Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We celebrate 19 years of marriage today

Rob and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary today.  We didn't go out for dinner, but instead stayed home and cooked a very expensive rib-eye steak on the grill and drank some rather expensive locally brewed beer that I brought home in a growler.  I haven't found a restaurant yet that can grill a steak better than we can and drinking tasty beer at home means we don't have to worry about who is staying sober enough to drive back out to the boonies where we now live. 

There's not any "traditional" gift designation for 19 years, but even if there had been, well, we probably wouldn't have followed that anyway. Rob briefly considered combining the 15 and 20 year gifts by getting me a crystal china-man, but didn't have much luck finding such a thing, at least not in our price range.  $3500 for a lamp?  Not gonna happen.  Instead, he got me a little diorama of a day-of-the-dead skeleton bride and groom.  And we were apparently in tune on the day of the day theme since I bought him a day of the day cookie cutter as well as a skull shot glass and some Lil' Devil Cinnamon Toothpicks.  Not exactly traditional gifts, but very personal and I think that beats the hell out of diamonds and what-not other things that advertising says you ought to buy for your sweetie. 

The anniversary card that Rob gave me pretty much says it all.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

One week is too short, too long and just about right

I was trying to decide if a week of vacation was too short or too long and I've come to the conclusion is that it's both. Today is day four so I'm over the half-way mark. I've managed to get some rest and also get some things done around the house. Although I haven't been at the office, work has never left my mind any more than it ever does. The only difference is that I'm not doing any work-related action. Four days is the same as having a long weekend and that feels about right for a break which makes a week of vacation seem too long.

That said, the fact that I've haven't really stopped "working" nor have I even begun to do any kind of vacation activity, well, that indicates to me that a week is too short. Too short, that is, if I was actually taking time to go off on a vacation. I'm guessing it would take me about a week to unplug from work and then I'd need another week to really have a vacation. 

In this case, where I'm taking time off just to prevent dropping dead from exhaustion, one week seems just about right. It took me four days to get to the point where I didn't wake up still tired in the morning, but I woke up at 5 AM this morning, after 8 hours of sleep (what luxury!) and for the first time in months, I didn't have to force myself to put one foot in front of the other. I got up extra early so I could have time for leisurely breakfast before mowing the front lawn at 8 AM.  That's a god-awful time to mow the lawn, but any later and it's too hot, plus I wanted to do it before the bees were all over the crepe myrtles.  Unfortunately the bees were already out in full force so I'm sure the neighbors were scratching their heads at my mowing technique while I tried to avoid any pissed off bees.

Even at 8 AM, I was hot and sweaty by the time I was done mowing the lawn and I figured I'd just collapse on the couch and be done for the day (other than picking Rob up at the airport tonight.) After all, just a week ago, mowing the lawn would have taken every bit of energy I could have summoned, but today, it was not a big deal and I happily discovered that I wasn't ready to just collapse on the couch.  In fact, I'll probably knock out a few more projects before I go pick up Rob at the airport later tonight.

Now that I've bounced back a bit, the next three days are going to seem like what used to be a normal long weekend, back in the old 8 hour M-F days.  I'm looking forward  to it!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Turns out "a couple of months" was overly optimistic

Things at work did not slow down at the end of March.  I am still working pretty much the same hours and to give you a hint of how crazy it's been, I took Saturday night off to attend a memorial service for a close friend, but still ended up having to take a call from work while I was there (fortunately I did not have to leave and drive to the office!) That said, the end might finally be in sight.  If I don't drop dead myself before then, I'll be taking an entire week off in mid-June, come hell or high water. No big plans.  I'll be hanging out at home and if I can find enough energy, I might get the garage in order.  Or not. The only plan is no plan.  And  no goals, no projects, no deadlines, no waking up to answer work emails or phone calls in the middle of the night, no eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at my computer while still working,  no grabbing only 5 or so hours of sleep each night.  I'm going to turn off the clocks and sleep as long as I want!  Maybe even the entire week.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Avalanche of Work

The first full week of the year kicked off an avalanche of work at my job.  Projects that should have been started in September were finally begun and it's now a mad dash to get everything done before March 1st.  I've been working seven days a week, with many of those days lasting as long as 12 or 15 hours. I'm not being "forced" to work this much, although I would probably find myself out of a job in a hurry if I wasn't stepping up to the plate and taking on extra work.

