Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's all about the Benjamins

If I had been a boy, my name would have been Benjamin. Benjamin Renée.

OK, so not really. Not the middle name, anyway. Or maybe my boy name was Christopher. I wouldn't know, I wasn't born yet.

But that's not what this is about.

A couple of weeks ago we got my credit card bill. The one that had our new apartment's security deposit and first month's rent and all of my cross-country travel costs on it. It totalled more than $4000. $1400 of that was travel costs. I spent almost $500 on hotel pet fees... but only $10 on food (which is kind of amazing--the most expensive consumable I bought the entire drive out to California was a can of Red Bull). I spent $250 on gas. There was also about $300 of vet bills on there to pay for kitty sedatives and a stockpile of insulin for Jasper.

We've been going back and forth for the past couple of weeks about how much of it we could pay. I argued that we should just pay all of it. Jason wanted to wait until we got the stipend from the Navy to cover my travel. The problem is, we won't get that until he's out of training and reports to his command in May. So we had a dilemma: do we empty our savings account to cover it all right now, or do we hold on to our Benjamins by paying the minimum and waiting until next month to pay it off?

I voted the former, Jason the latter.

I grew up having the fiscally-responsible mantra "never pay interest" drilled into my brain: If you can't afford to pay for something when the bill comes in a month (if not pay for it up front), you can't afford to buy it--period. An excellent lesson. Thanks, Mommy! Also, always live east of where you work.

Jason's upbringing was different. Hence our opposing points of view.

I let it go until Thursday, the date by which I had decided I needed to mail the payment. I did the math and proved to Jason that we would have enough money to pay off my credit card and still afford our rent and car payments. It did help that I got a 5% raise this week (yay!).

He reluctantly agreed that I could pay the full amount.

He had wanted to go to an amusement park this weekend. I gently suggested that perhaps now was not the time, since we had bills to pay and ought not be adding to the tab. Even though we can get discounted tickets, there's still the cost of the drive there, parking, food, and souvenirs.

Again, he reluctantly agreed. See also: the wife is always right.

It might be hypocritical of me to veto Jason's fun day, since he just spent $200 on New Kids on the Block tickets for me. In all fairness, though, I didn't know he was buying them at all, let alone spending so much on them. And he got to have beer and pizza while he was at the concert, so it wasn't a total bust for him.

So the credit card payment is in the mail. We'll go to Disneyland next month when the Navy pays up. Meanwhile, we'll seek out entertainment a little closer to home.

Of course, we did go spend $100 on energy bars and beer groceries yesterday. Hey, it's cheaper to drink eat at home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Floor no more!

Well, sort of.

I'll spare you the suspense and just say this up front: we got our belongings on Monday! Since then I have been busy sitting in chairs, eating off of real dishes, and sleeping on my delicious space foam mattress.

Note that I didn't say "sleeping in my bed."

Nope. My mattress is--guess where? ON THE FLOOR.

Our box spring couldn't make the turn up the stairs. Yes, really.

The movers offered to hoist it through the bedroom window. A great idea... until we measured. No dice.

The box spring is leaning against the wall in the living room, where it will remain until we move out of here. This is just fine with Jacob, who has been using it as a lookout tower. Our bed frame is in pieces on the bedroom floor.

Luckily for us, the mattress was squishy enough that they could shove it around the corner.

What sort of idiot builder designs a whole complex of apartments that have upstairs master bedrooms and stairways that won't allow the passage of a normally-sized box spring? It's not as if we have some giant bed--it's only a queen!

I am counting the days until we leave these fail apartments, with their nasty cow water, tiny kitchens (seriously, there's one drawer--ONE DRAWER), and impassable stairs.

But the end is in sight: we got base housing and will move there at the end of June! Jason is going to sign the paperwork on Friday.

This will save us a TON of money--there's no security deposit, and instead of charging a set amount of rent, they take whatever amount the Navy gives you as a housing allowance. Unless you live in a hovel, like we did when our relationship was in its infancy, rents out in town are nearly always higher than your allowance. Plus, utilities are included on base. So no electric bill, no gas bill, no water bill. Can I get an amen? Because of all the money we'll save, we'll be able to pay off our cars and our student loans faster.

Oh, and go to Disneyland (because I am actually nine years old).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Flowers and Floors

Saturday was supposed to be a big day. We were supposed to get our belongings from the movers (who took their sweet mother-effing time getting out here).

But NOOOO. They showed up driving a truck the size of Connecticut, and couldn't make the turn into our complex. No big deal, they say. We can get a smaller vehicle and shuttle things in, they say.

But NOOOO. Turns out there aren't any smaller trucks available this weekend. We'll have to come back Monday morning, they say. You look so disappointed, they say.

