Time for Reflection and Introspection

Oh my. It’s been over a year and a half. Not much has changed in that time. Except for one very important aspect of our lives here. Walmart no longer holds sway over us! About nine months ago, Ama left Walmart to become a store manager for Tractor Supply Co.

We have now lived through two summers and two winters. Our little cinder block house (that we rent) holds up quite well in the summer, thanks to efficient use of the wall air conditioner and several fans. Winter isn’t so great though. I know for just about anybody north of us this has not been a good winter. As of right now, it still isn’t. Having lived in Rhode Island, we understand. So when I say it’s been cold, it’s relative. Ok?

The are a couple of odd bits about the two seasons. Summer is the wet season here. They call the daily storms “monsoons”. Reminds me a bit of living in Norcross. It rains in the afternoon, for less than an hour, then clears up. Mostly. Winter is mostly dry, with the occasional snow event. Mind you, the snow event here means MAYBE two inches. We had become accustomed to over two feet on a pretty regular basis. There’s also very little rain in the winter. For that matter, there isn’t much rain throughout the year. The average annual rainfall here is just over nine inches. All that is the preface to the energy cost. Winter is by far the more expensive time of year. We run one of the two gas heaters and a couple of electric space heaters. That along with the electric blanket for the bed runs the electric and gas bills to almost double what they are in the summer! In Rhode Island, they balanced out a bit as the gas bill would be high in the winter while the electric bill was high in the summer.

So back to the job change. She had replied to a posting on Monster. Hadn’t heard anything from any of her applications for quite some time. Quite surprisingly then, she gets a call from the recruiter. Talks to him for about an hour. About a week later, she is scheduled to speak with the District Manager, for another District. She spends about an hour on the phone with him. A couple of days later, the local District Manager asks for a time to call. She tells him, “Any time.” So when he calls at 1pm, I have instructions to take the phone in to her. She’s still on Walmart overnights and still sleeping during the day. Yet again, about an hour on the phone.

Shortly thereafter, she is offered the position of store manager and told that she’ll be required to go through 3-6 months of “tractorization”. Basically, that means acclimating to the differences between Walmart and Tractor Supply. The kicker? The store in which she’ll be receiving her training is in Alamogordo. Just over two and a half hours drive from home. She’ll live out of a motel for the weekdays, then come home for the weekend. In essence turning me into a bachelor during the week and a spouse on the weekend. The other kicker (because we need two) is that she could get assigned to any store in the District. That means there’s a possibility we’ll be moving. Again. I am NOT looking forward to repacking all the stuff, and the new furniture, and hauling off to some remote spot in New Mexico.

The potential locations are El Paso (REALLY don’t want to go there), Las Cruces (not as bad, but still too big), Deming (although that store just got a new manager), Hobbs, Carlsbad, Fort Stockton (middle of nowhere Texas), or Roswell. I’ll be honest, none of those places has enough appeal to make me even like the idea of packing and moving. Yes, it’s exciting for her to become a store manager. Yes, it’s exciting to learn a whole new retail industry. Let’s face it, by now, I could run a Walmart. Anyway, we begin the long slog of her leaving on Sunday afternoon, checking into the motel, working Monday through Friday, driving home on Friday night.

In my previous post, I mentioned that her doesn’t have air conditioning. Not only that, but we discover during her Sunday afternoon runs east, that the cooling system isn’t exactly in prime condition. She ends up stopping in Las Cruces every Sunday for about three weeks. The car wants to rest. Eventually, she comes across a local ad for a place the will check the cooling system. We decide to take advantage. I drive out Monday morning, drop my car at the Tractor Supply, take her car to the shop and walk back to TSC. Error! It’s 90+ degrees! I have a bottle of water with me and the two mile walk about wipes me out. It certainly wiped out my bottle!

