Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jack Has a Job


Jack has a job.

At this point, all I can say is that (1) this job is, in fact, in the non-profit sector; (2) the organization in question is flexible enough to allow me to work while I do some of my long-term bike trips; and (3) it is a position that I was offered by a regular reader of this blog.

That last point is key. Not sure I want to have a repeat of what happened during my firm's Christmas party last year. :)

The bottom line is that I'm pretty excited about this. What's just soooo awesome is that this is the very first time in my working life that I am choosing a job just because I like what I will be doing. Money, status, “career advancement,” etc...went out the window a while ago. All that matters is that I am doing something that reflects my values and adds to my long-term happiness.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

GUEST POST: Misfortune and Metamorphosis


The following guest post was prepared by my friend and fellow blogger Dana over at Miles Before I Sleep. While I do think the content of this post speaks for itself, I did want to emphasize the obvious: DON'T wait to live the life you've always wanted. And don't ever, EVER, take anything, or anyone, for granted.


In my opinion, Jack's entire blog is devoted to change. It's devoted to his search with in himself to try and find out who he was, is, and who he wants to become. It seems to me that it is in this search that we have connected. Both searches, his and my own, have hit road blocks but we both are still living and enjoying the metamorphosis. Therefore, I've decided to write about HOW and WHY I came to this changing point in my life. I'll apologize now if you find my story a little graphic but we all have a breaking point and mine was July 21st, 2006....

Before this day, you could sum up my existence quite simply. I was with Ryan and we had 3 little boys. We both worked full time, struggled to pay our bills, were mass consumerists, and were exhausted at the end of each day. There was no "out" for us in sight as it seemed. We just hoped that someday we would be able to pay our bills on time and just live. Unfortunately, that day never came with us doing it together.

On July 20th, 2006, Ryan and his father were at our house trimming our trees. They had finished the back two and were heading to the front tree when I left to prepare for a garage sale. An hour later as I'm driving towards home, I can see lights flashing in the distance... they appeared to be at my house. As I parked, I saw the ambulance doors close and speed off...

As I pulled up to my house, I was stopped by his father who informed me that Ryan had fallen off the front porch roof. My first thought was, "Great... bet he broke his leg and now we're gonna be short money for time off work." (In reflection, isn't it sad that THIS was the way I thought?)

Then I noticed the pool of blood on the sidewalk, and the hysteria on his father's face. One of the firemen took pity on me after I explained that I was a nurse and to please tell me the truth. I still remember his words exactly, "Your husband fell 15-20 feet off the roof, onto his head. He was unresponsive on the scene and he was bleeding from his head, mouth, nose, and ears. They intubated him and he just left for the hospital."

Deep down, I knew my husband was going to die.

Still, I prayed over and over again on the drive to the hospital. I prayed when they wouldn't let me back to see him. I prayed as they decided to life flight him to Iowa City.

Ryan suffered many things in the one brief instant when his head hit the ground. He suffered a comminuted, displaced, and depressed skull fracture spreading from the base of his skull outward to his jaw, and upward to his forehead. A piece of skull severed his main artery to the brain. He suffered 2 strokes. His brain then herniated due to inter-cranial pressure. He was unable to have the pressure reduced because he went into a DIC (Disseminated intra vascular coagulation-- a massive hemorrhage from all open orifices of the body). He was bleeding to death. He was on life support and was given units of blood and platelet infusions. He went into a multi-system organ failure and I finally turned off his life support machine in the morning of July 21st, 2006.

He died.

The wonderful human being I loved, the father of our three children had died.

The hardest part was telling our oldest son, Zakari, that daddy had died that day. I still look at his face and remember how he cried that afternoon... I'll always remember Izeah and Zane asking for daddy, yet there was no more daddy.

That was my breaking point. The time after his death was chaos. I went through many stages of grief... crying, pretending I was fine, being a full time mommy during the day, binge drinking at night, engaging in promiscuous sex, making excuses. I did this for about a year after his death. I make no excuses for any of it now. I did it all by choice and since there is no actual "right way" to grieve, I've since accepted what I went through as my road to healing...

This event in my life was an astonishing wake up call.
I was tired of working full time and never enjoying my children.
I was tired of being part of this mass consumer way of thinking.
I was tired of working just to keep up with the Jones'.
I was sick and tired of who I was.

So I changed.

I gave up my full time job and now work a schedule that I make. I spend more time with my children then ever before. I've taught myself to be productive and more self sufficient. We're trying everyday to turn our lives into a more sustainable living lifestyle. I work everyday to not burden the earth but to help her. We live more frugal and I love it. We all take trips together, children and all, to explore nature, cities, music, our passions. Would I have done any of this before? Probably not.

