Category Archives: General News

Ending 2016 and looking forward

[Note to readers: I got very, very behind on updating this blog. I missed some very important events that I am going back and documenting now — and setting the dates back as well. I’m actually writing this post at the end of March, 2017. ]

This has been a long year, and I will not be sad to see it end. If I could figure out how to kick it in the ass on the way out, I’d be standing at the ready. Of course, I think I’d be in a long line. This hasn’t been a good year for very many people, I don’t think.

In January of this year, I had three dogs and three horses. Now I have two dogs — one new — and one horse. Sort of.

We lost Miss Guin back in January. My darling mare. She had an incredible retirement, and it was her time, so although it was sad, it was understandable.

I didn’t lose Mr. Blue — not in the permanent sense. Instead I gifted him to Heidi, the young woman who has adored him for many, many years. He’s in a good place with someone who loves him.

Rosa is our “sort of” horse. She’s an interesting story. We got her a couple of years ago with the plan to let her grow up, and then get her trained and rehomed. Unfortunately, she got hurt just a day or so after we got her. Turns out that injury is going to prevent her from being ridden.

We sent her for training back in April. By the end of June, he trainer had to throw in the towel. The lasting pain in that injury made Rosa potentially explosive and unsafe to ride. We are paying her board and looking for a permanent companion home for her.

We lost my curly boys, Pax and River, back in July and March respectively. The pain of that loss still hits me, still brings me to tears. Pax was an old man, yes, but River was not. River was lost much, much too soon.

Miss Pflouff, I’m happy to say, is still with us. She turned 8 this year. She has some issues with her shoulders, but she’s still trucking right along. We adore her.

And of course, there’s our newest boy, Mr. Polo. He has settled in and become a much loved member of our family. We missed having a curly boy.

I started a new job back in June, and it has gone incredibly well! I honestly couldn’t have asked for better. It turned out to be a blessing not to get the management position. I’ve excelled in the position they gave me, and I have terrific (new) leadership.

I’ve spent the last couple of months heads down on a big project that rolled out at the beginning of December. It went FABULOUSLY, and I’ve gotten nothing but congratulations since then. I really, really love working for this company!

The big news is what’s coming in 2017. Jay and I have decided to move… to Mexico.

Okay, sort of. We realized that he and I are BOTH working remotely, and that we’re tied only to US time zones. So we’ve decided to sell our house here, and “snowbird” outside of the country. We’re not moving permanently (or even officially, really). We’re going to keep an address here — just not a big house and 10 acres — and we’re going to pop back and forth, living in different places south of the border for 6 months or maybe up to a year at a time.

We want to travel and explore the world, but we don’t want to be TOURISTS. We want to immerse ourselves in other cultures. I’ve been planning to quit work in a few years and explore by boat, but we realized that since we’re both remote workers, we don’t have to wait.

We can’t do the boat thing right now because we need fast, reliable internet for our jobs. So we have to move and live on land, but that’s okay. This will be a good opportunity for up to get a jump start on what we want to do in retirement — and hopefully by selling the house, we can even save some money!

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Starting a New Job

[Note to readers: I got very, very behind on updating this blog. I missed some very important events that I am going back and documenting now — and setting the dates back as well. I’m actually writing this post at the end of March, 2017. ]

I’ve been working from home doing contract and freelance work since, oh, 2001 or so? A long time. Since 2008, a large percentage of that work has been for T-Mobile. I adore T-Mobile. I have loved so many of my projects there, and more importantly, I have made some very good friends.

Today I started a new adventure: my very first FTE job since I left Microsoft back in 2001. I am a “Learning Solutions Engineer” for American Express Global Business Travel (AEGBT).

The job came about in an odd way. Back in January, when I was between contracts, I posted on LinkedIn that I was “looking for an ID position to ROCK in 2016.” One of my contacts responded and said she might have something. That person turned out to be a Director of Learning at AEGBT.

As is common with FTE jobs, nothing happened quickly. She passed my resume to someone else at the org, and I ended up having a nice chat with a different director. He and I hit it off (professionally speaking, of course), but he didn’t have an open position at the time. Then there was a big shake-up in the learning org that supports the frontline travel agents, and they had several open positions. I applied, interviewed with several different people, and here I am!

I mentioned a shake-up. Not only was my senior ID position open, but several management positions (including manager of this department) and the director of this org are all open. I actually applied for a management position, but they wanted me as an ID. It was my breadth of experience that appealed to them. They need a strong designer who can think out of the box. I was disappointed not to get the manager position, but they’re paying me well, AND it’s work-from-home.

Did I forget to mention that? Yup. 100% remote!

I am really, really, really excited about this. I’m actually glad to have the (perceived) stability of an FTE job right now. I am tired of bouncing and want to belong and make a difference. Contractors are, by definition, temporary.

Wish me luck!

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2015 Year in Review

I’ve neglected this blog for much, much too long. Occasionally I would look at it and think I should post about something that had happened, but after being away so long, it seemed out of left field to do so.

