But Isn’t Every Day A Vacation?

THE WIFE and I took a vacation over the Thanksgiving week, visiting beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. It was a wonderful trip full of fun, food, and sights; plus we were able to connect with some old college friends. All in all it was a great time.

charlestonBefore we left, I wondered how the vacation would feel. I figured that the vacation time would be different as THE RETIREE.  After all, isn’t every day a vacation when you are retired?

Yes and no.

As I’ve stated more than a few times, I’m actually busier now than when I was working. I’m less stressed and my schedule is completely different, but I’m far from bored. I spend my time running errands (post office trip today – CHECK!) and helping neighbors (THE CHEF needed a drink shaker and THE NEIGHBOR needed a jump start) while working in the occasional lunch with people like THE FORMER BOSS. And that’s all before I mention the list of Christmas decorations I’m supposed to be putting up…

But when you’re not working, what are you taking a vacation from? Daily tasks?  Your normal routine?   Those don’t seem like that big of a deal. Who needs time away from that?

Everyone, that’s who.

The vacation was a break from the normal daily ins and outs, but it was also a chance to get THE WIFE away from all that she has been dealing with at work. So part of the joy of the trip was watching her relax and enjoy herself.  But before you paint me as a selfless saint only concerned with her well-being, the trip was also good (and important) for me. It was a different type of decompression.  It was that feeling you get when your biggest concern if choosing a restaurant or figuring out where the ice machine is in the hotel. It was the act of walking the streets of the historic district and taking pictures. It was laughing along and reading bad lines in a comedy play. It was learning more about tea than we ever wanted to know. And it was finding ourselves eating octopus while sipping fancy cocktails on a culinary tour.

So it was everything that being home isn’t, and it was accessing that part of the brain and that set of experiences you don’t have sleeping in your own bed. And that’s good. You may think of a vacation as a chance to just not be at work, but it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity to do the things you find interesting and fun, but never quite devote enough time to when you are home. And that, once again, is something to add to the list of things that should be important as part of everyday life. Is there a way to work some of these experiences into either my retired life or my next work adventure? I don’t know, but it’s worth at least considering.

So, yes, you can go on vacation when you are retired. And it still counts.

The Frug

As I thought about what to write this week, I realized that I didn’t have an overriding theme to talk about, but I did have a scattershot set of ideas floating around. Some are serious, and others are not. If you were hoping for some great bit if insight from me (HA!), this probably isn’t the post for you, but hopefully some of you will enjoy it.  And now, on with the show…

