Work Plans versus Vacation Plans

Yesterday, on my personal blog I posted a list of projects I’m working on or plan to work on in 2018. I originally hadn’t planned to publish the post here as a 52 post, then something of value and truth about myself surfaced.

I’ve always been more at ease planning for work things to do than planning for times of relaxation. Even on three-day weekends, I find myself working whether it working on the house, in my yard, or working on the computer. It’s not that I don’t enjoy or need a vacation, but there is something about vacation planning that I find stressful. I don’t care to know why, I just know this is how I feel.

I suppose if work is my drug of choice, while I want to break free from my my drug of choice, I don’t always look forward to fighting my addiction. Once I’m there though, I’m pretty happy and acknowledge I need my vacations and weekends away from work. But the journey to get there always seems tougher on me than it should be.

So maybe, a bigger challenge for me isn’t to write a post on the projects I wish to accomplish, but to begin listing my plans for what to do when I’m not working and not working on projects. Until then, for those curious these are the personal digital projects I’m working on this year.

A One Year Evaluation for socPub

The month of April will mark the one year anniversary of rebranding CMS Report to socPub. For all the work I’ve done with the website, the number of visitors to the site are no more than I had in the final year of CMS Report. I need to take an honest look at the numbers and determine if my current vision of expanding the site beyond its content management niche has been a good move or not. Currently, I feel the website is just surviving on its past legacy and isn’t exciting a new generation of regular site visitors. Something is still missing with the site and additional work needs to be done.

Powered by Battery

Last year, my teenage son and I talked about building a website focused on battery powered tools and devices. We’re still working on the concept, but limited time has prevented us from implementing this father-son project. I’m really fascinated with the electrification of tools and vehicles that have traditionally been powered by gas. One of my goals for 2018 is to get Powered by Battery off the ground with the appropriate articles and product reviews.

Less Time Spent on Social Media

For the past year, I’ve recognized that the more time I spend on social media, the less time I spend doing more creative things. While I enjoy the connectivity that social media allows, I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time. Instead of trying to abandon social networks such as Facebook or Twitter alltogether, I’ve decided a better approach would be to become more efficient in how I interact on social media.

Currently, my plan is to use my websites’ RSS syndication to post articles and fan them out to the social networks through the use of I’ve been using the free subscription for a number of years, but  decided to go “pro” so I could post to more than three social accounts. My idea isn’t a unique one as there is a POSSE movement that has adopted a content publishing model where you “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere”. There are POSSE purists that will only push content out via their website but I’m not one of them. If it’s simpler to just go ahead and post something directly on a social network than via a blog post, I’m definitely going to do just that.

Challenge: As I mentioned on Dries Buytaert’s blog, I’m finding it is a tough balance and a lot of work to figure out just how much to rely on automation for reaching out to social networks. While the goal is to focus on the blog and let software worry about social media, I’m finding I’m still doing a lot of policing of social media than I’d like. Plus, I haven’t quite figured out the best way to manage and respond to comments and other feedback found only on social networks in response to my articles.

Dakota Imagery

My wife’s photography website is in need of a refresh. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked on her website beyond a few tweaks here and there. Her focus in photography as a business has also changed so I’d like to redesign the website to reflect her more current goals with her business/hobby.

More Thoughtful Posts

Beginning this year, I wanted to challenge myself to write one thoughtful article a week. While I could have done this at or, I find both sites have too much baggage to allow me to write as freely as I want. That’s where Fifty-Two Posts a Year comes into the picture. So far, I’ve enjoyed writing articles there and have been pleased with the response to the articles I’ve written. In order for the writing to remain fun and not a burden, I’m using the site’s theme of one article a week as a guideline and not a rule.

Bonus: The website is also using WordPress for its content management system which is also forcing me outside of my Drupal comfort zone.

So this is where I sit during these cold and snowy months of February. These are the projects things I’m currently working on or I’d like to work on in 2018. We’ll see just how distracting the warm more inviting days of a South Dakota summer will allow me to complete these projects. If I decide to go for a bicycle ride instead of spending time in front of a computer, I’m fine with that. There is always next winter go get these projects done.

Age Allows Fantasy to Become Reality

It’s no secret that I am a science fiction fan. When dating my wife, one of our first kisses was from me becoming overjoyed after I found out she stayed up too late the previous night watching a “dumb movie” on the SciFi channel. In my book, a girl willing to lose some sleep watching science fiction on TV was a girl worth dating.

