Recently I have been listening to the M.O.N.E.Y. show which inspired me to re-read the Total Money Makeover.  All this information has me wanting to jump straight into action.  The problem is I get paid once a month.  While I can plan, budget and scheme, I can’t really do much which leads to the downtime and me wondering what I can do.  I reached out to J Money…the comedy of the MONEY show, who also runs and asked his advice.  His suggestion was blog.  Find something you love and write about it.  As it happens, I have had a blog for a long time now.  It’s never really had a focus, hence the “James the Generalist”.  This has always been more like an online journal with all of three people who might read it. :^)  However, this also has its benefits since I can chronicle what I’m doing, get some of the thoughts out of my head and maybe…finally…define my goals enough to start making some solid plans.

My current interests are:
  1. Traveling.  I like traveling alone, but now that I have an amazing travel partner (my hot wife Kelly) it’s way more fun.
  2. Travel points.  With travel, I have tried really hard to travel cheaply.  Using points, flying Spirit, etc.  The obvious problem with this is you usually have to use credit cards which is always a slippery slope.
  3. Travel writing.  Sort of.  I use Tripadvisor anytime I hit a town, even one I am familiar with.  You generally get both good and bad reviews of a place from travelers and locals.  I take the time to rate and review places I find, have been recommended or that I frequent at home.
  4. Camping. I have purchased some great gear from REI, much to my wife’s chagrin, but it makes being outdoors all that more fun.  She doesn’t camp much, but I have friends that do and my daughters also love it.
  5. Real Estate.  I have always had a fascination with buying and selling homes.  I worked for Dream Homes, a build on your lot builder, before they were purchased by Jim Walter Homes.  That sparked my interest and I read all kinds of books, attended seminars and did precisely nothing with that knowledge.  Now that I have a solid career, I am revisiting that interest.
  6. Eliminating debt.  I’m not sure if this is an interest or obsession.  I have tried more than a few times to dig out of the hole, but it seems like there is always something to pull you back in.  Travel, camping gear, points collection…:^}  This one is usually in conflict with the others because I’m impatient.
That seems like a pretty good list to get started working on.  We’ll see what catches on.

A new car! Sort of…

Finally, after 17 years I went and bought a new (to me) car.  My 1997 Toyota Camry has been an amazing car and will be passed on to my oldest daughter as she learns to drive.  I felt it was time to get something that could haul the entire family if we needed to, but also get good for road trips and camping, two of my passions. My short list of “must haves” were:

  1. Affordable
  2. Reliable
  3. Third row seats
  4. Bonus, all wheel drive
The only one that kept coming up was the Kia Sorento. There are others for sure, but they were way more expensive.  I found a 2011 that had everything.  It was even the right color.  I took the girls on a four day road trip to camp at Fort Davis and it performed exactly the way I had hoped.  Like my last car, I intend to drive this one for a very long time.

The Look – Casual Riddler

Combining my love of superhero culture and looking sharp, I decided to make suit combinations based off some well known characters.  Since I love the villains the most, I started with one inspired by my friend Josh.  He is THE Riddler hands down.  Has the look down to the details.  Doesn’t just dress the part, but channels the character.  I started with the cufflinks and built around that.

JF J. Ferrar Stretch Gabardine Suit Separates – Slim Fit
I have one of these suits in each of the colors offered.  Navy, Grey and now black.  I like the simplicity of the cut and how well it fits.  It’s a slim suit, so it hugs close but with the stretch fabric there’s no binding.

Berlioni Convertible French Cuffs Shirt

My new favorite shirt for this project, these come in a variety of striking colors.  They fit just as expected with plenty of room to move, but still giving a slim profile.  The convertible cuff means you can button it like a standard shirt, or add some cufflinks for that extra flare all at a very reasonable price.

Green and purple silk pocket square. 

I found this little beauty on Amazon and it help bring the whole thing together.  Mixing the purple of the tie with the green of the shirt.  One of my new favorites.

When I saw these, I knew I had to have them.  What better way to accent The Riddler than with question mark cufflinks?

Purple silk paisley tie

Not exactly the same, but close, I think the purple and black give it a shade of sinister and makes the outfit more class than cartoon.  I think I’d still do a bright solid purple sometimes though. 

That time in Las Vegas

I met this beautiful woman online.  After that first meeting, we saw each other almost ever day after.  We took a few trips, including one with the entire family, on the road, to Florida.  While we were there, I knew I wanted her to be my partner always.  I asked her to marry me and she said yes.  What a lucky guy!   We discussed a few options for getting married and finally decided we wanted it simple, small and fun, so we chose…

A couple of our closest friends were able to make it.

Including my childhood bear.

We chose something…classy.

The wedding was…entertaining.

And now I have this amazing woman with me always.

