Monday, April 28, 2014

Conjuring Up Animal Spirits

Psychic Entropy (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991)
information that conflicts with existing intentions or that distracts people from carrying out intentions
Over the past several months, I've been finding myself visiting and revisiting in a dark emotional space. It is not despondency. All is not lost. I still have enough perspective to know there are many in the world who are enduring much worse than me.

No, the specter that haunts me is that loss is accelerating with time, and with that there is little renewal or recovery. My resources for coping financially and emotionally seem to be on an irreversible path to exhaustion, and what scares me is what I will do if I reach that point.

Yes, I keep the bills paid, and I haven't fallen behind on anything. Still financial hits keep hitting, depleting me of my savings, and I don't ever seem to have much room for replenishing savings.
The biggest hit by far was having to replace the roof back in September. That wiped out close to two thirds of my savings. I took another hit in October when I had a drain clog. The installation of a cleanout cost me $750.

The severe winter stressed me out because I was worried about the furnace giving up the ghost. It seems like every couple of years, the igniter has to be replaced at a cost of a couple hundred dollars, and the last time the furnace tech was out here, he said that it was probably time to get the heater and central air replaced. Fortunately, the furnace didn't die, even in the worst of the bitter cold from the polar vortex. To be sure, I kept the thermostat as low as 61°F, and I had to fight the temptation to listen to the furnace every time it ran for evidence that there were problems.

At the end of February, I started having slow drains and burbling toilets whenever I drained the sink or washed clothes. The first plumber who responded said I had raw sewage coming into the crawl space and needed to have a restoration service come out and fix things before they could look into doing any repairs. He said at a minimum they would have to replace the cast iron pipes and relay part of the line out to the sewer, which would start at $3,700.

Opting for a second opinion resulted in a less severe diagnosis. They rain the drain cleaning and found roots. That cost me $250, and I know that I will need to have the pipe redone because the house is 50 years old. I need to get estimates for that, too.

My brakes needed work done in late March, which cost me another $430.

I not only lost a coworker to meaningless gun violence at the beginning of the month, I was the one who took the call from his father-in-law trying to find someone at work to notify as they went through his cell phone records.

My older dog had a stroke over Easter weekend.  At the time it was happening, I had no idea what was going on and was almost certain we'd have to put him to sleep.  He has recovered, but still has some wobbliness when he walks.

The tooth that I had a root canal done on last year needed to be pulled last week when the gum in the vicinity started to swell.  It turned out to be a fractured root.

One thing that has kept me going has been my relationship with my girlfriend, with whom I've been together for just about three years, but even that has been subject to challenges. Our weekends without kids have been aligned so we've been able to have time to ourselves, but for the last month, her ex-husband has been cancelling out on his weekends, claiming he doesn't have enough money, so we haven't gotten to see each other for more than a couple hours at a time.

I haven't been living extravagantly. When I changed jobs at the beginning of 2013, I knew that I'd have to curb expenses, and I have done well keeping fixed costs down. But after taxes and support (still at the same level as my old job) take their bite, I'm living on about 46 % of my gross income. If you take into account that X has been asking me to pay for piano lessons for the past six months, it's probably less than that.

I hit an emotional trough by the beginning of April and arranged to get some counseling through my EAP, which provides six sessions. The counselor is having me try to come up with some activities I could participate in to get me out of the house. I've been looking over things to do at Meetup.com, but I haven't seen much that I could see myself doing.

I am pretty sure I am fighting depression, and it's affecting my ability to see how things could get better. Keynes wrote about the idea of animal spirits as a driving force in humans, the urge to do something rather than nothing, based on something other than rational calculation. To take risks, making leaps of faith toward the future, without dwelling on what could go wrong. My struggle is that my mind keeps seeing wrong turns and risks everywhere I look.

The constant loop of concerns wears me down, distracts from from focus, and leaves me feeling more helpless.  The term psychic entropy seems very fitting.