  1. I don’t like cleaning the house.  That’s not to say that I don’t like keeping things clean – I’m actually pretty fastidious about keeping most of the kitchen clean. It’s the act of dragging a vacuum and/or mop around the house that’s just a bit much.  I truly think I underestimated the size of the house, even though I’ve lived here for fifteen years.  Cleaning this place is a big job. No wonder we were paying someone to do it.  And, after some discussion with THE WIFE, I’m about to embark on a search for someone to do it again. I can keep things tidy, but someone else can do the big cleaning every couple of weeks. It’s up to me to make it work within the budget. This I can figure out….
  2. You can buy a lot of favors with bread.
  3. I’m mellower in general than I was a few weeks ago, but I find myself getting more upset in traffic. Now, mind you, the things that tend to upset me are people driving on the wrong side of the road as I approach an intersection, or drivers who won’t pay enough attention to a light to actually move within the first 5+ seconds of it turning green, but still…One of the things I actually changed the most about myself when I started meditating was how I responded to traffic. I think that’s an area to focus on again.
  4. People like chocolate chip cookies, too.
  5. Lately I’ve been thinking about my former co-workers and how very few of them have made any attempt to contact me since I left. THE BOSS, who I left in enough of a lurch that he would have every right to not want to talk to me, has been a notable exception. Still, beyond him, I’ve only heard from 3-4 others. I went through a lengthy and intense period of feeling very isolated and alone in my final few weeks at work. I often wondered if it was because of the location of my office (I was hidden away in a corner – something I asked for), or if I had alienated people. The alienation is a definite possibility, but I don’t think so. I think it’s more a case of me uncovering the shallowness of co-worker relationships. I don’t mean that the people are shallow or the relationships are disingenuous; it’s just that your work “friends” often aren’t your real friends. I had hoped that wasn’t the case, but I think it is. That’s sad, because I worked with some good people.
  6. I need to reach out to more of my former co-workers.  Streets run two ways.
  7. I’m starting to play the piano a lot more. I’m still not sure what I’m doing most of the time, but I periodically sit down and both look and sound like I can actually play. I’m learning my chords and I’m starting to get to where I can read a bit of music, but I still just mostly play by ear. I’m having fun with it, and it’s a very meditative act. It requires a single focus, so I often feel refreshed after playing for 15-20 minutes.  Just don’t ask me to actually play something you would know.
  8. I was part of a promotional film/commercial last week. It was great fun, mostly because it was something new and interesting. That, and I had a chance to meet some new people.
  9. The tiller runs better if it has the proper amount of oil in it.
  10. I’m no longer obsessed with filling my day with activities, but I still stay far busier than I ever thought I would be. My father told me I would get bored.  He was wrong.
  11. Given enough practice, a person can learn to fold a fitted sheet.
  12. I’m shocked by how much enjoyment I get out of baking bread. I’ve slowly been perfecting a recipe, baking two loaves every four days or so. I keep one and give one away (see #2). I truly find it to be one of the most fulfilling parts of my week.
  13. As a general rule, people don’t choose to play bass. People end up playing bass.
  14. I’m still running regularly, but I’ve changed my style, taking up a system called Chi Running. In short, you lean forward a bit, keep the line between your shoulders, hips, and ankles straight, and land with your feet under you. Basically, you fall forward and catch yourself rather than pushing yourself forward. You also tend to use your core muscles more rather than just your legs.  My form is still a mess, but it seems to be working and it is supposed to help with injuries.
  15. I like to load up my truck and drive to the recycling center. Throwing boxes in dumpsters or shredding huge piles of paper is fun.
  16. My instinct is to always saute my garlic. Yesterday I followed a recipe for garlic mashed cauliflower that included minced garlic. I followed the recipe instead of my gut. For the record, raw garlic is really spicy, particularly when paired with something like cauliflower. Also, when I try this recipe again. I’m going to throw one or two little red potatoes in with the cauliflower. I think it will help with the consistency.
  17. I have no core strength.  Not I have very little core strength. I have none. See the bit about form in #14.
  18. I’m almost 200 albums into the Rolling Stone Top 500 Album list. I’ve skipped a number of albums and moved on a few songs in a good bit, but I’ve run across a few surprises, too.
    • I really liked the 1969 album “Boz Scaggs“.
    • Alice Cooper and “Weird Al” Yankovic sound very similar. I wonder if Al has ever covered Alice.
    • I’ve listened to a lot of Jackson Browne so far. I thought it would bore me. Actually, it hasn’t.
    • I am incapable of listening to more than three songs in a row by The Pogues.
    • I still don’t get Brian Eno. Or P.J. Harvey.
    • Oh Lord… I think I’m still going to have to try to listen to something like 10 more Springsteen records. These first few have not been good. Seriously – does anyone really like “The Rising”?
    • I didn’t like Eric Clapton’s “461 Ocean Boulevard”, but I quite enjoyed “Slowhand”.
    • Much like Springsteen, the Rolling Stone guys are obsessed with Bob Dylan. So far all of the albums have been from the mid-90’s onward. I don’t get it. These are not good records. Luckily, the Dylan records I like are on the way…
    • I survived the 80’s without ever listening to ZZ Top’s “Eliminator”. I sort of regret that now. It sounds a bit dated, but it’s a pretty good record.
    • I should have started listening to LCD Soundsystem a long time ago.
    • I’m not down with the Wu-Tang.
    • I’ve pretty much hated the Beach Boys my entire life, but I hear so much music that I like and the roots of so many things I listen to today in the “Smile” Sessions. Maybe it’s just Mike Love I hate.
    • I finally reached my first Rolling Stones record at #357 with “Between The Buttons“. As of now, I still don’t like The Rolling Stones.
    • I tried listening to Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” a few years ago and didn’t like it. I’m not sure why, because I really enjoyed it this time around.
    • Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett – just say no.
    • Talking Head’s “Stop Making Sense” is followed by Lou Reed’s “Berlin” and Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell”. I couldn’t make it through either of the last two. Berlin is just painful to listen to and Meatloaf is just bad musical theater. At least it wasn’t acapella. I really dislike acapella.
    • I’ve made it up to #323 – “Ghost In The Machine” by The Police. I see Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” is coming up soon.  Things are improving…
  19. A former coworker texted me the other day to congratulate me on my “new gig”. It ends up that I had to add my first job out of college to my LinkedIn profile in order to establish a link with someone I used to work with. I bet my friend was wondering why I had taken a job as a staff accountant… This uncovers something I was slightly concerned about. I updated my resume a couple of weeks ago and I feel like I should do the same to LinkedIn, but I’m not sure I want that attention right now.

