Yesterday was a blue Monday

I woke up yesterday feeling like crap. Everything was crap. The grass is yellow and lying flat. The pittosporums are dying. The backyard is bare because we had to remove the wax myrtle. The garage is a wreck because of the dirty snow melt from last week. My head hurt. My throat hurt. Do I have Covid?

It’s Monday and there’s no school. There’s no school on Tuesday, either. Winter Storm Uri had devastated the US. The girls did have school last Monday because of President’s Day. And then the storm hit. Texas was shut down the entire week. Millions lost power and water. Some are still without water.

After losing my job on February 4th, my plan was to take that following week off and do nothing or do whatever bewildered me. I did more of the former. I would start my networking and job search on February 15th. Well, our Winter storm hit, priorities shifted and last week kind of became a wash.

Since many are still without power and internet and others are having to deal with busted pipes and home repairs, schools aren’t opening back up until February 24th. I guess I’m just keeping the same schedule as the schools. And I guess, in a way, I’m capitalizing on the opportunity to spend time with the family.

I think I might’ve wanted some downtime from the winter chaos of last week as well.

I woke up and went about my usual morning business of brushing my teeth, making coffee, reading a couple newsletters, checking in with some friends, and then I plopped down on the couch with the goal to finish reading “How Starbucks Saved My Life.”

I went for a run with a couple friends of mine back on Saturday, February 6th. This was two days after being laid off. A group of us usually go for a 5 mile run on Saturday mornings. We’ll meet at the neighborhood community center at 7 or 8 a.m. and talk about everything and nothing for an hour as we run. On this particular Saturday it was Ana, Chad and I that went for a run. It was kind of cold and gray that morning. I figured going for a run with friends is exactly what I needed.

I pulled into the parking lot first. Our community center has one of those little neighborhood libraries – the kind that looks like a big birdhouse. Take a book. Leave a book. Since it was chilly outside, I walked over to the library to check its inventory and keep my mind from the cold. For whatever reason, “How Starbucks Saved My Life” jumped out at me, so I grabbed it, read the back and decided it was worth a go.

The book is about Michael, a former advertising executive who had it all according to American standards. The pedigree. A high-ranking job. Big salary. Successful family with lots of kids. One day he gets laid off. He didn’t do anything wrong. He was just aged and salaried out. The agency got younger and they laid him off. He spent the next 10 years as a consultant, slowly losing more and more business. He somewhat spiraled. I’m sure fueled by depression, anxiety, low sense of self-worth. He cheated on his wife and his girlfriend became pregnant. That’s what wound up destroying Michael’s family life.

Michael and his wife got divorced. He left her and the kids with the house. She had family money, so she and the kids would be okay financially. He moved out and into a small apartment. He and his girlfriend grew apart. This was mostly because the girlfriend soon realized that the father of her only son wasn’t a bigwig vice president at an agency in New York. He was a laid-off consultant trying to make ends meet. So he does his best to be a father for his new son. He tries his best to maintain a relationship with his four adult children. And he lands a job at a Starbucks store by happenchance.

If you can curb the notion that this book might just be a 260 page ad for Starbucks, it’s actually a nice story. It’s not overly deep. You can get mad at and then root for the protagonist. The moral is find fulfillment in how you spend your days. Do things you enjoy. Be of service. Be empathetic. Try your hardest. You know, all that kind of stuff.

Like I’d set out to do yesterday morning, I finished the book in the early afternoon. It was a good read at the right time.

I think finishing a book can be an accomplishment in and of itself, however, I didn’t feel like I’d done anything productive. So I reached out to our accountant to let him know that we had all of our tax documents and were ready to get to work. He sent me a reply email and told me to upload all of the documents to the usual spot. So, I uploaded everything per his request. I forewarned him that we’d sold a lot of stocks back in September and that he’s probably going to have a lot of questions for me. That didn’t seem to phase him. And maybe, hopefully, I’m wrong. The last time we sold stocks we didn’t have a CPA. We used Jackson Hewitt to help us with our taxes and I remember it being a huge pain in the butt having to drum up the documentation on when and for how much a certain share was acquired.

So now I’d checked the box to “Take care of taxes.” I’d been productive.

Maly had been begging Elise to take her to Home Depot all day. She wanted plants for her room. Elise finally gave in. They were gone for a couple hours. When they returned, Maly had procured a half dozen plants, pots, chains, and mounting hooks. She came into the office and said, “Dad, can you help me with a project?”

She’d bought some ivy and shaded ground cover plants that she wanted to hang in her room from the ceiling in two pots. She needed help drilling holes in the sides of the plastic pots, cutting the chains, and attaching the chains to the pots. We setup shop at the top of the driveway and went to work. It wound up being a gorgeous day. It was a little hot in the afternoon, and a 70+ degree difference in temperature from just a few days prior.

