An Army Wife's Life

I think there are few acts of love more challenging than marrying an army officer. My Grandfather was career military, and they are difficult to live with and difficult to live without.

The challenge is that the wife of an officer doesn't just marry him, she marries the Army--with all its blessings and faults, all its joys (base life is still often like a throwback to 1950's mid-America, with safe streets and beautiful parks) and all its quiet agonies ("what's that? You're enjoying life in Georgia? Too bad! Say hello to Germany!").

So I must say I am very proud of a dear friend of mine for choosing to marry the love of her life, knowing full well that she was signing up for a harder road than most women ever dream of when they say "I do." Mal is a fierce friend, a talented writer, a gifted interior decorator, a skilled cook and a brilliant photographer. In short, Mac is a very lucky man--she's a woman of substance and character, she's 1600 miles away, with him, and I miss her.

I'm not alone--my friends miss her too. We sent them with as much love and joy as we could pack into twenty CDs and a myriad of stories, memories, and smiles, but we still miss them. Thankfully Mal updates her blog. It is currently titled "An Army Wife's Life: trying to stay sane while adjusting" but I like its longer standing title--a title which I'm sure will be returned to, as life settles down and time rolls on--A Life of Blessings.

May your life be blessed with love, devotion, and adventure--as Mal's life is blessed--and may you enjoy reading her writing as much as I do.

(and Mal--if you're reading this, you might have found this already, but I just ran across this link to "Army Wife Talk Radio" and it actually sounds kindof cool. I hope you're doing well, and I hope you pick up the phone in about 90 seconds.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why do I never have trouble sleeping?

Not as a result of trouble, ever.

About once every season I'll have a night of complete insomnia, where, for no reason, I'll stay up until between 3 and 4 AM. It has happened for years, but never seems related to anything in particular. It's never the result of caffeine, stress, or an especially busy day--in fact it seems that the only consistent factor of the day that precedes it is that the day is very normal.

Aside from that night however, I never really have trouble sleeping. If I'm up around 6 (as my work day schedule demands) I'll comfortably drop off around 10. It doesn't matter if I've just insulted my boss, lost a valuable document, had my wallet stolen, argued with one of my girls or inadvertently run over the world's cutest chipmunk on the way home. It doesn't matter if my actions have been vicious or kind, simple or complicated. I sleep the sleep of an innocent baby when I'm ready.

And the next morning I wake up refreshed, usually from a sleep that is more dreamless the meaner I've been the previous day.

Should that worry me?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thank you Lore.

I don't know if any of you read the writings (okay, occasionally they're ramblings, ravings, or rantings) of Lore Sjöberg.

He writes Alt-Text for Wired magazine, among other things.

I was especially charmed by this week's Resting in Pieces: An Alternate-Universe Obituary.

It made something clear to me: It isn't just that I'm bothered at the squander of opportunity in my life. It is that I know that it is completely within my grasp to change it--that somewhere out there, if the alternate universe theory holds, there is a version of me who didn't waste that moment, thought or opportunity.

And that bothers me! I want to be the most interesting version of myself available in any universe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wake Up!

As those of you who follow along at home know, I have been sick all week with some tonsil-related malady that has made me grumpy, tired, unable to swallow without pain, inadventently prone to aquire pie, etc.

I awoke this morning feeling considerably refreshed on all fronts. On inspection my tonsils only look a tiny bit better, but they feel much better when I swallow. In addition, I took my temperature this morning and it was 97.8. Apparently my body is trying to apologize for all that time spent at 100+.

So I sprang out of bed and got breakfast together! Doesn't it just look swell?

For you New York Veterans (and those who know us) the scary looking substance on the cereal is Naked:Rainforest Acai! Yes, you can get Naked in Macon--even while you're sick. And for those of you who hate pills--try not to think about swallowing that many when your tonsils are still almost the size of ping-pong balls--it sucks.

Hope you all are having as good a Sunday as I am. Unfortunately I've got a week's metric-shitload of work to do (that's 2.2 Imperial Shitloads!), so I think the rest of my Sunday is going to be pretty full.

