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.

Two facets of fatherhood, and some mundane updates with cute baby pictures

I.

In many respects, I don’t feel like my life has changed tremendously since having a son. I had been preparing to have a kid for years and was very ready.

There have been some minor material changes. Less time to play video games. I don’t watch TV nearly as much. I need to be a bit more flexible with my time and willing to drop whatever I’m doing to take care of him. But it’s not a burden because I knew in advance that it was coming.

A lot of new parents go through a period of mourning and grieve their loss of freedom, but I mourned in advance.

Also, April is awesome, and I continue to marvel at how much of a difference having a great partner makes.

I continue to be thankful in all situations. We are blessed beyond measure.

Simon and Matthew — 2019-03-13

II.

There has been one significant change in me that was completely unexpected.

I used to hate “working with my hands.” I didn’t mind physical labor, but I felt like I was terrible at skilled physical labor, and I knew almost nothing about anything that needed to be done. So any work on the house was daunting to me. And because of this, I had almost no tools, which meant I never had the right tool for the job and that made any kind of work even harder.

Everything we did last summer wasn’t terrible but felt a bit like a sacrifice. It was worth doing, but not how I would have liked to spend my time. Now I kind of like this work. It really surprises me.

My father-in-law helped me build some bunk beds, and I am putting down flooring in our attic to make it easier to install ducts and bathroom exhaust vents. When I squeezed through the crawlspace last summer, it felt like a huge ordeal at first. Now, I’m working in the attic and it’s ho-hum no big deal.

Since we bought this house, I’ve been happy to invest in it. I don’t mind spending the money or hiring people to do things because this is our forever-home. We’re going to live here for as long as we can, which means we’ll get to enjoy all of the improvements to the house. But I haven’t wanted to do the work myself, even to the extent of hanging shelves, because I considered myself bad at it.

I’m learning that I’m not bad, that I can learn to be better, and that my family inspires me to invest the effort, not just the money. I’m happy to work on the house myself because it helps me become more familiar with it. And by knowing the house better, I feel like I can serve my family better.

It was a completely unconscious shift for me. But I was reflecting on my lack of dread when I crawled out of the attic for the first time and started thinking about everything that I needed to do. I needed to buy plywood, and a jigsaw, and build a floor, and cut holes in the roof, and install exhaust vent hoods, and and and… and it was all fine. No dread.

What changed? I want to take care of my son as best I can, and I want to prepare our house for more kids. Because someday, I hope that we’ll have a couple more, and they’ll all want to take showers, which causes humidity, which needs to be vented out properly because otherwise we’ll rot the decking and cause mold and that’s not good for anyone.

It’s like a switch flipped. I have a motivation to learn and grow in this area, and I guess that’s all I needed.

III.

Simon is now 6 months old, and a lot has happened since I last wrote about being his dad.

Simon and Matthew on the couch — 2018-12-09

At the same time, it’s all pretty mundane. Simon has a simple routine:

  1. Wake up around 6 a.m.
  2. Eat
  3. Play
  4. Eat
  5. Nap around 8 a.m.
  6. Sleep for 1 hour
  7. Repeat

And he goes to bed sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. Meanwhile, I’m working during the day while April devises educational games to keep Simon engaged and growing both physically and mentally.

At the Goeke Christmas Party — 2018-12-15

We had our first Christmas, which we celebrated quietly at our home with April’s parents and brother Adam. We typically celebrate Christmas whenever April’s other brother, Eric, and his wife Stephanie can visit, which meant this year (2018) we celebrated at Thanksgiving. So actual-Christmas was delightfully low-key.

Simon and Willow — 2019-01-16

Our dog Willow pretty much ignores Simon. This can be problematic when she wants to be on my lap and Simon is already there because she may try to crowd in anyways. She hasn’t actually stepped on or hurt Simon yet, but we’ve had a few close calls, so we keep a close eye on her.

She doesn’t dislike Simon… she just doesn’t seem to notice him.

