Thursday, February 24, 2011

Looking Back at 2010

Now Playing -  
I'm Getting Sentimental Over You by The Ink Spots

Life - 

A year in the northeast.

Roughly a year ago, we left our world in the West behind and flew out to Maine. Neither of us had ever been here before, in all honestly, I can't say Id ever really even given the state much thought. But we were ripe for a change and my company was actively seeking experienced managers to head up the expansion in the area.
Lobster Roll - The Ultimate Maine Food
So we jumped in. This isn't something we usually do too rashly, we'd been planning a potential move for months, having put in for a move to the northwest a few months prior, scuttled by some staffing changes with my company. We hit a few snags before the move, primarily stemming from me shattering my arm and wrecking our Honda Element. But we stuck to our decision and left on a jet plane.

3,000 miles later, we landed in a state surprisingly similar to Idaho. Cold, bitterly so, with a stiff wind and little snow. Pretty much Idaho in January, though there wasn't the 3 inches of ice on the roads. We rented a car and set out to find a place to live and to explore out new home. After a few days in the sublimely funky Inn At St. Johns, we rented a room at the trashy, slummy Northeastern Motel in Windham, ME. The Internet didn't work, the water had a sign that suggested boiling and left the shower stained an unusual smurf blue, and the owner was a nosy, rude freakazoid. We spent a lot of time watching home and garden TV and swearing at our Internet connection. But it wasn't all bad. We drove around every week, learning more about our state. We found some great pizza and some of the best corned beef hash on God's green earth. I worked in the district office, making some valuable connections while my arm healed. Finally, we found a new house, renting a small mobile home on 1.75 acres in Topsham, ME. I bounced around in a few different stores before settling somewhat permanently in the Forest Avenue store, where I set about training my generally awesome and quirky employees.
Our Humble Abode
We flew back out to Idaho, ate some good Mexican food at last (Maine does not have any- at all) gathered up our pets and a few possessions. We built a bed platform with storage underneath in our newly purchased Honda Element (My third), stuffed it full and drove back across the country, sleeping in the car the whole way. We learned that North Dakota has good people, toll highways are the worst thing to happen to travel and that our dogs are pretty decent traveling companions. Also, a laptop and a few tv shows, plugged into the audio of the car makes for a pretty awesome little home theater on the go.
Old Orchard Beach
Back out here we travelled a lot on our weekends, we saw lighthouses, the ocean, expensive old houses, countless graveyards and ate more seafood than I've ever had in my life. Eventually things settle a bit. Linz got a job working the night audit shift at The Captain Daniel Stone Inn in Brunswick, a new, nice looking if somewhat poorly run hotel, and we set about trying to plan for our futures.
One of the hundreds of gorgeous cemeteries in the east.
For years now, we've wanted to buy and run a little motel in the Pacific Northwest. We've tried all sorts of stunts to accomplish this, from begging for money, to converting a house into a BandB, to almost leasing one from a gentleman in Washington. Nothing panned out, so now we have to do it the old fashioned way, by getting rid of our debt and saving up some money. Then we need a lucky break. That's one reason we're out here. Back in Idaho, it had become too comfortable, surrounded by our friends and family, by our thousands of books and DVDs, our good restaurants and above all, our routine.

We are living light out here, eating out rarely, freezing meals on the cheap, shopping for work clothes at goodwill, all in an attempt to pay off our debt. It's a daunting amount. Including our house, which we still own in Idaho, our car and Lindsay's school loans, we owe over $210,000.00 However, most of that is low interest “Good Debt” but coming out here we still had over $17,000.00 in dental bills, credit cards and a loan we took out for a vacation and to remodel our house. Over the last year, working aggressively, we've cut that 17k to less than six, with plans to kill the rest by July. This is very exciting.

We've also started up a few additional schemes to make money. We're both writing novels, which we plan to release ourselves as ebooks this year. I've written a post-apocalyptic crime novel, I'm almost finished with my zombie book and have a children's story in progress. Lindsay's written almost 3 historical Romance novels and started planning an elaborate fantasy series. To that end, we've created our writerly identities and started doing the social networking thing that is required of authors these days. It's a bit of a chore, but an interesting challenge as well. I've also started a company called Deeply Dapper, through which I sell art, sculptures, home d├ęcor and design book covers. It's a work in progress, but it's made a few hundred so far.
Portland, Oregon
It hasn't all been sunshine and lollipops. We love some aspects of Maine, but there are a lot of things we've come to dislike too. The people are very hit and miss, with some being extremely sweet and friendly and some being rude to the point of parody. Everyone drives like crazy people here, not just aggressively, but dangerously. Winter seems to be neverending. Not just the copious amounts of snow, but the extremely short days, coupled by my long commutes has made me craving a simple walk with the dogs in the sun more than ever before. We're both quite homesick, or more appropriately, Westsick. We miss Oregon and Washington, their funky sensibilities and long beaches. Maine has a bit of that, but it's overshadowed by pretension and something undefinable that rubs us the wrong way.

