Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Key Largo

This past weekend we had the opportunity to attend my niece's first birthday party in Miami and parlay that with a couple of days in the Florida Keys.

We usually get together with family a couple of times a year and a first birthday party is as good an excuse as any to fly out to Miami.  We were fortunate to stay at the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove a few blocks from my brother-in-laws house.  The kids enjoyed time at the pool and dining out.  They did not enjoy the fact that the hot water boiler was not operational and we had to settle for cold showers or a shuttle to the Marriott sister hotel.  The event itself was well attended and catered by a local Indian restaurant, had fresh coconut water (complete with a duo opening coconuts on site) and slip and slide activities.

It is a little over an hour to get to Key Largo along US 1 and the Playa Largo is one of the newer resorts in the area.  They had a nice pool along with the ocean front property that had stand up paddle boards, kayaks and a catamaran for rent.  The resort also had other activities like tennis, basketball and ocean fishing, but we stuck to the pool and the ocean front.  I let myself down by not doing some open water swimming.  The water was 80 degrees and perfectly still and they even had buoys set up, but I was not up for a workout.  The dining options were reasonable and centered on seafood and was only moderately kid and vegetarian friendly.  We went off resort for dinner one day and brunch the next day.

I did get some scuba diving along Molasses Reef.  We went to two shallow dive sites that were well within my comfort level.

(1) Hole in the Wall - aka Yellow Brick Road - Max depth 30 feet, water temperature was 83 degrees and I was comfortable without a wet suit or even a rash guard for the 45 minute dive.  We saw manta rays and a shark in addition to parrot fish and other tropical fish

(2) Permit Ledges - Similar depth and water temperature, but with a bit of a current so it was a fun challenge to navigate around.  I saw another shark here in additional to the usual tropical fish.

Rainbow Reef was a pretty good outfit.  I rented a BCD and fins, but brought my own mask and regulator.  The dive boat took 28 of us out.  Maximum capacity was 30.  Two groups of 6 divers went out with dive guides and the remainder were participating in training.  They were organized and the diving briefings were very good.  Captain Wade and Luke took us out and Diver Tina (Dina) was my guide.  I am considering getting a travel BCD so that I can be less dependent on rental gear.  While in good condition it is always better to be very familiar with your equipment.

The drive and flight back was uneventful with the exception of checking out the American Express lounge at the Miami airport.  For those with a long layover, it would be a good opportunity to enjoy the spa along with food and drink.  It was a bumpier than usual flight back and we were all pretty wiped out.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

48 Hours in Memphis

It seems like the only times I had to visit with my parents this past year have been weddings or when they have come to visit Denver.  That is fun, but really doesn't give us much time to talk uninterrupted by life, children, etc.  With a cheap fare on Frontier, I decided to fly out for a couple of days.

It is nice to be of service.  I helped out with some visa paperwork so that my cousin could attend my sister's wedding in the fall.  I helped my Dad update his coin inventory spreadsheet.  Finally I helped clean out some of their storage spaces.  All said we sent about 150 books, 50 articles of clothing and a few household items to Goodwill.  I also filled the recycling dumpster and trash dumpster with stuff that could not be donated.  A lot of this was paperwork, hindi novels, household goods and children's toys.

The books were especially interest as my Dad's library could be categorized into religious books, coin books, bridge books, business books, English composition and grammar books, self help books and novels.  The books to keep were religious, numismatic and bridge.  The rest could be discarded.  I was struck by how much my Dad struggled with professional business conduct, speech and writing.  Although he made it look easy, I now better understand the struggle to survive and advance as an outsider in a US based business.

We had some fun also.  I got measured for a tailored suit by a friend of the family.  We also made a trip down to Tunica for some casino gambling.

While my parents health is good, I am glad that I can spend some time with them.  It is also nice to get a head start on cleaning up the house in case they decide to downsize to something more manageable.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Orlando (without Disney)

This past weekend, we made a family trip to Orlando.  My wife was attending a conference and the kids and I decided to tag along.  I usually do not like quick trips and I have too many memories of being exhausted after spending 8-10 hours at various Disney attractions.  This trip was different and really relaxing.

