Sunday, April 10, 2011

Always Camping Girl
I referred to myself the other day as "Always Camping Girl" because I am, in a sense, "always camping" given the fact that I live in an RV located in an RV park. I happen to love and have always loved to go camping so being in a state of "always camping" is a positive thing for me. It would not, of course, be considered so positive by the folks that I know who don't like to go camping, but in my case, it is a good thing. And from time to time, I remember the days when I used to load up my car on Friday after work and drive, sometimes for hours, then set up the tent and campsite so I could spend the weekend camping. And on Sunday afternoon, when I was packing everything up and making the drive back home, I would often wish that I could just stay put instead and why not just go to work from there so that when I got off of work and came home again, I would still be camping? Well, guess what, here I am now, many years later, doing exactly that.

And while RV living is fun, there are also things that I like about living in a house so I may very well live in a house again at some point. But I want that future house, if there is one, to somehow have the sense of "always camping" about it. I tried to create it at my old house with limited success, but I never really was able to capture the feeling. Now that I've been actually living it for awhile, I definitely want to take that with me and keep it when and if I move again. So maybe that future house will be a little cabin set way off the beaten path, or it could even be a grand house that has an expansive outdoor living space or it might be another RV with more kitchen counter space. Hell, it could take so many forms that there is no predicting what it will be or look like, but I definitely know what it will feel like.

Time and time again, I am surprised when I look at life my life and realize that I now have many of the things that I wanted so many years ago. I may not have the specific things I thought I wanted, but I have the essence of them and usually they are even better than what I originally imagined. For example, this RV is far better than my original idea that came about back when I had a tent.

And of course, there are still plenty of things that I want that I do not have at the moment, but the desire and dreaming of them doesn't have to mean that I'm unhappy with what I've got. It just means that no matter how good it gets, there's always the opportunity for life to get even better. And exploring, creating, dreaming and sometimes discovering that what you thought was "it" really isn't "it" after all, well, that's all part of the fun.

I have decided that I am going to spend the rest of my life feeling good and having fun, as much as possible. I told one of my friends the other day that my new mantra is to do more of what I want to do and less of what I don't want to do. That doesn't mean I'm going to quit my job because having that job provides me with the opportunity to do other things that I do like to do. Such as sleeping in a bed instead of on a cardboard box under a bridge. Meanwhile, I'll keep looking for a means of income that provides more joy than this one. I want to get to the point where I'm always satisfied with what I have, yet still eager for more. I'm already there, most of the time and I tell ya, life is pretty damn good from this perspective.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A bad day turns good
I got up this morning and did my usual morning routine with an eye toward leaving for work a bit earlier than usual since there's been a lot of traffic jams lately and I was tired of getting to the office with just minutes to spare before clocking in. The "Oh crap, I might be late and get a written reprimand in my file" stress is something I'd rather avoid. I really need this job and to lose it just because Austin traffic sucks would really piss me off. But today I was right on track to leave 10 minutes early until I went to start my car and the engine turned over just twice before the starter went click, click, click. I was hoping to find corroded battery terminals when I opened the hood, but they were squeaky clean which meant that most likely the battery had given up the ghost and needed to be replaced. Or my alternator could be out, but the battery was almost four years old so odds were good that it was the battery. I looked around to see if any neighbors were out and about, but the early birds usually leave for work between 6:00 and 6:30 AM and the rest of the RV park tends to sleep in. As far as I know, I'm the only one that leaves at 7:00 AM so I left my hood up in the international symbol of car trouble and went back into my RV to notify work that I would be late or possibly not in at all today. It wasn't too much later that a neighbor knocked at my door to see if I needed some help. I got lucky; they were up much earlier than usual and noticed my hood up.