One thing that has always made me uncomfortable with science fiction is when science doesn’t support what’s happening in the story. So for instance, in Star Trek I could always buy-off on the science behind the crew’s planet-to-ship handheld communicators and even the ships transporter (which turns matter into energy and then energy back into matter).  But the concept that humankind in a few centuries could build a ship that traveled faster than the speed of light is pure fantasy. Fantasy doesn’t make a show less enjoyable to watch but it’s not science nor grounded in reality.

When I was eleven years old, there was a television show called Salvage 1 starring Andy Griffith. The premise of the show was focused on a salvage man’s dream to build a rocket, go to the moon, and bring back to Earth the old Apollo mission “junk” for resale. While his character’s use of a semi-truck cement mixer for the capsule or that a salvage company had the resources to build and launch a rocket seemed far-fetched…I could buy off on it.

Although Salvage 1 barely lasted more than a season, the show fed into my desire to see companies outside of NASA being able to launch their own rockets. Even as a child of the 1970’s, I saw no reason why private citizens couldn’t be capable of space travel. However, the fantasy in the show was a big distraction for me.

The show ridiculously showed Salvage 1’s rocket, the Vulture, having the ability to land on its own feet and then be reused over and over. The science and technology I knew at the time said it was nearly impossible to safely land a rocket on its feet safely to earth.

Then 35 year later in the real world, a man by the name of Elon Musk comes around, builds his own rocket company called SpaceX and safely lands booster rockets to earth. What does he do with the used booster rockets? He salvages them and reuses them for later flights. My fantasy of seeing rockets do this has unexpectedly become my reality.

When what you thought was impossible becomes possible in your lifetime…it humbles you. Moments like these simply gives you hope that maybe, just maybe, you were wrong about other impossibilities in your life.

Failure is in the Eye of the Beholder

I’m late, so you think. I promised you a weekly post this year and I’ve already neglected to provide you last week’s story. Last weekend was a busy traveling hockey weekend for my son and me, but nevertheless you think that’s no excuse for having failed you. The old me would have agreed with you. The new me says, that’s bull.

By my nature, I’m a very task oriented person. I don’t let go until the job is done. Several years ago, I started a 365 Photo Project with the goal of publishing a new photo each day of the year. By March, my joy in taking photographs turned into a miserable experience. With only eight miles between home and work, there just wasn’t enough interesting and inspiring photos to take on my daily commute. The year-long project I had envisioned only lasted for three months.  I still can’t crack a smile when I look at the photos I took during that project. I labeled that year’s resolution a failure and to this day I still feel I owe somebody a couple hundred more photographs.

Let’s not forget though, I started the year by stating that I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions and checklists are great for getting things done that you have to be done, but they have become a distraction to for how best to measure my personal growth as a human being. My intention here is for me to reflect on my week it is not to write one post a week. So, while chauffeuring my son from ice rink to ice rink last week I knew I wasn’t going to be writing any blog posts that week. If I had provided you a post last week despite the stress of having little time to do so, that would have been the real failure here. This isn’t about completing a resolution but finding a better direction in life.

For those though that just can’t let go that this my blog that literally says I’m giving you “Fifty-Two Posts a Year”, please read the fine print. I can skip blogging one week and provide you two posts another week.

363 Miles from Home

Here is a fun fact. I’ve never lived more than 363 miles from home. To be exact, outside of my college years, I’ve always lived exactly 363 miles from my childhood home in Kansas City, Kansas.

My first job after graduating college landed me a job at a Weather Service Meteorological Observatory in southwest Kansas. My apartment was 363 miles away from my parents’ driveway. A couple years later, my next job took me to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. To my surprise, on the first visit from Sioux Falls to Kansas City I found that I added exactly 363 miles to my truck’s odometer.

I never planned to stay in Sioux Falls and my goal as a young adult was always to return home to Kansas City. After a quarter century of living in this South Dakota city, I’ve come to realize my plans to return to Kansas are likely to never be realized. But you know what, I’m OK with that because Sioux Falls has treated me well. Now, when I visit family and friends in Kansas City, I refer to Sioux Falls as home. Sioux Falls is where I married, prospered in my career, made great friends, and am currently raising a teenage son. My life would be a sad one if I considered my only home to be where where I grew up and not where I have lived most of my life.

