Election Afterthoughts

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There was a facebook post from U.S. Today asking folks what was one word to describe how they felt when looking at a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama holding their hands in obvious celebration. Hundreds of people answered with mixed responses, some spewing angry words.

I was following the election results as they were coming in last night, sharing anxiety with millions of other Americans. As much as I try to separate myself from caring about politics, it always seems to find me. I think it is because I care about the greater good of people and value freedom. In college, I took a significant interest in politics and thought maybe this would be the path for me. I spent a summer as an intern on Capital Hill, covered politics on a local level as a reporter and worked for a political polling firm. However, I became more jaded with each experience.

Seeing a country so horribly divided, I don’t have a trace of desire to take part outside of being informed and exercising my right to vote. I am heavy-hearted for this country and know our future as a strong, resilient, independent nation is shaky. We are going to fall – This story has already been written and history tells us a lot about nations and kingdoms that have gone before us. Our economy will eventually be destroyed and countries, once not considered a threat, will become more powerful than us. The media will continue to move away from investigative, balanced-journalism and more towards propaganda and fear. I am saddened people have to dig deep to find the truth, especially in a society designed so there is no time for such pursuits.

Today, after election eve, I was reminded where my time, prayer and energies should be spent – with people. The greatest impact we can make is to invest in the lives of those we interact with everyday. Whether, it’s treating those we already know with love and respect or reaching out to our neighbors and co-workers, maybe it’s smiling at the woman checking you out at the grocery store who is having a bad day or giving it your best no matter how insignificant the task may seem. I commit to taking the time to ask people how they are doing and make the time to be willing to stay and listen.

I am not saying I will cease following the happenings of our government or stop pursing the real story – I will simply refrain from getting discouraged and remember our hope is not in this world – “For this world in its present form is passing away.” 1 Corinthian 7:13

And, for those days I get discouraged by our government, I will pray for our leaders and those in authority.  I will also remember:

“I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7 13-14

Never Say Never – The dichotomy of a cliché.

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Recently, as in the last year, I experienced two situations where my strong-willed self or opinions and use of the word “never” forced me to eat my words. While, I am sure this list goes well beyond these two, no others have left quite an impression. One left me overwhelmingly thankful I didn’t stick to this vow, while another left me wishing I could go back in time and keep my “never” vow.

Now, as you read the following, it may appear in some instances I am making these decisions on my own, but I did have an accomplice. Christjon and I are so much on the same page in our marriage that I think it may be to our detriment, like when it comes to someone stepping up to be the voice of reason when we want something that may not be entirely practical…

As in Exhibit A…

The time was end of summer when the new cars for the following year just hit dealers’ lots and the sweltering Texas heat had yet to toast the minty newness of their shiny coats. Especially, the black, leather interior, fully-loaded, premium Ford Mustang that caught my eye. Christjon had just sold his forest-green Mazda pick-up truck with 127,000 miles and Chili (my red Honda civic) was our only car. We needed it. Sharing a car is so…aberrant and abhorrent. So the seeds of wavering conviction began to grow.

To my pleasant surprise these sporty, sleek, yet strong muscle cars were affordable: and, they were having a sale. Sweet! There’s another tick under my “why I should break all rules of logic and buy this car” column. I had mentioned countless times what a waste of money purchasing a brand new car is and how paying cash is infinitely better than financing…blah, blah, blah. Ah, how quickly these words were forgotten after one test drive and an offer to knock off another $1500 from the already reduced price. I had convinced myself financing made sense: Instead of putting a large sum down on a car, we would invest the money and gain greater returns than the nearly non-existent interest rate we were getting on the new car. Sold!

Now, I have no bones about wheeling and dealing in situations like purchasing a car. In fact, I love it.  I wanted to fight the non-essential $200 document fee dealers may or may not choose to pass along to the buyer. Their response was they have to charge me for it. I reiterated the fact they do not have to charge me for it and pointed to the fine print about how it is up to them to choose whether or not they want to pass this cost onto buyers. Back and forth we went, as my husband was, well let just say, less than supportive (we learned a valuable lesson from this incident – I get to fight as long as he is knows it’s coming). I was feeling pressure from them and him, so I just gave in.

