Thursday, November 29, 2012

An Update

Well, I fell off the face of the earth, didn't I? Sorry about that. Things have been stressful around here, and when life is like that, I tend to do what I call "turtling." I pull my arms and legs close, tuck my head down, and try to let life pass me by. Sometimes it works; sometimes I end up a spinning shell in the middle of a busy highway. Don't worry, though, it's nothing serious.

Our car died. (Ok, maybe it's a *little* serious.) We were really hoping to make that car - a 2000 Ford Escort with 125K miles - last another six months or so, but the transmission started giving us trouble. Since we'd already replaced the transmission once, and since the car had other issues, it just didn't make sense to do it again. So when J. was driving it and the first two gears disappeared, we decided it was time to make a switch.

Granted, we weren't really prepared to buy a new car. With my credit history, which includes two repossessions (gotta love what divorce does to your credit!), I had to take what I could get. I was able to qualify for a last-chance program through a local Ford dealership. They got us into a 2004 Ford Taurus with reasonable payments for only 27 months. The plan is to keep the Taurus for 18 months and then, since I'll have good car credit history, trade it in on a new car.

One problem: the Taurus is leaking oil. We weren't thrilled with the fact that it had 120K miles on it, but it's in overall good shape, and it was the only car they had that I qualified for, so we didn't have much choice. And then it started leaking oil. Thank God the dealership is doing the right thing and fixing it for us (it doesn't hurt that my dad has worked for this dealer for 30+ years). So right now my "new" car is in the shop and I'm driving a loaner. Sigh.

Other than the car thing, J. has been really stressed about school. He's got three weeks left, and there's a 50/50 chance he's going to fail one or two of his classes. He's worked really hard, and I think he'll end up passing both of the ones he's worried about, but we just don't know for sure. If he passes both those classes, he would still need to take a 4-hour winter term class to be eligible for financial aid in the spring. Which means he would have no break between semesters. Plus, after having to buy a new car, we don't have the money to pay for the winter term tuition and book. After talking about it for the better part of a week, I put my foot down and told him that he's not taking the winter term class. He needs a break. *I* need a break, because when he's stressed, it stresses me (not healthy, I know...not sure how to fix that problem, though). That means that we won't get any financial aid until the fall semester, but we'll figure things out. If I get a new job with better pay, that will help loosen the financial noose we're in now that we have a car payment.

Oh, didn't I mention that I'm job-hunting? Yeah. As if I didn't have enough on my plate, right? After talking with a good friend who has a similar background and work history as I do, I've realized that I'm making a LOT less money than I should be. Like, $9,000-$18,000 less than I should be. I know that the only way I'm going to get a significant raise in my current position is if I get promoted, which will be a ton of added responsibility, including being on-call 24/7. Why on earth would I do that if I can make a "lateral" move (in terms of title) and make more money? So I've been putting my resume out there. I had a call the day after I posted my resume on Monster, but the job wasn't offering enough money, so I didn't even schedule an interview. Haven't had any more nibbles yet, but I'm continuing to apply for positions, and I've got two friends who are professional recruiters looking at my resume.

Phew! With all this going on, and the fact that there will be zero dollars for Christmas presents, (my Christmas bonus will go to pay for J's spring classes), we've decided to skip Christmas this year. We're not dressing the house, and we're just going to avoid the whole thing as much as possible. It makes me a little sad, since I had some good ideas for presents for J and my mom, but overall I like the idea of having a low-key holiday season. I just don't need the added stress this year. Sad that I equate stress with the holidays, but we all know that stress is an inevitable part of the season.

So...I guess it's not surprising that I got off track with my Days of Thanks project. But while I've been turtling, I've had some time to think about being thankful. Here are some of my thoughts: I'm thankful that my in-laws were willing to help us make the down payment on our new car. I'm thankful that we are able to make a car payment, even if it does make our budget really tight. I'm thankful that J is devoted enough to his education to stress when things aren't going well. I'm thankful that I have the ability to give him the opportunity to go to school. I'm thankful that I have the ability to look for another job. I'm thankful to be healthy and happy. I'm thankful to be married to the perfect man for me, and to have a real partner with whom to share my life.

