Heading to San Francisco for a couple of days

I’m still continually surprised by the life I lead. It’s so awesome, and I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve this beautiful house, or April, or our friends, or my awesome job, etc. etc.

God is good. April and I sat in the front room yesterday morning and just looked out the window at the birds for a while, enjoying the peace and each other’s company, and I want to hold onto that memory forever.

I’m heading to SF to spend a day with our CEO, the head of products (my boss), and the head of product marketing to talk about Adaptavist Learn and plan our next steps.

In other news, I’m down to 200 even.

  • Starting weight: 240
  • Goal weight: 190
  • Current weight: 200.6

For those keeping score, my weight loss has slowed down; that’s only 3 pounds in the last 2 weeks. Now that I’m normal weight, I keep eating non-keto stuff 1-2 times a week, which breaks keto and slows my weight loss. But I feel tons better already, and I still anticipate hitting my goal weight this spring. If I wasn’t going to SF today, I suspect I’d be at 199 by Wednesday. As it is, I’ll probably eat Chinese food and other stuff that will spike me back up and it’ll be another 1-2 weeks.

Oh, one last thing I want to write down so I remember it: last week I volunteered at Campbell Elementary for a STEAM night (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). Kids came and there were 5 rooms with different activities, plus free food for them and their families. Campbell doesn’t have a PTA, so a few area churches have pitched in to fill the role that parents might at other schools.

I don’t know why I was surprised by this, but I was surprised by how nice the teachers were. I guess you have to be pretty nice to survive as an elementary school teacher, but for some reason, my mental image of a teacher is: exhausted, burned out, cynical, bitter. I wonder where that comes from? It certainly wasn’t evident at Campell. I didn’t really do much (signed people in at the front door), but I was happy to contribute and I hope I get another opportunity to volunteer there in the future.

Edit: Oh, also, for future-me, this is the week you got a Helix mattress and it’s going pretty OK. It’s comfy but still kind of smells weird. I think we made the right choice getting it.

Reflection on 2017

This year was terrible and disheartening in regards to politics. I spent a good chunk of 2017 disillusioned and unmoored from society. The US presidential election communicated to me that I am what the majority voted against (educated, liberal, wants to provide healthcare and education to people). That’s still there, though the depression from it has lessened.

I also spent the year doing a job I love, and making real progress in several areas of my life. So let’s talk about the good things, and what I can look forward to in 2018.

Jump to the tl;dr if you don’t have time to read all this, which is totally understandable.

Finances

Pie chart of our expenses in 2017 by merchant
Pie chart of our expenses in 2017 by merchant

Our largest expense this year was paying off my student loans. We’ll never have to do that again. That’s paid for and done. Over. Gone.

  • 23%: Student loan payoff
  • 21%: Tithe to the church
  • 20%: Home mortgage payment
  • 11%: Retirement investment
  • 3%: AT&T? Really? Well, they are our home internet, and we had our mobile phones through them until we switched to Project Fi, so I guess that’s believable… sheesh
  • 3%: Modern Springfield provides furniture delivery from IKEA. I had them delivering for both our home and Adaptavist’s downtown office, so that one isn’t surprising
  • 17%: Everything else

I’m mostly happy about the student loans being gone. I wonder what this chart will look like next year.

It didn’t feel like we had much money this year, despite having a higher income than we’ve ever had. That’s because we had debt I wanted to pay off, and I wanted to start saving for retirement. Every month, any extra cash we’ve had has been thrown at credit cards or medical debt. While we haven’t been able to save hardly anything in terms of cash in an account, our net worth is doing pretty alright.

Graph of net worth by month in 2017
Graph of net worth by month in 2017

Mint hasn’t updated yet, but I paid off our credit cards yesterday, so that little bit of red in December will be gone by January. I’m also going to cancel our Citibank / American Airlines credit card and replace it with an Amazon Prime credit card. No more annual fee, and we’ll get cash back towards all the stuff we get on Amazon.

So 2017 is quite the success story for us from the financial perspective. I started working full-time in January 2007, so almost 11 years ago, and have been very focused on paying off debt, investing in retirement, building up savings, and improving our net worth. This is a stark contrast from my last year working at the university; I joined Adaptavist in October 2014.

Graph of net worth by month in 2014
Graph of net worth by month in 2014

So yeah, less debt, more savings. Nice.

Next up in 2018, we’re replacing our dishwasher! But we’ve decided that, whenever we have large expenses like that, we’re going to save up more than we need. I’m not sure how much more… saving up two times more is unrealistic for large expenses. For instance, in 2019 or 2020 I’d like to replace our fence, and that’ll be $10,000, so saving up $20,000 before we do it is quite a stretch. But I don’t want to save up cash to do something, then spend 100% of our savings as soon as we hit the goal.

I don’t think we’ll reach the point of a proper emergency fund in 2018 (three months of expenses in a savings account), but we’re going to use the credit card a LOT less and try to only spend money that we have.

