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Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Pick-Up Trucks & Personal Growth

I was on my way to get my haircut today, sitting beside a duly pick-up truck and behind another at a red light. They were so loud, one taking up his share of both lanes, that I could hear them inside the car with the radio on and windows up. My usual angry ire at the irresponsibility of people who drive trucks crept up, my inner dialogue grumbling about the environment and how these people think the road belongs solely to them.

This isn't a new problem, mind you. I have a serious problem with people who buy large pick-up trucks when they don't need them. Meaning, they're not using them as farm vehicles, not towing anything, clearly not a work truck. People who buy the biggest most irresponsible vehicles they can afford--or in the case of this tiny college town, their daddy's can afford--to inflate their egos. They make me mad.

I care about the environment, but more than that I care about the use of resources. These monsters use more resources than do small trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and coupes. But, honestly, my biggest problem comes down to courtesy. If your vehicle is so big you don't fit on the road or in parking spaces, that doesn't give you the right to take up more than your share of public space. But, the people who drive these vehicles (at least here in Texas) do. Driving a larger vehicle doesn't give you the right to bully you way into the other lane, or cut people off, or pull out into traffic where you don't belong or shouldn't be.

I have a big ol' problem with trucks. So much so that I feel like people who want one should have to show need (yes, I'm aware that will never ever happen).

Then something struck me and I literally laughed out loud like a maniac--thank God I was alone. The guy in the pickup beside me grinned at me and winked (he actually winked at me like a creeper) and I was dragged back to a time when I was less socially and environmentally conscious, when I was much more selfish. I actually used to find men who drove these irresponsible monsters attractive. As a matter of fact, I was more likely to find a man attractive if he drove a pick-up.

At 18, when I was young and lacked any reasonable common sense, I worked with a man who drove a big blue Chevy pick-up. One of the things I found attractive about him was that he drove this blue truck and that he was so protective of it--in the several years we were acquainted, he actually let me drive it once. It was absolutely absurd and when I think back now I laugh, but not because it's funny. Because I feel like I was as much a jerk about these stupid trucks as the guys around town who take up two spaces at Wal-Mart and ding your car doors with theirs because they're careless.

It's pretty amazing how these sorts of things can creep up on you. How one little thing--a sight, a scent--can drag you back (sometimes mentally kicking and screaming). It's also pretty humbling when it happens, at least to me, to see how far I've come since then. In this case it's the idea that I've grown, or at least changed, as a person. In the 18 years since I met the guy with the blue Chevy, I've become less insensitive, less selfish, and more aware of those who are. Change happens so gradually that sometimes it takes something silly like this to make you see it.

Does that mean I don't like all people who drive trucks? Not necessarily--I know plenty of people who drive pick-ups, but most of them need them for work or towing. I'd say, instead, that I'm less inclined to be friendly with people who're careless enough to need one of these ego-inflating, resource-guzzling hunks of glass and steel. At least I know now why I feel the way I do--the environment, resources, noise, and a lack of regard for publicly shared spaces. Years ago, when I was attracted to these things, there was no quantifiable reason. If nothing else, that's growth.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Something... Maybe?

Pardon the long pause and the somewhat strange reappearance. I thought I'd share something I found on my computer tonight. A start I made a long time ago. This is all there is of it--although there is another, different-ish sort of piece of this story still floating around somewhere, I think. I'm currently trying to decide if I should pursue this for NaNoWriMo this year. I have another idea, but I'm somewhat surprised to find I like this scrap of prose as much as I do. It's rough, no editing.

Here it is, before I change my mind...

The bells tolled.  A cycle had passed.  The inhabitants of Middle Sunroen, Mainland, slid the caramel glass markers down their wooden frames.  Three more cycles would bring the light--seven cycles of bright daylight and then there would be darkness again.  The darkness would bring sixty cycles of night filled with pitch, hungry shadows. 

The bell tower, it's length towering up into the starless black eternity above, rose at intervals with oil lanterns that did nothing to penetrate the darkness. Every house stood aglow from within. Total darkness was heresy.  The church had decreed that to invite darkness was to consort with the spirits of the nether--blasphemy punishable by death. No other punishment was sufficient. It was heresy not to fear what you couldn't see. In Middle Sunroen, it was prudent to fear those things.  The rule of law, the church's rule, was absolute.

Sephoranie slid her fingers under the glass window's frame and pushed up. Shadows spilled inside, palpable, an unliving soup of sickening darkness. The small girl shivered, pulled her heavy woolen wrap around her shaking shoulders, and lowered herself out the window onto the moist street.  The candles on the wooden bedside-table did nothing to light the alleyway where the scuffling of tiny feet pierced the ever-night. Davyn would be waiting, to leave him alone in the night because she was afraid to venture out was nothing short of cowardice. They took an immeasurable risk in defying the precepts.

The window slid back into place with an audible click and she turned to move away down the alley way toward the street. It had only been just two years since she had turned eighteen, just legally old enough to go out alone. Still, her mother would not allow it. There had never been a reason beyond caution. What her mother didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Time was running out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ugh...

