Sparky…

Sparky had a high grade, seriously scary (mitotic index of 25) spindle cell sarcoma for about a month or so. I wasted time with incompetent vets, an oncologist that offered faint hope … And a bit of guilt. Finally I had to make the decision to let him go 3 days before Christmas.  Originally had hoped we could get him through Christmas but it wasn’t meant to be I guess.

The vet receptionist called him Gypsy since he’s probably one of the most well traveled dogs ever. 9 provinces and probably 20 states but who’s counting?  Certainly  not him. Hiking and swimming and chasing balls or geese or squirrels in every one.  Not that he cared or even knew where he was. A lake in BC or AB is the same as a lake in ON or WA or ID or UT after all. Dogs don’t have a bucket list.

There’s a very poignant post of a dog’s last day on buzzfeed called “I Died Today”.  It will make you cry to read it.  Kudos to them for giving Dukey a great last day. But that was an almost weekly kind of thing for my boy. I didn’t need to take time off for this or not be working. Because it was our lives. Every week. Because I loved him.  The only thing I did differently the last week was let him go on the oh so precious tennis court where the magical balls were always bouncing. The tennis players loved him. Sometimes they’d give him a spare ball just because he was so cute.  We have at least a hundred in the back yard. He sure did like to organize them…

” It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“But if you take me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

 

Need to stop saying I’m not going to work anymore

The contract is up on my current job December 31st.  Like everyone else in this town (it seems), I’ve been through three big layoffs this year and made it through all three of them.  I wasn’t surprised that my contract wasn’t prematurely ended.  However, the rampant fear of being laid off that other people experienced was very odd to watch from the sidelines (sidelines being “not needing this job”).  I felt more curious about what would happen.  The company wants to extend my contract…  I don’t think that’s a good idea at this stage of career/life as it’s clear that not only will they never go for part time, they actually ordered me a laptop to be able to work from home on weekends and evenings.  Funny!

During the latest purge, a friend of mine asked if I’d be willing to ditch these guys and come work with her.  Part time and a drop in $.  I waffled and faffled.  She promised it would be fun.  😛  Finally, I agreed to meet with her this week so we will see.  Yes, there is a pattern…

A part of this is time sensitive as my fur baby has cancer and I need to be there more for him in both a time aspect as well of a quality of mom’s attention aspect.  Even I sometimes need a little push to make a change.

A part is also that I cannot handle working with engineering personalities any longer.  If there’s a longer, more convoluted way of doing things, they’ll somehow find it.  It must be engineers that design retirement calculators.  Last year about this time I suggested a way to significantly improve our financial reporting – and have brought it up pretty much every month this year.  Finally this last week, le boss presented it as his own idea so we’re now implementing.  Yay you for being so quick to make changes.

Since youngest son is doing extremely well in math, he was wondering if he should go into engineering.  Sorry son, you’re not sufficiently pedantic.

Nanowrimo

It’s odd to switch camps: in my case from being mildly obsessed with financial independence and early retirement – to writing.  Anyway, I don’t expect to write much, if at all, about FI/ER anymore.  Mostly because I’ve stopped thinking about it since I realized I don’t want to retire and sometimes even question whether I took the right path in becoming FI before embarking on career #2.  Having said that, I don’t think I was mentally ready before now.

Nobody talks about how much they hate work or safe withdrawal rates in the writing world. (Yay!)  The focus is on creating and building something, not surviving potential market crashes or zombie apocalypses – unless that’s the kind of thing they write about like the Self Publishing Podcast team.  Right now as we approach National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), the blogging writers are all abuzz with it in much the way that you’d see frugalistas doing things like no spending challenges.  People just like short challenges I guess.  I’m focused on building a core daily type of practice though so it’s not really necessary.

So I’m not participating in nanowrimo this year because I’m happy with my own speed and production schedule.  But for anyone who is, David Seah has put together a great calendar for the occasion here:  November word counting calendar.  He does beautiful design work and I’ve followed his blog for years (mostly because I like productivity p0rn just about as much as I like making money).  Speaking of making money, here’s a good post from What the heck a boom / Journeys of a bumbling trader:  Position sizing in value investing.

