Labels

Labels are dangerous things.

On opaque containers filled and sealed they serve an obvious purpose.

Contents detailed.
On single use cans they’re essential.
Contents detailed.

Cans are torn open, contents spilled, used, discarded. Can, label, and all.

But on a clear,  reusable container, plastic bottles with their utilitarian screw on tops and such, labels outlive their usefulness once they’re emptied.

Yet the container remains useful.
It waits to be filled again.

With anything.
With things other than the original contents.

And refilled with those other things, the original label becomes a lie.

Worst still, a limitation.

We’re tempted to squander the potential and only reuse the container for one thing.

Some labels can be easily peeled off; shed like dead skin, cast aside like clothes for fresher wares.

But some labels, once applied, can never be removed.

What then?
Do we keep using the container?
Do we keep telling the lie?

Or do we toss away the container?
Label and all; despite all it’s potential?

Do we plaster on another label to tell the truth of what’s inside? Is the new label big enough to cover the old one? Is the new truth bigger than the old lie?

And if the new label is big enough to cover the old, can we still see what’s inside?

Emptied and filled again, do we add another label? And another?

Can we still see what’s inside?

Will there come a time when no more labels will fit? When all the labels we’ve plastered on make the container so unwieldy that we can’t stand the sight of it?

And even if we can’t read them anymore, won’t we still know the old labels lie beneath?

Why do we need labels at all?

Without a label, how will we really know what’s inside?

Maybe we’ll just have to find the time to look closer.

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A few words on disappointment

When we express the pain of disappointment, we are often reminded that other people are worse off than us.

But when you’re sinking in quicksand, it’s hard to think of anyone else. Even those who have already gone under.

It’s also unfair to compare your pain to any one else’s.

While we can (and should) empathize with others, we can only ever experience life from our own perspective. So it’s important to know you have the right to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.

That your pain is valid and necessary for healing.

Never be ashamed of feeling or expressing pain.

But it’s also important to remember that no matter how bad we feel right now, “this too shall pass”.

And so, it’s important not to take actions hastily.

Flailing about in the quicksand will only make you sink faster.

We must allow ourselves time to fully experience the disappointment; a bereavement period. Because we have to mourn the loss of what we desired in order to fully appreciate what we still have.

Then and only then can we move forward and take positive action; lay back, take a deep breath and float out of that quagmire.

Posted from WordPress for Android

A Chest of Drawers

I bought a Chest of Drawers from Wal-Mart.com nearly a month ago.

 ImageImageImageImage

Yet here it sits in pieces strewn across my living room floor.

The past two months has been Hell.
On May 28th, I moved into a new apartment as a Co-worker left the Company. With her departure came a deluge of new work to add to an already sporadic and large  workload.
Then in June while wrangling this change and not taking any time off work to get settled into the new apartment, I was offered a new job that seemed be the answer to all my prayers.
A flexible schedule, allowing me to work at home five days a month.
On the job training in several programming languages.
A ten percent bump up in salary.
A smaller team (just the three of us, including me).
I struggled with whether or not to take the job. The timing felt wrong.
 But I’ve always wanted to learn other programming languages.

I have worked as a data analyst using Statistical Analysis Software (SAS), Microsoft Excel, and Access for nearly 10 years.

And felt like I needed a change of pace. I wasn’t happy with the way the work was being managed at the old job and the lack of flexibility in the work schedule. For instance being given remote access (the ability to work from home) , but only supplement the 40-hour work week, not work a day from home.
This was a big deal, because I wanted to go back to school.
Wanted and needed.
Want because I desired the 2-year degree I started over 5 years ago.
Needed, because I was half way through the 60 credit hour program and paying $300 a month in Student Loan Debt with no degree to show for it.
The bump in salary would also help with that and the $400 a month electric bill I’d been paying for over a year to help out my younger sister.
I was really unsure about the new job.  

Bottom line. I don’t like a lot of change. I have a tendency to make mistakes when faced with a lot of change in such a short amount of time.

