March Update

Let’s just call March a month of learning through failure.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not being mopey about it. I tried some intentional changes with my bullet journal, with my eating, personal workflow for side projects, and with my fitness (my knee is jacked, so it was necessary – or at least a very convenient excuse), and let’s just say I learned 10,000 ways not to do any of those things. Oh yeah, and my Lent has basically been a bit of failure too.

That being said, I don’t really feel too bad about much of it, because what is life if not learning what works and what doesn’t? Let’s start this one out with what did work over the last month or so, because really the list is a lot shorter (though also arguably more important so that is good).

My new job is going well. I am really enjoying the new challenges and learning a ton. The people I work with are great and we provide a service that I really believe in. I really like working from home.

I have been working hard to be more present for my kids. That means putting down the electronics and focusing on them. That has been going pretty well, but there are times it could be better.

I am not only trying to be more present for my kids, but also my wife and, well, basically everything. ADHD convinces us that we are really good at multi-tasking, but research has shown again and again that it just isn’t true. The truth is that we are really good at half-assing things and convincing ourselves that we are rocking it. We are really good at realizing “oh crap! this deadline is like, now” and then getting it done.

I fail on this some, but meditation is helping. Speaking of meditation, I had an 80 day streak and was doing awesome, then missed one day and that was enough to get me to ignore doing it. I am not sure why, and I have discussed this with both my priest and therapist, but haven’t come up with a satisfying answer yet. That isn’t the same as just shrugging and giving up. This is something I have struggled with for a really long time. Some people can get habits and they just go, but for some reason they just don’t stick with me. And that isn’t just good habits, fortunately for me. I do still bite my fingernails though, so maybe I am just being awesome at lying to myself again.

Okay onto the failures. Let’s start out with bullet journaling because that was a habit that I felt pretty strongly that I had established. I decided to try out a digital bullet journal. Yes, I know that part of it is the tactile act of writing and creating, but I am not a barbarian and have an Apple Pencil with my iPad. I really like the combo, by the way, it just turned out not great for the Bullet Journaling. I found some great templates that I liked, the searchability was great (I use Good Notes and love it and will probably write about that in the future).

The problem (at least for me) is that it is too easy to get distracted. I turned off all notifications, but my dog-mind will think “hey, music would help” then I spend 45 minutes finding just the right music and have run out of time to journal. The actual act of writing on the iPad is just fine with the Apple Pencil – something I have really come to enjoy actually. In fact, my “game journal” for the Warhammer 40k Crusade Campaign I am playing in is on it and is perfect, as is the notebook for the Python programming class I am taking.

Fitness is kind of terrible. As I mentioned before, I hurt my knee back in December and am going through the VA system for it since the original injury was while I was stationed in Alaska. Overall the VA (at least in Los Angeles and for my particular issues) has been pretty decent, but also very slow. I actually made an appointment to see the orthopedic doctor back in November for pain and the appointment wasn’t until March. She recommends PT before surgery (which I am fine with) but I won’t be getting in to that until May. So basically, six months from first contact for this. Luckily I have been living with pain for a long time and it isn’t life-threatening.

On that front, I have also gotten lazy about tracking my food and water intake. It makes sense with the injury and inability to exercise just generally being mildly depressed about it, but it definitely hasn’t help. The combination of the two issues above have me up about 4 pounds for the month. “If you don’t track it, you can’t change it,” right?

I have been spending a lot of time learning new things for my job, and being a husband and a father which hasn’t left much time for writing or creating. I need to work on balance (which is a refrain in my life). On the plus side here, I have been getting some cool ideas and jotting them down on my iPad.

Anyway, here’s to doing better in April – and see if you can find the hawk eating the crow in this picture! I am sure there’s some deeper meaning to this thing I saw, but it eludes me.

Quick Update for February

Hey, still super busy, but one of the things I have been working on is migrating to a different host for this blog, so apologies if things look weird for a while.

