Tag Archives: milestone

Old job, new job

Photo: a man seated with laptop in an empty meeting room
Writer at work. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2012

Last Monday morning, DMI Human Resources told that “due to changing business conditions and requirements” the company was terminating my job. Within 90 minutes, I was driving out the basement parking garage with my box of personal belongings in the trunk. I was not the only one.

Please note that I am not disparaging DMI for making business decisions that had a lot  more at stake than my little job.  As an upstart company that is not risk-adverse, DMI took a gamble hiring me a year ago. I had no experience writing Federal IT proposals. I underwent a “crash course with training wheels.” At the end of my tenure, I know that I bring value and polish to any proposal. I also “grok” how to leverage my other talents, knowledge and experience for maximum impact. I am grateful for the opportunity and privileges that come with a company that wants to create a productive work environment. I was told that my termination was “business, not performance-related” (the corporate equivalent of The Godfather adage). In a business heavy in human capital, cutting overhead is really about terminating people.

Today, I join LCG, a technology provider for health IT, scientific research and grants management in the public sector, in Rockville. I believe that LCG (re-branding for Laurel Consulting Group) did not make a high-odds bet with my hiring. For over a month, they had been looking for a proposal writer who could actively engage stakeholders and boil down the inputs into a polished product. Once I interviewed last Wednesday, they acted promptly to acquire a resource that fits their corporate needs.

I start work on November 17.

Home again, after three weeks in Europe

Teresa and I enter the sacred space of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (tourists know it as the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkey
Teresa and I enter the sacred space of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (tourists know it as the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkey

Although I’ve been back from my extended vacation since October 4, it’s taken me a while to get my legs under me. My travels, spotty availability of Internet access and shortage of idle time determined that I could not post to my blog. I will giving an accounting of my awesome journey in installments because I am still processing all the events and experiences.

So what did my trip involve?

  • Four days in Barcelona, Spain because we never made it to Cataluña during our first trip to Spain in 2008
  • A 12-day Mediterranean cruise with port calls in Toulon, Livorno/Florence, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi, Piraeus/Athens, and Venice
  • Extra two days in Venice and an overnight sleeper train to France, an adventure in and of itself
  • Four days in Paris because my wife demanded that if we had we made it all the way to Europe, she could not leave without seeing Paris
  • A 28-hour return to the States on three separate flights (Paris, Barcelona, London, Washington), including a forced march through London Heathrow Airport security checkpoints, terminal trains, escalators, elevators and duty-free shopping malls

This itinerary is a really long time to be living out of a suitcase, no matter how tightly packed to meet airline baggage restrictions. And you still have to drag the luggage around when you’re not in a plane or cruise ship. But since my wife was in charge of planning the trip, she kept adding a day here, a weekend there, until it grew into 23 days. Continue reading Home again, after three weeks in Europe

Looking aging in the face and on the mat

Photo: Michael moves into full wheel pose, with aid from friend and Desirée
Urdhva Dhanurasana or wheel pose. My friend Glenn Buco helps move deeper into the pose. One of my better days from three years ago

I’ve been a bit swamped by my new job, to the point that I haven’t made it to many yoga classes, visited the fitness center or stepped up my home practice to make up for these shortcomings. I’ve been swept up in the new work demands, the fresh challenges, my enjoyment of accomplishing my tasks and exceeding my goals. Just because I am happy at work does not mean that there’s no stress jazzing my metabolism.

Last weekend, I went to a couple of yoga classes and it came crashing down on me at the end of class. It was hard! My jammed wrist kept me from doing any but the minimal weight-bearing on my arms.  My months-long battle with bronchitis and sinus infection has sapped by stamina and strength. The holidays had provided further distractions, with my son visiting from California and family celebrations around the dinner table. I added another five pounds, weight that was resistant to remove in a quick and painless way.

Continue reading Looking aging in the face and on the mat

New job, new directions, new mindset

Photo: yoga class with fingers (thumb-index) in jnana mudra
A mudra seals the flow of prana in the body.

Today, I started working at Digital Management Inc (DMI) in Bethesda as a technical proposal writer. I will finally get to put my MS in IT to good use one decade after getting it.

