Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Road to Debt is Paved with Good Intentions

Sitting on the patient bed in my doctors office, I’d just spent the past 7 minutes (I know because I used the gum alarm I have set on my watch) explaining to Patty why I needed anti-anxiety medication before I left the country. I made sure to highlight my increasing age in reference to the decreased age of the students, the loss of my favorite grill, my necessity for Botox and collagen injections and the fact that we were leaving the state in 48 hours.

“In summary, “ Patty began, “you’re telling me to write you a script for anxiety medication because your best friends dermatologist told you that you’ve got wrinkles,  your husband will be going to medical school with (while making quotes with her fingers) bikini clad, pina colada drinking 22 year-old women and because you’ll be unable to watch reruns of ‘The Tracy Ullman Show’ as Netflix doesn’t work on that island. Did I miss anything?”

I shook my head and added, “So, if you’ll just write me a script for a Z-pack I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Kelly, a Z-Pack is an antibiotic. Do you have an infection I don’t know about?”

“What is the z medication?” I asked acutely aware that I now sounded like a drug seeker.  “I know I read in US Weekly that some celebrity takes it.”

Mental Checklist: confirm it was NOT Lindsay Lohan who recommended that med. Her hair and make-up have been awful  lately. Side effect?

“Wow! Okay, Kel, I can see you’re worried about this move. It’s a significant life change.  Your belongings are in storage, you’re renting out your home, you sold your cars – but, none of that means you need anxiety medicine.  You can reduce stress simply by limiting your caffeine intake, focusing on your family and learning to relax.” Patty looked at me for a few seconds and then documented something in my chart. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a note to Google Tracy Ullman.

After leaving my doctors office and returning my rental car, I sat on the bench outside of the Budget Rent-A-Car in Bellevue and waited for Taffi.  I could hear what sounded like Billy Idol wailing “With a rebel yell, she cried more, more, more” and then saw Taff squeal  into the parking lot with the top down on the Audi.

“Get in, beyotch! We’ve got people to do and places to see,” Taff unlocked the doors and turned Billy down. “Max and the guys are going out for bar-b-q. Manhood crack. You and I are going to Nordi’s to get our make-up done and then we’re going island shoe shopping.”

With Taffi heading towards the Square, I argued, “ I literally have zero room in my bags. Zero.  I cannot buy any shoes. I’ll be lucky to get there with all of my work clothes since I have to travel.”

“Gawd! You’re so uninspiring at this moment. Speaking privileges revoked! To be clear – the shoes are for me and you will get your face done and you will enjoy it,” Taff looked over at me while weaving through traffic. “Now, turn Billy back up or I’ll make you get your nails done, too.”

Following my marathon afternoon of beauty and shoes, I was exhausted when Taffi dropped me off at the hotel.  We were holed up in a Residence Inn until we left so that our renters could move into our house in Redmond. The hotel wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have 8 bags, 5 carry-on bags and the cat. The “suite” was cramped at best and Grey kept telling me how I “failed” because I wouldn’t let him hook up the Xbox. 

The next 24 hours passed in a blur. Ja and I both made trips to the bank, the post office and our storage unit courtesy of Max and his “work car” – also known as a mini-van.  Mitch and Ja talked on the phone several times and Mitch agreed that we’d “failed” because he couldn’t do Xbox Live with Grey.  We spent our last night in Washington at dinner with Barry, Reba and Marcus at Red Robin. Grey was convinced that there would be no burgers or onion rings on the island so we settled on his restaurant choice. 

Our day commenced with Grey watching episodes of ‘Alias’ on his laptop and Jameson and I frantically checking each of our bags. 3AM would come early. We had a 6AMflight to Miami, a two hour layover and then a three hour flight to St. Maarten. All in all – a 10 hour travel day for us and the cat. I crossed my fingers that the biodegradable travel  cat box Sesame had recommended worked on our layover in Miami.

The next morning, really a few hours later, I rolled over and pressed the home button on my iPhone. It said 3:27. Could that be right? Quickly, I swiped to open my phone and checked. I hadn’t even turned my alarm on.