The truth is that if I had sat around and waited for duties that fit my job description of "Technical Writer" since my transfer out of Customer Service, then I would have been hard pressed to have enough work for even a part-time position.  Mind you, there are plenty of things that need to be "documented", but this would involve other people giving me information and that would take their time away from far more urgent duties.  Documentation can always wait, that is, until the only person that knows how to do something is no longer around.  But as long as that person is still available, there are just too many other competing priorities which leaves me with very little to do in my official capacity.

However, I am not the kind of person who is happy sitting around with nothing to do so I managed to stay busy by scrounging around for projects and tasks.  This was not easily done at a company where projects aren't announced to the company as a whole and I would only hear about them on the grapevine, but I was able to find plenty of work to do thanks to a lot of groundwork on my part.  In fact, I actually invented several of them which meant I had to "sell" it to management.   I was, for all intents and purposes, a freelancer, albeit one with with a boss and a steady salary.

And so there I was towards the end of last year, still scrounging around for work and still waiting for my manager to give me more official duties when all of a sudden things got turned upside down.  I'm not going to go into details, but end result was that my manager resigned and a recently employed consultant ended up in charge of the department.  This consultant had already told me that there was going to be no room for me in the newly restructured Information Technology department so the fact that he was now my manager meant that I was under even more pressure to make a place for myself.  

I suppose that sounds like a somewhat reasonable explanation for the workload I'm currently experiencing, but it's not the whole story.  I could always say no, take a layoff and find another job.  And the company could easily replace me with a fresh-faced college student for much of what I'm currently doing (although they would have to pay them a higher salary and probably take a big hit on work ethics.)  Instead, I'm doing this because I love the challenge and it gives me the opportunity to update my IT skill set in an actual production environment.  And if that means working my ass off for a couple of month, then so be it.

That said, I'm still going to whine on occasion about what I know is ultimately a personal choice because at the end of a 15 hour day, sometimes it just feels damn good to whine and complain.   And if I do, there's no need to tell me that it's all my own fault; I'm already perfectly aware of that.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hello 2013

I've not blogged much over the last three years, a time when while my life took quite a few unexpected twists and turns. If this had been a truly anonymous blog then I'm sure I would have posted a great deal, but since it was not, that left me with so many elephants in the room that I got to a point where I just couldn't seem to write a blog post that wouldn't somehow reveal information about things that were best left private.

I've always considered this blog to be a journal.  A chronicle of bit and pieces of daily life, perhaps boring and routine, but I find those are the posts I enjoy the most when looking back through them.  It's the same with my private journals, written from the age of six to my mid-thirties.  These private journals contain plenty of entries filled with emotional angst, but I've discovered that those are not the entries that hold my interest so many years later.  Instead, it is the entries about the routine, the mundane, those every day things that didn't seem important enough to mention or write down but occasionally would sneak their way in to my writing.

And while I'm quite happy that I didn't fill this blog with much of the emotional turmoil that has taken place recently, I do wish I had been able to see past the elephants and post more often. Even if it was just about the weather and what I cooked for dinner that night.  I'll try to remember that for 2013.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A leap of faith

Today we turn in our signed lease on a house and get handed some new keys. The rent on the house is reasonable by Austin standards, but will be considerably more that the rent on the apartment or, for that matter, more than any other single monthly payment either of us have ever had in our lives.  But that's not the only leap of faith we are taking since we are also breaking our lease on the apartment, just two months after renewing it. That will be a rather expensive thing to do, unless we are able to sublease it quickly.  

The circumstances that brought us to this point were what most people would call a strange mix of coincidence.  A co-worker has a rental house that we were hoping to get before we renewed the apartment lease, but his tenant decided to stay another year so we renewed the lease on apartment instead.  Then about three weeks ago, my co-worker's tenant gave notice and moved out immediately.  That made the house available, but we had renewed the apartment lease and besides, we didn't have the extra cash needed to pay another deposit plus double rent for at least a month. My co-worker advertised the house for a bargain rent price so it would rent quickly and we figured that was the end of that.