You THINK? I've been sleeping on the floor, working on the floor, eating on the floor, doing EVERYTHING on the MOTHRA FRUITCAKING FLOOR since April 7. And Jason has been in the apartment since April 1.

It is a damn good thing that the Navy is paying for this move, because I refuse.

If I don't get my furniture tomorrow, I'm going to make some grown men cry. TRUST.

Rather than sulking all day on Saturday, we got out the Corvette and drove up to Fresno to see the Japanese garden at Woodward Park. I am so glad that Jason convinced me to go, because being there lifted my spirits immediately. It was sunny, 80 degrees, and there were flowers and birds everywhere we looked. All I could hear were the sounds of the waterfalls and birds calling to each other. This peacock was strutting around by the entryway, trying to show all the peahens what a badass he was with his feather cape. When we passed him again later, he had stepped up his game and was displaying his feathers. The hens just ignored him.

The flowers in this region are gorgeous and seem to grow without any human coaxing. Not just in the Japanese garden, but everywhere. The rose bushes scattered throughout our apartment complex take my breath away. I do not, as I previously stated, "hate it here." While I still don't particularly care for our apartment, California is growing on me every day. The sunshine definitely helps. I told Jason earlier that it "makes me happy in my brain." There was nothing in Massachusetts that made me happy in my brain.

After the garden we drove around Fresno in search of food, deciding on Red Door Asian Bistro to stick with the Asian-themed afternoon. We had eggplant with miso sauce to start, I had stir-fried spinach with garlic sauce and steamed rice, and Jason had curry vegetable tofu. It was ridiculously delicious--we'll go back for sure. After that we drove around the hills outside Fresno, enjoying the scenery and lusting after rich people houses. It turned out to be a good day, after all.

One more night on the floor, people. It won't kill me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Kids, New Cats, New Tweets

New Kids on the Block were just as amazing last night in Fresno as they were in Boston last year. They shuffled the set list some, including starting the show with "Call It What You Want" instead of "Single." It was fun to not know what was coming next. I was on my feet the whole time, dancing, screaming, and singing along. Like them or not, these guys put on one hell of a show--even Jason can attest to that! They'll be back in California in July... who wants to go?

Yesterday before getting ready to go to the concert I took out the trash and got the mail. While I was over by the bank of mailboxes I heard the distinctive sound of a kitten crying. I turned around and spotted this little darling cowering in some bushes. My cat lady instincts kicked in immediately. I went over and cooed to her until she came close to me, then I scooped her up into my arms. She kept right on wailing. She wasn't dirty enough to be a stray, so I knocked on the nearest doors (several times) to see if she had just accidentally gotten out. Nobody was there, so I took her home with me. I marched her straight upstairs and put her down on Jason's sleeping bag. He had been trying to nap, but I don't allow that during kitten emergencies.

We agreed that we couldn't leave her outside overnight since it was going to be too cold for a tiny kitten. I set up a kitty quarantine for her in our empty second bedroom, but the second I closed the door and walked away she started howling again. We decided to take the risk of leaving her loose with Jacob, Jasper and Lola. There was much growling and hissing from the peanut gallery, especially Lola, but nothing physical. We figured that if anyone started to pick on her she could dodge them by hiding behind the refrigerator--which she had already done once in the short time she had been inside. I knocked on the doors once more before we left, and a nice man (who showed me his cat) gave me the address of where he thought the kitten belonged. I tried them for the eleventy-dillionth time, but no dice.

When we got home late last night, all was quiet. There was no evidence of any cat wars. So we went to bed (well, we went to the floor, technically). Other than a few growls over crossed kitty paths, the night was peaceful. Today I alternated between working and kitten-watching. I'm sure you can guess which I liked more. After a ridiculously playful morning, she curled up on the top step and went to sleep. This afternoon I went over to knock on doors once more, and I found her people, so I took her back. She cried all the way there. I cried all the way home.

I guess I got attached. Who wouldn't? If I hadn't found her family, I would have tried to convince Jason to keep her--even though we already have more cats than we're allowed. I cannot resist a calico or tortoiseshell cat.

At the very persuasive urging of Joey McIntyre at the concert last night, I have joined Twitter. I'm heidi_renee. Now you know.

PS - If you liked my episode of Cribs, you should see Joey's episode.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WINs and FAILs

FAIL: I am so tired from sleeping on the floor that I can't find the energy to write things for the internet.

FAIL: I took my California driver's license written test yesterday and missed passing by one.

WIN: I retook it today and passed.

WIN: I did not have to pay the fee again.

FAIL: We paid $190 to register my car. Turns out active-duty military members are exempt. Now we have to apply for a refund by mail.

FAIL: All of Jason's tools are on the moving truck, which may not arrive until the end of the month, so we had no way to put on my new license plates.

