Prompt for 10 Dec: Money

Looking back at my 2011 Reverb posts, I noticed one that caught my eye.   So I copied it:

Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and DailyAngst were hosting Reverb11, a series of prompts on 2011,

Money.  Where did you spend your money this year?  Did you save it instead?  What, if anything, would you like to do with your finances this year?

I deplore talking about money, so again (in 2012) this might be a short post.

Senior year of high school back in 1982, I took a computer programming class.  Back then, we had a computer lab stocked with Apple IIe systems.  I took to programming like a fish to water.  I talked to my mother one day about the possibility of her getting a loan so we could buy one. Let’s just say that the proposal was not well-received and summarily rejected with extreme prejudice.

We lived in Las Vegas, somewhere between the poverty line and the middle class.   My mom was a medical assistant and my step-father a stage hand.  The two of them didn’t manage their money well.  They had issues that prevented them from being where they wanted to be… on many levels.

Notices to pay or move out were routinely posted on our apartment door. It was not uncommon for the power to be turned off at least once a year for anywhere from 1 to 5 days. If we had a phone the number was never in service long.  This meant that more often than not, if I wanted to talk to my dad, I had to walk down the block and cross the street to the payphone and try to call him collect.  He had no way to reach me.

On August 28, 1983, I arrived at college in a nice new car my mom bought me that morning.  While I was driving to Southern California, the credit company decided that mom was too big of a risk and wanted that they car back immediately.  Mom and my stepfather flew down that afternoon to retrieve and return it to the dealership.  Mom and Stepfather never delivered the funds to pay the difference between my tuition and my scholarships.  I actually was one of those Las Vegas lowlifes who had to borrow $500 from his girlfriend in order to stay enrolled in college. So needless to say, I’ve had money issues in my life.

In college, I double majored in Chemistry and English, but I worked in the computer center on the work-study program. The school ran a PDP-!! computer system which ran RSTS, a time shared operating system. My Sophomore year, the computer center purchased a half dozen Macs.  I fell in love with those systems.

In 1988, I went to work as a chemist in the real world, where they used DOS and then later Windows.  Early in my career, I did some programming in Pascal. I figured out pretty quickly in the late 80’s that there were many people who could program and that I was better off sticking to Chemistry.

In 1997 when my daughter was born, we decided it was time to by a computer so I could work from home.  I wanted to buy a Mac, but Apple wasn’t doing well, and a Mac wouldn’t do what I needed for work.  So we bought a PC.   Then a few years later we bought another PC.  And another.  When I started working on my MBA, I wanted to get a laptop.  Money was a bit tight then so I settled for a cheaper brand.  I still recall the day I checked my voicemail and I heard the message from my daughter, “Dude, you got a Dell!”.   It was a piece of crap.

We got into the PC cycle and it wasn’t until I bought my wife an iPad for Mother’s day in 2010, that we had an Apple product under our roof.   In 2001, my daughter wanted a MacBook Pro for High School.   Given my personal history, I bought it for her gladly.

In 2012, a full thirty years after I first floated the idea of getting an Apple IIe to my mom, I let it be OK to buy a MacBook Air for myself.   There was no good practical reason to buy this computer.  It was expensive, it was unnecessary, it was redundant and the purchase was completely self-indulgent.

I bought it anyway.  I bought it with money borrowed from our car fund.  I borrowed from myself, but I paid the good people at Apple cash.  I had plenty of financial reserves to make the purchase.  On my 47th birthday, I broke the PC cycle and the financial one all in one fell swoop of the debit card.

 

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Prompt for 10 Dec: Money

Reverb 2012 – First Half Almost Completed

The first six months of 2012 are almost over.   It’s time to review the goals for 2012 and see how I am doing.

  • Run New York:  I was orignially planning on running the Hamptons Half marathon, but instead complete 4 Miler run on behalf of the E&J Autism foundation in East Islip New York.   
  • Experience Lent and Easter in a deeper more spiritually satisfying manner.    Made progress, but still not satisfied.
  • Improve the work/family balance towards the favor of family.  Visited my father in New York.  I will be seeing cousins in San Francisco and UK family during 2012.  Want to do better at home.