I’m also going to get a new gaming computer in 2018! Savings for that begins in January and continues through December. Since I’ll be building my own, I’ll likely start doing that before December, but it’ll take until near the end of the year to save up enough. I’m going to get a new desk at home as well; I have enjoyed my standing desk at the office so much that I want to get one at home.

We might also insulate some pipes and a wall in our home. That would be a big project, though probably not terribly expensive… just lots of effort and mess. One of our pipes has frozen two winters in a row, and I can feel condensation build-up on the wall where the pipe is at, which suggests it’s just a bare pipe running through a poorly insulated outer wall right now.

Church and Faith

I didn’t do much in 2017 related to the Church. That is to say, my amount of service went down. I was visiting prisoners for a while, but a new warden reduced the number of visitation days during the week and I couldn’t make it during the remaining days, so I stopped doing that. I’m not preaching at Vineyard anymore because I couldn’t do it frequently enough to practice and get good. It was frustrating to be criticized on my sermons but only get to preach 1-2 times a year, such that I couldn’t really improve. And I’ve been praying with people less too. Every Sunday morning, when people go up for prayer, I ask God if I should pray with them, and 99% of the time He says no. He has someone else to pray with them, or in some cases, He has told me to just worship and be in His presence.

I think it has been restful and healing for me, in a sense. 2017 has been an opportunity to reflect and just… rest. It’s like when you’re feeling under the weather, not terrible just low energy, and you lie in bed all day. You don’t do anything drastic like go to a doctor and get a prescription, or sweat out a fever or some other strenuous sign of healing. You just rest for a while, and then you feel better.

2018 will likely be more of the same. During Advent, I was reflecting on joy and how much I have struggled with the concept of joy for years. Advent was one of those times I was regularly invited to preach, and preaching about something I hadn’t experienced much of was a challenge. My youth didn’t provide many opportunities for joy or hope. To be honest, my approach to hope was less a positive expectation and more a desperate bloody-mindedness. I didn’t wait for a better life to be given to me, I took it.

(As an aside, and because blogs are actually terrible ways to communicate nuance and a comprehensive message, I’m not saying that what I have in this life is by my own works and will. Everything I have, God gave to me. It is by His grace alone that I live. But I also believe that faith without works is dead, and that God wants us to partner with Him, which is to say that we have to be open to opportunities and we have to trust in God and pursue those opportunities if we’re going to succeed.)

2017 was hard in many respects. Politically, it feels like our country is going backwards. April and I experienced miscarriage, and the message during Advent I heard about waiting left me weeping; I’ve been waiting to have kids for 22 years now, and working towards that goal, and it’s hard. Ending every month with no cash in the bank is hard, even though I know it’s because we’re paying off debt and saving up for retirement.

But I also feel like I have come to understand joy and contentment better this year. I am truly hopeful, not just determined and motivated. I am content. I have trusted God in years past, but I feel like I moved to a new level of trust this year. The hard things aren’t as hard as they would have been a few years ago because I have confidence that God is in our corner. He hasn’t changed, I have. And the more I learn about that, the greater my joy because I can see how He has sheltered and provided for me, both materially and emotionally.

2018 will likely be continuing to grow in that area. I don’t think I’m “there” yet, but I think I’m getting there. I look forward to seeing where “there” is and what God calls me to next.

I will be starting one new service thing, which is doing some volunteer work at Campbell Elementary school as part of our church. I don’t know what that’ll look like quite yet, but I hope to start in January/February.

Work

Adaptavist continues to be awesome. I’m still Head of Learning and Development, but in December my group was moved out of Operations and over to Products. My business model better aligns with Products, which has more of an investment focus: you build the thing, then sell the thing, whereas in Operations/Services, you have to get the business then hire the people to deliver the work. Adaptavist Learn is a product, and we’re going to be better able to invest in it as a product now. So that’s pretty exciting.

From left to right: Krista Parker, Ryan Spilken, Matthew Stublefield, Neil Penny, Renee Brown
Adaptavist Learning & Development – December 2017

My current team is traveling to Springfield the second week of January so we can experiment with a new method of course development and try to write an entire course in one week. Then, two new people are joining my team later in January, which is huge. We haven’t hired anyone into L&D since March 2017. I’m hoping we’ll actually hire a couple more people sometime between February and March 2018.

In 2018, I’m looking forward to completing the foundational set of features for Learn, rounding out our course library so we have everything covered that I originally set out to cover, and making some huge improvements to our product documentation.

Health

I have already written extensively about my new dedication to the Keto diet. I surprised my dad recently when I told him that this isn’t just a temporary change to lose weight, but a lifestyle change. I’m in this for the long-haul.

A helpful quote I read recently: what matters isn’t what you eat between Christmas and New Years, but what you eat between New Years and Christmas. I definitely cheated some over Christmas… the first couple of days were OK and I was able to resist, but my mother-in-law’s biscuits and my father-in-law’s chocolate chip cookies were just too much. I couldn’t handle it. And then, when we came home, I had some french fries from Chik-Fil-A, followed by Chinese food for dinner.

