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Holiday clutter

Posted by joeabbott on December 3, 2011

What a mess! My home office is a litter of boxes, letters, stray bits of hardware and various half-started projects … as is my space in the garage! The build-out we’re doing for a sun room still isn’t completed, we’re in the middle of our holiday card creation, and the weather’s turned quite chilly! Throw on that the many fun obligations, a change in job, and (related to that) long hours at work … well, it’s been keeping me from blogging!

I have a Week of Joe post started that I likely won’t complete, I have a whiny “it’s been hard” draft that I can’t imagine I’ll spent another minute on, and my “blog this” emails to myself have started to grow again.

So let’s start with a simple catch-up post that will clear the slate!

New Job

In June I heard from a friend in another division that they were looking to hire someone with my skillset. While “doing the same thing somewhere else” has a lot of downside (I no longer have my support network, the new area brings lots of new stuff to learn, and I’d be an “unknown” in that group), I was primed for a change. I’d been working in the Developer Tools division for 14 years, imagemy weekend habits have long since weaned out “hacking a bit of code”, and there was a lot of “routine” in my day-to-day job. So, change came a calling and I answered the door.

The interviews went swimmingly but summer vacations, re-orgs for both my current (previous) team and the new one were in flux, and the system of offer-acceptance-transition took a while. So, my first day was sometime in late October.

The new gig is working in the Entertainment Division … which means “Xbox”. The group I’m with is responsible for acting as go-between the game/music/video/content providers and people on the Xbox Live service … the folks who buy the stuff. There’s a lot of complexity around the financials, the physical offering, and getting everything in the system but my job centers on ensuring changes we make to our system roll out smoothly.

So far it’s been a blast: the people on the team are great to work with, the problem domain is completely new, and I’m around games and gaming … which aligns a bit more closely to what I’m doing on the average weekend. And I get a lot of games for free! One of the perks to working in the Entertainment Division is that you get all Microsoft titles for free. Yup, I’m leaving home at 6 AM and getting back at 7:30 PM, but I’m moving at high speeds the entire time I’m at work and the time flies.

Week of Joe

imageAfter my kayaking trip this past fall, the next big fun thing we had planned was Week of Joe! While this is always a high point, this year I got sick! So sick that I was unable to spend time with one of the most anticipated gifts that I got: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (an Xbox video game). Yup, I was too sick to play a video game. I felt something coming down on Friday but knew we had company coming over Saturday … so, instead of playing Skyrim, I got sleep that night. Then we had the party and I collapsed for a few days.

Early in the WoJ I got out for a trip to iFly (I will write a post on that!) and another trip for a massage, but other than that I mostly just slept.

By the end of the week I was feeling better but Suzy contracted what I had and we swapped roles: I played nursemaid and she rested. The following week was Thanksgiving week so I stayed home those days for additional rest. And then I did play Skyrim! 🙂

But, it taught me that WoJ isn’t about the stuff I get, but the fun I have. That is, I got a lot of great things but it was a bit of a downer week.


P1040224We hosted Thanksgiving at our home and ended up setting the table for some 24 people. Now that was a table! Linen tablecloths, cloth napkins, stainless flatware … and plastic dishes and cups! Over the years we’ve accumulated chafing dishes, warming trays, we have two 6’ folding tables, and all the goodies noted above; all just for this sort of event. While we normally have them out for an event and then store them the rest of the year, it’s nice to be able to host a gathering and have hot meals and seats for all.

I should note that we actually had 25 people attending and owe a small debt of gratitude to Suzy’s brother Mike and his wife, Olivia, for sharing their place setting with their daughter Rebecca (who, I think, is 5 years old now). Their grace under this imposed inconvenience was much appreciated. Oh, and they provided the majority of the chairs for our guests! While no one has called on us to provide a chafing dish or hot plate, Mike and Olivia have loaned us their chairs for every event we’ve hosted at our home. It’s time we spoke the unspoken thanks we’ve felt: thanks, guys!

P1040215We also had to cut up the ham prior to heating it in the oven! We have a double oven which gives us a lot of flexibility but the double ovens fit into the space of a single standard one. Cooking the meal worked out fine and both the ham and our turkey were roast to perfection! The Stapelman clan, known more for their “insightful critiques” more than effusive praise, declared the turkey “done the way it should be done”: it was both deeply flavorful and wonderfully moist. Hats off to Suzy’s kitchen prowess!

Around the House

The door for our sunroom is being installed as I type this note. Unfortunately, what should have been the final day for their installation won’t be: the vent cover they brought in for the floor is the wrong color. If this was a simple Home-Depot-drop-in vent cover, I could handle that myself, but it’s not. We had wood floors put in and the cover needs to be built in. This is a bit of a heartbreaker as we just want it finished. Just done. It won’t be but, if we get all the other little to-do items picked up, we should be able to start adding furniture and using the space. That will be nice. Expect a long post on that project when it’s done

The chickens are well and are giving us 2-3 eggs a day. We’d expect more from our seven hens but we certainly have enough for ourselves. While the days have turned colder the hens are spending more time at their feeder eating. We think we have a re-emergence of the “rat problem” that we took care of in the summer but so far “bodies” are elusive. We have found the holes dug under our fence but our traps are coming up empty.

After Thanksgiving we put up our holiday decorations in preparation for our own enjoyment and hosting the Christmas celebration at our home. Suzy’s family of some 20+ folks will descend on the place, enjoy casual meals and gift opening, and then leave us to ride out the year in quiet solitude. That’s a part I’m looking forward to.

And we’re working on the holiday card. We’re a bit behind where we should be. I’ll blame the WoJ illnesses and family hosting activities for the slowdown. But, for me, these things just take time. I need to read and think and re-do. Which isn’t a good formula under pressure. Our families will get cards this year but they may arrive the week of Christmas!


That’s about it. I still owe many people thank-you cards for birthday kindnesses, Suzy and I are starting to enjoy our holiday activities (we went to a holiday concert last night … tonight, a play, next week will be my company party!), and I have another week of vacation time to use before the end of the year. Such a bounty of goodness! It’s a full time of year and that means fun!

Thanks for reading.


One Response to “Holiday clutter”

  1. Momma said

    ‘Such a delight to find you back again, Joe! It sounds like your plate is full to overflowing, but all good stuff (except the sick part. But sleeping is always the best medicine, so bravo to it!) I’m still mystified at the Stapelmen choice to have the same family exhaust themselves by having an entire year of hosting built into their lives. Yes, it must be nice to be DONE WITH IT for awhile, but why the need for such a brutal schedule in the first place? Well, different strokes for different folks. For the first time in my lifre, I am not buying multi gifts for all 23 (24?) people in my own clan. Friends are even getting modet gifts this year. And I am totally amazed that I feel very little regret! Actually, exhileration would be my word choice, and I can hardly believe it is ME saying that! Which probably explains how really tuckered out I am. But today I actually finished wrapping the lasty of the (few) gifts, and it is unbelievabley satisfying! Happily for both sides, I hope, my box to Joe and Suzy still looks pretty much the same, and I’m only awaiting one or two things to pop into the box, before I am 100% DONE!j AND i’ve just decided to acctually NOT send Christmas cards this year (I’ve nothing interesting at all to write in them, having only tended to my own self all year long, and also my brother’s various catastrophes that no one needs more information about…) So I’m feeling free and easy, and I hope You and Suzy soon feel the same. I enjoyed your blog, by the way.

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