WIN: He bought a tool set so we could do it.

FAIL: They weren't the right tools.

WIN: He went and bought more tools.

FAIL: Now we have about five sets of the same stupid tools.

WIN: Jason got the plates on.

FAIL: The DMV only gave me one set of expiration stickers, so I'm going to have to go back a THIRD time to get another set.

WIN: We are going to see New Kids on the Block tomorrow in Fresno!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cribs

As promised, my very own Cribs episode*:



MTV has nothing on me.

And just so you believe me about the ducks:



(I had the stray kitty bowls on the porch, but had to move them to the front door after the ducks found them.)

It's not that this place is a dump. It's not. We're thrilled to have the garage. And right after I filmed my "episode" we took the Corvette to the carwash in our apartment complex to clean it up. I've never heard of an apartment community having a carwash on the premises, but ours does. Just one of those do-it-yourself ones with soapy brooms, but still.

It's just that some of the stuff in here is so old and dilapidated. For what we're paying, more updating (of the cupboards, hardware, appliances...) would be nice. The inside of our shower is disgustingly stained, probably from the water, which is putrid. The floors squeak. There are no towel bars in the bathrooms. Some of the craftsmanship is really shoddy. The mantle over the fireplace is splintered where it was screwed diagonally into the wall.

But you know what? Life is good. I'm happy to be living under the same roof as my husband again, and that's what matters most. We'll laugh about this time in our lives someday. And this year's Easter is already better than last year's, simply by merit of not being in Massachusetts. We had dinner at a Chinese buffet then went and bought some cheap pots and pans and utensils to cook with until our good ones arrive.

Happy bunny day, everyone!

* I would have had this post up much sooner, but Blogger refused to upload my video several times and YouTube took its sweet time processing it. In fact, it may not even play properly if you're reading this right after I posted it. Sorry about that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cross-Country Road Trip, Part the Third

I made it!



3,100 miles from Dracut, Massachusetts, to Hanford, California. From the east coast to the west coast in seven days.

This was my route: Dracut, MA --> East Syracuse, NY --> Maumee, OH --> West Des Moines, IA --> Ogallala, NE --> Grand Junction, CO --> Henderson, NV --> Hanford, CA

The picture is the view from my hotel in Grand Junction, as promised.

I've actually been here in California since Tuesday evening. I started working again on Thursday. The stress of the drive combined with working east coast hours has left me too braindead to write.

Right now Jason and I are plugged in at Panera, being geeky together. It's not that we don't have internet access at home, we just don't have any chairs. Or tables. Or any furniture at all. It could remain that way until the end of the month. The problem with military moves is that they often transport more than one shipment at once, stopping along the route to drop off or pick up, so it can take forever. Our hard delivery date is April 30. We'll see if we can make it that long before buying some folding chairs and pots and pans. Or an air mattress. We've been sleeping on the floor, in sleeping bags. It is impossible to feel fully rested that way.

Overall, the trip was uneventful. I only got pulled over once (no ticket), only cleaned up cat diarrhea in the car once, and only lost a cat once. The culprit on both cat counts was Jacob. I was getting ready to leave the hotel in Grand Junction and had taken a couple of loads out to the car already, and was preparing to put the cats in their carriers. Jasper and Lola were sitting around in the room, but I didn't see Jacob anywhere. I checked under the bed, under the sleeper sofa, behind the shower curtain, and in the closet. I shook the food dish and crinkled the treat bag while making kissy noises. No Jacob. I thought that maybe he had managed to slip past me when I had the door open, so I went and walked my floor to make sure he wasn't running around the halls. No Jacob. I went back to the room and unfolded the sleeper sofa, opened all of the cabinets and the refrigerator. No Jacob. I walked the floor two more times, checking the trash can to make sure he hadn't jumped in there. No Jacob. Heart pounding, I headed back to the room to call the front desk to ask if they had, perhaps, seen my cat. Then I saw a lump under the bed covers. It was small, like the blanket had gotten bunched up, but I checked it anyway. I put my hand on top of it and it moved. And purred. That little shit was sleeping under the covers the whole time.

I don't think Jason would have ever forgiven me if I had lost him. Losing a ring is forgivable. A family member, not so much.

In classic Heidi Renée fashion, I rolled up to our new apartment Tuesday night in a foul mood. I had a pounding headache, had just gotten my period, and was grumpy because of all of the factory farms and run-over dogs and cats I had passed on the highway on my way into town.

My first, tearful words to Jason were "I hate it here already."

I'm so charming.

I apologized later for my behavior. I was genuinely happy to see him--ecstatic, really--but I was dead tired and less than thrilled with the appearance of our apartment.

