Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 - The Synopsis

This year really flew by for me.  Jason found a video game job in Austin early in the year and left Denver to return home finally. I was laid off from my first video game job in August which is sort of a right of passage in this industry as I've learned from Jason. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find another Austin-based game job so I went back into contracting doing database analysis and design work.  I get to work from home 3 days per week with my current contract which totally makes it worth it.

We had a big scare recently with Abby, our German Shepherd.  She developed pneumonia again like she did a few years ago.  We caught it earlier this time but she hasn't responded as quickly to meds as she did last time. We thought we were going to lose her last week she was in such bad shape, but after bringing her home and nursing her back ourselves, she finally appears to be turning around. I am still back in care-giver mode, like my years with Nick, checking temps, giving neb treatments, giving injections, doing chest PT, checking poop, monitoring food and fluid intake. It has brought up a lot of difficult things for me personally but it's all worth it seeing her getting better and better each day.  She still has a mass in her lung and we're waiting to see if her lungs clear up or if there is something else going on with that one lung that is causing this.  Keeping our fingers crossed.

Besides the replacement of our downstairs toilets, painting the master bath, a few ceiling fans and finishing Jason's game room shelving/lighting, we haven't done much in terms of home improvements this year.  Nearly all of our landscaping died due to the ongoing drought and a tree felled by strong winds.  We had a sprinkler system installed last year but we still haven't replaced the landscaping. That's top of my list for next year before it gets too hot.

I've been busy as usual taking classes on anything and everything under the sun.  I took a CHL handgun class, a couple glass-blown ornament classes, a hand-built pottery class, airbrush painting classes, leather working classes, novel writing classes, silver soldering class, and dance lessons (swing, salsa, two-step, etc). And of course I was busy doing all sorts of weaving, and beading, and crochet, and knitting, and quilting, and chainmaille, and viking knitting, and leather working, and writing, and sewing, and basketry, and sculpting and even learned a little bit about 3D digital modeling!  

As my hair continues to fall out, I finally decided to ditch the extensions and cut off my long hair yet again. The first time I did this, although I asked for a edgy short cut, I consistently got "soccer mom" cuts.  I hated it and finally decided to foot the bill for extensions to get my long hair back.  But the thinning hair made extensions no longer viable so I had to take the plunge again.  Fortunately, this time, I had a fearless stylist and she gave me this crazy awesome asymmetrical cut that I absolutely love. I get a lot of strange looks but also some very cool comments. One of my friends said I'm the only person she knows that could pull that haircut off.  LOL.  Not long after I got it, Jennifer Lawrence cut off her hair in something pretty similar so it's all good.  

Jason and I played video games together: Defiance, Warframe, and Path of Exile.  I played PoE a little on my own, but nothing compared to my time spend last year on Borderlands 2.  We've watched a ton of films together and also listened to Ender's Game start to finish as we drove from Denver to Austin when he moved back home.  I've read a ton of books, but I'm learning that I can read a book on Audible at triple speed (I wish they offered 4x speed actually) and get through way more books that I can "read" read instead of "listen" read. I read slow but have very high reading comprehension scores.  I apparently have off the charts audio comprehension skills though because what sounds totally understandable (and sometimes not even fast enough) to me, Jason says sounds like the Chipmunks. I love that I can read fast like my super smart genius friends now but Audible books are way more expensive than Kindle books.  Sigh.

I still haven't completed my first novel.  It's a joke at this point.  I took a class that was called Book in a Week (BIAW) and it really did help get me through some difficult parts of my book, but the class started the very week I started my new job so the conflict simply didn't allow me to dedicate the time to the class and my writing that I'd have liked.  Hopefully I can take the class again, because it seems that class-imposed sense of urgency, and daily required reporting of words (count) written, really worked for me.  I still have a huge huge fear of failure when it comes to my story telling abilities so this will continue to be my Achilles heel. 

