Today I turned 45. Usually on these 5 year mark birthdays, my hubby and I do a big birthday shindig, seeing as he turns the same age just some 12 days later. But this year he’ll be away on our “both”-day, as well as on his birthday. So this year’s celebration is a little more muted.

Markers for 45:

On Friday, I picked up eyeglasses. I finally realized that blurry vision while driving isn’t so good. And now realize I’ve generally been compensating in life – every time I take off my glasses I’m quickly reminded that my eyes don’t work as well as they used to. Somehow it wasn’t _quite_ so obvious before glasses.

On Saturday I went to the gym with my daughter, after doing a Crossfit workout earlier in the day. On Saturday I set a new PR. Still pushing my max forward so I can keep telling Cam I can bench more than he weighs.

On Sunday Clementine did her thing. 5 years ago, Clementine wasn’t even yet an idea for me. Now she’s a regular part of my life that I find most enjoyable. I’m even bringing in a little money with her this year, maybe just enough to cover what I otherwise spend…

On my actual birthday, I did the work thing and melded software to my will. Although I’ve had opportunities to step away from a technical path, I find it highly rewarding, both mentally and economically. After work, I did a Crossfit workout that had me doing 50 kettlebell swings and 50 burpees. I hate burpees – have since first introduced to them in college. But I think some 30+ years after first introduction, I’m doing them at least as well as I did then. Oh, and I PR’ed in my back squat, too.

So, thinking this 45 thing is OK. My hair color is still my own (with the occasional white hair), my body still more than works, and I’m finding lots of interesting things to get into. Oh, and my dear hubby and kids still love me! Yep, liking being 45.

We have two kittens in real life, as well as a cat. In my dream last night, I was in a house that was I think mine in the dream, but wasn’t my actual house… In the dream, I found a door to a new room, and opened it, and both of our kittens slipped into the room.

Inside the room, I found lots more kittens. They were all the same black and white colors as our two, and all very friendly. They start following me around getting attention, and I realize I can’t now pick out our original kittens. I find another door that leads into another part of the house, and open it up, and the kittens follow me out. Somewhere about this time, I realize two things. One is that the kitten room didn’t smell like a litter box, which struck me as odd. The second more terrifying thought is that these kittens have had some food source other than cat chow, since I didn’t know they were in the house. Suddenly I’m not so excited about being followed around.

I woke up from my dream to a kitten pawing at me, and now one of the little buggers is purring in my lap in the kitchen, occasionally gnawing on my fingers…

Last month was my one year anniversary with ClearEdge. I had the opportunity to drive our company Tesla for one day… and I passed it by because I was crazy-busy working on a proposal.

Sweet Tesla ride!

My chance came around earlier this month again, and I passed it by.. this time, I’d managed to lose my wallet and license while driving my motorcycle. Since I didn’t have a license to present for insurance purposes, I had to let my chance slide by.

This week, though – well, this week I had my license AND a new promotion to a director-level position. I didn’t let it pass me by. That Tesla and I drove to all the happening places: church for VBS, the Chic-Fil-A drive-through where my daughter was working, breakfast with my hubby for our anniversary (21!) AND the Bruster’s ice cream stand. Because the new cyber technical director needs to go out in style!

So, Tesla uniqueness… electric car, ridiculously good pickup : 0-60 in < 5 seconds. SO comfy inside.. Streaming music. Quiet ride. App that lets you make your passengers’ seats make fart noises. Automatic lights and windshield wipers. Self-driving.

Self-driving: As a parent who relatively recently had to ride with a new teenage driver, I have to confess feeling that same panic when auto-steering was on. As a software engineer, I never want to think about computers being in control. Watching Tesla think that the car next to me was shaking and pivoting 30 degrees back and forth into my lane did not give me confidence as I rode past a guy walking along the side of the road. And auto-steering did mean auto-braking on the highway as cars ahead of me slowed; it did not mean auto-braking at the red light in my neighborhood. Thankfully, I was watching and testing for that…

My twelve year old is convinced we should buy one. My frugalness suggests I’ll pass. That said, if ClearEdge were to pull my name from the hat in September as the winner, I’d be happy to use the fart app all the way down the highway…

Earlier this year, after running into a friend who’d obviously gotten in a good bit better shape than she’d been, I joined her Crossfit gym. At first it was just as part of a 6 week challenge, but after seeing the results, I opted in for a membership. I’d lost > 10 lbs and a recognizable percent of body fat, neither of which come easily to me.