I survive and we spend less than $1000, anticipating twice that, to get her car air conditioned again. Ok, so why not look at mine? We drop the car off on a Saturday and head up to the space museum. While there, we get the call that my car is done. What? Really??? We go back to the shop and there was a valve that was leaking. They replaced the valve and my air conditioning works for $90! Well, these guys have been good to us, so we let them fix her door handle and electric locks. All is good.

I make a couple more trips out there to spend the weekend with her and decide that I want a trailer hitch on my little Saturn. I honestly don’t even think it’s possible, but the Uhaul web site confirms it is. I let the guys in Alamogordo do it and got a little screwed on the price of a couple parts. Lesson learned. When we decide to put one on her car, I’ll take it to Uhaul in Las Cruces, have them do the minimum work possible, and get the rest of the parts at TSC. I know what’s needed (now) and there’s that whole employee discount.

She gets through her required training in less than 90 days. Her boss, the District Manager, tweaks some of the paperwork, making her eligible to attend the Annual Summer Meeting just outside Nashville. The tables are turned! Now SHE gets to deal with airports and security and connections. I give her all the tips and tricks I can, gathered from eight years of international travel. She comes back for the weekend only to turn around and go back the next week. She’s home for the Monday and so stops into what is now her store to see how things are going. OH, I forgot to mention, during one of the weekly conference calls while she was in Alamogordo, she was informed that she was getting the Silver City store because the manager there had just quit! NICE! No moving! No packing!

So, she has her store. There have been some adjustments. They have to adjust to her management style, which is to say, they had to adjust to actually having a manager in the store that cares. She has had to make adjustments, too. But it’s all working out, gradually. One of her first priorities was to win back some, if not all, of the customer base she had lost to the Deming store. How, you ask? Easily. The previous store manager apparently didn’t treat either his team members or his customers very well. When an opportunity presented itself that seemed like a gift, she jumped at it. The Cliff – Gila County Fair rolled around and she put together a plan. By this time, I had my trailer and we loaded it up with all the trimming to equip a Fair booth. I’ll just say it was a blast! Next year, we’re going to sponsor an award to be presented in the judging building. This building is for all kinds of craft items, from canning to pies to school displays. Oh, when I say “we’re” I mean she and I. Neither of us has ever been involved with a County Fair. It was so much fun, the people so kind, that we have to show our appreciation. We have even already decided on how to reward the “Best in Show”.

In the meantime, I’ve been expanding my knowledge of self-sufficiency. Or at least, as much as possible living in a rental. I’ve learned how to store food in mylar bags stored in 5 gallon buckets. I’ve expanded my knowledge and skills regarding camping and living off the grid. My next challenge is canning. I have a pressure canner now and need to start “putting up” some fruits and vegetables. Then there’s the ongoing battle with the back yard, trying to turn it into a growing space. If mom were still around, she’d likely be bowing and shaking her head. She had the green thumb, mine was black. We’ll see. I have built a pretty large support system online so maybe, just maybe, I’ll have some success.

So why that title? Reflection and Introspection? I have to look back at my last eight years. I have to find the balance point between my spiritual nature and practical nature. Worse yet, every time I think I’ve found a place where I can connect with Spirit, a fire comes along and destroys a huge chunk of the Gila! I know that part of what’s missing is the daily routine I had in Rhode Island, too. I need to assert myself over myself, and get back to that. I also need to discipline myself to my household duties. My list of chores is no different than it was in Fresno, although dusting seems to take more effort here. I also need to continue exploring the area. We found a beautiful place yesterday, while looking for the Wolf Sanctuary.

Ama will be heading back to Nashville at the end of this month for the BIG Annual meeting. She’s a little nervous about leaving her store in the hands of a relatively new assistant manager. So she’s been working her backside off trying to get everything and everyone up to speed.

I now have two different blogs to maintain. I’m doing well with the other one, so I guess I need to set calendar reminders for this one, too. I have list of projects to accomplish for the other, so one of my priorities this week may be to develop a project list here. Hmm, yes, I think I like that idea.

As always, I leave you, dear reader, with Blessings, Love and Peace

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