But I hope to be done by early evening. Who is up for some Firefly?

P.s. That top image is the first thing I saw when I woke up this morning, no lie. I woke up by making the superhero flying gesture. I think that's a good sign.

Convalescing boy--Away!

p.s. I just did some research into Naked Juice, because, um. . .Google. And anyway, it turns out that apparently if you were in one of those really crazy Fraternities where people were encouraged to streak, leer at or moon women, or pee off the side of cruise ships, and you thought it was awesome and wish these days were those days--maybe you should turn in an application!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Obligatory Monty Python: "I feel much better!"

I've been sick since Monday. I think it was some sort of tonsillitis, as my tonsils were swollen, I ran a fever, and I was tired and sore but there were no other symptoms.

People called to see how I was doing, and that was nice of them. I've had to postpone my trip to see my nephew till Veteran's day weekend though, which makes me sad.

In other news, I now have a line of credit with a department store. . . and a pumpkin pie.

Let's be clear: I like pumpkin pie--when it is made at home, by someone I know. when I can sneak into the kitchen at 3AM on a Saturday morning and steal a slice from the half that remains and watch old episodes of Star Trek - the original series, I'm on cloud nine.

However, commercially manufactured pumpkin pie is a different beast, somewhat akin to other American "necessary" evils like frozen dinners and overproduced pop stars. I'm not a fan.

Last weekend, my wallet was stolen. This was less of an inconvenience than you might think, shockingly. However, among one of many cards in it that I had to replace was my Sam's club membership card.

Now, there has been some priority-one shit going down at the office, so, despite the fact that I was sick, and finding myself unable to sleep on Thursday morning, I headed into the office at 6:15 and left at 9:45 after seeing to the Emergency grade stuff that needed my attention.

Intending to come home and sleep away the rest of the day, I swung by Sam's club on the way home to replace the aforementioned card of membership.

When I arrived around 10:30, I had already been awake for six hours or so, and my fever was doing a number on my sinuses (and therefore my hearing) and my will to do anything more than the bare minimum of effort.

So I go up to the lady at the Sam's counter, and ask about replacing my card.

She starts the process and asks me if I would like a line of credit added to my membership card. I decline out of habit, before she can even get through the entire spiel about how if you sign up right now you get some free gift that I don't quite make out.

Then my mind (which is still in second gear and trying to coast downhill at this point) recalls that I was encouraged to open a dept. store line of credit to increase my credit score. As my logical brain is realizing this, my social brain is asking her what the free thing was that I couldn't make out.

So as I'm shoving my instincts to the back of my mind to sign away another sliver of my life she explains that the free gift is a pumpkin pie.

My logical brain is already swapping places with my social one, so now my social brain is accepting her offer and asking her for a pen while my logical brain is shouting:

Wtf? Who wants a pumpkin pie with a line of credit? This is like giving someone a complimentary bathrobe if they buy a Pickup truck!

So as a result of the timing and how out-of-it I was on Thursday morning, I'm pretty sure there is a Sam's club employee in Macon, Georgia who is convinced that I added a line of credit to my membership so that I could get a free pumpkin pie.

Meanwhile, the pie sits on my kitchen counter, unopened. I'm hoping my roommate and his friends will consume it tonight.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Indentured Servitude.

Let me start with a story.

It is the spring of 2006. I have a new job. I work for the United States Air Force as a civil servant. I am an electrical engineer.

After four years of college, seven months of tending bar and a trip through Europe, I have zero debt, and I am sitting comfortably on a nice fat signing bonus. At this time in my life I have job that nets me just shy of double the median income for an adult male in my city (Macon, Georgia). I am considering buying a house, because I expect to be in the area as much as five years, and I know that even if I sell the house at a loss after that time, I will probably still come out ahead over renting. I have spoken to friends and some have expressed interest in living with me, which would make the mortgage very manageable indeed. Bear in mind--I have never had a credit card, signed a lease, or even had a cell phone.

I go to the bank.