I may be stressed, and I may pull into my shell from time to time, but I know that my life is blessed. Now, if only I'd won the PowerBall jackpot...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 14 - This Blog

It's hard to be thankful every day! Wait...rewind that...being thankful isn't the hard part; writing a post every day is difficult. It's important to me that my posts be thought out and (at least somewhat) eloquent. I'm lucky enough to have a few people who follow this blog, and I want their time reading it to be well-spent. But I have a job, and a husband, and a life, and it's easy to go days or even weeks without devoting some time to my writing.

Today I'm thankful for the opportunity to write this blog, and for the people who read it and leave me comments. I've said before, and it's still true, that I write this blog for me. I needed a space where I could explore my thoughts, but I wanted it to be available to others. I guess, ultimately, I hope for feedback, even though I don't necessarily write for anyone but myself. Does that make any sense? I hope so. If you're reading this, even if you don't leave comments, please know that I'm thankful for you (although I hope you'll let me know you're out there). 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 13 - In-Laws

I am so thankful to have in-laws who have truly made me a part of the family. They have accepted me as a daughter, and I have come to love them dearly. Having a second family who accepts me for who I am (even more than my own family does) was such an unexpected - and wonderful - bonus of falling in love with J!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Days 9-12

Whoops, I got a little behind. Let's catch up, shall we?

DAY 9 - I'm thankful for my job. I may not make as much money as some, but I have a great boss from whom I'm learning a lot, and my coworkers are wonderful. I'm thankful for the career I've had so far, for the opportunities I've been granted, and for the (hopefully) happy endeavor I will undertake in the new year.

DAY 10 - Some are busy, some are quiet; they're all far too short. I'm so thankful for weekends!

DAY 11 - I'm thankful for all the men and women (and canines) who have served our country. It is an honor to know some of them, and it is a blessing to go to sleep each night knowing our interests are protected by so many I will never meet.

DAY 12 - I know this will surprise some of you, but I'm not always perfect. Today I'm thankful for forgiveness. Forgiving someone who has wronged me feels good to both of us, and I believe it is good for my well-being. Hatred and bitterness only hurt the one who feels them, and what's the point of that? Better to forgive and move on. Receiving forgiveness, whether the betrayal was large or small, intentional or accidental, apologized for or not, is the greatest gift one can receive. I'm thankful to have been humbled enough to know when to ask for forgiveness, and I'm grateful to all those who have granted it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 8 - Random

I'm thankful for coffee, especially on a cool, crisp morning.

I'm thankful that the election cycle is over and the mudslinging will (hopefully) stop for a while.

I'm thankful for Texas cold fronts.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to rebuild a friendship based on 20+ years of history.

I'm thankful for fall traditions, especially pumpkin carving, high school football, and apple cider.

I'm thankful for anticipation: Christmas is coming!

I'm thankful for bacon, fresh pineapple, and chocolate chip pancakes with real whipped cream.

I'm thankful for my wonderful, handsome, growing-up-too-fast godson.

I'm thankful that I have the ability to love so much it hurts.

I'm thankful for those who foster animals and those who work with animal rescue.

I'm thankful for fuzzy blankets and good books on rainy days.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 7 - Quitting

It's been a month since I had a cigarette.

Wow...that feels *so* good!!! The first few days were really hard, and I wondered if I was going to get to the one-month mark without slipping up. I am so thankful that I had the strength and willpower to get through those cravings and make it to this point.

So how do I feel? I rarely cough in the mornings anymore, I'm breathing better, and I've stopped wheezing. My sense of smell seems to be improving, too. Overall, I don't notice a huge difference in how I feel physically. Mostly it's a mental change; I've gotten to the point where I don't think about cigarettes as much as I did in the beginning, which is very nice.

