30. March 2014 · Comments Off on A long distance trip to the ER · Categories: hotel, kids, Maine

My youngest child has been fighting what we thought was the flu or mono this week. She has visited the health center on her campus on Wednesday where they did a test for the flu and a test for mono. Both came back negative. She was feeling somewhat better on Thursday a evening and on Friday during the day (her birthday). But overnight Friday, things turned worse. She was nauseous and had a spiking fever. She had symptoms of appendicitis (he lower pain) and hadn’t been able to keep anything down since early Friday morning.

Early Saturday morning, she called me and was texting her mom – both of us convinced her to head to a walk-in clinic and not wait any longer. They ran another flu test (again negative), and said that any further tests needed her to visit the ER. So I packed an overnight bag and headed the 3 1/2 hours north to meet her at the ER.

After a fairly short wait, they hooked her up to a saline drip and had the doc run through the initial questions to form an opinion. His opinion was that it was Mesenteric lymphadenitis – basically a viral infection causing the lymph nodes to swell. I wasn’t overly impressed with the care she received and probably should have been more vocal. It’s a fine line to cross, although I did ask a ton of questions via her mom who was consulting with doctors at her conference.

2 liters of fluid later and she headed home. We went out to get some food since she was starving and to the grocery store to get Gatorade and water for her. Then, off to an early bedtime in the hotel. There was no way she wanted to head back to the dorm.

This morning, she was still feeling like crap, her eyes are swollen, and nauseous. So we checked out of the hotel and headed back to the ER where we are currently. The initial diagnosis is mono, so they are running that and a few more tests to rule out anything serious. At least she’s in good hands now.

After leaving here, we will head back to her dorm room and get a couple of things before heading back home. It’ll be up to her mom or brother to bring her back up after recuperation for a few days.

There are times like this that make me very glad that she goes to school only a few hours away from home!

26. March 2014 · Comments Off on All the leaves from my street end up in front of my door. Yes, even during the winter. · Categories: foliage, Home

New Instagram Photo: http://ift.tt/1o2iZs7
19. March 2014 · Comments Off on Alexander’s BBQ transported back to Connecticut! · Categories: food, Richmond

New Instagram Photo: http://ift.tt/1hDkSnE
07. March 2014 · Comments Off on A bit over 60 days · Categories: Home, travel, winter

I took an unscheduled break from blogging over the past two months. So much has been going on at home, and almost nothing outside, but it has completely wrapped it’s arms around my typing and not allowed a single word to be written in 60+ days.

I last wrote that lots of stuff was going on at home. That is still going on, but we’re at least moving forward. Our kids are back in school and Sue has both prepped for and run her company’s annual meeting for their worldwide body of participants. They were in Disney while we were fighting another snow storm, but we both got through the events of the past few months. It has snowed here for five months now, but common in New England. We’ve skipped snow in March so far, but it’s only the 4th of the month so there are still a few more weeks until we’re out of the water.

All I can say is, “come on Spring!”

03. January 2014 · Comments Off on A vacation from the holidays · Categories: holiday

I decided to take a vacation from the holiday this year. Not a vacation over the holiday, but a vacation from the holiday. While I will go into excruciating detail with my therapist, I won’t go into many details here. She gets the juicy details, you do not – sorry. Maybe when I get around to writing a book or publishing my journal, I’ll share the details. For now, they are to remain private.

Christmas presents were bought, but without the fanfare of seasons gone by. I typically love to buy things for others. I think about it for months, purchase them or create them far in advance, then wait with a giddy smile as they open the packages from me. This year, it was very different. Since late in the summer, the stress in the house has been more than I can stand most days. It made the Christmas present season come without the normal joy or anticipation. A discussion with the wife concluded that I wasn’t to buy any large presents for anyone, but especially none for her. This pretty much took the holiday down to just waiting for it to happen with trepidation, not with anticipation. It was a very different holiday.

One of the biggest challenges this year was finding an appropriate Christmas card for my wife. Given everything going on at home, I struggled to find the Hallmark card with an appropriate greeting. While they may advertise as having the perfect cards, they do not have them for every sentiment or every occasion. I came to find out that she also struggled to find the right card this year. We exchanged cards before the kids woke up, and that was for the best so as to not have anyone question what was going on or wanting to see the card with our sentiments.

It has been a tough year for us, and I’m ready to put it behind us and have a better new year, no matter what next year brings. However, I’m glad the stress of the holidays are over and now we can just deal with moving forward once her (big) annual meeting concludes in late February.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter decided that she wanted to run the Manchester Road Race again. It had been a couple of years since we first ran it and I thought it would be fun. It would be just her and I running since neither my wife nor son had any interest. There was the thought that this would be a run and not a walk, but my daughter’s hips have really started bothering her lately (it’s a persistent, nagging issue for her). So, run, walk, or some combination would be fine. I got to spend a couple of hours 1-on-1 with my baby girl. We would start in the 40-minutes and up coral, the last of the running corals. I’m not sure where we were in that coral, but probably too close to the front for the run/walk effort we were about to undertake. The distance is a strange (to us) 4.748 miles, surely with some interesting history behind that specific distance.

