Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review Time.

Well it's that time of year. Time to learn where you were ranked among your co-workers to earn your bonus, raise, and stock award.

It's a frustrating process, one that has been blasted in the media many times over regarding Microsoft- the fact that they pit you against your peers in a competition to earn the most money and biggest bonuses, and then decide upon it in a room full of managers that directly rewards you for how vocal and aggressive your own manager tends to be. Oh, you've got a soft spoken manager? Have fun with mediocre reviews until the next re-org.

They temper the process by telling everyone that an average review at Microsoft is equivalent to a stellar review at a different company, and they do give bonuses and awards that make that impression as well, with average reviews netting people large 10% bonuses. But that doesn't shake the distinct feeling that you are still just average among your peers. Especially since they only have so many of each kind of rating for each group- essentially meaning, that if there are five of you, one of you has to get a horrible rating, and one has to get an exceptional rating. This is the crux of the matter- what if you have a team of five STELLAR individuals that make the company millions of dollars each? You haveto sit down with one of them and tell them they are rated remedial. Or what if you have a team of 5 underperforming individuals that do nothing? First, you should be fired, second, you haveto give buckets of cash to a few of them.

What makes this all so frustrating, personally, is that the rewards and ratings were set and agreed upon a few months ago. Usually in June. SO, I've been waiting several months after my ratings and reviews have been completed to find out what they actually are. This is frustrating, because in the mean time, I operate in a vacuum of information in my daily work. My mid year review, my boss wrote down that I was performing at an exceptional level- but what does that even mean? Does that mean he sees me as someone who is going (or already did) earn a 1 rating? Or does that mean he was patting me on the back? Or yet even better, that he put me forth as a 1 rating individual, but my score was argued about by several senior managers that have no knowledge of me or my work, and bumped down to a 3? Who knows, the scenarios are boundless.

So I find out my review in roughly 30 minutes. Honestly my expectations are all shot to hell- I'm pretty sure I get at least a 3, but between 1 and 3, I have absolutely zero bearing on where I might fall. I'm only sure of the 3 or above idea, because 80% of the company review distribution is locked up in ratings 3 and above. So I'm pretty sure I performed better than the lower 20%. I think.

It makes the actual dollars and cents not matter as much- not that I don't really look forward to wads of cash, but I more look forward to improving myself and being a better employee. I know that sounds sort of lame and cheesy, but I guess it's just part of my personality of trying to please people, which dates back to my earliest years, when I would constantly bring my mother glasses of water wherever she was in the house, even if she didn't want any. The end result was just a lot more dishes. But the attitude and the determination are still there, albeit expressed in a different method.

Wish me luck, pray for me, and... I guess it doesn't matter, the rating has been decided months ago.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Life is complicated. So much is going on- we're going to Hawaii next Tuesday (YAY!), Judah's birthday is this week, I'm working on several new projects at work, we have a flea problem at home, I've got acid reflux disease, I'm trying to eat healthier, I'm playing in a fun tournament at work for league of legends, my son is asking deep questions that show he is grappling with understanding the whys of life, our garage door is broken, our vacuum popped a hose, we have a new vet bill, I'm trying to play drums for my uncle's church but it's not helping anything, and about 30 more things. It stresses me out to no end when I Ping-Pong back and forth between various tasks, issues, problems, and trains of thought. The only way I find a semblance of serenity is when I structure things and approach them in a methodical way- this is why computers probably calm me, why I enjoy techno music, why I chart and graph my monthly budgets, and why I love looking at stat sheets on my favorite football team, my performance in my computer games, and so on.

I don't have solutions lined up for all of the above problems, but when I segment them out and come up with a plan, it relieves a lot of the related stress for them. Finances, for instance- I'm pretty much always stressed about finances in the 3rd and 4th week of the month, because I sit down and write out my bills, look at my income to operating cost, etc in week 1. So week 1 and 2 I feel stress-free about my finances. Ask my wife- she gets frustrated at me about two weeks every month regarding finances, because I will say we don't have money for this or that, even though the first two weeks we went out to eat twice and I bought some books and $40 worth of flea repellent gear. :) Probably not going to change a whole lot in the foreseeable future, besides the usual one month respite during bonus season where we buy all the things.

I need to work on plans for the things that are still stressing me out... I need to sit down and make decisions on the garage door, on playing drums at church, the vacuum, and so many other things. Maybe I can take some time while I'm in Hawaii and think about them while I'm more removed from the situation and thinking a little more clearly. Yeah, that sounds like a great idea- boom, just made a plan. :)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

80s music, and awesomeness.

When I was about 7 years old (or around there), I started falling in love with music. Not just "ooh, this is a good song, cool" but really, listening to the music, understanding the lyrics, and finding the passion that was in each line. I had a little portable tape player, and just one or two tapes that I'd listen to over and over. My mom took notice after a few weeks, sat me down in her bedroom, closed the door, and gave me a stack of over 20 tapes. Things like Whiteheart, Petra, U2, Bryan Adams, Richard Marx, and tons of other great rock anthem type 80s stuff. She explained the passion behind some of the songs- most of it was Christian, and all of it was very interesting to me. I got stuck on "This Means War" by Petra for about a month after that.

