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.

Fear in America

Fear is pretty common in our society, so there’s no need to talk about it as something distant or difficult to comprehend. We all deal with it, whether the anxiety flows from talking with the people we stand next to in the checkout line or smiling at the person one table over at a coffee shop. When we see a stranger break down in tears, we freeze. If we ask someone how their day is going and they respond immediately that their child just died and they’re considering suicide, we are at a loss for a proper response. How should we react?

I haven’t read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis yet, but I was told recently of a passage in it that gives a vision of what hell is like. In hell, Lewis writes, there are millions of houses, but everyone lives very far from one another. They can’t stand to see or be near their neighbours, so they continually build more houses and move further away. Like our universe, it is ever-expanding as people build, settle, and then realize they are still too near one another and begin the cycle again. Their loneliness is self-imposed, fueled perhaps by their bitterness.

There seems to be something in humanity, perhaps sin itself, that encourages this isolationist trend. It is not good for man to be alone, and for this reason woman was made, but I cannot count how many people sabotage their relationships so that they end up alone. As the author of Bowling Alone observed, we get in our own car when we leave work, we drive to our homes and open the garage door without stepping from the car, we close it behind us before we exit the vehicle, and then we enter our homes, having never been exposed to our neighbours or the outside world. We don’t make eye contact with strangers on the streets, and rationally we have to recognize that it’s not because they might all stab us if we did. We’re all equally afraid of intimate contact–of someone seeing us.

It goes without saying, though, that something in us does drive us to relationships, else we wouldn’t live in cities at all, nor would we seek out partners with whom we can form relationships that we eventually sabotage. But from where does this fear come? I believe it comes from our regrets and self-loathing, where we have taken a sin and made it (in our minds) a huge facet of our lives, and we don’t want others to see that sin. We are afraid that if they see it, they will leave and our worst fear will be confirmed: that we are sinful. We might think it, but it’s not quite as real if no one else knows, so if we hide it away then everything will be fine.

I dated a girl briefly my sophomore year of college who attempted to hide herself. She was afraid that people wouldn’t like her if she was herself; if people realized how truly intelligent she was. In high school, the smart kids were outsiders, discriminated against and mocked, and she wanted to be an insider. She didn’t want to be alone, so she pretended to be someone else. When I saw through her facade, it made her extremely uncomfortable, and she left me. It was better to her to not be seen, to have her soul unexposed.

As is so often the case with this sort of fear, though, the terrible thing we are attempting to hide is no terrible thing at all. For years I hid my past life from others, afraid of how they would judge me. Before I was Christian, I didn’t want people to know I was involved in witchcraft, despite my pride in it. Visions of hate crimes, burning stakes, and eternal loneliness floated through my mind. I had been beaten and stigmatized sufficiently just for being different and smart–adding a different religion to the mix seemed extremely unwise. Even after I became Christian, I was afraid that if people learned of my past actions, of what I had done, and of the crimes I had committed that they would leave me. I would be kicked out of the Church. I had found a family, and I did not want to be pushed from it.

This fear weighed on me, kept me up at night, and prevented me from forming vulnerable, intimate, life-affirming relationships. That same sophomore year of college, though, I met a very inquisitive young woman who also wanted to know my life story, but she wanted to know the parts that I had left out when I told it to Brooke. She wanted to know those things that I was afraid to share, and she exhorted me to take strength in Christ and be honest.

I let it all out, told her everything, and she hugged me and told me it was OK. There was no blame in her eyes, no disillusion or anger, nor was there pity. There was just acceptance and love, and it was the first time since I had accepted Jesus into my life that I was able to experience that. When someone knows your darkest sins and accepts you anyways, there is no room for fear. The light has shown everywhere and nothing has been found wanting. There is only love.

She urged me to share my testimony more often, so I tried it once more. The man with whom I shared likewise did not reject me. Before long, I was speaking in front of a church, telling them my story, and they did not cast me out. They did not throw stones. I was hugged and brought in deeper. Over the years, I have found that vulnerability builds relationships, where fear leads to weakness and stagnation at best, and isolation at worst.

When the random person on the street smiles at me, and I smile back, it makes my day. It is uplifting for me, and I hope it is the same for them. I’m still afraid to talk with people in the checkout line or at the store, and especially at the next table in the coffee shop, but sometimes I try, and I really try to reciprocate when someone talks to me. If someone shares that they’re having a particularly bad day, I offer to sit down and talk with them. Maybe pray, if they seem comfortable with that. I force myself to reach out a bit more and touch their lives. For all I know, no one else ever has, and they are dying for someone to reach for them and pull them out of the darkness just a bit, just enough to find their way.