On the upside, I have been getting approached by recruiters who have been interested in whether I've been interested in making a change. If I could find a job that paid better and didn't require a death race to work, that might be the first step to getting past this horrible rut.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Second Guessing Tape Kicks into High Gear

I read the news today oh, boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
-- The Beatles, "A Day in the Life", Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Capitol Records

On Thursday morning, the RSS feed of a local business news show made my draw drop. There was a press release about how my former employer, Company Line, had agreed to be acquired by THE Big Bad Database Company. Terms were undisclosed, but the story percolated all the way to the top of the food chain the tech and online marketing trade publications.

A good chunk of the day that followed involved me chatting online with some former Company Line coworkers with whom I keep in touch. A couple of them had exercised stock options upon their departure. The earlier hire was thinking he'd come out ahead by about 40 percent. The later hire was going to lose $0.50/share.

All of us were surprised by the news. To the best of our knowledge, the company had achieved little traction in the past year. A major product redesign went live early in the year, and I know that there had been a major build out of analytics infrastructure for tracking site traffic. I had also received reports of as a host of demo-driven-development features rolled out because the self-important product guy who came on board back in late spring 2011 had promised them to potential sales customers.

Indeed, in the acquisition press release, the three big-name clients they cited all had been subscribers for at least three years. The acquiring company isn't buying an existing or growing revenue stream. There were suggestions that the application will complement feature gaps in another marketing application that it acquired last year. It's also worth noting that the acquiring company is seeing stagnation in its existing markets and is playing catch-up in the world of cloud computing. This acquisition gives them some buzz and an air of seriousness about its strategy.

Still, the press, both locally and nationally, is touting this as a win. The spectre of self-doubt that likes to nag me in these moments reminds me that I left and chose to exercise none of my options. Although in retrospect the stress was wearing me down and making me more irritable in my latter days there, the spectre suggests that I didn't have what it took to get them across the goal line. Bowing out gracefully was the best I could hope for.

I have put myself out to pasture, doing largely maintenance programming with no real greenfield development in sight.

Nearly three quarters of the savings accumulated since the divorce have been swallowed up largely by repairs to the roof and some drain line work. Although my gross pay decreased by about $500/month (since 7/1, that gap has narrowed to just under $300), I continue to pay child support at the same level. I have a car payment now, and lots of costs have gone up. My sense of financial security is worsening. In my darker moments, I think the only options I have left at retirement are hitting the lottery and suicide.

This is what plays through my mind when I feel doubt. I know it's probably skewed. I try to remind myself of the saying "You cannot be replaced," but somehow it can't compete with the anti-mantra "You aren't that great. You've never been, and it's not going to get any better. Why try?"

I can't bring myself to commit any kind of self-harm. Not yet at least. But I am seriously lacking things to hope for. Things that make it worth getting out of bed in the morning. I don't trust the universe.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Seven Years Gone By... What's Next?

Seven years ago, I published my first post on this blog.  It was a heckuva ride for the first couple years.  I posted pretty faithfully, with posts being pretty lengthy, detailed pieces.  After I changed jobs and moved on to a post-marital life, this space became increasingly dormant.  If SiteMeter's counter stats are to be believed, most of my traffic are visits from Google's crawling software.

Lots of other blogs, which were displayed on this space's blogroll have since gone through similar changes.  Anais keeps chugging away at LiveJournal, and Digger will resurface every once in a while with an update.  Otherwise, the overriding majority of posters are like the illusory mathematicians and carpenters wives about whom Dylan wondered rhetorically in the final verse of "Tangled Up in Blue".  Yet still, I am on the road, looking for another joint.

So here is where things stand on my end...

I still make my home in the Circle City, living in the same house that I've lived in since Oct. 2000.  I'm also still very much involved in my daughters' lives.  They are now 10 and 8 years old.  The X keeps them booked on a pretty tight schedule during the school year.  Two of their scool nights are filled with dance classes.  During the competition season, that also includes an occasional Friday night.  On Wednesdays, they have piano lessons.  I work a early-shifted schedule that day, pick them up, and see them off to lessons and help with homework.  They stay with me on alternating weekends, and this summer, I have been taking vacation time to spend days with them. 