I lost my grandmother recently and watching it all happen from afar, wishing we were there was especially difficult, and the idea that it wont be the last time while we're out here, with friends getting married and family getting older stings.

To be shallow, we also really miss our stuff. Our small library overflowing with books, the big TV and room full of DVDs, my private garage full of art and sculptures, Lindsay's craft room.

So we plan on moving back eventually. If we could afford to, frankly, we would move back in a couple of weeks, when the roads thaw and it's warm enough to sleep in the car. More realistically, we need to pay off our credit card and save up at least $8,000.00. We came up with that because it would be enough for the cost to get home, to Washington, rent a uhaul and find a place to live. Of course, that's also assuming I can get a transfer out there with my job, or by some miracle we manage to make a living off of our writing. So we're out here for a while. If I were to be promoted to store manager, something that is a vague possibility, we would be able to afford the move faster, but I would then need to dedicate an appropriate amount of time to the position and a transfer when the time came would be harder, so the promotion would be bittersweet.
Autumn is amazing out here.
So how has our first year been out here in Maine? More good than bad. A surprising dearth of good food, an abundance of nasty people and the Atlantic is nowhere near as welcoming to us as the Pacific. But we've loved exploring. The Autumns are amazing, the cemeteries ancient and beautiful and we have been able to make progress on our debt like never before.

So we'll keep on trucking. Blogging, writing, sculpting, reviewing and eventually, if lady luck stays with us, we'll move to the West, open a motel and write our novels for a living.
On the inside of my wedding ring, I have this phrase -

“Dreams Create The Future”

And every day, we work to make those dreams as real as we can.

The ROUS FAMILY -     

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I hate Valentine's Day

Now Playing -    
Hang On St. Christopher by Tom Waits

Life -  
This post was inspired by Randy and Steve's comments from my last post.

 Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with romantic gestures and the idea of a day dedicated to your loved ones. I just have a great dislike for the modern version of Valentine's Day. It's crass and ugly and utterly fake.

If I could, every year I would find a way to do something truly special for my wife. A trip to Ireland or a weekend on some secluded island. An experience that we would always remember fondly and but since we both work and find ourselves quite broke, I suppose a plush bear and some cheap candy will have to do. That's just as romantic, right?

I can't tell you how many people I serve on Valentine's day at work. Rushing in, grabbing the first box of candy with red on it, a junky plaque with a poem etched on it and a $7 singing card. That's not romantic, or sweet. It's not even good gift giving! If the entirety of your symbol of love came from a drug store and was delivered at an overcrowded restaurant with artificially inflated holiday prices, I'm glad you aren't my beloved.

So maybe I don't HATE Valentine's Day, not exactly. I just hate the people that only celebrate it because they think they're supposed to.

I could be more romantic though, I think everyone could. So I'm gonna start picking days throughout the year that don't have a red date on the calendar. Days that I can try and show my wife how special she is to me.
But I will not be buying her some tacky knick knack that becomes even uglier the day after the holiday.

Writing - 
I did a final revision on a few thousand words today. Hooray me!

The Last Sentence -   
They felt like oversized coins.    
From - "Mr. Pale Steps Out " (WIP)

The ROUS FAMILY -     

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hillbilly Lifestyle - Shelves!

Now Playing -    
Storytime by Nick Cave

Life -  
 Linz has had a few dentist appointments this week, the first to get a few x-rays and general condition, and they found two small cavities, as well as four horribly impacted wisdom teeth. So yesterday she had the fillings done and will get the wisdom teeth out in a month. While she was getting drilled, I decided to go and get some wood and screws. (Innuendo alert!) We've had a few places that could really use a shelf or two, and while we are trying to live cheap and light out here, a few comforts do help.
So I wandered around Home Depot for a while comparing prices. It kind of blows my mind how much simple boards can be. To make the ones I would need, it'd cost somewhere between $40 and $120 dollars just for the wood. Then I noticed the stacks of 1"x3"s in the bulk wood section. They're usually used for things like filler between deck boards and... I have no idea. They're long skinny boards and I'm not very manly.

What is important about 'em though is that they're pretty straight, decent looking, if you're a bit picky, and they cost $1.16 for an eight foot section. So I picked up enough wood to make the shelves, including a strip along the bottom for reinforcement and the screws for the brackets (Which we bought at Wally World for a buck a pop the night before) for less than thirty dollars including the cost of the brackets.
They aren't the sturdiest shelves in the world, and they won't win any beauty contests even if we get around to painting them this spring, but they're serviceable and I built four in about an hour.

I also took a long nap, which kind of canceled out the work I did towards my list for my days off.

Writing - 
I started my final revisions on Mr. Pale while I was waiting for Linz at the dentist. Got some funny looks from the septuagenarians next to me, but I'm excited about this pass!

The Last Sentence -     
But this man is something of a different beast altogether.   
From - "Mr. Pale Steps Out" (WIP)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wile E Coyote

Now Playing -  
The Blood Of The Lamb  by Billy Bragg

Life -  
 Life... It's been four things. Snow, Pharmacy Technician training, our upcoming books and the death of my grandma.

