Wrapping Up Vacation

This is the final morning of my vacation before heading back to the office tomorrow. I might be wrong, but I think the ten day respite has been the longest in at least a year and a half. The story of the past eighteen months is a story in itself, but today I’m thinking more about what’s been happening and what’s just ahead back at my desk.

U.S.S. Constellation, Inner Harbor Baltimore, MD

We left for a student conference/competition in Baltimore, MD last Friday, driving that night to the NC/VA line. That left six hours to Fairfax, VA for Saturday’s drive through the foothills. Sunday was left relatively open for time in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Mall. The rest of the week was spent in Baltimore with 4300+ of our closest friends from around the country (and from Germany, which Vicki found to be exceedingly cool). The kids competed in various technology and creativity events, and in the off hours we walked all over our end of Inner Harbor. We found some great food, the most awesome Barnes & Noble ever, and lots of great photo opportunities.

And the Gamecocks won the NCAA Baseball Championship. Can’t leave that one out – had to watch and participate from afar, making me that much more grateful for friends on Twitter and Facebook sharing the excitement via social media channels.

We drove back all day Friday and the ginormous payoff was being able to sleep in our own beds, with my big plus being my own pillow. Having the full three-day weekend to recuperate is working out well: celebrating Independence Day with the family, small pre-birthday lunch (Best Buy gift cards – the gifts that keep on giving), and movies this morning.

So here’s Monday. I’ve grown to embrace the first day of the week, even more so with a holiday. I’m ready to head back, and the whole point of writing here is that I’ve been ready to get back for most of the week. I don’t mean workaholic-like – instead, I’ve kept up with work happenings and have read some good creative thought-inducing posts on social media that I want to put into play. We’ve enjoyed family time together, travel time away, and new adventures and memories that have been fun and exciting. And now, it’s time to get back into Life with that renewed vigor and excitement to keep doing what we’re passionate about in the marketplace.

I don’t want or need a vacation to recuperate from the vacation. This time away has been better than that. I’ll be ready for tomorrow morning’s alarm after enjoying the rest of today, and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the week has in store.

NOTE: as always, I reserve the right to change my mind when the alarm actually goes off tomorrow morning at 6am.

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Good Week, Anyone?

Is anyone else just simply enjoying your week as much as I am right now? I’m curious,  because even with the hiccup I had this morning, I’m still feeling the overall happiness of being in the right place at the right time for the right reasons. There’s something about doing what you enjoy with people you like. I feel for folks who just cannot find that kind of happiness…

Whether it’s because they would rather be unhappy, or because culture and environment have conspired against them to make their days miserable, it makes me wish everyone could have one week where things went right, when projects would come together, when coworkers would be complimentary components of the team.

[Wow, that was a long sentence. Don’t make me diagram that.]

Are you doing what makes you happy? What’s keeping you from that? Can you see a way to change what you’re doing so it can be better? Or maybe to move out of it to something more life-affirming? How much angst and drama do we bring on ourselves, and how much can we change it to make it more pleasant.

Are you happy? I am – hold on while I go pinch myself. Okay. I’m done.

embracing mondays

Conversation on Twitter with Otis Taylor, 03/28/2010:

Me: Anyone else ready for Monday? Yeah, me neither…
9:40 PM Mar 28th via Tweetie

OT: @RickCaffeinated Mondays are my most productive days. Looking forward to it.
9:44 PM Mar 28th via TweetDeck in reply to RickCaffeinated

Me: @otisatthestate – agreed. The anticipation of Monday is often worse than it actually turns out. Bring it on.
9:49 PM Mar 28th via Tweetie in reply to otisatthestate

OT: @RickCaffeinated I’ve fortunately wired myself to embrace Mondays-and to work on the weekend. Got so much done today.
11:13 PM Mar 28th via Echofon in reply to RickCaffeinated

Just a short exchange, but it impacted me. Why did I have to look at Monday and see doom, despair and agony on me? Why did Sunday afternoon have to be a ramp up for something painful and unavoidable? So, with this mindset starting to shift in me, for the past two weeks I’ve been intentionally changing my focus towards Monday to something more positive, more in line with who I am, more about what I want to accomplish in a given workweek. Starting with Sunday, I’ve tried to not see oh-no-it’s-the-end-of-the-weekend, and instead have been focusing on oh-boy-I-get-to-work-on-something-new-doing-work-I-enjoy-with-the-best-people-on-the-planet.