Both get pretty decent grades, As, Bs, and the occasional C, but my older daughter struggles with math and has trouble retaining concepts.  She loves to write stories and letters to her friends.  She also gets a kick out of drawing comic strips, but unfortunately, most of them are about bodily functions.  The younger is a lover of art and prolifically draws pictures that she keeps in binders.  I'm grateful that they've found creative outlets.  They're very much into pop music, much to my chagrin. :-)

As for me, I changed jobs shortly after the beginning of the year.  I accepted the offer with the Biggest Post-Secondary School in the State, which meant a pay cut.  Fortunately, I got high marks on a mid-year salary review and got a pay increase that restored a little over 40 percent of what I gave up making the leap.  Given the school's budgetary situation, I am very grateful for that. 

Working for a large organization like this has taken some getting adjusted to.  The pace is much slower, and you wind up getting locked into holding patterns while waiting for several divisions to reach agreement on where things should go next. 

I've been able to make some positive contributions, eliminating a big chunk of software development backlog, but all of that has been with bug fixing and extending some pretty dusty legacy applications written in the Perl programming language.  The next project I will be working on will be a mixture of Perl and newer code written in Python. 

Their project management and planning processes are in dire need of updating.  There is no infrastructure for deployment or automated testing.  Business analysts are basically order takers for project sponsors, rarely pushing back when sponsors or proxies overprescribe a solution.  The software that runs their mainline business functions does not have uniformly maintained environments for development, testing, and production, so it is commonplace for problems to be encountered when code gets promoted from one environment to the other.  Fortunately, there are some in leadership who want to modernize and have been willing to ask for my input on how to revamp things.  During my time at Company Line, I oversaw similar modernization efforts.

Living on the reduced pay has been a stressor for me.  I opted to keep my child support payments at the same level as what I was paying out under my old job.  About 35 percent of my net pay goes straight into the X's bank account, and I think she still gets paid more in child support than what she grosses with her current employer.  I've been cooking at home more, and eating out less.  I also take leftovers with me for lunch at work. 

Still, there have been some added challenges.  For one thing, on the Friday before I started my new job, I wrecked my car after hitting a patch of ice on a side street, so I started off the new year with a new car payment.  In February, the dentist decided that a crown that had been giving me problems since October of last year was in need of a root canal.  In March, a small part of my roof on my porch started to collapse due.  There was a lack of ice and water protection near the gutter and leakage over time resulted in rotting.  Insurance doesn't cover such things, so that repair work will require the replacement of the roof.  The price tag will be around $9,500.  I will be financing a little under a third of that because to do otherwise would basically wipe out the saving I have accumulated over the past five years.  I am praying that my air conditioning doesn't die this summer.

The recurring series of unfortunate events left me feeling some deep emotional lows.  I did see a counselor at the beginning of May through my employer's EAP.  He suggested I start doing freelance work on the side to supplement my income rather than trying to find a higher paying job.  I also went to the doctor to see about getting put back on antidepressants.  I went of venlafaxine for a month, but it resulted in anorgasmia.  Although my current employer is supposed to have great health coverage, I was being charged around $190, about six times what I was paying for venlafaxine at my old job at the same pharmacy (in network), and the cost of doctor visits went up about $30.  Yes, both plans were high-deductible.  The whole experience left me feeling that I can't afford to be treated for depression.  I have been doing my best to keep things together by trying to avoid negative thoughts.

On the relationship front, that is going pretty well.  I have been seeing her for a little over two years now.  We talked about blending families some at the beginning of the year, but the house issues  from March meant that I had less money for remodeling and expansion work.  We still see each other on the weekends where we don't have our kids, and I come over to her house for dinner once a week, usually on Tuesdays.  I took my first out-of-town vacation in over seven years about a month ago, joining her and her family at a rented cabin down by the river that forms the southern border of the state.  She is struggling financially, too.  Back in September, she took a job that is more in line with a postgraduate degree she has been pursuing, but there was a pay cut involved, so I know she has been stressed over that.

That's about all I can think of for now.  If you have additional questions about what's been going on, let me know in the comment section.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Late Night Listening XLII: Take Five (Years)

The title for this post is inspired by Dave Brubeck, whose passing last week gave jazz lovers reason to pause and reflect the richness of his life's work.  It's probably cliche to express a fondness of "Take Five", but I especially love this recording, which sets the tune to lyrics.

