that text message that makes you smile and makes you miss home all the more. And hotels… oh they can be so nice but I’d rather be in the woods, in a tent with a cooler of beer and one little cigarette, not to smoke but to watch, entranced as it burns. I wouldn’t call this my life on the road, these hotels with their mini-fridges and feather pillows, these hours of endless driving, these phone calls that wreck my nerves… no I’d call it nine days outside of life, nine days away from living and breathing the things I know and love. Tomorrow I go home, and never will I appreciate the long miles of I-85 that await me and my mobile office more than I will at noon tomorrow. I may not spend much time meditating life, I won’t be doing any drugs, and the closest I’ll come to a zen experience will probably be as I pump gas halfway home, but I will most definitely come home a freer woman.

:::::::::bongo beating in background fades; audience snaps approvingly, adjust their berets and sigh in collective zen-like contentment:::::::::

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Dave Ramsey is my sexy, bald, financial savior. Many have fallen victim to my endless Dave ramblings in the past two months, and for that I am sorry, but I feel it is necessary to provide further torture in blog form. I’m not going to incriminate my spouse by saying that “we” suck at money, so I’ll revise it to “I” suck at money for this particular public forum. And I do. I can go into Wal-Mart for milk and leave with a six pound cheese wheel, thimble, meat baster, garden tiller, and the latest issue of Us Weekly. I think I have a legitimate disorder that involves the complete loss of rational thought when in contact with useless crap. When clothing and shoes are involved, the disorder progresses into a terminal purchasing illness. I can make up a phantom event for every outfit I come in contact with. For example: “I could totally wear these snakeskin shoes with the black pencil skirt that I need to buy for the art exhibit opening that I will surely attend at some point in my young adult life.” Also, “These shorts will be perfect for the camping adventure that I’m sure to have this Spring, and I’ll need these three new bikinis for the waterfall that I’ll go white water rafting down on the way back to the campsite.” As soon as I exit the store with purchases in hand and enter the reality of the parking lot, the gravity of the situation descends and I know with 100% certainty that I have never, nor will I ever do any of these things. It would have made more sense for me to have bought a racing suit to don while playing Wii Mario Kart.

Enter Dave…I fought tooth and nail with the idea of his strict budget worksheets and credit free lifestyle nonsense. I made the argument that everyone has to live off of credit to some extent and it was ridiculous to think otherwise in the United States of America circa 2009. Mathew said it could be done and I chuckled at his naiveté. Then I read the book Financial Peace. It took three chapters to change my whole mindset about money. By the time I finished the book, I was on a financial spiritual pilgrimage to the Dave Ramsey Mecca of a credit-free existence. I drank the Kool-Aid and joined the cult. In the two months since my Awakening, we have paid off two credit cards, an overdraft account, ¾ of our living room furniture, and are on track to be car payment (and subsequently completely credit) free by the end of the year. When we are, I’m going to call into the radio show and be the crazy, screaming lady that chatters on about the power of “gazelle like intensity.” I’m also going to propose marriage to Dave, because really, who could resist that shiny head.

So I started college at a pretty hoitytoity, southern, liberal arts school after having spent four years at a counter-culture, crazy, liberal arts high school. Very different in many ways, but still, the feel was similar in a way; both schools were small, tight-knit communities and only about three miles away from one another.

What I loved about high school was the unique environment for learning with students who really wanted to be at school every day. What I loved about college was living on campus and getting to make my own schedule. I got lucky with my potluck roommate, who among other lovely character traits, allowed me to rearrange the furniture in our room on a monthly basis and helped me make friends with people I was too shy to talk to on my own.

Once I was relaxed around all these fun new friends, I have to admit we had a lotof fun. We spent a lot of time drawing with crayons and colored pencils, studying and/or not studying, talking on AIM, trying on each others’ clothes, fixing each others’ hair, watching chick-flicks, driving to and dining at Waffle House and Krispy Kreme, and in general wasting time. From what I understand, the other girls stayed up all night on multiple occasions while I wimped out and was in bed before midnight. But there was one night where I joined in the fun and have regretted missing out on all the other all-nighters ever since. That was fun.