Fast forward 20 years, my son is in love with a couple of really interesting songs. He is singing them every day, and showing lots of interest. I started to try and explain to him the passion behind the music, and I gave him a CD to listen to, but... maybe it's just me and my poor attempt at it, but you just can't compare to that 80s music that drew me in.

I've been listening to the 80's station on Pandora recently, and the most incredible music from my early years pops up and has me passionately re-living a lot of those early years- Some really great songs from Journey, ACDC, Bon Jovi, etc. Man, those guys knew how to deliver passion on a platter. Singing their hearts out about the briefest of encounters with a woman, or a brush with fate- anything they could get their hands on.

I'll keep trying with Judah, I'm hoping I can really show him this kind of stuff, but I have a feeling that it'll just naturally happen, with how interested in everything he is. Judah is eager to learn and discover *everything.* There isn't a hobby, topic, or job he doesn't want to have in the world, and that love of life and passion inside his little 4 year old brain is mesmerizing. One of the best side effects for me is that it gives me something to really treasure and appreciate about life right now, amidst the mundane that I've talked about in previous blog posts.

Listen to some 80s music for me and relive the rock 'n roll era! It's amazing! (Sure beats Justin Beiber and Rihanna garbage)

Monday, July 01, 2013


Can't wait for Hawaii to get here. 23 days...

We had such a great time in Hawaii two years ago, we're basically just going to do the same thing again. I remember it was weird, without the kids- like, when I woke up, I didn't haveto immediately get up and clean, feed, or comfort something. You can actually just sit there without feeling guilty that there's a million things that need to be done.

Mostly, I feel like our lives are a little mundane lately. I guess we're just in a season of our lives where practicality reigns supreme, and we're just so busy running around doing errands and taking care of children that it's pretty hard to stop and smell the roses and write poetry about our lives or anything like that. I feel that way not just in my personal life, but also in my church life. So many times people talk about how God is leading them to do this or that, to not drink that milkshake, or to change your oil, or whatever- and part of me skeptically thinks these people are full of hot air, and the other part just acknowledges that I'm not at that kind of a place right now. Everything is in dollars and cents, or hours spent, and my only recourse is generally just to do something physically fun and entertaining.

I took Rosemary to the track last weekend, and that was a blast. I went with Papa John and the kids to a BMW E30 picnic yesterday, also quite fun. I feel like I'm just hopping through life trying to do enough fun things so I don't check out and just go all Lando Carlissian's aide LOBOT. That might sound unfair to my wonderful wife and kids, but I know Rosemary is going through just about the same thing as well. I just find my fun in really fleshly entertainment like video games and driving fast and working on things.

I'm sure one day I'll have the time and energy to really dive back into a more philosophical & thoughtful style of living... but until then, I guess I'll keep just trying to make sure my kids are fed, changed, and learning, while getting as many reasonable breaks as I can.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Imagery of a Parent

As I rolled to a red light a few blocks away from work, a mother and her daughter caught my eye walking along the sidewalk. The girl, in a black raincoat with pink, purple and yellow polka dots smattering it, intently trying to walk while clutching her plastic bag of goldfish- the mother, guiding her away from the edge of the sidewalk that she was so intent on walking right off.

You could see the innocence of the girl- she was using all of her might to walk without falling over, while intently trying to open the ziplock bag. As her mother redirected her away from the sidewalk, she glanced up to see the crosswalk button- you could see her posture immediately change as this new object entered her consciousness. She raced for it, hand outstretched, only to wind up on the ground, having lost her concentration needed for walking. She picked herself up, gingerly lifting the prized goldfish crackers with one hand while reaching up to proudly hit the crosswalk button- and as soon as she did, it was promptly forgotten, as she turned her full attention now to opening this bag of goldfish. Her brow furrowed, she picked at the seam, with her mom keeping an eye on her to see if there were any repercussions from the aforementioned fall. My light turned green, and I carried on my way, being struck by the whole situation- not because of it's uniqueness, which there is none, but because of the innocence of the daughter, and the guiding force of the mother.

Often times, we jump from goal to goal in our lives- seeing only what is just in front of us. A bag of crackers, in this case, might be an example of the next meal you plan on enjoying- whereas the button you press might be the next activity you are determined to accomplish. All the while, struggling just to stay upright and off the ground, as your attention zips from goal to goal. The innocence of the human mind in this interaction is astounding- as we are just bouncing from one thing to the next, finding satisfying interactions that give us bits and pieces of meaning.

Aren't I just like that little girl, with my Father guiding me and keeping me from falling off the sidewalk? Even as the girl was truly unaware of her mother tugging on her hand to keep her from walking into an intersection, is not my Father also holding my hand and keeping me from walking into insurmountable danger without my knowledge? Isn't he looking down at my furrowed brow as I attempt to hit that crosswalk button, or open my bag of goldfish, making sure the fall I just had didn't set me back? Isn't he watching, every time I fall? Isn't he the one that gave me the goldfish in the first place, or held my hand as we walked down the sidewalk, or even provided the raincoat for me?

He is. Every step, every furrowed brow, every cheesy delicious cracker, every fall- He is there, as I am also there for my own children, as this mother also was for hers.

Look around- He is everywhere, in everything, looking on with love and concern over us all.