My dog Willow has died

Willow was a good dog. We adopted her from the Humane Society in 2011 at the age of 4. I had been wanting a dog for years, but I was working ridiculous hours at the university and taking night classes. It wouldn’t be fair to have a dog stuck at home when I was on-campus for 10-12 hours a day.

She joined our family the day after I graduated with my BA.

Her name had been Tarheel, and it seemed to me like she hadn’t been well-socialized with other dogs. She was small for a Labrador Retriever, and I suspected she had been kept in a run because, when let loose in our backyard, she would just run back and forth in a straight line.

But she bonded with me immediately. She was my constant companion, rarely even tolerating being in a different room from me. I spent months working with her and other dogs, and she got better and better. She lived to love me and to make me happy, and I never felt like I quite deserved it.

She had two nicknames:

  1. Widdershins, because for the longest time she would spin in circles whenever excited for dinner, or excited about anything else, but would only spin counterclockwise. Willow Widdershins Stublefield.
  2. Triangle-Ears because her ears would perk up whenever she thought food or anything else interesting was available.

She didn’t mind the cats at all. Eventually, they came to tolerate her.

She was definitely my dog. She liked everyone, but I was the one she followed and obeyed. For the last 6 and a half years, I have been working from home and she has been my co-worker every day, on the sofa in my office right next to me. For 10 years, she has slept on the floor next to the bed, right beside me.

I was hers and she was mine. But she liked April too.

She generally pretended like our kids didn’t exist. If they were between me and her, she would go right through or over them if we weren’t careful.

She lived 13.5 years. On the way home from the vet, who diagnosed her with kidney disease, I checked online and learned that labs typically live 10-12 years. In dog years, I think that means she was 94.

I think we gave her a good life. I know she made my life better.

I cried so hard at the vet. I knew when we adopted her that this day would come. I’ve been prepared to mourn her since that first day. But it was still hard, so very hard, and I wept on the floor in the vet’s office while holding her.

I’m crying now.

I’m going to be expecting to see her come around a corner in our house for days, maybe weeks. I keep expecting to feel her nudge my hand or put a paw on my leg.

She was such a good dog.

I’ll miss you Willow. I love you. Thank you for being my friend.

My Uncle Dave has died and I have some complex feelings about it

My Uncle Dave lived in Arkansas, and when I was young (starting in 4th or 5th grade, probably… maybe 6th, I don’t recall), we began visiting his family almost every weekend. By junior high, I would also spend a week or two at their house in the summer without my parents there. I spent a lot of time at their home, hiking through their woods, swimming in their pool, eating their food, playing video games with my cousin Neil, teasing and getting teased by my cousin Charelle, and just being a part of their family.

Uncle Dave was an alcoholic and a drug user. I’m pretty sure he was abusive towards Neil. At least, that would explain the anger issues that Neil had that prompted him to try and murder me most weekends when we visited.

I never experienced peer pressure from my schoolmates. Dave was the first to try and make me drink beer, and once when I continued to refuse he just poured his can over my head while cursing and yelling at me.

One summer, my cousin Neil and I accidentally lit a field on fire with some bottle rockets. It was state land, and we were terrified that we would be arrested and our lives were over. Dave called the fire department and covered for us. We didn’t get in trouble at all. Neil bought me a sports drink at the corner shop (which was actually a mile or two away at the end of a dirt road) and we were allies for a day.

After my parents got divorced (I was around 12 years old and in 6th or 7th grade), I never heard again from my dad’s side of the family. I haven’t seen Dave, his (now ex-)wife, or my cousins since before my parents got divorced. I did get Charelle’s phone number so I could invite her to our wedding in 2008 because she was always kind to me, but she had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t be there, and that was the last we spoke.

I don’t entirely know how I feel about Dave dying. It was inevitable, really. My dad said he had a heart attack, but I know he was still abusing drugs so that likely shortened his life.

He wasn’t a bad uncle to me, all things considered. He taught me how to split firewood and how to skin a deer. How to dispose of the guts of deer and turkey. How to fish, how to clean them, and how to smoke salmon and trout. One of our main sources of meat, when I was growing up, was hunting on his land.