We stayed at the Hilton near the convention center and did not have any plans.  Me and the kids played basketball, tennis and lounged by the pool.  We slept in, watched television and ordered poolside lunches.  It was glorious.

The pool has an adult section, kids section, lazy river, water slide and in pool basketball nets.  There is only 1 tennis court, but it was never occupied when we wanted to play and it was in good condition.  Basketball was a little busier (and the basketballs were in rough shape) but it was still fun to play "HORSE" and "PIG."  Most of our eats were bar food.  Our room did have a refrigerator and their was a community microwave in the vending area.  Overall our room was really nice.

We also hit the outlet malls for some shopping.  I think we spent more on food and drink than clothes, shoes and accessories, but that is the way it goes.  One of the highlights was dragon's breath.  Basically it was a flash frozen fruit loop concoction that you would eat and "smoke" would pour out of your mouth.

Another highlight was Top Golf.  We are not a golf family, but the venue was only 5 minutes from our hotel.  We got on the wait list and came back 90 minutes later when we were up in the queue.  We were given a bay and we all had fun hitting golf balls off of the upper deck at various targets.  For my girls it was their first time swinging a club and I was surprised at the contact and consistency they had.  I wish I was a better golfer so that I could give them better pointers.

We also had a chance to visit with some family and all spend quality time together.  With my schedule, my wife's schedule and the kids friends and activities, it is rare that we have captive time together.  There were no earth shattering insights or seismic shifts in our relationships, but I feel like we are all a little closer.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Out with the Old Part II

I did a house purge in January of 2017 and thought everything was in order.  It seems that this process needs to be an annual event.  This past week, I repeated the process and sure enough, things were equivalently in disarray.

The easy stuff was 4 lawn and leaf bags full of boxes (shoes, small appliances, china set, etc).  Then it was sorting donation items.  I have a full bin of clothes that are mostly from the closet, but some were in storage downstairs.  I grabbed some engineering textbooks and novels to donate.  Then it was an old Tivo and VCR.  Next there were some household goods including a dish drying rack and a magazine rack.  The biggest pile of stuff to sort was bags.  We picked our favorites and still had a lot of luggage, shoe bags and backpacks to donate.  It is going to be quite a few trips to Goodwill.  We may even have enough for a yard sale.

At this point stuff that lives in the basement was identified.  I was able to go through our finished and unfinished storage and get everything accessible that needs to be accessible.  I binned up a lot of stuff from hobbies I am less active in (arduino, raspberry pi, reloading) and was able to squirrel away a lot of clutter.

Outstanding items include going through books, VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs and office supplies.  We have a tremendous amount of office supplies that need to be accessible.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Goodbye 2017

2017 was another down year for the household, marked by my ignominious departure from Oracle and entry to the oilfield.  I was away from my wife and children for a total of 4.5 months and the first two week stretch marked the longest we had ever been separated.  There were some bright spots as well.  My first born started fifth grade and my second born started third grade.  They both continued with piano.  They both enjoyed playing basketball with i9 in the spring and starting with Apex in the fall.  They both participated in the talent show.  They both participated in the Science Fair with 1st place and 3rd place projects.  We got out for a few days of skiing and Keystone and Eldora and were even featured in Keystone marketing material.  We did not have any new adventures this year.

We took 3 family trips.  We did a road trip to Mount Rushmore in the summer.  Flew to Miami to visit family in September (I slipped in a day of scuba diving).  Finally we attended my cousins wedding near Philadelphia in December.

Professionally was a whirlwind.  I have grown considerably as a field engineer and proved to myself and others that I can tackle adversity, maintain enthusiasm and remain teachable.  Considering that I fell into tech via a temp agency gig, maybe the Oil & Gas business could be my true calling.

My community involvement fell off a cliff.  I maintained my Board position at Woodrow Wilson Academy and the Arvada Triathlon Club (I resigned this position as of December 31st).

My hobbies similarly fell off a cliff.  I did CrossFit and the CrossFit open before starting my new job.  I maintained my membership at Aspire.  Between Aspire and the Target Logistics man camps, I was reasonably consistent on the treadmill, calisthenics and some skills training.  My weight went up due to overindulgence and sedentary employment.  I did not do any racing.

I maintained my interest in coins adding 2 US Coins and 6 Ancient Indian coins.  I did attend the World's Fair of Money held in Denver with my two daughters.

