missives from mid-america

Author: Chris Borresen (page 1 of 3)

Doctor, Lawyer, or NASCAR?

Eli and I went to the local “sports” center for an early morning ride around the go-kart track. First run, we took a tandem with a dummy steering wheel for him. He was not fooled, but he had lots of questions for me as we went around the track a few times.

When we stopped, he got to hop into a single car (kiddie version, speed limited) and looked at me in disbelief. Once the guy rolled him out onto the track and started the motor, he was all business. After the fact, I asked if he ever hit the brakes – he said “No, but I didn’t push the gas all the way at first. I did later, though.”

The last time he had full autonomy in a motorized vehicle, it was a battery-powered Jeep toy and he didn’t use his hands.

He’s been very adept on his bike (riding without training wheels since he was 4) and learning various other riding contraptions. Also, my dad lets him steer the tractor when they ride around together, but he’s aware that Papa has control, ultimately. This was his first time with full control, and he ate it up. Stayed between the walls, too!

15 Years Ago On This ‘Ol Blog

Interesting how things change, isn’t it? In the year 2001, Amazon was gaining traction, but not yet a household name. I figured it would be cool to have a blog like the ones I’d seen for other people. Most of them were dedicated to some sort of activity or group, or else they were built into a framework that someone else maintained. Blogspot may have been out there, but I wasn’t yet aware of it, for example. Plus, I wanted to get this domain name and figured I’d probably be posting up lots of photos with the .5 megapixel digital camera I had scored at my job. Oh yeah, Flickr didn’t hit for another year or two.

Anyhow, here’s the site, as documented by the Internet Archive:

So few friends and family had computers, let alone phones, back then, so this mostly went unseen. But, it’s the closest thing to a diary I’ve kept over the years.

Oh, so after FrontPage, there was an open-source WSIWYG editor available that did the same basic stuff, but was free (and more than a little frustrating). I think I used a hosting company called ReadyHosting, and pushed updates by editing pages, then posting them via FTP. When that provider disappeared, I moved completely over to 1&1, and I still use them.

At one point, though, I discovered and started using Blogger (formerly Blogspot) after setting up a Gmail account on a whim. Naturally, I found lots of ways to mess with the stock templates and make it look unique. Then, I learned about WordPress, which started out pretty complicated but got a lot more intuitive over the years. I’m using WP on 1&1 for this very post.

The Blogger pages still exist, but I don’t use them now that this is so intuitive. There’s even an app that makes posting stuff from my phone pretty easy. So there it is – the mostly complete history of

DSL Speeds, For Posterity

I’ve tested our throughput on three different computers at three different times of the day (and night) and it’s remarkably consistent, just about 1/2 of the speed I’m paying for.

Might need to have a tech come out, or switch to Comcast. 🙁

Year of the Monkey

Eli will love to hear about this. He is a tiger, I’m a dog, and Jennie falls under the year of the ox. According to some random internet page, the entire year of your Chinese zodiac sign is unlucky, unless you wear something red given to you by an elder. I wonder if I am considered an elder yet…

Here’s to good luck, health, and happiness to my friends and family in the year of the monkey.

PMA – My Job

I first became aware of PMA, or positive mental attitude, through Bad Brains. They’ve got it. I’ve always tried to have it – it’s much more pleasant for everyone when I’m in a positive state of mind. And with that in mind, I’m going to do some assessments of things using PMA as a guide.

First up, my job.

