A special anniversary today


From_the_heart_logo Today is September 6th, a day that doesn’t mean that much to most people but one I celebrate every year as it is important to me.  Today is the fourth anniversary of my emergency open heart surgery that saved me even though at the time I didn’t know I was in trouble until it was almost too late.  Every year on this day I reflect on all that has happened to me and my family since that fateful day, if only to assure myself I am taking advantage of the additional time with which I have been gifted.  I am sure that Bill Clinton is reflecting in a similar way as by happenstance today is the first anniversary of his bypass surgery.  If you are interested in my review of the past four years then continue on after the jump, otherwise enjoy the rest of your day.

I detailed the experience of my ordeal and I won’t go into that here, instead I am going to look back at the past four years and reflect how life has progressed for me.  On the professional front my life has taken many turns, some intentional and some unavoidable.  I was laid off unexpectedly seven months before my surgery and at my experience level in my industry had been unable to find a new job.  Financially my family was in deep trouble having gone through all our savings and retirement funds to keep afloat. After much searching I had finally landed a good job at a very small company, but my emergency health situation hit the night before I was to start at that job.  That was probably an omen.

The recovery from my surgery was difficult and arduous but with the financial needs pressing so hard it was imperative I return to work whether I was ready or not.  After a prolonged negotiation with the small company who had already hired me once I convinced them I was ready to go to work for them, and I did.  It was a good job for me to fully recover and it felt wonderful to be back in the fray.  Physically I was mending nicely and feeling normal again.  A little over a year later the owner of the company called all employees into the conference room first thing on a Monday morning and announced he was closing the firm.  He just didn’t feel like doing it anymore and it was no longer fun for him.

I was unemployed again, and more importantly my health insurance ended at midnight that same day.  I have to take a number of medications to make sure I stay healthy so the insurance situation was critical.  Federal law in the US mandates the offering of COBRA insurance to those cut off as I was so of course I signed up for it.  Unfortunately, those who go on COBRA insurance quickly learn you no longer qualify for group rates, you must pay full fare which in my case was over $800 per month.  I gladly did so and enjoyed the coverage for the 18 months I had it before receiving notification from the insurance company that federal law only required them to provide COBRA coverage for 18 months and my time was up.  I was not renewed and quickly found no insurer would touch me for health reasons.  I am now "self-insured" as health care providers call it and it has been a struggle to afford the doctor visits, blood lab work and medications I need daily, which all together run over $1200.  But the human spirit is strong and I survive.

After the layoff it was difficult (again) to find another job so I decided to hang out my shingle and go the consultant route.  I am still doing that today and really enjoy it, although as most new consultants will tell you it takes a long time to get the business built up and consistent.  I am glad that situations forced me into this and happy to report that business has picked up after three years of roller coaster.

One of the things that became very important to me after the surgery was the desire to make every day count and to throw myself into the areas I enjoy the most.  I have always participated in online forums dedicated to mobile technology, heck I was a forum moderator for IBM on the old CompuServe forums.  You remember CompuServe, they were the precursor to the Internet that Al Gore so graciously gave us.  I decided to really get involved in online forums and web sites and I became a reviewer for BostonPocketPC.  This was such a good experience for me and I had so much fun that after a short time I became the site admin for Pocket PC Tools, a great site that unfortunately is no longer around.  Writing all the reviews and articles for these two sites opened my eyes to just how much I enjoy writing about subjects that are important to me, namely mobile technology and how it impacts people.

This past year has been very exciting as little over a year ago I decided to start my own blog, jkOnTheRun, and the sheer pleasure I got from writing really surprised me.  I was amazed at how liberating writing for my own blog could be and I love it just as much today.  I have since broadened my writing base by adding another blog at itToolbox, I have published numerous reviews at some famous websites like The Gadgeteer, and I have been a contributor at Lockergnome.  I have published a number of magazine articles for Pocket PC Magazine and recently an Australian magazine, Roam.  The itToolbox and Roam articles are paid articles so I guess it’s accurate to say I have become a professional writer.  I am starting to see my dream fulfilled and it is thrilling.  I am honored to have been a "Software Expert" for two years in a row judging in the 2004 & 2005 Software Awards for Pocket PC Magazine. Podcasting has been a blast for me too.  I realized early on that podcasting was going to be a big thing and am happy to produce the techADDICTION Show and the Tablet PC Show with Kevin Tofel and Marc Orchant, respectively.  Producing these shows is a lot of work but extremely satisfying and I thank both of these gentlemen for helping me with this and I am thankful for the friendships that have blossomed.  Endeavors like blogging and podcasting have led to friendships with literally hundreds of people I would not have met otherwise and I cherish these friendships with people I have not met.  This is what community is all about.