 A friend of mine who reads Tarot cards actually said she didn’t see it in my future and warned against it.
 So I entered the interview with a luke warm feeling. Part of me hoped I wouldn’t get the job so I wouldn’t have to make the choice.
But I was offered the job in mid June. And at the time frustrations with the current job convinced me that I needed a change.
And so I accepted the position and started the new job in mid July.

From the start, I felt out of my depth.

The familiar process of routine data analysis projects and reports done in my old trusty SAS Enterprise Guide (a windows-based) environment was replaced with a Unix-based terminal window process geared towards monitoring availability of the same data I was so accustomed to using.
 I didn’t really like working in Unix, but hey I’m a big boy. And I know part of being an adult is doing things we don’t like to do. Also, the monitoring process seemed to be a small part of what the 3-man unit was responsible for.
I also started training in JavaScript, XSLT, Java, and HTML 5 via the Eclipse Development Environment in addition to trying to get comfortable with the vi text editor and Unix.

To top things off, I soon discovered that only one of  the two analysts I was working with was proficient in any of the languages I was trying to learn.

 I’m 38 years old. I’ve taken numerous classes and training courses. I know how I learn best. I wanted to start with HTML 5 and JavaScript, as the two go hand in hand. And I had a passing familiarity with Web site design having taken courses in Web design and basic HTML.
But the lead analyst insisted that I study multiple disciplines at once in order to compare and contrast (JavaScript and Java for example).
So that began the fickle path of bouncing from one language/discipline to another as I tried to learn to navigate in the Eclipse Development Environment. Another new thing for me.
 The lead analyst provided no training to help with the later and originally wanted me to learn via several books he provided in the various languages.
He sent the other team member and me a torrent of emails, including links to websites, books, and tutorials.  Most of which were way over my head. My team mate was often equally perplexed. Though his duties absolved him from the training.
I was forced to use a book to try to learn XSLT, a subset of XML when I’d never even used XML let alone had any grasp of the essentials. And when I voiced me distress over this, my concerns were dismissed. And I was accused of “giving up too quickly”.
Lynda.com was a lifesaver and provided structured classes that made me feel like I was learning by providing a familiar learning environment that served up the training in increments. I got the feeling the lead analyst begrudgingly allowed this, as I did appear to be learning. I shared my examples in Eclipse and began creating detailed notes in the form of PDFs.

Right away I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information being thrown at me (often with little or no context) on top of taking two or three courses at once . And I was expected to reply to the emails he sent with some feedback that denoted my understanding…

 If I didn’t respond or indicated I didn’t get it (which was more often than not) the lead analyst would come to my desk and drill me. Asking questions that I sincerely hope were meant to guide me to make connections he wanted and yield the much heralded “ah-ha!” moment.

Well, after hours of being verbally poked, prodded, coaxed, and probed, I usually made the connections to his satisfaction. But at the cost of sanity and ego. Sometimes he’d stand over me as I read excerpts from the books be provided with no clue how it fit into the what I was learning. I’d be working on one discipline only to have him interupt me to do whatever tickled his fancy that day.

It all seemed overwhelming. I usually ended those sessions feeling emotionally battered and exhausted.

But, I gritted my teeth and bore it. Thinking of the knowledge I’d attain and that eventually it would get better. It did feel great when I made progress in the Lynda.com classes. They were a beacon of light in what was for me an uncertain and tumultuous sea.

The lead analyst was off a week, leaving my co-worker and I to deal with issues that cropped up with the monitoring process. I put my training on hold to assist where I could. Though I often wound up shadowing my more experienced co worker. And not feeling very productive.

He’d often preempt my programming training to come look at monitoring issue, that he’d show me on his screen. Usually I Wound up asking him to document it and send it to me. As there was no way I could document an issue displayed on his PC; short of taking his seat, opening up a Word Document, and making screen prints myself.

Plus, he’s the subject matter expert. It really made more sense for him to document the issue than for me to try sans the screen prints and based on dictation.

Alas, I felt I had settled into a comfortable enough routine to go back to school. The loan periods were right and I felt like I could manage work and school. I often worked from home and the team seemed supportive and to encourage my pursuing a degree. Particularly one in programming.

