Day 18 – Sunday – Invitations
After last night’s surprise conversion, I took Melissa aside and gave her one of my extra Bibles. I told her where to start reading and offered my services as a Christian tutor. She excitedly accepted and told me again how much she liked me. This time it came from a non-drunk girl and sort of set me back on my heels. I asked her if she had accepted Jesus just so we could get closer to one another – to have more in common – She promised me that it had nothing to do with a potential relationship. She said that she had been close to a decision like that before she even came on this particular traveling nurse journey. I nodded. She took my hand. “I need God and I want you. Those are separate and I hope you can live with my efforts to build both relationships.” I smiled in awe of this new turn of events. Maybe I do need to research those Lubbock homes for sale and settle down. The cost of living is really good here, I hear. I wouldn’t want to keep Melissa in a corporate housing situation forever.
Listen to me being so smitten. I had actually started to fantasize about marriage and homes for sale in Lubbock, Tx. It had only been two or so weeks and I had been swept up in the longing for change. Sometimes I think life feels good and we make due/peace with what we have. In other words, what we have is good enough. But then something extraordinary like this happens and we shift gears to consider trading in the lesser good for the possible amazing-ness of what could be. Ahhh – what could be…And it would be possible vocationally because we do have an outpost office here in Lubbock – I’d have to push papers from behind a desk but that vision seemed to be a sacrifice worth making.
After considering it for the morning, I added caffeine to the mix and met up with the three nurses who wanted to follow through on our invitations to our hallway party to happen in less than a week’s time. We figured that most people would be awake and in their homes past one o’clock and so we did our door to door. It was funny to see the responses of the extended neighbors. Some of them probably just peep-holed us and refused to answer. Others opened their door and listened to our ideas. I’d say half of the thirty people we spoke to were all-in. So, we told them we would make a flyer about the details and the party would commence on the next Friday evening.
Day 17 – Saturday – Rhythms and church
I slept in again because I could and decided to get the nurses to join me for an outside breakfast at IHOP. The International House of Pancakes always makes me feel so international – almost like I am a spy for pancakes. Actually I usually feel filled with short-term joy followed by a greasy sickness for the long-term. Either way it was cool to get us four out of our Lubbock corporate housing and into the atmosphere of human strangers. The food was good, the coffee was hot, the community was fun (I got to hear some rather gory stories about the hospital from nurses’ mouths – no McDreamy or McSteamy stuff), the waitress was friendly and we all ate too much. I don’t know how nurses do their job – too much sickness and poop clean-up for me. I’d last one hour and be totally and forever changed by the sights and smells. Anyway, I have much respect for these three and I have been blessed to make their acquaintance. My work trip would have been much different and much sadder if they were not my neighbors.
They asked me to tell them why I was unmarried. They had assumed I was a mourning widow who had been married to a beautiful saint of a woman that died a martyr’s death. Or they figured I might be a divorcee who was still burned by the very idea of marriage. When I told them I had never been married, they asked me if I was gay – you know, normal conversation. I told them I was a straight man who just wanted to wait for the right girl. When I said this, they seemed to have a silent conversation going with their eyes – a female convo I wasn’t allowed into. They finished their silence and finished with this: What about one of us? We are young and we like you?” I replied, “I would not be able to pick – all of you are so amazing and all of you are so young. Best wait for a more excellent match than an aging salesman and marketer.” They all smiled at me. Inside I was bubbling because I would have liked to married them all. They were all my type – pretty and untethered. Plus they could handle life on the road.
I changed the subject and asked them if they would join me for the evening service at the church. Two of them cringed as if I had just asked them to experience a guillotine drop. Melissa said yes though. “I’m not trying to get you three converted to the way I believe. But I want you to check out what the church architects are doing there. There is some badass 3D animation that shows off their vision for church design. I know that might sound boring, but I thought I’d ask if you would put your eyes on it. I’m thinking of making a significant contribution but I want others’ opinions.” They all looked around at each other and sighed. “Okay, but kicking and screaming.”
