20. October 2020 · Comments Off on Leaving Oakland · Categories: California, family

Southwest Airlines window seat pic of our flight out of Oakland after a week helping my mother-in-law and a bit of relaxation on the Pacific. The Bay Bridge to the south, Golden Gate cloaked in fog to the north. Always a beautiful departure from the Bay Area!

Updated the lighting around my mother-in-law’s CA home. Converted to all LED bulbs, repaired a few fixtures. Lots of security lights added to improve her security (or at least her feeling of security).

Steve Alexander


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.

This morning, my wife and daughter took off for Florida on the first stop to their Caribbean cruise. They flew from Bradley to Tampa, then Tampa to Fort Lauderdale where they are spending the night. Tomorrow, they make their way to the ship and spend a week floating around the warm waters of the Caribbean.
Neither of them have ever been on a cruise, and neither have ever been to the Caribbean. Sue was a bit nervous before leaving, but I’m sure that she will be fine once on board. This is Kaite’s graduation present from her grandmother, and intended to be a once in a lifetime trip with her mom.
I cannot wait to hear the stories and see the pictures!

As I reflect on the past few days, it is with great appreciation that I have enjoyed our family traditions. We have rarely participated in large Thanksgiving feasts and have only a couple of times ventured out for Black Friday madness. This year was no different.

Late Tuesday, I had the pleasure of picking up my daughter at the MBTA T-station at Riverside, just one exit south of the Mass Pike on I-95. While picking her up is a total joy, the traffic at the I-90 / I-95 intersection is horrible late any afternoon. The final 5 miles to the station took me 40+ minutes, an 8 MPH average. With her, we averaged only a bit faster for the first 30 minutes for west bound trip towards home. Her train from Saco, ME to Boston was delayed and the Green Line had a break down causing her to detour as well; she was starving and very tired when she got to the car. We stopped at the first rest area on the way home which allowed a bit of the traffic to subside and for us to put some grub in our bellies. Rest area food has certainly come a long way from years past, with McDonald’s not being the only choice. Given our family’s complete displeasure with fast food, the choice went to a chicken and cheese stromboli from some Boston based pizza shop. While the stromboli was excellent, the cold, Heinz marinara sauce was horrible. But it was food and now time to head home.

Wednesday was a normal workday for Sue and I, each putting in our requisite 10 hours of work before returning home but we were both off for the Thanksgiving holiday. We decided to cook our turkey using a new-ish method of preparation. We have brined our turkey in the past, but a new Cook’s Illustrated recipe slightly changed how we did the brining. We brined the turkey overnight in 6 quarts of water and 1 1/2 cup table salt. We use a 5-gallon beverage container (similar to this), placing the container outside since it was near freezing. In the morning, we removed the turkey, patted it dry, and put it on a half sheet pan with it’s cooling rack. This goes into the fridge uncovered for 8+ hours according to the recipe. We didn’t have that long, but kept it in there for about 5 hours until we started cooking. The point of refrigerating it after brining is to draw the salt out and allow for crisp skin. It worked like a charm. We had to start with the breast down, then rotate 1/4 turn for each of the two sites, finishing it with the breast up. Each turn came another basting with butter and the challenge of actually rotating a partially cooked, 16 pound turkey. When it’s done according to the thermometer (160 degrees), we pulled it out and covered it with a huge bowl so it could rest and finish cooking from the inside out. The final result was a delicious, moist turkey – the best we’ve done to date.

After the turkey was safely in the fridge to dry on Thanksgiving, it was time for a bit of pre-feast activity. The wife and daughter headed to the YMCA for some cardio and I headed out the door for my first outdoor run in months. I was using my GymBoss timer and a 3/1 run/walk ratio. That’s three minutes of running, one minute of walking for however long I run. I must say that it feels weird to run for just three minutes and then start walking, but it sure feels good after 30 or 40 minutes to know you have that walk break coming up. I ran an old route that took me through one neighborhood, then out on a long stretch of quiet roads before heading home. As I hit the edge of my neighborhood, I could have turned left, up a monster hill, and been a bit under 5 miles for the run at my driveway. Instead, I kept going straight and ran home through our local park, making it to 6 miles at the park’s edge. I cannot believe I actually ran six full miles outside for the first time in almost a year. My pace was just under 11 minutes per mile WITH the walking. Afterwards, I felt great and quickly cooled down – there must be something to the whole run/walk/run method! After burning over 1000 calories on the run, I didn’t feel guilty at all having that one piece of gingerbread with bourbon whipped cream for dessert!

