Back to the real world

Well… I’m back in my world.

My world of school, work and wait.

This long weekend away with Julie was exactly what the two of us needed. A little “time out” to be together and not even think about the logistics of our situation. Time that we otherwise wouldn’t have made to be together had we not stepped back and looked at the bigger picture.

While we were away, we were able to look at our situation more realistically than we do when we are apart.

When we are separated by almost 1,000 miles, we get lonely. We get worried. We wonder if the other will actually be ok waiting until the day we get to start our life together.

When we are together, we see that having a life that is free from the stress, resentment, and confusion that rushing head first into a decision can cause, is worth the wait.

I came home more determined than ever to keep working on me and my goals. She left the airport today ready to get back to the Midwest and put all her affairs in order so her life with Milly truly is a thing of the past.

Tonight, I work. Starting at 290 and working my way east. I’ve paid for my first summer session in school but still have a glorious 2 weeks of down time to prepare for it. I plan to use that time to put all my ducks in a row, so to speak.

Next month I’m flying to Illinois. The house goes on the market in 2 weeks and there has already been interest. That means we may be moving sooner than we initially planned.

Julie contacted a broker to help in the search. Since we don’t know if I’ll be here another semester or the remainder of my schooling, we decided that she needed to be the main person to decide what amenities we need. Luckily, the two of us are very similar in regards to what we have to have and what we see as frivolous luxuries.

I’m planning to really buckle down with regards to stashing money. I’ve done really well, so far, and have managed to get a few bills paid off. If I am here for another year, I can leave for Illinois completely debt free. Damn, that would be nice!

Not having to worry about an residual bills or old debt from my side would make things so much easier.

I’m rested and ready to tackle the world!

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San Fran

Day three in San Francisco.

Today we went to Fisherman’s Warf. Julie got her seafood, chocolate and an amazing Bloody Mary. I got some terrific photos, a print of the original blueprints of the Golden Gate Bridge from 1933 and the best ramen I’ve ever ate.

We also saw the Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard St., China Town, and Twin Peaks.

Yesterday, we spent a pretty lazy day just watching movies and taking care of some errands. We did get some great sushi from the Japanese Fish Market in Emeryville after picking up a rental car. (I’ll explain)

Thursday was a crazy, hectic day. We got in to Oakland around 8:30 am CA time. Grabbed a cab to the Bart, then headed to J Wills apartment by the Marina.

It was early so we fixed us some breakfast before we decided to head out to see some sights.

After figuring out how to get J Wills Lexus to start (keyless this and that) we were under way!

First was Muir Woods. That was the most impressive site I’ve seen in a long time. Trees that have been alive since before this was even a country. We walked, snapped photos, read the plaques and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Afterwards we went to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was FREEZING! Mark Twain once said, “the coldest winter I ever spent was one summer in San Francisco.” I can totally relate!

We decided to drive across the bridge and check things out from the city side. As we came through the toll plaza, the car was shoved about twenty feet to the left. Another car was merging and smashed right into the side of us.

In San Francisco for less than 24 hours and already we were the victims of awesome San Fran driving!

The damage to J Wills Lexus could have been worse. It was drivable, but we figured we needed to call it a day until we could get ahold of J and let her know what was going on.

After an exchange of information, a few calls, a police report, and a smoke on the side of the road to calm my nerves, we headed back to the apartment.

We figured it was time to call it a day!

Yesterday, we found the shop that J wants to use to fix her car, picked up a rental and just lazed around.

Tomorrow we plan to go to Napa.

Julie told me today, “the best vacation is one where you leave exhausted but refreshed.” I can honestly say that’s how I’ll be leaving!!

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Hard work

Every once in a while I get flustered and frustrated with school and work.

Too many tasks and not enough time.

It’s those days of trudging along that I have to force myself to stop and look at the bigger picture. Focus on why I’m doing all this.

My journey to better myself, become more self aware, follow my dreams, started before Julie and I reconnected. It started while I was ending my last relationship and I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Why?

Because if I lose sight of why I started down this path, I’ll find myself lost and confused again.

I didn’t begin all this so I could have a life with Julie. So I could move to Illinois. I started this so I could finally be the person I’ve always known I was capable of becoming.