I won’t go into much detail about the actual service but in my opinion it was really deep and powerful. Each of them in their own way responded to the well-oiled portions of the service. I noticed that Melissa actually raised her hand when the pastor asked if anyone in the congregation wanted God to enter their hearts. I was flabbergasted and the other two girls were even more blown away as Melissa went to the front of the church to accept Jesus. I was thankful. I think I know which of the three I would want to marry now. Melissa is a tenderhearted girl and I think her response was genuine.
After the service, we all went to dinner at a place called Las Brisas and it was fantastic. I paid for all of us and the dinner conversation was all about Melissa’s decision rather than the church capital campaign. It was funny to hear the other two question her. It was almost the Grand Inquisition.
Finally, we went back to our short-term furnished apartments and split up. The day was done and I considered it to be marvelous.
Day 16 – Friday – Private Christian School
I don’t typically talk much about the clients I go to. I sort of keep business off of this journal because to me it is fairly boring. Everyone works and everyone knows that the job is not all the exciting. But today after I arose and hit the pool I saw that I was supposed to go meet with a private Christian school that is well known across the South Plains as being one of the best at preparing kids for life after graduation. This Lubbock Pre-K through 12th grade academy is known as Southcrest Christian School and I was really looking forward to seeing what they do which is so much better than other schools.
When I got there, the building was not that fancy and I didn’t see anything special about the inside classrooms but then I met with the Headmistress/Principal of the school and I could feel a difference. This woman was a true visionary who had an obvious love for God, education and leadership. Every word out of her mouth dripped with wisdom and she had a depth of understanding that blew me away. I hadn’t met someone that smart and generous in a long time. She told me that every teacher she hired was groomed to do more than prepare kids for national tests. Every teacher there groomed their classroom of children (Lubbock Pre-K to 12th Grade) to be a good human who knew how to discover truths all around them. This principal took me to several of the classrooms and let me sit in a bit. What I felt was this school was dedicated to a classical style of education – more Platonic than W. Bush. When I was a kid and went to a private Christian school, it was a harsh environment, but here in this place there was a light feeling and you could see happiness in the kid’s faces. Frustration was dealt with in private talks with great counselors. When we got down to business and they hired my company to do its marketing, I was glad that we had landed such a lauded institution.
When I got home from my workday, I talked to my nursing friends and asked them if they though we might invite our whole hallway of guests to a mixer of sorts. Really it would just be a party up and down the hallway with everyone offering some sort of food and drink. My extroversion was kicking hard and they were game to visit door to door with me to invite others to join in with our plans for the following Saturday. We would start asking people tomorrow
It had been a really good day and I was ready for my weekend.
Day 15 – Thursday – Tom and his newest shed
Just a reminder – Tom is staying at the same Lubbock Corporate Housing as me and he is the guy who buys storage sheds trying to find hidden treasures that he can pawn or sell. I cannot imagine doing that for a living because of the risk involved. What if you never find anything of worth? I guess he can always get a paid job somewhere and do this shed buying more as a hobby. Or maybe he has just figured out how to make it pay off. Anyway, Tom spotted me in the hotel lobby this morning as I was having breakfast and he came over to say hey. He asked me to come with him to his new shed (the Nazi item collection one) and see what he does. He thinks it will intrigue me and I think he is sick of being alone on the road. I agree to go with him at 7 o’clock that evening. Why not? I don’t think he is going to kill me and leave me in the shed to rot. I don’t know why I even have that thought but I have it often. Whenever I go somewhere new with some male person, I always think of the possibility of my getting killed. I can’t recall what horror show I watched as a kid scarred me like this. Still it’s a brain auto-response for me
Work is just work today. I organize what I have done already on this work trip and I meet with three clients who have been doing business with us for several years. Home office just wanted me to make sure all of them are satisfied with the continued work we do for them. Two of them were enthusiastic about staying with us and one was leaning toward letting us go – that is until I turned up my charm and sales ability to 11. By the end of the meeting, they were back on board and even apologizing for leaning out of our business window. They cited a tough quarter and had figured our work could be streamlined out – save them some money. But, I was able to show them how letting us go would hurt them worse than help them. Success. I still get fired up when I can clearly communicate a plan to a client and they accept it. I feel trusted when that happens.
Anyway, let’s focus on the shed. Tom suggests we take his huge Chevy truck and so we do. We drove for like 45 minutes and he opened up about his passion for sheds. He also told me that he is able to do this type of work full-time because he inherited about $500,000 a year ago. Nice to know just in case I need a loan.