Well now. I didn’t think I had anything to write about and suddenly I’m at 1500 words. I guess I should discuss music more often! Lacking any theme for this week I’ll still leave you with a video. This one has no deep meaning beyond being one of my favorite songs ever. And I, too, cannot do The Smurf.

Talking Backwards

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the past over the past few days. First off, I created an updated version of my resume and sent a specially-tailored version off to my business acquaintance for the possibly-but-probably-not-a-job-opportunity. Secondly, I’ve been scanning most of our lives into a digital format.  Allow me to explain both.

As we discussed last week, I reached out to a business acquaintance about possibly helping him out during a time of transition at his company.  He asked me to send him a resume so that he had something he could show the other people in the office should a need arise. That seems fair – we know one another, but haven’t worked together directly, and the others in his company don’t really know me. If they need to have a discussion about who might be able to help them, a resume seems like just the kind of thing they would want.

Working on the resume was a very good exercise for me. It reminded me of exactly how much I’ve done over the years and what skills I have. It once again helped me address the unfounded fear I’ve voiced about no one wanting to hire me. If anything, the challenge I will face will be how to present myself on LinkedIn. My work for the past 8-10 years has been in operational management with a strong focus on financial work (managing budgets, resources, etc.), but I spent over 10 years prior to that doing technical work ranging from web development to work as a DBA and a UNIX sysadmin to working in network security and managing a research lab. Those two paths don’t often work well together in a career summary, so I think I’m going to have to choose one to highlight. That’s unfortunate because I believe I’ll end up focusing on the financial work, which will either mean that people will overlook my technical background, or it will confuse them. That’s probably going to end up costing me some opportunities. Given, this is only a problem on LinkedIn. If I need to send a resume to someone, I can tailor it to whatever makes sense for the job.

As for the scanning, 2015-11-10 16.41.23I’ve been going through file boxes dating back to the mid-90’s and digitizing our household files (the picture to the right is just a portion of the folders and boxes I’ve gone through). To say that THE WIFE was thorough in what she retained for our records would be an understatement. In amongst the important paperwork (medical records, taxes, major purchases, etc.) were things like bank statements, utility bills, and other monthly mundane papers. The thing is, going through all of these files brought back a lot of memories. There was the thank you letter from a neighbor’s third birthday party.  Or the receipt from when we bought our first new couch. There were the car loans followed by the letters from mom. Finding job offers and then letters of resignation a few boxes later made me think of the good and bad times between those two endpoints.

Opening the box for 2007 was particularly interesting. We both had work challenges as THE WIFE’s company went out of business, then she dealt with a period of unemployment and contract work, before finding the job she still has to this day.  Meanwhile, I struggled greatly with my own work life. The only thing that kept me working for the company was the fact that I had to – THE WIFE was out of work. And that ended up being a good thing. I was able to take my work struggles and turn them into a positive, eventually resulting in my shift out of the technical world and into operational management. This was also the time we discovered podcasts, and eventually podcasting, which gave us both so many new friends all around the world. Thanks to the podcast community, I made a friend who encouraged me to take up the RPM Challenge and record an album in February of 2010. That has led to five more albums since then.

So I guess it’s time for my point, isn’t it? I don’t tend to be overly sentimental, but I think all of this looking back has been good for me. It’s shown me how far I’ve come and what I’m capable of. It’s also reminded me that sometimes the best parts of your life come from what seem to be the worst experiences at the time. THE WIFE and I learned a lot about relaxing and laughing in 2007. Whoever said “Tragedy plus time equals comedy” was spot on. And that’s a good lesson to keep in mind. Now, when all hell is breaking loose, we often look at one another and say “This is going to be a hilarious story in a few weeks….” Or, as my podcasting friend Kovio MX says, “Life Is Show Prep”.


Diverging Diamond

Last week I was presented with two divergent ideas. On Thursday, I was asked this:

What would you think about staying home a bit longer than you initially planned?

