I have achieved middle age

Hanging out before my flight.
Pre-security hangout.

Today is my 35th birthday. I am writing this post in the Albuquerque International Airport (Sunport for locals) waiting to board a plane to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport with a final destination of Missoula International Airport (that’s in Montana for those who had to look it up on a map like I did). This is a work trip, not a self-funded birthday vacation.

Having been through 34 birthdays before (none of which garnered much attention or celebration), I’m not sad or displeased with traveling for work on the 35th iteration of this event. However, it is a sobering sensation to know I am halfway through my life. This is not a macabre realization, it’s just a simple fact given my current bad health habits and stressful lifestyle.

In my teens and twenties, I never thought I would make it to 23 let alone still be alive and kicking 12 years after that lifespan estimate. Most people attribute my low expectations of an extended life with the army, but I have always harbored a sense of not living to old age.

As a teenager I was fully aware of my reckless, adrenaline seeking lifestyle and knew the potential consequences of those actions. Between fighting, fast driving, and generally bad decisions about my physical wellbeing I was astonished to see my 18th birthday.

Once I joined the army at 18, it was natural to think I wouldn’t make it out alive. With two active wars in progress, my young-man-pride in joining the infantry, and my willingness to ignore obvious signs of danger all contributed to a fatalist view of life. I am sure some would say I actively pursued an ultimate end while deployed to Iraq on several occasions, but I always felt it was in line with the job description.

In my mid-20s I started in government security contracting which, low and behold, could be a very dangerous job. I sought it out to fill the void the army left after my premature expulsion from the organization under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). I needed something to make up for what appeared to be a dull day-to-day grind as a civilian. I never made it on to one of those truly high-risk contracts which may have been a better outcome for me in the long run.

The past 6-years have been filled with the stressful life of the startup world. Whether it’s traveling with little notice, or devising a means of accomplishing an initiative without money or personnel, or simply working the forever long days, stress builds up in short order. However, there is an adrenaline/endorphin kick to this kind of work and the risk of failure appeals to my still rebellious inner teenager.

My hair is speckled with grey; the lines under my eyes are getting deeper; I can’t run as fast; I can’t pull all-nighters without consequences anymore; I find myself more contemplative than ever before. It’s not all bad, having reached middle age I am astonished by the experiences I have had in my life. I see the future as a true prospect now and am living in the present while allowing myself to secure a better future for myself and my husband.

Getting older isn’t all bad – I laugh more, I know how to smile now, and I have learned a lot along the way. We are all marching towards the same grim end, but we should all take a moment to acknowledge that our lives are unique, each experience is our own. Go out and take a risk, it’s usually worth it!

Time to board the plane ūüôā

Week 2, 2019: Still On Target

Two weeks complete in Apple Activity.

I am happy to report that I am still on target for accomplishing my January Challenge. Thirteen days in a row my Activity Rings on my Apple Watch have been fully closed. I’d be lying if I said it has been easy – yesterday, I had to do a semi-intense 45-minute workout throughout my house at 10:45 at night to close them all. Lazy days lounging around the house don’t contribute to success in this Challenge.

My energy levels continue to be higher than what I have become accustomed to over the years. I still don’t know if this is attributable to the increased activity related to the Challenge or the increase in water consumption or decrease in fast food/restaurant food or a combination of all three. On the one hand, I am a bit disappointed that I have made so many changes at the same time that it is impossible to narrow down which of the changes have had the greatest impact. On the other hand, I am happy that I have made the changes because I haven’t felt this good in years.

With nearly half the month in the past, I am keeping my focus on finishing this Challenge but not losing sight of what’s coming up next month. In preparation for a 28-day sprint to becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), I ordered the hardcopy Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) today. I already have the kindle version, but for this Challenge, I think a physical copy will be much better for me. I have always retained information and generally learned better in the real world.

Becoming a CAPM is important for my professional development but will also have positive effects on my personal life. Learning new ways to look at, evaluate, and solve problems will always be a universally applicable skill. I wish more people would take different approaches to the same old problems, but that is a post for another time.

As a disclaimer, I have read most of the PMBOK already, but not in a way designed to set me up for success to take the CAPM exam. My focus on the first read through was immediate application of certain principles and process into my day-to-day work. February’s Challenge is to end the month with a passing score on the CAPM exam. This will not be easy, some people study for months in order to pass the CAPM exam – I will be relying on in-depth study sessions on my own as well as with my husband to achieve success in the shortest month of the year.

I look forward to completing my January Challenge successfully and determining how I will maintain my gains throughout the year. Check back regularly to see how it’s going!

How are you doing with your Challenges? Any unexpected benefits? Use the comments to share your own experience in 2019 so far!

