Saturday, May 29, 2010

Life in the fast lane

Sometimes you have to get in the slow lane to realize how fast you were driving in the fast lane. This week was a big week for me as my new job in IBM was announced. I had spent most of the last eight years working on a product called WebSphere Application Server. In the last 6 months or so, I have been working both that job and a new job in acquisitions which led to my new role as integration architect for one of our new acquisitions. Not only that, but I had been working closely with 2 other growth projects (not acquisitions) in a business development sort of role. What I didn't realize until this week is how fast I had been going trying to keep up with what was essentially four jobs.

On Monday this week they announced my new job - which essentially meant I could transition my old job plus a significant part of my two other part time jobs away to other people. I had the opportunity to spend much of the week catching up and engaging fully on my new job. This may not have been a move fully into the slow lane, but certainly slower which allowed me to sit back and see how fast I had been traveling. By Wednesday I began to realize how burned out I really felt and started to look forward to a long three day weekend.

I think what bothers me the most is that I spent numerous weekends and vacations without ever realizing how fast I was traveling which makes me realize I wasn't really stepping back far enough from work to see how much I was doing. Work crept into my thoughts while in the gym, on the beach, and playing in the backyard with my family. I need to spend this weekend not only enjoying my friends and family but separating work out of my life a bit. But, I need some help and suggestions if anyone else has been in a similar situation and knows better how to gauge where they are at.

Have you been in the fast lane and not known it? How do you make sure this doesn't happen in your life?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Slow down!

In the past two days, we have a great video of Anna and a great picture of Madelyn that I think should be shown:

First, here is a picture of Madelyn from yesterday. She now puts her arms together and shows you her pouty face on demand. This is normally immediately followed by giggles. She is adorable and has lots of personality, as you can clearly see in this picture.

Madelyn's pouty face

First, here is a picture of Anna riding her new bike. Heather chronicled her new bike find this past weekend on her blog

The squeaking is Madelyn's tricycle behind Anna. The amusing thing to me is at the very end you hear me say slow down to Anna. And I think I mean girls are growing up too fast. I don't think you realize how this can be when the first 6 months you are partially waiting for them to do something. Then, before you know it, they are walking, talking, going to school, everything.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Decisions at the Crossroads

On the TV show Flash Forward, they have been struggling with whether the universe balances itself out and always ends up on the same path regardless of whether certain decisions change the path for which we get there. When one of the characters Olivia decided to go to one college rather than another, she ended up marrying Mark instead of Lloyd. But, according to the TV show lately, ultimately Olivia and Lloyd are together. Every path chosen ends up at the same major end.

This is a deep matter which could involve huge philosophical, scientific, and religious debate. Certainly there is evidence of this in my own life, for example, with how my wife Heather and I got together. I had several "opportunities" to move to North Carolina before I did. We also vacationed in the same city, Virginia Beach, each as children. For someone from North Carolina and Pennsylvania to have the same yearly vacation spot is certainly very convenient. When we finally did meet, we fell in love very quickly and now have been married almost 7 years.

I believe life is a continual series of crossroads, where we continue to make decisions which affect the path which we travel. Some of the crossroads can radically alter the path with which we were headed. Others can do so in a much more subtle manner. Whether or not the end destinations truly changes is a source of continual debate for centuries, but I believe the destination is already drawn for us.

In the past few years I have seen several of my friends make the minor and major life altering decisions. My friend Drew decided several years ago to leave IBM and enlist in the army. It was, of course, a radical change in direction. If he had decided at that crossroads to stay with IBM or even change jobs, it would have been slightly less dramatic of a change. Another friend, John, recently came to a major decision point and decided to move from rural Minnesota to New York City and change jobs. Another major decision at the crossroads. These are huge life changing decisions but its interesting to note that the other choice each of them had was to plod forward on their current direction. Even if they continue on their current direction, those decision makers are at the crossroads nonetheless.

I see myself at the crossroads often and I see that now as much as any time. This month marks my 10th year at IBM (May 8), 8th year in Raleigh (May 22), the last month of my 7th year of marriage, and my 31st birthday. I feel as if this is a good time to check our family's direction and speed to see if we are heading in the right direction. Another factor in the equation is that we hope to pay off our house this year and with that comes some flexibility - what we choose to do with the education for our children, what investments we might make, and where we might give more of our time, talents and treasures. In the next year of my life, I feel that I will sit at many crossroads making decisions that will affect us even if the decision is to bear down and stay the course.

So, how do I make these decisions at a crossroads? I try to use my faith (although am far from perfect) and try to allow God to show me the way in these decisions. Some time ago I read this blog where the author laid out 5 steps to make good decisions for people who have faith in God based on Acts 16. Here is my adaptation that I go through.

  • Consider the circumstances and alternatives carefully - weigh the options and list pros and cons.
  • Conclude (make a decision) what you believe is a good course to go. This means 99% and not 100%. Pray until you reach near certainty.
  • Commit your way to the Lord in prayer. Invite Him to block the wrong way and open the right way. Prepare your heart for change if needed.
  • Try to go do it. Keep praying. Do not assume all roadblocks are from God but know that some may be. If you feel God putting up that roadblock, go back to prayer and if that continues, go back to step 1.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

With age comes...

Gray hair! Today is my birthday and its been a great day. Right now I am relaxing, catching up on some blogs and news online, and enjoying some quiet time by myself. As part of that, I looked at the last 2 years of my blog. I know its not a very active blog so if in fact you are reading this I should be thanking you for your interest. Thank you! But, as much as anything my blog is to chronicle life and what has happened. So I read the last couple years of my blog in addition to the last year of Heather's blog. So, what has happened over the past year?