I can’t miss him because I haven’t had a relationship with him for almost 25 years at this point. But my inability to fully parse my feelings is what indicates that my feelings are complex. I have so few ties to my childhood and to my past, and one more is gone I suppose. But it has actually been gone for a long time. Really, I can’t be certain how much of a relationship was ever there.

For a few minutes, I considered attending the memorial. I’ve thought a lot over the years about how I would react to seeing my cousin Neil again who inflicted so much torment and pain on me that I nearly committed suicide the night before having to visit my uncle and his family for yet another weekend. At this point, I think I have enough distance and enough of the Holy Spirit that I can extend grace even if I’m still working on full forgiveness. As for my uncle, it’s not like the death of a stranger. I knew him, and he played a large role in my childhood. Not an altogether positive one, but there are worse stories than mine, and so I don’t feel like I can be too upset about it all.

He is gone. He wasn’t all bad. I hope that others will be better, and I know that I will be. Dave is one of my inspirations for fatherhood and for being a good husband because he modeled what one oughtn’t do. I do believe that he loved, but I also know that he was broken and drug-addled.

Goodbye, Uncle Dave.

2020 Reflections

At the beginning of 2020, or the end of 2019, I decided that my blog going forward would be written to my future self. And I’ve had a tradition, maintained pretty regularly over the last decade, of writing a year in review. Some years, it’s comprehensive and I write about my job, our church, our finances, my education, our family, etc. Some years, it’s brief.

2020 contained so much, and yet this blog will be quite brief. We did indeed have a lot happen in 2020, and for us, much of it was pretty good. Financially, we’ve made wise choices and are doing well. Isaac was born. I achieved some big goals at work and am optimistic that 2021 will be a really great year for me and my teams at Adaptavist. Our church is thriving despite us not meeting in person since March 2020. April and I read through the Bible last year, and are doing it again in 2021, and we both feel like our relationships with God have grown. Biden won the election and Trump may finally be held accountable for his crimes.

But I can’t bring myself to take an hour or two looking back over 2020 and writing. I want to look forward. I have a baby to snuggle with and a toddler to play with. I want to finish building our new playground this morning. We should take a walk to the coffee shop to get more beans. I’ve got another few chapters of Job to listen to today. I want to take this weekend to let my brain rest, and then Monday I dive into a new task at work that I’m excited about and I think will be really good for my teams.

The Lord is our God, The Lord is one. I pray that 2021 surprises us with goodness.

Deliberately starting a new chapter

I have been looking forward to October 1 for a while now.

Our second child is due in 5 weeks. That’s crazy exciting, and I want to be ready for it. We’re also about 5 weeks away from the election. That’s exciting in a whole different way.

October 1 is my date this year to make some changes as we prepare for the big changes ahead.

Keto

To ensure I have enough energy for a toddler plus a newborn plus helping my wife out, I am going back onto a keto diet. This will also help me hit my second goal weight, which I’ve been putting off pursuing for a while. Rice and ice cream are so good! But a few months of keto will get me to where I want to be.

  • Starting weight: 198.8 lbs.
  • Current weight: 198.8 lbs.
  • Goal weight: 170 lbs.

For those of you who recall my last keto diet, I dropped from 240 lbs. to 190 lbs. I’ve been at 195 +/- 4 since then (around 1.5 years now, I think).

I expect to do this through the end of January, though if I hit my goal weight earlier, and if our sleep schedule is getting back to normal, I may end it early.

Social Media

With the election approaching, social media is more stressful than ever. We’re planning to vote absentee in-person tomorrow, and I plan to avoid Facebook and Reddit at least through the election and probably until after our baby is born.

I want to be focused on positive things and reserve my energy for my family. If you need to reach me, you can email, text, or call.

As an alternative to Facebook and Reddit, I’ve been reading a lot more. I carry my Kindle around and I’ve been checking out ebooks from the Library. I think this makes me a happier person, and it’s helping balance out other stressful areas of my life.

Outdoor Improvements

I also want to record here that we’re making a bit of progress on our outdoor work. Not that I have done anything, but I had a landscape company out today to look at things and start working on estimates, and I have an estimate (but not a bid, yet) for the patio roof. I’m cautiously optimistic that we can have the patio and other hardscaping done by February. We might be able to build the playground before then.