  • Starting weight: 240
  • Goal weight: 190
  • Current weight: 220

Still the same weight I was pre-Christmas, and I’m down 3 pounds since my last blog post after London (18 days ago). Not bad.

I have some additional health goals for January, and the rest of 2018, but I don’t want to write about them. Instead, I’m just going to do them. I’ll tell you all about them later.

Looking forward to 2018

Three years ago, in October 2014, I joined Adaptavist.

Two years ago, in December of 2015, I finished my master’s degree. I still can’t believe I did a master’s. I literally marvel at that on a weekly basis.

Last year, in 2016, I concluded one of my most successful projects at Adaptavist, and then was named Head of Learning and Development.

And in 2017, I paid off debt, began saving for retirement, rested and healed spiritually and emotionally, and finally began losing weight and getting physically healthier.

2018 looks to be better still. We’ll save up some money, make some improvements to our home, get healthier, and be joyful. I expect great things from 2018. Have a happy New Year, everyone.

Adaptavist Case Study with Collective Health

Collective Health Case StudyI am very pleased to announce that the case study I mentioned in my last post has gone live.

CH particularly commends Adaptavist for understanding its needs in a business context. “We were very much looking for that holistic picture back from your team,” says Irene, “and the value of working with you guys is you helped configure a tool that makes it very easy for our people. The tools support them in being as efficient as possible.”

Last but not least, Adaptavist helps CH work more efficiently. Preston comments, “The question is raised, ‘Why don’t we get a JIRA engineer in-house?’ But you guys have such expertise in Atlassian products, and can build with such clarity, that it’s much more efficient to work with your experts than for us to try and build that expertise in depth ourselves. Your knowledge just makes our development process much more efficient.”

See the full case study page at Empowering people and processes for Collective Health or read the full case study in PDF.

What I learned about co-working spaces

Co-working spaceWhen the company I work for hired another person in Springfield, we needed some office space. But I didn’t want to get a formal office, and a local co-working space had been recommended by a friend, so I suggested we tour the space.

The service sounded pretty great. They would provide a desk, chair, monitor, high speed Internet, power, and 24/7 access with parking. We would have access to a number of conference rooms. And coffee during regular business hours was included with all of this.

Sadly, it didn’t work out, but I learned some interesting things along the way.

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Some things I’ve learned about JIRA Service Desk (JSD)

JIRA Service Desk QueueThe basic configuration of JIRA Service Desk (JSD) is pretty easy. As long as you know JIRA Query Language (JQL) reasonably well, or you can use the basic search in JIRA before switching to Advanced to copy and paste the JQL you need, you can setup pretty much everything you need with little or no prior experience. Not much can be customized, and the interface is clean and simple.

That said, I’ve been digging into the nuance of JSD and learning a bit more about its inner workings. Atlassian hasn’t released the code to JSD, so we don’t have much visibility into why or how it does the things it does. This leads to questions and confusion, and in some cases, things simply not working as expected.

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Starting a New Adventure

In December of 2011, I finished my bachelor’s degree and resolved to give myself a year before making any big changes in my life. I wanted to spend some time figuring out what I really enjoyed doing and where I wanted to go next. Along the way, I realized that the part of my job I enjoy most is project management, and I decided to start a master’s of science in project management in the fall of 2013. I had planned to finish that before making any other big changes, but circumstances have caught up with me, and in the best possible way.

My work at the university, as many of you know, is not easy. I’ll leave the understatement at that, and go on to say that after talking with my boss in both January and June of this year about how I needed to see some changes in both the number of hours I worked and the type of work I was doing, I decided to start looking in June for a new job. Last Monday, I was offered a position for which I have been interviewing for almost two months.

I’m crazy excited about this job. The company for which I’ll be working is Adaptavist, and I’ll be a remote-work consultant specializing in Atlassian’s Confluence and JIRA and combining my technical knowledge with project management and communication skills. It’s a small, agile company that looks to have a fantastic work culture, and their methods and priorities align with mine.

They’re based out of the UK, so I’ll travel there for a week-long orientation sometime in the next month or so, but most of my work will be from home. We’re not moving away from Springfield, and I’ll be continuing work on my master’s. I’ll still be on-campus at Missouri State regularly to go to the rec center or other events. It’s going to be strange being just a student, but I look forward to that experience.

I really appreciate all the people I met and all the experience I gained at MSU, but working for Adaptavist is just about my dream job. Three years ago, I started thinking, “What do I really want to do?” and now I’m going to start doing it. Between that and Meta-Manage (which has sadly languished while I’ve devoted more attention and energy to seeking a new job, but which will get going again very soon), everything is just great.

My last day at MSU is Friday, October 3rd, and I start working for Adaptavist on Monday, October 6th.