And on Friday I received an email that said this:

If you think you might be able to add value in either a short or long term capacity, why don’t you shoot me your resume.

Allow me to explain.

MorelandAltobelli_B10_0124The work world for THE WIFE has turned a bit crazy, to say the least. Her company has undergone some major changes and has new projects and products to work on with a very short turnaround. It’s extremely challenging for the team, but it’s also quite exciting. In short, she’s going to be very busy over the next few weeks, and it looks like there are many more opportunities to work on additional new projects going forward. This is what prompted her to ask me about extending my time at home. She’s too busy to think about much beyond her work life, and having me run the household, plan the food, and run all of the various errands has taken a load off of her. She told me that just coming home without having to think about what we might eat that night is a huge relief to her. So she asked me if I might want to extend my time at home behind my target date of December 31.
My response to the question surprised me. My immediate reaction was to think “NO”, but I didn’t say that. I told her I would need to consider her suggestion. I have built up a plan in my mind about re-entering the work world in some form, re-energized, after January 1. But why is that such an important date? The truth is, it’s not.  Here’s what drove my initial reaction, and what I think about each of the concerns:

  • I have a plan and I need to stick to it. Okay – this is just silly. Just because I set an arbitrary date in my head about when I would go back to work, that doesn’t make it something I’m committed to without any flexibility.
  • I’m worried about being out of work for too long. This one has a little bit more credence to it, but, honestly, what’s the difference between taking a four month and a six month sabbatical? Plus, THE BEARDED VP has been telling me that I need to take at least six months off. Who am I to argue with him?
  • Money. The financial angle is a bit trickier. We’re very good savers, so the financial incentive for me going back to work is just to generate more in savings each month. In other words, pretty much anything I will earn will go into savings and investments. Ultimately, my return to work provides some additional short-term security (two incomes are always better than one), but the primary financial function of me working again is to build our savings to a point where we can both retire full-time for good. We’re well on our way to that goal already, but every extra dollar I contribute to savings shortens both of our careers.
  • Social pressure. 10-15 years ago, I probably would have been bothered by the perception others have of me as “a kept man”, as my father puts it. Now, I actually think it’s kind of cool. Based on what most people say to me, others think it’s cool, too.

So how do I feel about potentially staying home into the new year? I’m probably okay with it. I’d like to see additional sources of income coming in, but I’m working on that through some investment strategies. I’d also like to keep in touch with my various contacts and be aware of any potential job leads, but I may not approach it with quite the same urgency.

Which brings me to the second point: I’ve been asked to send my resume to someone.

Last week I reached out to a business acquaintance who is going through his own set of significant changes at work and reminded him that while I was currently on sabbatical, I have some skills that might be helpful to him if he needed some assistance over the short or long term. He responded by asking me to send him a resume so that he could have it handy to show to others on the management team should a need arise.

I haven’t looked at my resume in over five years, and I haven’t truly used my resume to get a job since 1999, so refreshing my resume is a bit of a daunting task. Resume styles have changed, and there’s a big difference between using a resume to get a skills-based job in your early 30s and presenting a 25-year career summary in your mid-40s. I’ve already been considering talking to a resume service about helping me put my information together (as well as refresh my LinkedIn page), but that gets a bit tricky. Who do I want to be? Am I the financial/operational management guy? Am I the former UNIX sysadmin who wants to focus on technical issues? Do I stress my security background? It all depends on who I’m talking to and what the potential position is. In this case, I can tailor my resume to meet what I think are the needs of the company, but that gets to be more complicated when I need to create something like a LinkedIn profile for myself. Once again, the issue of deciding what it is I want to do going forward still sits there as an unsolved riddle.

So that brings me to today where I’m going to spend some time working on my resume. It’s a perfect situation for me – I need to provide an overview of the skills and areas where I think I might be able to help my business associate, but I’m not actually in the market for a job. I’m just providing a paper view of myself for his company should they decide they need my help; and I’m not concerned about whether that help is for 5, 10, 20, or 40 hours a week. In fact, if they don’t need me at all, that’s fine, too. I’m truly just reaching out because I know what challenges he and his company are facing, and if they can’t handle it all with their current staffing, I think I might be able to help. This seems like something I can tailor a resume to.

That’s the thing about My First Retirement – I can never quite be sure what’s in store from day to day. And that’s what’s making this fun.