For some reason this morning I decided to look up the house that I grew up in on Zillow, just to see what it would cost to own my childhood home.
We moved from our house in Houston to Cat Spring in 1988. I have a lot of fond memories from growing up in this house. We were good friends with all of our neighbors. We lived half a mile from the elementary school. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, I’d ride my bike to and from school while listening to Genesis on my Sony Walkman.
I was brought home from the hospital to this house. I think I was in the 4th grade when dad would pay me $10 to mow the yard. Around that same age, I challenged my dad to a foot race on the sidewalk in front of our house. I was cocky and I thought my dad was an old man. We took off and he let me have the lead for a dozen yards and then he hauled off and smoked me. That’s when I knew my dad was invincible.
When we lived in this house, my parents made it a home and it was always in excellent condition and clean. Unfortunately it looks like owners since us haven’t loved and taken care of the house like we did.
I’d really like to make the trek to Houston to see if my old house even exists anymore. From what I’ve read, Hurricane Harvey decimated Bear Creek in 2017.
If the house isn’t there anymore, I’m sure I’d be heartbroken. But if I don’t go and at least try to see it at some point, I think I’d be equally heartbroken. I’d like to take my children to see where their dad grew up. I think that’s an important part of their history. Maybe I’ll play Genesis’s Invisible Touch album for them on the way there.
This past weekend we went camping with our friends the Arriagas. Elise and Alma had signed up for the Trail Racing Over Texas Wildflower Trail Run half marathon which was supposed to happen Mother’s Day weekend in 2020 but COVID happened, so the race was deferred. They still let folks do a virtual race, so Elise and I hiked 14+ miles on the last day that they allowed virtual submissions. That was on July 31st of last year.
This year as COVID restrictions have started lowering, the girls decided we’d go camping and they’d run the half marathon. So we packed up this past Friday and headed out to Bastrop State Park for a weekend of camping, hanging out with our good friends and so the girls could participate in the race.
We had a great time cooking hot dogs and fajitas on the campfire, playing cornhole, and watching the kids play and swim in the lake. We rented a kayak for Maly and Julia and they happened upon a stranded family of four in the lake, so the two girls towed them back to safety.
At 7:30 on Sunday morning, Elise and Alma got up and set out on the half marathon. They beat their goal of a sub-4 half marathon and came in right at 3:59 despite the heat and humidity. I got to see them off, but unfortunately had to miss their finish as I had to get Maly back to Austin for lacrosse practice. After dropping Maly off at the house, I headed back to Bastrop in time for lunch and to start packing up in the heat.
We had a really good time camping despite everyone sleeping like crap. But, that’s to be expected when camping. As we were leaving on Sunday afternoon, Mara starting crying in the back seat. At first we thought she’d gotten hurt or stung by a bee. She told us she was really sad that our camping trip was ending.
That’s our child, going for the 8-meter penalty shot to tie the game. Saint Andrew’s is up, 8 to 7.
Maly is one of the two freshman playing on the girls varsity lacrosse team. Coach had her playing attack in tonight’s game. Usually she plays out of the way and only helps to move the ball. Tonight she got the ball and saw a clearing to the goal, so she took it. As she went to shoot, she got checked and drew the penalty.
Her first 8-meter was called back because Saint Andrew’s got off the line too soon. This was her second attempt. The game is 8-7 and there are only 8 seconds left in the game. The last game the varsity team played was this past Tuesday. The girls lost 18-1. The game before that was 19-5. I don’t remember the two games before that, but the margins were similar. This was this season’s closest game.
She didn’t get it. But it doesn’t matter. She had a shot. And she took it. And it was a good shot.
In another installment of Josh living in the past…
A year ago today we’d recently returned from our Spring Break trip to Arizona and Utah. We came home to a pandemic and the US was on lockdown. I went on a 13 mile run today and thought about a few things that happened around this time a year ago a reflected on a couple things and people that I’m thankful for:
Our friend Shelley who picked us up from the airport. Times were weird, so she and her husband, Barry, drove two cars to the airport to pick us up. Shelley drove our car and had it ready for us at passenger pickup so we could maintain “social distancing.” They’d also picked up some basics for us so we’d have food to eat despite the grocery stores being ransacked. I remember there were eggs. There were other things in our care package, but for some reason, I remember the eggs. She and Barry saved us from having to rush to the grocery store that evening to scrounge for food. She’d also been in touch with us while we were still out of town to keep us abreast of the state of the city and what to expect when we got home to the “new normal.”