A couple of notes on that – first, the theme hasn’t been fully customized yet, and that will be one of the last things I get to, so expect the appearance to be wonky and to change some. Second, some of the images didn’t import over properly, so I will be working on updating those as I get time. Third, this blog is important to me, but is not in my top five priorities at the moment, so it will be a while before I get it done. My goal is to have all of the technical and design stuff taken care of by February 28th, after which time I will start focusing more on content at that point.

Speaking of content, for the reasons outlined above, content will be irregular and sporadic this month and in March should start rolling out regularly according to a schedule. I know that nobody really cares about how the sausage is made, only how it tastes, but I am just putting that out there.

Finally, a quick wrap-up for January. The first and quickest update was the decision to do a social media fast. It went pretty well and was interesting to note how much of going to Facebook and Twitter was automatic and without thinking. I’d pick up my phone and instantly start typing Fa or Twi before catching myself. There were a couple of times that I logged on intentionally in order to check on something specific or reach out to someone that I only have their social media, but didn’t consider that a real breaking of the fast. I am going to continue in February mostly fasting but checking in a bit more regularly (I am still working on the SOP for doing social media and am going to largely continue fasting until I have nailed that down).

Fitness goal was to do a marathon in a month, and I completed it with nearly 10 days to spare so just kept on going. The “marathon” stats I wanted to post because it was an interesting comparison to look back at Oct/November when I did this for the first time supporting the Whittier Boys and Girls Club. Also, before I get into the numbers, and I wasn’t really targeting 26.2 as the finish line in either case, it was just through the end of the run that took me over 26.2.

WBGC Thirty Day challenge stats were 28.2 miles with an average pace of 22 minutes, 13 seconds (22’13”). Unfortunately I didn’t really total time at that point, and it did include a fair amount of walking as I was just getting back into exercising and was trying to avoid injuries as I knocked the rust off. My January challenge run was 26.7 miles with an average pace of 16’20” and a total time of 7:16:13. Obviously I am still not setting records (and it is crazy to me that in my younger days I was better than half that pace!) but I can only deal with the body I have now, so I am really happy to have shaved nearly 6 minutes a mile off the pace. I was obviously running way more than walking this time around, and I am looking forward to repeating this challenge for my birthday in August.

Fitness challenge for February will be focusing on stretching. I am going to dial back running to 3-4 times per week and doing daily stretches. This is the one I am looking to start with, but if you have a favorite routine, please let me know! This one is going to be harder to measure objectively but hopefully I will have some good results to report back. Why stretching you ask? Well, Ryan turned me on to this cool YouTube channel called The Bioneer and while that dude is crazy fit and I am not looking for that level of fitness (I’ll post more on my personal ambitions later), I really like his pillars of fitness which basically equate to: strength, endurance, agility, decision making, and explosive power. January worked on endurance, February is for agility. Decision making and being smart is something I am focusing on throughout the year as well, and will be writing about what books I am reading, or listening to at another time.

Anyway, that’s me updated. Hope you have a great month, and I will be posting a few more times this month – targeting once a week with short updates like this.

Intentions Not Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! I know a lot of us are definitely ready to put that year in the can and move on. You can read lots of other retrospectives on the year, so I am not going to focus a whole lot on it but I am going to add just a few things that stand out about the year to me, and how it affected me. It makes sense to move from the past to the future in that way. Also, this post will be much longer than most, so sorry about that and good luck making it through.

I am going to start off with the most impactful, at least for me. My mom died at the end of 2019, which made it feel a bit like I had a few extra months of 2020, if I’m honest. She didn’t die of COVID-19, but it was just as unexpected. She went into the hospital for a fairly minor back surgery that was really only supposed to be an overnight stay. One complication after another saw her spend the last two months of her life in the hospital and in a great deal of pain.

I still struggle a bit with guilt – I wish I could have spent more time there. There are all the questions that one asks. If I had been there longer could I have advocated more for her? Would my presence earlier on have aided in her recovery? These things still bother me fairly regularly.

