Friday, June 29, 2012

Case In Point

(I have no idea where this image comes from, exactly. If anyone knows the original source, let me know so I can credit it!)

A conversation Jason and I had, recently:

Jason and I were talking about the newest set of 'must-sign-this-now' house papers we had received, and kind of daydreaming about moving in, and home ownership, hardwood floors and yards and dog and garden and all the things that we're hopeful about.

At some point in the conversation, there came a bit of a lull. He turns to me and says, "Are you excited about buying a house?"

I just shrugged. "Yeah. Excited and worried."

"Worried? About what?"

As a note to anyone reading this, I advise you to not ever, ever ask someone with anxiety problems what they are worried about, unless you are totally cool with the horror novel which will follow.

Case in point, my response:

"Well, I'm worried because... it's a big deal. We're going to owe these people a LOT of money. I mean a LOT of money. What if something bad happens? What if several really expensive bad things happen all at once and we can't make our mortgage payments? Everyone's just a couple of big financial disasters away from homelessness, Jason. If enough bad things happen at the same time, we could lose our house. Then we'd be homeless. We'd have to go live in a cardboard box. I don't want to live in a refrigerator box, Jason!"

My loving husband stared at me, his mouth open just a little. It was similar to the way you might watch a little kid studiously picking gum up off the sidewalk and putting it in their mouth.

He gives me this look more often than is probably normal.

I could see him trying to decide which of the several nonsensical things that had just come out of my mouth he wanted to try and respond to first. This was a hard decision - there was so much to choose from.

Well, I thought to myself. He asked, didn't he?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Then & Now

My friend Becky has been in Atlanta for business reasons for a week, and since she had the weekend free, she drove up today to see me! We had a great brunch with friends, took Becky downtown to see the sights, hung out with some other friends doing awesome coffee and bookstore time, and finally saw her off shortly after the giant pile of rain that dumped on us began to let up.

She's on her way back now.

It got me thinking about how quickly time starts to pass, after a while.

Second from left is Becky, and of course I am the crazy kid in glasses at the very right. This was in high school. 

This is a photo of us taken today, in downtown Greenville. 

 I am still a tomboy blonde who wears way too many colors together and Becky is still every inch the confident redhead with a fashion sense I envy, but we're both happily married, and if you give Jason and I about a month we'll both be homeowners and wow adulthood kind of hits you in the face when you let yourself start thinking this way.

Which is probably why I feel the sudden urge to go find some puddles to jump in.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Car Exhaust, Petty Victories, and Other Failures at Mature Adulthood

1. The downside to taking the less-traveled back highway up into the countryside to get to work every morning is that it is forcing me into close contact with a much higher percentage of people who drive cars that smell awful.

You know what I mean - those cars that belch exhaust from a muffler that is bouncing up and down and hanging by paperclips and bubble gum. Or even worse, those people who removed their catalytic converter and not only are they belching exhaust, the sheer volume of noise they are making is actually both annoying and impressive. Both at the same time.

They don't drive too quickly. For some of these people, I find myself concerned that if they do try to drive within five miles of the actual speed limit, their car is liable to just shake apart right in front of me, and I will be left watching a man sitting in a car seat that exists otherwise entirely in the bare steel frame of his ancient compact car, while bits of side panel and hood litter the road on either side of us.

This morning I became heavily concerned that I was stuck behind a man whose very old pickup truck was on what seemed to be some sort of  rapidly accelerating death-clock. The amount of thick, sulfuric smoke that was surrounding him like Pigpen's proverbial dirt-cloud in Peanuts was something that he seemed not the slightest bit concerned about, even as the longer I sat behind him, the thicker and darker it became.

I won't lie; I breathed a sigh of relief when he finally turned off the road.

He's a brave man, whoever he is, to willingly drive a car so close to being on fire.

It may mean that I am less than charitable, but I was not so much conerned about the man's health and safety, but more for my ability to dodge the flying shrapnel when the car finally exploded. When I've only been awake for an hour and forty minutes AND I haven't even had any coffee yet...

