Archive for November, 2009

I didn’t get married until the age of 41.  I told family and friends that I was just waiting for the guy brave enough to take that step.  One of my friends joked in reply that what I was really waiting for was a guy that was a better man than I was.  Given that he was looking for a better woman than he was, it made sense.

There are advantages to getting married at a later age than most.  I had college behind me, was well-established in my administrative career, owned my car, had decent furniture, and most of the other stuff people acquire to make their homes and lives a little easier.  I’d been an independent adult for over twenty years, making my own life decisions, handling my own money, going when I wanted to go, eating what I wanted to eat, and playing when I wanted to play.

And, ironically, that same independence can be somewhat disadvantageous once you’re married.  Now I was in a partnership, with an individual who was just as independent, just as established in his career, had just as much stuff, and was just as stubborn as I was.  Thankfully, we were on the same page with most things, and we quickly came to the decision that we were just going to have a yours, mine and ours kind of arrangement.  We each kept our individual bank accounts, credit cards, cars, and stuff, while opening joint accounts for the household.  Things that were going to benefit both of us, like the house payment, groceries, utilities, etc., would be paid from the household account.  Items that would only benefit or be used by one person would be paid by that person.  So, when he wants to buy more tools for his workshop, he dips into his personal account.  When I want to buy more silk embroidery floss for my next needlework project, that’s on me.  We each contribute a set amount into the household account every month.  Given that I was bringing in about 60% of the joint income, my contribution to the household was slightly larger than his, but still giving both of us plenty of left over cash to play with.  This arrangement worked amazingly well, until that fateful day in April.

So now I’m on unemployment, which nets significantly less than that nice regular paycheck.  Every penny the state sends me gets put into the household account, because our budget was based on the working income.  The hubby, I think a little to his chagrin, can not support the entire household just on his income.  Much like so many other Americans these days.  Unfortunately, what I get on unemployment isn’t quite up to the level I was contributing while working, so the household belt has tightened to a dangerously thin point.  After years of just being able to pay the bills without really worrying, going out to dinner if we wanted, buying something for the house if we liked it, we are now back to being serious jugglers and tap dancers.  The holidays are looking especially bleak.

And that’s when I noticed that damn box.  The first wall went up when I lost the job – no big deal, just go around.  The second wall went up when the depression came crashing back with a blinding force of will – okay, we can still manage, with a little guidance from the counselor.  The third wall went up when I no longer had my own money.  That was a tough one – I could no longer buy things when I wanted to.  I couldn’t pay my credit card bills, couldn’t buy lunch out if I was running errands, couldn’t even get my husband an  anniversary card.  I was having to ask him for permission to use household funds to pay for my personal bills.  Did not like that at all.

Okay, so I still have one way out.  I don’t have to be in a box.  But then the car registration showed up.  Our lovely three-year-old truck was going to cost us nearly 25% more to register this year than last year.  Welcome to California, now give us all your money.  Money we don’t have, if we want to still pay the house payment.  And that was one of the life lessons drilled into both of us from an early age: ALWAYS PAY YOUR HOUSING COSTS!!!  Don’t pass go, don’t buy lotto tickets, don’t buy cigarettes, booze or even food, if it means not paying the house payment or the rent.  That leaves only one option, unless I have a rich uncle who’s died and left me a large inheritance: we have to PNO the truck.  That means the truck sits in the drive way and goes no where else until we can get the regular registration.  That means I have no vehicle while my husband is at work.  That means careful planning if I need to go somewhere, because public transit in our area ain’t what it should be.  There’s always the bicycle, but I’d have to shell out some money to repair it.  So after over two decades of vehicular independence, I’m stuck.

The weird thing is, I’m a bit agoraphobic and really don’t like leaving the house if I don’t have to.  But it really hit me when I realized I just seen that last wall drop.   No job, no money, no car, and no way out.  I was now completely dependent on someone else to take care of me, for the first time since I was a child.   Much as I love, trust and cherish my husband, much as he does his best to be supportive, understanding and sympathetic, I just couldn’t deal with the idea of being so vulnerable.  Too many years of taking care of myself, making my own money, handling my own affairs, without having to ask anybody else’s permission.  In short, I freaked.

So here I am, sitting at the bottom of this big ol’ box of trouble, my eyes blood shot and stinging from the panicked crying, my head hurting from banging it against the walls, my nails bloodied from digging at the floor, wondering if I could braid my hair into a long enough rope to get my butt out of here.  I still have my brain and my Gerber multi-tool.  I just might be able to reach the top…

© 2009  Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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They say writing is a lonely job. Everything is dependent upon one person: you. You make the schedule, you make the tea, you do the research, you create the product, you maintain the equipment, you do the marketing. You are the CEO, the administrative assistant and the sales manager of your career. The up sides are that your commute consists of walking down stairs to your home office, the office politics involve the two cats fighting over who gets your lap first, the boss doesn’t care how much time you spend on the internet and the dress code is sweats and bunny slippers. The down side is that you only have yourself to blame if nothing gets done.

You have to be disciplined enough to actually work everyday for a reasonable amount of time, toward definitive goals, whether it be words or pages per day, fleshing out a character, or researching just how much C4 it takes to blow up a bank vault. There are no co-workers to bounce ideas off of, no supervisors to take your problems to, no bosses to pat you on the back for a job well done. It’s just you, your head and whatever medium you chose to work in.

