Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - The stupid year in review

I had planned to do this anyway but after reading the year in review of my wildly talented friend, Dave Johnson...I had to take account of what happened somehow.  So here it goes.

My year was filled with stuff I had to do, not stuff I wanted to do.  What King Solomon put to words and what the great Pete Seeger put to music is true:  There is a time for every purpose under heaven.  My purpose was to just get stuff done.

I began 2012 with working every day of the year for the first six weeks without a day off.  I ended up traveling for work about every day and on weekends I'd come home and get my other work done.  By the middle of March I was exhausted, discouraged and I wasn't feeling well.

I decided to change my diet drastically and I found time every day to walk.  I walked and walked and walked.  By Summer I had lost 26 pounds.  I felt some better and I had no clothes that fit.  In fact, besides some business attire that I wear for work on occasion, I still don't have clothes that fit.

With Spring beginning my work was slowing down enough that I could take weekends off and it was time for me to work on my mom's estate.  Every weekend required me to paint, replace carpet, and fish through the belongings of my deceased parents.  When the growing season started I discovered that the riding lawn mower had finally given up on me.  I had two acres of lawn to mow without a mower.

I was nearly killed by hornets.

I held an estate sale at my house.

I celebrated my younger son's 2nd birthday on a river boat cruise.

I borrowed a mower from a nearby friend with the hopes that the house would sell quickly.  Weeks went by and the house wasn't sold yet and I was beginning to be more obnoxious with my requests to borrow the mower than I'd allow myself to be.  My best friend Eric came to the rescue and said "Just come get my mower whenever you need it."  I'd head to his house which was about 30 minutes away and then drive to my mom's place which was another 40 minutes away.  After that I'd mow the lawn which took about 2 and a half hours, then return it...hauling it in the trunk of my small sedan.  I did this until his mower caught on fire.   I came over the day after I returned it to see a burned spot on the sidewalk in front of his house surrounded by the discharge of a fire extinguisher.  I have no doubt that I caused this somehow.  He bought a new mower and for another month I used that one until the house finally sold toward the end of Summer.

By August I had a chance to finally breathe and I celebrated by riding my motorcycle.  I rode and rode and rode.  It was one of the few things that I did in the year where I was able to sit and think about nothing.  I did a lot of that.

Through the Winter and Spring after about 10pm I worked on my book.  I couldn't sleep anyway so I figured I may as well just keep plugging away on it.  My wife and I worked on it and pursued it completely as a glorious, independently published work.  When it was finally done, I read the book from beginning to end and realized what a dark and stressful year it was.  It wasn't the most serious literary effort that I have worked on but I will tell you one thing:  I WROTE A FRICKIN BOOK AND IT'S A HARD THING TO DO.  I'm proud of it but also determined for it not to be the only published example of my writing.

I went to Texas.  I saw an old compound that was shot up by a well armed not in San Antonio.  The gift shop insisted that I remember it.  I bought a comic book and then I hired a Mariachi band to play while I ate lunch...and then bought a cowboy hat.  

I dealt with creditors, lawyers, accountants and beautiful super models.  I'm lying about one of these.

I voted but I don't think a single candidate I voted for won in an election.  Still, many national magazines insist that I belong to the fastest growing political movement in the country...unfortunately a fair amount of us don't vote.  I am constantly toying with the idea of being a non-voter myself but I usually give in and vote so I can punch my ticket to the debate of the issues.

I made a pirate ship cake with a 2 year old.  

The year just sucked in a lot of ways.  When I look back and see that I had buried my head in my tear drenched palms more times than I have taken a vacation I know it's time to change things a bit.

That was the season that was 2012.  Turn! Turn! Turn!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Holy Cow! Thank you so much!

Most of you that read this blog or know me personally know that I wrote a ridiculous fiction book that came out in 2012.  I promised that I would donate all of the profits from the first month of sales to the local gospel mission in my county.

I did this for two reasons:

  1. The Everett Gospel Mission is a very worthwhile cause which provides help to homeless people in the Snohomish County area.
  2. I wanted to provide a good reason for you to buy it since this was my first published book.
I was really quite surprised that as many copies sold as they did.  Many of you bought a copy because you just like buying a book when you know the author.  Some of you were promised and unusual book and figured I would deliver.  Some of you will read just about anything and have no standards at all.

This morning I rounded up the donation slightly and we collectively made a contribution to the Everett Gospel Mission for $500.00.  Not bad at all for a book with a small profit margin and a $12.00 asking price.

You did it though.  My reasons weren't completely selfless...I wrote a book and just wanted people to have an incentive to read it.  It was your kindness that did the rest.  Now readers in three continents can claim they own my stupid book!  Seriously, I simply can't believe it.

I'm currently kicking around a million ideas for a new writing project and so far I don't like any of them.   If you know my style, the less you hear about it, the harder I am working on it and once I'm done with it I'll be shy about sharing it.  I'm not sure what that disorder is called.

...and I'm still asked about the Kindle version.   Well, I announced it would be coming soon and in typical fashion the whole process blew up a bit and made me a liar.  I'm working out some "quality" issues with Amazon and will have them sorted out.  I will continue to work on it and will announce when it is available.  Thanks for your patience and your interest.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas I met a president

Since I was a little boy I had always wanted to meet a president.

I remember one Sunday afternoon my whole family sat and watched Richard Nixon deliver a speech on the television.  The only response to his speech that I remember was that of my grandmother, who said that she didn't believe a word he said.  She was also a Republican.

It intrigued me immediately why the entire country would put someone in charge that a fair amount of people distrust so much.  Whoever these mysterious people were that got to be president, I knew I had to meet one eventually...and about eight years ago I finally did.

I met Jimmy Carter.