Well, what a crap month (or two). I mean, really crap. So, so crap. It feels like so many things went wrong, like I quit so many things I've started. And this post might be vague in places, because some of them I just don't want to talk about. Ironic, considering a blog is a place to, um, talk about things. But, some things I just... can't.

So early in July, my mom was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer. To say I was scared, or that I cried and worried, would be understatements. I was more scared than I had ever been about anything. Her doctors said it was small, so she had a lumpectomy on July 23rd (my birthday). They took the tumor and several lymph nodes. Thankfully, the labs came back clean. It hadn't spread to her lymph nodes. No more cancer. But, she has to have radiation five days a week for four weeks, starting in September.

Then, last week, my dad's brother, Rick, died. He was only 66... five years older than my dad. He had been having chest pains, but the urgent care said it was just his COPD and sent him home. He died of a massive heart attack the next day. There won't be a funeral, he didn't want one. His wife is absolutely devastated, as is his daughter who he only just met a few years ago. My mom says she's going to make my dad have a physical.

So yeah, like I said, crap month. For me personally, it's been a month for false starts and endings... lots of endings. I quit pretty much everything I've started in the last few years, with the exception of writing and blogging. I would elaborate, but I just can't right now. I'm feeling pretty emotional. Thank the good lord I have therapy on Friday. I need it this week.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On (Not) Pursuing a Ph.D...

I have some news to share that I've been meaning to write about for a while. I wanted to wait until things were settled and they just about are now. You know how I said, in February, that was going to attend TWU? Well, I've decided that I'm not going to pursue my Ph.D after all. There're a lot of reasons, which I intend to share, but mostly it comes down to my comfort level with the idea and, moreso, with the idea becoming a reality.

So, after being accepted and feeling that initial rush of excitement, my emotions were all over the place. I couldn't think about it without feeling like I was drowning. Mostly, I chalked it up to being overwhelmed with the idea of pursuing a terminal degree and all that came with it. Oral comps? Written? A doctoral dissertation? A mountain of classwork? It all seemed like a lot... too much, in fact. But, I did the master's degree and everyone had said the doctorate is much the same process with the volume turned up. I could deal with that, even enjoy it.

Then Matt got a promotion. Let me say, right now, before this goes any further that I am so proud of him. Proud doesn't even seem like the right word. I'm ecstatic! He deserves this, he's earned it, and it's what I want for him. But, it came with a little caveat. We have to move, at some point, to another state. Since the Ph.D program I was accepted to isn't an online program that was going to be a problem. I tried not to think too much about it and when that failed I worried myself sick, but couldn't come to any solution.

Also, I don't have enough financial aid to finish it. I went to undergrad for so long, and went to graduate school, and I owe a lot of loan money. The government will only give you a certain amount before it stops forking over loans for education. I could go two semesters, maybe three, before I was going to have to figure out how to pay for it. The thing is, I don't want to take any more loans. I don't want to run deeper in debt to financial aid. Part of my trepidation about going seemed to be that I was about to go deeper in debt to pay for it.

And, however ridiculous this is, I realized I was only doing it to satisfy the sense of intense competition that has managed to grow between a friend and me over the last few years. It's unhealthy and I want it to stop, but I felt like if my friends were going, and I didn't, then I wouldn't matter anymore. That they would be better than me. That's what I told myself, somewhere in my subconscious, and no matter how hard my conscious mind tried to deny it, it never could. I knew it was happening, I just couldn't see how to stop it.

So, I talked to a friend about it, I talk about it with my mom, with Matt, and then finally with my therapist (as I was just beginning therapy). It wasn't until I mentioned it to my therapist, putting it all out there about my anxiety and the fact that we were going to have to move, that I realized the solution was so simple. I realized that, with all things being what they are, trying to go for a semester or two until we have to pack up and move was a waste of time, nerves, and financial aid money that I really don't have to spend. It was also my chance to break this cycle of competition that always has a way of making me feel less than. A cycle that always ends up making me feel like I didn't matter anyway.

This is when I decided I couldn't do it. That I wouldn't do it. However embarrassing it might be to tell people that I've changed my mind, that I was doing it for the wrong reasons, it would spare my sanity to finally do the thing I needed to do. I can't pursue a Ph.D to satisfy others, that makes no sense. So, now I'm trying not to worry that I'm letting anyone down. I'm trying not to worry that my professors who wrote me letters of recommendation won't be disappointed--or upset that they've wasted their time with me. I'm trying not to be concerned about how my FIL will react when he hears, because I have a feeling he's going to be unhappy.

But here's the thing. The state of academia is pretty terrible, too. I was going to pursue the Ph.D to increase my opportunities to teach, but that's foolish. A huge majority of adjuncts, which is what I am right now, have Ph.Ds. Maybe they make more money than me, but not much more. And, however much I enjoy it, I don't know that I want to get an education that will seal me up in academia--I don't think I want to teach forever.