Well, let's just say that as far as my reflexes are concerned, this morning was not the best of times.

I can only admire his courage. At the same time, I really hope he was trying to drive to a mechanic and I also really hope I don't see him on my way home, too.

2. Speaking of my drive to work:

While on the interstate this morning driving towards downtown, I was sitting in the middle lane at a comfortable, say, 62 or so (the speed limit is 55 there) when I saw a guy in a gray car doing something like 85 or 90 just fly up behind me, all but slam on his brakes not to just rear-end me right there, jerk himself into the next lane and flip me off as he flew past.

Note: I am driving seven miles over the speed limit, on a three-lane interstate, and the left lane that he shifted into (with no turn signal, of course) was completely empty. There was no reason for him to need to be the middle lane and nothing blocking him from going as fast as he wanted to in the left one. He just flipped me off because I had committed the cardinal sin of existing in his general direction. I decided to be the better person and just made a face at him that he couldn't even see.

As if to say that the universe agreed with my face, we rounded a curve where a cop was hanging out and guess who was immediately pulled over?

I cheerfully gave the man in the gray car a happy wave, and I used all five of my fingers, because when karma likes me I can pretend I am a lady and give one heck of an upper-class Princess Wave.

It was a petty victory, but sometimes you take what victories you can get.

Especially at 7:45 in the morning.

3. I lost my wedding ring. I cannot tell you how. If we're being completely honest with each other and I think we both know that we are, I don't even know exactly when. I had it Thursday night when I arrived home from work. I had it when Jason made us a late dinner. I took it off, as per usual, some time before bed. When I woke up the next morning, it was gone.

I had a tiny stress-out about it before work, and told myself it would turn up the moment I got home, as previous items I have lost did. So I tried the cold-shoulder method; I just pretended I hadn't even noticed it was missing, in the hopes that my wedding ring, like a regretful toddler in a hide-and-seek game gone too long, would eventually remove itself from hiding and beg for forgiveness.

No such thing happened. I didn't find it last night either, and Jason and I have torn apart our tiny one-bedroom apartment. I may have thrown an actual honest-to-God tantrum. I may have followed that tantrum by whining and wailing about wanting chocolate to make myself feel better.

My wedding ring and I are on the outs, apparently. If I had known we were fighting I would have bought it some chocolate or flowers or a dog or something.

Guys, I... I'm pretty sure my wedding ring left me. I think it packed its bags, checked into a hotel, and is preparing to decorate someone else's third finger on their left hand.

Either that or the cat knocked it off my computer desk, batted it around, and it is living under something and we just haven't found it yet.

It had better be that second one, because I have never been abandoned by an inanimate object before and I do not plan to start now.

4. We are in the "hurry up and wait" stage of home buying now. Every time a set of papers is served up to us to sign (and it has been a magnificent multi-course banquet of papers we must sign, so far - every time we think we're done we discover the last paper was just a palate cleanser before the next onslaught) they must signed right now. Jason and I work slightly different hours and while we have a scanner at home, we don't have a printer. I have a printer at work, but no scanner.

You can see where I'm going with this.

So there's a lot of "print out immediately and sign"... and then wait until I get home so I can get Jason to sign it and send it over.

But we've now hit the point where we're basically waiting on the lender to say "woo hoo!" to all the dollar signs in their eyes and give us money, and have had the inspection/termite inspection/etc and so forth and have just a couple more things to deal with when it comes to the sellers.

Hopefully we'll be living in our new home in a month or less. I am still wistfully dog-shopping and holding off on a couple of magazine subscriptions until I can give them the new address and it not be terribly presumptuous of me.

Oh, how we need to start packing. We so need to start packing.