Even amongst the tragedy there are a few things I am very grateful for. We got to visit with her before she went in for the surgery and take her to visit my aunt (her sister) in Ruidoso, which is a very pretty town in southern New Mexico. My kids got to spend some time with her and it was a very happy time.

Shortly after we returned to California I threw my back out. The pain was terrible – I very nearly unable to move for close to a week and the actual recovery was closer to three. At the beginning it took me over an hour to crawl to the bathroom a mere 15 feet away from my bed.

This injury happened shortly after my mom went in for surgery. Since I was just laying there, I ended up calling her and speaking with her much more frequently than normal. The pain I felt in my back helped to give me a greater level of empathy and understanding than I might otherwise have had with her. As crazy as it sounds, I am so grateful for that injury. It sucked, but I was able to connect with her much more than I might otherwise have.

After my back healed up a bit to where I could get around some I returned to work at Ticketmaster. A short while later my mom’s condition really turned bad and she was admitted to the ICU. With both the summer vacation and extended back injury, I was pretty low on paid leave, but my supervisor and the company didn’t hesitate to tell me to go. I offered to work remote, but my boss Jon said not to even worry about it. Another thing I’m grateful and indebted for.

I headed out and spent the nights at my sister’s place, and the days at the hospital (remember, this was just pre-COVID). When I arrived they had just taken her of the ventilator and it was unknown if she would even wake up. She did. She was even a coherent and we all thought that she was maybe on the mend but then things went bad and her body just started shutting down.

I miss her all the time.

This is one of my favorite pictures of her and me.

Anyway, that set the stage for 2020 for me, and I had a renewed vigor to spend more time with friends and family. Then COVID happened. Fifteen days to flatten the curve turned into nine months, and is still going on. There were ebbs and flows throughout the year where I was able to see friends, albeit often in a completely different way (wearing masks at a park six feet away). It definitely took more effort but it helped a bit to really focus on the relationships I was able to.

The kids learning at home was challenging, but their teachers have all been amazing. We were pretty impressed with them before, but seeing the amount of time and effort they have been putting toward keeping things in some semblance of “normal” while also teaching them has been remarkable. I know that not everyone has had this experience with their educators, but ours have been phenomenal.

This extra time with the kids at home was awesome though. Just spending time, watching them learn and work has been an amazing experience. Being able to sit down and eat lunch with them and just eavesdropping on their classes and hangout times was (and continues to be) great. Also have been able to take more walks with them and even focus some more individual time on each kid rather than lumping that quality time with them together.

Speaking of walks, it was pretty clear early on that COVID-19 was especially deadly for those with certain conditions – extra weight and low Vitamin D being a couple of of the big ones that affected me. Working as a writer and a software quality engineer it is easy to just hole up like some kind of hermit in a cave. Seeing the emotional effect that losing my mom had on me, I was very motivated to try my best to stick around for a while. My friend Ryan has been a multiyear success story in weight loss and an inspiration to me – you’ll hear more about him in the future.

I swallowed my pride and started asking him how he did it. He helped guide me, giving me support and tips, but not pushing me too much (which he knows I would just resist because that is my nature). As a result of his guidance, I lost close to fifty pounds over the course of 2020 (and over fifty down from my heaviest).

The first picture I could find of myself of the year (Girl Scouts Daddy Daughter Dance), and the last picture of myself for the year. I haven’t really looked at them side by side before.

Ryan is also my main gaming nemesis for both Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 also called Warhammer 40k or simply 40k. These tabletop miniature games that have been a hobby of mine for years. In fact, when I first moved to LA way back in 2002, Ryan and I met via a 40k Yahoo Group (remember those things?). We became fast friends and he remains one of my best friends in the world. As we have both matured in our careers and families our gaming and hobby time has scaled back quite a bit, but we make the effort to get in a game a month along with regular weekly zoom paint nights. I am grateful to have him in my life, he has been a friend, a confidante, and a mentor.