Notably, the curriculum included all the programming languages I was being trained in at work.  I sent my course schedule to the team, thinking that I’d be allowed to focus more time on schoolwork.

The first week back at school was stellar and I felt really good! I managed to get all my assignments turned in on time and did great!

Admittedly, the second week, I slacked off. I was taking a single online course and only had two assignments due that week.

Thursday and Sunday, to be precise, giving me ample time to work on them Wednesday when I usually work from home.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and this man were totally destroyed when the lead analyst decided out of the blue (Yep! With no warning!) to spend three hours guiding (*drilling) me through my first Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) tutorial.

SVG?
WTF!?

SVG was not even on my todo list. Nor had it been a part of any prior discussions.

While the face-to-face sessions I had with the lead analyst were often grueling, the ones via Instant Messenger were a little slice of pure emotional Hell. If I took too long (more than a few seconds) to answer his pop-quiz style questions he’d throw up a question mark or ask if I was still there or stuck. As a result I felt rushed and stressed out throughout the conversation. To add to the already massive stress factor, I had no clue what he was talking about 99.99% of the time as it was truly my first glimpse of SVG.

I often felt like there was an expectation that I pick things up or figure things out (extrapolate) based on the drills.

To make a three hour long story short, I got offline that afternoon feeling emotionally drained and exhausted. I thanked him sincerely for his time and patience and literally crawled into bed and fell asleep feeling like an idiot. Like I’d somehow let him down for not having a clue.

“Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

I spent the next day (Thursday) reviewing the IM conversation and creating detailed notes in a PDF format.

And as I did so, I had an epiphany.
 
After four hours of rummaging through the deluge of recriminations, wrong paths, and wronger answers to unfair questions, I realized the same thing might have been accomplished if the lead analyst had simply created a working example, reviewed it with me or God forbid created notes detailing the process and given me an exercise that paralleled the example (hopefully leaving me to my own devices).

Friday was even worse.

Four and a half hours online ending in more confusion which apexed with my being grilled (*reamed) by he-who-must-not-be-named for not recalling vector graph references in the Algebra I hadn’t used in 20 years.

Yeah.

I felt two inches small.
Borderline worthless.

I was also beginning to get quite pissed. I felt suddenly overwhelmed. My job has always been a kind of distraction from an often unpleasant family situation. I felt safe and secure in my work. 

Before.
Now, it was another stressor.
Full of unknowns and even more worries than a poor family with few prospects that seemed to depend on me for Financial and Moral support.

I had an errand to run to my sister’s house that day, dropping off my niece’s replacement phone (the original having been stolen at a soccer game). I was so caught up in my own angst that I didn’t realize my little sister was in her own special brand of hell.

As I mentioned earlier, I had been paying her utility bill to the tune of $400 a month. The previous month I paid the bill (on the heels of $400 Student loan payment) and told her to make preparations to get the next month’s bill paid as I would only have money the end of next month and not in time for the due date. A month was plenty of time for her to go to an Agency or Charity for assistance as she had in the past.

But in classic form, she didn’t do this and instead called  my mom and I in a panic the day the $517 bill was due (a Monday), crying bloody murder.

Long story…a little shorter, my mom loaned her $400, which she claimed was needed to avoid a disconnect, with my agreeing to reimburse mom the next pay period (Friday the same week). But according to my sister, when she went to pay it, she was told the full $517 was due. And so a family friend wrote a check for the full amount in exchange for the $400.

Shortly before dropping off the replacement phone, I talked with my sister and reiterated very coldly that I was equally sick and tired of  family and work. And could not continue to support her this way in 2014.

This was not new.

I’d told her this in October 2012; that 2013 would be the last year I was helping her on a monthly basis. And I’d periodically remind her of this. Hoping she’d take steps to get her Social Security Disability (another story for another day) application filed. Previously, I connected her with disability attorney’s at a local law firm. They told her to file a claim, but two weeks later, she hadn’t.

Well, my mom was the one who told me the electricity had been turned off in my sister’s house because the check the not-so-good Samaritan had written bounced.