I suspect the patio roof would then be in April or May.

Work

And last but not least, a quick update on work since that was the top subject of my last blog post.

I got pretty down early last week. I’m struggling with burn-out. There’s a lot of pushing a boulder up a hill and trying to balance too many spinning plates, if I can mix my visual metaphors.

So last week I went for a walk and really confronted my challenges, and I asked myself, “What would it look like for things to be better? What do you need to have happen for that?”

I had some ideas, and I started pursuing them. And just a week and a half later, I’m feeling quite a bit better. I can’t express how great it is to work for a company that is generally supportive and invests in its employees. When I say, “To get from here to there, we need to do X,” often the response is, “OK, let’s do it.” I’m not told to just figure it out without X.

For my British colleagues, I don’t think they understand how rare that support is. At many American companies, if I said I was getting burnt out and we need to do X, the take-away would be that I can’t do my job so they probably ought to not promote me ever and potentially sideline or fire me. Adaptavist has a vision and pursues long-term gain. That’s why we succeed.

A long overdue, and subsequently brief(ish), update post

My last post was in June, and I haven’t written about the pandemic or anything else really going on in my life these days. Future-me might want to be reminded of some things, so here goes.

Work

I have 8 jobs, Bob. 8!

Right now, my focus is split between:

  1. Head of Education (developing and managing strategy for the Adaptavist product portfolio)
  2. Product manager for Learn for Jira
  3. Support person for Learn for Jira
  4. Lead for the Adaptavist Learn content team
  5. Education team personnel manager (5 direct reports and 5 indirect reports)
  6. Documentation toolsmith (managing the configuration and tooling for Adaptavist product documentation)
  7. Product manager for the Adaptavist Library
  8. Support for the Adaptavist Library

As part of all this, I also handle releases for L4J, work with marketing, meet with every other product manager monthly 1-on-1, work with managers in other teams at Adaptavist, and do a few other things.

Suffice it to say, progress in any one area is pretty slow. Thankfully, we’re getting some more people onto the teams and that will help a lot.

My goal is to have less of my time on the day-to-day, sprint-to-sprint work, and more time focused on 12-18 month strategy and quarterly goals for the 4 teams I work with.

The Library was only added to my portfolio about 4 weeks ago. I am very conscious of the fact that I only have about 2 months before our baby is due to get things solid before I disappear for two months.

I maintain my sanity by trying to stick to only 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. There is an unlimited amount of work for me to do, but I’ll get nothing done if I’m exhausted and burnt out. It’s pretty hard to keep my head above water as it is, and there are some weeks where I fail even if I mostly stick to my 40-hour limit.

But if I can play with Simon for an hour before work, and take off at 5 to have dinner with him and play and put him to bed at 7, then everything else is OK.

Church

We haven’t met in-person since March. In the last 5 months, Simon has gone from falling asleep in my arms during the church service (which is being streamed online) to needing to run and jump and wrestle and eat and then go down for a nap during the church service.

Suffice it to say, I don’t really attend the online church service anymore.

Without in-person church, even over Zoom, I’m actually finding my weekends to be more restful.

April and I have been doing an online Bible study this year. We have a set of chapters for each day (I listen to them, while April prefers to read them), and then a daily podcast. I regularly fall far behind, but I eventually get caught up.

This is my fourth time going through the Bible and I am engaging with it very differently than before. In the past, I would describe my reading of the Bible as more academic. I studied it, and it was interesting, but I didn’t emotionally connect with much of it. Perhaps because I’m listening to it instead of reading, it’s having more of an impact on me. The book of Jeremiah has been heartbreaking.

The podcast is fantastic. April and I are going to subscribe to the Patreon next month to start supporting them because we get so much value out of it.

Right now, listening to that podcast and the Bible app are my church. But they obviously don’t meet the community purposes of the church. I’ve got a pretty big lack of community right now, but I’m not feeling poorly because of that. Turns out, pandemics are less rough on those of us on the far end of introversion.

Pandemic-times

For the first few weeks of quarantining, back in March, I had a lot of anxiety and some depression. After 3 weeks, it became more normal. These days, it’s not usually a big deal at all. But I still struggle with wanting to see people normally, and having to be hyper-aware of (and asking about) other people’s travels and interactions and quarantines.

