2017-10-19 What About Right Now?

Yesterday I met with a finacial advisor. It was just an initial discussion so he could explain to me what he and his team and company are all about. He described their philosophy for investing and the different options available for utilizing their services. We also took a peek at what I have in my portfolio already which is great because in my history of working and saving, I’ve not had a lot of advice or input from an expert. Despite that, I’ve done ok.

The main questions or concerns for retirement revolve around what your goals are and if you will have enough to live how you want to live when you are no longer getting an annual salary. After not working for 3+ months and seeing how great it is, the retirement thing is really appealing. Planning for it is great, but what about today? What about RIGHT NOW??!

Each month I have been out of work I have done a deeper analysis of my spending and my budget than I have ever done before in my entire life. I’ve been so fortunate to have had a good job for 20 years and not had to worry about money. I’ve always had enough. I’ve never really been on a budget where I had to limit myself on ‘x’ so I could afford ‘y’. I don’t think many people can say that.

I’ve also always pushed the envelope when it comes to salary. I’ve asked for raises and recognized when the market demand for my job was at a premium and took advantage of those times.

When I started working in a professional capacity in 1995 my annual salary was 28K. I advanced quickly at that employer and moved onto the business/dev team in 1997. In those days we were called programmers and I did work in COBOL and CICS on a DB2 database. I capitalized on the jump in pay ranges during the Y2K “crisis” and when I found what increases other people were getting, I always asked for more.

In 2000 I moved over to supporting clinical applications and in 2001 made the leap to HL7 interfaces. This very specialized field meant that the skills I was learning would be shared by only a few people in the industry. People with experience in this area are sort of rare. This meant that when I switched employers, I could basically ask for what I wanted and get it. I did exactly that.

After seventeen years in my field and I was earning six figures. and that was without constant employer jumps for increases. I’ve only worked at two places. All of that is the reason I’ve never really been on a budget and also had no problem maxing out my 401K. So my retirement portfolio looks pretty good. But, again… what about RIGHT NOW?

Whether it’s retirement or tomorrow the questions are the same. What do you need to live comfortably and what are your goals?

The answers for me become more and more clear every month that goes by, I need about 4K a month to cover my bills and spending. I know I have the capacity to reduce this by about 1000 a month but that would be sacrificing money I spend on experiences and vacations which starts to cut into my preferred lifestyle. I recognize I can live more conservatively and make better choices and I’ve started making changes in that direction, but traveling is one of my joys in life and I’m not wanting to compromise on that one.

When I crunch the numbers, it is easy to figure out how much I need to make. I’ve only just started to look for a new job but am already acutely aware that money is typically the #1 thing people focus on. Knowing what my requirements are makes it easier to narrow the field and consider on the other things that could quite possibly give money a run for it’s .. ah.. money in priority order. Those things are flexibility and culture.

I ranted a couple of days ago about employers and the common practice of taking advantage of employees and over-working them and not paying enough attention to engagement, growth, and satisfaction so I won’t repeat myself on that. Bottom line is that in my book, this is more important than salary. At this point, I would rather take a job with less pay where the employees are really satisfied. I’m becoming less and less afraid to go on record with that statement.

This blog is very anonymous but I’ve already stated as much to two recruiters I’ve talked to. I’ve decided that once I really start to look and apply, part of that process will have to include talking to other staff members and not just management. If that can’t be arranged it’s probably a red flag.

These factors for any type of job I decide to do also fall into the category of “right now”. Life is too short to do something you don’t want to do or are unhappy doing for the sake of tomorrow. But a person shouldn’t sacrifice tomorrow for today either. I guess like everything, it had to be a balance. Plan for tomorrow but live for right now.

On that note, it’s time for me to go live for today! 😊

Carpe Diem!
~Miss SugarCookie

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2017-10-18 They Will Use You ‘Till They Lose You

Last night I click-clicked on a twitter link and jumped into a tiny rabbit hole. It started with a tweet that twitter promoted to a notification in its infinite algorithmic wisdom. It was a tweet by my ex. Of course I clicked on it because I am only human and he “hasn’t tweeted in a while”. Thanks little birdie. The tweet was a brief comment and a link to an article. The article just happened to be a retort to a different article which was about a company firing a person who they found to be toxic for their company because of their knowledge, expertise, and propensity to solve all problems and take on everything themselves.

I read the target article first to gain a good understanding of the scenario. In short, the employee in question was a “rockstar” who tried to take on too much and eventually got fired because of it. The person writing the article heaved this human being under a very big ugly bus and tried to make a solid case for why letting him go was the best decision the company ever made. After reading this, I was like, “huh, well that sucks for everyone involved there”.

