Contract Begins

After a number of setbacks and delays due to various reasons, today was finally my first day at AAA! I was honestly starting to think this day was not going to come. Everyone I’ve met so far has been very friendly and seem like they will be easy to work with. It is certainly going to take me some time to learn my way around the building though, as it is much larger than I had realized. I should rephrase that, I knew the building was large I just didn’t realize that the entire thing was all AAA. My last position was also in a large building, but we were one of many companies in the building, that is not the case here. I will also need to go shopping, as I now will be required to wear more business dress than business casual clothing. This mainly means that I need to go get myself a couple of pairs of slacks, as I currently do not own any. Additionally, I am going to have to adjust to the amount of noise, or rather the lack of noise, here. Even though there is a very large call center right below my current cube, which overlooks the main first floor walkway, and the call center is composed of many short walled cubes, the amount of background noise from conversations is minimal. I attribute that to the approximately 6 foot high cubicle walls that I am now surrounded by, which is also something I will need to get accustomed too. As far as first days go, it was decent but odd. Typically the first few days are spent going to orientations and going over various policies and such, but I was able to jump right in and attend meetings with my team. I still need to get all my access to systems and applications straightened out, but I do not expect that to happen in the first week. If I am 100% honest, this atmosphere and environment type is not my first choice, however, it is certainly manageable. This will be a good opportunity for me, and I think that I genuinely bring a lot of value to the team. I guess we will have to see how the next three months go to know though. In either case, it was really nice to back in an office and contributing to a team again.

Happy New Year a Little Early

Melissa and I are doing something tonight that we haven’t done in all our years together, we are going to our friends house for New Year’s Eve. We typically go out for dinner and maybe a movie but are then home for the turning of the new year. Spending the evening together has been our tradition since our first New Year’s Eve and is something we typically enjoy. However, this year, our friends Alex and Nicole have asked us to join them at their new house for a small gathering and one of our fun-filled game nights! We are looking forward to spending the New Year’s with good friends and good fun. We will stay the night there seeing as they now live a bit further away and we will have a late night and probably a few adult beverages. We hope everyone  has a safe and happy New Years!

The Start of a New Journey

Today I suffered a pretty big blow as I was let go from my job. I had been working at Secure-24, a Managed Service Provider, for a little over 4 years and I really enjoyed it there. In addition to the excellent salary, benefits, and culture; I had the opportunity to work with some really great people. In fact, some of the smartest people within their respective IT fields work there. I was let go for budgetary reasons, which is tough to wrap my head around but I guess that’s the nature of business. The shock of this happening was slightly lessened because I had received a heads up from someone that it was possible, however, I still was not fully prepared mentally. I don’t think it will take me too long to find a new position, but I am worried about finding a place that will be as good of a fit as it was here. I legitimately enjoyed coming into work everyday, and a huge part of that had to do with the culture, atmosphere and people. My team members were pretty close-knit and we watched out for each other like family. I wish them, and Secure-24 as a whole, all the best. I am determined to stay positive about this change of events, though, and I will not view this as an ending or a failure, but rather as the start of a new journey. Now it’s time to look ahead, move forward, and find that next opportunity. Though I do think some well deserved time off may also be in order….

My First Trip to the DIA

Today we joined our friends Alex and Nicole at the Detroit Institute of Arts to view their Dia De Los Muertos exhibit. Despite living in the area for over 16 years now, this was my first trip to the DIA. In all truthfulness it’s because I am typically not interested in most art museums, if I am going to go to a museum I would rather go to a Natural History museum. That being said, the DIA might have changed that. I really enjoyed the Dia De Los Muertos exhibit and the rest of the exhibits that were on display. Considering we now live in the county and part of our taxes go towards the museum and afford us free access, I think we will try to work in a visit on a more regular basis, meaning more than once every 16 years! Melissa and Kylie also both really enjoyed the visit and, I think, if we were to have gone on our own we would have stayed longer than we actually did. However, we decided to leave when Alex and Nicole did so we could to their house for some lunch and let the kids hang out and do other activities. I am looking forward to when we next have an opportunity to go back to the DIA.