  1. It’s interesting. The work I do facilitates the build out of bleeding-edge telecom networks. I write manuals that engineers at Verizon, ATT, Centurylink, and other customers worldwide use. While I loved working in factories, when I did, I always wanted to do something related to technology, but I’m not an engineer. Not only do I word directly with engineers, but I also use my English degree every day.
  2. The physical environment is pretty amazing. The building in which I work was built in 1999/2000 when I was working for the company in a different location. I was able to come back years later to the “new” building, and while it’s no longer new, it’s still pretty awesome. There’s a really nice cafeteria, a huge arboretum, a gym, and a walking path around the perimeter of the property. My desk is on the North end of the 5th (top) floor, facing I-88. I can see other big businesses down this tech corridor and also watch traffic just by standing up and looking. We’re also situated across an intersection from a forest preserve. On top of all that, we’re an easy bike ride from Target, about 10 chain restaurants, a movie theater, and a brew pub. Not bad. There are two other full-on breweries less than 5 miles from here. Both are excellent.
  3. My co-workers are awesome and my boss is pretty great. Sure, we disagree on occasion. I like to charge ahead and make changes as soon as they’re available – she prefers to stick to the proven method until it’s no longer possible to sustain. She is the opposite of a micro-manager, but is still involved. Our performance reviews are usually lots of nodding. We communicate regularly and pretty openly. The other writers in the group are accomplished, nice folks, and while I don’t really hang out with them outside of work, we do pretty well as a team inside the building.
  4. I have relative autonomy. My work revolves around deadlines timed with the release of hardware/software packages. As such, there are ebbs and flows. As I mentioned earlier, my boss prefers to not meddle with things unless intervention is necessary, so when I need a day off, she presumes that I have a grasp on my work and being out won’t affect my deliverables. I don’t have to tap dance. And every year I end up with surplus vacation time.
  5. I’ll be here 10 years in June. If our new corporate HQ doesn’t shut the location down, it’ll be a pretty cool milestone to reach. I hope there’s still a service award…

All that said, I might need to make a change this year. I’m not super excited about it, but if I do, here’s what I’m excited about (PMA perspective):

  1. Shorter commute. I plan to find something closer to home.
  2. More person-to-person contact. I don’t really interact with folks at my current job in the course of a normal day. I could spend a full day at my desk with headphones on (perk!), which is not terrible most of the time, but I’m a pretty social being.
  3. Products in my wheelhouse. Regardless of where I land, I would like it to be a product that I can walk in understanding. With informational ownership, I can sell/support/develop more confidently.

That’s it. Lots of people would hate my job, but I actually like it. It’s a pretty solid match for my skills and temperament, and I think it would be interesting to do something similar at a different company. Should be an interesting year.

New Year, New Outlook

Well, it sounds good, anyhow. My primary focus this year will be on setting up for the future. I feel like we’ve been forced to react to things a lot in the past year, starting with a broken knee cap at the end of 2014. There was a compounding effect, and while it seems like I’m prone to whine these days, it was not the easiest year by a long shot.

In reality, there is room for a bit of a shift in perspective. My plan for this year is to move forward in a more positive manner. I bemoaned a lot of what was happening this past year, but we’re through the woods on a lot of it, and while we leave 2015 with a significant loss, we have the prospect of some significant positives in the coming year.

It’ll all start with a donation to a benevolent fund for animals in Jennie’s mom’s name, which she would have loved. She will help some animals even now. If things go as we expect, we’ll be able to shore up some of the remaining trouble spots in our house as well We like the place, but new siding or paint should make a big difference.

We’re in a purge cycle with regards to junk we’ve carried from house to house. And now we’re tasked with clearing out another house which has at least 2 houses worth of stuff packed into it. It’s daunting at the moment, but each time we dig through, we find more useful stuff or memories.

Eli kicked off his return to kindergarten with his BB-8 robot at show-and-tell. He got to show how he can make it move in any direction, say things, light up different colors – and he was in his glory. The first half of his first year of kindergarten has been a serious success and we expect more of the same as he finishes up and then moves into 1st grade. He’s in ninja training classes with Connor and might get into soccer or legitimate music classes this year as well.

I ended the year by losing 5 pounds. We’re all going to put more attention toward getting more healthy, and my take in that is “aggressive weight management” as required by my new doctor. I’d like to finally get under 200 pounds for the first time since my 20s. I need to burn fat and gain muscle. The yard should provide some earthy exercise this year.

Philosophically, there’s only so much I can do in a day. Work is a challenge, but I need to contain that to a reasonable work day. I’ll need to focus more and get more done, but I’ll probably also need to find a new career sometime this year.

At home, we need to walk Jolene, start some kind of routine at the YMCA, eat better food together at the table, and sleep better. I work better with a routine, or boundaries, so it’ll be pretty imperative to establish those early.