Last year jkOnTheRun placed sixth in a major weblog contest where the top tech blogs were judged by readers and this was an incredible rush for a blog that had only been in existence for five months at the time of the judging.  The site was a finalist in another major weblog contest in the tech category.  Since then I have been very fortunate to have two different articles on jkOTR get picked up by Slashdot, and the TypePad servers survived both time.  It is really great to see my writing get validated by the public and I am honored and humbled by this.  I write because I enjoy and quite frankly because I must and I love that others enjoy reading it.

Earlier this year I had the great honor awarded to me by Microsoft with the award of MVP status for Tablet PC community service.  I can’t relate accurately what this means to me, I am so thankful for the award.  The writing that I do is not for recognition rather for my own enjoyment, but it’s especially nice when others think it is worthwhile.  I am very excited with the new friendships I have made in both the MVP community and at Microsoft.  I thank all of you (you know who you are) for taking me into your circle and showing me the ropes.

So as you can see my professional life has been fun, and I am happy to say I am a writer.  That makes me have goosebumps, I tell you.

On the personal front Sheri and I have seen three children come crashing into teenagerhood.  Oh boy, this has been no doubt the most challenging part of the past four years but also the most rewarding.  It is so amazing to see children reach so desperately for adulthood and the changes they go through to get there.  All three children are heavily into sports with the oldest starting on his high school varsity football team.  The youngest boy is playing football for his middle school and AA baseball at the same time and the middle child is playing soccer for the high school and trying very hard to get an athletic or academic scholarship.  They are good kids and keep my wife and I very young.

My daughters from a previous marriage are all adults and they are doing well.  My oldest daughter graduated with an accounting degree and has a good job at a bank up north while preparing for her CPA exams.  She got married last year and got a quick taste of the financial burdens married life often brings but she is doing well.  My middle daughter is about to graduate from college next May with a psychology degree and my youngest daughter decided halfway through college that it wasn’t for her and is pursuing her dream of becoming a country western star.  I hope she makes it.

Sheri saw firsthand how much I enjoyed blogging and she started her own blog that has blossomed into an accomanying podcast.  She is a full time employee at a law firm, full time mother and now blogger/ podcaster and she has become quite good at all.  I guess she is Superwoman as I don’t know how she does it all.

Sadly, I lost my father last year and that was hard but it caused my family to rally together which was good.  Like many families in the US we are rather spread out geographically and my father’s death brought us closer together.  My elderly Mom is in great health and still totally self-sufficient at 82 years old and I am very thankful for that.

It’s important to reflect on your life and appreciate all you have and all you have accomplished.  You will be amazed at all you come up with that you have done and are doing and how full your life really is.  My life is full if trying at times but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  In my case I owe a lot to those of you who are readers of this blog, and I thank each and every one of you for the encouragement to be all that I can be, to quote the military.



Wow. I’m glad you’re around and hope you have many, many, many more anniversaries. I appreciate all your hard work.

Ian Dixon

Hi James.
Nice to see the personal side of the story.
I very much enjoy both your podcasts.
Keep up the good work :)



James – As an avid fan of both the blog and both Podcasts, I’d like to chime in and say a big thanks for all the interesting stuff you’ve highlighted

Keep it up !

Kevin C. Tofel

As long as you continue to write, I’m sure that we will continue to read. Thanks for the personal reflections, mentoring and guidance. I look forward to many more years of your shared thoughts and perspectives; both in the tech world and beyond.

David Ciccone

James, I have been a fan of your work for a long time. From the days of PocketPCTools to visiting your personal blog. You bring a different perspective to tech which makes JK – JK!!! Keep up the fabulous work and congrats!

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