Two years ago, when we were preparing the move from Illinois to South Carolina (yes, I had typed it the other way around originally, but I can edit these things so nyah), I already had piles of boxes in the extra room back in our duplex. Granted, there IS no extra room here (in fact, there are exactly three actual closed-off "rooms" - bedroom, bathroom, living room/kitchen/dining/etc) so there's really nowhere to put the boxes, but I am getting antsy. Hopeful and antsy.

It's a weird combination of feelings.

5. I am working a very, very long day. It's the next big opening, and we have three different shows starting up. We have one show in our upstairs gallery that is seriously cool; it's this guy who does life-size images of people made out of cut-up and glued/stapled/nails/pinned together denim. As in blue jeans.

Any pictures you could even see wouldn't do it justice; you have to seriously go look for yourselves. They are gigantic and so cool. The people are sometimes superimposed against cutouts of sinking ships, and run the gamut from an older man sitting in a chair to a little zombie girl with a sparkler.

Okay, she's not supposed to be a zombie, I don't think. But my brain, which has seen way too many horror movies, immediately reads her as one.

We have a landscape show that four different artists collaborated in that is very, very pretty. It's traditional painting - sometimes watercolor, sometimes oil, sometimes acrylic but simply landscapes. Waterfalls, mountains, monadnocks like Table Rock, fall leaves or just big, rocky outcroppings are all subjects utilized. I am illustrative at best and have traditionalist tendencies, so this is the kind of thing I find myself deeply interested in.

Also upstairs, we're running kind of a fun exhibition based on Route 66, the
Dixie Highway
, and that sort of culture of kitschy travel that used to be so big. The idea of a vacation, for instance, spent driving around seeing what there is to see instead of going to a specific place, staying there, and coming back with as few detours or scenic routes as possible. It's a neat juxtaposition or road maps and images of old roadside stands, mechanic shops, that sort of thing.

Have I mentioned I like working in an art and history museum? I'm not sure I've brought that up enough yet.

I think I could stand to bring it up a little bit more.

Tonight I get to smile and nod at a pile of people, schmooze when necessary, and make off with more catered food than is probably good for me. I also get paid overtime for this, so I feel like everyone wins here.

Or, you know, I win.

Same thing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

This Is Not Trash

This is not trash.

These two garbage bags (Hefty does a recycled-plastic grocery bag now! Pretty cool, except that the ties are noticeably weaker) are not filled with paper, or plastic, or any of the waste that people end up tossing out every day.

Except that I am tossing out what's in these bags.

Yesterday, I spent what is frankly a surprising amount of my time on the first Moving Project I made for myself. Well, the second moving project, but the first I actually finished. 

So we're going to pretend it was the first.

I took every piece of clothing I had in this house, dumped it all in one gigantic heap on the bed, and then sifted through to figure out what I thought I could stand to lose from my wardrobe. Out went corduroy jackets in bright neon red from when I worked at Christopher & Banks, out went a red hooded sweatshirt that I have had literally since I was 12 years old (that I'm pretty sure my sister gave me as a hand-me-down so it's even older than that), out went T-shirt after T-shirt after T-shirt that I don't wear anymore. Out went pants I haven't worn in years, jeans I'd long since replaced but kept around "just in case".

I have these hoarding tendencies that I'm working on controlling. They come out the most when it comes to books and clothing. The 'pack up a box of books to give away' project is coming soon, but I'm not looking forward to that at all.

In any case, yesterday was a success,and this is the end result - two trash bags absolutely full of clothing that will make some other nice person very happy, but which I simply do not need any longer.

I am going to take these trash bags, and I am going take them over to Goodwill or to one of the clothing donation bins in the Walmart parking lot, and I am going to give them to someone else who will give them a more useful life than I ever did.

I told Jason he would be proud of how much I convinced myself to part with, and I think he was.

Granted, he probably would've been prouder if I hadn't spent a couple of hours yesterday shopping with my friend Sarah, coming home with all new shirts and a pair of new shoes. I'm sure Sarah's husband was absolutely thrilled with me introducing her to Fiore Boutique, a store in the mall she'd never been to that is full of adorable vintage-style clothing, necklaces, scarves, shoes, books, candles, stuff to put on the walls... it's just a super cute store full of stuff I like. The website doesn't do it justice - the physical store location is absolutely stuffed full of supercute things.

