Three year mega blog.

Three year mega blog.
Well, its the 23rd of March again.
Time for your yearly dose of pain….. Suck it up, get a strong drink, a hot cup of tea, coffee, an Ice Break or what ever it is that brings you comfort and gets you through……
Like the first and second years effort, this third year blog is sort of broken down into broad categories. Some of them have been dropped (for example, light switches (I still struggle, but its time to move on)), but the guts of the matter are still there. I think I am doing it like this to make it easy on my mind and also so we can put each major section from each year next to each other in 20 years time and see whats what.
Alrighty, enough already.. .buckle up and here we go down the rabbit hole (subtle ‘A State of Trance’ reference in case you were wondering – so yes, I still listen to trance – some things never change!).

Some pretty big change here in this topic.
First up, I have officially moved from sales to marketing.
In practical terms it means that I don’t spend as much time talking with customers and working on their applications any more. My time is mostly spent on what can be best described as ‘content creation’.
My days consist of checking our forums, answering any questions there. Writing forum content (code, or different ways to do off the shelf stuff with Opto gear/software). Writing video scripts, recording said scripts, editing said video. Working on any demo’s that we have coming up (this could range from web based stuff, working on models, video streams, interfacing our gear with a new company that we are partnering with and so on). Throw in a little social network efforts as well each day. In other words, still a pretty wide range of stuff. I really like it. The stress is a different kind, and so far so good.
Another big change; I have moved from the cubical to the video editing office. Bottom line, its a LOT quieter. I don’t have to expend any energy trying to block out the noise any more. Higher levels of sanity is the result.
Lastly, sort of related to work… I no longer go home for lunch. It was just getting too stressful for Freddy trying to match my variable schedule and I was not getting any rest. So I now head out to the car, eat lunch and either nap on the back seat, or just switch off and think about what ever I want / need to. Either way I get to fully switch off for an hour. Huge difference. The afternoon at work is a lot smoother and I get home no where near as wrung out.
Keep in mind all of this only happen about 2-3 months ago, so we have not had a full year of this yet. But it is the work highlights of the past year.

Family Life.
Because of the single fact that I get home feeling half human, the mood around the home has picked up….. With one exception….. The new dog…. man, I have never known an animal to get on my nerves like it does…. I walk in the door and hes jumping all over me trying to lick me and just generally getting way too excited. Then he spends the day / night racing around, barking, not coming when hes called, chasing the cat (this is is the biggie for me as the cat starts yowing and carrying on), getting in every-ones way, sitting on the lounge where ever you want to sit, sitting on the back of the lounge and trying to lick my bald head and just generally having people yelling at him, its just a mad house since he arrived. (And yes, he ‘graduated’ from puppy school and yes Freddy and Terry are working hard with him. Its not like we are not trying). (And yes, I know, hes still a puppy).
Dog aside, for the most part, the humans are going pretty good. Freddy is loving the house. Took a long time to get there and get it cleaned up, but for the most part, 5 months latter, we are settling down to owning a house in SoCal.
Amy has got her driving permit, and thankfully has graduated from school. We are all wrapped that she is done with the stupid school system here. For the most part getting her out of regular high school was the right thing to do. The challenge now is what is she going to do once she does not have to do school work every day. She has been applying for jobs all over and so far, no luck. We really need her to get a job. Any job at this stage. Before long she will be driving her self to work and back every day and so ‘officially’ start a new phase of her life.
Terry is going pretty good. I made a critical mistake in bribing him for better grades with my computer. Hes getting the 4.0 grade average like we wanted, but hes really not working all that hard to get it (stupid broken school system AGAIN!) and so is spending far too many hours on the computer. Next year we are hoping that he gets into Advanced Placement physics, but since its only one class he will probably still get (what we feel is) too much computer game time in.
Hes almost sub 20 second average to solve the Rubik’s cube. His best time is 12 point something seconds. Hes still doing Parkour and loving it, but the club moved gym night to Friday night which is a real shame as he was really improving with the weekly gym sessions. Hes spending a bit of time on our trampoline, which was the whole point in getting it, and its clearly helping his balance and control.
We had a family conference at the start of the year, just to try and get a feel for every-ones goals and so on for the coming year. I bought up the idea of moving to another state (Texas), but the overwhelming desire from the other three was to stay put and just put up with the SoCal niggles. I guess the thing to take from that is that the bulk of the family is happy here.

Because we are now able to come up for air a little and start to see who we are after the past three years of, well, massive change, we are finally able to start to look at church with ‘new’ eyes. Its starting to become useful to us for the first time since we moved here. We feel we can at last start to give something to the congregation. Sure its sad that we have not been able to cope with this aspect for the past three years, but at least now we can try and get to know people and we can try and heal and build some relationships that have been neglected.