  • Share a meal with a friend or family I haven’t seen since the 80’s.  Boy, no progress on this one.  I did have a lovely time with some friends in East Rockaway in April.  Needs focus.

  • Finish in the top 95% in the WiproSan Francisco Marathon. This would be reasonable for a 47-year-old guy running his first marathon.   I’m a bit behind in my training. This might be a bottom 3% now rather than bottom 5%.

  • Spend fewer than 28 nights away from home on business-related travel.  Stretch goal: Fewer than 10 nights. So far, only 11 nights spent away from home on business-related travel.  So far, no additional travel on the radar screen. 

  • Finish the Long Beach and Disneyland Half marathons in the top 50% while still capturing some great pictures during the race.  Race is in September.

  • Trail Runs:  Enjoy Xterra Malibu half as well as the Mission Gorge 15.   Have a strong showing (<= 1hr) at the Buffalo Alley 10K Trail Run.   Mission Gorge was difficult as always but fun.  I missed the Malibu half due to work travel.

  • Have lunch with at least one person from work each month.  Three different people in six months.  I need to get at least 9 more people this year.

  • Outside the US, I would like to complete a half-marathon in a country that doesn’t have a picture of Queen Elizabeth on their currency.  Completed!  Copenhagen.

  • Fewer (<2 per set) unforced errors when I receive serves in tennis.  Not made any progress on this one what so ever.

  • See the New York Islanders win a game in Los Angeles.   They lost against Anaheim. That goal was mostly out of my control, but I was there, just in case they won.

So goals aside, I have had the awareness that I have only run one trail run this year.   I have been focused on this marathon and been hitting the streets to the exclusion of the trails.  I love trail running.    It’s my real thing.  I have three street runs scheduled this year and only one trail run.  I am going to have to get myself back on the trails.
All in all, I am not doing too bad.
How are you doing on your goals for 2012?

Reverb 2012 – First Half Almost Completed

Prompt for Dec 31: There Are Only So Many Calories You Can Burn in a Day

Prompt for December 31: Clean Slate: Tomorrow is a new year.  What do you want to do with your clean slate?

The prompters have done a wonderful job this month, and after looking down  the path that the prompt paves, I’ve decided to make a left turn off the into the shrubs and woods of the unknown.  Hang on.

If you have seen my “About Me” on Facebook or WordPress, you may have noticed my expression that, “Every day month and year is an opportunity to do something different, to be someone better than we were yesterday. Time will pass us by or make us better. Our choice.

In a class I recently attended, the trainer repeatedly used the expression, “There are only so many calories you can burn in a day”,  meaning that we can work as hard as we want,  but the universe always imposes constraints on what we can achieve in a fixed period of time, be it hours, days, weeks, months, years or decades.  Life is always constrained and defined by time.

I hope that that my non-Christian friends will bear with me for a paragraph or two as I borrow from a recent homily from one of my parish priests.  Christmas has two facets in our modern world, a spiritual and a social.  The spiritual element of Christmas can be found in the Book of Luke which tells the story of Jesus, Angel Gabriel, Mary,  Joseph,  Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist and the Sheperds.  

The social aspect extends the story of Christmas by introducing the characters of the Little Drummer boy, Frosty the Snowman as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus.   I love the Rudolph myth and the rest of these modern characters as much as anyone else. I would, however propose that those characters, the Grinch included, only slightly enhance the concept of the season,  but also serve as a certain distraction or deflection from the greater spiritual meaning of Christmas.   

These new characters really don’t really nourish us, but serve instead as the spiritual equivalent of empty Christmas calories. There are only so many calories you can burn in a holiday. 

We all have experienced the time limitations that start at Thanksgiving and end with New Years.  How much we focus on miracle of Christmas versus the distractions of the season are our choice and ultimately our responsibility.  How do we want to spend that limited time available, with people who are important to us and/or doing the things that fill our spirits?  Alternatively shall we use that time  absorbing empty spiritual calories in whatever form they take? At the end of the holidays, we are ultimately responsible for the choices we made or don’t make.  The question becomes one of what choices would have made our experience the richest possible, and what choices did we actually make and why.