My plans for 2014?  More classes of course (pottery on the wheel, airbrushing, and mosaic classes for starters and hopefully BIAW again and maybe even a piano class since I'm just self-taught or learning a second language sounds fun!), more reading (forever looking for romance authors who know how to write a bad-ass female...not "kind of" assertive/strong, but STRONG women), more writing (PLEASE, let it come!) landscaping replaced and irrigation system repaired (mowers broke a few), reorganization of the office/spare room (which has been a total disaster area for over two years now), getting an electrician out here to wire up an outlet in the garage for my kiln (long, long overdue), getting the garage emptied out so that we can park in there again (and so I can use my kiln safely) which includes selling the practically new front-loading washer and dryer I didn't like, and setting up the daybed I bought for the office/spare room.  Hopefully we'll travel to Oregon again next summer.  I'd love to meet my new niece up in Wisconsin too (my brother's 3rd child).

My wish list (it's the exact same this year as it has been the past few years since the only things I really want are insanely, and I'm mean insanely expensive. I'd really like to find a folding floor loom that I like better than my current Ashford 8 shaft loom or alternatively find some sort of weights that I can attach to the base of the shaft frames since the Texsolv heddles are not heavy enough to create an effective shed (the lower half has little tension and the shuddle falls through too easily when weaving standard tabby let along anything like a waffle weave. My dream would be to get an 8-shaft Schacht Mighty Wolf or Baby Wolf loom with stroller.  I'd also love to finally get my hands on a long-arm quilting machine and frame for a king size quilt.  I now have 2 completed quilt tops that I need to quilt.  Perhaps I'll look up the gal in Round Rock with a couple Gammill Classics that she rents time on and see if I can try that option again.  Less than ideal but better than having unquilted quilt tops just sitting around for years. Hopefully there will be a few good games released this year that Jason and I can play together and many movies to enjoy together too.  And maybe I'll make it into the gym this year so that I can resolve my chronic dislocated rib once and for all!  I am such a good couch crafter/potato though, I get so much accomplished while watching movies or listening to audio books while crafting on my couch. :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Grieving Parent's Tribute

Today is the second anniversary of my son's death.  Nick would be 21 now.  I hadn't really thought about it yesterday.  I started a new job this week, so I've been pretty busy.  That's probably a good thing, keeping my mind active on other things.  But I woke up around 3 am and haven't been able to sleep.  Crying a lot. No surprise. And when I'm sad, I write poetry. This one came out sounding like an old country song to me, well, without a chorus. Here's my poem:

A Grieving Parent's Tribute
It's a parents worst nightmare
Standing over their child's grave
There are no words of comfort
No sanity to save

It brings you to your knees
with every breath you take
each little thing reminding you
your heart relives the break

You swim around in darkness
and wrestle with the why's
there is no answer, not this time
not one that satisfies

The pieces that remain 
you pick up and try to hold
play the hand you've been dealt
trying so hard not to fold

Life goes on, it speeds right by
you try to catch your breath
the whole world seems so callous
what's one more senseless death

As the years go by without them
you make a point to say their name
you think of them and it still hurts
but you do it just the same

Some say God only gives you
a load that you can bear
that doesn't seem to make much sense
it doesn't seem quite fair

Some say your child's an angel now
like that makes it okay
to love someone so precious
and have them ripped away

But if there is a reason
it's what they left behind
you feel it deep within you
the strongest love to bind

It changes your very core
for good or bad, a choice
one path leads to bitterness
the other to be their voice

They'd want you to be happy
to forgive yourself and live
they'd want you to find peace of mind
a place where you can give

Dig down deep within you
find the sense among the strife
live each day a gift to them
a tribute to their life

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Job Search Advice

I was laid off a few Fridays ago and had to dive head first into job hunting the following Monday.  Because I was a consultant for many years at the beginning of my career, I was actually pretty well prepared to switch gears quickly and found another really good local database data modeling job in less than 2 weeks. Although I certainly feel I was fortunate, I believe it was less about luck and more about being prepared and knowing how to go about getting a job.  

Today, an old buddy of mine reconnected with me and asked for my advice on searching for a new job. After I replied to his email with my advice, I realized there are probably other people out there that might appreciate my perspective. Keep in mind that this guy and I both have over 20 years experience doing what we do and that we're technical computer/database geeks (so some of this won't pertain to junior professionals or unskilled folks).  Here is the advice I provided.  I hope you find it helpful.

