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To what end?

I think it goes without saying that the things I treasure in life and love the most are the personal relationships we develop with those around us. As I come to the final death throes of my current job and prepare to transition to the new ones, the relationships have weighed heavily on my mind. Very heavily.

Today I went through my calendar and cancelled my weekly one-on-ones with my team, my team meeting, and a few other standing appointments, and as I did so, I think the reality of moving on finally hit me. This is not going to be fun.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited for the new job and for the new opportunities. I’m ready to go. It’s the right time to go. I know that it is the right time to go. I’ve reached a point with my current job that I’m just ready to move on. But at the same time, I realized that I generally love what I do. And when I say love, I mean love. As in I’d do it forever if I could. And the reason I love it is the people.

I find it odd (and frustrating) that the best relationships and friendships only seem to come at the end, and I often ask myself “To what end was this?” Why now? Is it the knowledge of ending that finally drives someone to make the meaningful connections that we all hope will stand the test of time and distance? Is it only now at the close (as JK Rowling might say) that things finally open, become whole, and become real?

One of the truths that gives me the greatest hope is the knowledge that life does goes on, that it has meaning, and, most importantly, that the relationships we have here can continue beyond the toil of this life. I find joy in knowing that goodbye is only temporary if we exercise faith, keep the commandments, and otherwise live the lives we’ve been asked to live.

The end, then, isn’t the knotting of a frayed rope but rather the discovery of the first threads and yarns that spin, twine, and then bind you to me, me to you, and each of us to others.

I’m going to miss my current job, but the truth is that I’m going to miss the people. They have made what was otherwise just a job, a joy. This last week has moved slowly; for that I am grateful as I’ve held on to each moment and tasted the sweetness that finally comes when people truly connect.

Debt and Kids

I saw an interesting (which is really another word for horrifying in this case) documentary on the social security system, retirement savings in America, and the collapse of pensions. It’s quite the scary situation even for people who are doing it right.

One of the people in the documentary is a 46-year-old married man with two sons, who I would guess were around 12 and 10. During a conversation regarding their budget with the film maker, one of the sons (older I think) interrupts and asks dad if they are in debt. He answers yes. Then the kid asks how much, to which the dad replies, “None of your business.”

Got me thinking….

Why isn’t it the kid’s business? First, you are far less likely to retire self-sufficient and stable than not. Second, even if you are on the road to self-sufficiency, the system provides no stable guarantees that your efforts will pay off (ask anyone set to retire in 2008 about that…). Third, it is growing increasingly common for multiple generations to exist under the same roof because of financial concerns. Your debt is absolutely your kids’ business (within reason of course).

It got me thinking of a conversation that Katherine and I had (she’s 10) not that long ago. We had gone grocery shopping, and as is common, she had asked for things. Instead of saying no, I pulled out my shopping list and showed her the cash I had brought with me (around $100). We then went through the entire list and wrote down how much all those groceries cost. At the end, we were right around $90. I added in $5 to cover taxes, and then asked her what should we do with that last $5. She got real excited about the idea of spending it until I asked her to imagine what would happen if I only had $90 instead of $100.

We went through the mental exercise of putting $5 back out of cart, and the light went on; she independently suggested that we save that $5 just in case next week we only had $90.

Driving home, she asked if we were poor because we only had $100. That opened up a long conversation about how we choose to live differently and without debt. I told her how we choose to save money today so that we have money for tomorrow. We talked about a family in our neighborhood who had recently become unemployed and how they were having to make really hard sacrifices and changes to their budgets just to survive. We talked about how they might lose their house.

Then Katherine asked me how much debt we had. When I told her that we didn’t have any debt (besides the house), she smiled.

Kids get this, but not only do they get it, they have a right to know (within reason again). We don’t make Katherine or our other kids privy to all the details of our budgets, my salary, and where we are with financials, but I take the time to frequently talk with them about money, how it works, how debt hurts, and what we are doing. Just this last week, Katherine asked me what we make with my new job, and I told her that that was a private conversation I would have with her another time (we were eating supper with the entire family, and that is information I’d share with her, but not necessarily the other kids). And I will tell her. I will sit her down and show her how that equals X per month and we need Y per month to live. I’ll show her that we put money in savings, that we keep ourselves safe for emergencies, and that we are doing everything we can to finish paying off the house.

