Our new home

My feet have been firmly planted back on Houston soil.

This weekend went by incredibly fast. I honestly think this is the shortest amount of time that the two of us have ever spent together, and you throw in the whirlwind of looking at this apartment and that townhouse and time got away.

On the bright side, we did find a place. It’s a two bedroom townhouse in the adjoining city where Julie works. It’s across from a pond that has a trail around it and close enough to shops and coffee houses that we could walk if the weather permits.

One thing that has stuck in my head since starting this journey that became glaringly obvious to me… The cost of living.

In Austin, this place would easily garner a rent of $2100 a month. Here in Houston, $1600. There? $950.

I realize the state of Illinois has a State tax that we don’t have here in Texas, but every employer I’ve spoken to has mentioned that my salary would be commensurate taking the tax into account.

When I lived in Austin, a friend of mine from school, who lived in Austin too, once told me, “if we transferred back to Wichita on our current salaries, we could live like royalty!”

She was right. What barely passed for a living wage in A Town was considered a good salary in Wichita Falls.

To put things into perspective, I did look at housing in other areas of Illinois. Chicago, for example, has housing that’s pretty much in line with Houston. But, even the “big” cities in Illinois aren’t nearly as large as Austin and Houston.

Springfield, the states capital, has a population of 120,000. Houston is closer to 4 million.

Obviously, Chicago is the largest with almost 3 million. But the next largest is Aurora with just over 150,000. That’s a huge difference!

The town that we chose our townhouse in only has a population of 70,000.

I guess when you have more people vying for housing, it’s easier to ask higher rates. In these tiny towns, asking for an outrageous sum simply means your property will sit vacant for far too long.

As we were looking at this place, then that, I started to feel that familiar anxiety creeping in.

At one point, the agent went to check on a property and we stopped for lunch. I decided to voice my fears.

“If we sign a twelve month lease, and it does take me a year to move, how will that work out for us?”

My beautiful and logical girl has already got the answers.

“I have to move. We bought the house we are in now because it was the halfway point between her job and mine. Everywhere I look in the house, I’m reminded that it’s not where I want to be. Add in the stress and complications and even if you weren’t in my life, it would be time to move. Regardless of you being here in a week or next Christmas, I need a transition to my next life.”

And that was that.

It will be nice to have our place to be when I go see her. Every time I’m in the house she shared with Milly, I feel like a visitor. Like I’m stepping into their world and it’s an awkward feeling.

The townhouse won’t be available until August. The house goes on the market on June 15th. Our hope is that with closing, inspections and such, we’ll be able to make a relatively smooth transition.

I’ll be back several times between now and then, obviously, I’ll be back for the actual move, and I have worked out a plan with my current firm to assist on the inspections they have in that area. So, that means more time at home with Julie until my final relocation.

The funny thing here is that my boss now, is actually trying to find a way for me to transfer up there and stay with this company. We have an office in Chicago and we have a lot of contracts right now so it’s not that big of a leap to think he can make it happen.

I guess we will see.

Julie is excited. Planning which walls to hang my prints of bridges and where to put this item or that. Talking about how it’s close enough to where Heather lives, that we can actually go running together on a normal basis, rather than having to make plans and scheduling a work out with friends.

I’m optimistic. I’m hopeful. I’m determined to take whatever obstacles come our way and turn them into an opportunity for strength and growth.

I’ve officially been chastised… Sorta

So, I got into Chicago this evening and as soon as I climbed into Julie’s truck I got an earful.

“You need to let go of that bullshit! I’m not going anywhere, I’m just as freaked out about all this as you are but your sorry ass is stuck with me… So deal with it!”

For those who don’t know what she’s talking about, I posted a password protected post earlier. (It’s the same password for those wondering)

In it I talked about some of my fears and where they stem from. I wasn’t very nice so that’s the reason for the password.

I don’t hide anything from Julie. While I don’t want her to think I’m some neurotic freak that’s still dwelling on the past, I prefer that we approach our life together from a point of complete openness and honesty. Even if that means momentarily hurting the others feelings.

I’ve explained to her (and she has seen first hand that I’m sincere) that if I don’t know something is broken, I can’t fix it.