If you click around the 2007-era post archives on this blog, you'll turn up a lot of agonizing about a lengthy and stressful job search, which wrapped up at the end of that year.

The year 2012 has seen a similar search, playing itself out over the course of a year, but not the national scale.  Almost all of my job prospects have been local to the Circle City, with the few national ones being those which had telecommute options.

The motivation for moving on started out as a growing dissatisfaction with the job, as the product veep started to grate on my nerves more and more.  But as the year drew near to an end, it became more and more apparent that the company's future was becoming ever so more cloudy.
At this late hour, I have my eighth job offer of the year on the table.  I also had my share of rejections (five to be exact).  Most of them stemmed from lack of familiarity with a particular language or technology and an unwillingness to take a chance on me assaulting the learning curve.

The present offer was extended formally to me this past Thursday evening, with a request that I make a decision by this Tuesday, and I have been at levels of anxiety that I haven't experienced for some time.  I've bought some time by sending a list of clarifying questions to the hiring manager, and he as responded by asking me to come up to the office for another visit.

All and all, unless I see some serious red flags during my visit, I will accept the offer, but I want to make sure I don't hate myself in the process.

So where did the other seven offers come from.  I'll itemize:
  1. Subscription-Based Online Business Reputation Listing of Angela -- originally applied for engineering position for search; offered me lesser development role involving more generic website development; offer extended in Feb.; increased pay by 2 %.
  2. Big Pharma Marketing Collateral Warehouse Fulfillment -- suggested by local recruiter; would have involved Java MVC framework development with dysfunctional source code tree and hosting on a mainframe; offer extended in Feb.; increased pay by 2 %
  3. Education Employment Screening System -- applied for senior engineering role; somewhat shaky operation with production servers hosted in their building's basement and strange Java/SQL Server architecture; offer extended in Feb.; decreased pay by 5.3 %
  4. Local For-Profit Professional and Trade School -- suggested by recruiter; school spent $2 M on outsourced development in China for custom built social network; brought in-house in desperate need of scalability; offer extended in late June; maintained same pay
  5. Bean Crock 24-Hour Restaurants --  suggested by recruiter; restaurant chain needed a senior level developer to come in and bring code base and build process under control; turned down job before they could give me a salary
  6. Consulting Firm for Big New England Insurance Co. -- suggested by recruiter; would have been contracted to contractor; enterprisey development team built newfangled insurance quoting site without good knowledge of JavaScript; needed JavaScript debugger; offer extended in late Oct.; 16-percent annual increase in pay
  7. Red Diamond that Does "Great Things" Seed and Pesticides -- suggested by recruiter; would have been a 6-month contract to help a biostatistician build a web interface around some statistical analysis code that would help them make decisions on where to funnel R&D dollars; offer extended in early Nov.; 6 percent annual increase in pay
  8. Biggest Public Post-Secondary School in the State -- responded to ad; surprisingly progressive IT team looking to bring mature and effective development and operations people maintain legacy apps of ill repute and develop new apps using open source technology stack; 6 percent decrease in pay but awesome health insurance, retirement savings plan, and vacation time policy
Yep.   That's right.  Tons of effort to find a job only to wind up taking the one with the biggest pay cut.  That's the biggest part of my ambivalence towards accepting the offer.  In the long run, the benefits may turn out to be a better deal, but giving up $500 gross per month is a tough one to digest.

Of secondary concern is that the job would require the return to a car-based commute.  With my current job, I've been riding the bus into work for the most part.  The only days I've driven have been situations where I needed to be somewhere, and taking the bus to get there would have been impractical or would have required me leaving too early since the service is hourly.

I won't be driving as far as I was driving for my job that I held from 2005 - 2007 (19 miles versus 25), but it will be to the northeast side of the metro area, passing through two or three traffic choke points.  That means more stress from the drive, more costs on fuel, and the possibility that I'll finally have to ditch my 2000 Saturn L Series which has like 168,000+ miles on it.