Yeah, I know.  I could sense the expression on your face when you read it and I haven't even finished typing this sentence yet.  It's like saying you got your picture taken with the 2001 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.  It's kinda cool...I guess.

President Carter was in Seattle for a book signing of his Christmas memoire, Christmas in Plains.  I bought a voucher for the book which was essentially a ticket to stand in a long line and wait for him to scribble his name on the title page.  I was surprised that the line was so long to see a rather unpopular one-term president, but this was Seattle after all.  Many of the people in line still had Dukakis bumperstickers affixed to their Volvos. 

After about forty minutes in line I finally got up to the table where President Carter was and he decided it was time to take a break.  There I was standing across a table watching a former president drink water.  I would have time to talk to him if I wanted, but what would I say?

He sensed the tension as only a man who brought peace to Egypt and Israel could, and broke the ice.

"What are your plans for Christmas?"  He asked in his warm southern accent.

I had a tough time with this question.  I knew he probably was used to having an awesome Christmas.  Why else would he bother to write a book about it?  I didn't want to spoil the moment and tell him what kind of Christmas I had in front of me.

In fact Christmas Day was a marathon of traveling between two family events that were hours apart and usually involved a turkey dinner where the turkey was out of the oven about the time everyone was ready to leave.  It was exhausting and rarely worth the fuss.  Merry Christmas, President Carter.

"Um, well...I'll be spending it with family."  I stammered.

"Oh that's nice."  he replied.  "Family is important." he continued.

"What are you and Rosalynn doing?"  I asked.

"Oh we......"  he replied as I wasn't listening because all I was thinking about was how I was having a conversation with a president.

He signed my book and we wished each other a Merry Christmas and I walked on by the Secret Serviceman who was beside him and returned to my car in the parking lot.

I finally got around to reading his book about two years after our brief meeting and I was taken by his descriptions of Christmas from his youth.  His memories were filled with humility and service for others and lots and lots of family.  I was right...his Christmas' were awesome.

I'm not sure my Christmas memories will ever match those of President Carter, but they're memorable all the same.  Who knows, maybe I'll write my own Christmas memoire.

Merry Christmas to all of you and may God bless you with peace.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Why the Power Company Hates Me

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy"  - The Gospel of Matthew
 Since my mom died, I've had to make a lot of phone calls.  Most of the phone calls are the type where I am tying up loose ends.  Paying bills, correcting, notifying, getting information, etc.  I've made countless phone calls.  Interestingly they either go really well or go badly.  I suppose that's just a built-in expectation when dealing with this kind of thing.

I am far beyond it being an emotionally charged subject.  Most of the time I just want to get it over with so I can go back to the other million things I have going on, both at work and at home.  The last phone call I have had to make was to the utility company.

When the house was sold, the power company apparently had the wrong notification date so they continued to bill well after perfect strangers were in my mom's house rearranging furniture and eyeballing picture frames to make sure they were level.  No problem, I'll give them a call.

The first call I made to them went well.  I explained the date that it was sold and got it straightened out with them.  They thanked me for calling and I hung up while crossing it off my list.  Over the next two weeks they continued to send bill and notices.  I figured there may be some gap until their system would catch up after my phone call so I decided to let it go a couple more weeks until I called them again.  In that time two more bills and a threatening letter followed.  I laughed at the threatening letter because they explained impatiently that they were willing to move forward with steps that would result in ruining the credit rating of my two dead parents.  I called again.

This time it went badly.  I say this because this is obviously a mistake on their part and there really was no attempt to solve the problem.  I gave a briefing on the first call I had made and what I thought had been straightened out and asked them what they were going to do about it.  The representative explained that the balance was still due, and wanted to know how I was going to make arrangements to satisfy the balance.  I was out of time during my lunch at work so I just assured them that they'd be wise to take care of it since they are not going to be paid.  They threatened to turn off the power.  I countered with offering what was left of my ham sandwich.  We were obviously at an impasse.

Collection notices now began showing up at my house and I let them pile up.  It wasn't that many days before I came home and the pile of communications from Puget Sound Energy was two inches thick.  This is just what I received since I was assured that it was all taken care of.  I gave them a call.

Obviously my patience with the situation was wearing thin but it was tempered by the fact that I had no real skin in the game.  It wasn't like I owed them money.  It wasn't like I was stressed with keeping the lights on while juggling a host of bills and creditors.  I just wanted them to have things in order and stop wasting their resources.

The representative informed me this time that unless I gave them personal information about myself I could not discuss the account.  I decided to decline and proceed without mercy to the unvarnished truth of the matter.

"You are sending bills to my father under this account number and I want to let you know that he has been dead for sixteen years.  The house is owned by someone else and nobody is going to pay you.  You need to stop sending bills."
She then went over the account with me (ya know, the one she said she wouldn't unless she knew who I was?) and explained that she would make a notification in the account and it would be taken care of.  I recognized this dismissive gesture and explained that this was my third call for such a resolution and I was skeptical that it would be resolved.  She conceded that their system may send fewer bills after it goes to a collection agency.

"Look, I'm just trying to be nice.  I can easily throw away the bills. I just think it's  wasteful for you to pursue this.  I don't want any more bills being sent to my house on this."
 She assured me that there wasn't anything more she could do.  At no time during the call did she break out of the customer service role and agree with me that this was stupid.  Well, not yet.

"Could I at least verify the account with you and then change the billing address?"   (They were using mine due to the mail being forwarded)

I gave them a new address for the billing address.  I recited the Post Office box number to where the bills needed to be sent.  Her ears finally perked up.

PSE:  "Sir, what PO Box address is this?"

 ME:  "It is yours."

PSE:  "Why would we send the bill to ourselves?"

 ME:  "Why would you deliberately send bills to a dead person?"

PSE:  "..."
Is the matter taken care of?   For mercy's sake I hope so.