Looking forward,  we get 366 days bearing the 2012 brand.  We can do with them what we please.  Everything has an opportunity cost, something that must be given up in order to make a different choice. If I do this, I don’t do that. For most of us roughly 122 days worth of time will be spent sleeping.  Those working full-time will spend another 83 days plus or minus at some type of job that hopefully enriches their lives.  A priori, most of us working stiffs have about 205 of our 366 days allocated.  What’s left is about 161 days worth of time to do with as we please.  

Make great choices, there isn’t as much time as we think.

Happy New Year.

Prompt for Dec 31: There Are Only So Many Calories You Can Burn in a Day

Prompt for December 29: House a Home

Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and DailyAngst were hosting Reverb11, a series of prompts on 2011

Prompt for December 29: Home: How do you make your house a Home in 2011?  Did you move? Repaint? Redecorate?  How do you want to change your home in 2012?

We have lived in this house a good portion of The Child’s life, so it is effectively a home to us already.   My contributions these days come in the garden. 

The Child and The Corn
A few years back we had a priest in our parish who was EXTREMELY into growing food to help feed the homeless.  He moved in to the rectory and immediate reallocated space around the church and started a vegetable garden. 

One spring, during Mass, he asked the congregation to consider taking home these little bags of seed corn and planting them where we could.    He asked that we bring a portion of whatever grew back to church for the program that feeds the homeless.

Darth Vader has nothing on my black thumb and I certainly don’t know nothin’ ’bout growin’ no corn. I tried anyway.   I planted the corn in 3 sections of the back yard.   In one section, it spouted quickly but did not grow tall.  In another section, it didn’t grow at all.  In the third section, it took a while to sprout, but it grew and it grew tall and it grew quickly.

I never understood why people prayed over their crops until I had the helpless feeling of waiting for them to do ANYTHING!  So everyday, I watered and I watched.  I watched and I watered.   When green shoots popped, we celebrated (a little) and when it became obvious that certain sections of the garden were not going to grow or that they would only grow so much, we accepted and focused on what we had.   I know, it sounds silly for a New York-born, Las Vegas raised MBA-Chemist to fret over a few stalks of corn, especially when there are so many other challenges in this modern world, but I did. And when the time came to pull the ears of corn and cook them up, I must tell you, they were the highlight of the meal.

It’s been a few years, but the priest’s message about the abundance and we have in California and the unused capacity we have to grow and to feed ourselves has been churning in my head.  

The Orange Tree
When we moved in to our home, a mature dwarf orange tree was growing in the back yard.  
In 2010, I flanked the orange tree with a dwarf pair and and apple tree.   The peach tree blossomed this last spring and bore fruit.  It is probably few weeks away from budding.  The apple tree still needs time to mature.

Labor Day weekend this year, I  planted a pear tree in the back yard  and an avocado tree in the front yard.   The pear tree took with no signs of trouble, but the avocado tree was touch and go.   First there were problems related to underwatering.  Then there were problems with overwatering.   Large leaves turned brown and fell off within weeks, but new buds started growing immediately.  Talk about mixed messages. 

In the past few weeks, I have planted bare root bing cherry tree and a bear root multi-graft (Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Anjou) pear tree.   These trees came with no leaves, which makes it very difficult to tell how they are doing.  All I can do is keep do is water and watch.   Both trees seem to be developing buds over the past days, but it could just be my imagination.  Now I worry that these trees will get enough chill hours at night to induce them to sprout (who knew they needed cold).

My morning and after work routine typically involves visiting all 7 trees to check on them.  Their like little mute children that don’t give a hint how they are doing. The best I can do is just pay attention and be aware of how moist the soil is.

As 2012 rolls around, there is a new hole in the back yard dug in preparation for a multi-graft apple tree.   There is also land eyed up in both the front and back yard for at more trees.  There is a lot of unused capacity in my yard.  I just had to be made aware of it and then be willing to try to grow things.

 The next owner of this house better like fruit.

Prompt for December 29: House a Home

Prompt for December 28: Wishes for 2012

I heard that Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and DailyAngst were hosting Reverb11, a series of prompts on 2011.  I’m there.

Prompt for December 28: Wish: What did you wish for in 2012. How will you make it come true?

My wish list for 2012 is pretty straight forward at this point.  The action plan is in green.

  • Experience Lent and Easter in a deeper more spiritually satisfying manner.    I could really use some prayers on this one.