I also managed to meet another wonderful man, John, who I married 3 weeks ago :)

Everyday of my life I remember this one event that changed my whole world. Ryan's death made me pause for a minute, if you will. It made me realize that I was wasting my time being what everyone else wanted me to be. I realized that I could be a much better parent to my beautiful children. I realized that it is much more satisfying to live simply and fulfilled then to always be wanting. I learned to look up at the stars at night with my children and discuss how many there are and how beautiful they are. I learned how to SHOW the people I love how just how much I love them. I learned when John came along that I had been blessed not once, but twice with an incredible partner, one that I'll be damned I was going to let get away :)

So Jack, kudos to you for changing your life. Some days are still hard for me, as I'm sure they are for you, giving up things that used to make us comfortable. When this happens to me though, I try to put myself back in that day, remember what happened and remember that Ryan never got to experience this life style.

I know I don't want to die without ENJOYING my life and this "life" I speak of is the one I'm living now.

Peace and love,

Ryan a few months before he died with Zakari and Zane.

Our family 3 weeks ago... John, me, Kayla, Zakari, Izeah, and Zane (age order :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On Getting a Vasectomy


I'm seriously considering getting a vasectomy. Yeah, I know...

To voluntarily allow a sharp, pointy object anywhere near Jack Jr. ranks right up there with looking inside Jeffrey Dahmer's refrigerator. And yet, here I am, googling the procedure like mad, trying to understand my options.

The benefits are clear. As someone who doesn't want children, having a vasectomy would largely eliminate any nasty surprises going forward. Plus, it would be wonderful to have the freedom to make love to my partner without fumbling for a condom, or relying on their own contraception method.

There are definitely some drawbacks. First, a vasectomy is not a sure thing. But WHAT is ever a sure thing? Also, it's not a procedure that can be easily reversed. On the other hand, there is nothing stopping me from freezing a batch of little Jacks in case the love of a wonderful woman happens to change my mind.

I have a lot to think about...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Have Too Much Money


Trying to shake off a recent downward spiral in my personal life I came to a rather strange conclusion earlier this afternoon:

I have too much money. Again.

If you recall, I drafted a preliminary budget about a year ago and decided to donate/give away any extra cash that I just didn't really need. At the time, I thought I was pretty conservative in assuming a decrease of 20% in my portfolio given the onset of what we are now calling the Great Recession. By the market lows of March/April 2009 I was down close to 40%, mostly because I'm all about long-term investing and wanted to catch the inevitable upside.

As of noon today my long-term investments are up close to 29% YTD and over 13% from my initial budget projections. This does not even take into account some pretty serious gains I made over the past couple of weeks buying short in the energy and financial sectors. In fact, I made enough mula over the past 10 days to pay for most of my upcoming trip through South America.

Under normal circumstances this would actually be a good thing. After all, why would anyone bemoan having MORE money?

Fuck that. The truth is that having “too much” money corrupts the soul. It leads to unnecessary excess. It feeds the baser instincts of our nature. It certainly doesn't add substantally to our long-term “happiness.” The bottom line is that having “too much” money blows.

What's so beautiful about the simple living movement is the fact that “too much” is something that each one of us should decide for ourselves. My budget might be extravagant for some, inadequate for others. In fact, I have plenty of wealthy friends who currently lead a perfectly happy life on their own terms, but who would gag if they were forced to live on my budget for even a single day. Just as I would break out into a cold sweat if I was forced to live the life they seem to enjoy.

Don't ever feel guilty about having more money than others. But always be fearful that you might lose your soul if you have “too much.”

So, what now?

I don't know. I guess I could do another give-away. A couple of small donations to some VA hospitals and an animal rights organization might also do the trick.

On the other hand, maybe the thing to do is to keep investing and then dole out extra cash over time. I rather enjoy this investing racket and it would actually feel good to keep increasing the donation pie over the long term.

Ummm...maybe an Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity foundation is the way to go. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Need a Drink

All of my world is empty tonight. There are feelings somewhere still, but they have scampered off to places I no longer recall. I regret nothing. How could I? The alternative would be to live a lie I am no longer prepared to live. And to die as someone I am not.

You are inside me now. Never forget that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need a drink...


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dancing Simplicity

There is no reason to deny it: I dance like a douchebag.

Seriously. Force me onto a dance floor after 3 beers or so and you might actually see something like this:

Well, I've had enough. It's time to slay my inner dancing douche. Starting today, Jack is officially a student at a dance studio. That's right. Over the next 3 months I will work to master the basic ballroom dances (waltz, foxtrot, tango...etc), something that will hopefully prepare me for some of the more modern stuff.

I'm actually excited about this. Dancing is not exactly something I enjoy. But there is a great deal of freedom in learning how to do something I've always found unapproachable and totally beyond my control. I'm not sure I would have had the time, the patience, or even the inclination to do this before leaving Biglaw. Just goes to show how a change in perspective can lead to unexpected places.

Monday, October 5, 2009

South America Dreaming


After some research, a scouting trip, and plenty of consultations with fellow bike tourists I have decided to start my South American adventure next spring. The bottom line is that if I were to leave this month (as I had previously wanted) I would arrive in southern Chile and Argentina just as winter is settling in. Not all that enthused about biking in the remote wilderness of Patagonia in the middle of a never-ending blizzard.

At this point, it makes more sense to start focusing on other things. In the meantime, I have a feeling I will be dreaming of getting dirt on my face, camping under strange stars and leaving civilization behind. It’s just a matter of time.