Because in not too long, Courtney and I will get to see if (1) we are one of the increasingly small people who hit retirement fully self-sufficient, (2) we are one of those that can skirt the lack of guarantees in the system, and (3) who do not need the help of their children to make it.

But even then, we have a special needs child who may or may not get to the point that he is self-sufficient and able to take care of himself. I imagine that will be a relatively life-long experience for us. And for Katherine when we’re gone. Oh yes, she–and our other kids–have rights to this information. How could I ever dream of leaving any of it to them if I didn’t think they could handle it? That’s on me since the world is obviously doing a bang up job of teaching financial literacy!

How to get lollipops according to Myron:

  1. Get on the neighbor’s trampoline and start jumping.
  2. Wait until some girls get on the trampoline.
  3. Flee from the girls because girls are gross by just jumping off.
  4. Land awkwardly on your wrist.
  5. Break your arm near the wrist in two places.
  6. Complain about it until dad takes you to the instacare in the morning.
  7. Get X-rays.
  8. Get a splint.
  9. Milk the nurses for all they’re worth and walk out with TWO lollipops and a smile from ear to ear at your success.

We had dessert with some neighbors last night. We’ve been having a few neighborhood friend troubles, and the “troublemaker” is another neighbor kid. We had a pow-wow with this other family last night to try and see if there were anything we could do to help diffuse the situation a little and also give opportunities for growth and friendship with everyone. I really like these neighbors (this is the third or fourth time we’ve had a chat like this), and I very much appreciate their eagerness to find peace and happiness with everyone. It makes for a great neighborhood.

As we were talking, Myron was playing outside with their kids on the trampoline. For whatever reason he decided to jump off the trampoline. We didn’t see it, but we’re guessing he got some good air and landed right on his wrist. I didn’t know this, but bones in young kids are spongy, so they don’t snap when they break. They more bend and expand like a soft tissue. He broke both bones just past his wrist.

He seems to be handling the pain well enough, but I realized we were all in trouble this morning when we walked past the big bowl of lollipops. His eyes went to the bowl, and I could see the gears turning. He got the first lollipop after successfully sitting still for the X-rays, but you could see it immediately click in his head that doing well at the doctor meant lollipops. From that point on, every success was followed by a request for yet another lollipop. He had the nurses in stitches by the time we left with, of course, two lollipops in his hands.

After church today, his friends came over with get well cards and cookies. It was a sweet gesture. We are very grateful that he’s got friends. The one boy in that family even volunteered to draw a space ship on Myron’s cast when he gets his final cast on Wednesday. This kid, Wyatt, is an answer to sincere prayer for us. We’ve long been scared that Myron wouldn’t make good friends because of his autism, but he has. Wyatt is the kind of friend who fills that wonderful role of true peace maker. Someone who doesn’t stand for cruelty and meanness in others and who watches for the kid who just simply needs a friend. We are more than happy he’s taking an interest in being Myron’s friend. It’s a good thing.

And who knows, maybe Myron will score enough lollipops to share with everyone. Knowing him, I’d put your money on the boy with the cast.

Enchroma Glasses

There are two questions I seem to get pretty frequently:

  1. What are my thoughts on the Flow Hive?
  2. Would I consider Enchroma Glasses?

You can click the first link to see my thoughts on the Flow Hive. For the second answer, the fast response is no, I wouldn’t.

Enchroma is a company that provides glasses for colorblind people. These glasses have the potential of helping someone with colorblindness see colors as someone with normal color vision would. It doesn’t work in all cases, and while most of the reviews I’ve seen have been very positive, I just don’t know if it is for me.

Depending on the colorblindness experienced (yes, colorblindness exists on a very large, broad spectrum), these glasses may or may not work. If I’m remembering my numbers right, normal vision sees somewhere in the range of 1,000,000 distinct colors. A colorblind person may only see 100,000. Sometimes less. In my case (I’m a moderate to severe Doutan), I’m probably on the lower end of that scale. According to Enchroma, these glasses probably wouldn’t have much impact on my color vision, but even if they did, I don’t know that I’d want to use them still.

Most of the time when I hear someone talk about being colorblind, they reference the dullness of their environment. While I understand the idea, I don’t know that I agree with it. How can we understand dull vs any other vision without seeing it? I’m sure the full range of colors is a vibrant, rich experience, but isn’t my own experience also vibrant and rich to me? I see color. I see the beauty of a spring flower, the richness of summer grain, and the fire of a fall leaf. I see the blue sky, the slate mountains, and the green grass. These are not stale, dull experiences for me. They are meaningful and potent just as they are for you.