I was shocked and really overwhelmed that after all the crap my sister had been through, she would trust anyone with something obviously so important.
I had to catch a cab to my sister’s house and back on top of the $199 deductible the new phone would cost, because it was the second claim I’d submitted on my niece’s phone in less than six months.

I went to drop off the phone, angered that my sister let this happen and yet slowly coming out of my own emotional cocoon to realize she was in some real pain.

She greeted me at the door of the dark little hovel looking more dour and broken than I’d ever seen her. I gave her the phone and asked if she was alright.

She managed a smile that conjured memories of the little girl in pigtails I use to push in swings at the park.

I knew something was wrong, but the cab’s meter was running and money–as always-was very tight. So I left her…

The cab was blocks away from my apartment when I recieved my sister’s text message, apologizing for being such a burden and thanking me for helping her. It was a goodbye in every sense of the word.

I had the driver go back and I called 911.

Thankfully the door wasn’t locked.

I found my sister sitting on her bed in the dark staring into nothing. She was alone in the apartment; my niece and two nephews were at a neighborhood park and their friends houses. Two bottles of sleeping and pain pills sat untouched on the bed.

I held her while she cried.

I cried with her.

She said she just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.

And I felt ashamed because it was a thought I had had on many occasions. And quite a few times in the wake of those training sessions with he-who-must-not-be-named.

Depression is as much a part of my family as I am. But what right did I have to even think of such a thing when I was healthy, had a good job, and a shiny new apartment, which my sister helped me move into?

 The Police arrived shortly thereafter and took my sister to a psychiatric facility.

Thankfully, the boys came home just after the police car pulled off with their mother, as I had no clue which houses they were in.

 I called my mom and the aunts; the few family members who might be able to help. I had no clue what else to do. My thoughts went to the kids. Who could care for them?

Together, the three of us–my nephews and I–walked through what I slowly realized was a bad neighborhood to get my niece from the park, which turned out to be much further away than previous conversations with my mom and sister led me to believe.

 My aunt, my mom’s youngest sister called saying her and my uncle were on their way to pick us up.

I got my niece from the park passing several questionable individuals along the way. Clarifying just how tinted the rose colored glasses my sister must have been looking through when she described it as a “nice neighborhood”.

 Another shock for me.

I accompanied the kids to my mom’s house with my aunt and uncle. And managed to maintain a smile and conjure the lie that their mother had to go back in the hospital due to complications from the surgery she’d had two weeks prior. Which ironically wasn’t too far from the truth.

It turns out the pain meds from the surgery may have interacted with the meds she’d been taking for the Bipolar Disorder. And confined with depression and events…

I came back home that night and thought about the little girl in pigtails I use to push in the swing.

Sitting in the darkness staring at those pills.

And I felt ashamed for my own despair.

I stared at the pieces of the chest of drawer and told myself I’d get to it tomorrow. I needed to rest. I needed a long hard cry.

I felt guilty for speaking so harshly to my sister; for being so wrapped up in a once golden job that was slowly turning to brass before my eyes.

 I tried to do the late assignment and the one due Sunday with no success.

I found myself stepping over the pieces of the chest-of-drawers; shifting between sadness and an odd detachment. I had little motivation to do anything.

I did pay the current utility bill, maxxing out the last of the four unmaxed credit cards.
So the electricity was turned back on.
I didn’t eat much Saturday. I’d promised to bring the kids pizza and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer DVDs, but by the time I managed to get out of the house with the pizza and DVDs (late that afternoon), their grand father (my sister’s dad) had picked them up.

I visited with my mother, ate a few slices of pizza and talked about the current state of affairs.

I told her about the trouble at work with the new training regimen. And the financial woes in the death of the last bit of tangible credit had and any semblance of budget.

That was when I began to realize that the responsibility I avoided in white knuckled terror was staring me in the eye in the  form of that little girl in pigtails I use to push in the swing. And her three kids.

I lead a simple solitary life.

I live alone.
I don’t date.
I don’t have any true friends beyond a few colleagues at work that I occasionally
commiserate with.