Finally, I will most likely be giving up my flexibility in hours.  One of the things that has kept me tied to my current job for so long is the fact that I do have the ability to shift my hours as long as I am getting stuff done.  That means that I can take off work at 3 pm on Wednesdays to pick up my kids from the bus after school and take them to their piano lessons, if I have to.

On the bright side, even if this is an academic institution, their leadership seems to be heading in a more forward-thinking direction, and I will continue to work on an open source technology stack and get a crack at doing some bleeding edge technology stuff as well.

Moreover, of all the potential employers, this is the only one where I didn't feel like I would need to take a shower at the end of the day because I felt like I was doing something either shady or evil.  Since this is a vocational and technical school, my work would be helping people get an education that would open new doors, rather than shifting wealth towards the already wealthy.

I can probably  make it through the pay cut.  It will require eating in more and being more stringent about not saying "Yes" to every expenditure that X asks for.  There is a chance I could also supplement some of that lost income through freelance work, but that would be new territory and I don't know if I have a deep enough rolodex.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Late Night Listening XLI: Are You on Fire?

There's something about the season... the shortening of days, the changing of clocks, or perhaps the contentiousness of the nation's political Zeitgeist... that works to stir up my existential angst. But when you throw in an Indigo Girls concert, that kicks things up to crisis level.

This past Friday, these talented souls put on an amazing show in a college town southeast of here. I had purchased the tickets back in mid-July when my Beloved had heard they were scheduled to play there. It was my first time seeing both of them live. This past May, I had seen Amy perform solo at a snug local venue and was similarly blown away.

I remember being hooked on them after seeing the video "Closer to Fine" on Mtv back in the early fall of 1988. I hadn't even turned 20 yet, but the song's yearning to transcend the confusion of living spoke to me strongly. Their harmonies, unlike anything else in the mainstream, lured me in.

I was in my second year of college, struggling mightily with organic chemistry, worried horribly about a grandmother who had endured a horrible accident that would leave her an invalid for another 16 years, and still stuck in an estrangement from my father that had lasted for almost four years.

Unfortunately, it was also a time of limited budgets, so I didn't invest in a copy of that album. The song would wander in and out of my mind over the years, but for the most part, I didn't follow their prolific career.

When I moved to the Circle City in 2000, I started listening to an indie rock station here, which would play newer tracks from them. In 2005, I borrowed a copy of Retrospective and it gave me a chance to sample their work in the years between.

My Beloved, by contrast, is a huge fan and has followed them throughout the years, and has been to multiple concerts. I smiled as I would occasionally glance over to watch her singing along to her favorites.

The performance on Friday was interesting from the standpoint that their opening act, the Shadowboxers, doubled as a backup band, a group of young guys who have some killer harmonies in their own right.

The show had many moments that touched me, but the most powerful performance was their rendition of "Kid Fears". Amy and Emily started off alone, and toward the end, a member of the Shadowboxers comes on stage to sing the male vocals. The emotions the song tapped in side of me have left my mind playing that part of the concert over and over.

The overall state of my life is difficult to describe, and there are probably changes on the horizon, but I can't quite puzzle out what form it take. My employer, Company Line, is probably reaching a point where it is time to pull the plug. Despite revamps in the product and efforts to create a more effective sales program, the traction hasn't been there.

After having been there for almost five years and seeing a lot of people come and go, and having seen my closest coworker been dismissed ungracefully after she burnt out, I have struggled most days to get of out bed and get to the office.

I've done some job searching over the summer and fall. I have been presented with three more offers, and I've turned them all down because they were not natural steps of growth or not good cultural fits.

Amid all of the work uncertainty, my relationship with my Beloved keeps me going. The loneliness and isolation I've struggled with in the past has become a distant memory, and I've been spending way less time living inside my head when dealing with problems, which is why I haven't felt the need to post to my blog for a while.

We've been together almost 1 1/2 years, and the emotional bonds have grown stronger. And much to my surprise, both her kids and mine have been very comfortable with us, although we do get some ribbing over displays of affection. We're still a ways away from merging households, but it has become an ever increasing reality with the passage of time.