Recall, I have no debt. This means I have no credit history.

At all.

I sit down with a mortgage representative for my new credit union, and she is remarkably professional (she doesn't actually laugh openly during our conversation). She calls in the request to see what her loan department can do.

She discovers there isn't even a credit score associated with my name. I am a non-entity as far as lending organizations are concerned.

She describes my situation to the loan clerk at the head office. The clerk's response (and I quote) is "Wow--is he single? . . . but seriously. . .without a number in this box, I can't approve a mortgage."

So there I sit in a bank at the age of twenty two, freshly employed (by an organization from which it is almost impossible to get fired) and with enough money in my account to put a 10% down payment on a $75,0000 home that very afternoon. It strikes me as comical beyond measure that my financial situation is so attractive that a bank employee would consider dating me sight unseen, and yet I cannot be given a loan.

The loan officer is very helpful, and suggests I take out a secured loan against my own money to quickly generate a credit score and improve it.

I take her advice.

Fast forward 18 months.

I am considering house-buying. Again.

I have a number attached to my name now. It is not particularly high.

This is to be expected. The reason is simple: I haven't sold my soul.

Today, while considering whether I should buy a house, I gathered my personal information together and applied for my free credit reports (Georgia residents are entitled to two per year from the major companies). I found them mainly bleak wastelands with few entries, a barren reminder that I only grudgingly took on a loan in the first place, and paid it off in full the day I was approved for a credit card. TransUnion couldn't even get my American Express account number correct, so I could not view my score (yeah, fuck you too).

I even plunked down a few extra dollars to see my VantageScore, the credit score issued by Experian (it was six bucks, and I was curious).

My score stands at 695 right now, on a scale of 501-990. God only knows why they don't use the bottom 500. I guess they want to make people feel better.

This score means I am considered a member of the "non-prime" category.

What really sent chills down my spine, more than anything else I saw today though, was this entry from Experian:

What factors lower your VantageScore:
  • Your report does not show any open, recently reported installment accounts, such as an auto loan. Having open, recently reported installment accounts as part of your credit history can have a positive impact on your credit score.
  • Your report does not show any usable/valid retail revolving accounts, such as a department store credit card. Having valid retail revolving accounts as part of your credit history can have a positive impact on your credit score.
  • Your report shows too few accounts. Having too few accounts limits the amount of information available and negatively impacts your credit score.
  • Your report shows that the time since your oldest credit account or loan was opened is too short. Having credit accounts or loans open for a longer period of time has a positive impact on your credit score.
  • Your report shows one or more inquiries on file. Each time a potential lender pulls your credit report for review, an inquiry is placed on your file. While having inquiries on file does affect your score, the impact is minimal.

Now the last bullet makes a little sense--if I were constantly applying for credit from dozens of institutions, that would be a bad sign, and would appear as a series of constant inquiries into my report, sure.

The one before it makes sense too--it takes time to build a reputation. This is the case in every situation.

But let us talk about those first three.

It has become my opinion that America has discovered a new, 'free', form of indentured servitude, and our middle class has willingly sold ourselves into it.

These first three items are not ways to learn how high of a risk there is that you won't pay back a loan--they are ways to estimate how willing you will be to shackle yourself with debt in order to have things you don't need or want.

How in the hell does a retail store credit card increase the likelihood that I am of solid financial standing and good character? And why, as Americans, do we allow ourselves to be subjugated by this system?

We willingly put our necks beneath the foot of a banking system that has all the benefits of being slave holders (constant income, low cost of maintenance, etc) with none of the responsibilities! If a slave got sick and was near death, it was in a slave-holder's best interest to see to his care out of his own money. Banks have no such compulsion.

And then we stand with our hands on our hearts and sing that we are the land of the free with a straight face. I am beginning to believe that if you can't walk away from every debt you have--today--based on your liquid assets, then you have signed away your liberty.

And for what? A JC Penny card and a late-model Ford Mustang?

In the words of XKCD's Randall Munroe:

Fuck. That. Shit.

Monday, October 08, 2007