1) Update your resume. While I offered to give him a copy of my resume, instead here I'll provide basic resume hints but there are tons of examples online for you to use as inspiration.  Include your technical skills, your work history (including your job title and the technical skills you were required to know for that job), your education history, and describe yourself in terms that a hiring manager will find desirable (this may need to be revised for different jobs you're applying for), your name and contact information.
2) Update your LinkedIn profile to include stuff in your resume. Search Linked In profiles of other to get ideas of what to include in your profile. Solicit old and current co-workers for recommendations.
4) Prepare a general cover letter that you can fine tune for each job that you apply for. There are lots of examples online, but I try to convey my passion for database work so that it doesn't sound too dry or generic.
5) Look for jobs on LinkedIn, GlassDoor, Monster, Dice, TheLadder. Look for jobs posted on the career pages of all the major employers in your locale. Do the same with each of the consulting firms/temp agencies in town.
6) When emailing, include your LinkedIn profile in your signature. Accept all LinkedIn invites from recruiters. The more your LinkedIn profile is looked at, the higher chance you'll get approached for a potential job by recruiters. Use LinkedIn exclusively as a social network of professional people that can help you get a job either by recruiter, recommending, being in the same industry, etc.  This is not the place to post pics with your friends at the bar...use facebook and instagram for that type of shenanigans :)
7) Keep a communication log of each job you apply for, including the date, the person, the company, the job title, the pay rate (this is especially important if you're more flexible with your pay rate and agree to different proposed rates for different job opportunities).  I also keep a separate email address strictly used for recruiter correspondence.
8) Be positive (don't talk trash about your last job, how many idiots you work with, etc.), smile when you talk to recruiters on the phone (they'll hear that you're smiling, no shit I'm serious), be confident, show off your great verbal communication skills, make them excited to pitch you to the client/hiring manager, help them feel confident that you're the right person for the job. 
9) Think about who you can use as references, make sure these people have recent exposure to your abilities, have them in a range of perspectives (a manager, a colleague, a subordinate, someone from another part of the business that interacts with you). These people should be articulate, professional, and also people you trust to represent your interests. Get their permission and prepare a page with their info, but only provide it if and when asked. 
10) Determine culture and dress of company prior to showing up for interview. Dress slightly better than their standard office attire at that office. Too much better (or worse) and you'll look and feel like a bad fit to them when you walk in the room. 
11) Talk in terms of how you fit their needs. If you can, talk with language that subtly sounds like you've already been chosen for the position and how excited you are about joining the team so they feel how fun you are to work with (you are fun to work with, remember!!).
12) At the end of the interview, try to call out the points you think will really set you apart from the others interviewing, the things they will really desire based on the issues they've share with you about the role, and help them see what a great find you are.
13) After each interview, send a thank you email to the hiring manager and the recruiter (barring an unknown email address) that reiterates why you think you're a good fit and make sure to make it clear you definitely want the job.  

Good luck!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

M&P Shield 9mm? Check! This Texas girl is HAPPY!!

I've been looking for a nice single-stack 9mm handgun for conceal carry for a few years now.  I love my Walther PPQ 9mm, especially the striker fire trigger, but it isn't a candidate for conceal carry for a couple reasons. First it's just too big to fit in my waistband or a bra holster comfortably without showing. I'm on the smaller side. Second, like most striker-fire handguns, it doesn't have an external safety. I know. I know. The trigger IS the safety, but the trigger on my PPQ is so damned sensitive that it feels like a hair trigger and if I caught it on the edge of the holster while re-holstering, well, that'd be plain dangerous. And I'm all about safety so that just isn't an option in my book.

So I started looking for a single-stack compact 9mm striker-fire handgun with an external safety.  Not much on the market in that regard I must say.  When I found information on the M&P Shield and read the reviews on it, I was stoked!  My problems were solved!! This was THE handgun.

That was until I went to my local gun shop and found out how rare it is to find this gun for sale.  I have been on a waiting list for almost 2 years now at that gun shop.  They still haven't called me.