Although there are many planes in our connectedness, music is perhaps the strongest one, and we have had countless conversations over what we love most and what it means to us.

Perhaps some of the emotional heaviness I experienced at last Friday's show was an elevated awareness of the time that has passed over the past two-plus decades of my adult life and the sorrow that so many of those years were spent without knowing her, or even knowing of her existence.

Sometimes, I catch myself wondering if things would have been better if we would have crossed paths at a much earlier point in our lives. My Beloved puts it into perspective by saying we met at the right time in our lives, when we were ready for each other, shaped by the bumps and scrapes of living life.

Although that ascribe to the Universe a level of grand design that I don't quite buy into, she's probably right in the sense that we are who we are now because of the things we lived through, and that to think that we could have lived for the better by meeting earlier on would be foolish because at that stage of our lives, we were very different people.

When I hear this, I know she is right. To meet her at this stage of my life couldn't be a better time, for there is still plenty life to be lived, and everything leading up to this point has made me realize just how rare this kind of sustained connectedness can be.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Where Do We Go from Here?

I saw where Digger Jones posted an update on his current situation over at the Wordpress version of Reality & Redemption. I chimed in with a note of my own.

A glance at his blogroll made me realize not only how little energy I have put into blogging the past year, but that many of those who found themselves in the Diggersphere of anonymous bloggers, those with relationship issues determined to find resolutions via cerebral or spiritual means, have since shut down, gone private, or gone dormant, if not intermittent. My analytics show I still get on average of four or so visits a day, but most of that traffic is Googlebot, so a webcrawler has become my biggest fan.

I found myself with a few spare moments this morning, so I thought I would try to tap out some updates on my life since the end of 2011.

Kids On Friday, the kids finished up the third and first grades respectively, and did OK for the most part. She loves to read and write, pouring herself into projects where she has to create reports. With school out, she has been obsessing with writing her own story. She's finishing up her second year of piano lessons and will have her first recital this Thursday. The younger daughter's passion is in drawing. We go through a lot of crayons, colored pencils, and markers. Both are finishing up another year of dance. Their fourth and final competition was this past weekend. The end-of-year recital is in two weeks. Instead of a national competition, they will be going to nationals. Work

>I am nearing in on 4 1/2 years with my current employer. They are treading water and trying to finish up another round of securing money to keep running. I had an unpleasant conversation with the the product veep in early January, after I got back from some time off during the holidays that made me think he might be pushing for me to get fired.

He was complaining about the "lack of urgency" in my team and how other departments seemed to be stressed out but we weren't. We were losing clients and we were going to be very behind in the marketplace if we didn't start developing at a much faster rate. I asked him for some clarification to identify instances of where we had fallen short. He complained that we weren't releasing a lot in December.

I noted that we had several members of the team who had to use up vacation time at the end of the year and would lose it otherwise. He said it was more than that but couldn't give me a quantitative description of his vague complaints. He went on to say that if it meant sacrificing some application stability in the name of new features, he'd be willing to make that tradeoff. I asked him what that meant exactly? Was he willing to give up 99.9 % uptime? Be willing to offer service credits for downtime? He wouldn't say.

The next day, I called up three local recruiters with whom I had worked with in hiring capacity in the past few years. They put me in touch with some leads. One was with a local company that had been around for a long time but had gone public in November. The other was with a marketing service fulfillment company on far north side of town. There was a third lead that I don't really count because I believe that the recruiter was misrepresenting the role to me as well as my goals to the prospective employer. The interview didn't last more than a few minutes. I also secured an interview with another, more established company a few blocks away, based on a job posting. I got three offers, two of which were slight increases in pay. The other was a drop but had more employer coverage of health insurance.

I was on the brink of making a decision to take one of the jobs when I learned that our lead sales guy was leaving the company with only one week's notice. That would take the sales department to one person. Moreover, the lead over in the support department would be going on maternity leave in a couple weeks.

If I were to leave, that would be three out of four director level roles quitting the company or going on an extended leave. Rather than run the risk of burning bridges, I withdrew from the job seeking process. Fortunately the companies extending the offers understood and were glad to see I put my employer before myself.