  • Improve the work/family balance towards the favor of family.  More work from home in 2012. Visit my father in New York, cousins in San Francisco and UK family during 2012.

  • Share a meal with a friend or family I haven’t seen since the 80’s. Had a few in 2011, hope to continue the tradition in 2012.  Any volunteers?

  • Finish in the top 95% in the WiproSan Francisco Marathon. This would be reasonable for a 47 year old guy running his first marathon.   It’s a low bar as far as placement.  Training plan includes lots and lots of hills. Be fully present while running the Golden Gate Bridge and the run through Haight Ashbury. 

  • Spend fewer than 28 nights away from home on business-related travel.  Stretch goal: Fewer than 10 nights. This will require some planning and stubbornness on my part.

  • Finish the Long Beach and Disneyland Half marathons in the top 50% while still capturing some great pictures during the raceHoping the training for the SF Marathon will carry over into this one.

  • Trail Runs:  Enjoy Xterra Malibu half as well as the Mission Gorge 15.   Have a strong showing (<= 1hr) at the Buffalo Alley 10K Trail Run.   Sign up, show up, enjoy.   Pretty straight forward.

  • Have lunch with at least one person from work each month.  This one is a bit outside my comfort zone.

  • Outside the US, I would like to complete a half-marathon in a country that doesn’t have a picture of Queen Elizabeth on their currency.  Republic of Ireland would be the obvious choice, but boy there are some other countries I would like to try.  

  • Fewer (<2 per set) unforced errors when I receive serves in tennis.  This will be difficult.  I really have to really concentrate and relax.  If I don’t make it, no big.

  • See the New York Islanders win a game in Los Angeles.   I have tickets to see them on January 6 against the Ducks.  This is my best shot.   Again, prayer may be essential.

As I reflect over this list, clearly some of these are more goals than wishes.   I wish for World Peace and and end to violence against others.   My goals are things I have a little more influence over.
So what are your wishes/goals for 2012?

Prompt for December 28: Wishes for 2012

Prompt for December 27: Wigits of Love

I heard that Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and DailyAngst were hosting Reverb11, a series of prompts on 2011.  I’m there.

Prompt for December 27: Love:  How did you feel loved in 2011?  How did you give love??

Christmas eve in our family includes a short road-trip to visit relatives for dinner.  That journey traditionally includes listening to the John Denver/Muppets Christmas album.  As we were driving home this year, I noted that I am still having trouble believing that John Denver is dead.    This prompt reminded me of a song that he wrote for his wife during their divorce.

Perhaps, love is a wigit that parents give their child.  the wigit could be hugs, affection, money, cars, spontaneous songs, or whatever outwardly expresses those internal feelings.  If the child doesn’t realize that these wigits they keep getting from their parent are actually xpressions of  love, should the child feel loved?

They say that the golden rule is to treat others the way we would want to be treated.  The platinum rule has been coined as “treat those the way THEY want to be treated.   Maybe that translates to, “Give the child the wigits they recognize as love”.  Love is best when it is salient to the receiver. Of course on the other side of that is the wisdom that we need to see love in the widgets we are given, even if they aren’t the widgets we want or need.

So with all that being said, the wigits I receive on a daily basis include a beer mug of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee delivered to me every morning by my wife while I get ready for work.  Wigits are stuffed into my Yankee lunchbox on a daily basis.  I also receive wigits in the form of a whey protein shake that I can drink at work each morning.  Love greets me in the form of dinner each night and the space to work if I need to.

I find wigits found in a cup of tea and in the dry-cleaning I find hanging in my closet. They can also be found drinking coffee or eating chocolates.  My life is filled with wigits that include little baked gifts and phone calls in the middle of the day.   Wigits include the memories of being in the mountains and looking over valleys as well as memories Amsterdam and Paris.

Wigits can also be years old and still make me feel loved. I was given a money clip as a present from Miss Sue Ellen Snyder, back in the late 1980s.  We were engaged at the time, but soon after we separated. 