My friend Frank brought us a “breakfast taco” care package and left it on the doorstep that Sunday morning. He knew we’d been out of town and had no groceries. We didn’t ask him to do that. He just did it. It’s so nice to know that people care and are thinking of you.
The girls haven’t been back to school for an entire year. We left the Wednesday before spring break 2020 started at they haven’t set foot in a school since then. In that year, Mara has struggled a bit. She’s in 3rd grade and needs a bit more direction, specifically from a teacher. I think remote learning is too difficult for most 8-year-olds. So, a year ago we left for Spring Break, came home to a pandemic and the children haven’t been to school since. A year later, Spring Break is coming to an end, and Elise and I decided we’re sending Mara back to in-person school tomorrow. Here’s to new beginnings. To celebrate, we ordered her a patriotic pair of Converse that she excitedly picked out.
At this exact moment, one year ago today I was running along the Page Rim Trail in the Antelope Canyon 50-mile ultra trail race. The hardest parts of the race were behind me and I was playing the game of mindfulness and doing the mental math on how much further I had to go to get to the finish line. I remember just taking in the scenery and knowing that I just had to make it to the next aid station. Aid stations provide motivation and allow you to create little milestones to just keep going.
Running 50 miles is damn hard. Running 50 miles is also damn fun. It’s a test of one’s grit. It’s a grueling exercise in testing your physical and mental fortitude. More so the mental fortitude part. One of my favorite quotes on running is: “Running is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental.”
A year ago I was in pretty amazing shape – not in the best shape of my running life – but I was in good shape. In the second half of 2019 I was training like crazy to run a sub-3-hour marathon at the Houston Marathon in January. Once that goal was accomplished, I knew I needed to start training for Antelope Canyon, so I jumped back into marathon training and then ran the Austin Marathon less than a month later. And then I had less than a month to get ready for my first 50-miler, so I just kept tacking on 10- and 20-miler training runs and I’d train with no abandon.
Antelope Canyon on March 14th 2020 was one of the best days of my life. I’d put in so much work in my training and that work paid off. And after the race, the girls and I had an amazing Spring Break in northern Arizona and southern Utah exploring the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic just 3 days before, so business were shutting down and people were told to shelter in place. The national parks were “open,” but there were no services or regular park rangers on duty, so we kind of had the parks to ourselves. It was an amazing Spring Break.
But Spring Break and our vacation had to come to an end. So we flew back to Austin and were forced to dive headfirst into the new pandemic normal. I had no running or race plans after Antelope Canyon as I figured I’d find something to put on the calendar after I took a much-needed break. I still kept running for the fun of it, but hadn’t any goals. I guess my next adventure would’ve been running every street in our neighborhood.
After that, nothing. My sub-3 marathon in Houston qualified me to run the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, so my thought was that I would start training for those races in 2021, but COVID kind of messed those up. There still might be a 125th running of Boston in October if we can get the coronavirus under control.
In “celebration” of running my first 50-miler a year ago today, this morning I ran the Far West Summit 10k in the northwest hills of Austin. I lost count of how many times I had to stop, put my hands on my knees and huff and puff like a guy who endeavoring in running his first 10k.
I guess that’s part of the allure of running. Here’s to new beginnings.
That pandemic day has arrived. I’m a fairly regimented guy. I wake up, brush my teeth, make coffee and read the news. Then I go to the bathroom where I wash my hands really well before putting in my contact lenses. This morning as I was lathering my hands above the bathroom sink I took keen notice of myself in the mirror. You know how your pectorals and biceps naturally flex when you put your palms together in front of your abdomen? That’s what I saw this morning as I was washing my hands. The sleeves on my shirt were tight because my biceps are starting to get – dare I say – ripped. I’d reached that moment when I could finally see the results of all of my working out.
And then I remembered that I haven’t been working out at all. I also remembered packing chocolate ice cream to the brim of a 20 oz. souvenir Rudy’s Barbecue cup last night. My shirt is tight because of arm fat.
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?”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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