On the home front, Anna turned 3, Madelyn turned 2, and Heather turned (gasp!) 30. Anna got a real bicycle today. Madelyn moved into a big girl bed. Anna and I were in Derick and Emily's wedding. Anna had semi-oraganized soccer. Madelyn got her first haircut. Both Maddie and Anna learned their letters and letter sounds. We had a couple snows in Raleigh. We travelled and explored - to Sea World Orlando, the NC Zoo, the NC Museum of Life Science (twice), Boone/Blowing Rock NC, Connecticut, Virginia Beach, and Ponte Vedra Florida.

On the work side, my team released the IBM WebSphere Communications Enabled Applications feature pack, an idea I had been working on for a couple of years before we released it. This was a piece of innovative work I really enjoyed working on. Also this past year I have been able to work on some cool new projects with partners. One of the partners I worked closely with was Akamai. This allowed me to take many enjoyable trips to Cambridge to work with very talented people and culminated in an initiative we call "Akamai Ready" software. I also have worked on several projects I can't yet talk about, everything from new organic projects to acquisitions.

On the spiritual side, I had a men's bible study I participated in end last summer and then recently Heather and I have started a small group at our church. We have 4 other great down-to-earth couples in our small group and have enjoyed meeting now for about 3 months. I do miss the weekly Friday morning bible study I was in and may have to look to replace that this fall.

As is usual, I took a day off around my birthday. My mom (aka Oma) flew in to town on Thursday and we spent yesterday morning enjoying the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science. As an IBM employee, we got two free passes to the museum which saved us $25. After that, I got my free birthday lunch at Moe's and then we stopped at Page Farms for some strawberry picking. Today has been a much more low key day but in a couple of hours we are headed to the always great Nantucket Grill with my closest friends for dinner. Its been a good birthday and I look forward to many more good times to review with you in the future. Here are some pictures of the past 2 days...I included the only 2 pictures with me in them even though they weren't good...I was the primary picture taker :-)

Mist garden

Mist garden

Page farm strawberry picking

Picking strawberries


Thursday, May 13, 2010

When your hometown doesn't seem like home

I moved away from Pittsburgh, my hometown, now almost 8 years ago. With every passing month, Pittsburgh becomes the place I know best even less. The last time I was there (about 2 years ago) I stayed in a hotel not even 2 miles from where I lived last just outside of Pittsburgh in Cranberry and could barely find my way around. Last night I went to bed after my Pittsburgh Penguins lost, subsequently playing their last game at the Igloo (aka Mellon Arena or the Civic Arena) which will be torn down. In a way, I was heartbroken that not only was this icon of my childhood closing, but that I haven't seen it in years and wouldn't see its replacement (the Consol Energy Center) for potentially years. This left me asking, when do you change your hometown? When do I stop being a Pittsburgher?

Its easy to calculate how much of my life I have lived in Pittsburgh. But what is probably more important, is which years I spent in Pittsburgh. All of my formal schooling was in Pittsburgh, Kindergarten through 12th grade in North Allegheny School District and 4 years at the University of Pittsburgh. Those years helped form me into the person I am today - everything from my accent to my love for sports. Maybe more importantly, I am a Pittsburgher by nature. What does that mean? Pittsburgh is a unique and inviting big city. People are nice and care about others...unless you are from Cleveland. ;-) People from Pittsburgh are known for amazing deeds within and outside of Pittsburgh. As far as I know, this was established many years ago with Andrew Carnegie, a Pittsburgher at heart even though he didn't move there until he was 13. Now, in the same spirit as Andrew Carnegie, Pittsburghers consistently do amazing things to help others. A good example of this is the recent Here You Go, 1000 umbrellas initiative. People giving away umbrellas to those stuck in the rain in the name of helping one another. Another example is Make Room for Kids, an initiative by a popular Pittsburgh blogger to raise enough money to bring gaming and laptops for sick kids. They raised an amazing amount of money in a short amount of time from Pittsburghers across the globe. Helping, Giving, Caring - these are things engrained in Pittsburghers as deeply as cheering for the Steelers is.

So, when do I stop associating my hometown with Pittsburgh? Is it when I have lived longer somewhere besides Pittsburgh? When I stop missing the city where I have so many wonderful memories? When I don't know my way around it any more in the name of progress? Or, when I stop acting like a Pittsburgher? If its that last one, I hope to God that I never see the day when I don't call myself a Pittsburgher.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Credit Karma review

This evening my friend and coworker Frank told me about Credit Karma, a site that allows you to get free credit scores. This site was apparently reviewed by the News and Observer this past weekend that explains a little more about the service but was fairly wordy as a review goes. So, here is my review:


  • Free credit score, something you normally have to pay for
  • Nice modern website look and feel
  • Lots of clear information pertaining to your credit score, how it is determined, and what it means
  • Uses your credit report information for targeted advertising rather than charging you
  • Does not store your social security number and does not ask for credit card information
  • Easy to read credit report card helps show you the areas that negatively affected your credit


  • Advertisements for new loans, mortgages, and credit cards only account for "lower my payment" based financial situations and lacks intelligence to meet other people's goals (maximize rewards, eliminate debt, etc)
  • Credit score simulator is missing basic things like what happens if I pay off a specific loan
  • Credit report card lacks certain vital information. Showing you the number of accounts opened but not listing them or suggesting which to close to help your credit for example seems an obvious extension.
  • Suggestions can really lack intelligence and you wonder what thought if any was put into it.

Overall the service is useful for seeing your credit score for free and I am eager to see what or how much it emails me based on activity.