I’m OK being around (but physically distant) people who are following similar precautions to us. But if I know they’re not being cautious or I don’t know them… here in August, I’ve reached the point of avoiding altogether. Masks are great, and we wear them, but they mostly prevent you from spreading. If other people aren’t following mask best practices, then we’re not protected from them, and that’s no good.

I reckon we have a few more months until a vaccine and anti-virals are out, and then we can move on and return to normal socialness. For now, with a baby due in ~2 months, I’m going to be even more isolated than I have been the last few months.

We’ve been having our groceries delivered, getting take-out once a week, have a plethora of hand sanitizer bottles, several cloth masks each, and are trying to do our best to maintain distance from people.

There are a couple of people I play games with online occasionally. I talk with Jennie on the phone once every month or so. And that’s pretty much it for me.

I’m doing alright, but it sure would be nice to get together with some people and have a beer and talk about stuff without having to sit outside and 6+ feet away from each other.

Volunteering

I joined a professional organization as part of the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield named Club Blue. I actually became the Secretary, and ran a vision/mission workshop, and then wrote the vision and mission statements based on the outcome of that workshop:

Mission

Developing community leaders to serve as ambassadors for the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield.

Vision

We envision an inclusive community of businesses and professionals with inspiring empathy who share a desire to listen, serve, and mentor so that Springfield can better meet the needs of the kids who need us most.

So Club Blue has been a growing part of my community outside of church, and that has been kind of nice. For years, I feel like I have met so many people who only plan to live in Springfield “for another 5 years or so.” I don’t know why it’s always “around 5 years,” but that is often the case.

It’s nice to meet people who are committed to being in Springfield and improving it. And it’s doubly nice that we share the same value and vision for how to make Springfield better: by investing in our young people.

Kids

Simon is 23 months old. Almost 2 years!

And his baby brother will be here in 2 months, give or take.

Every day is awesome. I miss Simon after he goes to bed. I’m a bit sad when I have to work instead of getting to play with him. We have a lot of fun together and I’m just such a fan of him.

I have become one of those people whose pictures on Facebook are mostly of their kid.

I just ordered a Nugget.

Being Simon’s dad is great. I know having a second kid will change this dynamic, but I’m reasonably confident it’s just going to make things even better and it’s so wonderful.

House

A couple of years ago, before Simon was born, we finished the last major renovations needed on our house to make it solid. These were things that aren’t visible but which improve the house dramatically.

At long last, we’re going to start improving things that are visible and make our lives better, but which are less foundational like plumbing or a roof.

Simon loves to be outside, but our yard isn’t really nice for April and me right now. Our plans include tearing out the deck and having a larger covered deck put in, landscaping the flowerbeds with stone (instead of wood mulch) and native plants, adding 1-2 more rain gardens, building a playground for the kids (with rubber mulch below), some stone paths in the backyard, building some garden boxes, and planting a couple of apple trees.

We’ll have seating, and a dining table, and a new grill (turns out, the griddle was a huge mistake and I regret it), and more shade, and it’ll be lovely.

We’re also replacing our 6 ft. privacy fence with a 4 ft. picket fence. After 5+ months of quarantine, we’d like to be more connected to our neighbors, not less.

I want to get a couple of signs. I think this idea is hilarious and April disagrees.

  • For the front of the house, a sign by the door that says, “The Stublefield’s”
  • For the fence by the double gate, a sign that says, “The Stublefields”

Get it? Because the gardens and trees and playground are all part of the Stublefields… fields, eh? get it? get it?!

I love the subtlety of it. April wants “The Stuble Fields” on the fence. She may end up winning this one, but we’ll see.

Finances

To fund the outdoor renovations, I refinanced our house and took cash out of our equity. Turns out our house is worth $40,000 more than when we bought it, and we had paid off a chunk in the last 5 years. Not saying we got anywhere near that amount out, and what we did get in cash isn’t enough to complete all the projects I want to do, but refinancing helped a lot.

It also switched us from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year, decreased our interest rate, and we’re setup to pay off our mortgage 2 years sooner than we were going to with about $25,000 less in total interest paid. So that’s pretty cool.