Also, as though the store was aware they needed to seduce Sarah into being a regular customer, they were playing Frank Sinatra the whole time we were there. Every time I had previously been there, I kept thinking that the store made me think of Sarah, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but yesterday when she started singing along with the music, I realized it; they always seem to be playing the best standards and that is the kind of music I associate Sarah with.

Anyway, we both bought too much and stayed within budget, so we declared ourselves victors, got coffee at Starbucks, and went back to Sarah's house to show off our haul.

Sarah and I are terrible influences on each other, but that's just the way we like it.

Today is another run-around Monday - I'm getting used to them when it comes to this whole buying-a-house thing. I'm starting off at the lender's, signing paper after paper after paper (although not THE papers - we're not closing today or anything), then I'm heading out to the actual house to talk to the inspector and my realtor while the inspector is finishing up. So hopefully, while it will be a touch manic, I'll be done with everything by 1 PM and can come home, relax...

and start setting aside books.

Or maybe I'll just decide I need them all and we'll keep every single book forever.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Things - 1

I was thinking about doing another Mindless Consumerism post, but I thought I'd do things a little different this time. Instead, here's some random things around the internet that interested me this week:

1. This photo of a working blacksmith at Old Picture of the Day. I love this blog - the blogger does themed weeks. There was a week of woodworking, a week of blacksmithing photos, ice cream, windmills, and currently there are photos of log cabins. This blacksmith photo was taken in South Missouri in 1940. That's part of what's so cool about blacksmithing - technology has advanced, of course (plasma cutters are a good example), but you can still create the exact same way and make something beautiful, or functional, or both.

A real blacksmith would tell you that if it is made perfectly to serve its function, it's always beautiful.

2. This short little essay by Dr. Brent over at Beekman 1802 about "dirt people". He quotes Eartha Kitt as having said, "I trust the dirt. I don't trust diamonds and gold."One of my favorite quotes of all time.

He points out, rightly, that there is something incredible in eating what your own hard labor brought out of the ground. The older I get, the more gardening becomes supremely fascinating and interesting to me. Our plan for the house, what with its huge yard, is to set up a vegetable garden and be able to grow some of our own food.

Sign that you are finally an adult - you describe gardening as supremely interesting, and you are absolutely sincere.

3. This skirt on etsy, in this awesome dark orange color, over at sophiaclothing's shop. I've been eyeing this skirt for a while. I just think that color is so pretty.

4. Making It Lovely's informational post about painting a room yourself. She gets really, really thorough. I'm spending a lot of time right now reading about painting, paint colors, what colors one SHOULD paint in rooms that face which direction, all that kind of stuff. If I'm finally going to actually own a dwelling, you can bet I'm going to be painting it colors I like.

I also am getting into Making It Lovely, a little bit. Design blogs are sort of odd for me - I get absolutely fascinated and read like crazy, but almost always the style of the bloggers is completely the opposite of mine.

 5. No picture for this one: Justine Musk's awesome blog post, 27 Do's + Don'ts For Being a Badass Woman. This is an awesome list and I think it should be printed out and handed to women on the street.

6. This sort of nautical-themed messenger bag from ZeroBags on etsy. It is super cute, and I want it, and I would find a way to wear it with many things so don't judge me.

I can feel you judging me.

7. The Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture put up this awesome chart on seasonality on fruits and vegetables. It's a very comprehensive list, letting you know what's in season (and therefore at its freshest and most nutritious) when. Each actual fruit/veggie has a link where you can go to info on that particular veggie and why it's healthy, that sort of thing.