With the temperatures in the upper 20s and a blustery, northwestern wind, we left the house shortly after 8 AM. We headed to our local Dunkin’ Donuts to get her a peppermint mocha hot coffee; nothing for me since I had my share of coffee before leaving the house. Knowing that we would be waiting around for an hour or more in the freezing cold was motivation enough for me not to need to find a port-o-potty before running. We arrived at Manchester Community College’s parking lot by 8:30 and promptly found our way to the bus that would take us to the race. We were surely not dressed warm enough – a few top layers including a windbreaker, hats, gloves, and leggings with shorts on top. I was wearing my Injinji toe socks, like with any long run or race. Without anyone else with us, we had no one we could hand off our extra clothes, meaning we would need to carry anything we brought for the entire race. This was a mistake, causing us to underdress for the very blustery morning of standing around.

We arrived in the area and walked through a wicked breeze to the starting coral. We had an hour to go and we were both already freezing cold. Fortunately, the 15,000 other runners helped to break the wind but unfortunately, didn’t do much to warm us up. It would be a long wait to the start. Finally, the sun rose above the buildings to provide a slight warm up, but not enough that we were warm by a long stretch. As the minutes clicked by, it was finally time for the (three) wheelchair competitors to start. Just 15 minutes more.

The coral fences were removed and a few minutes later, the starting gun was finally fired. We were off, although neither of us could feel our toes by then. Whisked off with the fury of a normal starting line, we ran down the first street and made the first turn. It was then that my daughter’s hip popped and really started hurting. We were walking. We ran a few more times but mostly walked until the end.

While we did not end up with fast times, we got to spend more than an hour walking together and chatting a bit. I won’t have these opportunities forever, so take each one I can. I am thankful on this holiday season, that I get to spend times like this with at least one of my children. Next year, who knows how things will play out, so living in the moment is the best I can do for now.

Last evening, I attended my 35th high school reunion. While I have attended a couple of these in the past, it was 15 years since I’ve seen most of these people in person. Facebook has certainly help close the distance gap through shared photos, stories of our children, news of our divorces, and our jobs. This closed gap made it much easier to recognize those that I hadn’t seen in person in many years. Faces were familiar, stories of kids came easily, and family photos were mostly shown on smartphones. People forgot the normal high school crap, the cliques and the rivalries over members of the opposite sex. Last night, we were all just friends.

As you might expect, some have aged better than others, and some have lived very hard lives. There were divorces, spousal deaths, and restraining orders; there were those with 30-year-old children and those with children of their own under 10 years old and those with grandchildren. There were a few faces that without a name tag, I would have never recognized. There were others that looked like slightly aged versions of my memories from high school. A couple of the girls have grown into elegant women. A couple of men were handsome as well. From what I was able to pick up, I have moved more than anyone else, and several that still live within a mile of their childhood home. I had the usual problem of trying to explain what I do for a living. “I work with computers” seemed to satisfy most, although anyone that knows me professionally, understands that this is a clear understatement of what I actually get paid to do. It didn’t matter – just that I now lived in New England, a seemingly long way from home.

We graduated from high school in 1978 which was somewhere between the drug-fueled Vietnam war protest songs and the demise of disco and “the emergence of pop, dance music and New Wave.” The 80’s on 80 channel on SiriusXM is still probably one of my favorite channels since I really didn’t have time to sit and listen to music in the late 70s. Back then, I had a 10-speed bike and a car that I borrowed from my parents. We listened to albums in our parents’ basements doing things that would have shocked our parents. But we all came out on the other side with a healthy respect for our parent’s work ethics and the need to raise some great kids.

As you might expect, we had a sad corner – where high school photos of those who had died were displayed. I knew about most, but a few photos of others that died were shocking. In a class of almost 450 students, I suppose the number of deaths was in line with statistics. In the center was the one that impacted me the most personally – my best friend Jay who died during our junior year. His family was my second family, his house my second home. I shudder to think how far Jay could have gone if he were alive today, and how much my life may have changed if he had remained a large influence in my life. The months following his fatal crash were the saddest months of my life. But I moved on and quickly grew up, remaining quite close with his family.

Probably the strangest thing last night was talking with several folks that I have known for more than fifty years. Our parents attended the same church so a group of us attended kindergarten in that church before it was mandated by the state. After all, I’m just too young to have known anyone for fifty years, right?