Long Overdo Checkup

On average domestic felines have a lifespan ranging from twelve to eighteen years, so at fifteen years old Princess is well into her senior years. Considering that, up until purchasing our home and moving out of the apartment, she has been a strictly indoor cat (we tried to take her to the park once and she was not happy about it) we have always been a little lax with her vet appointments. We tried to mainly keep up with her rabies booster shots (just in case) but otherwise never had any type of routine visits. Realizing that she does occasionally go out into the backyard with us know, and that we have been at the new house for just about two years now (man the time flies!!), and that Princess had not been to the vet in at least that long, we decided that it was time for her to have an appointment. Now, Princess has never been fond of car rides, not when she was a kitten in a crate, and not since she has gotten older and allowed to just be on a leash. Thankfully we have a veterinary office about a mile from the new house, and they were accepting new patients (not that this pleased Princess any more or less though), so we made her an appointment for today. Knowing this appointment was upcoming I was able to contact her old veterinary office and have them send me a copy of her complete records from all of her past visits, not that there were many mind you, and bring those notes with us to provide to the new doctor. At a minimum we knew she was going to be due for her rabies booster, but as it turns out we were in for much more. Princess has always been a sleek cat, never weighing in at more than eight pounds, so when she weighed in at under seven we were a little surprised. She has always self-regulated her eating, as she always has dry food down and we give her a quarter of a can of wet food four nights a week. She eats whenever she wants and when the food starts to get low we are always sure to refill it. We explained all of this to the doctor, along with the fact that she doesn’t seem to act out of the ordinary and that for a cat her age she is still very active, prone to running through the house for no apparent reason and still playing with her toys when she feels like it. Considering all of this information, along with her lower than desired weight, we decided to run some blood tests, the first that Princess has ever had, (to which I apologized profusely to her for when she was returned to me. Yes I apologized to my cat, deal with it!) and the results determined that  she has a hyperactive thyroid! The doctor says this is something that tends to develop in older cats and as such she will now be on Methimazole for the rest of her life, which also means that we will need to learn how to give her a pill. Additionally the numbers indicated that one of her liver enzymes were slightly elevated, which can be a side effect of the hyperthyroidism so we will need to recheck that in about a month to see if those fall back into line with her T4 levels. Needless to say this was a stressful event for Princess, not only did she have to endure two car rides, a trip to a strange place with strange people and strange animals around, she also got poked with a couple of needles and will have to be taking pills now as a result! But on the bright side we have decided to give her canned food more often, because she always seems to enjoy it, in an added attempt to help her put on some more weight. Of course the downside is that she will now be having more frequent veterinary appointments in order to track the progress, luckily I don’t have to explain that to her so she won’t have any preparation anxiety!

Homeownership Milestone

Tonight we reached a milestone as homeowners that I always assumed would come later into our ownership; but considering everything else we have already done on this house I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; we closed on our refinanced mortgage. I thought this was typically something people did after 5 or more years, but we are just shy of 2 years into our mortgage. Still, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. We ended up with a very similar rate, and a monthly payment that is about $20 more a month than we had previously. So why did we refinance then? A couple of reasons:

  1. We have put a lot of work into the house namely the new roof, windows, and HVAC
  2. The market has changed and we were pretty sure our house value had risen
  3. And this is the big one, we shaved three years off the backend of the mortgage which will save us almost $30,000 over the life of the mortgage.

Previously we were in a fixed rate 30 year mortgage and had been in for almost 2 years, leaving us with 28 years to go, the new mortgage is a 25 year fixed rate thus eliminating 3 years and leading to the savings. The appraised value of our house did go up as well by almost $10,000 giving us more equity in the house which also means that our PMI will fall off sooner, adding additional savings. We also changed lenders, we moved from Wells Fargo to Quicken Loans and are extremely happy with the service, support, and communication they provided throughout the process. We are utterly satisfied with the outcome of this refinance in terms of the process itself and the end results. Additionally, we recommend Quicken Loans to anyone in an instant, they are outstanding to work with!

