Why I'm coming out of retirement...

~Tuesday~  I am thrilled that the same team at the same company at which I was working when I retired is welcoming me back with open arms. I'll be working again on the Content Team at Red Hat in downtown Raleigh.

I've always said, "If you have to work, this is the place—and the people with whom—to do it." Actually, more accurately, that's the way I'd write it. The way I'd say it is, "If you have to work, this is the place and the people to do it with." (FWIW, Grammar Girl says it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition these days.)

My primary responsibilities as a marketing communications specialist will be to:

  • Partner with multiple marketing teams to craft engaging marketing content
  • Work with data analysts, SEO, and on-site search experts and UX teams to identify clear goals for marketing content
  • Connect with content contributors across Red Hat to create consistent experiences for prospects and customers
  • Apply my unique skills and insights to take on passion projects that make Red Hat better
  • Be an advocate for the Red Hat brand and voice
  • Consult with marketing and content team members to monitor content performance and suggest improvements
In other words, it's the exact same job I had before as a web content editor.

Naturally, the first question everyone I've told this to asks is, "Why are you doing this?" There are two main reasons that I'm returning to the workforce:

  1. After fighting for so many years to have the same rights as straight people, Bob and I got married and our healthcare premiums tripled.

    As retired, single guys each using the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2015, we both enjoyed a tax credit on our monthly premiums that amounted to a 50% discount. So, in total, we paid about $600 a month for healthcare, which while not fantastic, was manageable.

    However, if you're married, the ACA requires you to file jointly for coverage, so we did that for our 2016 coverage, only to find out that our joint retirement income puts us above the level at which we can get any tax credits at all.

    In conjunction with that, these headlines loomed last year: ACA premiums in NC to rise sharply in 2016, and that's exactly what happened to ours. That, together with our loss of tax credits, our monthly premium went from $600 a month to $1800 a month. And that was for 60/40 coverage, which was less coverage than we had last year.

    We just weren't willing to pay that, especially since I knew that Red Hat's coverage (for employee + spouse) is about $188 a month, and I so don't mind working there.

  2. My dad's passing in September has reduced my mother's income by 75%—so much so that her monthly expenses now significantly exceed her monthly income, and I'd like to be able to help her out a little while I still have some earning power.

    She has enough money to cover about another 8 years, withdrawing from savings each month in order to meet her expenses. She's 84 years old, but her mother lived to be 98 or 99. When she does run out of money, she can go on Medicaid, but that most likely means she'd have to move from the assisted living place she's currently in, because they don't take Medicaid there. And it's a nice place, and she likes it there.

    So, working again now, will put me in a better position to help her out down the road, if it comes to that. And in the meantime, I can spot her a few bucks for bingo every now and then.

My official rehire date is Monday, February 15, but I've been freelance editing (two days a week, through a contracting company) for this same team at Red Hat since I retired in October of 2014, so I've already ramped up my work back to 40 hours a week. But on that Monday, I'll convert back to a regular employee and my benefits will begin again.

The team has been so affirming in welcoming me back, and I'm forever grateful to my manager for taking me back. Red Hat is such a great company to work for and the Content Team is the best team there to work on!

Dry January (Day 31)

~Sunday~  I will be going out tonight, and I will have my first drink in a month at 12:00:01 a.m. And it might very well be a shot—of bourbon, of course.

As these final hours of Dry January tick away, I'm reflecting on the month.

My first inclination is to compare my experience to the experience of the person who wrote the article that inspired me to take on this challenge. Here are the 12 things she noted about her experience and how my experience compared to each:

  1. You might want to try not to get totally wasted on NYE. I did not get totally wasted on NYE, so I started off right on January 1st.

  2. The first two weeks will be really hard. I didn't find the first two weeks any harder than the subsequent weeks. The triggers that make me think of having a drink were there throughout the month.

  3. You’ll realize that almost all social life is centered around food and drink. This didn't come as any shock to me. It's one of the reasons I eat and drink as much as I do, because I'm a very social person.

  4. A lot of people, including your close friends, will be super annoying and unsupportive about your decision. This was not my experience, for which I was thankful. I would say the most common reaction was, "You're not drinking for a month? You're kidding!"

  5. Tell people you’re on some serious antibiotics or, in very extreme cases, tip your bartender for club soda. I never had to do this this month. Ironically, I have done this in the past, when I'd had enough to drink, but didn't want to have to keep saying why I was stopping. In fact, in the past, I've gone so far as to ask a bartender to give me a club soda and then splash a little bit of Diet Coke in it so it would look like it had some bourbon in it. For the record, that tastes awful.

  6. You might decide you don’t like your friends anymore. I'm happy and thankful to say that this didn't happen.

  7. Maybe “just a drink or two a night” is much more than that. While I never was one to have a drink or two a night, I am one to binge drink on the weekends and am thinking about strategies to temper that a little—two possibilities being: 1) Have a club soda between each drink, or 2) Have two (or three) drinks and then drink club soda the rest of the night.

  8. Your Dry January will likely lead you to new friendships, relationships, and other cool people your slightly inebriated brain didn’t really notice before. This didn't happen to me. I can't think of one person I met this month specifically because I wasn't drinking and noticed them for that reason.

  9. By the end of week two, you’ll feel like a new person. I wouldn't say I felt like a new person. What I did feel like was a person who wanted a drink.

  10. You might be tempted to extend your Dry January to a Dry February. I never considered this at all. I did consider extending it for two days in support of one of my friends who started doing this a couple of days after me, so we'd start up drinking again at the same time, but that didn't end up being necessary.