I am colorblind. I was born that way, I’ve lived that way, and most likely I’ll die that way. And I’m okay with it. The only times it really becomes a significant problem in any way is when I’m trying to play a game with friends, and the designers haven’t considered that dark green and dark blue really aren’t all that different for people like me. Same with reds, purples, and pinks depending on the shade and the contrast with surrounding colors. I am often asked about the Enchroma glasses; when we play games, the most common question you’ll hear me ask is, “What color is that?”

And yes, sometimes I make interesting choices when it comes to color, and I’ve noticed how meaningless color is for my memory. I just don’t associate color with many of my memories because color is shifting, liquid, and less meaningful than other senses. And it works.

If someone handed me a pair of Enchroma Glasses, I’d try them out for sure. Why not? But I don’t know that it would be a life-changing experience for me. I don’t know that I’d want it to. Maybe there is some fear that the experience would be like breathing deeply for the first time after living a life of shallow, short breaths. How could anyone who has never experienced a deep breath not crave that after a life of gasps? I don’t know that I’m gasping, and in some ways, I’d rather not know.

Just don’t ask me what color my slacks are. I’ve worn these for years, and I’m still not exactly sure….

Review: Jet.com

Full Disclosure: I’m biased, and I have reason to be. :-) Having said that, I will honestly strive to be objective in my review here.

I discovered Jet.com about two months ago. They are a startup making a solid attempt at entering the online retail space, and I know what you’re thinking because it’s exactly what I thought: How on earth are you going to take on Amazon?

It’s a valid question, and one that is best answered as the CEO of Jet.com did when he said:

The Costco business model came to be 21 years after Walmart was founded and it worked. It didn’t crush Walmart or hurt Walmart. Coincidentally, it’s 21 years post Amazon. We’re doing to Amazon what Costco did to Walmart: Not beat them up, but just introduce a new way to save.

Basically, Jet isn’t trying to be or replace Amazon; it’s providing another option.

As part of my research into Jet, I signed up for a beta membership (they go live this next Tuesday), and I did a ton of research. I built multiple baskets of items using Jet and Amazon, and I made sure to compare straight across what I was finding between the two. End result? Jet won. Every. Single. Time.

Here’s a brief sample:

  • Sceptre 4k UHD 49″ TV
    • Jet = $402.87
    • Amazon = $499.99 for the nearest comparable model (50″)
  • York Peppermint Patties, bulk 175 count
    • Jet = $12.89
    • Amazon = $28.65
  • Jaws DVD
    • Jet = $5.89
    • Amazon = $6.96

I could honestly go on. I just did my shopping for Courtney’s birthday, and built two carts. Jet came in at $50.03 and the exact same cart with Amazon came in at $67.43.

So what’s right with Jet? The savings, the service, and the shipping.

Savings

Jet makes money from membership fees ($50 annually though there is a free trial). Other companies make money from the markup on a product. The savings go to you. Additionally, the more you add to a cart, the more you can potentially save. Jet matches the items in your cart with the most efficient shipping options from the distributor, meaning they can save additional money. Jet also offers small savings if you decline certain options, such as free returns. There are certainly somethings you would not want to decline that for, but there are plenty that you could. Finally, Jet offers discounts based on your payment method. For example, if I choose to use a Visa credit card, they knock an additional .25% off your purchase. If I use my Visa debit, though, they’ll take off 1.5%.

Service

I’ve been proactive in my feedback to the site during the beta. The longest it has taken Jet to respond with a personalized, customized message has been three minutes. You call, you talk to someone. I spoke to the lead of their member services department, and they are staffing so that they are never more than ~80% capacity for support volume. The goal and the plan is to always be slightly overstaffed so that no one ever sits on the phones. And like I said, the responses were customized. None of this scripted nonsense that makes you wonder if anything is every going to come of it.

Shipping

They don’t do a Prime service, but they ship everything within 3-5 days. I had one shipment come today; I ordered it last night. That’s less than 24 hours. What did I pay for it? $0. Shipping on orders over $35 is free; less than that and it’s $5.99. And for you non-Prime Amazon users like me, don’t you find it odd that they always take the absolute max time to ship? If they tell me it’ll arrive in 5-8 business days, plan on 8. Not with Jet.

Having said all that, there is some bad, which can be summed up with searchability and selection.

