It has been over a year and a half since I have written here and I’ve wanted to provide an update of what the last 18 months have looked like in my life. We’re still trucking as a family with a lot on our plates and many challenges over that time frame, and doing our best to keep our heads on straight and priorities in line with how we want to live our life.
On January 1, 2018 I officially started a new position as Manager of my group at work. We have about 15 people and I’m responsible for roughly $2.5-3 million in gross revenue. The position has been way more work and stress than I expected, with six direct reports and being the only one with contract authority. I’m the one that gets pulled into conflict situations in and outside the company, doing risk management in trying to get through potential lawsuits and resolving sticky situations. My staff are spread out around four offices in two states, with clientele in six states. Navigating all of this has taken its toll, and for maybe the first time since my last post I feel I can come up for air for a bit. I feel a little like the golden handcuffs are upon me as I make good money but don’t really enjoy the grind of the job in consulting that much with the constant corporate whip-cracking and fight for work to keep the troops fed.
My wife and I are doing what we can to give us the opportunity to leave this world early through things like maxing out our 401k, investing outside of the retirement accounts, and paying down our house faster, but it may still be 10 years as we have other financial elements like kids’ college accounts that further spread our funds thinner than we’d like. And spending… I think we’re still spending unnecessarily on various items (Holly likes to shop, and while she isn’t overly spendy, it all adds up). We have enough hobbies and interests that filling our time when it comes to this shouldn’t be an issue. But the financial goals and the day-to-day work stresses that come with trying to reach those goals are sometimes difficult. I think like many Holly and I have existential incongruity in our daily work not aligning with life fulfillment and thus we struggle in this area.
While my work has been stressful, it has been nothing like my wife has dealt with over the last couple of years. She’s had a variety of work issues historically at her previous place of employment. Bullying. Nepotism. Harassment. Political undercutting. I was the person she needed to vent to and I had to hear her issues and try to advise and guide which wore on me, but she had to deal with this stuff everyday. About a year ago, she got her resume polished up and was going to look for a new job in earnest when they fired her for essentially whistleblowing on unethical behavior and standing up for what was right. It was a blessing in disguise as she was done there anyway. She landed on her feet at a quality firm but as you can imagine, it is still a slap in the face to be fired. Holly is still dealing with some of the past PTSD from this previous caustic job and is talking with a mental health professional to get through this, which I was happy she leaned into this. Most recently, after 20 years in consulting she took a pay cut and is now working for the government in a job she is very happy with. Best decision made this year.
Not Drinking 2018
Moving on from the work BS, in 2018 I went the entire year without drinking as a challenge to myself. It came and went without any real issues or problems. I encountered some ignorant questions during various social events, but for the most part it just took a little different thought process to grab a soda instead of a beer. We went to concerts, went camping, picnics, comedy shows, and other events where everyone else was drinking and I wasn’t, and it felt good to be able to go through this exercise. Similar to being a vegetarian for a year (which I did back in 2006 or so) I didn’t really have any major life revelations or insights, but enjoyed the challenge of saying that I did it. I thought I would lose the 10-15 pounds I’ve been trying to lose over the last 5 years, but I stayed steady as I continued to midnight snack (my main issue in this regard, and I need to kick this bad habit). If you think you’ve been over imbibing or self-medicating with the booze, take some time off to reevaluate alcohol’s role in your life. It is a social lubricant, and provides some interesting perspective as you watch others get wasted while you’re sober.
Archery/Hunting – In the past posts I mentioned getting into archery and trying to set things up for hunting. The archery seed has continued to be watered but with the variety of kid, work, and family responsibilities and desire to keep these balanced, I ended up not hunting in 2018. I listened to hundreds of hours of hunting podcasts such as Nock On archery, Gritty Bowmen, and Meat Eater among others. Up to this point I’ve never hunted but my cousin and brother both figured it out in the last few years and so I had a path to follow. My son and I both shoot at the bow club, which is my new tribe. I have gotten involved with volunteering and shooting with the group and I really enjoy it even if I’m not very good past 25 yards yet.
With my gear now bought (a hodgepodge of high-end stuff and thrift-store finds) and I’m going out every second or third weekend trying to bag my first deer. I’m fortunate to have family with land in my area I can hunt on, but this is all very intimidating as a new adult hunter compared to people who have grown up in this lifestyle. It takes me much more effort to push through the process and make progress and build it into my lifestyle. I built a 10 yard range in my garage (essentially a horse-mat backstop and a portable target) to shoot a little more often. I’m shooting a 2014 Matthews Chill R (bought used) set at about 60 pounds with a thumb release and I’m pretty happy with this set up. I took 12 year old Loudboy out with me for his first sit and we saw a lot of deer, which was all I was hoping for from his first hunt.