For some authors, every month is nanowrimo – like Russell Blake.  Here’s an interview with him in the Wall Street Journal:  25 books in 30 months.  He retired at 42 in Baja… got bored after a year… and now writes more hours a day than I’m awake I think.

With respect to boredom… I’ve come to see that it’s actually necessary and desirable and something I should strive for on a daily basis.  I always found that at work if I got bored, I would want to change / improve things / make things more efficient – or it was a sign to leave and pursue another challenge.  Same thing if I got bored or lonely at home – time to go back to work for a fun challenge.  But lately I’ve been practicing having a completely mediocre experience at work and it really does free up a lot of mental bandwidth for creating in my own time.  Mark McGuiness agrees on the benefits of boredom:  Boredom is good for creativity.

A couple of excellent books for speeding up your writing:  Write Better, Faster by Monica Leonelle (REALLY loved this book!) and 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron.  I don’t necessarily want to speed up my writing as much as shut off the internal critic and writing faster does the job.

Unfortunately, it also leads to crappy stream of consciousness, unedited blog posts like this but meh, there you go.  The links are great though!

 

Pump up the volume

Being a contractor and not an employee means (in theory) that I can work as much or as little as I want as long as the work gets done.  In reality – at  least at this gig (this has not been the case for me on other contracts) – they want me there pretty much 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. They would actually like me there more than 40 hours a week… Needless to say as a “get in, get done, go home” type of person, I’m not a fan of the contractor model of “employee without benefits”.

This schedule is also not very conducive to writing a novel, which by my estimation takes approximately 500 hours (idea development – 25 hours, outline – 100 hours, first draft – 200 hours, revision – 200 hours).  For me, it has to be double on the revision for anything decent that someone else (besides my kids) would want to read.  This time, I’ve got an internal deadline that I absolutely don’t want to miss – finish those 500 hours before I head to Europe for a month in January.  Somewhere in there then, I need to find an extra 25 hours a week on top of the ~13 hours per week that isn’t a stretch.  And do it while working.

Basically, I need to turn into a writing beast a la Kevin J Anderson.  Eek!  He has a fantastic series on productivity on his blog.

Off to just “shut up and write”.  Blogging doesn’t count.  Thank god I type quickly.

The structured procrastination post

I know nobody is waiting with baited breath for this, but I will be doing the post on structured procrastination and how I work with it.  Note, very specifically related to certain goals – in my case, writing fiction.

I’ve finished the rough draft of the last novel and now need to put it to bed for a little while.  In mid September, I’ll start the next one and will write a series on how I plan and execute writing to make it a no-resistance kind of activity.  I’ve had a touch of writer’s block and though I mostly think it’s bullshit, I think I know why (for me) it can be bullshit, and can be surmounted.

I have a title (Blue Suicide – based on a Quora post I read about how ex-cops have a hard time transitioning to regular life once they’re not a cop) but not much else (except a character based on an ex-cop coworker.  Just the most wonderful characters people you can run across working.)

Back in the day, I used to be a scheduler.  If I’d written down that between X and Y time, I would do Z, that shit would get done.  Or I’d feel guilty that it hadn’t gotten done – whichever came first.  Then at some point, it turned into one of those, “holy crap, I can’t/don’t have the energy to devote the 4 hours this will take so let’s surf the interwebz” (for four hours probably).  I hadn’t learned “the art of the start”.

But since I feel that summer is precious and is supposed to be filled with either travel, BBQs, or sitting on the back deck with a wobbly pop with friends, and not working, I’ll pick up this series in September when the season is right.  Mostly because both this weekend and next, I’ve got 4 day weekends coming up to spend camping and barbecuing and all that kind of good stuff.  😛

Also possibly buying some oil.

Spawn launch(ing)

Oldest son and I met with the mortgage lady at his bank.  She told him that she’d seen only a few people with 20%+ down for their first property and never anyone his age and single.  I swear – he blushed.   “Kudos to you!” she kept saying.