Julie was just a pleasant, albeit distracting, addition to my plans. A helpful motivator to push me forward when I feel like throwing up my hands and saying, “Fuck it! I’m done!!”

What has me feeling a little more optimistic today?

Well, grades for this semester have been posted and yes, ladies and gentlemen, I made an A in that God awful Algebra class!!

I also got an A in comp/rhetoric but only a B+ in history.

My overall GPA is now a 3.8 but I can live with that.

Seeing those numbers. Knowing I did it on my own with the support of Julie, my friends and co-workers and all while having to rush up to Illinois to deal with a douche bag of a stalker makes me feel pretty good about myself.

In a few days we are going to San Francisco. Julie is having a friend stay at her house to sit with Murphy and keep an eye on things and Louie will be here to hold down my fort. (I hope she doesn’t burn the house down!!)

When we get back I have a trip to St. Louis for work then I’ll meet Julie in Illinois to start looking at apartments.

Then it’s back to the grind. 6 weeks of Chemistry and Technical Composition. After that, Trig and another History class.

Yes, my plate is full. But so far, things are working out the way I believe they should. Even if it’s not as quickly as I’d like.

That tug between school and love

So the end of the semester is fast approaching. Luckily, two of my classes are online and my algebra class is only once a week so I’m able to be here with Julie.

Initially, I had plans to enroll in a class for the three weeks between this semester and the first session of the summer. After much consideration, however, I think I’m going to take that three weeks and enjoy a partial break.

Work, school, Julie, life in general has all taken a toll on me. Physically and emotionally. Because of that, I need and want a break.

Being here has been great. Granted the circumstances for my visit were less than ideal but hey! When life gives you lemons, right?!

Sitting down and looking at our respective calendars we’ve decided that we want more than just a few days, sneaking off to steal a day or two together. We both want a vacation.

One that is long overdue for both of us.

A trip away to rest, relax and just forget any cares we may have.

I called my boss yesterday, and he agrees that I need a break. I wasn’t aware of it, but apparently, I’m the only person who hasn’t burnt up most of my PTO. I volunteer for nights, weekends and holidays, all in an effort to stay busy. Because of that, he has agreed to let me do a “comp” time deal.

For those who don’t know what this means… Anytime you work more than 40 hours in a week (or 80 in two depending on your companies policy) you are required by law to receive 1 1/2 times your regular compensation.

A lot of government agencies have found a way around actually paying you and some private companies are following suit. For every hour over 40, you are granted 1 1/2 hour of PTO to take at a later day.

When I worked for the State, I was on salary and comp time was the norm. In fact, when I resigned, I was able to continue getting a check for over a month after my last day because I had accumulated so much comp time. I’m used to this idea.

Quite frankly, I’d prefer to have time off with pay over a few extra bucks on my check, anyways. (I was surprised this last paycheck to discover I was given a substantial raise, so I’m financially comfortable with this idea)

So, when I get back, I’m going to start accumulating comp time.

What does this mean for me?

Well, if chosen, I can go to Central America. I can also stay here for a few days longer than I’d planned. AND (here’s the good one!) Julie and I can take a real, honest to goodness vacation.

We’ve decided on San Francisco. I’ve never been and she’s only been once. J Will lives there and has graciously offered us the use of her condo and car for our stay because she will be out of the country doing her own decompressing!

Our flights are booked! Our plans are made. Our vacation time is on the books!

Here’s to me getting to see some of the most amazing bridge structures in the U.S., to Julie getting to go back to Fisherman’s Wharf and to us drinking wine until our heads spin! And doing it together!!

Anyone have suggestions for our trip?? I’m all ears!!

Gator hunting 101

Yes, I’ve blogged once today but as I said earlier, I’m bored.

So I have been chatting with Shemp about our new grandson, his job, my job search and alligators.

Now, something you should know about him is that he’s a true redneck. He loves to hunt, fish, collect broken junk that he sees potential in and sees himself as someone that could easily live off the grid.

He is living in Pierre Part, LA. As I’ve stated, this is a small town. Remember me talking about seeing Clint? Well, before Liz Cavalier became a regular on Swamp People, Shemp dated her cousin.

