First words. 

Julie is out of surgery and everything went well. 

As I was standing next to her bed in the recovery room, she looked up at me (still groggy from the anesthesia) and said, “In a year I’ve gotten a new truck, new boat, new house and new boobs! I shoulda married you 20 years ago!”

Glad she is joking and obviously a lot of the tension is off both of us! 

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I’m still a girl…sorta

Julie calls me her “girl”. 

Any other woman I would have firmly put my foot down and said, “don’t say that!” but with her I’ve learned it’s her way of telling me that she gets me. 

Today I was in a pissy mood. I’ve taken the rest of this week off just to spend with her and to be here for her during her surgery. 

Instead of enjoying a peaceful few days of laziness and relaxation I’ve had to deal with phone calls and emails about work. 

Today kicked my ass. In fact, I don’t have the words to describe today but I do have a few obscene hand gestures that would come close. 

At one point I found myself being pissy with her. 

“Do you really need to be so condescending when you talk to me?”

I then get that look. You know. THAT look. 

At which point I just said, “hey…I’m entitled every once in a while.”

That’s when she said it….

“There’s my girl!”

Vacation….sorta

Julie’s surgery is scheduled for Friday morning. After a few setbacks where she had flu like symptoms, an unexplained fever and a minor glitch with her insurance and we are set. 

If all goes according to plan, she will be in and out in just a few hours. 

I’ll be a nervous wreck. I almost envy the fact that she will be sedated and oblivious to the process while it’s taking place. Me? I’ll be pacing and drinking large amounts of coffee while she is there. 

These past few months have been crazy but I have had the chance to spend more time with her than usual. 

We flew back from Austin last night and woke up to a beautiful 71 degree morning. 

While we were in Texas, we talked about taking a proper vacation. 

After her surgery she will be on medical leave for 8 weeks and I have about 3 weeks of vacation saved that I need to think about using. 

After the notion of going to Ireland was dismissed then a suggestion of Portland, we settled on New Orleans. 

Not the Big Easy version you see in the movies or the loud drunkiness that comes to mind with trips to the French Quarter but a family vacation. 

We talked to Huey and we are going to meet her, the beau and my little man in NOLA!

Visits to the zoo, the aquarium and random stops here and there. 

I’m sure we will find time to sneak away and enjoy a little of the nightlife that the town has to offer but we wanted to spend some quality time as a family! 

I love that Julie doesn’t just talk about trips but actually puts the ideas into motion. 

My ex was more of a “let’s do this” type but they seldom ever happened. 

We have talked about going to Cuba with Jessi around New Years and a trip to Boston is planned for the spring. 

Right now, planning for the future as if this giant weight wasn’t on our shoulders makes life a little less stressful. 

It’s our coping mechanism and I’m happy to explore this world with the woman I love! 

We do want to travel more. I mean leave the good ole US of A. 

Trips to Ireland, Germany, Cuba, and China are already on our list. 

Any suggestions from my friends across the way or those of you have have had the opportunity to see some amazing places? We are adding to our list, even as I type! 

Austin! Oh how I love thee! 

We are in Austin, Baby!!

Yes, I love this town. The energy, the youth, the culture, the beer, the music! 

I moved here when I was a young, single mom trying to give my girls a life in a town of diversity and acceptance. It worked. 

Both Huey and Louie are two of the most accepting people alive. They have people they don’t like but it’s for personal reasons. Not because of their race, religion or orientation. They appreciate different cultures and freely admit their favorite foods aren’t Your typical American fare. 

Julie flew in this morning and I got in this afternoon. We are staying at a hotel on the north side of town that my company has provided….for both of us! Yes, my boss hand picked this place. It is basically a mini apartment so if Julie doesn’t feel like going anywhere while I’m locked in my meetings, she has the option of ordering groceries and making herself at home. 

We are also about two miles from the oncology center so if something happens, she’s covered. (I explained to him that there was no need for that but he said he wanted to be safe) 

This evening we drove to Thundercloud subs. A locally owned chain that has decent sandwiches but awesome atmosphere. 

We sat outside enjoying the breeze and watching the locals walking up and down Guadelupe. 

Afterwards we drove up north of town to see my house. The one that I technically still own but that is currently being leased by a couple employed at Dell Computers. 

Julie is still in awe of it every time we drive by. It’s a gigantic two story, 4 bedroom, 2800 sq/ft limestone building in a cul de sac. 

“How about we move here if you win these contracts?”

I almost wet myself. 

“Honey, we are in the process of building our house in Illinois. What should we do with that?”