While the job search was going on, I worked to get my team to retool the development process so that we could push releases in a more automated fashion so that we could deploy code more frequently than once a week. The changes we made were enough to mollify the veep. We started shipping so much so often that just this past week, he had to request that we start putting a 48 hour hold on deployment of user-visible features so the client relationship managers (read: people who couldn't make it in sales or product support and got transferred) could weigh in on it.

About a week after I withdrew from my job search, the CEO asked to have lunch with me. He asked me how things were doing with me towards the end, and I let him know that I was approaching a point where I was ready to think of moving on. He seemed both surprised and distressed. He asked me what was driving it. I said part of it was working for so long at the company and that I was ready to do some development on something different. I also expressed an incompatibility with the veep. He said that he didn't want me to leave and asked me to work out my differences with the veep.

In April, one of the three recruiters I had been working with contacted me and let me know that she had another possible lead for me. This one would be for a local professional school that had build its own social portal with outside contractors and wanted to bring development in house. Things were still in the budgeting phase, so nothing was certain. I did have an initial conversation with two managers in April and that went well. They had me undergo a technical phone interview on Friday of this past week. The interviewer was a third party because the in-house development team is a Microsoft centric bunch, and the portal is built on open source technology. If the job work out, I would make my transition sometime in July.


On May 14, I celebrated one year since my girlfriend and I started exchanging e-mails. Our in-person meeting anniversary is on the 24th. We've been doing a lot of reflecting recently, and both of us are very happy with where we are. We are committed to the long haul, still keeping our kids in the top priority spot, but looking forward to a day several years out where we share a place of our own.

Prior to meeting, both of us had struggled with a lifelong sense of not really clicking with anyone. We have very much in common with respect to past experiences, world view, and love of the arts. I've started to attend her church, which is has similar ties to my own upbringing, but more progressive. We are content just snuggling or sitting together and reading. We also help each other out of our shells so we see a lot of live music, most recently at a concert by a certain somewhat famous folk rock singer who also has an edgier bent when she plays solo.

We have not only become lovers but also playmates, best friends, and confidants. I will probably have some more good things to write about this in a future post, maybe in the next few days.

Any other questions?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

And so a year comes to end, with this quite arguably being the quietest year of this blog's existence. The last post here was way back in July, over five months ago.

With the new year aligning on the boundary of a week, I've been feeling extra motivated to get my life squared away, tending to loose ends here and there. Because I took the last two weeks of the year off so that I could be with my daughters while they are on holiday break, I felt a lot more freedom to take care of neglected items.

I've made pretty good progress. My to-do list has been shrinking, but there's a number of things that I have been avoiding. One of them is taking in the year's worth of recyclable material that has accumulated in the garage. If I let that go much longer, it will definitely start to take on a hoarder feel to it. The other is working my way through a pile of junk mail and old bills that need to be shredded, which has been accumulating since mid-April, the last time I did a clean-up of that pile.

Kids are doing mostly OK...

My older daughter is in the third grade this year. She enjoys reading and writing, but math is a challenge for her. She's also very timid in the classroom, so she doesn't ask questions readily when she is confused. The end result is that her homework and test scores tend to bounce between extremes of really good and really bad. We met with her teacher and worked out a plan of action to encourage her to do more asking of questions.

The younger daughter is struggling some with school. The enthusiasm for homework that she had in her preschool and kindergarten years seems to have disappeared. She has her good days and bad days, but they are not the same kind of extremes seen in our older daughter. She's been experiencing some anxiety about school and missing me. There have been some mornings this year where she didn't want to go to school and complained about wanting to see me. She is currently seeing a counselor under X's EAP.

Both of them are involved in dance and girl scouts. They will be on the competition dance team again this year, and their nationals event will be down in that big amusement park in the Sunshine State. The older daughter is in year two of her piano lessons, and her teacher says that she demonstrates a lot of natural musical skills. The younger daughter has found her muse in drawing. Every weekend she stays with me, she makes a stack of drawings. Some of them are scenes involving family. Others are more abstract, and others are based on things she's learned from art class at school.