However, last month, on a whim, I emailed a few other gun shops in Austin looking for this piece and this awesome lady, Clara, at was extremely helpful. I ended up stopping out there one day soon after, and they didn't have one in stock, but I gave them my contact info.  I don't think it was even 3 days later that they called me with news that they had one and I could come pick it up.

After how long I'd been waiting, you can imagine, the first thing the next morning, I was out there putting down my cash. Woot! She's a beauty. I'll get pics posted as soon as I get my Crimson Trace installed on her.  Now I just have to schedule my CHP class ...  and find some 9mm ammo for sale. LOL

Thanks to Heritage Firearms for their excellent customer service!  I highly recommend them. And they even offered to help me sell my Ruger LC9. Woot!   I'm one happy Texan.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Clueless Behind the Video Game Wheel

Recently my husband started commuting to work with me.  He noted, after a few weeks experiencing my driving during Austin rush-hour traffic, that he thought I'd really enjoy auto racing video games.

Okay, I don't want to evaluate what that says about how my husband thinks of my driving, but I found the proposal interesting.  We started looking into current racing games and two of them stood out to us: GT5 and Forza4.  

There was only one problem with my getting into these games.  I absolute hate console controllers.  I've gone so far as to by a Xim so I can use my keyboard/mouse when a game isn't offered on PC.  But for this particular application, I don't need a keyboard but a steering wheel and foot pedals.  

I thought it would be a relatively simple task to find a steering wheel.  There are a couple guys at my office that play racing games, and they said hands down the G27 was the way to go. That wheel is specific to GT5 and as I learned more, it became obvious that GT5 is a race car simulator program much more than it is a racing game.  I'm not interesting in tweaking out my car's suspension or gear ratios or other such non-sense just so I can advance to the next level. 

So that had me looking hard at F4.  Everyone I talked to that played Forza 4 said it is a FUN game and not a overly complex simulator like GT5. So I started looking for a steering wheel that worked on the Xbox.  G27 is a PS3 wheel and the Xbox adapter offered for it has received ugly reviews.  So I obviously looked at  the wheel built for F4, made by Fanatech, the Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel Value Pack.  Great reviews on this wheel/pedal set so I go out to buy it but it's not available.

So I looked at the Forza elite wheel that they do have in stock. Um, well, that was a no go.  It's $600 and that doesn't include the $150 pedal. WTF.  This is for Forza 4 so it isn't like I'm playing a high-end simulator like GT5 so this just seems ridiculous to me.  

Oh, then I go back and look at the out-of-stock wheel. First I realize that the value pack sold at $249 is no longer available. Then I realize that the non-elite wheel alone is $200  (the one that 's out of stock) and the pedals are now sold separately for an additional $80.  Why you'd sell a wheel without pedals is just plain bad form in my opinion.  Sure, offer upgrades for the other higher-end pedals, but sell the base wheel with base pedals for goodness sake.  Separating them, when you need both to play, is just a transparent way to increase profits. 

At this point, I simply gave up, abandoning the whole quest.  Sure I'd like to try out F4, but if it's going to be such a pain in the ass just to find a highly rated steering wheel that won't cost an arm and leg, then it is not longer fun.  And I'm doing this because I want to have fun.  

So I'm a bit clueless, a bit disappointed, and ready to leave it all in my rear view mirror.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Car Color Personality Profile Theory

I often note odd little associations between seemingly unrelated things.  Sometimes those associations are entirely coincidental.  Other times, ongoing observation reinforce those associations, then developing into the basics of a personal theory.

One of my oddest personal theories relates to the color of a person's primary vehicle and how that may correlate to some degree to personality profiles.  I've shared this little theory of mine informally over  beer with friends a few times and more often than not, they comment days later that they think there's something to my theory.  It's pretty ridiculous, I'll grant you that, but here it is.