Her idea? 

Sell the house in Round Rock (the suburb of North Austin) use the equity to buy a smaller house downtown or in Hyde Park and split our time. 

“We could be snow birds!”

Truth be told, I kinda like that idea. 

I love my wife and would never ask her to leave her family. I love my kids and Austin would definitely be closer to them. Win win? 

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. 

I love my dog 

I have a mutt. Or more accurately, I am a mutts person. 

I’ve talked about Riley in various posts. How he hates to get his paws wet, the way he sits up in the passenger seat of my truck…like a boss! The annoying way that he forces me to get off my ass and move! 

My dog is the truest definition of unconditional love. He could tear up our leather sofa or shit in my favorite shoes and I’d still love him. I’d be disappointed and temporarily angry but I know me well enough to know that within an hour I would once again be rubbing his ears and kissing his head. 

And he loves Julie. 

You can see the stark contrast in the way he reacts to her and the way he would react to my ex. 

My ex was just another person who fed and tended to him. Julie? Julie is his friend. She too will rub his belly and kiss his head. She lays in bed with him and reads while he is sprawled out on his back next to her..his head on my pillow. 

She says that he keeps her company while I’m gone. 

She told me something that I found pretty interesting. 

When I’m home, he doesn’t bark at strangers. Delivery men, neighbors, friends, anyone who comes to the door is simply a nuisance for me to deal with. The doorbell rings, he goes to the door, looks out the side window and waits, quietly for me to answer and deal with whoever is on the other side. 

When I’m not home he’s a beast! He easily slides into the role of protector. 

I was talking on the phone to Julie and someone came to the door. Riley sprung into action. I could hear him barking, fiercely, through the phone. I could also hear Julie talking to him soothingly. “Who’s here, buddy? Should we let them in?”

She didn’t scold him or tell him “NO” like my ex would have done. She appreciated his protective nature and even rewarded him for it. 

I asked how long he’s been a real live guard dog and she said that it has been the norm for a while now. 

I don’t know if the two of them have formed a much stronger bond with my travel schedule or if he can sense that something is wrong with Julie but he has changed. 

He is still loving and affectionate towards me, but I’ve noticed that she is the one he follows. 

He used to make himself comfortable on his bed in the living room and not worry about where we were or what we were doing. Now? Now I can always find him laying just a few feet from wherever Julie is. 

If she gets up to leave the room, he follows. If she goes to take a shower, he lays outside the door waiting for her to come out.

He still greets me with the same happy, excited expression he always has but now it’s obvious his loyalty is with her. 

This started about a month ago. 

Like I said. Maybe it’s just coincidence but the timing has me believing that he knows something is going on. 

I think it’s endearing but it also scares and worries me a little. Animals have a unique way of sensing things. Is he sensing something that none of us know? Or am I being paranoid? 

Maybe he just loves her as much as I do and doesn’t want to take a single second with her for granted. 

Whatever the case, he is officially “our” dog and we are clearly his humans. 

  

Beaumont sucks! 

Yes, I am still having to manage the structures in Beaumont, TX. Yes. I still hate it!

In fact I am in Beaumont today. Julie is flying in this weekend and I’ll be meeting her in Austin. I have several presentations on Monday and Tuesday and she has decided that we need a little time before her surgery makes life all about co-pays and treatments. 

I agree

It has been raining the past two days I’m Beaumont and the “chief” inspector here actually thinks that I report to him. In fact, he has requested a meeting with me to discuss my “frequent absences” from the site. 

Keep in mind; not only do I not report to or work for him, I don’t even work for the same company. In fact, my firm loses money every day I have to deal with that job because it was the first contract we were awarded and the lowest one that we bid. 

Here’s how I’m sure the meeting will go. 

Chief: “Lee, I need you to make more of an effort to be onsite every day. You are responsible for the structures and this is where your priority should be.”

Me: “That’s not going to happen. I have 14 inspectors and 11 projects outside of this one that require my attention. If you have an issue, call my lead.”

At which point he will huff and puff, call his boss who will call my boss who will then call me and say, “Play nice until I can pull the cord and get you out of there.”

How I wish the conversation would go. 

Chief: “Lee, I need you to make more of an effort to be onsite every day. You are responsible for the structures and this is where your priority should be.”

Me: “B, you’re an idiot that not only has zero clue what you are doing out here but you are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. You and you’re inbreeder mentality has grated on my last nerve for almost a year now and I’m done. Don’t talk to me, don’t call me, don’t try to communicate with me in any way. Stay the fuck away from me and let me do my job until I’m able to put this God foresaken town in my rear view mirror for good.”