I showed her how to measure the circumference of the pots so she could figure out where the three holes needed to be drilled in each pot. After she was done measuring and started drilling, I sort of took a mental pause and snapshot at that moment. I slowed down. I stopped and took it in. I was very present. I realized that at that moment, that was the best moment of my day. Just her and me. She wanted something done. She needed help and I was the only qualified person to help.

We had maybe an hour together on the driveway, working on pots to be hanged from her ceiling. I told her about the book I’d finished earlier that afternoon and asked her what she’d think if I worked at a Starbucks. Like Michael in the book, she thought I meant working for corporate. I said “no.”

“You mean… like a… barista?”

“Yeah.”

She just gave me a look. It was a look of not being able to fathom the notion of her dad being a uniformed barista at a coffee chain.

I don’t know what she expects of her father as it relates to a livelihood. I’ve been unemployed and unhappily employed many times in my adult life. I blame myself for that. I’ve never had internal or external guidance for what I should do for money in exchange for my time. I want more for my child. I’ve always told her to find something she enjoys. Find something to be passionate about. And don’t get a job and just make money. Find a way in life to create money. I feel that if you can create money, you don’t really need a lot of it. Just enough for you to get by and keep happy.

Nineteen years and a day

The first Janicek.com post was on February 10, 2002. I actually bought Janicek.com on October 9, 2001. I decided I wanted a website where I could journal about Elise’s and my life together as a newly-married couple. I’d seen other online journals and thought that was a great idea. I didn’t know these journals were called “blogs,” and that there was software that made blogging easy, organized, and searchable. Given that I was a web designer at the time, I built Janicek.com from scratch by using only HTML and CSS. My “blog” was totally static and my index.html was manually downloaded and uploaded anytime I wanted to update the website with a new story. And I’m pretty sure I was doing all of this in Microsoft FrontPage at the time.

The original Janicek.com had some pretty good stories, too. I remember I’d written all about our wedding and our honeymoon. And I’m pretty sure I wrote about losing my job as a web designer. That was my first job out of college and I was happy and excited to be a working man, working in tech. I worked for a start-up dot-com in Austin Texas. And the dot-com bubble burst.

Newly married and out of a job in the tech space with the rest of the techies across the country.

At some point I discovered MoveableType and installed it on my server. Then Janicek.com became a true blog. For the life of me I could never find the old static HTML version of Janicek.com that lived from October 2001 to February 2002. It was on a hard drive somewhere and I guess it just got lost somewhere in the shuffle of hard drives throughout the years. And I have no idea why I wouldn’t have copies those old static stories and pasted them into the new Janicek.com that was running MoveableType. Maybe those stories still live somewhere, buried in a folder on a hard drive that’s shoved in a drawer in the home office. Perhaps I just haven’t looked hard enough.

What’s funny is that nineteen years and a day ago, the first post on Janicek.com was about searching for a job, saving money and moving out of Austin. I’d posted about having a second interview coming up with Scott & White and we were entertaining the idea of moving from Austin to Temple.

I don’t have any second interviews lined up but will be looking for a job again soon. History repeats itself.

On starting the unemployed lifestyle during a pandemic

I lost my job today. Five of our little team of 8 were laid off. I had a meeting put on my calendar this morning by our counsel and head of business development. My first thought was, “great, I’m getting fired.” But then I calmed down and thought, “No, Mark and I haven’t chatted in a long time. He recently took on his new role, so he’s getting the lay of the land. He’s going to see where he can put me to make me most effective.”

No, he fired me. The Google meeting started. Mark was there along with two folks from HR. My heart sank. But this isn’t my first rodeo. And thankfully I’ve been blessed with a mindset that doesn’t let me dwell. As I was being told that “the company is pivoting. We’re no longer going to be selling or supporting digital media. Your position is being eliminated, effective immediately” I was already in “acceptance” and “moving on” mode.

What’s interesting is that I’d decided to pay off our house back in September to safeguard against something just like this. I’m so damn glad I did that. And I thinks that’s largely why I was able to stay calm and be in that acceptance mode while I was being told I was getting canned.

It’s still a tough pill to swallow. I’m still a bit in shock and consciously allowing my subconscious to process things right now. I’d just observed my 7-year anniversary with the company nine days ago. Seven years is the longest that I’ve been with an employer. And it was a pretty damn good job. My job very much aligned with my skill sets and my lifestyle.

I learned very early on in my professional career (as in my very first job out of college) that when someone else is signing your paycheck, you’re either an asset or a liability. And regardless of which one you are, you’re just a number.