One jump start later and I was ready to head off to work. As a bonus, this neighbor, who is a retired engineer and therefore has a great deal of smarts, handed me an extra car battery and some jumper cables to take with me so I could jump my car after work using his extra battery instead of having to rely on finding someone to give me a jump start. His foresight saved me a great deal of grief because because after work the parking lot was almost empty and apparently no one else was getting off work at 5:00 PM today so there wasn't anyone to flag down to ask for a jump. But thanks to his extra battery I was on the road in minutes and I headed straight to the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store in Buda to buy a new battery, provided they had one in my budget range.

Now, it's two days before payday so I had a very limited amount of funds available. The counterman pulled up my battery choices on the computer with prices and I guess the look of despair on my face was pretty evident because another counterman intervened and directed him toward some cheaper options. He then took me over to the battery rack and showed me why he didn't think I should buy the absolute cheapest battery available, but here was one that was not much more and well worth the extra money. It wasn't a scam; I know enough about car batteries to know he wasn't bullshitting. And when I told him, "Yes, that battery you are recommending is the same battery that I bought from O'Reilly's four years ago," his eyes lit up and he told me, "If that's the case, then we can definitely do you right and make your budget."

Somehow, he managed to find the record of my prior purchase despite my complete lack of memory of what my cell phone number had been back then. It took him quite a while, but he was persistent and after applying a warranty and some other pricing voodoo, it more than met my budget. And to top it off, they even changed the battery for me right there in the parking lot, no extra charge. I haven't seen that kind of customer service in years!

The counterman joked that I had enough left over to buy some beer and that's exactly what I did. I bought some for myself to celebrate my good fortune and a 12 pack to give to my helpful neighbor. I was going to buy a 12 pack for the folks at the auto parts store, but was afraid that might be against company policy. But they will, at the very least, get all of my future auto parts business and I will also sing their praises.

And what started out as a bad day, turned out to be a very good one thanks to some helpful folks. Which reminds me to never underestimate the value of good customer service or even just lending a helping hand to someone. You never know for sure, but it just might make their day.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

A song a day
I've decided it's time to start buying music again. I used to be able to hear a lot of my favorite songs on a radio station for free, but it changed format a few months ago which left me with just Pandora. Pandora is great, but it requires an internet connection and that is something I don't always have. And with Pandora, just like radio, you can't play a particular song and have to hope it comes up in the rotation at some point. And so, for the last couple of months, I've been deprived of the music I love and have been minus a major source of stress relief.

I gave Rob our extensive music collection when we split up, which made sense since I don't have a CD player and no room to store CDs either. I figured I'd replace everything with MP3s once I had some extra money and solved the backup problem. Well, I've since solved the backup problem, but the truth is I'll never have a bunch of extra money.

To work around that, I came up with a plan to buy one song a day. At an average price of $1 per song, that comes out to about $7 a week. I figure this will keep me from spending too much over the course of the year. But in order to solve the problem of down time when I have no internet connection, I need to buy a chunk of music at the start and then switch to adding one song a day. So I decided to roll the start of my plan back to January 1st which left me starting with a deficit and at first I'll spend more than a dollar a day (but only as I can afford it) until I catch up.

I'm starting out with some of my favorite songs from the last 10 years or so that I didn't previously own (for the most part) and are also ones that I don't mind listening to over and over again. As you will see, I'm still very much a Metalhead. (click on the song to view on YouTube, although many have annoying commercials that you have to get through first)

What I've Done - Linkin Park

Coming Undone - Korn

Down with the Sickness - Disturbed

The Red - Chevelle

Bodies - Drowning Pool

Thoughtless - Korn

My Own Summer - Deftones

Cryin' Like a Bitch - Godsmack

Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down

You're Going Down - Sick Puppies

Outside - Staind

Break Stuff - Limp Bizkit

Psycho - Puddle of Mudd

South Texas Deathride - Union Underground

Numb - Linkin Park

Headstrong - Trapt

Pain - Three Days Grace

Last Resort - Papa Roach

It's a good start, but only about an hour's worth of music. More later...