This little incident ate at me until the next day and for several weeks later. Talk about buyer’s remorse. The injustice of being charged a stupid fee and then having to give in when they were obviously wrong. It was appalling! However, I realized it was more than just that $200 bucks and proving a point; it was going in without a plan and rushing through the entire process. Also, we had not stuck to our original plan of waiting to buy a car. It was clearly an emotional purchase.

Two weeks after purchasing the car someone (uh, hum…Christjon) scratched the hood of the car in a parking garage, an out-of-pocket expense just under our deductible. Two days after we moved into our new home, this same someone tore the front bumper off after pulling it out of our garage…cha…ching! At least the boys at the repair shop were happy to see us once again.

One week after we got it fixed and six months after purchasing the car, we sold it back. Truly, there are few things less degrading than selling back a car with a lien on it to the dealership you purchased it from. Only by the grace of God would I be led to endure something so awful. We did get the exact amount we owed on the car, which was a blessing among the profound shame. It was “good riddance” in Christjon’s mind – He hated that car. I, however, mourned our loss. That is until the next month came and we didn’t have to make a payment. This was a case where never should have stayed never.

The case where never became such a strong word…

Many have endured my passionate lectures about the absurdity of the following claim: The purchase of a home is a wise financial investment. Nonsense! Take that money you would put on a down payment and all the costs of owning a home and invest in mutual funds. Your returns will be exponentially greater.  With that said many in my wake have witnessed the following flow from my mouth, “We will NEVER buy a home!” Yup, I said it (and not just once).

Well, guess who became a proud homeowner earlier this year? This girl!

Christjon and I have sat through many meetings with our financial advisor giving us a handful of great reasons for owning a home, and financial was not one of them. Why did we change our minds, you ask? Well, we think God had a little something to do with it. Only He (and obviously new shiny cars) can force such a profound flip in my decisions. However, Christjon does have a pretty good affect on me as well.

It was Thanksgiving Day and Christjon got a hit from a realtor he had subscribed to for updates. He actually signed up for the list when we had some friends looking to move into the area and remained on the list in case something with great leasing options popped up for us. We also had a definitive idea the area we wanted to live if we decided to move.

Well, this particular house piqued our interest because it was exactly where we wanted to be and at an unbelievable price. So for kicks, because surely there had to be something seriously wrong with this house at its price, we decided to shoot the realtor a note and check it out. He got back to us that same day and went to see it the following day. Note: We were still thinking of never owing a home.

We liked it as soon as we walked in. The layout was great with a loft for my office and a great sized kitchen (though poorly utilized) with new hardy-plank siding, roof, recently replaced air conditioning unit and newly installed dual-pane windows. There were a lot of things we would change cosmetically but like they say, it had great bones. Anyway, we just sort of shrugged it off because after all, we were never buying a home.

Then, there was the fire in our building after someone left a cigarette burning on the stairs that eventually lit the surrounding dry bush next to our building on fire (This was the same time all the fires were burning around Austin and people were losing their homes and lives). The fire had spread to the decking on the first floor apartments and it was then, only by the grace of God, did I wake up to the smell of smoke in the middle of the night and called 911 (see other post Fire @ the Falls for full story).

There was this incident and other burdens associated with sharing your neighbors’ walls. Plus, the fact we could never have more than two other people in our apartment at a time without feeling cramped. Also, we couldn’t really have anyone stay comfortably on a blow-up mattress and makeshift guestroom, also serving as my office; and, there was the dog poop, people being able to come and go into your home at anytime, and the party lifestyle many of our neighbors enjoyed. The list went on.

The more we talked about it. The more having something to call our own and do with what we wanted, making it exactly the way we wanted became more appealing. We prayed, talked, and prayed again, all the while deciding to check other houses for sale in the area just to see what was out there.

So for a couple months we continued to look, and had finally opened our minds to the possibility of home ownership. We decided to put a low-balling offer on another home to see if by some miracle they would accept. They didn’t and we were not to going to enter a bidding war with the other interested party.

Then, an opportunity presented itself with the first home we looked at where the seller’s came to us wanting to drop the price again. They were realtors who had purchased the home for resell and were looking to unload it before the end of the year. Also, sadly, were pretty preoccupied with a sick father who eventually passed away during this time.