Example? Ok.

Julie seldom uses profanity. She doesn’t necessarily object to it, she just uses it when she needs to convey her passion about something.

That being said, she abhors the word “fuck”. I’ve heard her say it and when she does, I get this look of pure terror on my face. For her to reach into her bag of adjectives and pull that one out means shit is gonna hit the fan. Luckily, it’s never been directed at me: not yet….

I, on the other hand, drop the F bomb at least 20 times a day. I deal with rough, uneducated, crude men for upwards of 12 hours a day. I hear dirty jokes, off color language and the occasional obscene gesture. I wouldn’t have made it this far in my field if I hadn’t been able to grow a pretty thick skin.

Just like most things in our lives, we tend to soak up the traits we are surrounded by.

So.. I say fuck to describe a lot of things.

One day, she took my face in her hands, gently kissed my forehead and said, “the next time I hear you say the ‘F’ word I’ll smack your mouth.” Then she kissed me and that was that.

I’ve haven’t uttered the word in her presence since.

Well, her blatant scolding of me as we were leaving the airport caught me off guard, but it wasn’t entirely surprising. She’s blunt and direct. And I LOVE that.

Just as I’m pissed off at Milly for turning my strong, independent, self reliant girl into a woman that walks around on eggshells one day and is throwing her weight around the next, Julie is now pissed at my ex. For turning me from a strong, protective force to be reckoned with, into a suspicious, scared stone.

We’ve spent the better part of the evening catching up, playing house and talking through all the baggage and bullshit that has us planted firmly where we are.

She’s sound asleep and I’m wide awake, thanks to my flipped around schedule.

Tomorrow we meet with an agent to look at a few places to live. We are still trying to figure out all logistics but we are making progress.

Sunday morning I fly back home and start classes on Monday.

She’s going to fly to Houston for the weekend starting after July 4 then I’ll be back up here at the end of July.

This next month will be crazy busy but at least we get to see each other several times.

I know I get impatient, but when you realize what it is you want to spend the rest of your life doing, and who you want to spend it with… You kinda want the rest of your life to start now!

Here we go again

I finally got my school schedule straightened out. No, I didn’t give up.

I decided that quitting isn’t the rational or logical answer to my frustration.

My chem class starts at 10:15 am. I am enrolled in the Honors Program so I have to take at least one class at the campus I originally started at when I was living in another town. Bummer.

If I take the toll road, it’s about a 40 minute drive. If I take the back roads, about 55. Not much of a difference when you consider it’s a cost of 6 bucks a day.

My class is Mon-Thurs from 10:15 am until 2:15 pm (2 hr lecture, 2 hr lab). My current work schedule is 9 pm to 5 am.

Now, factor in drive times, class time, current work schedule and I’m left shaking my head.

If I stay on my current schedule, I’ll get home about 5:30 am. That only gives me about 2 1/2 hours to sleep before class. Then I’d be getting home around 3:30 or 4 which would give me about 4 hours to sleep again.

Splitting my sleep up does not work for me.

Alternative #1. Change my work hours to 11 pm to 7 am. I can come home, shower, eat and then head to class. I’ll have about 1 1/2 hours before I need to start my commute so it gives me time to do my workout before heading to class. Only problem? No time to deal with other stuff like shopping, laundry, etc.

Again, I’d get home (or at least into bed) around 4 pm. That gives me 6 hours straight of sleep.

Scenario #2. Change my work schedule to 7 pm to 3 am. Sleep from 3:30 to 8:30. Head to class. Get home and deal with personal stuff between class and work. I’d get 5 hrs sleep but at a different time when I expect it would be more productive sleep than during the day.

None of these options appeal to me. I’m at the “vampire” stage of working nights and it’s time to flip. I’ll be switching back to days in July so this schedule will only last for 6 weeks. In addition to my chem class, I also have my technical writing that is online. My hope is that I’ll have enough down time at work to tackle it.

Julie is starting to worry that I’m doing too much.

Trying to work full time, go to school full time and maintain my work outs, trips to see her and spend time with friends.

It’s a LOT. This summer will probably be one that I look back on and think, “what the hell did I do?”