At the shed, which was not one of those modern, climate-controlled sorts, we got out of the truck and he explained how the whole buying process goes. He unlocked the shed he had been telling me about and he showed me how he separated the junk and the “treasures.” It was pretty cool how he determined the worth of his find. Then he showed me the back of the shed, which had some weird stuff. He showed me the Nazi dagger and some other Nazi junk. “This shed was supposedly owned by a sweet old granny,” he said. Apparently she was into skinheads and Hitler. “Look over here. This is the weirdest part.” I walk with him to a back corner and half expect to hear him fire up a chainsaw behind me with the intent of decapitating me. (I’ve got issues.) Instead Tom pulls back a green tarp and what I see is both funny and horrible. More horrible than funny. Before my eyes are three dead dachshunds who have gone through a taxidermy process. Then they were branded with a swatiska (I guess they were branded post-death). And all three had little Gestapo hats on. Granny must have sewn those herself. They also had Hitler moustaches hanging under their long snouts. And then to top it off, they all had electric buttons on them so you could press them and they would say, “Sieg Heil.” Oh and they each had one leg up and pointed forward so they appeared to be goose-stepping. After I took all of this in, Tom said, “How messed up is this?” We spend about 30 minutes talking about some of the other items inside and then we head out.
The anthropologists at top Texas colleges would probably like to check the above out – or psychiatrists.
Nothing significant happened on the way home or once I got back to my short-term furnished apartment. It was just normal corporate housing time. I reflect on the Nazi dogs and decide not to automatically trust grandmothers anymore.
Day 14 – Wednesday – Biblical Existentialism?
Yes, I do believe the Bible – all of it, not just parts. Call me what you will but I have had enough experiences with God to deny His existence. So, do what you want with that bit of information but just know I love to study it and I trust it to guide me through life. Lately, I’ve been studying the book of Ecclesiastes and I think it’s the best book for non-believers to start with (followed by the book of John). I also think it is an oft-overlooked book in the Christian world because of how direct it is. The author, Solomon, doesn’t play around with PC writing. He basically just says that life, apart from God, is totally meaningless. It reminds me of when Paul says that everything is rubbish in comparison to Jesus and his resurrection. The meaninglessness of life is something I keep as a close companion.
Why you ask?
Well, when I get all worked up about my job or my significance or even politics and marriage, I remind myself of the truth of how much it all really means. It keeps me grounded and stops me from panicking over silly things that might seem at the time to be major. “Fear God and keep His commands.” That’s how Solomon ends it and that’s where I need to begin my days. Now, I don’t use this as license to be lazy. I still have to live out my life all for the glory of God and I have to pay my bills. So I think I have a balance between doing things for the right reason. But I like to read this book of Ecclesiastes every couple of months to make sure I don’t lose sight of what is crucial.
Why do I say all of that?
Well, with all of the church design stuff and the cool 3D animations and my optimization opportunities, I was leaning more toward thinking this world is where I need to focus. It’s amazing how even godly pursuits can get me off track.
I have also been studying it for the sake of my nursing neighbors. My nurses next door have seen me studying the Bible in the lobby and have been asking me more and more about it. They all grew up in Christian homes and all three went to a private Christian schools (Lubbock Pre-K through 12th grade) but it has become apparent to them that they don’t know hardly anything about the depths of the Bible. I’m not a Bible-thumper and I don’t push my hardcore beliefs on anyone but when someone wants to know more, I ask them to do Bible studies. So, as of this morning, these three girls have asked if they can study with me. They all say that nursing is so stressful and that they can hardly keep their balance or their focus straight. So, Ecclesiastes is going to be something we do together. I wonder what they will think of it. I also wonder if this study might bring me closer to “in love” with all three of them. I’m already attracted to them physically and now we enter into one of the most intimate things you can do with someone. I guess I’ll have to see if there are spiritual sparks, which sounds goofy I know. I need to remember why I am doing this study in the first place. I cannot let my loneliness drive me to fall more in love with them than with God. Classic mistake. A mistake that Solomon made (see 1 Kings 11 I think). Almost ruined him. May women not ruin me. As Mickey says to Rocky, “Women weaken legs.” My legs are pretty weak already and so I pray for the Holy Spirit to help keep me afloat.