Hey. A girl can dream….right? 

What I’m doing 

It’s after 2 am and I’m in San Antonio, TX. Julie went to bed several hours ago but if she’s anything like she’s been lately, she’s not sleeping. 

Neither one of us seems to be doing much eating or sleeping, lately. 

We are still waiting for the surgeon to nail down a date and in the meantime, worry is consuming both of us. 

So, rather than bother her with the things rattling around in my head in surfing on the Internet. 

Julie and I make a comfortable salary. Both of us in the six digits and we don’t have a lot of outgoing bills. 

Because of that, when one of us gets the urge to spend its pretty funny how drastically different our tastes are. 

Julie buys materialistic things. Big things. The truck, the boat…etc. 

I’m fine with that. She works just as hard as I do so she is free to spend our extra money however she sees fit. 

Me? I’m not so extravagant. Oh I like to splurge on myself once in a while but the most expensive thing I bought for me was a Glock G43 gen 4, recently. 

My ex never allowed guns in the house and I have always had a healthy appreciation for them so I now own a few. 

I have a Glock G22 gen 4 which is a .40 caliber. It’s the gun that I keep in my truck when I am traveling by car. It’s big and hefty. I love the way it feels in my hand. The recoil isn’t bad at all and it’s the gun I used to qualify for my concealed carry license so I’m a pretty accurate shot. 

This latest one is a sub compact 9 mm. It’s so small that I can literally carry it in my front pant pocket and no one knows it’s there. 

I bought it on a whim. Literally. I was at the store getting ammo for the practice range and saw it in the case. At $529 I decided I had to have it. 

It doesn’t have the same stopping power as the .40 but with the right ammo it will do the job. 

I use it for trips like this. Ones where I’ll be flying to my destination and renting a vehicle. It’s small and right now, the states that I travel in have reciprocity agreements with Illinois and Texas so it’s legal for me to carry them in my vehicles. 

It may seem like a Rambo-esque attitude, but keep in mind a lot of my job sites are in remote locations and the work is typically done at night. Luckily, (knock on wood) I’ve never needed to use them. 

Now…those are the types of things that I will spend money on. Guns, prints of famous bridges, vintage books, etc. Not tonight. 

Julie’s cancer has me in the mindset of how badly things could get and just how much worse they could be if we weren’t financially secure. 

I can’t imagine having to worry how to pay the co pays for her visits or treatments. I don’t know how we would survive the emotional burden that would come from stressing about medical bills and lost wages. 

There are those who do have that fear and that reality to face. 

I’ve always felt that it was my responsibility to give where I could. Donate my time, knowledge and yes; money to charities that can do the most good. 

I have spent some time with Habitat for Humanity. My skills in construction came in handy but with my limited time, I’m no longer able to do that. 

When my mother had cancer, I gave to St. Jude’s. Yes, it’s a children’s hospital but watching her suffer made me realize that someone who was going through that with a child would be devestated. 

I’ve donated blood, I’m an organ donor and I have even spent time at the University helping out with collecting household items when the tornado hit a small Illinois town near our home. 

Tonight I came across another charity that I had heard of but hadn’t spent too much time researching; Donors choose.org 

This charity is one where teachers can submit a project that their class is doing and ask for donations to help offset the costs. 

The organization reviews the request, researches and verifies the costs that the teacher says are associated and if it all checks out, they post it for people to donate. 

All donations are tax deductible and you can even choose which projects you want to donate to. It has it broken down into states and cities so you are able to find a location near you if you choose. 

My ex is a teacher and I remember how we spent so much of our own money to buy school supplies and classroom items because there was no way the kids could afford them. 

I went through the map and picked out an elementary school art class in Albuquerque, NM. 

Why? Well, I have projects in New Mexico so it felt like I was giving something back and because it was the only school in the entire state posted on the site. 

A few clicks and I was able to fund the remainder of the amount that Ms. Keyes needed for her classes to undertake a mural reconstruction at their school which needs many repairs. 

Anyone who has ever been to New Mexico can tell you that a lot of the towns and villages don’t put a lot of money into their public buildings so I could definitely envision a school that teaches children from the nearby reservation as being below standards when it comes to modern amenities. 

Now, I’m not saying that you should rush out and donate to this organization. It may not be something you are compelled to do. 

It is, however, something I think is worth looking in to if you, like me, feel it’s your duty to give a little back. 

Just a suggestion.