Then I read the article that was a direct response to the first written by some other person who was not at all involved with the situation, presumably. This person dissected the first article and made very good counter arguments that at every turn what was happening or had happened was a direct result of some fault by the management of the company and I could not agree more.

This struck a sensitive nerve with me. I found myself being on the side of the person who was knowledgeable and dedicated and took on too much. I was upset with the company for letting it go as far as it did. Maybe he was an ass and things went down as they often do.. something goes wrong and somebody has to take the blame. After a person is gone, it is easy for those left to point fingers and not take responsibility for what has happened. The truth is, no one person can be at fault for some big failure in a company or project.

I think this is pretty common but I also think that what is at the heart of this story is also unfortunately all too common and that is that companies will use you and use you and use you until you break and can’t function anymore. Especially if you are very good and dedicated and a go-to person for the organization.

Yesterday I wrote about sleep deprivation and how it is detrimental to ones health. One of the causes of this is too much stress. Working 10 or 12 hour days or 20 days in a row wears heavily on a person and can be devastating to the balance of things. It gets even worse when you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. This is probably why this set of articles really made me think. I WAS that person.

I’m certainly not a self proclaimed genius in my field but I was becoming more and more retreated into my own world so I could get done what was being asked of me. I was trying to do everything that was asked of me and while doing so maintaining a level of quality that was above and beyond what peoples expectations were. I pride myself in the work that I do and when the quality started to become compromised just so I could get everything done, it was a big issue for me.

I attempted to point out workload issues to management and they sort of danced around it and just pushed those concerns aside saying that it would all balance out soon. I wanted that to be true and believed in it for quite a while. I gave it a year and it only got worse. Eventually, I had to force the issue and ask for some time off, which as you know, ended in me quitting my job.

In the articles I read, the person got fired and in my case, I just quit. In both cases, the company lost a good person because failures in management and poor decision making over an extended period of time. People are human beings who are flawed and make mistakes. They need leadership and guidance and mentors and someone to recognize when there is a problem and actually try to do something about it. You have to acknowledge what people need and sometimes put that ahead of the needs of the company.

Sure, you have a project that’s in a downward spiral, but if the culture of your company is to turn a blind eye to the root causes or dismiss warning signs or shrug at the notion of doing things in the name of employee satisfaction, it could mean more than just that project at stake.. It could be the entire company.

One might think it’s OK to use, use, use. Which is all fine and good until they day they lose, lose lose. I know I will never again allow myself to be subject to that kind of culture. Life is too short and I want to be at a place that values their employees and takes an interest in their health and well being.

If you put a dedicated, hard-working person in a positive, supportive atmosphere, the results will be amazing. People will be more engaged and productive and the outcomes will reflect that. A good culture is not only good for the employees but ultimately the company and the customers they serve as well. It’s a win-win-win! And who doesn’t like winning?

Peace Out,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-10-09 Multitasking to the Tune of Change

It’s Monday morning. Fall is in the air and it feels like change is quickly approaching my life. I’m back at the gym this morning writing from the elliptical machine. I’m somehow really digging this dynamic… feeling productive in two areas at once AND writing makes an hour of cardio go by super fast. I’m also getting good at typing from my phone. I wonder how this might be different if I was trying it at home.

This weekend I created a new playlist for fall and so my workout this morning is all Silversun Pickups, Lincoln Park, Dorothy, Live, The Pretty Reckless, and RadioHead. A good mix of older stuff and new. I also threw David Ford partly because the album I have is all good but mostly for the one song that I absolutely get pumped about every time I hear it.. “Go To Hell”. 
In fact, I can’t just listen to it once. When it comes up I typically listen to it two or three times. It’s great like “I Will Survuve” in that it leaves me saying “Fuck Yeah” every time. 
I need more of that. I think this is why doing this morning gym routine is important to me. It gets me pumped for the day. Whatever I end up doing I’m hoping it works with this. If I could find something that’s like 4 hours a day starting at noon, that would be ideal. If I can get someone to pay my about 100 bucks an hour for those 20 hours, well I’d be set. It’s nice to think about but probably not realistic. 
I’m also not going to be able to pull that much coin unless I’m doing HL7 and I’m so over that. Really. If I was all out of options, I most certainly would, but it’s time to go forward with something new. 
No word yet on my MFA application. I’m going to call another connection today about a technical writing position, which might just be the right mix of applying my technical background and doing more of what I want to be doing. Even if it’s not creative writing, it gets me more practice (and a paycheck). 
Done with cardio now and time for a few weights…
When They Come For Me I’ll Be Gone.