Simon in his stroller — 2019-02-03

Early on, Simon wasn’t fond of the stroller so we always wore him when we walked. Now he’s liking it a lot, though the weather hasn’t permitted us to walk with it much. We’re looking forward to the warmer months a lot so we can get out and he can see more of the world.

Homecoming from an overnight work trip — 2019-02-12

My first work trip since Simon was born was an overnight to St. Louis. We used Google’s Duo app for a video call the night of the 11th and Simon recognized me through the phone and was all smiles, which was exciting. I was worried that he wouldn’t engage with me on the phone, but he did and it was heart-melting.

In April, I’ll be gone for a week, so we’ll be using Duo a lot

On the bed in the nursery — 2019-02-26

He’s generally happy playing by himself, happier when one of us is playing with him, and even happier when we’re all together

Simon in the alternate car seat — 2019-03-13

We’re finally making some good headway on saving up money and paying off all the recent home repairs, just in time to spend a bunch more money.

Both of our vehicles needed new tires, and the minivan had run-flat tires (supposedly they won’t go flat and you can drive up to 50 MPH for 100 miles or so on them even if they get shredded) that added a lot of cost. I had replaced the run-flats once before, but that was just a couple of years ago and I was shocked that they were already worn down. It turns out that these run-flat tires are 2x the cost while lasting half as many miles, and if you want to use regular tires (which last twice as long and cost half as much…), you have to actually replace the wheels too.

So in addition to new tires for the Civic, we got new wheels and tires for the Odyssey, which cost about as much as the run-flats would have. But now, when we need to replace the van tires in the future, it’ll be a lot cheaper.

While the van was in the shop, we used one of the car seats that Eric and Stephanie bought for storage at our house, and Simon really enjoyed having me sit in the backseat with him. It turns out that, with a rear-facing car seat in the Civic, the passenger seat has to be so far forward that I couldn’t fit into it.

Simon with Ophelia and Viola — 2019-03-15

Unlike Willow, the cats seem somewhat curious about Simon. But they don’t necessarily love him. Ophelia has bit at Simon once (though she didn’t actually get him), and they don’t go out of their way to snuggle with him.

I prefer their avoidance to Willow’s lack of noticing that Simon exists. And sometimes we can get cute pictures like this before they run off

Simon loves antibiotics — 2019-03-16

Simon got his first ear infection in March and he LOVED the medicine. We had to spray a saline solution into his nose several times a day, which he hates and screams and cries about, but then we give him his medicine in the morning or evening and it’s all smiles and delight.

Trying some food — 2019-03-21

Simon is trying food now, and sometimes he likes it! For instance, he hasn’t been fond of applesauce, but he does like applesauce with cinnamon. And he loves banana, but is less fond of avocado on its own. Avocado plus banana plus cinnamon is amazing.

Also, bone broth? He loves bone broth. Sadly, bone broth doesn’t love him as much.

On his side but not rolling or crawling yet — 2019-03-19

Simon is 6 months old today. They have probably been the best 6 months of my life, and I am so blessed to have the family that I do.

Being Simon’s Dad

Before Simon was born, I had the idea to journal regularly so I could look back and relive some of my thoughts and feelings from that time.

But I don’t really enjoy journaling, and I never did it.

And now, I’ve been thinking that I should write down what I’m learning from being his dad. 5 and a half weeks in, and here we are.

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of “feelings.” Would I feel some mystical bond with my son? Would I be overwhelmed with love? My only experience being overwhelmed with love was as a teenager, and on reflection, that had more to do with hormones than mysticism. We feel so strongly when we are younger, and I’m more even-keeled these days.

I find myself enthralled by Simon. I’ll be putting him into his car seat, or stroller, or bassinet, or just holding him in my arms, and I’ll look at him and lose track of time. I can’t identify the feeling there, but he becomes the center of my universe for a brief moment, and all is right in the world.

My priorities have shifted a bit. Hobbies have less pull on me, while resting is even more precious. Simon is sleeping pretty well, and April does most of the getting-up-at-night, but there’s still a lot for me to do. Having paternity leave is amazing, and I really love that I get to spend so much time with Simon here in these first few months.