That evening was a conglomeration of all the things I loved about college, most of which I mentioned above, with a dash of procrastination and a good deal of delusional humor. I even wrote a paper (due the next day – the final for a composition class, actually) commemorating the event. My one and only all-nighter. {And Mom, to satisfy your curiousity, I can honestly say that there was no alcohol at all involved in that evening. We were far too used to having our drinks provided for free on frat row to spend our own money to illegally obtain anything otherwise.}

I am fairly certain I would have gotten an A on that paper had my teacher actually taken the time to read it. Instead, he gave me an A in the class, citing my excellent papers up to that point. It’s probably for the best that he didn’t read it. I tend to incriminate myself when I do personal writing…

I have always hated the telephone, with a few notable exceptions for family and friends. The example I usually use when describing my near paralysing fear of talking to strangers on the phone is when I once called to order pizza for my family and ended the conversation with no order placed and in tears. There’s a good but boring explanation for it, but I haven’t ordered a pizza since, nor do I ever intend to.

When answering the phone in an official capacity, I always felt I was in good shape. When working in an office, I was on the phone 30% of my day and only rarely suffered a panic attack or ran to the bathroom in tears. It was this conviction that “official” phone calls are not scary which led me to believe I wouldn’t mind calling accounts over the phone for my new job. Even in the face of flat out rejection, I persevered. I called. I scheduled appointments. I followed up via phone. I was a telephoning superstar.

Until yesterday. My day was going along quite swimmingly until mid afternoon when I made the following phone call:

Me: “Hi, is Ruth available?”

Lady-who-answered-the-phone: Silence… “Well, no, I’m afraid she’s not. Ruth passed away about three years ago.”

Me: “Oh, no… I’m so sorry to hear that…”

With my cheeks and probably entire face flushed to the point of actually becoming a viable heat source for a small country, I climbed my way awkwardly out of that whole and managed to schedule an appointment. Lord help me when I arrive at this store, because I’ll probably ask for Ruth again.

To make matters worse, the very next phone call I made ended with me on the verge of scheduling an appointment with a woman I’d only just the day before made an appointment with already. No, I’m not really that forgetful… it just so happens that my account list had the same phone number listed for two different accounts and I wasn’t paying very good attention when the lady answered the phone. But still, it was embarrassing enough to bring a renewed blush to my face.

All this being said, I didn’t cry. I managed to sort myself out and regain composure both times, so maybe my phone skills are improving. But you can imagine that I’m not very thrilled with the prospect of calling for appointments this morning. I can think of about thirty-seven things I’d rather do, including:

  • Make my hotel room bed.
  • Wash, dry, fold and hang laundry for every person staying at this hotel.
  • Figure out what station my favorite soap opera comes on.
  • Write three more blog entries.
  • Volunteer my services at a soup kitchen.
  • Hand knit a sweater for my German Shepherd.
  • Paint my toenails.
  • Go get the oil changed in my car.
  • Tally up my travelling expenses.
  • Order a pizza with very complicated and intricate instructions and details no one at Pizza Hut would be able to get right.

Despite my endless abilities in creating distractions for myself, I think I’d better just get it over with.

::::::::::::Liz dials, panics, hangs up, dials again, sighs, and starts the day:::::::::::::

The very first item on my daily To Do Lists is always WAKE UP. This is the hardest part of my day, bar none. I’d like to blame this on the fact that I’m often switching between Eastern and Central Time Zones, but that’s only one hour difference, and you can’t really call it ‘jet lag’ unless you’ve actually flown somewhere. Take this morning, for example:

6:00 AM, Eastern Time Zone. My cell phone alarm clock sounds, pulling me unwillingly from a sleep so deep, I am certain I was almost in a coma. I hit “ok” signaling it to leave me the heck alone. I could have pressed snooze, but why, when I’ve got two more alarms set, would I do that? At this point, I’m more awake than I’d like to be (considering I don’t plan on getting up for another hour and a half) so I actually have to put in an effort to fall back to sleep.

6:30 AM comes much sooner than it should reasonably have been expected to, and again I’m unwillingly awakened, though not from so deep a sleep as before. Again, I hit “ok.” Again, I go back to sleep, with less effort this time.

7:00 AM is the real test of my strength. This time I know I don’t have much time left to sleep and therefore I feel deeply and unquenchably exhausted, as if I would gladly live out the rest of my days in this bed. I hit “snooze” and leave my flip phone open, in my hand, with my thumb placed at the ready on the “snooze” button for that pesky alarm to sound again, five minutes later. It does. I snooze. I barely enter consciousness for this little transaction.

