Work change is coming

I was in an informal interview this week and out of nowhere the person I was interviewing with asked: “What’s your dream job?”

I was caught off guard. WTF. Where did that cookie-cutter of a question come from? We were chatting casually and “boom,” serious question. I didn’t see it coming.

My first thought: Something with dogs, which would be the worst answer since the company I was interviewing with has nothing to do with dogs, other than allowing them in their office, which is very cool. I’d like to open my own dog training center. Doubt that’s going to happen.

I spit out something awkward about working in a team environment, which is true. I’m not working in one now. That’s making me depressed. I don’t like working in a “hero” culture, thinking more about office politics than what project I’m going to write. Nope, that’s not the right environment for me. Maybe when I was young, but not now.

I spent two hours in the interview. The woman leading it was very nice and fun and, according to my friend who works for her, a great person to work for. Next step: meeting the VP.

Now, all of that was the easy part. Thinking about what happens if I make it through the interview process is the hard part. That’s thanks to CF.

What do I say about not being able to travel very often, never overseas, or in the winter? Working out of the hospital? How do I explain a hospital visit? Insurance? Hmm. Sounds simpler on paper, but in my head it’s a hurricane of fear and anxiety.

In a perfect world, I’d have my own business. The challenge is getting healthcare, of course, thanks to my preexisting condition. Health insurance is rigged so you have to stay with a company to get it. It shouldn’t be that way. But that’s a rant for another day. In the meantime, change is definitely on the way.

Parenting for the upcoming zombie wars

As my daughter approaches her teen years, my level of stress and worry increases: drugs, alcohol, guns, driving, high school drama, school shootings, men and boys that may want to hurt her, ineffective antibiotics, the bird flu, and who knows what else my mind can conjure up.

Wait, I do know: the end of the world and the complete breakdown of society as we know it.

I've been watching too many Walking Dead episodes. © Jeffrey Collingwood - Fotolia.com

I’ve been watching too many Walking Dead episodes. © Jeffrey Collingwood – Fotolia.com

There I said it. Throw me in an underground holding tank with a deck of Uno cards and the rest of the doomsday nuts.

However, before you do, I wonder if I and others haven’t been approaching parenting the wrong way. I mean we’re the protective generation of parents, aren’t we? We do everything we can to keep our children safe, which is a good thing. But I  wonder if we should have been looking at the “big picture” instead of worrying about our kids falling off a swing at the park, or riding a skateboard without knee pads.

Like doing more to make sure they inherit a habitable Earth.

I know other generations of parents have worried about their children and the future. However, are we the first parents to ever have the concern of our planet being so screwed up it won’t be able to sustain life?

And, as life heads to a possible end with food and water shortages, overpopulation, a larger percentage of poor, rising sea levels and global warming, what will those last years of life on the planet be like?

Yes, I worry too much. I know. I just wonder while the majority of us are working our asses off, and paying bills, and putting food on the table, and figuring out how to pay medical bills, and stressing about our jobs, who is keeping the planet safe from harm?

Was that up to us too?

I think it was.

The video on stress that helped me a great deal

Based on the number of stress-caused visits I’ve made to the emergency room in my lifetime, I’m the last person to give advice on dealing with stress.

To the rescue: ted.com.

I share this video in the interest of helping others deal with something I’ve done a really lousy job of overcoming. And, thanks to the the content of this video, I think about stress in a different way now.

Who knew it was so simple?

What keeps me up at night

I believe we make our own luck, but that doesn't mean it's not fragile and fleeting.

I believe we make our own luck, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fragile and fleeting.

For a long time it was stress and the fear of not waking up. Now, it’s something else. When I finally figured it out, it surprised me – a lot.

It’s luck.

Yes, luck, and thinking how lucky I am to have everything I have. A great and caring wife, a perfectly imperfect daughter, 1,850 sq. ft of house, with equity, black and yellow labradors, good friends, a job.

Life hasn’t always been this way for me. But it has been lately.

I am grateful for having so much in a world growing hotter every year, filled with too many people living in poverty, and too many people who believe they never have enough, though I can’t exclude myself from that last category many days. I’m surrounded by daily reminders of great wealth in Los Angeles: McMansions, 100K+ cars, and an environment where my daughter counted how many kids in her class brought MacBook Pros to school, making her inexpensive ASUS seem inferior, though I will be speaking to her that it’s not the computer that matters, it’s what you do with it.

But what keeps me up nights is thinking about how lucky I am and how I could have it so much worse than I do. And wondering when I will.

The 87-hour work week (Yes, there is a hell)

I wake up between 7 and 8 in the morning. The red light on my Blackberry flashes and I check my email while I’m still in bed. Then it’s a short walk to my laptop.

The workday begins. And it’s intense. Not a leisurely day. Juggling to-do items, and nervous people who have never done a multi-city event before, and email – loads of email, which makes me remember I used to be creative in this job. Now I write email.

Chisel this on my tombstone: He wrote a shitload of email, and some were well written. My legacy.

As the day goes on, I eat breakfast and lunch at my desk. I take a couple of short breaks during the day, and I eat dinner with my family before going back to work until between 11 and midnight.

My dreams are made of these. © Tryfonov - Fotolia.com

When I work at Home Depot, I plan and saying clever things, such as, “ex-screws me, do you need help?”  © Tryfonov – Fotolia.com

Repeat.