About a month ago, I realized that it had been a full-six months since I left the Organization of American States (OAS) and I started to second-guess myself. I had been working at creating a consulting business for writing, editing, translating and publishing, but I’ve been dragged down by illness, mini-crises, distractions and other matters (Next time around, I try to set up a business, I am going to position myself to concentrate on just that).

I reached out to my limited network of former colleagues, classmates and friends to see if there was a good fit for me in IT, education, the government or something like that. Luckily for me, I chanced across a direct link to DMI’s senior management, who happened to have an urgent need for editorial and writing support. I interviewed seven days ago, and today I showed up for my new laptop and desk. And the office is only 15 minutes from my home so no commute to downtown DC, no Red Line delays, no need for coordinating transport to and from the Rockville Metro station.

Working in an IT consulting and service company requires me to break the old mental habits of an international bureaucray. I will have to leap into the 21st century and learn a whole new generation of software and technology (the OAS was entrenched in MS Office 2003, to name just one example of its tech lag).

Yoga pals forever

Last night four members of the Thrive Yoga Summer Intensive YTT got together at Yuan Fu Vegetarian Restaurant in Rockville for our first get-together. One member was excused because she was away at college and another one had gone to North Dakota for family matters. Two of us are actively pursuing our yoga teacher path, even if it means teaching a a fitness club or gym. The other two are stalling on completing requirements and assignments. We caught up on the details of our lives between the few classes we’ve shared since August. We acknowledged the thrill of expanding our yogic horizons. We firmed up our plans to see the yoga art exhibit at the Smithsonian.  We plotted how to move forward with our ambitions and dreams.

A good time was had by all. No pictures were taken for posting on Facebook to prove that this meeting actually took place, but we know it did. We remain convinced that that month of intensive sharing and learning was a milestone in our lives.

A few thoughts on my 64th birthday – health, resilience and the future

Yesterday was my 64th birthday. I did not get to spend it as I would have wanted. I’ve been held back for the past four weeks by bronchitis, which has lingered longer than expected. I had been hoping that the condition would fade away as my body rallied its resources to respond to the illness and restore me to health. It didn’t happen. Although I got my voice back (I was practically aphonic in the first days), my chest developed asthmatic conditions.  I could still slog through daily activities (I made a trip to Florida), but I ended up being exhausted at the end of the day.

Photo: Michael Smith seated on a Caribbean beach - 2008
An old shot on the beach at St. Johns, Virgin Islands in 2008

This week, I finally forced myself to see my doctor, who prescribed a round of antibiotics and an inhalant to help me breathe. The past few days, it’s been a throwback to my childhood. I had an allergy that manifested itself as hay fever, asthma and skin rashes. I can remember being pulled out of my primary school classes to go to the doctor for my monthly injection. Being asthmatic affected how I approached physical activity.  I could never fully trust my body so I never pushed it to its limits. I was timid at sports. I was among the last one picked when dividing up to play neighborhood sports. By ninth grade, I had ruled out the prospect of participating in competitive team sports, and turned to choir, drama, and debate as extracurricular activities (My senior year I decided to join the first soccer team at my school, but that’s another story). By the time I went to college, I did not need my allergy shots and could manage my allergies with antihistamines. My asthma and skin rashes had gone away. Continue reading A few thoughts on my 64th birthday – health, resilience and the future

Sh*t happens and sometimes it hurts

Photo: mother and grown son pose together at airpor
My son Matthew and Teresa have one last hug before he heads off to grad school at UC-Berkeley, aiming for his master of fine art. At Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC.

Yesterday we drove our son Matthew to Dulles airport. He had stripped his life down to an over-sized suitcase and a duffle bag (total 100 pounds, max), a knapsack (with laptop and iPad) and a few boxes that friends and colleagues will smuggle into California. He left his car, some boxes and his new flat screen TV in storage with us (I don’t know if there’s space). He gave up a nice paying job working for a NASA contractor at the Goddard Space Center, though the post was no more secure than anything dealing with the Federal government these days. He could have lost funding in the next round of sequestration cuts.