First, this only applies to people that actually chose the color of the car they drive.  If, for example, price is the primary factor in a car purchase, say, on an extremely limited budget (where car color doesn't play a factor), this theory really isn't applicable. Or if the color you want isn't on the lot or isn't offered for that model, then the theory isn't applicable. This thang is specific to people that intentionally picked their car color, not picked by their spouse or parent, but them. So here are the car colors and the personality attributes that I've learned to associate with their drivers:  There is absolutely zero science in this, just associations I've made over the years with the people I know and the color cars that they drive.

BLACK CAR DRIVERS (AGGRESSIVE) - These are your proverbial Type A personalities.  Aggressive, driven, status-conscious, impatient, competitive, and most prone to "road rage."  If there are two lanes at a traffic-lighted intersection, each lane with a single car stopped at the red light, if one of those cars is black, it will likely make better time off the line (response) and go faster (speed) than the car in the other lane.  If you cut this car off, pull in front of them going slower than they are, or otherwise impede their progress, they are most likely to respond aggressively either by passing you or flipping you off, or both.  These drivers are often control-freaks.  Lots of executives drive black vehicles.

WHITE CAR DRIVERS (ARROGANT) - There are two personality camps here.  Up north (colder weather) the personality is slightly different than that of the southern driver.  The northern white car driver personality is arrogant, selfish and they generally think they are better than others, looking down their nose at others and tend to put themselves first. The southern white car driver personality will have all of their northern counterparts but in some cases will actually be more aggressive like a black car driver (when asked, those people often admit they like black cars better but don't find they're practical with the southern heat/sun).  In both cases, these drivers are the most likely to pull out in front of a driver going faster than themselves, to cut people off, to butt in line, stop in the middle of the road some some unknown reason and otherwise innately put themselves (and their vehicle) first regardless of driver etiquette (black car drivers will do the same but typically only after being inconvenienced by another driver or to intentionally be a dick).  Even when at fault, white car drivers are more likely to blame the other driver.

CHAMPAGNE CAR DRIVERS (URBANE ARROGANT) - These are white car drivers that think of themselves as a bit more refined and sophisticated.  Often also have black car driver attributes.

SILVER CAR DRIVERS (SMOOTH) - These are your silver-tongued personalities, socially-adept, easy to like when first met, skillful at persuasion and politically effective. They are seldom in your face, confrontational, or overtly direct. Difficult to know how they feel as they hold their emotions close. Hard to truly get to know these people as they are more likely to ask questions of others than to offer information about themselves. Driving style is mixed.

BLUE CAR DRIVERS (CONFORMIST) - These people just want to fit in with the crowd, to be part of the general group, accepted, and will not want to rock the boat or draw much attention to themselves. Driving style is mixed.

RED CAR DRIVERS (LOOK AT ME CONFORMIST) - These are blue car drivers that want to draw positive attention to themselves.  They say "look at me!" while still wanting to be accepted by the pack. Driving style is mixed.

YELLOW CAR DRIVERS (LOOK AT ME) - These are first and foremost people screaming for attention.  They are often idealists. Some times zealots. Are often unpredictable drivers.

GREEN CAR DRIVERS (LONER) - This group I know the least about but that is likely because they like it that way. Driving style is conservative.

ORANGE CAR DRIVERS (?) - Don't know any orange car drivers.

BROWN CAR DRIVERS (?) - Similar to champagne car drivers but don't know many brown car drivers.

PURPLE CAR DRIVERS (PROMISCUOUS) - These are your more promiscuous personalities. Driving style is mixed.

PINK CAR DRIVERS (MARY KAY/BARBIE/HELLO KITTY LOVER?) - I really don't associate with these folk; however, they likely have problems.

This is really silly and I'm almost embarrassed to put this in print, but I'm bored and wanted to write a blog entry.  So there you go.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vivint Home Automation and Security - My Experience

We've been talking about getting a security system installed at our house ever since we had a few really shady characters at a garage sale that looked to be casing homes.  I'd gone so far as to call ADT and request a quote, but we'd been playing phone tag due to my hectic schedule.  And I figured my dogs, including a GSD, would probably set us low on the list of target homes for those unsavory dudes so it didn't seem pressing.