After thought, discussion, prayer and wise counsel, we decided our absolute max offer. We went back and forth with the sellers and wouldn’t back down, even for a couple grand (much to our realtor’s discomfort as he is relaying our firmness to a guy who just lost his father – not only that, our realtor is also a full-time pastor with a caring heart, not a cut-throat, fast talking salesperson). Ultimately, we stuck to our guns and got the house for a great deal. If we had waited just one more month, we probably couldn’t have gotten it for the price we did.

Before moving in we scrapped the popcorn ceilings, re-textured the walls, painted and remodeled the upstairs. After moving in, we remodeled the kitchen and will begin work on the bathrooms next. We love doing projects around the house and the completion of a vision. We also enjoy being able to labor on projects with my parents, entertain people, host parties, and share our home with others. It has been such a wonderful blessing – I am so glad God made me eat my words.

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BooeyBear

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I have a dog. He does not live with me.

Why? You ask.

Because at 21, I decided to quit my journalism gig to become a snowboarding bum in Breckenridge, Co. A life not well suited for a high-maintenance Labrador retriever. Breckenridge involved two roommates, a small apartment, cold weather, a “full-time” cashier gig, and free time spent snowboarding or doing crazy things with friends (will leave those details for another blog).  This move forever expelled me as the primary guardian over his wellbeing. Who now fulfills this role?

My mother.

Indi, Indiana, BooBear, Boo, BooeyBear, BooeyBoy, or any variation of the aforementioned is what he goes by. Notice I said “goes by” not responds to, never successfully broke through his stubbornness. I love this dog. I think he is the smartest, cutest, funniest, friendliest dog on the planet. However, I concede he is not the best behaved, caused by inconsistencies in rearing from his primary caregiver. All his glowing qualities are a result of his time spent with me as a pup.

Indi is now 10 years old, 11 in March of next year. You would never guess he has severe hip dysplasia. He requires weekly shots and daily pain medication. I joke about my parents caring for him now. But, if it wasn’t for their love and means, he would not be as well cared for as he is.  In spite of the pain, he acts just like a puppy. He loves to play, run, jump, fetch, etc. Because he is in constant pain and discomfort, my mom has strategically placed cushions throughout the house for his convenience.

My parents are in the process of moving into a new house that doesn’t have carpet. The house Indi is accustomed to has carpeting in the family room where he spends significant time chewing his bone on the floor.

Last week, my parents spent a few days at the new house, Indi scoped out a small area of rolled-up, leftover carpet from the other house. My mom brought it with the intention to eventually roll it out for him. In the meantime, when Indi wanted to lie down or chew his bone, he went to find this rolled-up carpet from the other house.

My mom finally got around to laying out this plush, familiar covering of comfort at the new house – this was his reaction… (These blurred images below are Mr. Particular rubbing his back and scooting around on the carpet in euphoric excitement. Notice the bone in the upper lefthand corner.)

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Wicket vs. T-Rex

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At Baselice, my previous full-time job, I have a couple action figures inhabiting my desk. One is of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and one of, in my opinions the cutest creature in the universe, Wicket from the Ewok species.

Occasionally when I would arrive on a Monday morning after the weekend off, these figures were arranged in battle like positions. It didn’t take me long to discover this was by the hands of my bosses’ two sons who accompanied their father to work over the weekend.

Over the course of several months, the following is the hilarity that would brighten an otherwise dreary Monday morn…

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Fire @ The Falls

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For those who don’t know this about me, I am an insanely heavy sleeper. I never wake up to sounds, dreams, nightmares, or even to go the bathroom (No, I do not wet the bed). For the first time in my life, I awoke at 2:05am because there was a campfire scent permeating throughout our apartment. Not kidding, I arose and said, “I smell smoke.”

I began searching for the source. First, I checked the dryer because earlier in the evening our dryer was emitting a scent distinctly reminiscent of an appliance on its last leg. Nope, not there…I proceeded to check the front of our home where the smell got increasingly intense in the kitchen and into the living room. This is also where our fireplace is located, something that has not been used in over seven months. Surely, one of our neighbors wouldn’t mistake this 70-some-degree weather as a sign of winter. However, you never know. A temperature like this is a drastic difference from 110-degrees. The 40-degree temperature drop is coat and boots weather when you have had 85 days of 100-degree weather.