Day 13 – Tuesday – A day off sort of…
So, don’t think me lazy – I’m taking the day off from work. Home office is cool with it because I hardly ever take a personal day. I’m their dedicated, successful and committed cog in a wheel of a machine. And I’m getting back one of my wasted weekend days (stomach sickness if you recall). I will still be productive though. I am sleeping in until 10 o’clock and then I will head over to Halo Architects and Gone Virtual Studios. These are the companies who are building the church I have only been to twice. I guess I am weird to get involved but I’m a curious guy. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Okay. Here are the highlights of my day. Sleeping in felt amazing. The bed in my corporate housing suite is sweet (see what I did there…) It’s perfectly comfortable and my body gave me a fist bump for lying on this bed for longer than usual. After this excellent snooze, I sauntered down to where breakfast is served and I chewed slowly some fruit and granola. Then I took my time driving. I drove at a leisurely pace and arrived right on time for my meeting. And the meeting was amazing for me – not because I realized that I would be invaluable to these guys’ efforts for this particular church design. It was because I got to meet some very hardworking and creative fellows who were nice enough to let me shadow them as they put the church design together in front of me. It had already been done and presented to the church, but I got to see the 3D animations and architectural renderings they used to stage out a church design project. It was fascinating. I never thought this sort of high-tech business would exist in Lubbock, Texas but it does. They would fit right in in LA or New York but they choose to run their national juggernaut in the Hub of the Plains.
Anyway, I bought the staff lunch for letting me in on their business and I asked if they could see a role for me in the future marketing of this design. The reason I asked about doing something once the end of the project was because I could tell they had their own in-house power marketing skills being utilized from start to finish. They were in charge of everything (of course with the church giving plenty of input). They staged everything from church dialogues to budgeting and fundraising. The technology meeting up with strong work ethics was very impressive. In response to my question, the head guy told me that I might ask the church leaders how I might be an effective internal change agent as they prep their congregation through small groups. I said I would do just that and said that if they ever needed me to come by and buy lunch again, I’d do it. He laughed and told me he appreciated my caring about their business.
Then all of the sudden it was like something in his head clicked. He said, “I actually just thought of something you could do for our company as a whole if you are willing. Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) something that you use in your marketing?” I smiled and nodded. “Yeah man. It’s one of the main things I offer companies. Then he asked if I would do some inbound marketing for them. They needed their websites to be optimized. They wanted to let more of the nation know they existed. I told him I would be happy to and we agreed to meet in a week or so to discuss how that would work.
So, my day off ended up being a great day where I could rest up and also help a church and its architects using SEO. By the time I got to this journal, I was feeling as if my life was being guided by the Lord, which is a fantastic feeling. I went to bed and slept soundly with no dreams of fish gills or treasure chests.
Day 12 – Monday again – Feeling better
Same routine in the morning from my Lubbock corporate housing spot – wake early, pool, breakfast (a light one since I’m just getting back into stride with my belly), and then off to meet with clients. I ran into the three traveling nurses in the lobby on the way out and they briefly told me about their weekend. They went to see the Buddy Holly museum (it was much smaller than they had imagined) and then they stuck around in what is known as the depot district to have some fun. The depot district is where there are a bunch of bars and clubs where people blow off steam after a tiring work week. Also, there is a lot of live music that they told me was quite good. They said they went to La Diosa, which is a classy wine bar. It was a good time and none of them got drunk and sick this time – always a plus. I sort of have a crush on all of them – “A traveling crush” – one that will never lead anywhere but still makes the heart beat fast. Melissa still acts a bit embarrassed by her pledge of semi-love towards me on the night of The Office. But the other two are always looking to innocently flirt with me. It’s nice to have that going on because it makes me know I am somewhat attractive and somewhat worthy of flirtation. Sometimes I forget that I do have something to offer in the ways of a romantic connection. I’m no 20-something Brad Pitt, but apparently I am close to being a young Tom Selleck with the charm of Jimmy Stewart. Not a bad catch. Plus even though I am in my early 40’s, I get mistaken for late 20’s and early 30’s – That doesn’t hurt either.