“FRAK!” I screamed while simultaneously throwing off the covers and jumping out of bed.  “Ja, get up. We’ve got 30 minutes. The alarm didn’t go off.”  My husband was immediately awake and moving.

It seemed that my love of caffeine had kept me from sleeping. Win.  I’d start limiting my intake after we made it to the island.  I ran into the other room and shook Grey awake. Luckily, as a pre-teen sleeping in your clothes was common so he was ready to go following brushing the funk off his teeth and repacking his backpack.

30-minutes of serious scrambling later, we were outside loading the “work car” when Taffi and Max pulled up in her Audi.

“Morning, campers,” Taffi shouted through the window.  “I brought Krispy Kreme.”

“Sweet!” Grey chimed and grabbed the box.

“Hey,” Taffi scolded, “share those with your parents. They look like they need all the sugar they can get right now.”

A few minutes later the mini-van was loaded, Max was in the driver’s seat, Grey in the back already sleeping again and Ja and I were saying goodbye to Taffi.

“Listen – I know you’ve got the Skype,” Taff began before hugging me. Everything was always ‘the Skype’ or ‘the Target’ or ‘the Walgreens’.  Jameson made fun of her and as I looked his way while hugging Taff I could see him rolling his eyes.

Our drive to the airport was free of traffic, the line to check-in at the airline was horrid and we’d only been in our seats on the plane for 5 minutes before the cat started to wail in her carrier. People were glaring so Ja said, “Hey, could be worse. We could have a screaming baby.”  Cue screaming baby in mother’s arms coming down the aisle. Scratch that – there was another mom with a screaming toddler with legs and arms flailing immediately following.

Grey was completely oblivious to all of the noise. The kid could sleep though anything. Ja began reading his registration packet so I made a list of all of our expenses for this little med school adventure to date. So far, all of the expenses had come out of our savings.

·         Application fee - $100

·         Fee to “hold spot” in class - $1600

·         3 plane tickets from SEA to SXM - $2300

·         2 days hotel stay - $300

·         Food/eating out since we weren’t at home - $500

·         Baggage fee  - $500

·         Deposit on our SXM condo - $5600

·         First months’ rent payable upon arrival - $2800

·         Rental car for 1 week once we arrive - $800

·         First months’ tuition for Grey’s school - $700

As I added up the 15 thousand plus dollars we’d already spent before we’d even received a loan check for the tuition alone, I started to feel nauseous. I started digging around in the seat back pocket for the air-sickness bag. Where was it? Doesn’t anyone puke on planes anymore?

“Wife. What are you doing?” Ja asked. We hadn’t even started to taxi and my anxiety was at an all time high. I could tell that a Bloody Mary would be in order as soon as we were wheels up.

“Do you know how much money we’ve spent so far?  We’ve blown through a years’ undergrad tuition. We could  have been sending  Grey to college over the past few weeks,” I answered while flipping to the page of the magazine that listed the in-flight alcohol.

Jameson patted my hand, kissed me on the cheek and said, “Yes. I do know that. This is an investment, remember?” With that he leaned back and closed his eyes leaving me to deal with my debt demons alone.

Mental Checklist: husband fails to see the elephant in the room. The economy is in the toilet  and your credit score is the equivalent of Whuffie. Remind husband to read recreationally more often.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Video Killed the Radio Star

“I’m fine, totally fine,” I whispered to Taff while we huddled in the bathroom doing tequila shooters. I was down to one lime and I needed to get my game face on.

Fine is what you say to your gynecologist when getting a yearly exam. I can tell you’re nervous about the move. Your eye is twitching and you’re doing that thing where you time your gum chewing to 7 minutes. That’s beyond weird, you need help or medication, “ Taff scorned and stole my last lime.

I straightened my dress, checked my hair and applied lip gloss. It’s true what they say - you can handle almost anything with Bobbi Brown Shimmer Lip Gloss.  Taffi and I stepped out of the master bath and headed back down to the party. 