Or at least, trying to keep it positive and reward-focused on if-I-at-least-get-through-the-week-I’ll-get-another-of-these-weekend-things-soon-enough-along-with-a-paycheck-and-food-on-the-table. (Next I need to work on using-too-many-hyphenated-italicized-sentences, I think.)

There’s something to be said for the power of positive thinking. That’s a catchphrase, a buzzword that maybe has been rendered powerless to bring about any real meaning and change. But there’s truth there, standing on the understanding that most of what passes through me in my day is of my own doing. My responses and reactions to external stimuli come from the overflow of who I think I am, of what I think about this world, of my thoughts on God and the people around me and the interactions that take place in this block of time and space.

Or taken another way, if I look at Monday with fear or angst or melancholy, then that’s how my perception of Monday will treat me back. If I can have a more positive, more energizing, more imaginative outlook on the whole enterprise, however, then there’s a chance Monday will look back on me with some favor and progress as well.

Notice it’s not Monday that’s having the problem. It’s not Monday trying to be all big and bad. That’s just an arbitrary day in a relatively arbitrary set of days. Letting it have control over me anymore than that has been a losing proposition for too long. It would be like being mad at the color Yellow – it can’t change, so it’s more likely that if it ever gets better, I’d better be the one stepping up to the plate to do something about it.

[confession: I’m writing this early Monday morning 04/12, setting it to post this evening after 6pm or so. If Monday sucks, I reserve the right to take all this crap back. Deal?]

never done it that way before…

This has been a good week at work. Scratch that. From last Friday to today, it’s been a wonderful week to be employed. And that’s really the crux of my conundrum tonight.

I’ve never really blogged about work before.

In the past I’ve posted photos from business trips, and I’ve talked about things that might have happened in the office, or maybe about conversations and opportunities with friends on the job. But I’ve never really blogged ABOUT WORK. Many of you know I started a new job last August 2009, that I left a good situation under my own gumption to take a position working for a friend in a new place with new challenges and new opportunities. But I’ve never really posted anything, since the beginning of my blogging life, on THIS IS MY JOB, THIS IS WHAT I DO, THIS IS WHERE I WORK.

And I want to so bad. But, in all fairness and caution, I am going to defer for the time being. I’ll write something, run it by the powers that be for editorial approval, and I’ll post soon if I’m able. Or if not – and that’s a likely and okay option in my book – then I’ll post “my story” some other way.

Why have I never done this before? Mostly, it’s because some people don’t think it’s a good thing. Companies have reputations to uphold, branding initiatives to run, and shareholders to protect. I wouldn’t want to do anything that would hurt the company first or my job second. Having written that now, though, I confess that in my current position, that line is very blurry, with more of a back and forth going on between who I am personally and who I represent professionally.

This is my encouragement for anyone and everyone: I think it’s a good idea to NOT blog or tweet or set your status on Facebook with anything that would tie you to your workplace. Err on the side of, “hmm, will this get me fired or not?” and leave it alone. That’s been my take for many years, and will continue to be the way I look at the privilege, process, release of being able to blog.

But this one time, maybe I’ll invent my own loophole. After checking with the boss, of course. It’s been a really good week.

what a difference…

What a difference a year makes. Or rather, what a strange new world in around twelve months. Last February I was on the road. I was in Lititz, PA, working on requirement documents for a customer. I’ve enjoyed business travel over the years. Meeting new folks, building relationships across the country, seeing how other people live and work and do their thing – that’s exciting to me. And honestly, I was ready to keep doing it for years to come.