When I answered the door after work one night not too long ago, there was a Vivint sales rep trying to sell me on home automation.  Anyone that knows me well, knows I seriously get into this stuff, with programmable Pronto remotes, RF modulators, IR repeaters, Red Eye remotes, and a regular shopper at  So he was pretty much instantly talking my language.  In fact, I showed him the wifi ready thermostats I'd already purchased and was planning to install.

In addition to the home automation spiel (locks, thermostats, and lights) they also offered a security service like ADT which included the installation of door sensors, fire/motion/glass breakage detectors, and IP cameras. They also told me that they're working on a garage door opener, a sprinkler system controller, an iPad controller to replace the dated looking go! controller, external cameras and more light components.

The install was free.  The components were free.  Just a monthly service fee ($70) a little pricier than ADT and a 5 year contract.  Okay, the 5 year contract was a huge issue, but they said they'd install our stuff in our new home if we moved, the rate was locked for the duration of the contract, and it wasn't like we'd stop needing a security system.

I asked about the technology, z-wave, and the sales guy wasn't really able to give me much in terms of specifics regarding the technology.  But I did a quick search on my phone via and found z-wave components.  I asked if I could augment the system with 3rd party products and the sales guy said that I could as long as it was compatible. They also told me I could get on an email list to get new products installed as soon as they were offered by Vivint.

We signed up, and within 20 minutes I have 5 guys whizzing around my home installing a routers, a door lock, thermostats, a camera, and various detectors.  They were done with the entire install in an hour.  They trained us on the app we'd downloaded on our phones for free, had us talk to there corporate office to complete our payment/contract details and to verify they'd not used fraudulent sales tactics (they recorded the call) and left.  We went to bed that night with a fully functional security system.

They weren't able to wire into my existing home wiring because it isn't connected to a security control motherboard.  They said if I got it wired to a motherboard, they could come back to integrate it with the Vivint sytem, but that wiring the motherboard was a huge task.  I need to research this still.

The next morning I noticed my name was spelled wrong on their website when I logged into my account (, so I called the service contact number and was immediately talking to someone that solved my problem promptly and professionally. Nice!

I went to work feeling good but I still researched the company, since I knew I had my 3 day right of rescission in the contract I'd signed.  Most of the complaints I found were based on aggressive sales tactics, but the sales guy had me at the words "home automation."  So we moved the camera, and played with the system and pretty much loved it.  It's reliable and easy to use.  We told our friends and family about it.  People were very interested.  I looked up the sale guy's name on the internet and found him pretty quickly on Facebook.  I sent him a Facebook note asking him if he had contact info I could give other people so that he could get the sale.  He'd done a really good sales job so I felt confident sending him to my friends and work associates and thought he'd like the commissions.  He never responded.  (Red flag number one).

So now for the reason for why am I writing this post.  I finally had some time to start looking at for additional z-wave components, like in-wall light switches using z-wave so I can control the ceiling fan and light, and a swimming pool pump z-wave controller, and miniblind controllers, and garage door openers. Vivint doesn't offer these products yet based on their website. I found what I thought I wanted and then went to Vivint's site to see if those components were compatible with Vivint's go! controller.  But, oddly enough, I couldn't find any information on 3rd party z-wave component compatibility.  I looked in my owner's manual to see if it talked about how to install them, and there isn't even a section in the manual for installing components.  (Red flag number two).

So after much research online, I've come to the realization that the sales guy and the techs installing the system in my home had indeed lied to me and my husband when they told us that we could install 3rd party components and integrate them into our Vivint system.  After some online digging in DIY home automation forums, I found that I would have had to change a security code on the controller within the first 40 hours after the system was installed or I'd be forever locked out of that controller.  I figured this out about a week after the system was installed.  So now it appears I must pay Vivint to add any new components, and those components apparently must be purchased from Vivint and if Vivint doesn't offer the products I want yet, I am pretty much out of luck until they do start offering it.  Do I feel like I was duped?  Yes, I do.  Am I wanting to cancel my contract? No.  I still like the security system and the remote access of my video camera, thermostats and locks.  It's still a good value to me even without the home automation stuff I really want to do.  But it's still a bummer.