But you know what isn’t out of left field? An end-of-year Christmas letter! I’m one of those people who really enjoys receiving these letters tucked inside Christmas cards, but since I don’t actually send Christmas cards, I can’t return the favor. So here is the Alexander year in review.

TL;DR: Ups, downs, we all survived. Now go drink some eggnog.

For those of you who want something a little more detailed:

5-year-old River had a tough year

5-year-old River had a tough year

We went into January happy and content. We were both employed, had a nice cushion in the savings account, and everyone was healthy. Then on January 3 — just three days into the new year — River reacted to a rabies vaccine and began having cluster seizures.

Fortunately, after a few days in the emergency clinic, he adjusted to the medication and has been largely seizure free since. In fact, we’ve identified just one on-going trigger: the vet clinic. Unfortunately it’s a consistent trigger. He gets so anxious that he has his first seizure as he approaches the door to a vet office.

This wouldn’t be a problem is he were a healthy dog, but he’s rather a fragile flower. I’ve got a plan to do some counter conditioning, but I have yet to implement it.

March saw a major change in my job situation. To my great disappointment, my contract at T-Mobile came to an end. I’ve worked there since 2007, and I would have loved to have stayed there for the rest of my career, but alas, it was not to be. Most of the company is moving away from contractors, and more than that, they’re moving away from work-from-home. Sad. I’m keeping in touch with my friends, but I still miss that place.

My lovely fireplace and red accent wall. That wall is my favorite part of my house.

My lovely fireplace and red accent wall. That wall is my favorite part of my house.

March had an upside too. We were finally ready to make serious progress on the basement remodel we started several years ago. We had originally planned to make the basement a large living room area, but I had an epiphany and it turned into a master bedroom. We have a gas fireplace, a gorgeous tile floor, a working-but-not-finished bathroom (that will eventually have a large walk-in shower), a walk-in closet, and bonus storage space. We moved down there in June, and I absolutely LOVE it.

Moving into the basement meant we were able to finally organize the house. I hired a neighbor boy and his friend to do the heavy lifting and FINALLY all the furniture is in the rooms it should be in, junk has been thrown out, and stored things are in storage. It’s quite a relief.

Finishing the basement cleared out that cash we had squirreled away, so by summer I was anxious to replenish it. When my contract at T-Mo ended, I moved right into a new position with a company called Trillium Creative Solutions. They’re a learning consulting company that primarily functions as a Microsoft vendor. I freelanced through them steadily until Microsoft’s fiscal year end at the end of June. They warned me that work would be unpredictable in July, but July turned into August and August into September. Small projects here and there, but the months crept by without anything steady. I began looking for work, but work-from-home is a deal killer to so many.

All of the job news isn’t bad, though. After 18 years working for University of Washington Medical Center Information Systems, in July Jay got a job at Philip’s Healthcare. And it’s work-from-home! Jay’s commute was 1.5-2 hours EACH WAY every day, and it was killing him. He loves his new job, but more than that, he loves all the time he has gained by giving up the commute.

7-year-old Pflouff -- thankfully healthy!

7-year-old Pflouff — thankfully healthy!

So as we moved into the fall, we had less money than we were used to, and my work was spotty, but we were doing okay. Then in October, the dogs started getting sick. River bloated. Pax had a serious attack of IBD. They recovered, and then a wave of kennel cough went through the house. First Pflouff — our strong, healthy Newf — had a mild case. Then River — the dog we can’t take to the vet — couldn’t breathe. Our incredible vet worked with us on the phone to diagnose and treat him for pneumonia. Just when we made it through that crisis, Pax developed pneumonia.

Pax. Too stubborn to pose for a picture

Pax. Too stubborn to pose for a picture

Our beautiful Pax is 14 years old. I wasn’t concerned initially, because River had just had this and came through it fine. But we took him to the animal emergency clinic… and he was there for three days. They didn’t think he would make it. When we brought him home, I think they thought it was hospice care. But he fooled everybody. He’s feisty. He rallied, and he has fully recovered.

Happy but dirty ponies

Happy but dirty ponies

That brings us to the end of December. Right now all is peaceful and content in the Alexander household. Pax is well enough to be an ass. River is curled up at my side where he belongs. I had a short project in November and early December that brought in some much-needed money. Jay is still enjoying his job. Pflouff and the ponies are, thankfully, staying out of trouble.

I’ll be glad to see the end of 2015. I’m hoping 2016 is better. I have a few resolutions, one of which is to update this blog more frequently. Hope all is well with you, and I hope to chat with you again soon!

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading!

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Reinventing Melissa, redux

In early 2007 I retired from the ClickerSolutions mailing list and found myself at a loss. I had identified strongly with the clicker trainer label and without it, I wasn’t sure who I was. Reinventing-Melissa was born. Many changes happened over the next six years. We moved to the country and got horses. I finished a screenplay and started a novel. And in June 2007 I started a five-month instructional design contract that turned into the happiest years of my career.

Tomorrow, May 31, is my last day at the job I’ve had since June 2007. Three weeks shy of six years — an eternity for a contract position. That’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one job, and given my druthers, I’d have stayed until I retired.