Why don’t I have a girlfriend? Why am I not married? Long story told quickly – I had a fiancée and we were right on the doorsteps of marrying. This was two or three years ago. I was totally sold on her and I thought she was totally sold on me until we went to a marriage therapist that really dug in on questions we had not talked about. We found that we both had deal-breakers in several areas and they were not the sort that could be compromised. Thus, the hard breakup. Since then I’ve had a few good Christian girlfriends, but not one that stood out enough to be my lifetime helper and ally. And I’m sure I wasn’t their knight in shining armor.
Relationships, especially in marriage, are harder than most people consider until they get married and the harsh truth comes up leading to sadness and even divorce. I recommend to all of you readers out there to go to a marriage therapist before you get married. I also recommend a set of books by Ben Donley called: “I Guess I Do: The Ultimate Marriage Survival Guide. These books don’t play around and they get you to really think about the hard things in marriage. Anyway, I am not impatient and if I end up alone, I can always get a dog that loves me (for the food I give him).
Back to life in the here and now: My days with clients was good. I didn’t have to do much selling because they were ready to go when I got there. So, once again, I didn’t have to work a full day. So, I called up to the church and told them about what I wanted to do for them pro bono. They were wide open to it and so I got the number to the church architects and asked them if I could come by and look at their architectural renderings and church design. They were busy, but said they could give me some time tomorrow to explain the whole process of what they were doing and to see if my skill set was important or even necessary.
So, that will happen tomorrow – that is if I get my work done early again.
Day 10/11 – Saturday/Sunday – Back to Lubbock-land and the ER
Well it was bound to happen at some point – especially after being boastful about not getting sick for two years. Saturday morning I had such a terrible stomach ache that I could hardly move. I tried to man up and not let it get to me. I tried to refuse the reality of whatever was causing this sickness, but I could not get past it. It got to the point that I had to leave my comfortable Lubbock Corporate Housing spot and head to the Emergency room. But this wasn’t just any Emergency Room located at a hospital, which would have left me waiting for hours in massive pain and then mostly looked over quickly by the staff who would tell me I had had too much cheese (might be correct since I am lactose intolerant and have been eating a lot of ice cream – Klondike bars and such). Still I didn’t end up in one of those rooms. I instead took myself to a place called West Texas ER. When I got there I was the only patient in the waiting room and the papers I filled out were minimal. Then I was taken back to the ER room where I was treated seriously.
I will admit something to you – I hate giving blood and I especially hate getting IVs. But as they jammed an IV into my arm I really didn’t mind. I just put a cold washcloth over my face so I could not see anything and let them hook up all sort of medications to make me forget about the pain that had been crushing me. The doc was funny and cool. I even got my first CAT scan (abdomen) and was overall treated very well. The problem was that they could not help me in the moment. I had a serious case of intestinal blockage and it would take stool softener and some other something taken for 3-4 days before I would lose the pain totally and be able to work at my highest capacity. Still, it was a nice experience that only cost me $500. Yes, that’s right – $500 even with my insurance. I love shelling out $500 an hour of my Saturday afternoon. Seriously, who wouldn’t?
Anyway, after getting back to my Lubbock suite, I took my meds and decided to take the down time to do some research on church design, 3D animation, Texas colleges and Lubbock homes for sale. Basically, I pulled out my computer so I could learn more about my new church and my marketing sales I had taken on. After all, I could just lie there and just waste time on poor Saturday and Sunday TV or I could get ahead on my reports back to the home office. So that’s what I did. And after looking over the church reports, I decided that I would approach the leadership and offer my help in their efforts to market and pitch their plan pro bono.
Why not? It might be nice to do something for free.