The day ended up being incredibly relaxing and low key, allowing time with family and the time to reflect on just how lucky we all are and how thankful we need to be every single day.

Both Sue and I have been working long hours lately without a lot of success to show for the work. Tonight, for example, she is still on a conference call that started almost three hours ago. She also worked almost ten hours in the office before heading home to grab dinner and jump on the call. It doesn’t make for a relaxing evening at home, to say the least.

I have been working less hours than her, although more hours than I am used to. I am in the midst of a difficult project right now, but expect the major work to be done with tomorrow if I can get the heads down time I need during the day.

At home, we have a great deal of work to do this weekend to get ready for next weekend’s party for Sue’s Mom. We have to blow the leaves, mow the grass, and clean the house this weekend. I am sure that I have the outside and Sue will get the inside. We do have things to hang on the walls, so everything isn’t all outside!

Later on, we have a party on Saturday evening that is being hosted by a coworker and his partner who have held this for many years. Last year, it was canceled because of the huge storm that pounded our state and left us without power for over a week. This year, we are expecting no bad weather until at least Monday from the latest hurricane (Hurricane Sandy). I guess that time will tell!

It’s been a while since I last posted, but wanted to try and catch up before the summer slips by and it’s fall. I have several other blogs that have also slipped without updates as well, so here’s my reasons / excuses.

This spring took the family on a few excursions including several trips to my daughter’s college, one anniversary trip to Cape Cod, and a trip to Las Vegas for work for me. This is minor compared to my wife’s travel schedule which has been nuts. When she travels, my life is turned on it’s ear keeping everything running here, feeding everyone, and still putting in my 60 – 70 hour weeks. My exercise has gone to pot for the most part as well, difficult to keep a consistent routine going with all of that going on.

Our 25th anniversary took place at the end of February with little fanfare. We went out to dinner at a nice restaurant, then headed back to work the next day. Our big celebration consisted of a 2-night, 3-day trip to Cape Cod. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Brewster, Maine. When we arrived on Friday, we just relaxed by walking on the beach, then heading to an early dinner at a very fancy restaurant. The package we purchased included a dinner at one of a couple of really nice places, a bottle of wine, and the two nights. The hosts at the B&B were lovely and I’d stay there again in a heartbeat. The second day, we spent just wandering around the Cape with no particular plans on where to go or when to be there. We saw several lighthouses and over 30 whales from the shoreline. We ate at a local bar close to the B&B and had fantastic food and relaxing conversation. The next day, we went south towards Woods Hole and Falmouth to see even more lighthouses check out the southern coast. It was very relaxing.

In May, I headed to Las Vegas for a 2-day information security forum. It was very professionally done, and gave me the chance to network with others in my industry. We stayed at the Cosmopolitan, one of the newest properties on the strip. When we finished on Friday, I walked the strip for a while. It didn’t take long to find a host of strange people. I walked through the MGM Grand for the first time since 1994 or 1995. It has gone so far downhill from what I remember, but other properties were simply over the top gorgeous.

Finally, this week took me on Wednesday (and my wife again on Friday) to drop (pick up) our daughter at college for her orientation. It was a bit strange leaving her there, even if I returned 15 minutes later to give her important items she had left in the car (wallet, ID, money). She may be grown up but she’s still our little girl at times!

Yesterday was the start of a 5-day weekend for both my wife and I. We took off early and headed to my youngest brother’s home near Hunt Valley, Maryland. We didn’t look forward to the drive because of the traffic, but it wasn’t that bad until we got near Harrisburg. So, we headed south through Hershey and bypassed the majority of the traffic. We also got to see a gorgeous sunset and got a whiff of chocolate as we traversed Hershey.

My youngest sister, two years older than I, had arrived shortly before we did, along with her youngest son and husband. Her eldest son showed up as we were leaving, so expect to spend some quality time with him today. My brother’s wife and kids are such a joy to be around. They are younger, with the three kids being all under 12. They have some fantastic toys that engage our kids as the “cool” older cousins. I have really enjoyed watching their kids grow up. While we didn’t really see them often until recently, we are now seeing them several times this year and now have solid relationships with all of them. They travel to Maine almost every summer for a week of vacation and have to basically drive by our home when doing so. With the drive here being almost halfway to Maine from Maryland, it makes for a perfect stop either on the way up or back.

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and getting a chance to just relax for a day or two before heading into the holiday rush.