Guns – Since December 2018 I’ve bought four guns. Prior to that I didn’t have any. My brothers, dad, and father- and brother-in-laws are all into guns and I’ve shot theirs for the last few years. I finally got my own and love to shoot them. My first was a 9mm Glock 19 (Honda civic of guns) where I upgraded the sites, trigger, mag and slide releases to be more to my liking. Next was a Tikka T1X .22lr rifle for plinking and as a long-range trainer. A hunting/long range hybrid rifle was my next purchase, where I settled on a Bergara HMR in 6.5 Creedmoor – a ballistically friendly caliber with ability to take deer. Finally, I was able to procure perhaps my favorite gun. Technically a pistol, the Extar EP9 (9mm) is a $400-ish plastic pseudo-pistol caliber carbine (like an AR-15) that takes the same magazines as my Glock. A cheap $20 red dot and it was good to go. Really fun to shoot. Besides spending time at the normal shooting range, I’ve dropped in a few times at a local club to do USPSA league night – a low key local event where they set up timed tactical stages. I am very slow and at the bottom of the scoring, but it is super fun. I’m hoping to start to stretch out my long rifle more – my FIL has a 300 yard range on his property but there is a club not too far that goes out to a 1,000+ yds. My son and daughter likes to shoot with me from time to time as well, and we’re talking about a .22LR rifle competition with my BIL’s family at some point next year.
I’m still on my Homeowner’s Association Board which takes a fair bit of time as we manage a clubhouse, pool, and common areas and make sure things don’t fall apart on our watch.
My workouts are still primarily heavy weightlifting movements (bench press, overhead press, squats, deadlift) and some cardio (running, rowing machine, biking, heavy bag boxing). I need to probably do more, and in January I was doing the Crossfit Chalk Sweat! Workouts (on-line programming but I had everything in my gym to do it – basically 40 minutes of cardio/weights), and will probably bring that back at some point.
Watching live stand-up comedy is something I really enjoy and have seen a number of shows over the last year: the bigger ones were TJ Miller (very good), Dane Cook (free tix, meh), and Jason Mewes (of ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ fame, funny guy).
Parenting and Kids
Frankly my wife and I are really fortunate as our kids are bright, motivated, and generally happy despite transitioning into the pre-teen and teen years. We must be doing something right as they are very self-sufficient (make their own breakfasts and lunches, do their own laundry), helps with chores, and take care of the dogs. We are pretty grounded and modest as a family in a community with a lot of money and entitlement. Camping, hiking, and biking are all family activities we do together. The electronic devices are prevalent, but despite that the kids are accomplishing other activities entirely of their own accord such as my daughter (14) working on writing a book, regular music practice (piano, and other instruments) without any coercion by us, and various art projects.
Both kids and my wife are working towards their black belt in taekwondo in a gym with an owner of very high reputation (without outing more personal information, this dude is legit), and thus the kids have been balancing other sports and activities that are being realigned this next year. Soccer has wrapped up maybe for good (kids have played club for the last 4 years but have other priorities, so stopped soccer this fall) which will alleviate some of the stress and running around. With two working parents that sometimes travel or have evening meetings one of the biggest struggles is just managing it all. Dinner isn’t always home cooked nor are we calm and collected as we rush through the evening or night to make sure homework and everything is taken care of, but it seems to work for us. We haven’t had to deal with teen drama or dating yet, but as Birdsnest is now a freshman in high school, we know it is only a matter of time. She is a pretty, confident young woman and gets her share of attention though she is a band- and general-nerd. She’s had to say no to a boy in her grade who asked her out early in the year that she didn’t want to go out with.
Finally, as we look ahead to their next chapter of post-high school in 4-6 years, we’re doing what we can to sock money away for them. We’re not sure what direction they will take at this point. Despite very good grades and test scores, neither kids really seems to gravitate toward STEM field elements. As a STEM graduate, I struggle with this a little, knowing if you’re inclined to this field you have a good earning potential, but understand not everyone is cut out for it.
Loudboy has been really into cooking the last year or two and says he wants to be chef (which he’s said for a few years now) or a surgeon (because they make good money). Birdsnest says she doesn’t want to work in a cubical or office setting (good luck with that) and wants to be a writer or maybe graphic designer. Who knows where their paths will lead, and hopefully we can help them along the way. They are both aware that if they follow the traditional college route, they’ll have to help. It is likely the teen will start working somewhere this fall or winter, and saved up some money from babysitting this summer for college.
Marriage is rarely static as two individual sets of goals, priorities, and life experiences are like two trains traveling in the same direction intersecting frequently. I will say the last 18 months for us have been challenging primarily due to outside forces that have made it more difficult to sift through and put aside. A fair bit of that was physical and mental health issues that have been a large burden that especially Holly carried around that darkened everything. She has gotten some help with medication and talking to a professional and things have gotten better, along with being happy in her new job.
But it takes a lot more effort to put this and kids and work aside (and the time sink that all those items suck away) to focus on just us. In past years we’ve been able to get away for a week in some exotic locale, but in the last year I think we’ve only gotten away for a couple’s getaway weekend only once or maybe twice, along with the occasional concert or date night. We both recognize this deficiency and are aware we need to do better job of connecting and being intimate, and I need to do a better job of leading the effort as Holly has usually followed my lead in this area. I’m hoping we’re mostly through the worst of the crap and we can get back to a better place within our marriage. And I’m not saying it’s bad – we’re not fighting or anything, just more a sense of malaise and disconnection than anything else. In Sickness, and In Health. I have a good life and good marriage, but I always am looking to sharpen the saw and get better.
So there you have it for the last year-plus boiled down to a couple thousand words. I really hope I can find time to start writing more again since it is something I really like to do when my head is in the right place. I think as some of these stressful life elements get resolved or addressed, I’ll find that I’m in a better place to share my stories again. Until then, hope your lives are positive and you’re finding your own happiness on your path.