At this point, I'm honestly considering just spending the $208 (on sale) to buy another non-vivint go! controller (the same exact controller that doesn't have the installation lockout controlled by Vivint) so that I can get update patches and can add my own components at will. Sure I'll still have the base security components on the Vivint system with the service.  But the majority of my home automation will be controlled by the other controller which I have full rights to modify.  Kinda stupid, but Vivint really isn't giving me much choice.  I love the security system, and the company has been very professional (except for misrepresenting the 3rd party components limitations and omitting info on their customer lockout "feature") but if I want the cool z-wave stuff they aren't yet supporting, it's probably my only choice.

If you've found a work around to this situation yourself, please post me a comment. I'd love to learn what other options are available for home automation with my Vivint system (if they exist).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Literally.

It was my 45th birthday yesterday. I've been telling people I am 45 since the new year rolled in, thinking that it would ease the mental blow when the actual day arrived.  I had irrational visions of dinosaurs, shrunken granny-smith apple-heads, and denture cream.  Oddly enough, if I had to pick a day to repeat, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I'd happily repeat yesterday.

Most people would probably like to repeat something closer to their 25th birthday, I'd imagine. But not me.  It's pretty incredible to look back 20 years and see just how drastically my life has changed, how I have changed.  At 25, I was already married 5 years, has an extremely disabled 2 year old son who had just come home from the hospital on life support with near around the clock nursing care. I worked full time as a computer programmer, was the primary breadwinner, simultaneously putting myself through online university, caring for my son as best a new parent can without a medical background and I saw no real change coming down the pike in my situation any time soon.  I surely felt the world on my shoulders from the first moment I awoke in the morning until the moment my exhausted head hit the pillow each night.

Looking back, I don't really now how I did it.  I suspect all parents of extremely special needs children likely ponder this at some point.  But you do what you need to do, taking one step in front of the next, breathing in and out, checking each responsibility off your list as they're completed, be everything you're capable of being at that moment, often forgetting about your own needs, and not looking too far forward because it would be overwhelming. What a roller-coaster ride those years were!

Today, my life is irrecognizable.  I've divorced and re-married. My son has passed away after outliving life expectancy estimates by nearly 2 decades.  I've moved across the country to warmer weather and a better economy.  I've completed my education, as far as I wish to pursue university.  I moved into a new industry professionally: video games. I dabble at all sorts of creative arts including my lifelong dream of writing a novel.  I play video games, and walk my dogs, and lay in the sun by my pool reading my Kindle.  But most importantly, in 2009 I discovered my Passion Drummer, and I learned how to be happy.  It's been little steps here and there, so my new life has sort of crept up on me, but not in a bad sense.  Gradual changes are usually felt with less direct recognition.  Often, as a result, they are not as explicitly appreciated.

But last night, as I sat at a restaurant, holding hands with my husband, making goo-goo eyes at one another, and saying mushy things that I shall not repeat,  I was presented with a birthday dessert with a candle.  Thankfully the waiter didn't sing; it was a nice restaurant. As I prepared to blow out my candle, I thought of what my birthday wish should be, as I've done more times than a 45 year old cares to admit.  And, when I blew out that candle, my wish was to have my 45th year full of days just like that very day: happy.

It didn't strike me as poignant at the time.  It wasn't until I was tucked into bed and fading into sleep that I realized how special that birthday wish was.  I wasn't wanting for anything more.  I wasn't feeling that something was missing in my life.  I was fulfilled, engaged, at peace, and happy in that moment, on that day, in this life. What an incredible realization.  It brought tears of joy to my eyes.

There was a time when I truly feared that I would never find that elusive lasting happiness that we all seem to seek in corporate america and beyond. I was so driven, so responsible, so accomplished, and yet so haunted by what I felt I still lacked in my life.  I am so very grateful to lay that personal fear to rest and to have no time in my world for such notions now.  It was indeed the best birthday I could have possibly hoped to have.  As I drifted off to sleep, I thought of the love and happiness that I felt in such abundance and I asked the universe to take up my surplus to share with those in need, those like me back when I was 25.  Yes, it's probably a very new-age thing to think, but I did, and it felt good, so very good.