I'm burt out on work...

The VP of Product continues to cause me no end of frustration. It wasn't until sometime around October, five months into the job, that he decided to actually learn more about how our development process works. Up to this point, he had been using our issue tracking software as a to-do list, dumping in a random list of ideas every week, usually about the time that he had his one-on-one meeting with the President.

He's injected himself into all aspects of the company's operations, sitting in on sales and account management calls, overseeing marketing operations, stepping on the toes of product support, and micromanaging the engineering team. The director of the product support team, my most senior developer, and I do not like him at all.

Yet because he's a smooth talker with the sales team and the account managers, arguably the perennially underperforming branches of the company, those groups love him. This has led to a situation where things aren't getting any better, and the ones with the greatest say in the direction of where things are going are the least effective people. I don't hardly have the energy to put in the overtime anymore, and I don't think any of the options I have accumulated over the past four years have any real value,

I've tried to hold on as long as I can, but I can't take it anymore. After the first of the year, I'm putting my resume into circulation. A job search has its challenges, because the Circle City is a small town when it comes to tech. Chances are, wherever I go could run the risk of souring relationships somewhere.

The market for interesting, well-paying work around here is pretty sparse. Much of software development is done on the north side of the metro area, which is more sprawling and affluent, which means my commute may take a turn for the worse. I also may not have the flexibility with hours that I currently enjoy at my current job. Plus since I have served in a coding/leadership responsibility the past 2+ years means that my current salary is at the high end. Ideally, I'd like to find something that allows me to do interesting work but allows me to telecommute because I don't want to move away from my daughters.

My relationship with my significant other is going well...

It's been seven+ months since I started seeing my girlfriend, and life has been very good on that front. She has been a blessing in that the loneliness that plagued me for so long has been dispersed. I am a much happier person, and the contrast of now versus what was life with X was night and day. Not even in the early years of my relationship with X did I ever feel so cared for.

There's a lot in common between my girlfriend and me. We both survived marriages with spouses who refused to be financially responsible. We both have felt out of place with the rest of the world, and neither of us feel like we fit in down on the south side of town. We have an incredible passion for music, and a warped sense of humor that makes the world bearable at its worst. I've been able to have some of the most revealing and deep conversations of my life with her.

She's been a good influence on me. We've seen a lot more live music, including Gov. Davis and the Blues Ambassadors, a local band, Ben Folds with the ISO, the Civil Wars in a short private concert set at a radio station, a local high school jazz band, and the Leisure Kings (still just as funny as when I saw them two years ago). On some weekends, we have lazy time, watching an indie flick on Netflix or listening to weekend public radio and OverEasy on Sunday mornings.

I've met her most of her family at a few functions, including a fall cookout and Thanksgiving, and I really enjoy being around them. They are a well-read bunch, with eclectic tastes, moreso than I would have expected, given their past histories. It's been much easier to interact with them than X's family, which was much more drama oriented and fixated on watching TV. I introduced her to my kids for the first time in September, and they've warmed up to her after that initial round of bashfulness. She met my mom in December.

The status of the relationship is very pleasing to me. I'm finding that the reading and studying on anxiety management in the context of relationships several years ago was time well spent. At times, when she is stressed with work or kids, I am capable of soothing her rather than letting it affect me. We also work well together in cooperative situations, be it moving furniture or cooking meals.

We get each other, and because it has taken so long for us to find someone who does, we put a lot of care and attention into the relationship. While we are nowhere near talking about marriage, we both see this as being a very long-term relationship.

For someone who was so bent on keeping separate compartments between parenthood and new dates, I am surprised how much this relationship has challenged my original vision of loosely coupled monogamy. Unlike that desire to remain guarded against vulnerability, I am finding myself more open to the potential of intimacy, even at the risk of pain. I don't feel so quirky and different with her.

So as I close out 2011, I am a much happier and less lonely soul. I still have my annoyances, and the year to come may bring some big changes on the work front, but I feel like I'm moving in the right direction. My new year wish, to the perseverant few who have stuck with this blog, even as it has stagnated, will find their own lives moving on a similar path of positive existential resolution.