I'm still not ready to call myself a former smoker, but I'm very, very thankful to be one month into being one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 6 - Freedom

I may not always be proud to be an American, but I'm damn sure thankful to be one. See, it's difficult for me to be proud of my country when the rest of the world sees us as meddlesome, arrogant fools. In many cases, I think we *are* meddlesome, arrogant fools. We worry more about our children seeing a woman breastfeeding than we do about them watching violent movies. We try to legislate morality, instead of parenting our children, including teaching them our values. We judge others instead of looking in the mirror. We spend our time watching reality tv and coveting the celebrity lifestyle instead of using that time to help others.

Ah, but I've gotten off topic a bit...

Today is Election Day in the United States. By the end of the day today, we will have chosen our next President. Will our current President win another term, or will there be a changing of the guard? I don't know, but I'm so happy to be a part of the process. I cast my vote on a peaceful Saturday morning, surrounded by other men and women eager to have their voices heard. After the election, there will be no civil war, no rioting in the streets; some will be happy and some will not, but life in America will go on tomorrow much the same as it was yesterday.

I may not often be proud to count myself among 21st-century Americans, but I'm thankful to live here, where I am free to form an opinion and speak it aloud. I am free to choose what I wear, whom I will marry, where I will work and live. I believe we have a long way to go towards ensuring true freedom, which must include equal rights for everyone. But we have come a long way, and we make progress with each passing day. And that is something for which I am very, very thankful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day 5 - Chocolate

Over the weekend, I went to Costco. Costco makes me happy, even though I spend a fortune every time I go. This time, it made me extra happy, because I found the most amazing candy I've ever eaten: milk chocolate sea-salt caramels. Oh. Em. Gee. These things are so, so, so yummy! One is satisfying, but I could seriously eat them until I was sick. That's how good they are.

Sigh...I'm one of those people who think chocolate should be its own food group. It may seem trivial to say that I'm thankful for chocolate, but how could I *not* be thankful for such a delicious food that also has health benefits?

Excuse me...the candy bowl is calling...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 4 - Friends

I've always been a very social person, and enjoy being surrounded by friends. I've been lucky to develop some strong and enduring friendships from school, jobs, and even from online forums. I am so thankful for these wonderful people, the ones who have my back when I need support, and who are there (even if it's only virtually) to celebrate my successes with  me. It's a true blessing to be able to say, "My computer is broken," and have a friend that I haven't seen in a year say, "I can fix it." That's real friendship, and I am so wonderfully lucky to have so many good friends in my life.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 3 - The Internet

I'm thankful for the internet, which has given me a way to share my voice, a group of fantastic friends I've never have otherwise met, and a giggle every time I need it. If you need a giggle, check out this series of photos from Cute Overload.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 2 - Life

Life isn't easy. We all know that, but the more enlightened among us realize that some have harder roads than others. My life hasn't been charmed, but I haven't faced the challenges that some people have. In some areas, I've been lucky. I was dealt a good hand and worked hard to make up the difference. Other times, I had to struggle just to make it from one day - or minute - to the next. Either way, I've tried to make it a point to learn from what I've experienced.
So here I am: at least a little more than the sum of my parts, I hope. Who I am - the compassionate, loyal, honest, sarcastic, optimistic, loving person I believe myself to be - is a direct result of everything I've been through. I'm pretty happy; how could I regret the experiences that brought me to this point?
Of course, there are things I want to work on. I want to get some money saved. I want to lose weight. I want to continue being a non-smoker (26 days today!). But look at all that is good in my life right now: I wake up each morning and feel well. I have an amazing husband who adores me. I have a job that supports J and me. There is a roof over my head and food on my plate. I have a network of friends who shore me up when I need it, and who celebrate with me when the occasion arises. I am blessed!
When things are hard, I will remember that every situation is temporary, and I will trust that things will get better. And every day, I will remind myself to be so thankful for my crazy, wonderful life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 1 - A Month of Thanks - Leaders Who Hug

Now that Halloween is over, it's time to start thinking about the winter holidays, but before the madness of Christmas descends, I think it's important to focus on Thanksgiving - not on turkey and pumpkin pie, but on giving thanks.  

Beginning today, I'll post about something I'm thankful for each day. Hope some of you will join me in this endeavor - I'd love to hear what you're thankful for, either in the comments or on your own blog!

Today: I'm thankful for leaders who hug.