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.
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