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Musings and Meanderings

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

A bit of a Year in Review

It’s hard to believe with warm winds and relatively temperate weather here in the North East that last year was one of the worst winters in my memory. A year ago this week we were reveling in the fact that Liza had qualified for "Superstar" status with her company Hillman and that we were going to go to AZ in March 03 to celebrate. However the Winter of 02 03 really put a dent in poor Liza's "plan". Construction was way off in the first three months of 03 in her territory and Liza ended up over $100,000 off pace by the time the snows thawed. Although she did make up her deficit, a mean feat by no exaggeration, we are not going to Cancun this year. I guess making 100% of last year's goal is not good enough. Oh well.

The first three months of this year affected me as well. Being a sunny California boy by birth, successive days of brushing snow of my car week in and week out finally got to me. Frankly I was going bonkers by the end of January. So in the most kind and loving thing that my wife has done in the many years we have been together, she talked my mother into sending Alex and I to California for Liza's birthday present. (No doubt this was also to get us out of her hair for a long weekend as a birthday present as well!)

So in late February Alex and I spent four glorious days in Sacramento California with my Grandmother (aged 94) and other family members. We stayed at the "family" home where my Great Aunt Birdie lives, giving me a great psychological recharge. So many wonderful memories of summers and visits as I was growing up helped bring me out of my malaise. Of course spending four days with my Grandmother was absolutely wonderful and having Alex there as well was the icing on the cake so to speak.

March rolled around and Liza and I went off to Arizona for her Superstars weekend at a wonderful resort. We ate tons of food and even went horseback riding in a mock roundup! Frankly I enjoyed the weekend more than Liza as she felt she was on display with the high mucky mucks of the company.

It was a reward for the both of us, her for her hard work in getting her territory to where it was in 02 and me for playing Mr. Mom so much in support of her job. After one day of people asking ME where my territory was, however I pulled off my nametag and just pointed at Liza a lot! lol. So much for a male oriented industry! Time and time again Liza made it clear to me that the Superstars weekend was as much for me as for her in thanks for the Mr. Mom role I play. What a great wife!

All during the first few months of 03, it was becoming more and more apparent that my employer, the CableShoppe was truly and finally in it's last days. The owner and constant savior of the company was permanently out of the office due to an extreme back injury. Our service to the Cable Industry, that of fixing analog cable equipment, had become a bit of a joke, in that the industry had gone digital and we had not followed suit. The reasons for this inability to do so would take pages of blog and frankly its' not important now. The point was that for a good 3/4 of 03 we lived with the final and real probability that my employer would not see out the New Year.

2003 also brought the first signs that my Father was finally going to really retire and return to the States from Switzerland. He had retired from the Episcopal Church AND from the Naval reserves, but somehow was still working away, this time for the Anglican Church. (Dad is an Episcopal Priest). Dad and Kathy bought a home in Sanzee NH, very near Keene this year, and though they do not return to the States permanently until Spring of 04, it was great knowing that they would be back Stateside to see the US Grandchildren on a more regular basis. The downside of this move of course will be that the French grandkids will see less of their "Sunny and Poppa".

This segues nicely to the Vacation high point of 2003. Liza and I celebrated our 15th Wedding anniversary, and attended the Christening of my nephew Sebastian, in Paris France this May. All three of us flew out to Paris and spent the first weekend with US and European family. Then Sunny and Poppa took Alex to their home in Switzerland while Liza and I spent five glorious days and nights sleeping in a tiny apartment on the Left Bank a few streets away from the Musee D'Orsay, and visiting the environs of Paris in our every waking hour. (Well not every waking hour ;-)

We could NEVER have accomplished this wonderful week without the generous help of my Mother who popped for the apartment, or my Father who popped for the travel costs to and from. It's Vacations like these, which remind married couples of why they got married in the first place. We had a wonderfully romantic week, seeing great art and the city of Paris, and eating amazing food. It will be a green memory for a very long time.

As spring began to break into Summer I began to get ready for the big Concert weekend of the year for me. Steady readers of this blog know all about the North East Art Rock Festival, or NEARfest. Briefly though, it is two days, ten bands, in Trenton NJ at the gorgeous War Memorial. This year the headliners were Magma on Saturday and Camel on Sunday. Don't know these bands? Shame on you! Google them if you don't. I participated in the Patron Program this year with the additional plan that my dear college chum George would also attend. Although he had to drop out at the last minute, I went anyway, and with my excellent seats took some very extraordinary pictures.