Lastly, I looked in our office and decided to peak out onto our splintered-wooden deck. When I open the door, smoke was billowing from the first floor. As I get closer to the railing, there are flames in the dry brush next to the stairway that leads to the creek behind our house. The flames have engulfed the staircase and are making their way towards the structure of the building and the wall of the first floor apartments.

“Fire, fire, fire, downstairs!” I scream.

This is one of those times where through the midst of panic articulating a descriptive sentence is nearly impossible and you resort to speaking observations like an anxious two-year-old. My husband Christjon awakes and springs to action. He never ceases to amaze me with his ability to hide his anxiety. He instructs me to call 911. He also has this overwhelming need to fix things and finds it impossible to just stand by. Therefore, he immediately goes in search of a large bucket to do something to keep the fire from spreading to the apartment homes below.

I, however, take a little more coaxing when it comes to the heroics. As I am on the phone with 911, the gentleman instructs me to go downstairs and alert our neighbors the need to evacuate their apartments.

“Yes! Need, get, people out.”

I open our front door and a wall of smoke hits my face. So does the reluctance to tell our neighbors of their impending danger.  The gentleman is patient with my panic. He proceeds to tell me we need to get out of our apartment immediately and pull the alarm.

“What alarm?” I think to myself.

He obviously has no idea the ghetto, deathtrap we live in…

“Man, I am going to need to go downstairs and bang on some doors.”

Okay then.”

I proceed to grab a shirt from my closet to cover my nose and mouth. I open our door once again and fly downstairs, still on the phone with 911. I bang loudly on the doors closest to the fire. Someone comes down the stairwell from the apartments located between our landing and the fire. Visibly irritated by my banging, “What’s going on?”

“Fire!” I scream

One look below and my neighbor replies promptly with, “Holy S#&@!”

Don’t ask me how they failed to deduce the pungent bonfire scent and impending cloud engulfing the stairwell. Nonetheless, the point came across.

The gentleman still on the phone instructs me to go out front because the fire trucks are on their way. I will need to go find them and direct them to our building because the fire was in the back, not easily visible from the dark parking lot.

I must confess – I possess traces of vanity. I would never be caught dead in my glasses, without cover up or a little mascara, frizzy hair and pajamas in public. However, you don’t think twice about this stuff when you’re in a panic and adrenaline is pumping through your veins. So with my semi-transparent pajama bottoms, pugfarts.com t-shirt I received free at SXSW (a whole other level of embarrassment), frizzy hair and bare face, I flag down the three fire trucks that have arrived in record time. It took them less than six-minutes to come to our rescue.

The firemen locate the fire and start working. At this point the smoke alarms start going off. Again, don’t ask me why it took this long for them to start sounding (ghetto, deathtrap, live in).

My initial thought at seeing the three fire trucks was, “Man, I hope I don’t get in trouble because the fire isn’t that big.” Seriously, one would think I was brought up by Catholic nuns with the sort of guilt I harbor.

Eventually, everyone was given the go ahead to return to our apartments. The fireman lingered awhile ensuring there were no smoldering spots in the building’s structure or that the fire had jumped to another area in the complex, or into the brush behind our building.

A few days of laundry, airing out the house, and a small-fortune on scented candles, life has now returned to normal.

The fire department said the fire started from a cigarette. Upon hearing this information, a floodgate of expletives rushed through my head. Unacceptable! The detective in me started targeting the potential arsonists. However, we are surrounded by smokers and discovering the culprit through process of elimination is nearly impossible. I wanted to post the following sign near the damaged structure to feel better about the injustice.

Dear Smoker (aka Buttface),

Look what your selfish, stupidity did. You should be thanking God this fire did not destroy people’s lives. I hope you find it difficult to sleep at night. What will it take to get it through your smoke-filled skull the impending dangers of failing to completely extinguish your cancer stick. We are in the middle of a drought where hundreds of people have already lost their homes. SHAME ON YOU!!!

Sincerely,

Your pissed-off neighbor 

P.S. You owe me $50 in candles. 

If not for the Grace of God that woke me up that night, who knows who would have lost their homes. Worse yet, someone could have gotten trapped by the fire. I truly believe it was God watching out for us that night. This experience brought the fires around our area a little closer to home and reminded me of all the folks who have lost their homes – I can’t even begin to imagine.

Pics below:

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