Thursday, November 20, 2014

What am I thankful for?....

It's that time of year again; when families get together under one roof to celebrate Thanksgiving.  To show thanks for the blessing of the previous year's harvest by guiltlessly engaging in one of the seven deadly sins as we shove enough calories down our gullet in one afternoon to last us an entire week.

Yes sir, there is no better way to show how thankful you are than to unbutton your pants so that you can squeeze just a few more bites into an already over packed belly.

Next comes the mashed potato coma as you pass out on the couch and sleep through the football game.  (That's okay....the Thanksgiving day games haven't been then same since Barry Sanders retired.)

And just when you think you're belly is about to explode?

"Who wants pie?"

UGH.........I'll be right there.....Got any more cool whip?

Every year on the drive to the family glutton fest Karla asks the same question of us every year.

"So, what are you thankful for?"

Toby: "Uh......."

Tera:  No answer.....She's not paying attention.

Me:  "Shit, I don't know......."

It's almost as if, in Karla's mind, Thanksgiving cannot truly begin until we have all proclaimed what we are thankful for.

I thought once, that if perhaps I didn't say what I was thankful for until after we ate, then the meal didn't count and so we would have to do it over.......No such luck; which is unfortunate because I would have really like to have had another round of stuffing.

So I guess I will use my blog to launch a preemptive "What are you thankful for" strike.

1.  I am thankful that I do not have cable TV.

I know I have said it before....but I am REALLY thankful that Karla and I cut the cable; especially during this time of year when all of the holiday advertisements are in full swing.

Just my humble opinion, but whoever got the bright idea of advertising Christmas before Thanksgiving ---- WAY before thanksgiving --- should be shot. (OK, fine....Just in the leg.  Sheesh)

It's sad, really, to see the story of baby Jesus being swept aside by an overwhelming tide of "Get this" and "Buy that".  Yes sir, that shameless pig known as capitalism seems to get an earlier jump on Christmas with every year.

Fa la la la la --- Kids love gift cards........

Squeal all you want, you greedy swine, I got my family --- it's all I need........All is right with the world.

On a side note ---- does anyone other than me feel like they're committing a crime when they buy a violent video game as a Christmas present?   Karla and I got Toby an X-Box one year and the game just didn't feel right.

Silent night......  rat-tat-tat-tat-tat

Oh come all ye faithful ---- BOOM!!!

Christmas music and the sounds of war ----- not a good combination.

I won't be doing that again.

Anyway....The best part of cutting the cable?

"Toby, Tera, what do you want for Christmas this year?"

"Um, I don't know.....Let me get back with you on that."

By far, cutting the cable was one of the best things we ever did.

2. I'm thankful to be (almost) debt free....

By next fall Karla's vehicle will be paid off and, once again, we will be debt free.

I can't begin to tell you just how liberating it feels to not have to worry about debt. No mortgage, no vehicles, no student loans, no credit cards.....No worries.

I also can't stress it enough....If you haven't looked into Dave Ramsey you should.  You may not agree with everything he advises you to do but, make no mistake, he will get you on the right path to, as he likes to put it, "Financial Peace."

I won't lie.....Paying down the debt was the roughest ten years of my life......But it was worth it.

Paying off the debt has also given me another reason to be thankful.....

3. I'm thankful that I will never, EVER, have to the work night shift again......

Some people love the night shift.  Karla's uncle spent his entire working life on the night shift so that he could run his salvage yard during the day --- and he couldn't have been happier.

I was not that lucky......

Long story short, night shift did not go well once Karla and I started having kids.  (Well, I didn't HAVE the kids --- I just stood in a corner waiting for the epidural to rid the delivery room of the horned, fire breathing demon and bring back my wife. In those moments I was wishing that I had the number of a good exorcist on speed dial.)

Things got really rocky for me when the kids started getting older.  With every passing year their little lives got busier and my sleep became less and less.