Deepest Love for You Have I

I kept this particular items stashed away in a box of mementos when I started dating my wife.  The value of the item shifted after I learned that Sue Ellen passed away a few years back and I started carrying it with me ever day, tucked away nicely in my Day-Timer.  It has travelled the world with me and held US, Canadian and Aussie dollars.  It’s also contained Euros and Swiss Francs. I never notice my initials on one side, but I frequently ready the words Sue Ellen had inscribed so many years ago, “Deepest Love for You Have I”.   Whenever I read it, I think of her standing at a counter at Sears and thinking about what to have inscribed in this wigit.

Love may be given daily, but it grows warmer as the years go by. Love is full of conflict and pain, but it is also like a fire when it’s cold outside. I think John Denver got the song right when wrote, “the memory of love will bring you home”.   

Prompt for December 27: Wigits of Love

Prompt for December 24: Deep Thoughts

First off, Merry Christmas and/or Happy Chanuka.

I heard that Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and DailyAngst were hosting Reverb11, a series of prompts on 2011. I’m there.

Prompt for December 24: Ah ha: What deep thought struck you this year? How did it change you?

The Ah-ha moments in my life can usually be found captured in my Day-Timer.  They are usually written in big letters on the right-hand side of the page, sometimes highlighted for emphasis.  Two that I would bring to the table representing great moments of 2011, include quotes from Dietrich Bronhoffer and a line spoken by Lady MacBeth in that Scottish Play“.

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On February 4, while listening to the Writer’s Almanac on my ipod, I heard Garrison Keeler quote a section of Bronhoffer’s letters from prison where we wrote:

 “We have learned, Erling, a bit too late in the day, that action springs not from thought, but in a readiness for responsibility”  

That thought lit me up like a Christmas tree.   Broadly speaking, there are so many things that need to be changed, from government, to work spaces, to financial, to relationships.  It’s not in the realization that  something needs to be done – it’s in the actual doing. That could mean starting a petition, writing a congressman or just sitting down with a colleague and having that courageous conversation.   It sounds simple, but it explains why change just doesn’t happen.   Someone has to be willing to take responsibility for making change happen.  In some cases, that may take more than one person.

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The next Ah-ha moment came in April when, I was watching the new Patrick Steward version of “That Scottish Play“.  I was enjoying this new and slightly disturbing adaptation, when during Act II, Scene two, I heard Lady MacBeth recite a line that made me sit up, take pause and hit the rewind button  several times:

How now, my lord! Why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard. What’s done is done.

The English major in me has been taught that one never looks at a quote from a play in a vacuum.   One must consider the character that speaks the line, their motivations and intentions and then frame it in context of the material preceding and succeeding it.   As I want this to be a max 700 word blog post and not a thesis, I am going to skip much of this and just tell you that at this point in the story, MacBeth has committed regicide and has just dispatched 3 men to start what will be a long line of murders.  He is starting to lose it.  Lady MacBeth seeing her husband slipping into an emotional moat, tries to get him to “forgetaboutit” and move on.

The great works change as we get older.   Romeo and Juliet is a different play as a parent than it is was as a teen-ager.   King Lear is even more so poignant once one reaches a certain age AND has a daughter.   I’ve seen “That Scottish Play” a dozen times in the last 30 years and never has this line stepped out an slapped me on the face the way it did in April.  

Maybe it’s just that I was finally ready for those words to became salient, “Things without all remedy should be without regard. What’s done is done.”  Stripped from all context of the play, the idea that I shouldn’t burden myself with those things that have been done but cannot be mended.  Can’t fix it,  Move on!  Nothing to see here.  To quote a Jewish lady from New York I once saw on TV, “MAKE PEACE WITH IT”!  That doesn’t mean I forget the lessons, but certainly, if the emotional baggage doesn’t serve me, I should put it down and walk away. Ask God and the offended for forgiveness and move on.  

So I guess, one ah-ha moment comes down to, “I gotta do footwork” and the other is “I have to be free from the baggage”.   We can only hold-on to so much.   We have two hands and sometimes we have to put down baggage to free up a hand to take up something better.  

What are you find yourself holding onto this Christmas season?  What thought keep you alone?  What do you need to make peace with?  Please share.

It probably should be noted that Lady MacBeth never really got over the guilt from all her nepharious dealings and that she died really memotionally messed up, but mentioning it would break up the continuity of the blog, wouldn’t it?   Happy New Year, now get over it.
Prompt for December 24: Deep Thoughts