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My daughter, Dewey, used to work at The Rainbow Inn so she has several interesting stories to tell about the Swamp People, too.

Anyways, I digress. Shemp has been wanting to go gator hunting for a long time. Ever since he moved down there about 4 years ago.

Today we were chatting and joking about it when I decided to do some research. “How lucrative is this field?”

Well, come to find out, there’s a reason these guys can get by on just gator hunting.

There are 2 seasons per year. One is 30 days the other is 37. The state of Louisiana will sell a resident a gator license for $25 and the hunter states how many tags they can fill.

People like Troy Landry will sometimes request up to 500 tags.

Anytime you kill a gator, you have to tag it. Regardless of its size or the condition. (like any other sport). But the price for a gator varies.

Anything 4′ or smaller is pretty much useless. (for the record, if a 3′ gator was coming after me, I’d run just as fast as if a 50′ one was)

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5′ is where you start making money. $10 per foot. Then the price goes up $2 a foot until you reach 10′. Then it’s a whopping $22 per foot. WOW.

So, if you do some basic math…. If these guys fill 350 tags with gators they can sell (conservative). And they catch an average of 7′ per gator. That’s over $37,000. Multiply that by 2 seasons and they just made 70 k in 2 months time.

Not bad for a crazy ass in a boat with a gun.

Now, am I going to relocate and change careers? hello! Note the part where I said crazy?

On second thought, it might be a good excuse to go see my grandbaby for 2 months out of the year.

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(yes, if I will show random strangers on the elevator pictures of Little J, you can expect to see them at every opportunity here.)

Plus! I do not have a job.

Odd eating.

With 6 kids, Jenny and I don’t eat out very often unless it’s because we have managed to run away and escape the kids for a while.

This weekend we went camping about 3 hours away. So we found ourselves stopping to eat a couple of times.

One of those instances, we stopped for brunch and found ourselves enjoying one of the best sandwiches either of us have ever had.

It got me to thinking. About some of the unexpected places that we find the best food.

Here’s a small list of some of the surprise eateries I’ve discovered.

1. Buc Ees.
Yes, it’s a truck stop. It’s where Jenny and I got the most AMAZING BLT I’ve ever ate. There had to be at least a 1/4 lb of thick cut peppered bacon on this thing.

2. Baby A’s in Austin.
They have the typical Tex Mex food you’d expect to find, but the soup is what stunned me. It’s not tortilla, it’s not taco and it sure as heck isn’t menudo. It’s got chicken, broth, and seasoning. You mix in the rice and it will send your mouth to heaven.

3. Sevi’s in Wichita Falls.
This little burrito shop has the best brisket burritos. For about 4 bucks you can get one that’s almost too big to eat.

4. Good Korean to Go in Killeen, Tx.
I’m not sure if they are still there or if they have the same name but this little shack on Veterans Memorial had the most hypnotic Yaki Mandu I’ve ever had!

5. Walburg German restaurant.
In tiny Walburg, Tx this place is standing room only during Octoberfest. They have a German buffet complete with schnizel, spaetzle, hot potato salad and cordon bleu. The only thing you can’t get on the buffet is rinderouladde. It’s made to order and is big enough for 2 or 3 people to eat and still have leftovers.

6. Maharaja in Houston
This Indian buffet has a chicken masala to die for! It’s a little pricy but worth it.

7. Mizo’s in Lakeway, Tx
We would go to Mizo’s on Monday’s for one thing… Sushi. You could get awesome sushi and beer on a Monday night and not spend more that 12 bucks! You can’t beat that.

8. Golden China in Cypress
This place is so small my daughter calls it “Tree Trable Chings” (three table Chings) we went the night we took Louie to her dads and Jenny and I split beef and still have leftovers!

Ever stumbled upon a place that you couldn’t believe was hidden away??

The Rainbow Ranch

Jenny and I have made it back home. Much to our dismay, the kids did not find self sufficiency in our absence, we didn’t manage to win the lottery and none of our unfinished chores were done by a good natured stranger. Because of that, we must return to the daily grind in the morning.