I may find myself burnt out and screaming for another vacation away by the end of the term.

Whatever the case, this is where I’m at. I’ve got 3 days to figure it out so I’ll find a way to do just that.

Hell, I’ve worked on less than 4 hours sleep a night before but I was in my 20’s and I didn’t have thousands of dollars in scholarships on the line.

I feel like I’ve come too far. The end is close enough to touch if I just stick with it. I know that it will all be worth the effort but some days…. A beach, a chair and a beer sound sooo much more appealing!

Starting over vs staying put

“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.” Nicole Sobon.

I read this today and thought that it is pretty darn accurate.

I’ve gotten really good at starting over. Actually, I’m not good at it, I’m just used to it. And let me tell you… It sucks!

I have found myself in relationships that I should have left long before I did. All for the simple reason that I didn’t want to start over.

To some, starting over is exhilarating. It gives them an energy and a high like no other. J Will is like that. In fact, she has gotten so good at starting over that she has turned it into an art.

“IKEA is the starting over headquarters! Instead of moving all my shit, I leave it and find the nearest IKEA and get all new stuff!”

While I sometimes envy her wanderlust mentality, I do not envy the notion of EVER having to start over again.

But, that’s exactly what I’m doing. New career, new girl, new home. All of it scary and exciting. That wasn’t the case at the start. I was angry, resentful. Hurt and confused. I had settled into the idea that I was done looking for happily ever after.

Was I happy? Some days. I was content. At my age I’d resigned myself to the idea that contentment was better than being alone.

My mother reconnected with her high school sweetheart when she was 47. They married when she was 48 and sadly, he passed away when she was 52. Just five short years.

After he passed, she stated, “I’m done. I don’t want to start over again!” And she didn’t. She passed away at 78 years old single and alone.

At first I didn’t know why she would make that choice. Why she would rather live life alone than find someone to share it with. Today, I’m right there with her.

I’m not a young pup anymore. I have a career, children and a grandson to think about. I’m in love with a woman that I’ve never stopped dreaming about and life is right on track to be amazing.

If I ever find myself in a position that I have to start over again, I think I’ll opt out the way my mom did.

It’s hard. It’s draining. It gives a person a feeling of not being quite good enough.

I’m getting too old for that shit!

Julie and I sometimes find ourselves on different sides of a situation. There’s never any yelling or anger. There’s no passive aggressive, “fine!” to indicate a counter-strike. There’s just two people picking and choosing what’s worth holding on to and what’s worth letting go of.

That may some day change. I may wake up on day and discover that I’m tired of making compromises. She may wake up and wonder how she felt love for someone as abrasive and rough as me.

For now, though, I’m ok starting this journey. As always, I have a plan B. I have a way to salvage my dignity and self respect should I ever find myself looking at her with anger and resentment the way I have in my past.

I’ll walk away. Go back to being a bachelor and live out the rest of my existence with my dog.

While I will never allow myself to remain in a loveless home again, I refuse to continue to start over when I’m worth hanging on to.

Ouch

“The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow!”

I’m not sure where I originally heard that saying but it’s always stuck out in my mind.

It’s in the same vein as old stand by’s such as “no pain, no gain”, “pain is temporary, pride is forever”.

They all resonate the same sentiment: working out is gonna hurt!

Before our trip to San Fransisco, I’d gotten lazy with regards to my workouts. Only doing the minimum amount of work each day.

My running had almost completely stopped and my daily ritual of abs and push ups slipped to a “when I remember” routine.

Since being back, I’m back on track. And let me tell you… I’m sore!

I don’t use weights very often but when I do it’s to help strengthen my knees. I tend to get too bulky from strength training so I stick to the muscle, strength and endurance workouts I learned in the Army.

This past weekend I’ve increased the intensity of my strength training. More push-ups, more leg lifts, more crunches, more squats.

My legs are feeling fine, which surprises me, but I’ve discovered my lower back and even my lats are screaming at me!

I’m pretty proud of myself. I’ve managed to get myself back to the level I was at when I left the Army. 30 push-ups, 50 sit-ups and 2 miles in less than 20 minutes.