But seriously.  It did not take that long to hit that target of ~$60k.  A couple of years maybe?  And he doesn’t earn what he would if he took my advice on the income side of things. 😉

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud.  And I want him to be proud of what he’s achieved.  You don’t know how many of his friends were nagging at him to buy when he only had 5% down…  He is just not that impulsive though – and trusts my judgment I guess.  But it really was easy for him to say no to things that didn’t fit the goal.  Things he doesn’t even want anyway.  Is the journey as wonderful if it happens to be easy for you?  Not sure.

But it’s also something to not over-analyze.  He’ll have his 20-30% down (waiting for real estate to go down a bit this fall hopefully).

I’ll miss having him around. 🙁

I’ve been experimenting with a new approach at structured procrastination – seems promising so will post on that in a week or two… or three…

Ch-ch-ch-changes – Turn and face the strange

 

“What I like most about change is that it’s a synonym for ‘hope’.  If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is, “I believe in tomorrow and I will be a part of it.” ~ Linda Ellerbee

“Sometimes you have to let everything go – purge yourself.  If you are unhappy with anything – whatever is bringing you down – get rid of it.  Because you will find that when you are free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.” ~ Tina Turner

Got a call a couple of days ago from a guy I used to work with asking if I’d be interested in doing a short consulting project for a smaller company.  It sounded interesting so I’m following up further and we’ll see if that pans out.  Not sure if that’s “following your bliss” or what it is.  I like learning, like tackling new things, developing efficient methods to do things, getting a process going – but not actually using it for long (past making sure it works).  Somebody with a higher comfort level with boredom (ie. almost anyone) can do that part.  Exciting times… 😛

As much as I think channeling aliens is… umm, an interesting way of making a living… I really do like the message of this youtube video of Finding / following your highest excitement.  I’ve followed this method in my career for the last 10 years or so and it’s actually how I manage my daily/weekly/monthly to-do list.

With the to-do list, since I don’t like cleaning AT ALL, what does work or get me to work, is using my Unfuck your Habitat app.  Especially the Random Motivation… things like:

  • I’m shaking my head at your laziness
  • Is it that the job is too hard, or that you’re too lazy?

And my personal faves:

  • The internet is not that interesting
  • You can’t clean with your mind, so get to work

And if all else fails:

  • For fuck’s sake, get off your ass.

It’s like the Forum version of a cleaning app.  Just somehow works for me.  Or I work for it.  Either way, it all works.

The time of our lives

It seemed really odd to me how, just last year, I felt still compelled to take the summer off.  (I swear, among my friends, I’ve become known as “the person who takes summers off”).

Then I read this post from Penelope Trunk:   The Science Behind High Powered Women Leaving Their Careers.”

Before, I knew it was kind of a phase.  I could see my youngest growing up.  I wanted to be there to experience every moment while he still wanted to be with me  – and I knew it was a phase for him too (happily, they start liking to be with you again when they get around 25 years old).  When my oldest was about the same age 13 years prior, I did my own version of Walden.  I guess that was unconsciously due to the same biological “I’m missing something.  It’s happening so fast.  And work is suddenly not so important anymore.”

There’s also a feeling here now that I’m close to 50.  I told a friend (actually my current boss who is a year older than me) a few months ago that we only have so many good summers left after we turn 50.  So maybe we should count our lives in summers after 50.  How many good summers do we have after 50?  20?  30 if we’re lucky?  My dad is 95 and started not having very good summers after 89 (when he retired) but I feel that’s an aberration since my mom died in the spring at 56 – one beautiful summer gone.  Average the two out maybe?

When a parent dies young though – or like my sister dying at 39, it’s always In the back of your mind:  Do I have only 7 summers?

He won’t be 25.  He’ll only be, like me when my mom died – 21.  Just had a kid of my own and so ill prepared for that.  Still needing my mom.  Still unappreciative because there just hasn’t been enough summers.