8. And actually, while we're on the subject, Milk and Honey Organics is a company that my friend Sarah and I have taken up with. You pay depending on the size of the fruit and veggie basket you choose to get, and each week you have vegetables and fruit delivered to your house. They strive for organic, but focus on local as well. We have received some incredible awesome stuff from them, including purple sweet potatoes that smelled like sugar when you cut them open, grapes that were some of the best basic white grapes I've ever had, blueberries, kale, and just all kinds of stuff.

We've been really pleased with them, so for any locals around, you might give them a try! We just cut the amount that they cost per week out of our grocery budget, and we haven't felt deprived at all - there are weeks when we feel like we couldn't have gotten that many vegetables at the grocery store if we tried. This is not sponsored, or suggested, or anything. I just like 'em so much I wanted to tell everyone about them.

9. On the flipside of houses, this blog: Ugly House Photos. It's a blog kept by a realtor based out of the Phoenix area, and she puts up photos (sometimes from the website listing for the houses, sometimes photos she was given or took herself) of some of the weirder things people do to houses when they're trying to sell. Or, in the above photo, it shows you how much work and effort some nasty people did to get a couple bucks of copper wires out of the wall... and ceiling.

10. And finally, over at Whole Living I kind of stumbled over this piece on prayer by Kate Braestrup, a Unitarian Universalist minister. The link on her name takes you to an Amazon link for a book on praying she recently wrote.

Now the link through to the rest of the piece is currently not working for me, but I actually like the first bit enough to link and see if the rest starts working again soon. I just like it - even reading about prayer, whether religious or more simply ritualized, is pretty meditative for me. It puts my brain in a good place.

I thought it made sense to end in a good place.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Fruit

The blueberries are starting to turn, well, blue in the Native Plants Garden at work.

It has been a rainy, cloudy couple of days. I am not even going to pretend I'm not enjoying it. The choices in South Carolina in the summer are A. humid, warm, and rainy or B. humid, sunny, and blistering hot. I'll take the former, thanks.

Monday, we put an offer on the house. Yesterday they came back and countered. We accepted, and now we're one step closer to owning it! Now we just have to finish up the loan - at least one or two more meetings with the lender, I think just one more with the realtor, and I get to go talk to the inspector next Monday!

We are so excited, people.

I can't wait until we can show you a few pictures!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Down by the River

"Down by the river" is the title of this post because it is, basically, where I spent Friday and Saturday evening in a nutshell.

Friday, we met our friend Liz from Unscripted at Coffee Underground for grown-up coffees and dinner. I had the Nutty Irishman drink which by the way is the best version of coffee ever - Bailey's and Jameson? Yes please. Liz had something delightful with mint in it whose name I do not recall. Jason had water because our plan was to eat dinner and then go walk around in South Carolina humidity and Jason actually planned ahead for that. Although later he got a Guinness, which is definitely the perfect solid beer choice.

We ended up having tortilla chips and salsa. I had a black bean wrap because yum, and Liz had some kind of hot sandwich. The sandwich also looked delightful, and I have also forgotten its name. This is why I am not a professional restaurant reviewer. Well, mostly it's because that is not a job I have ever been offered.

I could eat food for a living, though. I could definitely remember food names if I were being paid to do it.

Well, either that or my career as a food critic would be terribly short-lived.

Jason also had delicious food, but because he is right here with me right now I can ask him what he had. He informs me that he had the hot ham and brie sandwich. And also that Liz had the turkey, apple, and brie sandwich. I'm going to leave my paragraph about forgetting what she had up, though, because without that paragraph the whole food critic thing just makes no sense. 

 We ended up wandering around downtown, winding around Falls Park and the Reedy River. The water is really low due to a serious lack of rain, so we hopped out on some rocks and ended up hanging out in the middle of the river... which was probably only a few inches deep where we are, what with the aforementioned lack of water a-fallin' from the sky.

Liz was a victim of my propensity for ridiculous self-portrait photography. I like to think she did not suffer too much.