As I was working on my physical fitness I decided to work in a more focused way on my mental health as well. There was a lot of stressful stuff going on and so I decided to start trying to meditate. I have ADHD so the idea of sitting perfectly still and not thinking was laughable. Despite that, I spent some time looking around for different very short meditations and found a few that I liked. I started out at two minutes a couple of times a week but that practice has grown to become a regular and valuable part of my day.

In addition to meditation, or perhaps because of it, I also turned more to my faith. It has been easier to spend time in prayer and I have had more of an interest in learning more about some of the saints and deciding to go deeper into it. It has also been a source of strength and comfort.

As the year passed, it became more and more obvious that the live entertainment industry was in serious trouble. Ticketmaster, and its parent company, Live Nation has had it rough. I give credit to the management for trying their best to do right by all the employees. The president, Michael Rapino, decided early on to forego his salary and many of the other executives took reduced salaries in hopes that the virus would pass quickly and things would be back to normal by the end of the year. Obviously that didn’t happen. There were several rounds of furloughs and layoffs and my number eventually came up and I found myself on furlough. For those that don’t know, basically that means that the benefits stay in effect, but the pay goes down to zero. I wasn’t (and am not) bitter toward the company. They have always been a very good place to work, and their support during my mom’s final weeks will never be forgotten. I was very grateful that over the last couple of years my wife and I had taken a much more serious view on our finances, which enabled us to get through a few months without really changing too much. Family has also been very supportive during this time.

As I started reflecting on the year I realized that despite common wisdom that 2020 was a dumpster fire, my own life was marked with blessings and gratitude. Yeah, losing my job sucked, but the closeness with my wife and kids is an an all time high. I am getting to watch them grow much closer. I have grown in my faith. My mental and physical health are better than they have been in years. I am happier. Yes, I know it has been a rough year for many people, but there have been so many blessings too. I have always felt that we see what we look for, and this year has really reinforced that belief. Finding the good doesn’t discount the bad. Okay that is my reflection on 2020. Now on to 2021. I promise it won’t be as long.

I have spent the last few weeks thinking about my life and what I want out of the new year. I decided not to do a resolution. To me, resolutions are hard but brittle. In the past I have found that once the resolution has been broken, I tend to just shrug and move on. “At least I tried”. Bringing in what I learned last year, I have decided to live more intentionally. So rather than resolutions, I am going to list my intentions for the new year. You might call it semantics, but as someone who works with words, I know that they have meaning. Also, beyond just the intentions, I also am working on being more intentional with time, the currency of life. It is so easy in this world of distraction to squander it.

I sat down and wrote all of the things I wanted to focus on this year and tried to schedule a sample day. Turned out I needed about 56 hours a day (64 if I wanted to sleep). I’ll write more about this process and the original things in the future, but for the time being, here is a picture of the first pages.

I love my Bullet Journal. Life changing for me. Also, page 1 of 6 of “great” ideas and ways to spend my time in the new year.

I really like all those things and want to devote all of my time to them and more. As a side note here, there is a moment to reclassify ADHD from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder to ARD for Attention Regulation Disorder. We aren’t always distracted. Sometimes we hyperfocus on a thing. I think the combination of medication and meditation have really helped me to get a better ability to regulate my own focus.

Looking at the various things I was able to kind of narrow it down into some broad categories. Those categories will be what I focus my blogging on. My goal, as mentioned in a previous post, is to do one post from each category every week. The following paragraphs will break them down just a little bit more. Since 2021 is starting on a Friday, the new schedule will go into effect next week. I am still trying to decide the exact day for each category, but want to make it consistent so people interested in gaming can only check it one day a week, those interested in writing a different, etc. Also the list is just in alphabetical order below, not necessarily the order I am thinking for publication.

Hobby. This is where I will put all of my miniature gaming stuff. My painting guides and updates, whatever battle reports from games I play, as well as any narrative fiction that I write up in order to go along with it. I have posted some of those things in a different blog in the past, and given the current COVID situation, I will likely repost them here with some additional comments or pictures.

Pre-COVID I would never have even considered a game at the park.