It may not seem like much to a person who pushes themselves to an extreme every day, but considering that just 8 months ago I couldn’t squat down on a bridge deck without my inspector helping me get back up? It’s amazing!!

I’ve dropped over 30 lbs and plan to drop at least another 20. Or at least another 4″.

Julie commented on how small I’m getting and when she pulled out old pictures of the two of us from high school, I could easily see that I was a bit on the “pudgy” side compared to her toned physique.

I feel pretty good about my progress.

My former ethics professor, Warren, has recently started running again too. We’ve talked about how we plan to meet up twice a week to run together at the school. They have a terrific trail that goes around the campus which is adorned with gardens, fountains and other landscapes that make a daily jog worth the effort.

I’m enjoying my last week of “vacation”. Classes start back up Monday. My Chem class has been moved from 12:30 to 10:00 am which will cause some serious logistical issues regarding sleep, but as I told Warren, I’ll figure it out.

So far, I’m still on track. I’m in the honors program and have secured a few scholarships. I’ve been offered a position on a research team for the Texas Transportation Institute at A&M, which will help offset the tuition there AND give me the opportunity to be published (a noteworthy accomplishment in any field).

Julie has had 3 offers on the house and it’s not even on the market yet. Because of that, we are looking at a mid June move instead of July.

I head up to Illinois next weekend so we can both look at apartments and lofts.

All in all, life is on track.

As I look at our original time table, I feel like it’s all a million years away: Until I start living it. Then I wake up to discover that time has slipped by and I can’t recall ever experiencing it.

Today, I’m hopeful and optimistic. I’m sore but focused. I’m happy. Happy in a content sort of way that I haven’t been able to experience in a very long time!

Today was one of those days.

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes (quite a lot actually), I dream of Julie.

While the dreams are seldom sexual, we are obviously a couple in them. Happy, content, living life together.

Some nights those dreams are so vivid I wake up looking around to see if she’s here with me.

Last night was one of those nights.

I didn’t have to work but with my sleep schedule all flipped around, I wasn’t able to doze off until sometime around 4 am. Just after 11 I woke up looking for Julie.

In my dream there wasn’t anything extraordinary going on. In fact, I can remember watching her trying on a pair of pants. (How’s that for not sexual?? Lol)

It was just us. Living a life together. Talking, laughing, planning our day.

Then she was gone.

I remember this feeling of panic. Wondering where she went. If I’d done something to make her leave. I debated with myself if I should call or text her. In my dream I chose not to. In my dream I wanted to make sure she knew I wanted to give her the space she needed to deal with whatever was going on with her. In my dream I was afraid that by chasing after her, I’d scare her away.

When I woke up, I was in a panic. I felt as if it were real. I texted Julie to say hi and we chatted briefly. I didn’t tell her about the dream because I felt silly and foolish about being so scared of losing her.

I mean that’s pretty much what I get from that. You don’t have to be Freud to figure out that on some subconscious level I’m afraid of losing her again.

About an hour later, I decided to lay back down. I don’t sleep much when school is going on and with this long weekend I’ve decided to simply rest.

When I woke up again after 4 pm, again I was in a panic.

I’d had another dream about her. An extension of the first one. Only this time it was clear that she didn’t want to be around. She was making excuses to leave and be gone for hours. At one point she even told Louie, “hurry up. I need to go!”

This time I called to talk to her. Hear her voice. Listen to her tone and inflection.

The conversation was fine.

“I’ve just been watching movies. I found a townhouse that I think we’ll like. I sent you the link. Did you log out of Amazon Prime? I can’t log on.”

Typical conversational stuff.

I decided to tell her about my dreams.

Saying it out loud to her made me feel even more silly. But, I had this knot and I felt like I needed to get it out.

She laughed and apologized. (She apologized for her imaginary behavior in my imaginary world! Lol)

Reassured me that she’s not going anywhere. Reminded me that living apart is just as hard for her and she has these dreams too.

Whatever brought on my moment of insecurity, I wish it wouldn’t happen.

I love dreaming of her. She’s right here with me and even though it’s not real, for that brief moment we’re together.

Dreams like these, I can do without.