Writing time 2

“One of the things about getting older is that I just can’t persecute myself with quite the same level of enthusiasm.” ~ no idea if or where I read this but I’ll try to fit it into the book

I first heard the phrase “how you do anything is how you do everything” in a class on entrepreneurship (mostly sales) I took with T. Harv  (author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind) back when I owned my own biz.  He got it from zen-light author Cheri Huber.  This was back when Harv was pretty much just starting out his seminar business and he traveled for free from city to city thanks to his wife being an airline attendant with WestJet I believe.  I’m pretty sure I was taking that course in ’98 and he was in the process of writing above book – which, curiously enough considering that Harv seemed very self-disciplined, didn’t get published until 2005.  IIRC, he was having a hard time of it.

The saying, of course, relates to personality and character.  It’s been a problem for me for like forever that I take very seriously doing a good job when I work but can either be an extremely hard worker – or sometimes be a slacker – on my personal projects.  It depends on whether I feel very convinced that they’re the right thing to do.  This is typical Rubin-esque Questioner behavior (with slight rebel tendencies).  I haven’t read the book since I got the gist from her blog and pretty much know my tendencies and what works for me now.  I would recommend The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg) and Kelly McGonigal’s book:  The Willpower Instinct if you’re interested in building better habits.  Sometimes these “one size fits all” prescriptions like external accountability may not work for particular people – for the most part, EX-ternal accountability doesn’t work for me at all and in fact, backfires since it sends off a knee jerk “you’re not the boss of me” reaction.  IN-ternal accountability is HUGE for me though.  It’s like how you will read about latte-type savings methods and think “OMG, I can’t fathom how people are even tempted to spend all the money they make!”  BTW, I’m also learning a lot about myself and what works and why by observing my son who is almost exactly like me.   There’s a plug for why INTJ’s should have kids even though they don’t like taking care of other people (besides the fact that they’re enjoyable to have around most of the time).  Chances are fairly good you’ll get one that’s just like you and you won’t feel so out of sync with the world sometimes.

With my last post – eek! – 3 weeks ago, I was trying to figure out how to better juggle working and writing.  The uber-focus of something like nanowrimo, extremist saving tactics or draconian diet and exercise regimens isn’t something I enjoy doing anymore now that I’m older and gravitate more towards regular habits rather than wild sprints to a finish line.  I like slowing down and enjoying the journey more now.  What has been working for me and has been very enjoyable, has been working on overall global structure and brainstorming scenes during the week (what I call “studying”) and doing a 10k (words, not kilometers) about once a month.  And then came the layoffs…

I’ve spent the last couple of weekends revising resumes.  Not mine.  My resume is like ten years out of date. Hitting up my network for other people.  Only two people haven’t found new jobs within the last two weeks.  One is a rebel that went a bit postal and burnt more than a few bridges on the (early – as in walked out) way out the door.  The other doesn’t have any specific skills and didn’t actually report to me anyway.  She got the job through nepotism so she can find the next one the same way IMO.

The rebel was the poster woman for that Congreve quote:  “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned.  Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

Seriously.  Get your caring from your kids, your pets, friends, your s.o. – someone – but don’t expect it from men at work.  Especially engineers.

Was I laid off?  No.  But things won’t be as fun for a variety of reasons.  So I’m going to engineer things to lay myself off sometime around mid July.  I’m good at making people redundant – including myself.  And I really don’t like working in the summer anyway.  I do like working when it gets cold – and I start feeling lonely for the fun of working with smart people on difficult projects at about the 4 month off mark.  Plus then I can do a 5k once or twice a week!  I figure I need at least 15 more weeks to finish the rough draft since I went down a wrong path and had to throw a bunch out.  And even hike a 10k too if I want.  Except my hiking companion (the dog) is getting old and what used to be fun for him is probably just persecution now.  I’m probably the only person on the trails that uses their fitbit to ensure they don’t do too much just like I use my calendar to ensure I don’t pack too much in.  Sometimes it’s better to fade away than burn out…

Oh, in terms of finances:  Never thought I’d do this, but with the money from this contract, I’ve set up some laddered cashable GIC’s.  It was just accumulating when this investment manager called me to ask what I planned to do with this stupidly large cash balance (that I didn’t want to invest in this market).  In about a year or so I’ll look at switching it into shorter term individual bonds.