Yesterday, I went to our Boston office to work and meet with a few of my project colleagues. After leaving the house at 5am and riding the commuter rail, I pulled into the office before 8 with a large container of Dunkin’ in hand per my normal routine. Around 11:30, I took off for a small sandwich shop near the office and got what I think is my last BLT of the year and walked back by the waterfront to sit and enjoy a quick bite and take in the beautiful day. A short 15 minutes later, I was back in the office to finish up. I love the fact that you can get pretty much anything you want to eat within a 10 minute walk from that office. It’s in the financial district, so lots of high rise buildings which make for a busy lunch crowd. Service is necessarily quick almost everywhere – at least at the busy places.

After meetings and other work was done, I took off to walk to North Station to meet my youngest child. Kaite is in college in Maine so she took the Downeaster train from Saco to Boston. The station is about a mile from our Boston office; it’s an easy walk on a beautiful day like yesterday. Once I found where her train was arriving, I found my beautiful daughter and got the best hug I could have hoped for. Being away from her for a month always makes that first hug so much sweeter.

Her food allergies have driven down the number of places we can eat, but there are no complaints on my part. We walked around for a bit, then headed to Cheer’s at Faneuil Hall (the replica bar from the TV show of the same name). We sat on the patio where the heaters were turned on, making it a very nice afternoon to sit outside. A couple of quick burgers later we headed to Mike’s Pastry to get some treats for Kaite to take back to school. Two cannoli and six macaroon cookies headed back to Maine in a box to satisfy one daughter and three roommates. We said a quick goodbye and she headed north and I went off to navigate the T system to make my way south to barely make the 5:55 commuter rail back to Worcester. As I pulled into the house just before 9pm, I was one tired man but very happy that I got to see my girl, if only for a couple of hours. She looks great and, unlike last year, she seems quite happy with her life. And as her Dad, that is the most I could hope for.

07. September 2013 · Comments Off on Inevitable change · Categories: change, family, summer, vacation

I took the week off from work for the first vacation for the year. It was not a relaxing break but was a break from work. Without going into too many details, I did too much outside work, had rainy weather, and spent too much time alone and too much time feeling stressed for this to be considered a relaxing week.

Monday was the day to take my baby girl back to college. She had a rough first year, mostly roommate related. This year, she is in a new dorm with 3 other gals that had similarly difficult roommate issues last year. They are each determined to make this a better year. After less than a week after being at school, she and several of those gals took a road trip to see country star Luke Bryan. Given that she saw him over the summer in Hartford, she was in heaven seeing him again. I am so happy to see her in a much better place this year.

Last Thursday, I went shooting with my 21 year old son. He owns a couple of rifles now and I own one rifle that I’ve had since I was a kid. I inherited mine from my grandfather and have used it in the past to kill two deer as I was growing up in Pennsylvania. The shooting was both fun and entertaining. We had no hope of actually seeing the target from 50 yards away but had fun shooting nonetheless. The ammo was purchased by my son and I paid the range fees. All in all, it was a fun couple of hours together.

The big project that I started this week was the repair of our side yard that had stones covering the slope from the back yard to the front that the previous homeowner created. The stones were needed as the pine trees that were between us and the neighbor down the hill prevented most grass from growing on the hill. We removed the pine trees a few years ago and the soil has returned to a pleasant, grass-growing state. So the landscape cloth that the previous owner has laid down was now covered with dirt from the front yard (thanks to heavy rains) and grass that had both started in and now thrived in that same dirt. As I shoveled the stones into a wheelbarrow, I moved the stones that were on the side, many under the ivy bushes. While I was there, I pulled a few random branches while shoveling. Bad mistake. Poison ivy covered most of the ivy so my arm are now covered with what is left from that poison ivy, a week later. It has been a miserable experience that I don’t want to do anymore! To top things off, I had my first colonoscopy on Friday. Fasting for 48 hours and taking the meds to prep were among the least fun experiences of the year to put it mildly.

While there’s a bit more going on at home, I’m not quite ready to reveal that yet since it’s still pretty much just starting to be juggled and is very much up in the air. Let’s just say that one life coach and one therapist will push a few things into changing. It’s been a rough 5 years with no friends outside of work and two very demanding jobs – things are certainly ripe for change. Also, when you no longer need to have your kids in a specific town or high school, options open up. When one of you is in a job you hate and get beat down every day, things have to change. We’ve been together 27 years, married for over 26, but things change. Hopefully, whatever changes come will include both of us.

More to come…

29. July 2013 · Comments Off on Hitting stride · Categories: family, moving, work

Almost everyone who knows me knows that I’m a runner. I’m a slow, back of the pack older runner. But, when you’ve been running long enough, you occasionally have an excellent run. That run is when your legs feel good, your breathing isn’t labored, and your pace is faster than normal without effort. Without glancing at your Garmin, you know that your time was good, the run was nearly perfect. It is that day that you have hit your stride. The run before this one was hard, the next one will be hard as well. But for now, you are able to enjoy this perfect run; you can enjoy hitting your stride.