Unfortunately, most of these things have kind of made a big dogpile all together and for a while, I was very overwhelmed. I was staying up until 4 or 5 in the morning, staggering to bed for a few hours of sleep before the next day, when I would do the same thing again. Every minute was spent with the PTCB (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board) book sitting in front of me, taunting me. I have to take the test for my job, but it's an area of my occupation that I'm quite unfamiliar with. I manage the front end of a pharmacy, a slow one, but not slow enough to actually train. Just a few nights ago, I was sitting at the table, supposedly studying, when my mind just kind of shut down. Things went blurry and I started to panic. Then I crashed and slept for 12 of the next 20 hours. Just like that, the wall I'd hit a few days prior and just kept pushing, boring through the brick had turned into plates of steel and I was sunk.

But, due to no one specific event, things have gotten better now. I'm still stressed about the test, miss my grandma horribly and hate driving in the snow, but they seem more separated and easier to handle. I have the next four days off and quite by accident, I passed the pre-test tonight for my big one. Just barely, but since I was just taking it to see where my strengths were to study, the passing grade lightens my load a wee bit. The snow aint gonna change or magically disappear, but there's none forecast for the next few days, so I might finally get my mailbox dug out for more than a half hour without the plow burying it.

My grandma is still gone, but I do firmly believe she's in a happier place, so that helps.

Writing - 
And the books that I've been stressing about? Well, that's because nothing getting written in the last few weeks, and that's stressing me because I'm genuinely excited about writing in it, finishing Mr. Pale up so I can prep it for release. It's a fun, odd little bugger, but I'm excited to see what people think. I hope to get some significant progress on it this weekend.

The ROUS FAMILY -     

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bacon Grease Popcorn

 Memories Of Grandma-  
Grandpa and Grandma on one of their first dates.

 I lost my grandmother on Sunday. She had a stroke and passed away a few days later. She was 94. At first this didn't seem to affect me, emotionally. I thought it would, but I didnt feel that different for some reason. Then all at once, for no apparent reason, it really hit home and everything else around me seemed mundane and faded out. What made it hardest, in a way, is that almost exactly a year earlier, we moved from Idaho to Maine. So here I am, surrounded by feet of snow, 3,000 miles from my family and there was nothing I could do.

I finally came around to things. She's better off. I know folks say that all of the time, but in this case, it's certainly true. She's with her husband, a man she was married to for 70 years now.

My grandma was a cool old broad. Even when I was young, she looked old, and stayed looking the same for the last thirty years. She had a wicked, sarcastic streak and loved inspiring us to try new things, whether it was her charmingly named "Shit on a shingle" or drawing or my brother's crazy kitchen concoctions. She was persnickety and fussy and always had that twinkle in her eye that told you she knew she was being that way on purpose.

So to honor her, and help center my mind a bit, I went out and bought a package of bacon ends and pieces, cooked it in a skillet until it was little blackened gnarls of meat swimming in grease and used that grease instead of oil to make my grandma's infamous Bacon Grease Popcorn. It sounds worse for you than it really was - you use the same amount of oil you usually do, and end up using less salt because of the bacon flavoring. And most importantly, it comforted me.

My cousins posted a few other remembrances of grandma and I want to list them here too. I love how old-fashioned they seem looking back. Growing up with her - and I lived next door to her for most of my life, so I might as well have grown up in grandma and grandpa's house, it was like a time machine of good memories.
My grandpa and grandma at our house on Christmas. Also check my brother's awesome boots.
  • A wooden toy box behind the front door,
  • The rotary phone on the kitchen wall,
  • The hide-a-bed sofa we all slept on,
  • Cucumber and onion slices soaking in a vinegary mix…
  • Baseball, Wheel Of Fortune or soap operas always on the TV
  • Yarns… miles and miles of it crochet into beautiful afghans with not one mistake to be found.
  • The little side table filled with coloring books, crayons and TV guides
  • Cans of pop (not soda) in the laundry room
  • Cartoon glasses to drink it from
  • little tubs of tapioca pudding
  • The bowl of hard ribbon candy in the bedroom
  • The windchimes hanging from the ceiling in grandma's bedroom,
  • The musty, low cellar full of canned food
  • The tiny, tiny house that they raised 5 kids in
  • The massive oil stove that took up 3/4s of the front room
  • The silver butter knife used to "lock" the back door and the laundry detergent bottle that held it open
  • Dixie cups in the little dispenser by the kitchen sink and the sweetest water in town
  • Sticks of celery in a glass of water to keep them crisp
  • Apples peeled in one single spiral swipe with an old paring knife
  • Green peppers with meals
  • The cabinet full of tall tales and short story books
  • Jars of pennies,
  • Purple Irises and pink bleeding hearts and lilac bushes
  • The squishy car seat on the back porch next to the sloping door to the cellar that made a perfect slide
  • The old trikes and toys in the back yard next to the steel swingset
  • Epic games of pinochle
I'll miss you grandma.
Hazel Marley - 1916-2011
She is survived by her 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and 1 Great-Great-Grandchild (with another on the way) We will all miss you.