Monday, January 07, 2008

Holiday Hangover

Beside-Myself Busy
Things are goin’ like 90 here at the temporary Casa AJ compound, rapidly coming to culmination in yet another move, but this time will definitely different from the last.

The new house is 80% finished, and after a few bouts of heartburn, dealing with some fair-to-medium construction issues, Michelle and I are finally seeing the light at the end of the exile, in this gawdforsaken one-bedroom apartment.

The Holidays have come and gone, and I for the first time wrote neither a Christmas or New Year's theme post. It wasn’t for lack of inspiration, but much more, time and opportunity. Things have far more disjointed for me these past several weeks than ever anticipated they'd be.

The Holidays were a blur, filled with activity with the kids being around — particularly our daughter Amy — who actually came up from Chattanooga to stay with us for four days, making this sardine can-of-a-place even more cramped than it was before.

But it was all good, and I'll be posting about it within a few days.

While I wouldn't say that I’m still experiencing some kind of Holiday hangover, the Season certainly did do a number on my routine and I look forward to getting back to normalcy, positioning myself to blog again on a more regular basis. I definitely need it for my own mental health and have missed it greatly.

Work has also been crazy, as we seek to launch a new web site for one of our ancillary companies here within the first month of the New Year. I, in fact, had to go in yesterday afternoon (Sunday) to finish up a couple things that didn't get done this past holiday-shortened week.

I hope you all had a great Holiday season and are as excited about 2008 as I am. Aside from the obvious giddiness over moving into a new house, I realized the other day that I have more than just a little history going in my favor with regard to my outlook for the coming year.

The Pattern Reemerges
I’d been somewhat mindful of it for a number of years, but given the apparent rebirth of the phenomenon here recently, I just have to make note of it.

On Christmas Day, the kids were obviously home, and our son Shawn hadn't been out to see the new house in a few weeks. So we had decided in advance to take a trip out to show the kids how the new construction was coming along.

Shawn's girlfriend, Shannon, joined us for the ride. She had yet to see our new home-in-the-making, so she was particularly excited. Late that afternoon we all piled into the car and took a drive out to Nolensville.

The house at that point had been recently drywalled, and the kitchen cabinets had gone in just two days prior, so the place was really starting to look like a house.

Shannon was agog, going out of her way to express her excitement for us. She commented on the spaciousness of the floorplan, the wonderful location of the lot, which backs up to a wooded greenspace that will never be developed. “Wow, it really looks like this is gonna be your year, huh?” she gushed.

And then it suddenly occurred to me that the pattern was repeating itself once again.

Some twenty years ago, I recall thinking about the fact that the latter portion of the decade of the 1960s and that same portion at the end of the 70s were similar for me in many respects.

For most of my life, the 'seven-eight-nine' years of each decade have been particularly eventful, with the pendulum-swinging ever-increasingly in the direction of good fortune towards the end of each ten-year period.

I remember thinking about how strange it seemed that both 1969 and 1979 were banner years for me personally. In ’69, we moved from Central Indiana to Southern California and my life was forever changed. I’ve always acknowledged that as perhaps the single-most important natural event of my lifetime, as it is for me the linchpin under which everything else has been secured.

Ten years later I married Michelle, and have been as blessed by that occurrence as any man possibly could be.

These are the kinds of things that swirl around in my head constantly; comparisons, examination of events. Were they coincidences? Were they divine appointments? How would my life have turned out if just one or two details had been different?

I don’t necessarily dwell on things I can’t control, but I love to ponder the implications. And when I do, I am undeniably left with one conclusion: I am blessed.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, in responding to Shannon’s comment, I was struck with that same overpowering realization. On the fly, I put together a list of decade-to-decade circumstances that nearly gave me the chills for their almost spooky serendipity.

Over the past three decades, the last three years have all borne strangely similar qualities with regard to their overall fortune in my life. The 'Sevens,' while not entirely horrendous, have easily been among the most difficult and trying in each of the last three ten-year periods. Something always seems to impede my momentum.

The ‘Eights’ have been the transitional years, marked by at least one major positive event upon which other things seem to build. My sense of the ‘Eights’ years has always been one of hope and positive anticipation.

The ‘nines’ are gravy. In each of the past four decades, the last year has shined for me personally. Will the string continue in 2009? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

As I explained my impromptu revelation to Shannon, I was amazed at the examples that were coming forth. Although my explanation was limited to the divergent comparison of the ‘Sevens’ versus the ‘Eights,’ so as to amplify her implication that 2008 would be ‘our year,’ I’ll detail the ‘Nines’ here as well to complete my point.

Cue Leslie Feist.

The Seventies
  • In 1977, in my Junior season of collegiate gymnastics competition, I suffered a severe back injury after screwing up a dismount on rings in a league finals meet. I was hospitalized overnight and thus began my continuing on-again-off again struggle with lower back and neck pain. My love life sucked too, as I went through relationships that year like Sherman went through Georgia. It was a confusing time for me, but one that turned around quickly.