Tomorrow will be my 24th work day in a row. At least my schedule is easing to 11 and 12 hour days, but I am tired. And I think a lot about doing something else with the remaining hours of my life. I should be able to do better than this.

I dream of working at The Home Depot in the screws and bolts aisle, and telling customers the unique qualities of flatheads, phillips and square-drive heads – when to use galvanized, stainless steel, or deck screws – and when to give up and call a contractor.

I dream of simplicity and meaning.

My work-cation comes to an end and my top five vacation moments

The good news: Monday’s return to work won’t be quite the shock it normally is after a vacation because I worked most of the time I was on vacation. (This is my “glass is half full” attitude, which is kind of working for me right now.)

The bad news: I have to go back to work on Monday and I won’t be in Ventura CA doing it. And the next few weeks of work will be brutal.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching my daughter learn to boogie board. When my advice failed, she got angry. When it worked, she caught a wave and yelled, "Did you see that one, Daddy?" Yes, yes, I did. And it was great.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching my daughter learn to boogie board. When my advice failed, she got angry. When it worked, she caught a wave and yelled, “Did you see that one, Daddy?” Yes, yes, I did. And it was great.

I heart Ventura CA. And if it weren’t for our friends and my daughter’s school, I’d move the family. My wife, however, says my love affair with Ventura and the ocean is vacation-related and living there would be something different. And though my wife is right more times than I care to admit in writing, she’s wrong on this one (I think). I could live there in a heartbeat, even if we were miles from the ocean, which might be warmer and a better choice.

The house we stayed in was around 900 sq. ft. So, coming home to over 1,800 sq. ft makes our house feel almost McMansion-like. In fact, it makes me feel better that we didn’t do two things:

  1. Add on to our house during the real estate boom, which we thought about and would be still be paying for right now if we had.
  2. We didn’t move into a larger house, as it would mean more to clean, to heat, to cool.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t like more space around the outside of the house and a workshop for my tools, but the physical space we need to live in might not be as much as I thought. I just need to be more clever with the space we have.

Since returning mid-day yesterday, Saturday, I haven’t done much at all. I returned to my Treadmill Desk (over 8 miles walked) and escaped into a novel (The Cuckoo’s Calling) while doing it. I have a dozen projects around the house to complete, but haven’t worked up the energy to tackle one of them, owing my laziness to having a lot on my mind, like how to get rich and buy a vacation house in Ventura. Simple thoughts like that.

My top five Ventura moments:

  1. Standing deep in the water and watching my daughter boogie board and catch a huge wave. Her eyes got really big and I could tell she wasn’t too sure about it (a fear/excitement cocktail). But she held on and I was there to see it. I am lucky.
  2. My wife’s crazy lip-sync dance to a reggae song, and the fact I videotaped it for embarrassing her at a party one day. Priceless. Gold.
  3. Dinner with our good friends, outdoors, at the Sushi House on a perfect night. Great food, laughs, and excellent sushi a block from the beach. What more is there to want in life?
  4. Go-kart racing with my 12-year-old nephew and literally driving him into the rail/wall when he tried to pass me. Gotta teach the young ones to respect their elders now, don’t we?
  5. Dinner at Rice Thai with my wife, daughter and 10-year-old niece, who stayed with us for three days and came up with the idea she wanted to own the sun and sell sunlight to everyone. It’s good to think big before the reality of life crushes your dreams (hey, what happened to my “glass is half-full” spirit? That didn’t last long).

That’s it for now. Back to the chain gain and breaking rocks.

Some days, it’s hard being a husband

Message from Fox: Unknown, you big pussy. Get off your lazy ass and make the magic happen. You're the king of excuses.

Message from Fox: Unknown, you big pussy. Get off your lazy ass and make the magic happen. You’re the king of excuses.

I should have paid more attention in school when I was younger.

If only my parents had given me a modicum of guidance how to be successful in life, though they weren’t exactly models of it.

It probably would have been better had I not spent years 18 – 25 watching TV, going to movies, reading comic books, thinking I wouldn’t live to see 25, and not doing anything to build for my future.

Oops. Slight miscalculation on my part.

Would have, should have, could have. Famous last words of most f**k-ups.

And though I feel like I turned my life around by finishing college and getting a good job, I am paying a price for my stupidity and laziness that reveals itself – painfully – in my role as husband.

The short of it: My wife hates her job, but it affords her a very good salary for part-time work, though she works full-time a lot, which is sort of the American way, isn’t it? We all work more hours than we have to for fear we’ll lose our jobs to one of the many unemployed.

But aren’t there so many unemployed out there because we’re working extra hours and companies don’t have to hire more employees?

I digress with a topic for another post.

If I were a successful husband, my wife would not have to work, would be happier, and we would have everything we need based on the results of my labor.

We do all right and aren’t living paycheck to paycheck like we were many years ago. And I know some of the responsibility lies with the fact this country demands both parents work to get by – it’s not the 1950s anymore. But I live in a city full of million-dollar homes and 75K cars and its difficult not to notice and want.

It’s hard not to feel like a failure when my wife comes to me each day with stories about her stressful job, and I see the toll it takes on her. And no amount of my advice, suggestions, or feedback can save her from it. And there’s no way to rescue her with the income from the company I don’t own, or the invention I never invented, or the stand-up career I never had because I was afraid.

I have yet to crack the code of big success, despite what some say about it being so easy in a country of opportunity. It’s beyond me. I’m still trying, but time is running out.