Continue reading Sh*t happens and sometimes it hurts

A hangover from yoga teacher training

Photo: by Michael Smith at Thrive Yoga
One foot forward

Well, not  a real hangover. I just had one small glass of excellent red Greek wine at a Greek restaurant called Trapezaria where we rendezvoused for the class celebration in Rockville. Since I had a light breakfast and had eaten only some fruit and nut bars during the day, I was starving by the time we sat down at the table. I wolfed down pita bread and dips (six options), and then dug into the entree. I even had room for a few spoonfuls of dessert. I plan on coming back to the restaurant soon because it has good vegetarian dishes, a must for my son Matthew.

Once at home, I felt as if I were some stock animal that had been overfed prior to slaughter. Too much food, too much variety. I also think I was dehydrated from doing yoga all day and not drinking enough water. I had worked late processing photos from the last day of class. My digestive system was working overtime well into the wee hours. I guess you can cause ahimsa (non-harm in Sanskrit) to yourself by overindulging (but I already knew that).

Several of my classmates said they were going to get together for one last session of morning yoga at Thrive Yoga, but I could not pull myself out of bed and slept in to 9:30.  I woke up aching and sluggish. I downed my first cup of coffee and contemplated my agenda. For the past month, I have given priority to yoga teacher training so many other tasks and family affairs were left undone or on maintenance mode. I have got my work cut out for my over the next few weeks just to catch up and then going into proactive mode in shaping my future.

Life gradually shifts back to “normal,” but I don’t think “normal” will ever be the same.

Career milestone as yoga learners (and instructors)

Photo: students and teachers of yoga training
Thrive Yoga 200-hour Teacher Training July Intensive (2013). Students and teaching staff. We’re so psyched to get past the milestone.

Today, the latest cohort of yoga teachers from Thrive Yoga passed the threshold of delivering their practicum (a 30-minute mock class). It may not have been the most demanding jury (classmates and teachers), but it sure felt as if we had leaped over a mountain. Considering that we began our forced march on July 9, we covered an enormous amount of yogic terrain. Two of my classmates completed all their requirements and got their certificates today. The rest of us have to complete the homework assignments and observe some classes.

I admit that I was one of the slackers because it required a lot of me just to absorb the daily practice and the YTT classes. I was lucky to have compassionate classmates and teachers who encouraged me after I had tied myself in knots during my first practicum. All of us laid bare a lot of vulnerability and self-doubt in the process of standing up as yoga practitioners aspiring to be teachers.  I am sure that the most heart-opening lessons will come as the experience matures and yields its fruit. It’s going to take time to process all this “stuff.”

As the only male in this group, all I can say is “You go, girls! Namaste!”

Taking the plunge into yoga teacher training

Photo: hands are placed on the back of a supline yogini
Sometimes another person can help dissipate the stress that seeps into the back

Today, I started my second week of yoga teacher training (YTT) at Thrive Yoga. It’s a small group, five women and me, and we worked through the weekend. We get a half day off on Wednesday, and then we’re free on weekends.

With the loss of my day job at the OAS in April, a window of opportunity (motive, time, energy and money) opened up to take the July intensive course at Thrive. A month-long, 200-hour intensive allows me to drill down in the physical, mental and spiritual realms of my yoga practice. Other YTT formats stretch out over six-nine months (meeting one weekend a month) and would be hard for me to sustain because I can’t see that far into the future. In addition, I believe that it’s essential to feel safe and empowered within the sanctuary of a home studio, like Thrive Yoga, with teachers, mentors and fellow students that support a transformative process.

When I was considering the decision to take YTT, I listed the pros and cons in parallel columns on a legal pad (some of the considerations went into a previous blog entry). At the end of the exercise, I could not determine which way the balance leaned, but I knew that I wanted to take the YTT. It’s not a “career” move or “what’s expected of me” or  therapy for a physical injury. I look at the July intensive as a yoga immersion experience. I don’t necessarily plan to become an active yoga instructor, but I do want to fine-tune my “inner teacher” by diving into the experience and letting yoga work its magic. If I don’t take the training now, when would I be able to take it?
Continue reading Taking the plunge into yoga teacher training