I got out for 3 days of skiing at Eldora and 1 day at Keystone.  I got in two days of 2 days of scuba diving, one local trip and one saltwater trip in Miami.  I got to the rifle range 1 time.

I only read one novel this year, "The Chemist" by Meyer.  I did read several non-fiction works, all oil field related.  My favorite was "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels" by Epstein.  It truly opened my eyes to the suffering in the world related to insufficient access to energy.

It is hard to flashback and find a best purchase for the year.  I bought a great pair of Red Wing Boots and a GoRuck backpack for work.  I would recommend both products highly.  In terms of fun stuff, my only purchase was a Surly Cross Check, which I love, but have not been able to ride as often as I would like.

Other highlights from the year include household improvements including a new air conditioner, water heater, furnace, loft furniture and living room furniture.  The New England Patriots won the Superbowl and the Houston Astros won the World Series.  Matt Frazier and Katrin Davidsdotter both repeated by winning the CrossFit games.

Best wishes for 2018!

Monday, December 18, 2017


The family enjoyed a nice get away to the East coast to attend my cousin's wedding.  We flew into Philadelphia and first stopped in Dover, New Jersey to visit my wife's cousin who recently purchased a new home.  The next day was site-seeing and we stopped by Liberty Island and then the Liberty Science Museum.  As it was a bit chilly, we did not actually do the boat tour and see Ellis Island, but it was still pretty cool to take in the park.  I was really impressed with the science museum which had a lot of interactive exhibits.

From Liberty Park, we headed to Edison to New Jersey to visit another one of my wife's cousins.  Edison has an extremely large Indian population and my wife was able to do some shopping, while the children played.

After Edison it was down towards Atlantic City.  The wedding was held at the Carriage House in Galloway, New Jersey and we were staying at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.  Both venues were amazing, but would have been much nicer in the summer time.  The Stockton Seaview was a great hotel with a game room, restaurant, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and other outdoor activities like tennis and basketball which we did not bother exploring.

It was a whirlwind trip and certainly felt like it as well.  It was great to be in attendance to personally wish Nina and Ajay all the best, but it would have been nicer to spend a few extra days milling around and catching up with extended family.  I did not even get a hoagie.  The food at the wedding was incredible.  I think the highlights were the appetizers provided by Five Chefs which included lamb lollipops, pani puri shooters, and dhai vera with edible spoons.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Living the Dream: Plan B

It still amazes me how difficult it has been to transition from a 9-5 office job to a field job with 50% travel.  I started out treading water and that was fine.  Somehow it seems like I am still treading water.  I used to wear a number of hats and I still do, but none of them seem to fit well anymore.

My roles in life include husband, father, son, brother, friend, citizen, employee, athlete and hobbyist.  As an employee, I am on a new trajectory.  However as a husband, father, son, brother and friend, I feel like I am taking more than I am giving back.  As a citizen, I have curtailed my contributions significantly.  I am still involved with the elementary school, but have stepped back from the HOA and intend to step back from the local triathlon club.  As an athlete and hobbyist, my participation is erratic at best and more likely non-existent.

The glimmer of hope finally came this past couple of weeks.  I was able to spend all of my time off with the family, training and catching up on outstanding commitments.  The kids and I went roller skating, made pottery and jumped around at Spider Monkey extreme air adventures.  We sat down for Thanksgiving dinner and had some friends over for dessert.  My wife and I were able to enjoy a date afternoon.  I got out on the bike two days, got a couple of runs in and made it to the gym pretty consistently.  Further, I made good on some of my community obligations.

My life goals have not changed.  I still seek spiritual peace, enjoying time with my wife and daughters, being fit and energetic, designing/developing technically innovative products and pursuing new activities and adventures.  The path towards the goals looks a little different.  My travel schedule has reinforced my goals and I do not take family for granted.  I know that I have to be creative in order to stay fit and energetic.  Adventures are certainly more accessible with a little time management.  What I need to seek more diligently is spiritual peace.  While a shake up should make me more trusting when life's pieces come back together, it has not.

I still feel guilty when I am out of town and leave my wife to be a "single parent" juggling her rewarding professional life, the kids activities and managing our household.