So I’m now three months in, which means that I still need to do a number of the exercises scaled down. I’ve never in my life been able to do a pull-up, for example, though I’m closer than I’ve ever been before.

My Crossfit “box” participates in what seems to be a Crossfit tradition: doing the “Murph” on Memorial Day. My box does it as a big event, starting at midnight on Memorial Day and going as long as it takes to complete the iteration. As I’m neither in fit enough shape to think I could complete it, nor a particular fan of doing much at midnight, I let the opportunity pass me by.  Next year, I thought, when I can do the workout better justice.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Monday morning’s 9:30 am class transformed from situps + power cleans to “the Murph”. Ah. I haven’t yet told you what “the Murph” is. It’s in honor of a Navy SEAL, Michael Murphy, whose heroism deserves to be told over and over again. In Navy SEAL style, he had a favorite workout that BEGINS with a one mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, followed by 200 pushups, followed by 300 air squats, rounded out with another mile run.  You know, your walk in the park sort of workout…

Well, I didn’t quite complete it.  My target was to keep moving for 60 minutes (the intended cap) and get as much in as I could, while finishing out with the final run.  I did 15 rounds of 5 ring rows (my scaled down pull-ups), 10 box pushups (scaled down pushups: I can do 100 regular through the course of a day, but thought 200 within an hour was well pushing it), and 15 air squats (those I just did).  So, 3/4 of a Murph, on a day where I didn’t expect to be doing one.  Right proud of myself, I am…

It’s not the heroism of Michael Murphy.  It was a stretch beyond myself, where I kept myself on the course by not wanting to let the workout and the man it symbolized down.  Next year, it’ll be a full..  next year, at midnight.  And next year, at least some of those pullups will be full scale.

I’ve been seeing an overload of Facebook ads for something called HealthyWage. The premise is that you make a bet on your diet results. Pay in your bet amount, meet or exceed your weight loss goal, and get paid back your bet amount plus. I’d mostly ignored the ads until I went into my local kickboxing place to check out a “free” intro offer, and heard them make a pitch that over a 6 week period, I’d put up a (very large!) amount, and would then win it back if I achieved my goals. I walked out annoyed, and then checked into the HealthyWage thing again.

The premise of betting on yourself is one that I’ve seen listed before as a success tactic for weight loss.  Usually, the form has been, you put up an amount that you’ll contribute to some cause you otherwise would be strongly averse to supporting.  So, not only are you out money, but you’re mad at yourself.  I’m not going to give money to a cause I don’t find worthy, and we _do_ give money to causes we do find worthy, so that isn’t a good motivator for me.  But making some money?  Sure!

I ended up making a 6 month bet for a 25 pound weight loss.  I’d actually like to lose 30, but opted to give myself a 5 pound buffer.  I’d already signed up for a half-marathon in June – the running should help me lose the pounds, and losing the pounds should help me more readily get to the time goal I set for myself for the half- marathon.  Win win.  I’m paying in less money per month than I’d have been either as part of the kickbox gym “free” challenge or were I to pay for their monthly membership fees.  When (not if, when!) I win, I’ll collect a nice surplus to what I paid in, enough to let me feel richly rewarded for a bit, ready for a fun treat.

If all of that sounds good to you, too, use my referral link to HealthyWage.  You’ll get $40 added to your prize, and so will I.  More win win.  And then we can encourage each other through the weight loss journey.  I happen to have a “Black Card” membership to Planet Fitness, and would be happy to go with a workout buddy.

Life is busy. That seems to be a characteristic of how I do things, rather than a stage of life. In high school, I ended up taking a night class for typing, because it didn’t fit into the day’s schedule. Junior year, I convinced a teacher to give up her study period to teach me a math class that wouldn’t fit into my schedule any other way. In college, I at one point was a triple major, with a job, while captaining a rugby team, and fitting in some volunteering activities. Let’s just say I tend to fill the glass with _all_ the rocks.