Mitch’s mom, Sesame Morning Star, and husband Vic were throwing us a going away party.  Sesame had legally changed her last name to “Morning Star” to boost her Palm and Tarot Card Reading business and all of the party goers were loving it. She had a table set up and was offering free readings. Taff had already visited, was told that her “wisdom flows freely like a calm river” and took this as her cue to be my personal move assistant for my time left in Washington.
I could see Jameson, Vic and Barry parked on the porch deep in discussion and left Taff with a group of friends from our neighborhood.  This couldn’t be good.  Reba saw where I was headed and tagged along.

“Have you had any of the punch? I heard it was all organic,” Reba rambled while we marched towards our men.  “I swallowed a mint leaf and I think I ate a clove. Don’t people smoke those?”
I stopped and turned toward Reba.  “What? You were smoking the punch? “

“Damn, you are stressed. You should have Sesame do a reading then you’ll know the move will go as planned. No problems.”
“Reba, I love you and I appreciate your concern. But, hearing that I’ll die at an early age because Tim Tachlauer stapled my hand in the third grade is not going to help me relax. What will help me is another drink.  Maybe… rum.  And, to find out what kind of shenanigans the guys are up to.” I crossed my arms and waited for a response.

“Little Timmy Tachlauer, the guy you told me peed his pants, stapled your hand?  How did that happen? “
I sighed and Reba ran to grab the Bundy and some Cokes for us. I checked my watch and swallowed my gum.

Mental Checklist: call doctor and ask for a 2 year supply of anxiety meds. Hopefully they come in fun flavors and colors like the Tic Tac.

As I walked up to the porch, I overheard Barry adamantly arguing, “Look, we all know she’s forever your girl. All I know is  that I like to do the wild thing - my prerogative, fellas. Case closed.”  He took a long swallow from his beer and looked content.

Ho. Lee. Shit.  Did I just walk into a discussion about Barry cheating on his wife? I needed Reba and that rum sooner than I thought.   I was about to say something when Jameson piped up with, “Hey! We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far. I saw her standing on a beach with a gun in her hand, staring at the sea-”
“What the hell, man? We already said no lyrics.” Vic threw his empties at Ja and nodded in my direction. “Hey there, darlin’. You wanna try and keep up mano y mano? “

Just then Reba walked up with the Bundy  under her arm and 2 glasses of ice cold Coke.  I grabbed the Bundy, took a 2 second swig, chased it with some Coke and said, “Let’s get this party started.”
A short 3 hours later, most of Jameson and my friends had left and a handful of us remained in the kitchen. Our drinking games had ranged from song and movie titles to brand name foods. Sesame had one the last round with the word “Oreo”.  The boys were on their second hour of X-Box and the conversation moved to renting out our house.

Mental Checklist:  research the Teddy Graham to determine its cookie validity.  That should have been some major points.

“So…” Max started. “I hate to bring up a touchy subject, but who is renting your house while you guys are in the Caribbean?”
“Kel is fine with renting out the house,” Jameson answered while Taffi patted my hand. “At least that’s what she tells me.” He added then smiled my way.  “We found some guys-”

“I hope not on Craigslist!” Sesame exclaimed.   “I just read on HNN that there was another home invasion for a couple trying to rent out their home in Portland.”

“What’s HNN?” Taff asked before I could.
“Hemp and Nutrition News. It’s better than NPR. I swear by it.”

There was a split second of silence before the conversation started up again. Jameson explained that our friend Bunny found a couple to rent our house. Craig worked in IT and Smith was an Interior Designer. They were getting the first month rent free because Smith was going to paint all of our rooms in “subtle hues”.  Smith had worn a bow tie, suspenders and Ferragamo loafers upon our first meeting so I was fine with him selecting colors to paint.

“Hey,” Taffi said while poking me in the side, “You’ve had that gum in your mouth for like 45 minutes. The rum must have cured what ails you.”

We gave rounds of hugs, said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch.  We were at T minus 5 days to departure.

St. Maarten, here we come!