A Grey Company Picnic

Today was the annual Secure-24 Company Picnic, and this year we had it at Heritage Park in Farmington Hills. It was the first time we have had it at this location and it was a nice change. I feel like this location was more family friendly in terms of the playground for the kids. I know Kylie enjoyed this park over the previous ones. Additionally there was more shade available at this location than at the previous sites. Though we didn’t have much need for shade most of the day due to the light rain in the morning and then the general overcast later in the day. Despite the weather not being the greatest it was still a very nice day and as the weather broke the turnout increased, though it was still less than previous years. I have no doubt that if the weather had been nicer there would have been more people in attendance. I think my favorite moment was watching Kylie participate in the watermelon eating contest! I hope they have the picnic here again next year and that the weather is better. Regardless, I think I will be back in the spring to explore more as there are hiking trails and other activities available.

Last Respects and Family Time

We just returned from New York, where we were for the last few days so we could lay Nan to rest. We flew out on Monday (09/05/16) and stayed with Mom. She seemed to be doing well, though she was tired and drained. We spent some time that night at my brother’s house and then at my nephew’s. It was nice to have some time with family even though Melissa and I were tired from travel. Tuesday (09/06/16) was spent finalizing some things for Nan’s services and spending time with Mom, we also ran a few errands but mostly had a low-key day. Wednesday (09/07/16) was the day of Nan’s service. My grandmother had made all the arrangements for her own funeral years ago, which meant there wasn’t much we needed to do to get things ready. I am very grateful that she did this as it minimized the stress for my mother as much as possible as all of the arrangements fell to her for everything else. Per Nan’s wishes there was no obituary published, and the viewing was immediately prior to the services and interment. It had been a number of years since I had last seen Nan, and it was amazing to see how much she had changed since that time. I certainly regret not being able to make it back home more often, but thankfully my family all understands. The service was very nice and a lot of family that I had not seen in years made it up to pay their respects. Myself and her other grandsons and great grandsons had the honor of acting as pallbearers, and it was with heavy, yet joyful, hearts that we carried out that duty. After the services were complete we had a small family gathering back at the senior community in which her and my mother live. Following that we went back to my nephew’s house for a little while to spend additional time with family. Our plane left today at noon, so we had to say good to Mom around 10am. Unfortunately due to some layover delays we didn’t get home until a little while ago, but honestly it still shaved about 4 hours off of driving and was vastly more comfortable. While I am thankful to have had the opportunity to go back home and see everyone, I hope the next time we make it back to New York it is for happier reasons.

Loss of the Matriarch

Today is a very sad day for my family; Nan passed away in her sleep about 10:30am, she would have been 98 in January. She was my maternal grandmother and she was the matriarch of the family, always keeping everyone in line and connected. A very direct, outspoken, and bold woman; she ruled with a heavy hand, and was simultaneously the nicest, sweetest, and most caring person you could ever meet. Nan had a way of taking in people and making them feel like family no matter where they came from. She was also very stubborn and set in her ways. She had no qualms about telling you that any given situation would be “her way, or the highway,” and she meant it! I have fond memories of my grandmother, but the majority of them are from when I was younger, particularly when she still owned her cleaning business. This is due to my being far away for the last 20 years, having gone to college out-of-state and then moving even further away to finish college and begin my life and family. I called her when I could though, and even though she was always quick to get off the phone, as she didn’t want to take up too much of my time (no matter how much I tried to tell her she wasn’t), I always made sure she knew that I was thinking of her and that I loved her. I wish I could have spent more time with her these last 20 years. She had great stories and I am certain there are many that I never got the opportunity to hear. She will be dearly missed, but after 28 years she will finally be reunited with my grandfather.

Good-bye Nan, I love you, I’ll miss you.

More Camping Fun

The summer of camping continued this week as we spent the last few days with our great friends Alex, Nicole, and Kira camping at the Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area. This is the same area that we camped at last year for a short weekend and what spurred all of this years, and hopefully many more years’, camping trips. It was a good five days of canoeing, fishing, swimming, and general camp fun! The weather wasn’t as hot as our time in Jellystone last month, but I contribute the vast amount of trees here to helping with keeping the temperatures much more comfortable. We did have a persistent raccoon visitor this year that made the evenings a little more adventurous. This little guy, on more than one occasion, came right up to our table while we were sitting by the fire. It eventually became a fun little game for us to try to enjoy our adult conversations and still watch for his approach so we could shew him away before he got too near. I think we are all already looking forward to next year’s trip!