Personal. This is where I am going to write about the things I am doing to improve myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, I will also write about my experiences with ADHD and the challenges and benefits it brings. This is also the likely category where I will talk a bit about my family, but I am ferociously protective of them, so they won’t pop up too much.

Professional. I will be writing here about my professional life. From software quality and product integrity, to thoughts on writing, as well as things like time management and even professional development like programming and other learning will be in this category. Also, art will either be here or in personal. I am still deciding.

Spiritually. While I considered adding this to the Personal category, I decided it was deserving of its own. I am catholic, and many of my friends only really know catholicism from movies and tv. I will be posting my own personal reflections here as well as some common prayers that we say and what they mean to me as well as exploring misconceptions that people have about us. Also, if anyone has any questions, I will do my best to research and answer. I am obviously not a priest, nor a theologian, but simply a practicing lay catholic, but I will do my best.

St. Finbar’s Parish in Burbank has truly become a spiritual home for me.

Thanks for making it to the end of the colossal post. In the future, they won’t be as long, but probably some will because I like the sound of my own typing.

I hope your 2021 is blessed and happy, and I look forward to sharing it with you all.

-Patrick

Making Progress

As mentioned in my last post, I am working on a new direction and consistency for this blog from a more holistic point of view. Since we are so close to the new year, I am just going to officially kick this off on the first of January. I will do a few posts before then to kind of set up expectations and hammer out a workflow that is most efficient and effective for me.

I know that what this means is that some of you won’t really care about some of the topics I post, and that is okay. You are welcome to read them, of course, but really, if you don’t care about my hobby stuff, or my faith stuff, feel free to skip those days. In order to help you decide how to best spend your valuable (and hopefully limited) online time I am tossing around the idea of posting in four different “lanes”. I am going to write just a little bit about them below, and then I would love to hear any thoughts you might have.

The four lanes I am looking at are: Spiritual, Personal, Professional, and Spiritual. I will probably do other, more detailed posts on each of these lanes or even change it up a little between now and then, but roughly here is what I am thinking for each of them.

Spiritual. This is where I will post my reflections on readings or other things I read or see online. Additionally, I plan on talking about my catholicism. Why I chose to be catholic, how it has helped me in my life, some thoughts on some of the catholic things like saints and Mary that might not be familiar for my friends and family because, happily, I have a number of friends who are Protestant, atheist, buddhist, muslim, and even a few Wiccans. I am sure that there are others, and that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you or love you, it just slips my mind at the moment.

Personal. This is where I will write about things focusing on emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing. This is also the category where I will talk about my challenges (and successes) with my ADHD and other neurodiversity struggles. I torn between putting art here or in the Hobby category, but I feel it might end up here mostly because I don’t expect to have a lot to post other than finished products. I also will likely keep instagram and post pictures there, but am not sure. Also, I will probably talk a little bit about my family here, but don’t expect a lot of that because I am working on guarding their privacy pretty diligently.

Professional. I have a few different professional passions and am looking forward to talking about them and exploring them here. This is where I will pontificate on the importance of Quality Assurance in software design, the practical ins and outs of writing, peeks into the various sandboxes that I get to play in as an author (particularly the Dying of the Dark vampire world and the NashVegas paranormal hunters, as well as my own original settings – I have a few things I am working on here that are top secret at the moment), time management systems that have succeeded (and failed) for me as well as programming, and online learning in general as well as reviewing podcasts I have been enjoying and professional development books. I will also pontificate on the evils of the run-on sentence. I will post any original short story writing that is not related to the games I play under this tag.

Hobby. This is going to be where I will mostly focus on my hobby of miniature gaming. Like I said above, I might do a bit of art here, but since miniature games actually comprise a number of different areas from building and painting the models, to writing up army lists, coming up with narrative for my (and my friends’) armies, and actually playing the game. Plus I might do a few reviews of Black Library books here and there. I will also tag any gaming related fan-fiction that I write under this tag.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts on the best days for those lanes or other things you want me to write about, please let me know.

Stay safe and sane!

-Patrick

The leaves were so gorgeous I had to keep them in after the jog.