Mostly covered under the heading of ‘family’, but enough to say, surprise, the school system has not got any better over the past year. It’s really not rocket science to say that America is going to be in some real trouble as this generation of kids finish up school and enter society. They just have no clue about life. Perhaps its just a SoCal thing with both parents working and too busy to teach their kids, and the school system totally dumbed down to the point where every one passes no matter what effort they put in. Just show up and your a winner. Its pretty sicking and very sad for a once proud strong nation.
Terry simply puts up with it. So many of the classes are near a waste of time for him (and the few others that really want to learn something), its a real shame. The whole HSC thing in Australia might be very stressful, but at least you come out of school with half a clue.

Still loving the freeway speeds. Sure, its not very economical, but its a great way to get from A to B…. that said, I still feel like we are always ‘seconds from disaster’. People just don’t think about what happens to a cars handling at 70 mph. They drive like they are still doing 30.
Once again, this year, it was my turn to get driven into in a car park. Nice dent in the side of Freddys car. After the bump, I was a bit ticked as it looked like he was going to do a runner. Flustered, I forgot to get his actual drivers licence. He gave me his insurance papers instead and I took the details off that… turns out it was a fake, so in a way, he did do a runner. The excess we have to pay is more because we did not get their details, so the bump in the car is still there….
One thing I have noticed is that more and more people are on their phones. Not just talking, but now that pretty much everyone has some sort of smart phone, they are reading and sending emails, surfing the web, and yes, even playing games while they ‘drive’…. Its one of the main reasons I sold my bike, smart phones.
Both kids have plans to be driving this year. Insurance costs are my only bother in this regard. (Assuming they both get jobs and buy their own cars).

I sold the bike. Yes, I cried as it went down the drive. Yes I miss it. Yes, I am glad that I am not mixing it with the commuting traffic any more. Yes, your right, it would be hard to sleep on the seat of the bike during lunch. No, I doubt I will ever get another. Yes, that makes me sad, but for the most part I have moved on. I just don’t have the energy to dwell on negative stuff. Time to close this sub-topic as well.

Sugar. Say it after me, sugar. Add it. To everything. There, now that we have that out the way, its very simple, the way we produce food in this country is just not sustainable. As a result you have to add a lot of high sucrose corn syrup to everything, it helps preserve it. (Amongst other things). I mean, really, who else adds sugar to deli meats? Don’t bother answering, I already know the answer to that one.
I’m still trying to cut down on the volume of food I eat each day. Banana for breakfast (or a grapefruit from our tree). Small (and I do mean small, like a cupped hand size) salad for lunch and some chicken or fish and salad for dinner. Even with that, I am barely holding my weight.
To help try and manage my mood (depression) I am not drinking alcohol or caffeine for the past few months. I am also trying to work out in the studio each morning (dumb-bell weights and a bow-flex machine). I have added a bit of muscle, but really need to get some other exercise to help me lose weight, still got quite the spare tire around the middle happening. The past year has not shifted it, but in the coming year I have hope.

Still drives me mad. Had the best winter. Lots of rain, cold, even some wind. Still seems abnormal to have clear blue skies and beautiful temperatures day after day after day after day after week after week after week. Perhaps this year I will get used to it?

This was one of my main reasons for raising the topic of moving with the family. Its just so expensive to live here. Freddy does such an amazing job of managing our money with coupons and keeping really careful records of all our expenses, it just burns me that we both work so hard and yet I cant afford to do ‘simple’ things like call my kids on the phone, or come home and watch TV. I’m deeply worried about how we are going to afford to help both the kids get driving let-a-lone get them into collage / uni if they want / need to. And please don’t raise the topic of ever affording to retire!
In talking with people, it just seems that most here are just ‘content’ going backwards, just getting more and more into debt. Again, in that regard, I am thankful for Freddy. As hard as it is, at least we are not in debt (other than the house). It would be a really interesting country if others did the same, ie, change their budgets to not go into debt.
We have both worked really hard to keep a cap on what we call re-occurring expenses, that is, monthly expenses. Some Americans like to ‘stick it to me’ about Australia’s high tax rate, they love pointing out how much lower their tax rate is here. Depending on their attitude (some just cant hear foreign accents) I will sometimes take a moment to point out to them that from someone who has lived in both places, it really is cheaper to live there, and one of the main reaons is because of re-occurring expenses. $80 per month for cell phone, $120 per month for cable TV and net, $110 per month for car insurance, $40 per month for ipad/iphone/android data plan, $110 per month medical, $80 per month house insurance, $40 per month dental, $110 per month property tax, $84 per month HOA fees, utilities are around $200 per month, property tax $225 a month, car rego around $43 a month, and that’s just a small sample. Over here, they nickle and dime you to death, sure the tax rate is low, but they still get their pound and half of flesh. So, we work hard, we keep our monthlies in check, and we just make do. Fun? No. Sustainable? Yeah, for the time being. I’m very thankful that Freddy can work full time in keeping the family financially afloat.