I would recommend Rocket Mortgage if you’re looking to refinance.

Thanks to YNAB, we’re doing better financially than we ever have before. In the last year, our net worth is up 117% and I think YNAB has played a huge role in that.

Thanks to this Reddit post, I have opened a 529 account for Simon.

Thanks to the magic of investing and compound interest, Simon already has about 5x in college savings than I had when I started college. We’re getting about $1.30 added to every $1 we put in (or to put that another way, we’re getting a multiplier of 2.3x on our investments–by way of example, $100 turns into $230).

I’m working towards retiring early. I don’t know if I’ll actually want to retire, but right now I’m shooting to have enough invested and saved that I could retire around the age of 46, and definitely could by 50. The age of 50 is really what I’m shooting for. By then, kid number 2 will be 15 and Simon will be 17, our house will be paid off (probably for a few years by then), and I’ll have been at Adaptavist for 19 years (which, of course, something might change between now and then… but I certainly wouldn’t mind still being at Adaptavist!).

It’ll be interesting for future-me to read back over this and see if I hit those goals.

Philosophy

Coming out of my Bible studies this year, and having lots of time to reflect, I’ve been ruminating on “the end justifies the means.”

To make a long story short, I increasingly disagree with that statement. When I was younger, I was very utilitarian. These days, I’m leaning much more towards “the means must be justified and just, but I also recognize that humans are terrible at being just or recognizing the difference between unjust and just.”

I’m also trending more towards pacifism. Again, this is a big change from my youth.

I won’t go into more detail here because this blog post is supposed to be concise. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to sit with some beers and talk about my thoughts with some people. Maybe next year.

Sitting in the garage

April is off to pick up dinner.

I’m sitting in the garage with the doors open.

And Simon is delightedly running circles around the garage, the van, and the doors.

It’s idyllic. And I wonder, are there people out there in similar circumstances who take this for granted? Who can just enjoy it without much analysis?

Because I am very aware of how blessed I am. And I am very aware of how temporal this is. It could pass in a moment.

I am deliberate in enjoying it. In soaking it in. Because I know how quickly and easily it could be gone.

Would being unaware be better? I don’t know. I think it might.

Is being aware better? I think it might. No way to know one way or the other, really. I can’t compare.

Oh well. I’ll appreciate it. I appreciate Simon’s excitement about the cat across the street, and the rain, and the old license plates we still have lying around.

Robert passed away

I decided in December that this blog is really me writing to future-me. So while I don’t want to write about this, I think future-me would want this to be written down.

Yesterday, I found out that Robert Bleeker passed away late last week. Robert headed up the online and Atlassian Summit portions of Atlassian University. AU is Atlassian’s training program.

We had worked together for around the last 5 years, but beyond that professional relationship, he was just a really nice guy. I always enjoyed hearing about his motorcycle trips with his son, and his daughter’s academic studies, and how his family was getting on. And Robert was (more recently) always quick to ask after my son Simon and want to see pictures of him.

Robert was a role-model to me of a good dad. I was really looking forward to seeing him in a few weeks at Summit and catching up, and now he’s suddenly gone.

I’m just so sad. Goodbye, Robert.

I know he was just mimicking, but…

Simon said, “Love you,” this morning.

He was sitting on my lap in the nursery, just after getting up, and taking a break from drinking milk. He was looking up at me, watching my lips move and listening closely while I told him that I love him, and he repeated it back perfectly.

He doesn’t know what it means yet, but I couldn’t be more joyful. My son’s first sentence may be, “I love you,” and that is wonderful.

It’s January 2020 and Simon…

  • can walk up to 10 steps
  • loves music videos
    • particularly ones with dancing
    • mostly pop music and Disney
    • apparently also loves Steampowered Giraffe
  • tonight said “goodnight” for the first time!
  • can also say
    • bye
    • cat
    • kitty
    • no
    • dada
    • daddy
    • mama
    • nana (for banana)
  • loves to sit on our laps, or on our backs, or on our shoulders, or be snuggled and hugged, or all of these all at the same time somehow
  • can stack things, sort things, carry things, lift 5 lbs. (barely with one hand, most easily with two), and climb things (he can get onto sofas now)
  • is just the best