The Unvacation

Are you familiar with the Unvacation? It’s the opposite of a vacation. There’s more stress and longer hours – the complete opposite of what a vacation is supposed to do. Usually it comes as the result of somebody else going on a vacation.

In a few weeks, I’ll be in an unvacation as my manager takes a week off. Whenever he’s gone, it seems I get to field a lot of the questions from my co-workers and pick up anything that would have fallen between the cracks with him gone. It’s a busy time that just seems to fly by.

I have been on an unvacation for the past few weeks as my wife has been gone. All of the household responsibilities, pet responsibilities, bills, etc have fallen on me. Normally, I wouldn’t think it would have been as bad as it has been. So far, a tree fell down and knocked out the TV satellite dish (now fixed), the dog figured out how to open the gate and got out briefly (but I chased her and she returned home moments later), I somehow and somewhere got into poison ivy (which has spread from my legs to my face and some spots on my arms) , I was tired most of the time, my whole body was sore (arms were sore from chopping down trees and my legs were sore from some pretty good paced runs), and all-in-all I’ve been pretty much a mess. Thankfully, I go pick her up from the airport today and I know a lot of that stress will just melt away seeing her again.

I don’t know if I would have counted on me to pick them up from the airport. I’m not sure I would have put money on me surviving while she was gone.

Flashbacks to being alone

During one of the Summers in the college years, I lived with my sister and brother-in-law  in the same town as the university. They went on a multi-week trip to Europe and I stayed behind watching the house and taking classes. I was taking the maximum 3 classes at the University and took 2 additional classes at the local community college. While they were gone, all of my classes seemed to peak at the same time.

I remember all the major projects across classes seemed to come due on Thursdays. I would be up the night before working until 4 am just to wake up at 6am. From there, I had class at the community college from 7-9:50. I would then drive the 15 minute drive to the University in 10 minutes and be in class from 10-11:50. After class got out, I would eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as I walked from class to the Library. I would then work my undergrad tech job from noon-5:00. After work, I would head home and begin working on the next assignments with a break for dinner.

Honestly, I don’t know where the time went while my sister and brother-in-law were gone. It seemed like just a few days passed and they were back. I was so buried in work, I hardly noticed the passage of time. I traded in sleep and fun in order to meet my school responsibilities while working to earn enough for my bills for the upcoming semester.

I am currently in the middle of another solo time as Jeanne is off on a multi-week trip. Fortunately, I have a little less work going on at the moment now that I have finished up graduate classes. Spades also helps regulate the time with daily runs and her own schedule to keep track of. The time is still going by rather quickly (thankfully) but I feel like I’m making the most of the time instead of just blinking and seeing it fly by.

The #1 Morale Killer

Even in my short time working full time, I can tell you one take away: The #1 Morale Killer. The top morale killer seems to be this:

Explain your organization’s financial troubles to its employees in such a way that they take ownership of the problem and wish to solve it. Then remove their ability to actively be involved in implementing solutions, real solutions, not just empty gestures like “feel free to send us any suggestions you might have”.

For example, if your organization is looking at a budget reduction for the upcoming years, employees may be looking for ways to cut costs. When another employee decides to purchase something that costs money, it is going to be scrutinized. If they’re buying a company car, they don’t need to buy the top of the line sports car they wish they owned personally when a 4-door sedan will do for half the price. When a computer is purchased and configured in such a way that it adds extra cost for minimal performance enhancement, it should be rejected and more cost effective hardware should be purchased.

I can see why people would want to work for themselves.

Anne Frank’s Diary in high school

I found a segment from this week’s episode of Robot Chicken “Snarfer Image” a bit familiar.

At 1:18, this particular segment starts. It’s pretty straight forward with a teacher in a classroom.

teacher_duct_tape

Teacher: “To give you a better sense of what being on a slave ship would have been like, everybody get down on the floor so I can duct tape your hands and feet together. Then I’m going to choose five of ya to be the slave masters.”

Video turns black and white with yellow text: This is not a sketch. This actually happened to one of our writers in the fifth grade.

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Next frame: The teacher’s name was Patricia Anderson.
Next frame: We just want the world to know.

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In sophomore year high school English, there was a day where the teacher made us find out what it would be like to be a Jew in hiding from the Nazis. This was tied into our reading Anne Frank’s Diary and only the Honors English class did this. All the desks were cleared out of the room and there were five five-foot rectangles of tape on the floor. We were split into groups of five and we had to sit/stand inside our rectangle for the entire class period with six of our classmates acting as Nazis patrolling around the “closets” we were hiding in. If anybody made a noise, the Nazi removed them.

That was the one day of my entire high school career that I had a cold. I ended up coughing after fighting it (chewing on my hands, swallowing drainage, etc.) through 3/4 of the 83 minute class period. I was sent out to the Library to wait for the end of the class period and was assigned a one page paper to write about the experience.

I didn’t put much effort in the assignment since I saw that it was a power play the teacher was trying to use over the class. The previous day, the classroom had gotten a bit loud when we had a little freedom to talk between tasks. I thought it was ridiculous, a waste of time, and insensitive. That teacher had the reputation of being one of the top four worst teachers in the school.

In the paper, I wrote that I had died since I was caught by the Nazi’s and I went to heaven, as I sat in the Library, blew my nose, and ate Starbursts I had left over from lunch. The only mark I received back was “I’m sorry you couldn’t appreciate their suffering.” or something to that effect.

While not as bad as being duct-taped as a fifth grader, it’s certainly up there as one of my most vivid memories from high school.

The ‘finished your graduate degree’ exercise regimen

In December 2013, I had completed all of the work required for my Masters degree in MIS. Although the degree is yet to be awarded, the work stopped. It went from two classes a semester to nothing. In order to help transition with the newly found free time and get back on track, I decided to use some of that homework time for working out. I made use of an exercise bike and running in order to burn extra calories.

I got a late jump on the semester and missed half of a month at the beginning. Since starting in February, I have lost over 20 pounds. I recorded my weight daily and my activities such as distance ran and time on the exercise bike.

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The plan is to not stop here and keep going until I reach a spot I’m happy with. I’m looking forward to a more active Summer than being trapped inside reading textbooks or doing other academic work.