More bad options

Other Parent is supposed to have the girls to me by 6pm on Thursdays.  This was worked out by spending thousands of dollars with an attorney.  Now, Other Parent has a job that asks her to work late, so if they bring the girls to me it’ll be close to their bedtime.  My other option is to get them after work.  They live across the Metroplex, so traffic is a nightmare.  I could leave my work early, but I already have to do that every other Friday to get them as it is.  I have to burden myself is some way because Other Parent cannot fulfill their obligation.

The kicker to the story is that Other Parent has a significant other.  He already picks up his child so by default he grabs one of mine, but he makes no effort to spend the 5 to 10 minutes it would take to grab the youngest from her after school program.  Heaven forbid he help Other Parent out enough to fulfill her obligation.

Beyond this post, I just don’t have the energy to deal with their disfunction, it just makes me sad my daughters have to grow up in such an environment.

What I’ve learned so far…

I’ve had my daughters for two weeks and two days of our extended summer.  The past few months have been a little rough because they have all been sick off and on for most of this year, even to the point of my youngest needing to see a lung specialist.  In the first few days, the coughs went away and have not been heard since.  The first night was a hoot.  The two youngest were so wound up and anxious, they couldn’t fall asleep.  This general anxiety has hung on, though it appears to be getting a little better.  No particular cause for it.  None of the girls feel their mom listens to them.  I’m sure this is a common malady between most girls and their mom, but the general perception is their mom defers to her boyfriend and his daughter more than them.  All of this concerns me of course since my oldest is going into high school and my second is nearly a teen, but I don’t have a very good line of communication with their mother.  It is frustrating to say this least.

Why make it harder?

If the father of your kids wants to spend more time with them, why would you prevent that?  If you could have more free time, why not take advantage?  If your only weapon left is to use the other parent’s time, maybe you should end the war.

I actually had to ask for extra time with my daughters for Father’s Day.  Even more hilarious is that I got pushback and had to show it was permitted in the divorce decree.

First Date, Part Deux – The Sequel!

After a successful first date and tons of texting for a week, we made plans to see each other again.  By now, I’ve introduced her to Mad Men, found out she has ice spheres for her cocktails and enjoys dressing up properly for a date.  She sets up a Mad Men themed date to showcase my suit and her in a dress.  On the way out, it’s raining…again.  As an after thought, I grab my umbrella to protect my suit.  We meet at the Melting Pot. I walk in and awkwardly fumble with my umbrella and go for a hug as she leans in for a peck on the cheek.  She’s wearing the reddest lipstick I’ve ever seen, but what I’m most drawn too are her gorgeous legs.

We finally get seated and have an amazing meal, complete with gin and tonics, followed by more hours of conversation.  My hand falls upon her leg, by accident of course, and it is smooth and strong.  This is getting serious.  We finally call it a night and as we step out, still raining.  For hells sake, will I never get to kiss this woman?!  I pop open the umbrella, walk her to the car and before she can get in, I pull her close with my free hand and kiss her.  Of course, it’s amazing.  I ridiculously turned on but cold and getting wet, so we say goodbye.  Of course, things went really well so I know this has at least turned into a trilogy.

First Impressions

We’ve all heard the expression, you find love when you least expect it.  It’s strange to actually live it.  As I have written before, my marriage of 15 years ended in divorce.  I then spent a couple of months retooling my style from frumpy suburban dad to less frumpy newly single dad.  After that, I boldly went forth into the dating pool.  After a decade and a half of being out and not having done much dating before I got married, I made a fair amount of mistakes, broke a few hearts and had my heart broken.  Overall the experience has been a positive one with lots of new friends and insights.

After my initial going out as much as possible phase, I settle down to just dating one person at a time.  It was too hard to keep all the details straight and felt serial dating just wasn’t my style.  I wanted to be able to focus on just one person and give them my full attention.  I did just that and had a girlfriend for a few months.  I initially wanted to bail early, but I thought that was just my own shortcomings trying to sabotage me.  In the end, I realized my initial gut feeling was correct and that I just didn’t feel as strongly as she did.  It ended painfully and I regretted having hurt someone, though it was never my intention.

I decided I was done for a while.  It was hard disappointing myself and others.  I went back to the dating sites I used to clean them up after months of non-use.  In the process I came across one that had sent me a little winky, smiley face and I had sent one back but had not done anything else.  The pictures were of this really cute girl, who was quirky, enjoyed dressing up for halloween and liked cats.  Meh, I like cats. So I sent her the canned questions thinking it would take a while to work through all those anyway and one of us would probably lose interest.

A week later, we met.  It was really cold and rainy and I almost didn’t go.  When I walked in, I stopped to survey the room, see if I could spot her.  I stood there for what seems like forever, then I see her wave, stand up and walk to me as I reach her, she opens her arms and says, “I’m a hugger” then embraced me.  Immediately I’m smitten. She’s more beautiful than her pictures, she’s open, and smells amazing.  We proceed to talk for four hours and had it not been arctic cold out when I walked her to her car, I would have gone for the kiss.  Needless to say, it was a fabulous first date and led straight into part two.