But before we get back to it, let me share the wrap up of our “Great escape”

Day 1 (cont’d)

Now I left our story with Jenny and I snuggled up in the tent, braving the 30 + mile an hour wind gusts.

Well, we sat in the tent until about 1. I decided to get up and walk around a bit and see what all was going on. Most people had retreated to the safety of their tents, RV’s and cabins due to the wind.

For breakfast we had gone in to town and stopped at a little Mexican restaurant. Jenny ordered the Chicken fried steak (which was covered in the nastiest looking, lumpy gravy) and I got the Migas w chorizo. I figured if I’m in a Mexican place, I might as well eat like a native.

The Migas were delicious. Unfortunately, they didn’t like me as much as I liked them.

My stomach was killing me. You know that feeling where you’d rather just throw up and get it over with, than sit there in that miserable position for even a minute longer? Yep. That’s where I was. And to be honest, I had decided that if I had to “force” myself to hurl, I was gonna feel better so we could enjoy the rest of our stay.

I laid down in the tent for a bit. After a while I think the general knowledge that I would just toughen it out was enough to improve my situation.

Jenny and I decided to venture back to town. There were a few creature comforts we wanted to grab and I wanted to get something for my stomach.

By the time we get back, my tummy is much better, the wind had died down and all the other campers were out and about.

As we pull in to our campsite, we notice a couple setting up in the site previously occupied by Michelle and G. Stacy and LouAnn had already pounced on them to assist in setting up so I headed over. Partly to help, but partly to give them my knew disclaimer. “if we help you set up, you better not wake us up at 6 am screaming at each other and then bolt out of here. If you do, you will receive a bill for our time and labor”

Luckily these ladies were prepared. They brought 2 tents. No shit. One smaller on and then a large one the size of mine and Jenny’s.

So in the event of a lovers quarrel, they had a place to go.

It was almost time for the chili cook off to start. Jenny and I were sitting around, chatting with Stacy, LouAnn, Chappy and a very colorful drag queen named Tim.

When he first met us he walked over to us and acted as though he had known us for years. “Hello, beautiful!” he said to Jenny and walked over and gave her a big hug and kiss on the cheek. He’d never met either of us before but treated us as though we were life long friends.

Tim of course was going to be entering his “famous” chili in the contest. We had to give it a try.

As they announced the winners, Tim’s number wasn’t one of them. Now the chili’s were open to all the spectators to sample. Jenny and I tried the winning chili. It was NOT what I call chili. It was a shredded pork with beans and corn. Little to no “sauce”. It was more like something I’d put on a tortilla than in a bowl on a cold day.

My favorite was number 14. It was a shredded beef, beans and spicy. It was chili at it’s finest. It did win 2nd place so at least the judges had some idea of what chili should be.

Tim’s chili was number 5. And in all honesty, if I hadn’t been asked to try it, I would have run away. It was black. Seriously. Black.

Jenny got a big bowl of it. Topped it with some onion and cheese. We both braved the color and took a big spoonful. The proceeded to spit it right back out. The amount of alcohol in it alone was enough to give my good girl a buzz.

Apparently, he had put a cup of vodka AND cocoa in it. He wanted it to taste like mole. Well, it tasted like crap.

About 7 my stomach started to feel horrible again. I am going to blame Tim’s chili. After all, it couldn’t have possibly have helped.

This time it was more of a someone grabbing my gut, squeezing tight, and twisting kind of pain.

I decided to try to lay down again to see if it would help so I could be tip top in time for the music.

It didn’t. Unfortunately, I laid in bed, curled up in pain, hearing the music from the comfort of my tent.

Jenny did go over and enjoy some of the show. I felt bad enough that I couldn’t even stand up long enough to take her over to listen, I’d have been devastated if she’d have missed it all together because I was sick.

She finally came to bed, and we slept through the night.

Got up this morning, had coffee and breakfast and reluctantly decided to pack up and head home.

With all the mishaps, illness, weather, dust, and drama, it was an amazing weekend. It was so good, we’ve decided to rent a cabin and go back for the campgrounds new years bash.

As I’m sitting here on the couch getting ready for bed, I wish I was still in that tent with my beautiful girl.

Good night, all!