Day 9 – Friday – A strange work force –
Friday – my second day in Midland (which happened to be a waste of business time, because I was able to do everything yesterday) was mine to spend however I wanted. That’s the beauty of my job – If I can get my job done earlier than was predicted, I am given the extra time to do as I please. Cool, right? But, it’s not like I am in San Francisco or Toronto – There is not much to see. But, I did get a strong sense of the Boom and Bust mentality that has owned this town for years and years. It feels like a very large and very wealthy suburb drenched in memories and promises of oil. I crossed paths with several of the locals and just got a feeling that I was unwanted here. I felt like a fish out of water for sure and I’m not exactly sure where this comes from. Maybe I feel insecure around so many rich people – feelings just coming from within me. These residents are all probably very nice. I am probably just judging them unfairly. To be fair, the people working in the lobby of my Midland Corporate Housing Unit (I sound like a robot saying it like that, but to me it’s fun because that’s how it is listed on my company’s expense report – I find fun easily, huh?) are exceptionally nice and well-paid as it turns out.
While eavesdropping near the counter and semi-flirting with a hotel lobbyist, who actually happened to have graduated from the Texas college I recently visited in Snyder, I heard her co-workers talking about how much they make per hour. I was interested because I figured it was probably around minimum-wage (not because I am a jerk but instead because I come from a Capitalist world that de-values the common human by setting wages as low as possible for those outside of the plutocracy).
Anyway, I butted my way into their conversation and asked them if they would tell me what they made per hour. I was shocked when they told me a starting wage there was $17 per hour. My mouth sort of fell open. “Double minimum wage?” Had communalism and equality led to living wages right here in Midland? They laughed when I seemed so shocked and one of the older ones said, “Once the oil and the fracking came back here, the labor force went for the big money in that industry and left a huge gap in the regular businesses.”
I nodded my head and just said, “Wow.” Another of them said, “Most of us commute in for 45 minutes because the pay is so good. Plus we sort of have to because we couldn’t afford the housing costs out here in Midland.”
Now it all makes sense. I bet church capital campaigns out here have no problem raising funds for whatever church design is desired. Or maybe they do. Selfishness and tightly closed wallets live everywhere.
Day 8 – Thursday – Beds and Breakfasts and Special Soap
The bed and breakfast I stayed in last night was good. I was the only guest and was given the “Love Shack”. The “Love Shack” was a small cabin that was quite quaint. It’s bathroom was stocked with everything a traveler would need. It even had special soap, which is cool because I have a thing for special soaps. I am not a man’s man who hunts and fishes and climbs big rocks – I am just fine reading books and smelling like Lavender and Honeysuckle. I think I should be a salesman for Bath and Body Works. Think what you want about me, but I like to smell more like fruit than just skin.
Sorry that was a bit tangential.
Besides the special soap, I got a wide-open sky filled with stars you cannot see in the city. I stared up and wondered if I was as significant as I usually think I am. Wide open skies and a full moon tend to shrink a man’s sense of size and importance. They also remind me that my God is not just an intelligent designer – He is a creative one. I was left in awe and thanksgiving as I put my head to the pillow.
When I awoke, I was greeted with a special breakfast of perfectly scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, scones and fresh orange juice. And this was not even the best part of my stay. The owner of this B&B was a 75-year old spitfire who spent breakfast time with me. She was fun to hang out with on these many acres of land she owned. I felt more than welcome. I learned a lot about her and about Snyder. It turned out that this Marianne was a large and strong voice in county politics and had been helping make Snyder into a town to be reckoned with – She was a forward thinker and she could spin a good story that made me not want to leave. But I had to. I marked this place as one to visit again some day.
Anyway, I had to drive to Midland for two days and work a couple of days to broker a few deals with two oil companies. While there, I stayed in a Midland Corporate Housing Space that was just as nice as the one I had in Lubbock, which makes sense since this place was owned by the same company. It didn’t hit the spot as well as the Windmill Ranch B&B, but it was nice to have a place I was familiar with – the pool and the breakfast and the amazing customer service. To be honest I think I could live in these short-term furnished apartments for at least a year. They are so comfortable and even though they don’t have special soap, I can use my own.
So, the days in oil-rich Midland were fine. I was successful with one of the companies and met with a “maybe” by the other – I hate “maybe” because it means I wasn’t able to do what I was sent out to do. I’ll go back there in a month and turn that maybe into a yes – keep my perfect streak going. I’m a perfectionist in my job, which can tend to bite me when I mess up a sale or market a company in ways they don’t approve of – It hits me in my ego and drops it to an 8 count knee drop. This is something I need to deal with unless I want to explode from feeling less than.