So, I think I’m going to use this space to document the adventures and tribulations of being a 45-year-old old Jack of some trades on the job hunt in Austin, TX during a pandemic when unemployment is at a record high. This is going to be a hoot!

Successful Man Company

I received a LinkedIn invitation from this guy the other day. I’m pretty sure it’s a fake account, but there’s part of me that really wants it to be real.

Successful Man Company is actually an exclusive upward bound institution paid attention to expert men that really want even more out of live. Our purpose is actually to allow men to work toward and also obtain individual and also expert targets that enable them to live “over the top”. Our experts partner with men to assist them recognize their aspiration for their lifestyle and also generate and also put into action a life strategy that combines the complete man: health, wealth, family members, buddies, organization and also spirit.

My best brisket to date

The in-laws didn’t want to have turkey for Christmas dinner. I really wanted to smoke a turkey, but understood where Steve and Joanne were coming from. They bought a 16 lb. turkey for Thanksgiving and had been eating on it ever since. They were rightfully tired of eating turkey. I didn’t feel like brisket was an appropriate Christmas dinner, so we settled on a nice beef top roast.

Steve and Joanne can’t come down without me barbecuing something, so we decided to hold off and due the brisket the Saturday after new years. I went to HEB and picked up a 17-pound prime packer. I’ve only ever purchased select briskets because I was of the thought that it didn’t matter what grade the cow was given. I was slow cooking cheap meat so why should grade matter? I think it does matter. So much so that I want to smoke another prime brisket very soon. The prime just had so much more marbling in it.

I still don’t know how to really trim a whole brisket. Especially the big fat layer between the point and the flat. I was getting frustrated when I was trimming this brisket and was going down a rabbit hole in how-to videos on YouTube, so I finally just split the brisket into the point and the flat and treated them as two separate briskets.

If I recall correctly, I think I had a 5 lb point and an 8 lb. flat after I trimmed both cuts. And instead of cooking by weight, I cooked by temperature this time. I received an instead read thermometer for Christmas and decided to put that thing to use. Whenever each cut got to 165-170-degrees I pulled it and double wrapped it in foil and put it back on the smoker at ~230-degrees until the brisket got to above 190-degrees and then I pulled it off the smoker. I let both cuts rest for 3+ hours and they were both amazing.

Here are the 4 main takeaways from this last brisket I smoked:

  • Buy a quality brisket (Prime or better)
  • Trim the deckle but don’t worry so much about removing the huge fat layer between the two muscles
  • Use a water pan underneath the brisket if you’re not using an off-set smoker
  • Cook to temperature vs. weight (wrap at 165, pull at 195)

The day when the Christmas season comes to a smashing stop

It’s the first Monday after “the holidays.” I’ve always thought of it as the first day of back to “normal” after Christmas. Christmas is that holiday and time of year that I think most people who celebrate Christmas traditions look forward to the most in a year. Family, gifts, food, traditions, time off of school and work, memories to be made. And everyone seems to just be in a better mood for a small slice of time in the Earth’s tour around the sun.

We stayed at our home in Austin this year and Steve and Joanne drove down from Des Moines on the 23rd and spent the holidays with us. They’re hitting the road and heading home today. And today I’m back to work.

The season just abruptly ends. I guess it just kind of has to. I feel like Christmastime has a bit of a lead-up. We start getting “festive” around Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving they start playing Christmas music on the radio and in stores and restaurants. We start sending and receiving Christmas cards. People post their family photos and photos of trees and decorations on social media. And than all culminates into whatever exciting tradition(s) we have. For us it’s Mass, the dinner on Christmas eve, and waking up on Christmas morning and ripping through wrapping paper to unveil presents.

But there’s not really any kind of wind-down of Christmas. Steve and Joanne will be gone in a couple hours and I’ll be at my desk, responding to communications with no reciprocating sense of holiday cheer. Conversations that easily take place in the middle of August, where Christmas isn’t even a blip.

It’s like when a movie ends or you finish a really good book. There’s a mourning that happens. Only in this story, you’re the protagonist. I always wonder if I did enough, gave enough, loved enough. It’s always been like that for me, ever since I was a little kid. And then that turns into that brief period of the Post-Christmas Blues that I think a lot of us endure.

All too often these days I feel like I’m acknowledging how life is fleeting, so in that theme is easy to realize it that Christmas will be here again before we know it. While I’m not a religious person, I married into a religious family, and I know that Christmas doesn’t actually officially end until Epiphany on January 6th. So we’ve a couple days left.

Merry Christmas!

A tradition

I started measuring the girls’ height when they could barely stand.

I’ve seen a lot of folks measure their kids in a closet door frame. And then when they go to sell their house, they have to paint over those memories.

I bought some trim and tacked it up in the garage so we can take these memories with us.