Remission: My Wife Is Beating Me

Couple running

CC 2012 Peter van der Sluijs

My wife has done very well with her attempts to get into running. She is into running. Big time. She is up to three miles, wants to run a 5k this spring or summer, and will run even with bad pain in her thigh. Her fat ass husband?

Well…

I’m easing in slowly. I was almost up to two miles, caught a cold, and ratcheted back down to a mile and a half. And I may have to rethink how I’m going back into this. I do better outside, but the treadmill has let me recover from December’s outbreak of SARS or bubonic plague or whatever that was that swept Chateau Nita during the holidays.

I’m proud of her because she didn’t think she could do it. I’m mad at myself because I gave myself a way to extend my deadline to run a half marathon, swapping the Flying Pig in May for the Loveland Half Marathon in October. But training starts in earnest in May, after I finish this year’s segmented trip on the Little Miami Bike Trail. I’m starting in March, but if I want to make the race in October, I need to be able to run five miles by Memorial Day at the very latest.

I’m getting there. I finish school in April, which will make it easier, but it’s frustrating when I have setbacks now. Still, I’m proud of my wife. She looks happier, says she feels better, and she may have to raid the second-hand shops soon. So if I can’t get to where I want to go fast enough, I can at least cheer Nita on.

The Annual Thank-A-Thon

roast turkey

CC 2010 M. Rehemtulla

It’s that time of year again, the time when relatives we only see at weddings and funerals cram themselves into our homes to argue about politics and religion while some of us slave over a meal that will leave the kitchen trashed, everyone angry at each other, and most of us bored during some dull NFL games in the afternoon. Let us be thankful.

Actually, I am thankful. Life is pretty good for us here at Chateau Nita, and we know that it’s not for many people. We’re relatively healthy, have decent jobs, and our debt is manageable and justifiable: Mortgage, two modest cars, not a lot of consumer debt.

But we’re also well aware that many are struggling. Some problems are of people’s own making. Some are beyond people’s control. So while AJ and I dine on a delicious turkey breast made by Nita, we’re all going to think a little bit about those not doing as well and count our blessings.

For starters…

Three Stooges GraduatedNita and I are middle aged college students. Yes, it took us both twenty years and two marriages to get around to starting our freshman years in college. But off we went. These days, many question whether college is worth it. A lot of schools are for-profit and not really worth the paper they print their degrees on. But Nita goes to the University of Cincinnati. I followed an associates degree in 2012 with a business degree from Wilmington College. We both finish up this summer. Was it wise getting a degree this late in life when we should be working towards retirement? Let’s put it this way. It’s a lot easier to be a hard-to-hire senior if you have a degree than it is if you don’t. And it’s just smart to know how business operates before you actually start a business. Yanno?

Billy Crystal typing

Source: Orion Pictures

I’m thankful I have the opportunity to write. There was a time not so long ago when I planned to hang it up. Holland Bay was an unreadable mess. My agent at the time did not seem engaged. And I’ll be honest. Being unemployed did not exactly foster creativity. So I fired my agent, posted a bunch of “I quit” messages, and planned to worry more about finding work. But a funny thing happens when you decide you don’t hafta. You start to wanna. Holland Bay kept calling my name. A science fiction idea kept calling my name. I went from the guy on the left to becoming a freak of writing nature like Dean Wesley Smith. As all this was happening, the whole indie-vs.-trad argument exploded. What I learned is it doesn’t matter. I do both. Get over it.

Jennette Marie Powell

Source: jenpowell.com

But I would not have been able to start writing again if it had not been for some supportive friends. I want to give a shout out to two of them here. The first is Jennette Marie Powell, aka Li’l Sis. Jen and I go way back, like longer than we’ll admit to. (There was no Internet worth mentioning back then outside of the movies.) Jennette was the reason Northcoast Shakedown was written. She became a writer in the late nineties, showed me her first effort, and asked, “So where’s yours?”

Jim goes home, digs out 14-page outline and proceeds to start writing. If she had not said that to me, I wouldn’t have written that novel in time to tell my mother I finished a real novel. I finished Northcoast two months before she died. The revisions took a long time, but that was all part of the process.