NEARfest weekend is a time for all the Internet buddies to get together who love Progressive Rock and spend a wonderful weekend together. This year was no exception and seeing my co-mods from my Yahell trading group was a huge bonus on top of the music. I coordinated a Saturday dinner for 20 again this year, but much to my chagrin, the cook frankly blew it and the meal was royally messed up. Dinner did not come up in time for getting back for the Headliner, and so half of the party got refunds, and the other half took dinner after Magma. There will be no repeat this year with that restaurant as the festival has been moved "back" to Bethlehem PA.

One final note on NEARfest. Standing in line for Pizza on Sunday evening before the Camel set, I encountered a dear old friend whom I had not seen nor heard of for 20 years. Scott was someone who went to one of the sister schools to my college and we had many mutual friends and also spent many great times together. I was going to say memorable, but frankly some of those times we just can't seem to remember! lol. So here is to synchronicity and NEARfest.

Returning to the humdrum of the daily life was difficult after such a fun packed May and June, but we all bared up. The low point of the summer was the July 4th week knowing that our local family was enjoying sun and surf in Chincoteague VA and we were stuck in hot muggy Upstate NY.. Well every positive has a negative, and in order to go to France we had to not go to Chincoteague.

Alex on the other hand had a really grand summer. He spent the "home" time at the YMCA with his friends. Alex traveled as well this summer to the West Coast to spend time with my Brother's family visiting from France. Due to his age I actually accompanied him to the West Coast for 24 hrs. This worked out well anyway because one of the events scheduled was a huge family pic nic in Golden Gate Park to celebrate all the generations. Four generations were present and I got to spend a wonderful but brief time with my Brother and my California Cousins. Well worth the trip.

By Late September the goose was cooked for the CableShoppe. In coming revenue could not cover payroll and the CFO made a final decision to cut the losses and close the doors. This all came about in early October. After 5 yrs with the company, putting up with the trials and tribulations of the Owner, his Brother In Law, and everything else, I was on the streets applying for Unemployment.

But wait. You see two years ago I was put in charge of New Business Initiatives. The only one that actually worked was a division that repaired Consumer Electronic Devices. So at the VERY last possible moment of negotiations to reorganize the CableShoppe, the CFO convinced the Owner to hand over that division fully without compensation. So less than four days after the going home for the final time, I went back to the building and started working with the new owner in creating a whole new company.

This year Alex is in 5th grade. After last year, it has been a very difficult year for Alex. Earlier blog's have gone into the why's and wherefores as to our decision for Alex to go to Private School for 6th grade, but to boil it down, Alex's special needs due to the combination of immaturity, lack of discipline and high intellect require a more hands on approach. We cannot expect the public school system to supply this, so we are going to go to another "system" for those needs. Shooting straight from the hip here, this year's teacher is another of those clichéd teachers we read about. Tenured, very set in her ways, pays attention to her high achievers and finds no time for those who do not. This is not a failure as a whole in our local school system. Just a failure for Alex. Bottom line: Alex hates school, and he is way too young to feel that way.

Liza's work also has become if anything more hectic not less the last three months of this year, with a high number of new customers, and lots of good solid sales, Liza was able to make up her entire deficit compared to her plan for the year. This has meant many more "resets" and "new sets" than she usually does during this part of the year. These events are long, require hours of pre planning (meaning that her job keeps going after she gets home) and physically demanding setups.

So this last quarter of 2003 had been a stressful and hectic time for all three of us. My new business has diversified from just doing consumer electronic repairs to providing a host of Automobile accessories and installation. We opened a retail storefront in Late November so all the requisite marketing and setup that went with that as well. A side note is that I got to do the copy and the voice for our radio commercials, and they can still be heard by clicking on the "my commercial" at the top of the menu to the right of this blog. With the Automotive piece in place we are now moving to launching the DISH Satellite Sales and Installation piece, which involves for the moment yours truly going up on cold freezing roofs and walls installing Satellite Dishes.... woo hoo.

My review of sorts of Christmas is below in earlier blogs, but Liza and Alex are now enjoying his Christmas Break together as Liza has use em or loose em vacation days that she needs to use this week. This is, as the last two years, a great time for them to be together. Now last year I took the week from Christmas to New Years off. SOMEHOW I have fallen back into a retail oriented business and so this year my two days off are only Christmas and New Years. I worked till 2 on Christmas Eve and 4:30 today. For this I went to 4 yrs of college? DON'T answer that!

Well there ya go. I am sure I have missed a few salient points, but this is unmercifully long as it is. Have a great New Years Day and stay safe in 2004

Love to all

posted by Mike 10:43 PM


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The musings and meanderings of an overworked and underemployed mind