Kid time.
Still have date night pretty much every Wednesday night with Amy. Terry and I get 8 minutes every morning in the car on the way to work… even he admits that some of our morning talks are pretty spectacular. (If you know me, you know that I can be very passionate about some topics).
Takes some work, but every now and then we go for a family drive and usually have a great time. We would like to do it more often. We have a plan. Come back this time next year and see how we went on that one……In a nut shell, getting some good kid time in.

Green Card.
No doubt about it, getting the green card Jan last year has made a huge difference. (For example, we have the dog as a result). Being able to get the house would be up there with the best outcome from that.
Of course the stability it has given the whole family is huge. The fact that Amy can even try and look for a job is huge as well (remember, she could not work on the visa she had up till last Jan).
Getting Freddys drivers license was a breeze compared with what we went through last time.
So yes, if you are going to live here for any length of time, having a green card is one way to take the stress out.
The events around the actual getting of the card is fading fast, which is good, because it was very stressful, but all in all it has helped a great deal in helping us settle in this country.
I think I will have to retire this sub-topic next year. Its already over a year old.

Still sick and tired of Americans coming up to me and trying to say ‘Gudday Mate’, or some such.
Freddy and the kids have perfected the American accent enough to get around most issues. Sure, they still have an Aussie accent, but its dulled down enough that most people don’t bother them much. Me on the other hand….. It still is a weekly event, I will say something or it will come up in conversation some how. I don’t mind I guess. Getting used to be ‘picked on’ about it. I can hear me slip in the odd Yankee word now and then, so I know its softening for me too. Its just a matter of time.

Photography. That’s about it. Just don’t have the time, energy or money for anything else. Even doing that has backed off a lot since I finished my 365. When life itself takes 120% out of you, its hard to have anything left over for much else. I really miss doing electronics, but its fading so fast that I suspect that by this time next year I will have forgotten about the joy of doing it. Oddly enough I am not too bothered.

Its been a hard year. In some ways the hardest because we now know (courtesy of the green card but mostly from buying the house) that we are here for the long haul. The last few months of last year were the worst for me. The lowest I have been since arriving three years ago. Its taken some significant effort to dig out of that hole.
Freddy has not made any more friends, I still have not made any. Spoke with a girl from Canada that is living in San Diego, she has been down there for 5 years; no friends. (That said, we are getting to know some of the kids friends and some of them are pretty cool despite the age difference).
I got to know some people at the start of the year and around the end of February asked them to come over to our house for an afternoon, they got back to us and said they could squeeze us in some time after April 10th…. I felt like I was a dentist appointment… I have not got back to them.
You work to save money, you work to try and plan some time off, you work to try and do your hobbies, you work on your house, you work on spending time with your family. Lots of work, just not sure what the reward is or if it will ever come. I have come to firmly believe its a SoCal thing. I’m assured that it’s a lot better in the middle of the country and then it gets far worse over on the east coast (ie, New York).
What this move has taught us has totally taken me by surprise. The change, the depth and completeness of all that has changed and is changing is just astounding. Never saw it coming, never, not once, imagined it would be like this.
I feel now that we are getting some air for the first time since getting here, the coming year holds a glimmer of hope. Not sure if its just wishful thinking or something else. Only time will tell.

Lastly, those two questions……..
Has it been worth it?
Depends on how you define ‘worth’ it. In that it has forced me to grow up and take a good hard look at myself and see that I really needed to change in a lot of different aspects to become more balanced. Yes.

Am I glad I did it?
Ask me again this time next year.

P.S. In case you are wondering how these mega blog entries are written, its a combination of two things.
1. I have kept an almost weekly journal since getting here. So around the start of March I re-read all my entries from March to March for the past year. (This results in a pretty negative view on the past year).
2. I look at my photos from the past year. (This results in a more positive view on the past year).
I then take time out to reflect on the past year and try and write a blog that truthfully summarizes the past year of living here for me. Like I said last year. I don’t try and speak for the family. Its my ‘personal’ take on the past year. It is what it is.
Debating to add a new sub-topic, something along the lines of ‘Goals’ or ‘Things I want to change this year’, or ‘Things I want to do this year’…. Not sure, there has not been much looking ahead, these mega blogs have been all about looking back. Perhaps next year will be different?