One night, while lying on the bed and looking into the bassinet to try and decide if Simon needed his diaper changed, needed burped, or just needed the pacifier returned to him, I had the words “my son” go through my head.

And as I reflected on those two words, I felt strongly that I do not own Simon. He is not mine to do with as I will. I do not own his future; he is not beholden to me. Rather, I am his caretaker and teacher. I will do my best to guide him, but ultimately, he belongs to himself.

I have two follow-up thoughts on this.

First, when I became Christian, my conversion included God returning my soul to me. I know that’s throwing out a weird statement without any backstory, but this blog post isn’t about my story, so my apologies for dropping that and just moving on. What was relevant about that moment in the context of this story is that I had sold my soul, and God returned it to me, and I felt it both physically and spiritually. And my response was to thank God and immediately offer Him my soul. And God refused.

He told me that I was created to be me, and that no one owned me. I choose to be part of God’s family, and God gave us free will, which that never goes away. Similarly, Simon is part of my family, but he belongs to himself.

Second, ownership and debt was wielded against me frequently when I was growing up. My parents regularly told me about how I owed them for all the wonderful things in my life. Things like clothes and food and being taken to or picked up from school. Further, they told me that I was expected to pay them back later. Some of this was joking, but often it was said in moments of frustration or angst, and I interpreted it verbatim.

Consequently, I feel strongly about making sure my son knows that he owes me nothing. He did not choose to be born. We chose him. And we choose him over and over. And my job is to provide for him, and take care of him, and provide the best education and examples for him that I can. I chose that job. He doesn’t owe me for doing it.

We have an election today, and having a child hasn’t changed how I vote. But it has given me a new perspective. I feel like I have a new place to stand when examining the world and I how interact with it. More importantly, it is bringing new depth to my theology.

The most important thing I can do in this life is to be holy like God is holy. My aim is to serve Him, and for a long time I thought/hoped that meant being a good husband and a good father. Over the last month, I have come to feel that deep in my soul. Being a good dad means taking care of my son so he can grow up safe and secure, and from that position of safety and stability, learn about and engage with this world. Becoming holy, and having the opportunity to think about and wrestle with that, is so much easier when you have food and shelter and stability. I speak from experience.

So as a Christian dad, my duty is to give my son the opportunity to learn about God and, hopefully, to choose to follow Jesus and work to become holy like God is holy.

I would give almost anything to make that happen. I can’t spoil him, because that’s not good teaching, but I can build a good home for him.

Shouldn’t we be doing that for everybody? Not just kids? And not just our kids? As Christians, shouldn’t we want everyone to have their basic needs met so they have the mental and emotional capacity to engage with the Church and meet God? As a Christian, does anyone owe us anything that must be repaid before we begin the work of providing for them physically and spiritually?

When I think about all the good things I want to do for my son so he can become a good person, my mind turns to how we, as a country, all seem to espouse many of the same beliefs. We want to leave the world better for our children. The problem is, I think a lot of us are only thinking about our children, as in our individual children. And if I only think of Simon, then I am not being like Jesus. Jesus didn’t just think of his biological brothers or family. Jesus didn’t just think of his disciples. His commission is for the entire world.

What about building a good home for the children of asylum-seekers who have been separated from their parents? What about building a good home for asylum-seekers coming to the USA? What about building a good home for the homeless? What about building a good home for minorities suffering from systemic oppression?

I’m looking forward to taking Simon with us to vote today.

The two political parties in the USA are not the same. Both have problems, but the Democratic party of today far better aligns with Christian morals, ethics, and values. I will continue to vote Democrat to provide a better future for my son and for everyone else’s sons and daughters.

I’ll also keep reading, because that provides a good example for Simon to follow. And we’ll keep talking regularly, and I’ll hold him when he cries, not because my holding him magically solves everything, but so that he knows that he isn’t alone. And we’ll grow and learn and change, because he is changing every day.

And I hope that we’ll make the future better together.