More on that tomorrow. I'm thinking I'll do a Cribs-style video tour for you. Get excited.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cross-Country Road Trip, Part the Second

So that snowstorm in Nebraska last night was apparently more of a disaster than I thought. Two people died and lots were stranded due to impassable roads. I feel lucky that I made it to my destination without any problems. This morning all of the roads were more or less cleared, but there were some plows still out working on the highway shoulders.

Tonight I'm staying in Grand Junction, Colorado. I'm on the top floor of my hotel and have an AMAZING unobstructed view of the Rockies. This is my first time in Colorado, and I am blown away by how gorgeous the mountains are. Tomorrow when it's light out I will take a picture of my view to share with you all later.

There was a point during my drive where I reached the top of a hill, and all of a sudden, there they were: Mountains! With snowy peaks and rocky outcroppings and pine trees! And I could see it all with my own two eyes! My heart fluttered in my chest and my eyes welled up with tears, seeing all of that unspoiled beauty. It took my breath away. I would love to come back some time when I can enjoy it more (and enjoy it with Jason).

At one point I was driving along, twisting through the mountains, and there were these random bighorn sheep right by the side of the highway, grazing on the grasses. I had to call Jason right that second because there is very little that is more exciting to me than seeing the native wildlife wandering around like they own the place (because... they do!). Heaven help us if I ever get to see llamas in Peru. I will probably have to call each and every one of you to share the joy.

I am now 2,220 miles into my journey. Only 880 miles left to go!

Here's my progress:



California is getting closer and closer.

Here's a little tidbit from Des Moines. I meant to post it while I was there, but... I didn't. (And sorry the volume is so low. Apparently I wasn't speaking loudly enough for the microphone built into my laptop.)

video

Jasper and Lola are asleep on the bed right now, and Jacob is curled up on my laptop sleeve on the couch on my lap nesting on top of my backpack. I guess sitting in a carrier all day is exhausting. Sitting in the driver's seat sure is.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cross-Country Road Trip, Part the First

I have just watched my Michigan State Spartans dismantle the University of Connecticut Huskies!


I had to navigate through a Nebraska blizzard to make it to my hotel in time to see the second half of the game. I passed jack-knifed semis and cars in ditches, but nothing could stop me. It was worth every white-knuckled second.

Now we are relaxing in the Holiday Inn in Ogallala, Nebraska. As you can see, Jacob, Jasper, and Lola have made themselves right at home. The local CBS affiliate station is reporting a blizzard warning with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour and up to five inches of snow for southwestern Nebraska. I am glad to be safe and warm inside.

Let me rewind a bit back to Wednesday, April 1--moving day. I got up at the crack of dawn to gas up the car and get some last-minute cash. The movers showed up bright and early, before I had even finished my coffee. I shut the cats in the bathroom and we packed all day. Jacob and Jasper spent most of their time playing musical carriers, and Lola curled up in the sink and yowled at regular intervals.

I had hoped to leave by 4 or 5 PM, but the movers didn't finish until after 5. My hopes of making it to the hotel I had booked in Syracuse in time for Lost were dashed. By the time I had finished cleaning, had some dinner, and loaded the cats in the car, it was after 9. And raining.

At that point I was so done with Massachusetts. But it wasn't done with me. A lovely state trooper pulled me over about two hours into my drive, for going 80 in a 65 zone... just like everyone else. Why he picked me, I'll never know. Luckily for me, he took pity on me--possibly because I looked horrible--and let me go with a warning. Needless to say, I crossed the border into New York with my favorite finger raised to my least-favorite state.

I didn't make it to Syracuse until 3 AM--I had to stop once to close my eyes so I didn't fall asleep at the wheel. I don't really remember getting everything into the hotel room. By that point I had been awake for nearly 24 hours and was mostly delirious. Then Lola spent the next three hours cuddled up next to my head--hissing and growling every time Jacob or Jasper came into her line of sight. I didn't get to sleep until 6. She did not get over being miss hissypants until today. I guess traveling makes her grumpy. I can't say I blame her.

My journey so far has gone like this:

Dracut, MA --> East Syracuse, NY --> Maumee, OH --> West Des Moines, IA --> Ogallala, NE

That's 1,770 miles out of 3,100.

Or for those of you who are more visually inclined:



More than halfway there!

I saw countless "this way to Michigan" signs on my way through Ohio. It made my stomach twist and it took every ounce of self-control I have to keep the car pointed west.

The states of Iowa and Nebraska are mile after mile of the same damn thing: cornfields. It is mind-numbing. Luckily, the speed limit on I-80 is 75 miles per hour across large strips of both of those states and there aren't any cops, so you can treat it like your own personal drag strip. After my run-in with the 5-0, I've been careful, but that doesn't mean you have to.

We'll see how this blizzard thing goes tonight and tomorrow. I'm pretty anxious to get out of Ogallala and back into civilization.