Search

The searching tools on Jet are nowhere near the quality of Amazon. Amazon is much simpler and more robust, and it’s easier to determine if you are looking at the right thing just from browsing the search results. This is much more difficult in Jet, though I do expect these issues will be reduced over time. The most frustrating search experience I’ve had yet was for a pair of pants. I’m not sure why (I suspect it’s because of the multiple distribution paths), but I was unable to find the brand and style I wanted and then see a listing of all available sizes and colors like you would on Amazon. Instead each individual size and color was a separate item. When I sent that to the feedback team at Jet, I received a prompt response that that was a known issue and that it was dependent on what you were looking for. Sure enough, a later search for a shirt showed that to be the case.

Selection

This shouldn’t surprise you, but Jet is nowhere near Amazon, especially in terms of media. Amazon is simply the go-to source to find anything and everything. That being said, Jet is young still, they are growing, and I think they will eventually give Amazon a run for the money.

Conclusion

So admitting that I’m biased (and I really am), I have to say that my Jet experiences so far have been largely happy. I do not think they will be a full replacement for Amazon just yet (selection issues, remember?), but if they have it on Jet and Amazon, I’m buying it off of Jet. The service is better, the shipping is faster, and the prices are often significantly lower. Going back to that first question–How on earth are you going to take on Amazon–they’re going to do it be out-Amazoning Amazon. In this rapid-paced world of never-ending changes, I question whether any company is dominant enough or stable enough to truly be unassailable. Besides, the goal isn’t to kill Amazon but rather give another option. Just like Costco did to Wal-mart. And guess what? Both are still in business today. So go give the Purple a try. I think you’ll like what you see!

Oh, and just for the record, Jet even beat out a lot of the much-touted Prime Day sales…. Just sayin’.

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I’m finally healed enough from the surgery to go out and work on the bees again. It’s probably a good thing. Both hives were ginormous and packed and ready for a super. I’m still working on a naming pattern for these two hives, and right now I’m thinking Junior and Redonkulous. You’ll see why shortly.

Junior

If you remember, Junior is my accidental split, and it consisted of a medium and a deep and no queen when I created it in early June. I opened it today and quickly found eggs (Yay!), and I’d guess about 60 lbs of honey. There was no room anywhere in the hive, so I added a deep on top. I’m wishing now that I had put the deep between the existing medium and deep following that Rose Hive methodology. Oh well.

Redonkulous

Good love. This hive, which kept the queen in the accidental split, was already huge. It’s now moved well past ridiculous and moved on to redonkulous. It’s a monster. When I left it after the accidental split, it was two deeps and three mediums tall, easily my biggest hive ever. Well, I cracked it open today, and the entire thing was packed top to bottom except the very bottom of the lowest hive box. The top three boxes were solid honey (I’m estimating easily 140 lbs right now), and the lower boxes were thick with brood. I added yet another deep into the middle of the brood nest (Rose hive), and a medium on the bottom of the honey so that the bees don’t have to move honey up AND so they don’t have to travel so far to put the honey away.

I think I can say that the Rose Hive methodology is a stunning success! I’ve practiced that with this hive since the spring, and despite the split and the lose of most of its foragers, this hive is massive. It’s now three deeps and four mediums tall! And it’s only July 11!!

We get another nice nectar flow in August and September (melons and squash), and I’m thinking we’re going to need to harvest this hive in the next couple weeks and then again in the fall just to keep the size under control. City ordinances restrict hive heights to 6 feet. I’ve never even been close to that until now, and it took all I could to get that last stuffed honey super on top of the hive when I was closing it up.

Since the surgery, I’ve been debating bees again. I do this every so often, and I think it’s important to figure out if this hobby still fulfills something for me. I helped my dad with his hives the week of the surgery (supervised, not lifting), and it was exhausting. I did it without any gear as well which was a first for me. But it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t thrilling.

I’ve been admittedly nervous about today’s visit for a few weeks because of how bad the experience was with dad’s hives. I’ve debated just letting these last two hives run their course and not replacing them if I lose them. But today kind of got me excited again. My set up is so much simpler than my dad’s (top bars mostly). My bee yard is familiar and organized the way that works best for me. My bees are productive, and the experience today was gentle. I could have gone without gear again I think. I also had a helper, which is always so nice. He’s a neighbor kid who asked if he could help sometime. He did a good job, and it’s just nice to have that extra set of hands when things get stuck together or when you need to lift something.

I’m feeling good about the bees again. I was worried.

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