In reality, while you may be physically on your own, you are hardly lonely. Your head is full of an entire office’s worth of people. You have the office nag who is always on you about the budget, expenses or deadlines. There’s the office gossip who runs around blathering about the latest celebrity news. And then there’s the office schlub, who never bathes nearly as often as preferable, and can waste an entire day playing Free Cell. And that’s just what you might expect in a “normal” office. Trying adding those to the characters you’re writing about: the gunslinger, the Federal agent, the crusty side kick, the eccentric scientist. Just imagine what some of those conversations might entail. Sometimes I just wish the gunslinger would shoot the nag and be done with it.

You can spend entire days looking at blank pages while the voices in your head argue about who’s in charge. Or you write something for one of your characters, who then promptly complains that he/she/it wouldn’t do whatever it was you wrote, or at least not with so much angst. They torment you about getting more word time in, how they speak, how they dress, how they interact with their world. They make fun of you when you get them mixed up, and they haunt you when you kill them off. You recall the days when there was just an echoing emptiness between your ears. Or at least you try, because the truth is, you were never alone.

Which is probably a good thing, when all is said and done. Because all those people in your head make sure you do the job you were meant to do. Externally, you may be wondering if you’re on the right track, because most days you have no idea if anybody in the real world is paying attention. Sort of like a struggling comedian allowed up for open mike just before closing time Tuesday morning. Yeah, his stuff is good, but who’s there to notice? The bored stiff bartender who’s seen a hundred just like him come and go? The drunk who hasn’t seen much of anything beyond the bottom of a glass? The manager who only cares about how much money is coming in? Oh, wait, those are characters, too, because what’s a scene without some stereotypes? But then there’s the guy who came in out of the rain because his car broke down and he just turns out to be the one person who sees what the comedian can do, and, better yet, give him the break he needs to get out of the dead end slot. That may be a stereotype, too, but it is that hope that keeps the comedian going back to open mike night, and the same kind of hope that keeps writers writing. The voices in your head are convinced that somewhere out there is somebody paying attention, and you will get your rescue from the mediocrity of your life, because their stories just have to be told. In the mean time, you keep listening to their arguments, keep herding the cats, keep sitting down with your tea and your notes and your writing implement of choice and try to sort through the cacophony for that one gem that will keep you in bunny slippers and out of cubicle hell.

Those people who say writing is a lonely job obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.

© 2009 Cheri K. Endsley. All rights reserved.

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My husband and I have started watching football again (the American version), after spending a number of years disappointed with the quality of players and games. Plus, I was still pissed off with how the Cowboys had fired Tom Landry after all the years he had busted his butt and given them winning teams (yeah, I hold grudges). But then the Patriots went undefeated in regular season, and my husband discovered Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger, two quarterbacks that don’t seem to mind getting down and dirty with the boys when necessary, instead of whining about getting hit like some of the other pansies in the league – It’s football, fercryinoutloud! – and my resident redneck returned to the couch. And then Favre decided to play one more year (okay, yeah, it would be nice if he would make a decision and then KEEP it, but the guy can still deliver), so we’ve been making the channel rounds on Sundays to see what’s happening.

This past weekend we watched McNabb and the Eagles hand Manning and the Giants their asses on a platter, and then the Grand Ole Man himself (Favre) spanked his former team (the Packers) soundly on their own home turf. Both games were fun to watch, even if the Giants seemed more like the Keystone Cops at times than former Super Bowl Champs. Part of the fun of watching is that my husband and I try to figure out what the next play is going to be – Sunday Couch Coaches, as it were. Usually, we’re pretty close to what happens. In some ways, football has become way too predictable. A lot of money is on the line and all too often the teams take the safe routes through their games. But every now and then, we’d get a surprise from the coach. Or, more often, a play would go way off kilter and we’d see some fancy footwork as the teams scrambled to compensate. Usually ending up with some very interesting results.

So this got me thinking about how playing a football game and going through real life can be a similar process. I know, not exactly an original idea – there have been many articles over the decades on just that sort of thing. But it seemed to really hit home for me personally this weekend. The Packers were down five points in the last quarter with a 4th down and 8 situation. They could have punted and tried to stop the Vikings deep in their own territory. They could have tried for the conversion and possibly kept marching down the field to the goal. Instead they went for the field goal, a 51 yard attempt that went badly. Even if they had made it, they would still have been two points behind with the Vikings in possession. That’s what we call a bonehead mistake. In our house, we were all in for trying the conversion. What have you got to loose at that point?

And that’s where I am with my life, except I’m 4th and goal and down three points with 25 seconds on the clock. My kicker can hit at this distance all day long, but that just sends us into sudden death overtime, and the other side then has possession (yeah, there’s that whole on-side kick thing, but how often do you really see that work?). The defensive line has been crushing me the whole game, so trying to run at this point would only get me a ticket to Loserville. And my starting quarterback has been playing with a bad shoulder the whole second half, so a pass play is iffy at best. What’s a girl to do?

This is when it’s time to think outside the box, (‘course, you have to realize there’s a box in the first place). Most people would probably go for the tie and take their chances in overtime, and that’s what the other coach is expecting. Me? I’m to the point in my life where I don’t have a problem living a little dangerously. I want to win this game and win it now. I’ve been given the opportunity and have been told I have the talent, so it’s time to stop listening to what other people expect of me, what other people say I should do, what other people want and take the chance now to win the life for myself I have always dreamed of.

And that’s why my back up quarterback will be holding the ball for the kicker, while my center bulldogs his way into the end zone and waits with Velcro hands. The old fake field goal trick. What have I got to lose?

Maybe you should be asking yourself the same thing…

(c) 2009 Cheri K. Endsley. All rights reserved.

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