  11. The first drink you have after the dry period will be like whoa. And hangovers? Well, they might never be the same. I guess I'll find out if this is true later this evening, or "first thing in the morning," technically. Hopefully, I won't be assessing a hangover later in the morning.

  12. This whole experience may change how and how much you drink forever. This is not going to change how and how much I drink forever, but at least for a few weeks into February. :-)

Thoughts and observations about the overall experience::

  • The things I probably thought about the most during this month were the triggers that make me think of having a drink, of which these were the top 5:
    1. Celebrating
    2. Celebrating
    3. Celebrating
    4. Big news (e.g., your favorite bar in the world suddenly closing)
    5. Appetizers (which just beg for an accompanying drink)
  • I spent some time contemplating whether eating food with alcohol in it (e.g., black cherry rum pound cake, bourbon chicken, and rum raisin ice cream) would violate the Dry January commitment. While I didn't indulge in any this month, I think if I were to do this again, I'd eat them. I'm very clear that I wouldn't be eating such things "to get the alcohol out of them," so it seems innocuous to eat them.

  • I contemplated whether having more fun when drinking is because being intoxicated actually makes (or enables) you (to) have more fun, or if it just makes you think you're having more fun. I'm still not sure what the answer to that is, but I am sure it's more fun being out (specifically in a bar) when you are drinking than when you're not drinking—whatever it is that makes that so.

  • I lost 10 pounds this month, but it was not entirely due to not drinking alcohol. I went to the gym, on average, every other day this month, and I limited my daily calorie intake to 1500 for at least as many days.

  • I estimate that I saved between $250 and $300 not drinking alcohol this month.

  • On average, I would say that I go home from the bars earlier when I'm not drinking than when I am.

  • Physically, I don't feel any different after not drinking for a month. I don't feel like I have any more—or less—energy. I don't feel more "clear headed." I don't feel "healthier." With that said, I'm going to go ahead and assume my liver has had a nice break that it appreciates.

  • Both emotionally and intellectually, I do feel like I've gained some clarity around when, why, and how much I drink, and that I am still in control of my drinking.

  • At this point, I'm still ambivalent about whether I'll do this again next year. If I do, however, it most likely will be for the month of February instead of January.

Most hours down, just a few to go!

Dry January (Day 22)

~Friday~  It snowed today, and Bob and I walked to Seaboard Station to catch the R-Line over to The Borough. It was running mid-afternoon when I checked it to make sure, but by the time we walked to the stop at about 4:10, it had—apparently—gone "out of service."

We ended up walking the rest of the way to The Borough, where our friends Wayne and David joined us shortly thereafter.

Although I really wanted a nice, heavy-poured (the only kind they serve at The Borough) bourbon and soda to reward myself for making the nearly 2-mile trek in the snow to get there, I ordered a Shirley Temple. (Lah-dee-fucking-dah.)

Thoughts and observations since my last update, which was a week ago, on Dry January (Day 15):

  • Yesterday, I got a big, fat raise, and I mean a big, fat raise, and I desperately wanted to celebrate it with a drink.

  • I made what turned out to be the last payment of a pretty hefty monthly bill that I thought I had one more payment left on, and I wanted to have a drink to celebrate that.

  • Obviously, celebrating is a trigger, since it's the third time I've mentioned it now.

  • I saw "bourbon chicken" on a restaurant menu, and I wondered if it would be "cheating" to order that.

  • The first of the two events (the annual "birthdays dinner" with a big group of friends) coming up that I've talked about being challenging to attend "dry" has been postponed (due to threatening weather predictions) until February, so that's good.

  • However, an event has been added to combat the cabin fever that a lot of people are feeling due to this weather—an impromptu neighborhood potluck and games night tomorrow night, at which (I'm thinking), it would be lovely to have a couple of drinks.

  • I have really been keeping an eye on the calendar as I approach the final week of this experience.

22 days down, 9 to go!

Dry January (Day 15)

~Friday~  I met Todd, at Flex, where it was "Go-go Dancers Friday," as usual.

I drank (regular, plain, free) water there this evening. None of the usual "Friday night pests" were there, which was a godsend. Only one of the four dancers piqued my interest at all.

Sometime around midnight, I think it was, we walked over to The Borough, where I had a Diet Coke. I debated getting something to eat, as I had 420 calories left to eat tonight, if I wanted to, and I thought about having what would probably be my last order of:

The Boomerang

Chopped spinach and mushrooms mixed with spices, jack cheese, and cream served with toasted baguette rounds drizzled with garlic infused oil.

but Todd wasn't hungry, so I passed, because I know I would have eaten the whole thing myself and didn't want to.

Thoughts and observations tonight:

  • I thought, "If I were drinking, I definitely would not have 420 calories to spare at this hour of the night."

  • This is "hump weekend" (phrase coined by Todd) which is to say, by the end of the weekend, we'll be over the halfway mark of Dry January.

  • The Dry January article that prompted me to do this, said, "The first two weeks will be really hard," but I don't see this getting any easier as the rest of the month unfolds. The thing is, the "triggers" that make me think of having a drink, aren't going to change over the next two weeks.

  • Thinking about triggers made me think of two things coming up that I mentioned in my Day 1 entry, where I said I thought they were going to be challenging—one's a week from tomorrow (an annual gathering of friends to celebrate all of our 2016 birthdays at once), and the other's the week after that (a work-related party that includes free food and drinks).

  • Another thing the article said was, "You might be tempted to extend your Dry January to a Dry February"— but I don't see that happening at all, at least not at this point.

  • I wondered if being intoxicated actually makes (or enables) you (to) have more fun, or if it just makes you think you're having more fun. And, if it matters whether it's the former or the latter.

15 days down, 16 to go!