The analogous activity of juggling is highly appealing to me. In juggling, everything gets held for just enough time to get something done, before moving to the next thing. It’s a game of synchronized holding: I can’t hold but so many things at a time, so the air holds the remainder until it’s those things turn. For Christmas, I received a set of spinning plates: there’s another saying beyond someone juggling – that they’ve got a lot of plates in the air. Right now, my set has three. I can get two spinning on sticks that I’m holding, and I can have the third on my head. That third spins when I do.

When I’m really on my game with those plates, I can throw them up in the air…. or both two spinning ones up in the air at a time… or once I even managed to throw between my two sticks and have them land and keep spinning… A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were passing spinning plates between us – timing and aiming our tosses so that the plates didn’t collide and could land solidly on our throwing partner’s stick.

It’s still a matter of synchronization. When I’m in control of all elements, the plates keep spinning. When I lose control, things drop. Or worse, things fly – traversing not just down but down and away, or down and oh my goodness AT. (I did just invest in some performer’s insurance, in case my things fly or fall in ways that might cause lawsuits.) . The dogs and cats are generally opting to be FAR away this evening. Thankfully, spinning plates are plastic.

It’s the evening of Christmas. Presents have long since been opened, and dinner weighs heavy in my belly. Many thanks to my wonderful parents-in-law (honestly, mostly my mother-in-law) for hosting us for dinner today. Today was a day of family. My kids enjoyed opening a “joint” present of a Nintendo Switch, and have spent the day playing with each other and even a bit with their dad and mom. Mom is a lousy Mario Kart racer – can reasonably be counted to come in last or next to last. The three kids are downstairs now playing something. I love to hear their voices as they laugh and goof around with each other.

Last night we all went to church together, the kids somewhat grudgingly, and attended service with our church family as well as Jason’s parents. I love church on Christmas Eve. As an elder, I got to help serve communion, which I always love, but _especially_ love on Christmas Eve as there are more folks there to participate in a lovely communal ritual. Christmas Eve’s evening service (only one yesterday) is also the candlelight service, which is a beautiful representation of the love and light of Christ being passed from person to person… Just gives me chills!

This morning we all opened gifts. I love to buy presents for my family. I love to see my kids enjoying giving gifts to each other. Christmas morning is one of my favorite days of year – not for stuff’s sake, but for the love shown through stuff. Oh, and I got (stuff’s sake) spinning plates and a diabolo – more fun toys for Clementine! And, of course, I got to see the kids’ faces for the Switch. It’s definitely a more expensive gift than our norm – I explained to the kids that my employer graciously gave we employees a tech bonus this year and that I was happy to share that with them.

I even got to talk with my dad this evening – a rare treat.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I am wonderfully grateful for this day, and recognize it as a gift. I hope your day had its own elements in which you saw blessing, and if not, that God blesses you in the upcoming days through those He blessed today.

I got an email this morning from Ebates, one of the cash-back apps I use when online shopping, with the heading ‘Late shoppers rejoice’.  Late shoppers?  It’s the third of December!  I’ve begun shopping, catching deals on a couple of key items, but I haven’t even aspired to be done.  Part of the joy of Christmas shopping is getting to spend time contemplating what might be a joyously received gift.  Whether I buy in a local retail store or online, I love shopping a little at a time, seeing if I can find that ‘oh, they’d love that!’ kind of item.  Last year I gave each kid a unique pair of socks that I’d tripped across on a shopping adventure; this year an ad or two which hit my email inbin made me think of a new avenue for gifting.  If I were “done”, I’d miss that joy.

Quick note: the link above includes my referral code for Ebates.  Enjoy (or not) the post with (or without) clicking on the link.  But it and Ibotta have so far worked out well for me in my personal shopping.   Always nice to get a check or a gift card back as a “rebate”.  And simpler than couponing, which I also do…

 

This week our church hosted ‘winter relief emergency shelter’. Arundel House of Hope organizes a safety net of housing during the winter for our local homeless population – our church was one of many who took a week to open its doors at night to provide housing so that folks weren’t stuck sleeping in the cold. The accommodations aren’t amazing: they’re camp cots lined up in a large room. Because our church hosted both men and women, there was a divider wall in the middle of the room to separate the men’s sleeping quarters from the women. But these aren’t glamorous or even private bunks. We manage to provide hot showers 3 nights of the 7, and offer breakfast and dinner each day. In the morning, volunteers drive our guests back to Arundel House of Hope (or sometimes to the light rail or to a methadone clinic) – everyone’s up and out by 7am, not to return again until 4:30pm when they’re driven back from the House of Hope.