Weirdest thing that I read this week that stimulated an “outrage pr0n” reaction:  Some guy set up a kickstarter campaign to fund a patronage for him to do nothing – some kind of thing where people donate so he doesn’t have to work at a (gasp! – I’m sure it must be soul sucking after like 2 years) job.  I don’t think he was even producing anything.  Sounds like lazy panhandling to me.  I’ll stick with my dividends.  Am grateful that my kids are both super hard workers and not entitled loafers and know how to save.  Although they do both enjoy it a little too much.  Oh well, they’re young.

Writing Time

So last week, I downloaded a very handy app which I will now delete (ooh, look at her go deleting things again!  Is that allowed or will the app police come after me?) from my phone:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aloggers.atimeloggerapp&hl=en

I ran this to figure out where to find enough time to write on a daily basis, since I can’t clone myself and don’t seem to be able to write and work at the same time very well.  Or at least not the way I was trying to do it.

This handy little app showed the following:

  • Work – 33h 23m – there for 40 but I tracked email separately and hit the stop button every time I went for coffee or went to check something quick on the interwebs.
  • Eat – 10h 3m – Holy cow, that’s like a ruminant eating # of hours!  This is primarily social/date/kid time with a birthday party in there.
  • Study – 9h 53m – Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid is the culprit here.  And a little bit of Larry Brooks Story Engineering.
  • Internet – 8h 49m – will delve into that later since it seems like too much time to me.
  • Email – 7h 25m – both work and personal.  I touch base with a friend literally every single day, sometimes multiple times a day.  She’s an extroverted blogging psychologist writer and we advise each other, critique each others stuff, are both broad readers, are interested in a lot of the same things (she has absolutely zero interest in finances though thank god).  This is also where I get input for thinking about the stock portfolio and I read a few writing blogs:  Kristin Lamb, Passive Voice, Creative Penn.
  • Housework – 7h 16m – I think I spend too much time cooking.
  • Read – 7h 2m – wish it was more.  It should be more.
  • Entertainment – 6h 43m – little 5-10 minute WWF or puzzle/word game breaks.  Disgusting habit that really adds up.
  • Transport – 5h 57m – I read during morning commute so just count the afternoon one as transport (spent visiting with a friend anyway).
  • Cinema – 5h 51m – Season 3 of Longmire came out on Netflix (been waiting for that!)  10 episodes and boom, it’s finished!  Now I don’t have to watch tv for maybe another month until I get an email from Netflix that something I’m KEENLY interested in has been put on there.
  • Walk – 4h 57m – walking is good.
  • Personal care – 3h 12m – showering is also good.
  • Shop – 1h 1m – Food / groceries is good.
  • Planning – 56m – do this pretty much every morning and is probably the most important part of the work day since I plan for myself but also my team focus.
  • Read+eat – 29m – oh no, more eating!

Internet sites visited:

  • Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project)
  • Stock stuff
  • Banking
  • Weather lookup, reasonable places to stay long term in Europe – so many choices for pretty cheap!
  • The Guardian (reading about Dennis Lehane – Mystic River)
  • Election news
  • Canadian Dream – because I like Tim very much
  • Joshua Kennon – because JK is always interesting and scary smart
  • Writing forum
  • Amazon
  • Quora
  • Penelope Trunk (the Sheryl Sandburg hubby dying thing was bizarre) – how will she “Lean In” as a single parent?  I don’t know, I only know that I have “leaned in” for 27 years now as a single parent by doing things like monitoring my time semi-ruthlessly.  Plus I read a post of hers on Quora saying that she doesn’t really procrastinate much.  I wonder if I could beat her at WWF?
  • Researching gaslighting (unsurprisingly, my largest donation last year was to the Wikipedia foundation)
  • Financial Post
  • Miniscule amounts of time on Canadian Money forum reading about the election, quick post here

Conclusion…  I don’t feel I waste a lot of time and don’t want to give any of that up in order to write more.

Next weekend I will write a post on how I’m going to juggle writing and everything else.  The approx. half hour a week blogging time is up.