I’ve convenienced my life to the point that I don’t do stress weII. Or perhaps because I know my limits.

Suddenly, I realized that my sister and her family was depending on me. And I felt overwhelmed. In a lot of ways I think my sister and I traded emotional places.

I met with her counselors and she was home the following Wednesday with a batch of new prescriptions and renewed hope that I’d continue to help her financially.

Then came the JavaScript.

I convinced the lead analyst to forego training on Wednesday and Friday.

But things only got worse.

Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I spent 3, 4, and 6.5 hours being drilled in JavaScript, a language I thought I had made progress in.

Well…”you know nothing John Snow.”

Each day I came away feeling less and less capable, less worthwhile, and less sure of myself. I began to dread work and avoid the lead analyst.

And when I voiced my apprehension to him, asking he structure the lessons and cut them up in smaller segments, he completely dismissed my points. Saying I was: “focusing on the wrong things”.

WTF!?

I felt small, insignificant, and not valued.

But more than that, I felt powerless.

I’d fallen further behind in school.

Felt useless at work.

My finances were none existent.

So with home, finances, family, and my emotions all in disarray, I feel more and more overwhelmed each day.
That’s where I am as I write this.
Limbo.
Terrified of losing a job that has become stale and sour with all the promises and expectations of what it could have been overshadowed by the thing it has become.

It seems I have less and less motivation to do little more than sit on the couch or lie in bed (usually the later) and watch “Star Trek: Enterprise” on Netflix.

When I try to do schoolwork I found myself staring at the computer screens, unable to focus, let alone get motivated to do anything significant.
I managed to get in an assignment for school the week of Thanksgiving when he-who-must-not-be-named was off. But just barely and my work showed the lack of focus and interest.

I still feel disconnected, anxious, and honestly I’ve come to realize that I’m just not happy.

I think I need a new job. One with significantly less stress. And superiors with a sense of compassion.
Even after I sent an email advising the team of the family problems I had (which persisted through out the week, with nerves being frayed) and knowing I was just going back to school, he-who-must-not-be named decided to ramp up the training regiment. I feel–at best–with no regard to what I was going through or–quite possibly–on purpose to see just how much I could take before I break.
Deep breaths. Woo-sahhh!

Clothes are piled up in the corners of my bedroom. Clothes that should be in the chest of drawers I haven’t managed to put together yet.

In so many ways I feel like my entire life is in pieces. Waiting for me to put it together.

And just like that chest-of-drawers, I really don’t know where to start…

The instructions, I suppose.
God, I wish life came with a set of instructions.

My First Post and the Galaxy Note 3

Wow! I’m standing in my kitchen as I write this.

My first blog post via the Android WordPress app on my Galaxy Note 3.

Fair Warning…

This is just me blogging aimlessly about random topics…

I journal. So there’s no telling where this will go.

Well, I must say, I am blown away by the handwriting recognition on the Note 3.

A little background. I’m a self-confessed technophile. I love gadgets and all things tech. I abandoned my beloved Iphone 4S and bought the Galaxy Note 2 last year about the same time (around November 15th) and two weeks in I knew I had something special.

A device that began to fulfill the promises of Palm Pilots and Pocket PCs of ages long passed.

I remembered buying my first real Pocket PC an HP2200 sporting Windows Mobile OS (showing my age here) and loving the wifi psyncing (before it was unceremoniously abandoned for Bluetooth) and the  dual memory card slots; an SD andCF if memory serves. And wishing it could make phone calls.

Well, the Palm Treo came out, but the budget just couldn’t sustain an upgrade from my old phone at the time, a Sony Ericsson (these were the days before discounted phones via contract renewals).

Being a poor geek was a rough life in those days.

Oh, but I took every opportunity to ogle the new tech via online news outlets and reviews liked CNet, Engadget, and PC Magazine.

Even then, there was a feeling of the tech industry moving towards a kind of singularity.

Over the years I’ve owned quite a few Windows Phones. But for me, the IPhone was the first device that tied in music, video, web browsing, and a phone in one device.