What do you do with a Ph.D in Rhetoric other than to teach? Nothing I can think of and the idea that I was about to be even more over-educated contributed to the factors making me feel sick. It was part of that feeling of suffocation I had every time I thought about it. I don't want to be an adjunct forever, it's a thankless job where I don't know, from semester to semester, how many classes I'll have... or if I'll have any at all. It pays in pennies and the perception of fulfillment, neither of which will make my car payment... but that's really a very long discussion for another time. One I could say a lot about, but probably shouldn't right now.

The point is, there're too many factors playing against me here. So, I'm not going to go and, despite the idea that I should be feeling disappointed or disillusioned, all I can manage to feel is relieved. As my friends prepare to attend in August, and prepare to work out there teaching as part of an assistantship, I'm doing something else with myself and feeling pretty good about my ability to stop the cycle of competition and do something for myself. Even if, in this case, doing something actually means not doing it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Check Out My Birthday Present...

It's been a pretty tough couple of few weeks. But, I wanted to share with you one of our ups, amid the downs. On Saturday July 5th, before heading home from Waco (where we had spent the 4th of July with Amanda and Karen) we went to look at cars. We've been needing another car for a long time, but haven't really gotten around to getting one for a lot of reasons. Now that I have to be at work at Tarleton at 8am and Matt doesn't get off before that, it became imperative.

While Matt really wanted a Jeep Wrangler, we went to Waco Hyundai where we test drove a Veloster. I have absolutely been in love with this car since seeing one in the Starbucks drive-thru last year. Every other car on my list went out the window. This was the car I had to have. Nothing else would work. There was no more question.

Then we test drove and that was it. We signed on the dotted line...


It's a hatchback 2014 Hyundai Veloster Re:Flex edition. And it is MINE!! The color is called "Ice Pearl" and is trim specific to the Re:Flex editions. Re:Flex is the trim style and just means that all of the embellishments are chrome, including the chrome alloy wheels--the hood embellishments, locks and handles, chrome plate on the front grill, and such. You should have seen the salesman Oz's face when I called them hubcaps. He looked appalled, gaped at me for a minute, and said, "They're alloy wheels... not hubcaps!" I was pretty amused.

Here's the front/side...

The car is pretty sleek. It's a 3-door "sports coupe." Two doors on the passenger side, one on the drive side. And trust me when I say that pictures just do not do this color justice. As a matter of fact, when I saw the pictures online I pretty much dismissed it out of hand. In person, I fell in love with the color! It gets really good gas mileage, too. Right now, withe "Eco" turned on, I'm getting about 31 MPG in the city.

But what's really awesome are all the little features. It came standard with Bluetooth (which was ridiculously easy to set up), Bluelink which is like Onstar and allows me to lock and unlock the doors from an app on my phone, and a back-up camera. The BlueLink app also allows me to honk the horn, flash the lights, and see what my car is at all times.

This little feature is particularly neat at night...


There really isn't a standard dome light, but when you open the doors the word Veloster lights up blue. I wish I had a picture but my phone takes crap pictures at night. It's really vibrant and lights up the doorways. It also looks awesome!!

The seats are leather...


And the front seats say Veloster. They have adjustable head rests and so do the back seats. The only thing I'd say is that leg room in the back might be a problem for tall adults. Fortunately, since we have no rug-rats, no one rides back there so it's not a big deal.

The console looks really sleek, too, and the dashboard is textured...


The little screen says "Veloster" in blue when the car is turned on. It came with six months of XM radio. The steering wheel is leather wrapped and has controls for the radio, Bluetooth for my phone, voice commands that control my phone and the radio, and cruise control. It also has paddle shifters and sports mode, both of which I'm not sure what to do with so I'm leaving it alone for the time being. Seems like that stuff might mess up my awesome gas mileage anyway. Oh, and one of my favorite favorite things, the console has a feature on the tripometer called "Range" that tells us how many more miles we can drive before we need gas. Right now I can go 415 miles on one tank of gas.

I'd have to say that next to getting Ani for my birthday in 2005, this is the most amazing birthday present Matt has ever gotten me. He's an amazing man, I'm very lucky to have him, and there are moments I think I don't deserve him. He even let me get a zombie hello kitty vinyl decal for the back--which isn't on just yet but will be very soon. He's awesome!

I've absolutely been dying to share, but wanted to wait for the final okay from Capital One on our financing. Keeping this in hasn't been easy (as evidenced by the picture I shared on Instagram). The car drives like a dream. I still can't believe he did this for me--I've never had a new car before this. This Friday (ironically, July 18th, ugh!!) we're having an early birthday dinner and going to the drive-in in Forth Worth. It's going to be so much fun!

I plan to talk about our experience with the dealer, because they were amazing, but this is getting long. So, I'll save that for next time. For now, I'm off to bed to dream about the Ice Pearl machine parked in my driveway. Good night.