A Letter To My 15-Year-Old Self

Meteor Crater Selfie
The standard couple selfie at Meteor Crater east of Flagstaff, AZ.
High School Freshman Me

Lucas,

Believe it or not, I am you in 20 years. Congratulations! You made it to 35! It hasn’t been the easiest road to travel, but I am happy with how things have turned out so far. If time is set to occur (let’s ignore the infinite universe theory for the moment) then you will make the same decisions I made and end up right here as me.

However, life doesn’t need to be as hard as your decisions will likely make it out to be. I don’t want to cheat the system here, but I do want to improve your chances of improving yourself a bit more ahead of the curve than I did. Sorry to say, this letter isn’t about how to make a billion dollars or to make you famous – it is about being a better version of yourself.

First, your life is going to change within the next year. At the moment, you’re starting to hang out with a particular group of people from Sonic that you shouldn’t be around. Trust me when I say, they are not the cool people and you don’t want to follow in their footsteps. The actions you are invited to participate in with them are not worth the consequences. Turn to the exceptional kids your own age for inspiration and motivation – you’ll be thankful for it later.

Second, give your parents a break. Your mother is doing the best she can (as she always has) and will continue to do so for as long as you live. As for your stepfather, take a moment to calm your adolescent hormones whenever you think you are getting mad or frustrated with him. He is a good man and you can learn a lot from him if you allow yourself to do so. Without going into details, this is another situation wherein rash decisions made in the heat of the moment are not worth the consequences.

Third, despite your current mental state, the future does matter. There is no guarantee you will live to be 100 years old, or even 35 for that matter, but don’t waste your future by throwing everything you earn away in the present. Yes, you will always find a way to earn money and, yes, you will find ways of living comfortably at times, but you don’t have to make it so difficult for yourself. Save your money, avoid using credit cards, and start investing early. I’d be in a much better place in life if I had slowed down and taken the time to use my money to better my position rather than spending it on impulsive decisions.

Fourth, learn something new everyday. Learn about people; learn about money and how it can generate more money without any actions on your part; learn to be a better friend; learn to trust; learn to love. If you ever feel like you don’t need to learn anything new then you need to reevaluate yourself. I did a pretty good job on this front, but a bit more effort would have helped me out exponentially.

Finally, make a point to find yourself in Albuquerque sometime in 2008 – specifically the Home Depot on Renaissance Boulevard. You’ll meet a young man there named Bud (yup, that’s his actual name, no nickname), it would behoove you to make his acquaintance and see what develops. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

I know, you’re probably disappointed that I didn’t tell you the stocks to buy or the sports team to bet on to make you rich overnight. Too bad. Those are things you will figure out on your own.

Your a good kid, stop beating yourself up so much and trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations. You’ll make it through the hard times and should try to enjoy the good times a bit more. Take care of yourself, our lives depend on it!

Your friend and benefactor – Lucas

4 Podcasts that get me through the week

I never thought I would be a podcast kind of person. It’s like listening to talk radio, right? Who wants to listen to people talk about random stuff for hours on end? Well, for the past 2 years, me. I want to listen to people talk about all kinds of different topics for hours on end. It turns out, you can get a lot out of podcasts that your normal media (cable, network television, social media, etc.) will never expose to you.

Now, I have to start with a disclaimer: Not all podcasts are created equal. On a regular basis, I don’t consciously think about audio quality unless it is so bad I can’t understand what is being said. There are a lot of podcasts that are close to having these types of audio problems. Shuffling paper, heavy/labored breathing, and even loud animals in the background can ruin a podcast pretty quickly.

All of the podcasts below are available on any major podcast delivery medium. Personally, I use Spotify for convenience – it auto updates, is on my phone, and is also my source of music so most of my audio entertainment is in one place. Use what you want, but definitely seek out these podcasts!

Okay, here are the 4 podcasts that get me through my week:

1 The Daily by the New York Times – political leanings of modern day news agencies aside, this podcast is updated 5 days a week and is the first thing I listen to in the morning (it’s made available by 6 AM ET). It’s a short 20-30 minutes and usually focuses around a single topic. This morning was about illegal immigration and how it actually ties to terrorism with a short bit about President Trump’s planned address to the nation tonight. It’s informative, not commentary based (i.e. no talking heads yet) – it reminds me of the news programs I watched as a kid, just minus the visual component. You can find out more about this podcast here.

2 Project Management Happy Hour by Kim Essendrup and Kate Anderson. I listen to this while driving to the office. My 9-5 job uses a lot of project management principles to achieve success. Since I am not a certified Project Management Professional, I take in information about this subject in as many different ways as possible while working towards that particular certification. This podcast helps to break down project management concepts into real-world examples (and some Star Wars examples, thanks Kim!). It’s a motivator for me as well, helping me to learn different approaches to difficult clients, organization and tracking of projects, and interpersonal communication techniques. Oh yeah, and if you are a PMP, you can subscribe and use this podcast as your PDUs. You can find more about this podcast here.

