I’m actually looking forward to Christmas this year. The tree is up and lit, the house is decorated, and I’ve got my shopping done and presents wrapped. For the first time in — honestly, I can’t remember — we’ll be in our house and not going anywhere for the holidays. Last year Laurie and I went to Christmas; it was the first year after we lost mom, we definitely weren’t going to go anywhere near Southern California for the holidays, and we felt we really wanted to be unplugged and out of the usual places, so we went up to Yosemite for a few days and had an awesome time — just what we needed, and if you’ve never done Yosemite in winter, you’re missing a gorgeous time in a gorgeous place.

And of course, before that, Christmas meant family, and family meant Mom’s house, and that meant getting Manon and Tatiana to the boarders and packing everything into the car and moving into the hotel for a week and arguing with Mom about staying in a hotel (reason: silence and sanity) and.. and..

So Christmas hasn’t been something I’ve looked forward to for a while. And last year was really just about trying to deal with losing Mom, and figuring out what normal was again.

But this year, I realized I was actually anticipating Christmas even in early November, when I found myself considering whether I’d have time and energy to bake cookies and divinity again (answer: well, it’s a week off, and, um, no. Maybe next year).

But I’m finding Christmas something to find joy in again, not something to dread.

For those of you who find yourself on the family obligation death march, you have my sympathy and I have your back. Try to find a way to have some distance from the things that make you crazy (I have to admit, moving from the back room to a hotel did wonders for my sanity; a place is silence and refuge), and if you’re one of the people involved in organizing the family get togethers, while I get that family matters — but not at the expense of those in the family. Take some time to sit down with everyone and get past the plastic smiles and find out if they’re really enjoying the time or merely tolerating it, and what can be done to make things better.

Especially so if they’re coming long distances for the gathering. Maybe, just maybe, an occasional year off wouldn’t be a bad thing. Because if you think about it, you have your family and family traditions, but are you allowing them to create their own? My mom and I finally negotiated a truce on that, where Laurie and I got Thanksgiving, and Christmas was for “the family”, although every year, Mom tried to renegotiate the deal anyway.

And let me make it clear: family does matter, and now that Mom is gone, there’s a big hole that will never fully be filled in. But as time marched on and especially after Dad died and Mom was struggling with her physical issues, it became a real emotional strain to try to solve her problems and make her happy, but if the alternative was not spending time with her or not having her around, I’ll take the problems and stress every time. But it’s also important when you do that to try to keep an eye on yourself and keep your own happiness as protected as possible.

And Christmas is, of all times, a lousy time for it all to come together and boil over, but because of the way these situations are often set up, especially when you don’t live locally, it’s going to happen.

So take care of family. But take care of yourself, too.

Job Hunt updates

So I kicked off my job hunt a couple of months ago, and still.. No job. Which isn’t surprising, because I’ve been being really picky about who I talk to.

(hey, did you know I’m looking for my next role? Have a problem I can solve for you? Hire me!)

I’ve had a number of very interesting chats, including a couple of very interesting opportunities I ended up not pursuing; one is what I call the “95% perfect role”, but unfortunately the other 5% made it not something I felt I should tackle (with regret).

So I’m still keeping an eye out for the right role. I’m still offering a bounty of nice things to the person who helps me find it. We’re also in the period of the year where everyone’s distracted so nothing’s really going to happen, so I’m basically taking the next couple of weeks to just enjoy the holidays and not think about it much.

This first part of the search was really about moonshots, looking for that perfect dream role. It was also about really crystalizing in my head what that dream role might be and how close I might get back in the world of reality here. One thing I did was target three key companies and watch them closely for opportunities, and yes, one of those was Apple because I was curious whether I might find a fit there.

I’m mostly convinced I won’t, which is fine, but not was interesting exploring and I’m not stopping. I have been mostly exploring around the App Stores or some content-oriented marketing roles, both by standard application and by talking to a few friends on the inside, but haven’t really seen much movement. On the other hand, to my surprise, every single position I applied for in Apple’s system are still in Apple’s system (going back to October), which may imply those organizations aren’t motivated to hire, or something. It sure doesn’t seem like the roles were filled by others from what I can tell, and if they aren’t making good hiring a priority, maybe I don’t want to be there anyway..

But anyway, if you’re one of the nice people on the inside of the Apple universe and you’re currently thinking “Hey, he can help us…” I’d love to buy you coffee. Heck, if you’re not inside the Apple universe and thinking that, I’d love to buy you coffee, too. Or if you’re not in Silicon Valley and thinking “he could do this stuff for us remotely and it’d be awesome!” I’ll buy you a virtual coffee and we can Skype through the idea…

Because I’m definitely ready, once I find the right role with the right people. And fortunately, I’m in no hurry, so I can take my time and find the right fit.

Have a problem? I’d love to talk about solving it for you.

Accepting Reality

One other thing that has been going on here at the Homestead is that I’ve finally given in and accepted reality, and I’ve been researching both housekeeping and gardener services and now have hired both. The gardeners will be here for the first time Wednesday. When I re-did the yards last spring they were designed to be low maintenance, but with everything going on I still didn’t keep up with it all, so now we’ll have someone come in, do a big round of cleanup, and then keeping things clean for us. Much as I love gardening and yardwork, it now makes sense to outsource both of these, if only because I’d much rather be out with the camera than in with the vacuum… Seems like the right investment to make now.

One last thing…

Wherever you call home, however you celebrate whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you find the time happy and full of joy. For those of us who celebrate Christmas, it’s about a week away, and to you, I offer you my most merry of Christmas wishes. And to the rest of you, Happy Holidays and may you come out of the holidays happy and refreshed and ready for the world again.