We ended up making plans to hang out Saturday too, which was nice since I had something to get me through my exciting day of counting things (as recalled in the blog entry before this one). Actually, I'm going to take some photos of the new merchandise one of my vendors brought in. She's one of my favorite vendors in the store, and she does these handmade greeting cards, notepads, and bookmarks, plus a new product - pens with kind of thematic paper inside them and little toppers. It'll make more sense when you see them.

We went back downtown Saturday night to go see Shakespeare in the Park - a free outdoor play in the same park we'd been wandering around the night before. We watched them perform Much Ado About Nothing with our friends Lauren, Corey, and Sarah (my cook-tastic lady friend who blogs sometimes over at A Kitchen Full of Flours).  We had a great time - it's one of the funniest of Shakespeare's plays, and the actors were having a great time... which almost always means that the audience has a great time, too. Sarah, Corey, Lauren, Liz, and I ended up just hanging out and chatting for quite a while after the play ended. Sarah chased ducks around, we discovered that her picnic backpack is the outdoor equivalent of the carpetbag from Mary Poppins, and we watched some people at an outdoor wedding nearby have a fantastic time dancing, if not entirely a sober time. Good times had by all.

Also good iced peppermint coffee. Although that was only had by me.

In house news, we need to meet with the lender and the realtor within the next couple of days. We're finally in a position to make an offer on the house. When I know more with any certainty, I'll let you guys know first thing!

We are so ready to be homeowners, you don't even know. Although at first we'll sort of be rattling around a house with no furniture in it, since we've been apartment dwellers so long.

Also, the house-to-be has hardwood floor in the living room. If you guys don't think I'm going to pull a Risky Business the second that house is officially ours and we've moved in, well...

I don't know what to say except that I guess you don't know me so well.

This has clearly been a learning moment for all of us.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Flight of the Bumblekatie

Sorry, sports fans. Meant to update sometime in the last few days and it never quite came together. I'm actually taking a bit of a break to type this now from my whirlwind day. Well, it's actually a monotonous constant drumbeat of counting kind of day so far, but still. It's whirlwind-y in that I keep looking up and realizing an hour has gone by and I didn't notice.

We're about to send out promos about our next set of shows we have opening in late June, so that means lots and lots and lots of peeling address labels, organizing post cards by zip code, then counting how many we have and how much they weigh and math math math math math. This is on top of this being the weekend that our current show is coming down, so my coworker and I were breaking up our mathscapades by running up and down stairs almost nonstop yesterday. Oh, and add a field trip with 40 kids to that.

You can see why this last couple of days might make functioning intellectually a little more challenging for me, since most math problems are interpreted in my brain as "x + y = orange popsicles" and it never ends well. Today has been very quiet, though, so I've actually been kind of racing through what I've got to finish before we leave today.

Except that I have a vendor coming in to discuss some things and drop off some work, so I'll have to finish all that math AND get her merchandise put into the system. In two and a half hours. Which sounds like enough time, and it probably is, but since when has logic or reason ever stopped me from worrying about something?

Oh well. In the parlance of my boss, if it doesn't get done until Tuesday, nobody dies. I just don't want to have to come back in to more math on Tuesday, so I'm trying to finish today.

One thing I've learned this week is that buying a house involves shuffling lots of papers from one location to another one. No, we haven't bought the house yet. We're still in the paper-shuffling stage where I can't really give you any news in particular other than I think we finally got all the paperwork together that our lender needs. Hopefully once I get that pile to her on Monday, things will move much more quickly.

Then I can tell you stuff.

Can and will.

Well, I feel like my brains are kind of back.

Now I want an orange popsicle, though.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Frog, Sick, House, Insert Word Here

I don't feel terribly well today, so here's a frog:

He and his brothers and sisters live in our bog at work. This is not the end result of the earlier tadpole picture - that was a bullfrog tadpole, and he hides deeper. These are sweet, colorful little green frogs who plop under the water when I walk up, and if I sit still on the sunny rock, come back up and hang out until I move again.