3 Clockwise by Relay FM. Four people, four topics, and never more than 30-minutes…because they’re always watching the clock. This is my favorite tech oriented podcast. Period. The hosts, Mikah Sergeant and Dan Moren, are engaging, personable, and a joy to listen to on a regular basis. The guests contribute to the quick-fire conversation, contributing one topic a piece, and responding to the other presented topics. I like to listen to them while walking during lunch or while driving home from the office. You can find out more about this podcast here.

4 Critical Hit: A Dungeons and Dragons and Dragons Campaign by Major Spoilers Entertainment. This is the podcast that started it all for me and has become my weekend treat. This is a fun group of people playing DnD. The podcast has been going for 6 years (if I recall correctly) and is on episode #485 (75% of which has been centered around the development and adventures of a specific DnD campaign). To mix things up, the group does play other tabletop role-playing games, but it’s primarily been DnD. Such an entertaining group of people with laughs, learning, and plenty of pop-culture references (thanks Matthew!). You can learn more about this podcast here.

There you go, years worth of learning and entertainment at your fingertips (or ears, not sure if that works in this case). I recommend everyone take some time to listen to them all and make your own judgments (no, this is not a paid endorsement post, just my honest opinions). Happy listening!

Do¬†you¬†listen¬†to¬†podcasts?¬†What¬†are¬†your¬†favorites?¬†Share¬†to¬†your¬†heart’s¬†content¬†in¬†the¬†comments!

Week 1, 2019: A good start

The first week of 2019 has come to a close. Overall, I am going to label it as a wonderful start to the new year!

Week 1, 2019 – Closed

To start, I was able to close all of my activity rings on my Apple Watch. This may seem trite to some people, but the sedentary lifestyle I have found myself in has not done much good for my concentration, motivation, mood or waste line. I know I am not the only one out there who has thought, “huh, when did these pants get so tight? The dryer must have shrunk them.” Only to order pizza delivery while binge watching A¬†Series¬†of¬†Unfortunate¬†Events on Netflix.

The small act of closing activity rings on the Apple Watch has positively impacted me in my day-to-day life. Instead of letting hours slowly inch by me while I binge watch television or surf social media, I get up and go for a walk or do a body-weight workout. Yesterday, I took the dog for a 45-minute walk (something she doesn’t get to do often enough) and followed it up with a solo walk around downtown Albuquerque. I had energy all day long. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in your life, but you have to start doing something for any change to occur!

A few other things have fallen into place during this first week of 2019; things I didn’t expect or consciously plan to execute. A couple of examples:

  1. The TV has remained off 95% of the time – This is probably the biggest surprise. Without any conscious decision, I haven’t tried to write, read, or work with the TV on “in the background”. Not surprisingly, returning home from work each evening, I am actually productive as I pursue my writing, reading, and making improvements around the house. Without the visual or auditory distraction of the television I don’t have the urge to sit on the couch and do nothing until it’s time to go to bed.
  2. I have read hundreds of pages – I am planning to release a “Book-a-Month Reading List for 2019” later this month as a year long challenge to read one book per month. These books are going to be unrelated to work (the 9 to 5 job or my personal pursuits) and are more to disconnect from the daily grind than anything else. I am almost done with my January book…in less than 6 days. In addition to the novel, I have been reading the news more often (depressing as that can be) which has reopened my eyes to so many of the problems (and accomplishments) of the world.
  3. Screen time has decreased – With the exception of tonight, I have purposefully turned off all screens (computer, phone, iPad, etc.) two hours before going to bed. During these final two hours, I shower, write in my journal (old school paper and pen), read, and spend time with the husband. I’m not certain, but this may be contributing to more restful sleep or, at the very least, the ability to fall asleep faster without the tossing and turning. I’ll have to keep it going through week 2 to find out.
  4. I have been drinking more water – I haven’t cut sugar out of my diet (that’s a challenge for later in the year), but I’m not drinking as much soda as I was two weeks ago. In fact, I have been drinking 8 or more 8 ounce cups of water each day. I have no doubts this is contributing to my energy levels and lack of lethargy this week. I will be keeping up this newly forming habit in week 2 as well to see what happens.

Alright, so, the first week of 2019 is over and I have (thus far) successfully maintained my progress in my January Challenge of closing all my activity rings everyday this month. Twenty-five days left in the month. Twenty-five days of closed rings. I’ll post another update at the end of week 2, stay tuned for more!

Me trying not to smile too much as The Husband snaps a pic

How¬†are¬†you¬†doing¬†with¬†your¬†2019¬†challenges?¬†Maintaining¬†motivation¬†or¬†falling¬†off¬†the¬†wagon?¬†Sound¬†off¬†in¬†the¬†comments¬†–¬†I’m¬†sure¬†people¬†are¬†more¬†than¬†happy¬†to¬†help¬†get¬†you¬†where¬†you¬†want¬†to¬†be!