But this isn’t about running.

To be clear, this isn’t about being cocky, feeling that you’re working harder than anyone else, or feeling that you’re better. It’s quite the opposite. It’s an internal feeling. It’s about the internal comfort that you feel when things just click — you’re positive that you are making a small difference in the overall scheme of your company. It’s when you’re fairly certain that you have advocates that would shout out, “No” if they saw your name on a list of employees to be laid off.

To me, I consider a long term job as one that I’ve been in for 5 or more years. To date, I have had just three of them, but in each one, I’ve eventually felt like I’ve hit my stride.

The first was in Arizona. I spent two years in the life insurance industry. While I totally believed in the product, I was in the wrong business. So I started working for a small company as employee #40, soon to be one of 250 as we grew like gangbusters and were acquired by a number of larger, public companies as the years went along. In all, I was with the group for 10 years, providing internal support and supporting our largest customers as a consultant. My opinion was not only respected, but often, customers would not decide on a path until I weighed in on their best solution and best path. After working there for a number of years, I was well established as the go-to person to get work done and the guy who could find a solution to almost any problem. When the company was sold for the last time, I was one of the few that was kept on as a valued “transition” employee. I was paid extra to help the transition and ultimately, was scheduled to lose my job when the transition was completed. I’d also get a big bonus at the end of the transition and could have found another, similar position during this fantastic job market. Ultimately, the new company found they desperately needed the skills that I brought to the table, and wouldn’t let me go at the end of the transition. I received both the bonus for working through the transition and was the only person given a job at the end of that transition. I had created a niche for myself. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the first time I had hit my stride. But a year after transition, it was time to move the family back East and start over.

The next job was for a Fortune 200 retailer in the corporate headquarters in Virginia. I spent a bit over 10 years there as well, first as a manager, then as an individual contributor leading the information security admin team. After leaving management, I worked at another position as the information security team was started. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I found myself as the senior most person on the team with influence seemingly across our entire corporation. Through persistent networking both within and outside of the company, I became the one sought out by senior management, HR. loss prevention, and legal teams to facilitate investigations, knowledge sharing, and provide insight as to what course of actions should be taken regarding all things information security related. While the company struggled in many ways, I had hit my stride. I had the respect of my peers, the senior thought leaders, human resources, and our legal team. But with the knowledge that the company was heading for bankruptcy, we decided it was time to move on and relocate to New England.

I am currently in my third long-term position. I’ve been with my current employer for a bit over five years, hoping for many more. This is by far the most fiscally stable company I’ve ever worked for and unlike previous employers, will be in business long after I leave or retire. While I performed the job that I was hired for over the first 3 1/2 years of my tenure, my position morphed into a new position for me. At the time of transition, I was the senior member of the team yet again. To say I was apprehensive of this change is a gross understatement. Many people on my new team have decades of experience in similar positions; I was the newbie once again. My employer is large, although private, but is in a highly regulated financial services industry. We need to follow many standards for data security and processes that I needed to follow.

During my first 3 years, I had the pleasure to interface with individuals across the organization. Finding people networking as one of my top skills, I loved interacting with them. Some of my co-workers laugh when the see just how many people speak to me by name as we walk the halls of our glorious building. Less than two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have dinner with our Chief Technical Officer in a casual atmosphere. While I have known him for five years, it was the first real social interaction we’ve shared. During dinner, he asked me to act as one of a short list of representatives for the department among our sales leaders from across the company. The annual conference is this week and happens to be in Boston. So I am representing the collaboration space (chat, social networking, video chat, and so on) to this elite group of salesmen and saleswomen. It is quite an honor to be asked to do this, and to be just one of a few asked is even more special. The fact that a senior, c-level exec asked me personally means even more. To me, it means that, perhaps again, things have started to click and I’ve started to hit my stride. This is both when the work cranks up and when my ability to hide disappears.

So I said that this wasn’t about running. That may be because I’ve been fighting with my left hamstring for more than a month. I was training for the Hartford Half Marathon and pulled the hammy late into a 5 mile training run. A couple of PT sessions later, it’s better but I’m still not allowed by the therapist to run. When cleared, it’s going to take slow work to get the leg back and the October 12th deadline will be here long before I’m ready. I’ll struggle and never be where I wanted to be when the half comes around. I’ll never get back into my comfort zone and make it an easy 13.1 mile run. I’ll never hit my stride, at least this year.

In most aspects, I enjoy the work it takes to hit stride. For now, I’ll enjoy living in the moment for as long as time allows. For now, it’s time to focus and do the hard work needed to stay in the zone.