My husband noted once that he’d never seen me so happy at a job, and although I’ve had good positions in the past, I think that’s true. I learned a lot, both about instructional design and about myself. I became more confident about my skills and stronger in my leadership abilities.

Most importantly, though, I worked with people who became family. As I make it through these last hours, wrapping up loose ends and telling my coworkers goodbye, I have to repeatedly remind myself and them that only the job is ending. Our friendship is not and will not.

What happens after tomorrow is up in the air. It is Reinventing-Melissa all over again. We cannot pay our mortgage and feed our critters on my husband’s salary alone, so I must find another source of income. At the same time, the Universe is pushing me to change what I do, to follow my heart and become the person I am meant to be.

I’m going forward with a positive attitude and a spirit of adventure. I’m standing on the precipice with the entire world stretched out before me. I have only to pick the direction in which I want to go. No matter what: I will be all right. I will thrive, and I will be happy. I am blessed (so very blessed) and loved (so very loved).

My short-term — well, call it mid-term — goal is to finish my novel. After tomorrow I am officially a full-time writer. What else the future holds, I’m not certain, but I’m excited to find out.

To those I’ve worked with for the past six years, please know I love and will miss you. I can honestly say, it has been a privilege.

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Spring update

Here it is almost spring, so I thought I should do another update.

Work
I’m still in the same job. Without going into a long, complicated story, let’s just say my contract runs through the end of May. I love this job, so I hope, hope, hope that it will be extended beyond that, but it’s no longer about what my department, my director, or even leadership in our division of the company want. Now it’s a edict from the highest leadership in the company to get rid of contractors and trim headcount. Scary!

Still, like I said, I love my job. I started a new project last week, and I’m really excited about it. It will keep me busy through the end of my contract (or through the middle of the summer). I have a new manager, and he’s as awesome as the last two were. I’m still working with wonderful people, and still working from home. What more could I ask for?

Remodel
The remodel of the basement is still on hold. We had one chunk of cash left from last year’s overtime windfall, and we used it to remodel the barn. My husband would have MUCH preferred to finish his office, but I asked him straight out: Can we afford to board the horses indefinitely? The answer was no, so we really, truly HAD to remodel the barn.

(I do feel kind of guilty about it, though, because I got my office AND my barn, and he got nothing. I’ve offered to trade offices with him, so he can have the warm, finished office. So far he hasn’t taken me up on it. He can though, whenever he wants — really.)

The barn looks amazing!! We saved a huge chunk of change by purchasing used stall fronts from a guy on Craigslist. He only had three, but that was fine, because I wanted to turn the  fourth stall into a tack room with a locking door. We just did the bare minimum this go ’round, which means new stall fronts, tack room, water, and electricity. Water and electricity means we don’t have to run hoses and extension cords anymore. Awesome! We’re working on shelving and such for the tack room so we can keep that organized too. We don’t have a garage, so it has to hold not only tack but also tools, garden supplies, and fence supplies.

Tack room and one stall

Tack room and one stall

Horses
Since the barn is (almost) finished, Blue will be coming home on April 1. Sadly, Miss Guin won’t be accompanying him. Her ringbone has progressed, and she isn’t doing well. She’s not at the point where we have to euthanize her, but she likely will be fairly soon. Leslie, the person who is boarding her, is a farrier, and is able to work on her feet in very short sessions — a minute here and there. (She can’t even do a whole foot at one time anymore.) There’s no way I could do that here.

I’m sorry Guin won’t be here, but I’m glad Blue will be. I’ve missed him! Since I don’t like keeping horses by themselves, he needs a buddy. I’m going to foster a horse for Monica. She’s pregnant and due in June, so that will work for both of us. I’m glad I can be of help to her. She has been soooo much help to me in the past years!

Oh, almost forgot — I didn’t keep Charlie after all. Monica had a come-to-Jesus meeting with me about loading up on project horses. She’s right, and Charlie has good prospects. His training is going super well! He’s really anxious to please and just a super, super horse.

In other horse news, I was going to adopt a mustang this spring, but it didn’t work out financially. We have a good list of what needs to be done so we can, though, so we’re going to work on those things a little at a time. We’re going to start with getting the shelter and corral ready.

Todd is going to raise the height of this old shed to 9ft and put a roof on it to make a good-sized 3-sided shed. We’re going to put gravel on the floor for mud control (and fill in some place on the driveway while we’re at it), and we’re going to use those round pen panels to build a temporary corral of the required height. Once the mustang is gentled and able to move into the regular enclosures, we’ll be able to remove the corral, add a front to the shed,  and turn the shed into storage.

Old shed (minus roof) and round pen panels

Old shed (minus roof) and round pen panels

Other random bits
Otherwise, things are going well. My mom was in the hospital for a while in March, but she rebounded and is back to 100%. (Amazing lady! I hope I’m even half as feisty when I’m 80.) My husband is doing fine, and all the dogs are doing fine. Pax is getting steadily older, which makes me sad, but he’s still hanging in there.

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