To pull off this week requires an enormous amount of volunteer manpower. There are three shifts of volunteers: 4-8, 8-11, and 11-8. Yep, 11-8 – to provide a safe place for our guests to sleep, we have two volunteers on site and at least one of them awake round the ‘clock. Beyond the on-site volunteers, the list of people needs includes drivers, cooks, folks to act as hosts for the shower nights, setup, teardown, prayer team, … For our small-ish church, it’s a lot of hands in.

For the past few years, I’ve worked at least one overnight shift, and often had other reasons to come visit whilst folks were more awake. Each year, we see some new faces and some familiar ones. This year, I met a mom and her high school senior son. The son attends a local public charter school and has plans to join the Coast Guard when he graduates in a few months. He likes comic books, and he and his mom spent some time playing cards together. I met a gentleman who I ended up needing to call an ambulance for, as he was in a significant amount of abdominal pain due to his stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I met another guy who showed me the business proposal estimate he was putting together on behalf of a client of his electrician business. Another guy came down the hall in his shirt and tie each morning, after shaving and prepping in the mens’ restroom. Yet another guy had us wake him up at 3am each morning so he could catch the light rail and go to its farthest stop, and then walk another 3 miles to get to his job.

Sadly, that last guy I’d met before. He was here last year, and the year before. I don’t understand why, in his particular case. There were a few others I recognize from years’ past – some who I realize face mental or other challenges that will likely keep them coming back year after year. If we (and other churches) can give them a safe warm place to be and a welcoming environment, I hope they recognize us as bearers of God’s message of love. Others give me hope that they won’t be rejoining us next year as shelter guests, but will instead keep coming ’round “only” as members of our congregation, maybe even joining the ranks of us putting out the welcome mat again in 2019.

If you’ve gotten to the end here and want to learn more, I’d encourage you to check out Arundel House of Hope’s site. They work in a number of ways with the local homeless community, so I sent you to their front page. The direct page for the winter relief program, along with reports of how things have gone in previous years and contact info for getting involved, is here. It’s an amazing program, which enables the volunteer efforts of many to unite into a safety net for those whom society often overlooks. Arundel House of Hope puts their mission to our guests as ‘To keep those experiencing homelessness in the Baltimore/Annapolis corridor from freezing to death during the Winter months and to show them the Divine’s love in simple practical ways during our time together.’ I’m pretty convinced that both of those are pursuits worthy of time and energy.

A friend / previous co-worker of mine sent out an intriguing tweet:

George is an agile coach, among many other things.  (I believe him also to be a sailor and a grandfather, and someone whose tweets I enjoy.)  I assume his book proposal has something to with agile development or coaching of agile teams.  I’ll be looking to see when he announces that someone’s accepted it!  In the meantime, I’ve offered my services for review. 

George’s book would make #3 of book reviews for me.  He’d be in the esteemed company of Steve McConnell (‘Software Estimation’) and Karl Fogel (‘Producing Open Source Software’, 2nd edition).  I’d forgotten the McConnell book until George mentioned it recently, and Karl’s finished up his second edition fairly recently (November).  In Mr. Fogel’s case, I was spear-heading an interesting project in an interesting space and so had some experiences to offer; in Mr. McConnell’s case, I believe my pitch for reviewing was my relative lack of experience at the time – could his material speak to a neophyte software project manager?  (This was years and years ago – I’m now much older and much less neophyte.)  Both spectrums were useful for the authors: in the one case, could I offer a new insight?  In the second case, does the insights the author shares come through to the audience they intend?

I find it interesting that both ranges of experience are useful.  I find that to be the case in my projects, as well, both software and otherwise.  Seek to contribute whether you’re the expert or the newbie.  The value you offer is different, but valuable on both ends!