Eight months ago, I was working in the group that was implementing those notes – making the ideas and thoughts of a couple of meetings and trips come through as a working productive business system. Seven months ago, the inkling of the idea of a change in my personal path was growing to the size of a man’s fist just above the horizon. Six months ago…

Well, six months ago from today I was on day four or so of a new job. My first new job in 19+ years. I left the group working on the systems we’d designed in our heads and in Word docs. I left the ID Card and car hanger tag and laptop on the desk of my supervisor, one of my friends. And I started working for a new boss with a new ID Card, driving to a new parking lot for the Mini Cooper, sitting in front of a new PC that eventually gained a second monitor, and thankfully still having the opportunity to work for a friend.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that wherever you are now, don’t bet it’ll be the exact same this time next year. Or, on the other hand, maybe it will. For better or for worse, where you are in February 2011 will depend hugely on what you want to do now, what you want to do in August 2010, what you want to change and live and work through. Or not change, not live through, not work out. I could still be happy in my former job – well, I’m not sure of that, but I had settled into it for the even longer haul. But through the decisions to change, to accept change, to embrace and take on the challenge of change – through all that, here I am right now.

It’s a different world – and I’m good with that.

waking up

My tendency is to want to sleep in on weekend mornings. During the week I am usually swiping the snooze button as many times as I think I can get away with. But there’s no alarm on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and the morning fogginess in my head can just lay there another hour or so, five or six “a few more minutes” at a time.

On the flipside of all that, I also appreciate a quiet house and the peace and stillness available only before everyone else awakes. Silence and a hot aromatic cup of coffee are my friends. Quietly reading the news online, popping down through my overly full google reader listings, seeing what I might’ve missed on Twitter overnight (nothing, trust me), having time to think and ponder and read – these are things worth getting up for.

I had a nice dream last night, one that I’ve had a time or two before. Maybe not, but it felt like I’d had it before, like it wasn’t entirely unfamiliar but instead was a revisit with old friends. In this dream, the people living behind us on some hillside in someplace I’ve never been have a bomber plane. Think Memphis Belle bomber, not the big cargo planes of today. They fly it out of their backyard, across the fields and hills, to the town square where folks gather at the fountains, at the pond, in the square with the shops. It’s a flying dream with a huge plane. It’s a communal dream with lots of folks I don’t know, but maybe I do. It’s an exciting dream with no soundtrack other than the woosh of the wind and the landings that are undramatically short on streets that should be too small, in areas that aren’t big enough.

In the beginning, I had gone back to visit these neighbors, been introduced to aunts and uncles, perhaps over the holidays. And then we took the plane out, just to fly downtown. When we arrived in the village we disembarked to see my aunts and uncles, so perhaps it was the holidays. And then I woke up – to no alarm, so no need for a snooze button. And to no coffee, so there was a need to…

Wake up. I’ve been up about ninety minutes now. And in writing this I think the reason I got out of bed wasn’t the promise of peace and quiet or the magnetic pull of the morning’s first cup of coffee. Instead, I think I realized that if I didn’t get a start on some part of this new day, then the highlight of it would be that dreamt flight through the countryside in a plane that didn’t exist. Not a bad thing, but going back to sleep wouldn’t recapture that – while waking up just might.

almost november

This has definitely been a full and filling year so far. We’re at the end of October, just two more months to go. I’ve changed jobs, something I did not see coming from the perspective of last January. I’ve met new folks, stepping outside my own comfort space into the more social aspects of social media. I’ve scaled back on spiritual ritual while, I hope, ramping up a bit spiritually. I’ve been reading more, writing probably a little less, and tweeting at 140-characters-a-pop way too much.

One of the highpoints I hope to build on is being more “there” with Vicki and the kids. It seems like the stress of job stuff and change made me more irritable this past year, and that’s probably spilled out more on the kids than anywhere else. But I hope it’s changing for the better, too. There’s less PC time with having to ration minutes with them, and I hope the sharing is doing me sone good, getting me unplugged a little more (he types sincerely from his iPhone).