I have learned first hand how bad your life can get when you can't get enough sleep.  As a night shifter you do everything you can to trick your body clock into thinking it's time to go to bed.  The room darkening shades, the sleepy time tea, disconnecting the phone, wearing ear plugs, etc. etc.

But, over time, none of it works.  The effect it has on you mentally can be devastating.

I have never gone to the doctor and so wasn't officially diagnosed --- but I'm not an idiot.  I was well aware of all the signs for depression.  The last few years on night shift were not fun -- for me or my family.

It got to the point where if I got more than two hours of sleep then it was a successful trip to bed.  I started taking shots of NyQuil to knock my ass out --- but it never really worked.  Sleeping pills worked at first, but even those started to lose their effectiveness.

Occasionally I would collapse on a Friday afternoon and not wake up again until Saturday evening.  Then the vicious two hours of sleep a day cycle would fire up again for another month or so.

I refused to go to the doctor.  I did not want to be put on the drugs that I was sure I was going to be put on to treat my depression.  I saw the medication as nothing more than a temporary, and expensive, fix.  I know deep down that the real problem was the night shift and, once we paid off all of our debt, I was getting the Hell off of nights.

In retrospect, I know I should have went to the Dr.....But that's me thinking now with a clear mind.  When you don't get enough sleep your brain goes into the toilet.  In retrospect, my mood swings were unpredictable and it wasn't fair of me to force my family to ride my emotional roller coaster.  There were times when I was not a pleasant person to be around.  I should have gone to the doctor.  But logic ceases to exist when you are in a horrible state of mind.

It was absolutely insane.  I could be in a good mood one minute and then --- snap --- I would go into an emotional tail spin.  Just about anything could trigger my rage -- or depression.  A sad song or movie, a news article about the human races lack of compassion (thank God those don't come along very often, right).  Sometimes it could be just getting out of bed.  Sometimes it could be something as simple as Karla just saying hello.......

Sometimes ---- I didn't need a reason to be unhappy.  I .....just.....was.....for no apparent reason whatsoever.  My life was a train wreck.

Now let me take this opportunity to stress that during all of this I never spanked either of my kids; that is not how I operate.  But I did have a few good R. Lee Ermey impersonations that I'm not too proud of.

By the time I left my night shift job my two hours of sleep was split up into several parts.  Maybe a half an hour as soon as I got home.  Maybe an hour in the afternoon, perhaps twenty minutes right before Karla and the kids came home.

I felt sick, and got sick, with alarming frequency.  The bags under my eyes felt like a permanent fixture and every winter I got really pale because I didn't get enough sunlight.  It's dark when you get up and go to work --- it's dark when you go home.

You know, now that I think about it, I'm willing to bet that a long walk in the morning sunlight would have done me a lot of good.  It couldn't have done me any worse than when I was laying in my room tossing and turning.....

The only way I stayed even remotely functional was by downing pot after pot after pot of coffee along with lots of mountain dew. Caffeine was the only thing keeping me upright --- that's scary when you consider that I drove a fork lift for a living.  It's a wonder that I never had an accident.

So as soon as we paid everything off I put in my two weeks notice.  I left behind a great paying job.  I could have built up a huge nest egg, a big retirement, a couple of college funds and a gigantic emergency fund.

But it wouldn't have been worth it....I was a basket case and I needed to leave.....immediately.

After I left it took nearly a full year to get to where I could sleep consecutive hours on a daily basis.  I still battle insomnia from time to time, but it's a cakewalk compared to what I went through working nights...

I worked the night shift for almost twenty years........Holy shit, why?

You never really realize how bad a situation is until you get away from it.  The longer I was away from nights the more I looked back and wondered what possessed me to stick with it for so long.  I will never work another night shift job for as long as I live.  Karla and the kids have told me as much.

Once again, thank you Dave Ramsey....I'm in a much better place now.

So.....There you have it.  That's what I'm thankful for.

Actually....I mentioned three things that I'm thankful for.  That should give me a pass for the next few years, right?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.......