The Loss Column Sucks

It’s been a while since I last posted an update. It’s partially laziness, partially forgetfulness, and partially because there’s been a ton happening.

Most significantly, Jennie’s mom died. This was something we were aware could happen at any time due to her numerous, chronic medical conditions. It was a daunting list, and despite semi-regular visits to the ICU, she was able to circumnavigate the crises and emerge.

In this case, she had most recently gone through a round of cancer treatments, and even thought she might start decreasing her pain meds. I visited her earlier that week and she seemed more lucid than she had just a week prior. Jennie visited later that week and got the same impression. She seemed better to both of us.

The reality of the situation is that she probably was not better. During my visit, she made a point of thanking me for all I had done, and letting me know that she appreciated all that Jennie had done for her as well. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t do all that much. Jennie did sacrifice a bit, and we did augment our lives a little to fit her in when she needed us.

That said, she really lived by her own terms. We had very little actual impact on her decision-making, which makes her thanks pretty important in retrospect. It’s possible that she was aware of what was coming, and how soon, and she was doing some final accounting. She had lots and lots of friends who had weathered many storms with her, but I don’t know how much she was able to (or felt compelled to) thank them. She did let us know, unreservedly, that she appreciated us.

When my grandma was near her own end, her way of controlling the circumstance was to write out exactly how she wanted her memorial service and the subsequent dinner to go. She had the meals planned based on the time of year. I think Jackie didn’t want to risk leaving without saying thanks, and this was her method of preparation.

So, now we’re tasked with unwinding 70 years of avante garde living by a capable, kind, wacky, and utterly unique person. It’s a bit daunting, but we’ll muddle through with the help of a cavalcade of her lawyer friends (one of them let us know that the bankruptcy court in Rockford was shaken by the news) and our own inside woman at the bank.

I suspect as we get farther and farther from that very sad day and start to get accounts closed and items dispersed, that it’ll be less and less sad. I’m hoping we can start to focus on the fun stuff. The genuine, hearty laughs we had on so many Sundays at dinner. The way Eli would lose his mind when her car would roll into our old driveway. The way she could get Jennie to understand something without saying a word.

She definitely lived life on her own terms and it’s hard to imagine her not here. The loss will be apparent for the foreseeable future, but I cannot believe she’d want us to be sad. Especially Jennie.

DSL Speeds

For posterity, here’s the speed test I ran on our 24MB down/1MB up DSL service from Frontier. Test was done minutes ago, before 8 AM on a Saturday morning (not peak traffic time).

Trouble is, I’m paying less, but I’m getting even less than I’m paying for in this case. And even though Frontier has outstanding customer service, I might have to break away and see what Comcast can offer to win my business.


I was a pretty lucky kid.

Clyde Val and kids Fourth Generation

First Day

We made our big move this year to be closer to friends, to be in a more accessible town, but mostly to get Eli started in a new school in a place we knew he’d thrive. Sycamore school district has a pretty good reputation, and we were pretty lucky to find a house just down the street from a well-regarded grade school there.

This morning was his first official start of a full day in Kindergarten. He was frenetic, a combination of nerves and excitement, and stalled a bit on his way there. Once inside, though, he quieted down and started taking in what was happening. It reminded me of the first time we rode the train at Blackberry Farm. I thought he was terrified, but in reality, he was just absorbing the experience. And he was hooked. We rode that train hundreds of times after that, and I’m sure school will be as exciting as the YMCA camp, or Goddard School before it.

Like me, he craves new information and experiences, even if they’re sometimes daunting. I hope he comes to understand this part of his personality and tries lots of things. I have learned that sometimes it’s not even the experience itself that’s the most fulfilling part, but rather the challenge of getting past the nerves, learning the parameters, and operating in a whole new environment.

His Kindergarten teacher seems fantastic. There are only 20 kids in his class, which seems perfect. His friend from our neighborhood is in the class next door, so they’ll see each other at recess, probably, and they can compare notes.

I think the first experience with dropping him off a few years ago at Goddard School got us prepared for today. I was trying to act as I would have any other day and not coddle him (give credence to the nerves) but I was feeling it.

He should be finishing up lunch right now. I can’t wait to get home and find out how it went.

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