7:30 comes and goes while I play this “five more minutes” game with myself. While sleeping, I manage to give myself the go ahead to sleep until 8. No harm done; breakfast at the hotel is served until 9, my appointment isn’t until 10:30… why get up before 8?

I think I am capable of multiplying in my sleep. Somehow, I keep track of the number of times I’ve hit that “snooze” button, multiply that by 5. On the twelfth alarm ring  of the morning (not including the first three, of course), I know I’m done for. No more justifications can be made for staying in bed. There is a day to begin, sales to be made, emails to write, and, as much as I hate them, phone calls to make.

I click “ok.” I force my eyes open, curl my body into a semi-seated position. I blink. I rub my eyes. I yawn and stretch. This isn’t too bad, I’m thinking. What was I so resistant for? Then I remind myself that I’m getting to sleep significantly later than I did when I had an office job, so I ought to count my blessings.

That’s the natural lead-in to a little moment of prayer, a few minutes with the Word, and off to the shower, which is cold. Apparently I’m the last of the 75 people staying at this hotel to get my shower. Maybe that will be inspiration enough to get me up earlier tomorrow morning. Or maybe I’ll just take my shower tonight…

Now that I’ve given you a decent idea of how my brain works, I think it’s probably appropriate to introduce you to my husband. He is by far and away the most thoughtful person I know and while he has his flaws, he definitely makes up for them by being a most excellent listener and friend. I’d probably have daily panic attacks if it weren’t for him, so please, if you see him around, give him a pat on the back for his services as a husband.

Now I hate to make the ladies jealous, but I just want to share with you all the fantastic gift he gave me today.  He went with me to the grocery store. Never have I appreciated a gift more. It’s not that I dislike going to the grocery store, but it definitely stresses me out. Perhaps because I tend to go to the grocery store about once a month and generally fill up my “buggy” half way through my shopping. And then I actually physically need assistance but since I am usually all by myself, I have to go through the check-out line at Wal Mart twice instead of just the normal torturous once through.

But I was saved from this torture by my fabulous husband of five years. I know that Valentine’s Day is usually reserved for flowers, chocolates, pricey dinners and poetry, but after awhile, all of that stuff is meaningless. I think it says a lot about dear hubby that he knew enough and thought enough about what I would really want on Valentine’s Day, and gave me that instead.

—- I’m posting this a few days after writing it, but I hope everyone had a lovely V-day!

I’d like to begin by saying that this post will most likely make no sense*. Time is one of those concepts that only Einstein could write convincingly about, and even he begins to lose people after awhile. Nevertheless, I’m going to take a stab at it.

Since I mentioned Einstein, I guess it’s safe to start there. Time is relative. We’ve all experienced this in some form or another; for instance when you’re a 5 year old on your way to grandma’s, 45 minutes feels like an eternity. That same 45 minute drive as a 20 year old feels a lot less eternal since it’s a smaller percentage of your life. Or, when you’re sitting through physics class and those 45 minutes feel longer than the rest of the school day combined. (In case you’re wondering, the confusing and nonsensical part is still to come…buckle up!)

So it makes perfect sense that my concept of time is feeling a little skewed these days. Here’s an example of what is putting me out of sorts chronologically speaking: this past week, I went to appointments in my hometown. I learned to drive in this city. I’ve driven on probably 80% of the roads in this city and one point or another, in all sorts of weather and traffic. I know this city. So why did I invariably give myself less time than I needed to get places? I’m not talking about two or three minutes late, I’m talking about ten to fifteen minutes late. I’m a punctual person, generally speaking, so what was going on with me?

Part of the problem as I see it is that my concept of time has skewed to the point where I have a completely unrealistic sense of how long say, 45 minutes really is. In my mind, a drive that in actuality takes 45 minutes seems to me to take 30 minutes. All this leads me to wonder, at what point in life did I have a perfect concept of time? I guess when I was 15 or something, which really stinks considering I’ve still, ideally, got about 60 more years to live – who knows how much my sense of time will be off by then…and I don’t want to be known as the person who shows up two hours late to an appointment thinking she’s going to be perfectly on time.

I can pretty much guarantee that that last part made no sense, but I appreciate you hanging in there with me. I’m not even particularly sure if I made my point. Let’s just assume I did, since right now, I’m not even sure what my point was. On that note, all I’ve really got to say is, see ya (just don’t blame me if I’m 15 minutes late)!

 

 

* Special thanks to Tay for her help making this post semi-logical!

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