~Miss Sugarcookie

2017-10-05 Why Not Both?

This morning I met with one of my former managers and we had a good conversation about career, things I should look to be doing, and just generally catching up with our respective lives. There was a lot packed into that hour and while I didn’t necessarily come away with a concrete yes on potentially doing contract work for her, i did get lots of good advice.

She agreed I should be going forward and not looking back and that a job in the healthcare IT space would not be the best option. It remains a safety net if I need it, but to better myself and achieve more, I should be looking for something different.
My woes yesterday were fueled by fear and anxiety about money. I shared my thoughts with Simon and his words of wisdom were insightful and comforting. 
Comforting because they validated that I’m not wrong to pursue my passion and insightful in reminding me that I don’t have to completely do one thing or the other.. that I can choose to do a balance of both. It remains true I will not likely find the perfect gig to pay what I was making before with enough flexibility and free time for the MFA. However, I could choose to do something else rewarding and flexible for less pay. 
Instead of being at one end of a pendulum swing or the other, meet in the middle with compassion, dedication, and satisfaction. I need only look as far as the statement of purpose I wrote for the MFA application to remind myself what it is and what it means to me. 
My coffee date this AM was more focused on the career path but actually took my intent one step further to shine a light on the fact that I could be looking for something which actually combines the writing with my 20+ years of Tecnical and analysis experience. There is a great wild world of opportunities and I just need to start exploring. 
At this point I’m totally down with what I need to do next and it’s just a matter of execution. I’m needing a little nudge to do that. I’ve been enjoying my time off quite a bit lately and have established a very relaxed and happy routine. Part of me is not looking forward to giving that up. I keep writing things on my to-do list and managing to only get to the “fun” things and put off the research and resume work for another day. 
I should take a day and do nothing but that. If I make progress it might be just the motivator I need to keep the train rolling forward. 
As of right now.. I’m 48 minutes into writing from my beloved elliptical machine (again combing what I love with what I love). All this other stuff should have been obvious right?! 
I need to finish up at the gym and get home before the kids get home from school. Another round of parent-teacher conference tonight. 
Until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, 
~Miss Sugarcookie 

2017-07-19 Finally Home

It’s not like the journey took us a long time, but arriving at midnight makes it seem that way. I had less sleep last night than the four or five previous days and immediately started unpacking and doing laundry as soon as I was up.

I’ve kind of been just going through the motions today, nothing too intense. I needed to get the kids back to their dad’s today and that was my number one priority. After that, I was free to do whatever and just tried to get back into my normal routine. Well, as normal as I can since I don’t have a job to return to. You know what the absolute best part is about coming back home from vacation when you don’t have a job? No mountain of email. No phone calls to return. No fires to put out. No backlog of requests from sales for time estimates. No angry customers or projects that have fallen behind or software issues that can’t be solved. It’s truly just magical.

This is the very reason I knew a simple vacation would not solve my problem or my woes. I know vacations can be stressful at times and with the kids along, it was often WORK to keep everyone happy and fed and not on the brink of meltdown, so jumping right from that kind of trip into the continuous adventure that actual work can sometimes be is not rejuvenating at all. However, sleeping in tomorrow and deciding what I would like to do with my day tomorrow when tomorrow arrives is bliss. That is the point. That is what I desperately needed and that is what I am taking for myself. It’s about time.

Right now I am listening to music and texting some people via Bumble off and on. I finished unpacking and the last of the laundry is in the dryer. It is nearing 10PM Omaha time (which is midnight on the West Coast), and it is the latest I have been awake in days. I may not have it in me to accomplish much more tonight. Perhaps a few pages of the new book I have been reading, but we shall see if I can even get to that.

Happy to Be Home,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-06-28 Waking Up Unemployed

I woke up this morning at 6:22 after about 6.5 hours of sleep. It may take me a while to get used to sleeping in later than that, or I may never be able to sleep later than that which would be OK.

When I wake up at that time, I generally have some time to myself to think about what I want to think about and do what I want. During the school year it’s about an hour because I have to get the kids up and start everybody moving for the day, but in summer it’s a little longer since they sleep in.

This morning I’m thinking about waking up unemployed. Yesterday I made mention of it feeling like I was just on PTO for the day and though that is true, I also found myself really not thinking about work at all, which was just amazing.

I have one friend who recently quit his job and got a new one and he said it took him several weeks to sort of “let go” of the responsibility of everything he had going on at his previous employer. He said he would still wake up thinking about what might happen with customer “X” and feel like he needed to check in and make sure things were OK.