This morning I woke up, took a shower, stumbled out of the bathroom and thought, Yeah, I'm not going to work today. My stomach was apparently the setting for some kind of terrible hurricane and my head had become collateral damage. It was about all I had to make it to the computer.

I called in sick, took some medicine, laid down, and slept and slept and slept. Well, actually what I did was lay down on the couch, sleep, wake up in an uncomfortable position and go sit at the computer for a few minutes, fall asleep in my chair, then wake up with my neck hurting and go back to bed, and sleep there. Going back to actual bed was apparently the trick, because I stayed asleep in there for some time.

I'm up now. I feel about a hundred zillion times better, though. Sleep is the great healer, let me tell you.

It's 1 PM and I am just now having my coffee.

Tomorrow should be back to business as usual.

We think we had kind of a breakthrough while house-hunting yesterday - I'm not going to jinx anything by going into detail too early, but cross your fingers, say a prayer, light a candle or draw a happy face in sidewalk chalk on your driveway for us... hopefully within the next two to three weeks I'll have the best kind of happy news.

Well, the second-best kind.

The best kind of happy news is going to have to wait for a while.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thoughts on a Commute

Currently, because of the side of town we live on, I commute between forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on route and traffic, to get to my job. The problem is mostly that I live on the other side of downtown Greenville, and four days of my five-day workweek I am fighting traffic until I can get onto the north side. After awhile (since I can't imagine there are that many people commuting from Greenville - a city - to Pickens - a smallish town), it's just me, the road, and the mountains.

See, it could definitely be a worse drive than that. Actually, before I started taking this road, it was.

I used to take a different highway to work, mostly because it was a highway I knew and had used more than once before to drive to our friends' house in Clemson. However, that particular route not only took me through downtown Greenville, it forced me to bottleneck with the other commuters in Easley, as well. Easley's roads are not terribly well-designed for the morning commute, and I'm pretty sure their traffic lights were programmed to cause as much congestion as possible. Add to this that you've got commuters going to Easley, taking the split to Clemson, and even some hardy souls with me climbing the hills up to Pickens, and you've got a serious traffic problem.

It took me an hour in the morning, an hour at night. On Saturdays, when I would get lucky and the traffic is terribly light at 7:30 in the morning, it would still take me about forty-five to fifty minutes.

So I decided to try the country highway I'm using now.

I still have to get through downtown Greenville, but once I've done that, my shoulders relax and I watch my fellow commuters peel away left and right, turning towards their respective places of employment or dropping their kids off at day care or school.

NPR is a steady stream of news this early in the morning. The light is tinged a little bit yellow-gold, with the sun not all the way up yet. By the time winter comes around, I'll be driving in pinkish-gray dark. If I time things correctly, my drive takes me about forty minutes on weekdays and a half-hour on Saturday.

The way home, though, is a little bit different.

The light is brighter, there are other cars on the road, and I can't time things as effortlessly. Nonetheless, I just don't worry so much on this highway as compared to the busier, semi-city highway I was taking before. Once we've bought our house, I should actually cut my commute down to a half-hour on bad days, a little less than that on a good one. Trust me, I'm not complaining - I prefer to stick with the back way, to come around to work from the side.

The simple truth is this - I was raised on country roads. This one goes up and down a little bit more than I'm used to, but driving past pastures of cattle, the occasional horse, and homemade wooden signs nailed to old trees is a pretty familiar feeling for me. Up to and including the consistently slow-crawling elderly men in ancient, beat-up Ford trucks I find myself stuck behind almost every day.

There's just something pretty seriously cool about driving up into the mountains to go to work. I can see why people live up here. I can see the draw - I mean, the last picture up there? Directly to the right of that SUV is someone's gigantic green lawn, fenced with your average white picket fence, acres and acres of yard. Imagine stepping outside in the afternoon and that being your view.

I'm going to make public this goal, here and now - one day I want to be wealthy enough to have a giant house in the mountains. And a passel of dogs. Maybe enough cats to make Jason nervous.

Ssssh, though.

Don't tell him I said that.