Labor Day weekend came along and the RV sold "as is" on the same day that I had it scheduled to be it moved into the shop for some minor repairs.  At that point I had some cash, but did I really want to spend it on breaking a lease and moving into a house?  And was my co-worker's house at the bargain price even still available?

I returned to work on Tuesday and talked with my co-worker who said the house was still available.  Despite my misgivings about the whole idea, I decided to go take a look at the house on Wednesday so I could make an informed decision.  I was not expecting to walk in the door of the house and get one of those "gut feelings" that I've had so many times in my life.  But that is exactly what happened; I got that feeling of "this is the next logical step".   But just the same as I did with the RV purchase, I tried to talk myself out of it.  I had the idea that there was no way Rob would agree to go look at the house that day after work since he always wants to go straight home (which is understandable, I usually feel the same way.)  Even if he did go look at it, he might not like the house and I already knew how he felt about the hassle of moving since we had discussed this prior to renewing our lease - he wasn't going to go for it unless it was the right house.  

Much to my surprise, Rob not only went and looked at the house, but he also liked it.  That left me with only one thing to use against the whole idea - the expense of breaking the apartment lease.  That could cost me several thousand dollars, maybe more. Or it might only cost $200 if we were able to sublease quickly.  That made it a gamble and I'm a person that has a risk-adverse personality.  Despite my worries, all that night long and all the next day, no matter what I said to myself, I couldn't shake the feeling that getting the house was the direction I needed to take.  And so I took the leap and dragged Rob along with me. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hello ham radio, goodbye RV

My dad and my brother both were ham radio operators when I was growing up and eventually my mom and I also got our Technician class licenses (my brother holds the next level, a General class and my dad has what used to be the next level above General which is an Advanced class.)  

As a young adult, I didn't have the time or the money to get seriously into the hobby and eventually let my license expire.  That was quite a long time ago, but I suspect once Ham Radio gets in your blood, it's always there lurking, just waiting for something to trigger the fever again.  I say this because a couple of weeks ago, while surfing the internet, I inadvertently stumbled across some of the new things going on in the world of Ham Radio.  Well, maybe not so new to folks active in the hobby, but new to me since I had been away from it for 20 years.  

I did a little checking and most of the things that had caught my attention could be done with only a Technician class license.  I figured it wouldn't take too much study to retest and since there was an exam date of June 16th, that would give me two weeks to get back up to snuff.  I took a couple of practice exams to see what I might need to brush up on and much to my surprise, I found that I had not forgotten much at all. In fact, it only took one day of study before I could easily pass the practice tests.  Since I still had almost two weeks to go before exam day, I decided I would study for the General exam.  If I could pass this, it would be a nice surprise for my father on Father's Day because it would mean that I would be able to transmit on his favorite HF bands (something I could not do with just a Technician license.)

Yesterday I took the tests.  First was the Technician exam which I sailed through and then the General exam which I also sailed through.  As a result, the examiners were quite insistent that I take the Extra exam next.  I knew there was no way I'd pass that one since I hadn't even looked at the question pool or studied for it and it's got some pretty esoteric stuff on it.  But they strongly encouraged me to take it anyway as a way to get acquainted with what was on the test and since it didn't cost anything but a little extra bit of my time, why not?

Needless to say, I did not pass that test, but I did manage to get 27 out of 50 answers correct, far more than I expected. The half I didn't get right included quite a few things I'd never even heard of, but it all seemed like things that I could learn if I applied a little bit of effort.  I don't really need an Extra class license at this point, but it would give my dad quite a thrill if I could achieve it.  It's something to think about in a few months, after I've finished moving out of the RV.  

Yes, my RV days are over.  I've enjoyed living there the last two years, but with Rob and I moving back together, the RV is way too small for two people and two dogs.  Instead, we'll be living in an apartment for a while.  And while an apartment will make getting back into ham radio a bit of a challenge since my antenna choices will be limited, it's the best option at the moment.