Perhaps it was because I was so busy entertaining the kids yesterday that I had very little thoughts of what was happening at the company, but it could also be that I was way past ready to let it go. I also had four weeks to try and wrap things up and make sure I left what I was currently working on in a good state, which I felt like I did OK with.

Of course there will always be issues and unexpected crisis to handle, but that is the nature of that job. My last week there I had a great conversation with the founder of the company and I admitted to feeling like the product had not made a lot of progress in the last couple years and he vehemently disagreed with me. He praised my effort and all that I had done for the company and the product in the past five years and that left me feeling a little better about how I was leaving things. That conversation may also have something to do with the fact that I’m resting easy, and not thinking about the past.

In any case, I felt like one last post about my previous employment was in order. I have no doubt things will continue to “carry on” just fine without me and that somehow everything will get done. I did dedicate the last five years of my life to that place which equates to over 10,000 hours.

The work I’ve worked hard at my entire professional career is the reason I have the ability right now, today, to wake up unemployed and not worried about the future. For the next “X” amount of time, I can just wake up and think about all the wonderful things I will be able to do each day. Today, that includes hanging out with my kids, cleaning and organizing my house, visiting my friend Amy, and going on a first date. Life is wonderful and I want to enjoy living it.

Cheers to Tuesday,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-06-21 Still Too Much

Things have transitioned from “feeling better because the weight of the job stress is melting away” to “oh shit, I have two days left to finish some stuff”. It started at four, now three, now today, waking up at 5AM again, it’s two. TWO DAYS LEFT OF WORK.

Today I have to switch gears and really stop focusing on doing work and focus more on conversations giving work to other people. Well, one other person anyway – which will be too much too. Hopefully, the newer folks on the team will be picking some things up to help real soon.

Last night I took the kids to visit my Dad who I did not see on Father’s day. I don’t see him very often, maybe four or five times a year including Christmas. In fact, it’s mostly holidays, not that I would consider Father’s day a holiday. They were just getting home and had Godfathers pizza for dinner and I lifted a couple of slices of that since I had not eaten. My dad opened a bottle of my favorite wine (which I brought to Thanksgiving last November that apparently nobody wanted).  Later we shared a strawberry pie that I made  (my late Grandmother – his mom’s recipe). I finally told him I quit my job.

If there would be one person I would expect to get some grief from or at least be somewhat worried about my choices, it would be my dad. However, I presented it in such a way, there was nothing snarky or skeptical or judgmental someone could say. I painted a picture of 2016 and then went into more detail about my most recent experience in Phoenix and coming home to even more “drama”, with no time for rest in-between. I talked about working 3 weeks straight and not sleeping well and not having time for the kids. After all that, who in their right mind would question my choice. He didn’t.

Yesterday I felt a fair amount of anxiety over, well work primarily, but also just the idea that “stuff” was not getting done and I wanted something that I could point to and say “look, I finished that”. It didn’t happen. Not enough anyway. But talking about my woes with my Dad (and his Wife) made me feel better. I think talking to people in general makes me feel better, but I sometimes feel like it’s a one or two shot deal.

Last fall I talked to my mom multiple times about my situation with Matt and by the 3rd or 4th time she was suggesting counseling. I don’t typically want to burden other people with my heavy stuff, so when she said that, I knew she was 1). Genuinely concerned about my mental health but also 2). Tired already of hearing the same things again. After that, I stopped bringing it up. I never went to see a counselor, because that’s never worked for me before (and I’ve tried two or three times in my life).

With friends, I feel like I really do only have one shot. I tell my story, get their opinion, and then we never talk about it more. The story is ongoing, but honestly not a lot has changed in the last 6 months. What more can you say about it? Yes, I still feel like I made a mistake (several mistakes) last year. Yes, I still feel sick thinking about Matt dating some other girl. Yes, I still want to talk to him and have to resist texting. Yes, I still cry about it. Maybe not as often as I was six months ago, but the road to recovery is long and slow to travel.

I feel like people don’t want to hear my broken record of a sob story. This is why a blog is such a great idea. I can say the same thing day after day after day, and since nobody (not nobody) is reading, nobody (not nobody) will be bored out of their mind with it.

Just like the last few weeks when I probably have talked about quitting my job almost daily.. It does not matter because I can do that here and will not feel like a burden on anyone but those people who perhaps are choosing to silently, anonymously accompany me through it. If you are reading this right now, thanks for sticking with me.

It’s almost 6AM and really time to figure out what today looks like. Hopefully it will include me pointing at something and getting to say “look, I finished that” and that “Too Much” gets just a little smaller. Fingers crossed.

Time to Make the Doughnuts,
~Miss SugarCookie