Brian ThorntonAnother writer who kept me from throwing it all away is my fellow Sleuthsayer Brian Thornton. I met Brian in my early days online in the Short Mystery Fiction Society, a group we’ve both since left. My first in-person meeting with him was in the lobby of the Bouchercon hotel in Toronto in 2004. I was coming up the escalator when a voice said, “Jim?” I was then treated to a Cuban cigar because, this being Canada, they were legal. (Barry, Raul, you need to fix that problem in the US. Come on, guys. Cuba is America’s fourth largest trading partner. Who are you trying to kid anymore?) In the dozen or so years I’ve known him, we’ve both gotten married, both had novels that took years to write, and both kicked each other’s asses when we wanted to stop and throw it all away. I’m currently one of two people red inking his historical novel Handmaiden of Fate. (The other is actually the lady editing Gypsy’s Kiss.) Brian helped me pound Holland Bay¬†into shape and made introductions to an agent whom I hope will be my agent. It’s been a fruitful friendship.

Will code for food

CC 2006 Patrick de Laive

I am thankful I work. Not only that, but as of this summer, I work strictly in development. The bad ol’ days of desktop support are over. What’s the next step? I don’t know yet. I just found a parking spot I like, and I have yet to attend my first company Christmas party. But now I’m doing more than just helping the little old lady in customer service find her Start button. We have other people who do that. I spend my days writing queries and hieroglyphics that have curly braces and make things happen. It’s e-commerce, which means that, as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to have to log into work to clear off some of the production errors from overnight. Well, someone has to.

Nita

The reason I get up in the morning

Finally, I am thankful for the little miracle to the left here.I met and married Nita in a whirlwind romance in 2008. We’ve been through a lot together since then. It’ll be seven years this coming June. She is my partner and my best friend and the great love of my life.

Because of Nita, I got to experience fatherhood as AJ was 13 when I married his mother. AJ spoils us as parents. We have nieces and nephews whom we love like our own children, but they would also challenge us as parents. AJ is equal parts man-child and very mature and in all the right ways. It’s been wonderful to watch him become an adult. He’s now 20, and we get a little jealous when he goes out and does all the things our parents warned us about, mainly because we don’t have the stamina to stay out that late anymore.

Yes, I’m thankful I have a family. Or rather, they have me. I could list a lot of regrets I have about the first two thirds of my life but why? That last act is shaping up to be pretty awesome.

The Return Of Nita Ritas!

Spring has sprung, and with it, time in our backyard. Right after Nita and I got married, we lucked into a wonderful discovery. You don’t need Triple Sec to make a margarita. You can use Jameson. Or rum. Or Jack Daniels. Or…

We wanted margaritas one night to sip out on the back deck of the old Rancho Winter, but we had no Triple Sec. We did have Jameson. So in went the Jamie.

Delicious.

We tried it with rum and Jack and Beam and… Yeah, we taste tested a lot of these ritas. But it’s not really a margarita without Triple Sec, is it? No, it’s not. It’s a Nita Rita, and you, too, can enjoy responsibly.

Nita Ritas are 3 parts Cuervo margarita mix, 2 parts tequila (We recommend Cuervo Especial, but I really want to try Cabo Wabo one of these days), and one part… Well, what kind of Nita Rita do you want?

Irish Nita Rita: Jameson

Jamaican Nita Rita: rum

Nuclear Nita Rita: Bacardi 151 dark spiced rum

Tennessee Nita Rita: Jack Daniels

Kentucky Nita Rita (legal): Jim Beam

Kentucky Nita Rita (illegal): moonshine

Canadian Nita Rita: Crown or Seagrams

Jaeger Nita Rita: Dude, that’s just insane. Don’t ever do that. Trust me. It’ll end badly. Agave and absinthe’s cheap cousin do not mix.

So there you have it. The Nita Rita, invented by my wife, the incomparable Nita.

Nita hammock

Happy Singles Awareness Day

jimnnitaI totally get why a lot of people hate Valentine’s Day. I really do. Every year, there’s an entire holiday devoted to love. The advertising surrounding it (is there any other reason for a holiday? It’$ the rea$on for the $ea$on.) also serves to remind those who are alone that they’re alone.

Gee, thanks. Some of us probably would have never figured that one out on our own.

But Valentine’s Day will always be special to me because, in 2008, it was my first date with Nita. We went from first date to wedding in four months, something neither of us could ever have predicted. On Valentine’s Day, I found the love of my life, started down the road to becoming a parent, gained a best friend, and met my business partner. Even after six years, I am head over heels in love with this woman.

So I don’t mind the hype around Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweet Rose. I love you.