    1978 brought with it an apparent complete recovery from my injury, a trip to the NCAA Finals on Rings, and my engagement to Michelle, in a whirlwind of a year that I’ll always treasure in my heart of hearts.

    ’79 the good times continued, as Michelle and I tied the knot in March and with our whole lives in front of us, I felt like I was the King of the World.

The Eighties
  • The ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ decade in my life was filled with both joy and disappointment, but the contrast of the two was never so marked as between ’87 and ’88.

    In 1987 I was at the end of my rope career-wise, not knowing whether my association with the Art Director I was working with at the time was helping my career or hindering it. Bills were piling up and Michelle’s hope was tanking.

    Then in August of 1988, my friend Randy saved my life. He asked me to join him in a new desktop publishing design company effort and I was introduced to computers as a tool to ply my craft as a graphic designer. There’s no way of describing what a stroke of good fortune that was for me.

The Ninties
  • In 1997, we were flat broke and in debt up to our eyeballs. There was no possible hope that we’d be able to afford to send our kids to college, and just keeping a roof over our heads was considerably more than a given.

    In 1998 however, the tide began to turn. Coupled with the momentum gained by Michelle’s job with Ford Credit, and my income delivering pizzas for Papa John’s, we really started making progress when I also took a fulltime web design position with The Company, with whom I just recently celebrated my nine-year anniversary.

    In 1999, we became debt-free except for our mortgage, and have lived on a cash basis ever since, allowing us to put Shawn and Amy through college and live comfortably.

The Aughts
  • This past year has been particularly interesting. Back in April, just a month beyond the 30th anniversary of my gymnastics-related back injury, almost as on cue, that greatest of thorns-in-my-flesh revisited me. I’ll expound more upon the details in a later post, but suffice it to say, I was in misery for a period of about six weeks, leading into the time in May when we decided to build our new house.

    ‘07 was truly a mixed bag, with continued uncertainty associated with my job standing, along with the back pain flare-up juxtaposed the pride and satisfaction of witnessing our children’s respective college graduation ceremonies, and the excitement of our new home adventure.

    And now 2008 looms large as a continuation of this decades-old cycle of my life’s circumstances. Am I superstitious about it? Not in the least; I know that it’s all coincidence. However it is interesting, no?

    Will the coming year provide smooth sailing, as we prepare to move into the new house that we hope will carry us into our retirement years? Or will the increased mortgage payment we will take on turn around and bite us in the bum somehow?

Another Good News/Bad News Situation
It’s a bittersweet scenario. On the one hand we had an extremely comfortable mortgage with our first home, which was right at 20% of our monthly take-home pay. That allowed us to still afford to pay about 85% cash for our kid’s college tuition (the remaining 15% was in Stafford loans that Shawn and Amy will repay over the next ten years), without completely hamstringing our lifestyle. We lived pretty well, eating out at least once a week and maintaining season tickets to Nashville’s NHL Hockey team, The Predators.

On the other hand, the lack of storage and other amenities our old house offered, while amenable in the beginning had begun in recent years to really become an irritation. We now have the opportunity to truly have the house we’ve always wanted, but at least at this point (we still haven’t locked in our loan interest rate), our monthly payment figures to jump from 20% to somewhere between 30% and 33% of our combined monthly income. And while we no longer have to shell out thousands of dollars per year on tuition and monthly support for Shawn and Amy, that new mortgage is still a pretty significant commitment. This is especially the case given that we now must begin some serious saving for retirement, just 15 years or so down the road.

Now I’m sure that to many reading this, the thought of merely a 33%-of-monthly-income mortgage payment is a joke. I’m well aware that a lot of people are forced to commit up to 50% of what they make just to keep a roof over their heads; and to you I tip my cap, because I’ve been in your shoes. However there is no disrespect intended in my saying that I refuse to go there again.

Not to tempt fate, but I have no intention to place myself in a position of such stress to maintain a mortgage that I’m tempted to borrow to buy everything else. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Michelle and I will just have to wait and see how our finances shake out. I’d imagine I may need to do with a less few beers during football season or a few less lattes at Starbucks. My lovely wife may need to practice curbing her enthusiasm more often when spying that occasional ‘gotsta-have it’ item at the antique store, and perhaps we’ll both have to cut back a bit on getting that weekly Mexican cuisine fixe at Pancho’s.

Who knows? Maybe once I complete my ongoing training to learn the web development skills I’d been so late at learning until last year, my boss, Katie will actually make good on her promise to bring my salary up to the going rate for someone in my position. Just a low-to-medium-sized bump would make all the difference in the world.

I’m sure that something will happen. And I’m confident that it’ll be good.

I mean, c’mon; next year is 2009, if you get my drift…

blog comments powered by Disqus