For years I was a devout hater of all things Apple. Hardcore Windows Mobile till the bitter end.

Till the inception of contract upgrades and a very persistent (and very pretty) Best Buy sales rep who gave me my first sip of the Apple Cool -Aid in the Iphone 4.

And I was hooked! I came to realize a lot of my apprehension about Apple (specifically iOS) was envy ala Fox and the Grapes. Easy to hate what you can’t afford.

A new job and more money led to a sumptuous feast at the Apple Table as iOS expanded and I acquired my first Ipad. And began to understand and retort the mantra: “It just works.”

I loved both the IPhone and the IPad for Media consumption, and eventually ported my vast music collection and some .avi files of my favorite movies to both. I loved having all of my media in the Apple ecosphere.

And yes, the Ipad 2 and IPhone 4S were purchased as I discovered Amazon and how easy it was to sell my old Apple devices to offset the price of the new.

And then came the Netflix app and I was in mediaphile heaven. Netflix on iOS is still an awesome experience.

But throughout my love affair with iOS, I never forgot those little bits and pieces of Palm and Windows Mobile that allowed (albeit limited) text input and document creation via Palm Grafiti and a stylus input; (Brace yourself) Windows Mobile Office.

I was one of the few users, I suppose who actually mourned the death of the stylus. Yes. I actually liked writing on the screen and missed it.

The Galaxy Note was the first Android device that integrated the stylus (redubbed the S-Pen) seemlessly, in my oppinion.

But the Iphone 4S was still too yummy to pass up and Android too alien to me. By that time I was just too entrenched in the Appleverse to even consider anything Android.

Ironically, I’m not a fan of change despite my technophile roots.

My first taste of the Droid came with another trip to Best Buy. No pretty sales rep this time, but a surplus of funds and the ability to pick up a demo Galaxy Tab 7 device and sample Android’s wares had me questioning my devotion to my beloved IPad.

I was surprised by all the apps I used in iOS with counteparts in Android. And so the The Galaxy Tab 7 was the gateway device, opening the door for the Galaxy Note 2.

The first Galaxy Note wasn’t enough to make me trade in my IPhone. But the Note 2 with its 5.5inch display, S-Pen, and SD card expandable memory finally posed a great enough challenge to the IPhone, leaving me with the choice.

Get an IPhone 5 (with all the latest and greatest Appley goodness) or try out the Note 2 and wade into the deep end of Android?

I was feeling adventurous and realized if I didn’t like the Note 2, I could always trade it in for the Iphone 5.

But the moment I saw that gargantuan 5.5 inch screen, realized the massive collection music and movies I’d acquired over the years was instantly accessible, and accessorized with a 64gb Micro SD (an option unavailable for iOS devices) I was hooked.

Then I tried the S-Pen.

And while the experience wasn’t perfect, the S-pen fulfilled the promise of styli past. Serving up the first viable means of text input via handwriting I’d ever seen in a smart phone.

And I never looked back.

Right now my devices include: the Galaxy Note 3, the original Ipad Mini, a Galaxy Note 10.1, and the MacBook Air.

I have no clue if I’ll continue to blog.
Or what about. While I love the tech, I don’t want to limit myself.

I think most bloggers have a message , a topic, or at least a focus.

I just enjoy writing. The act of writing is cathartic for me. It’s a part of my thought process. I’ve kept a journal for years; tomes of daily goings on, my feelings and opinions.

For years I’ve had aspirations of becoming a published writer.

Fiction. Novels.
Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

Not so sure I’m ready to share all of that.

Truth is, I’ve never been very organized or focused. I began using Evernote a few years ago with the goal of using it to be organise my thoughts and ideas. But that’s still very much a work in progress.

I love Evernote on the Galaxy Note 3. Together they have allowed me to capture ideas nearly as reliably as pen and paper.

Mmm. I wonder if it’s possible to write an entire novel using the Galaxy Note 3 alone?

While I’m not so sure where (or if) this blog is going, one thing is for certain. The Galaxy Note 3 will be an integral part of my writing arsenal.