It was hard

Yesterday I was honored to join Zach and Jess at the Herbfarm for dinner with some friends, including some in my building. I met Carolyn and Jeff downstairs in the lobby as I was giving them a ride seeing as we all live in the same building and I wasn’t drinking. Our building does wine socials on Fridays after work and there were folks already in the lobby. One of them came up to me and asked if Benjamin was coming to the social. I politely let them know that we broke up and that Benjamin is back in Denver. Having had to cover this ground before and knowing how awkward it can be for the other person, I made small talk until Carolyn and Jeff showed up. Still, it was hard.

The last time I was at the Herbfarm it was for Jeff and Jonobie’s 10-year anniversary last summer. This was during the time that B and I were having a rough spot and only I went. Being there again reminded me of that, and it was hard.

Jason and Drew arrived a few minutes late to complete our party. After Jason sat down one of the first questions he asked was “where’s your husband”. There it was again for the second time in as many hours. It wasn’t his fault and I filled him in. It was hard.

Between one of the courses I excused myself and went to the bathroom. The music playing in the hallway was a Michael Buble song. I thought of Benjamin and it was hard.

Dinner itself, both the food and the company, was most excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with such awesome people — laughing at our favorites of the 31 jokes for nerds, talking shop about computers and the industry, and overall having a great time. I couldn’t help but thinking that were B here, he would love the food, atmosphere, and the people but still not fully enjoyed himself with the conversation. He and I have always run in two different sets of social circles and I was very much in my social element last night; he wouldn’t have been. I still missed him being there, and that was hard.

Seeing all the happy couples there last night and thinking “I use to have that”, was hard.

Today I went downtown to exchange some jeans at Old Navy and stopped by the Hallmark store to purchase a birthday card for B. None of the cards said what I wanted them to say, not that I’m exactly sure what that is. I ended up getting a blank card. Now I just have to figure out what I want to say — a task I expect to be hard.

Marriage and the Purse Strings

A couple of months ago Renee posted a blog entry on Marriage and Finances. That struck a chord with me and I thought I’d share a bit about how Benjamin and I recently changed our financial pattern to the benefit of our marriage.

For the past several years (4? 5? I lose track) B and I have shared a joint checking account where all income gets put into and out of which all bills get paid. Being the Quicken- (now Moneydance-) centric person that I am I’ve always been the one to pay the bills each month — a task I didn’t mind nor did B mind that I was responsible for. Last year finances became a bit tighter than they were previously with tuition going up, buying the house, and installing the A/C into the house. The unfortunate consequence of our system and this tightening is that I became the controller of the purse strings.

Knowing the “pulse” of our finances and the running tally of disposable income in my head I was giving B some very mixed signals: “oh sure, we can buy item A” might get followed up the next day with “no, we can’t afford item B”. This situation was taking a toll on both of us as I was stressing about managing our expenses to within our means and B couldn’t find the pattern to my mixed signals. After one heated conversation it came out that while I was really stressed out over our finances, B wasn’t stressed out at all (and why should he have been — I hadn’t been sharing enough information)!

I thought about it some and after a discussion with B we decided to move to an envelope-based system for our discretionary funds. One weekend on a trip to Target we purchased a small whiteboard, hung it in our kitchen, made a column for “money left”, and wrote our month’s total discretionary budget at the top of it. Every time we make a discretionary purchase we subtract the amount spent. If we get down to zero before the end of the month we’re stuck at home eating bread and water for the rest of the month. If we get to the end of the month with a positive balance we divide it in half and get to spend it however we want.

This approach has made me much less stressed out and, not surprisingly, has given B a healthy amount of stress and awareness about our finances. The entire process has improved our relationship and enabled us to stop arguing over money.

Anniversaries: Personal & Professional

Monday, June 1st was my 6th-year anniversary with Benjamin. We met 6 years ago on a blind date set up by a mutual friend to see Miss Saigon. We celebrated it by recreating our second date: we had dinner at Schlotzsky’s and then proceeded to see the movie Up which was amazing. Well, technically our second date was dinner at Schlotzsky’s and then dancing lessons at RCC so it wasn’t a total recreation — but neither were we 6 years younger either :) Benjamin did seem to enjoy his dozen + 5 roses.

Tuesday, June 2nd was our 3-year marriage anniversary. To celebrate that we’re seeing Rent next week and staying in a hotel downtown.

Today, June 5th, is my 9-year anniversary at IBM. When I was hired at the peak of the dot-com boom I never thought I’d be at IBM for 5 years, much less 9. During my second performance evaluation roughly 18 months after I started I was told that I was getting a raise, not just because of my good performance but because if they didn’t new hires would be making more than I did. It was then that I discovered that the hiring managers didn’t consider me a strong candidate and weren’t going to offer me the job until one manager stepped in and said he thought I’d be a good fit and would vouch for me. I never did end up working for him though. Thus I was hired at the lowest salary they could offer a college graduate (which was sadly the highest offer I received by far during my job search). Since then I’ve proceeded to impress folks — at least according to my performance evaluations. Here I am 9 years later a well-respected Senior Software Engineer (band 9) and a performance subject-matter expert on all things ITIM, including the IBM LDAP server and DB2 database. It’s been a fun ride! I’m looking forward to an extra week of vacation next year and seeing where IBM’s headed from here.