The best part, 363 miles from home works both ways. I’ve never lived more than 363 miles from my Kansas City home.  I’m also never more than 363 miles from my Sioux Falls home when I’m visiting Kansas City. The number 363 is a magical number to me.

Alone Time

My son had a out of town hockey tournament this weekend which resulted in my family leaving me home alone. In the past 48 hours, I’ve been the only human being in my house. My only duty this weekend was to take care of our dog Jasmine and the two cats, Oreo and Maya. What a wonderful gift I received in this opportunity to be alone and to be just me without interruption.

I know some people that can’t stand being alone. There are people that have to constantly have someone around to be content and happy. This has never been me. I can go for several days without seeing another human being before I actually feel lonely. It has nothing to do with me not liking people. I value my time with family and friends very much. Instead, this has to do with the importance of solitude in my life.

Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Loneliness happens when we no longer want to be alone and we desire to be around people. Solitude, on the other hand, can be defined as a “state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness”.  Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.

The greatest obstacle to finding solitude most often is not trying to find alone time but the guilt of feeling selfish by not sharing our time with others. In my single days, being alone was easy and admittedly at times lonely. Today though, as a husband and father, I’ve been conditioned by necessity to make sure I’m available when my family needs me to be available. Even this weekend I feel somewhat guilty I’m not watching my son at his hockey game and cheering him on as he attempts another shot at the goal. What kind of father doesn’t show up for his son’s hockey game? It doesn’t matter that others will tell me it’s OK to put myself first from time to time, I still feel I’m losing some points toward being a good parent.

It’s important to remind ourselves that while solitude can bring us joy it doesn’t have to be out of selfish reasons. Solitude allows you to also improve yourself so you can be a better person when you are with others. Sherrie Bourg Carter in Psychology Today gives reasons you should spend more time alone. In her article she lists six benefits of seeking solitude:

  1. Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind.
  2. Solitude helps to improve concentration and increase productivity.
  3. Solitude gives you an opportunity to discover yourself and find your own voice.
  4. Solitude provides time for you to think deeply.
  5. Solitude helps you work through problems more effectively.
  6. Solitude can enhance the quality of your relationships with others.

Despite wanting more time for solitude, the reality is that having a family requires you to divide your time between work, your family, and “me time”.  In most cases, work and family come before my own desires. But you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way as I understand my time with my wife and son are just as precious. But how do you find solitude on the normal days full of work, family, and being your child’s personal Lyft driver to all their activities?

Most of my mornings waking up as a child were seeing my parents already up and reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in the other hand. They weren’t seeking an hour of less sleep or necessarily enjoying the sunrise but instead enjoying the solitude before their family reminded them they weren’t alone. For me, I’ve found that most often solitude doesn’t come in periods of hours or days like this past weekend but in minutes. I’ve found that by getting up an hour or half-hour earlier than everyone else in the house…I can have at least a small dose of the solitude I seek to get me through the day. It seems to be working.

Skip Resolutions, Find Direction Instead

This year, I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions. Every year I promised myself to lose weight, bicycle more, and be happy. Every year, I fail miserably. What good is a resolution if at the end of the year I’m standing exactly where I started? But let’s say I did achieve all my New Year’s resolutions. How much alone do accomplishing these resolutions bring value to a person’s life?

I think making New Year’s resolutions is a distraction from how best to measure one’s life. Life isn’t about completing a checklist but about finding your way in this world. I am at the age in life where I have started to lose older family and friends at an unsettling rate. After their death, I’ve never witnessed anyone reminisce about whether the departed completed their bucket list or not. Instead, mourners focused not on the person’s checklist but instead the overall direction their loved took as he or she lived his or her life.

I think for a life to be of value, there are four positive directions we can choose. We can face the East to greet the Sun and welcome the new day. We can face West to reflect on our day as we seek closure. We can also look to the North for adventure and starting something new or we can head South to relax under the warm Sun and be content for what we have. None of these points on the compass is a bad direction to choose. The nice thing is that on this map you don’t have to go a single direction your whole life but choose your own course and move in multiple directions along the journey.

But I think the worse things you can do is to stay stationary. Stationary is a nonexistent direction. What value is there in life to not move toward something that will bring good to your life? None I think.

So, on the first day of this new year, I choose East.