Giving Thanks, 2013 Edition

flamingturkeyIt’s that time of year again, when we in America pause to give thanks for what we have. In Canada, they do this in October (better weather) on a Monday (kills Monday for a week.) I sort of like the Canadian idea, but in America, it’s a rare four-day weekend. It’s a day for watching football (The Cowboys, the Lions, and, for some odd reason, now the Ravens). We consume huge amounts of the meat of a rather stupid bird, which puts us to sleep following dinner. It is a day for many families to embrace and indulge their dysfunction. Friday is a day that makes even Gordon Gecko despise capitalism, even if only for a day or so. It is the cultural end of autumn, the fiscal start of Christmas, and time when those of us who hate cold weather resign ourselves to that inevitable season we must endure for a few months: Winter.

But mostly, Thanksgiving is just that: Giving thanks. What am I thankful for?

Will code for food

zazzle.com, labeled for reuse

I work. Unemployment is still high, mainly because we have a Congress that, collectively, is the most useless in American history. Nonetheless, I have a job. Since 2008, when the economy tanked spectacularly, I was only out of work for about six weeks at the longest. When I lost my job at BigHugeCo, the VP who broke the news to me – whom I’d worked with for years – told me he regretted doing this, but at the same time told me to enjoy my summer vacation. They handed me twelve weeks severance. Within a couple of weeks, I was contracting, with only a two-week break that summer. There was a scary six weeks the following January and February where work jobs just weren’t to be had. And then I found work at Medishack, a job that was a hybrid of my old job as a desktop support technician and what I wanted to do, development. A lot of my good fortune was luck. A lot of it was persistence. And one thing I’ve seen during our most recent recession is that some people had a sense of entitlement that kept them out of decent jobs because the work was “beneath them.” These are usually the same people who complain the loudest about other people not working. So why did I not join in their reindeer games? All I know was that my creditors were asking where their money was, and it was hard for my wife to put food on the table with only my unemployment check to add to her income. I took less-paying work because I believe if you don’t work when it’s possible, you have no right to complain about not finding a job. It’s not like some people who literally can’t find work. Those people I feel for. The ones I had no respect for were the ones who asked me if I was insane taking temp jobs only two weeks after a layoff. I found that question insulting. At one point in my younger days, I worked three jobs at 60-70 hours a week. I don’t like idle time. Not without a fat bank account to back it up.

computer code

Photo: Carrot Lord, used under GNU FDL

I’m thankful I have a marketable skill. I write code. And I still fix computers. (No, I’m not going to fix yours. Forty hours a week of that is enough.) And I’m learning more about that all the time. Technology was a boon to me in the 1990’s. Through the Internet and cheap PC’s, I discovered several skillsets that will probably carry me through retirement, assuming I can retire. I don’t see why not. The more I learn, the more opportunities come my way. Add to that a business degree, and the opportunities open even wider. Nita is also getting a degree, a technology degree. This is going to help us open our own business. That, if successful, will secure our future. It won’t guarantee one or both of us won’t have to take a job welcoming people to Walmart at some point, but it makes it less likely.

Gabriel Iglesias

Photo: Tom Villegas, used under GNU FDL

I’m thankful for my health. Yes, I gained back all the weight I lost earlier this year. But after a recent hospital stay, my doctors were actually encouraged by what they saw. It’s only renewed my commitment to run the Flying Pig Marathon the week of my fiftieth birthday. I need to renew my discipline – no snacking, more fruit, stick with and keep revamping an exercise plan.

My wife expressed some doubt about me doing the Pig, but I have 2 1/2 years to get ready. In the meantime, my health can only improve. It’d better. After 50 is when a lot of things start falling apart at inconvenient moments. I intend to be healthier at 50 than I was at 40.

Nita_picMost of all, I’m thankful for the lovely lady to the right. Nita has been the best thing to ever happen to me. After five years, she still accepts me for who I am, is not afraid to be herself, and lights up my days and nights. Because of her, I’m a stepfather. And AJ looks at me as more than just the dude mom married. He is a great son, and I’m privileged to be part of his life. Our home is cozy and warm, and we all laugh a lot. I’ve married a hair metal chick and live with a boy who loves Monty Python. I look at Nita and know that I have a future. I watch AJ as he works his first job and goes to UC Blue Ash and marvel at how his adult life is a blank slate. Thanksgiving at our house is just us three with a small turkey and one rule: Stay out of Nita’s way until she puts up the tree. Once the tree is up, then we can get involved. Until then, shut up and eat your turkey. Oh, and could one of you do the dishes after lunch?