Saturday, January 21, 2017

Just another Day

So,  yesterday was Inauguration Day 2017.  Here in this country, whether any of us likes it or not, our Commander in Chief is President Donald J Trump.  As I say - whether we like it or not that's just the way it is.

I've given up worrying about what that can or will mean.  As those who know me have come to realize, I'm not a worrier anyway.  But social media seems intent on whipping itself into a frenzy about things and this particular situation is at the top of that list.  Just go onto your Wall (or, that's what they used to call it) and write a strong statement either supporting/denouncing either Trump or Obama and see what happens.  It's not healthy.

I had dinner with a friend last night who enjoys stirring the pot and posts stuff like that just to see what it causes.  He's fairly unique in that he surrounds himself by people of diverse thought so no matter what he says someone will disagree.  Most of my friends have made a post in the vein of "If you'e done so-and-so then unfriend me now!"

In my FB world, I've got a few rules.  First and foremost - be respectful.  If you're an a$$hole, I don't want you trolling around my world.  Other than that, tho, I find it hard to espouse respect and diversity but then shut down those who feel differently than you do.  I suppose it's one of the many flavors of hypocricy we all see in our day to day worlds.

For me - I can censor what I allow into my world but I can't censor the world itself.  Whether or not I watched any of the inauguration events yesterday (I didn't) or not, it doesn't change the fact that it has happened.  I've said before that one of my strengths is that I'm incredibly focused on things once I've set my sights on them, and that can be both a blessing and a curse.

One of the reasons it works for me is that I'm good at filtering out what I perceive to be "noise".  Currently, there's lots and lots of noise.  Many people wade into it full throttle, feeling that it's important to thrash at everything that makes them angry.  These people are typically well intentioned, but they'll eventually drown in their own darkness or die trying.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not criticizing people's passion.  I'm just saying my own approach is much more strategic.  That's not by design, it's just the way I'm built.  That's how I'm able to stay calm when others are whipped into a froth.  I can certainly get frothy myself, but the triggers to get there are few and far between.  If you find one, tho, watch out.

Betrayal is one.  I get frothy over my perceptions on betrayal.  A few of my closest friends have done it.  HRC did it.  And I've reacted very strongly.  Thankfully it doesn't happen very often...either because I've become more guarded in who/what I'll allow to betray me or because I've simply grown wiser over the years.  Regardless, the point is that I'll focus on things that I can focus on and I won't paint anyone or anything with a single brush.  Again - hypocracy rules the day more often than not.

Today is a Saturday.  I woke up in my own bed, made my coffee, took my dogs for a walk, published our most recent episode of our podcast (link here), and I've got a pretty full day planned.  Although in the big picture the world may have changed between last Saturday and this one I'm not out marching, I'm not yelling, I'm not even outraged.  I take it for what it is, and I'll do what I have to do.

My work is fascinating.  As I think I mentioned I manage all the engagements coming into our Enterprise Network Services group from anyone outside a data center.  My engagements range from the mundane (opening a port so a postage machine can download postage) to the large (we're moving all our gates at the Athens airport) to the huge (we just started brand new service into Havana) and everything in between.  I don't actually do any of the work...I just manage it and at the end of the day I'm the person who gets blamed for any number of perceived transgressions.  I've got a large team of engineers around the world to do this work so I coordinate it...I'm the central point of contact.

I doubt that there are many jobs like mine.  Anywhere.  I mean, I realize that there are similar positions at networking or shared service groups in any large company but the thing that makes it really interesting to me is the airline angle.  Working with airport authorities around the world, especially given that we fly almost everywhere, involves an additional layer of complexity that I seem to enjoy.  One of the reasons I'm effective in this role is that same thing I said earlier - I'm very focused and I filter noise well.  Things can get pretty hairy sometimes and engineers sometimes need a calming buffer to do what they do.  I am that buffer.

This is my last "calm" weekend for a while.  Next weekend I head to Dallas.  The week after that I've got a good friend coming as my guest for several days.  When she leaves another arrives.  Then I've got to go back to Dallas for several days, and a side-trip to Austin.  I'm also hoping to fit a brief visit home to Charleston into the mix as well.  So - I'll enjoy this quiet while I can.

I was at dinner with a friend and a friend of hers earlier this week and mentioned the word "dilating". My friend's friend took offense at the word, saying that she felt it "objectified" us and was inappropriate to even mention.  I have to admit to being taken aback by her sensitivity, especially given that I have no idea what she's talking about.  I've grown very comfortable in my body and don't know why that word should provoke that response.  I respect it - I just don't "get" it.

In a completely separate conversation, without any connection whatsoever, another trans woman at lunch today referred to the "D" word.  I had no idea what the "D" word was so I had to ponder it for a moment.  Then it hit me.  As aI say - I'm not sure why it should be such a sensitive subject.  Good thing I didn't bring up M and O - Masturbation and Orgasms.  Things could have gotten REALLY uncomfortable.

Anyway, it brings up a couple of funny stories.  One year I was coming to visit my son here in PHX and I had my dilators in my luggage.  He must have been 16 or so at the time.  He saw one of them and said, "That's a dildo!"  I said (a) no, it's not a dildo and (b) how the heck do you what a dildo is anyways?!  I know I didn't teach him that word.  Our kids grow up so fast.

Another time I was traveling and had one in my carry on baggage.  In the x-ray machine I think it probably looks like a large bullet so the TSA lady pulled me aside for some extra screening.  She found it and took it out...I told her what it was - without any shame or discomfort at all - and that was that.  Afterwards I reflected that if she stopped to consider where it had been she'd be extra glad she was wearing gloves.

Anyway - I digress.  It's time to get this day going.  Onwards!


Monday, January 16, 2017

More than Symbolic

I'm spending a rare weekend at home.  I spent part of this weekend simply "nesting".  Catching up.  Getting things done around the house that I've wanted to do for a while but haven't had time to do.

For example, I finally opened some things I bought myself for Christmas.  I've lived in this house I'm renting for a year now and I unpacked some things and re-arranged some things.  And, of course, I watched some football.  I love this time of year for that....as a fan  of the sport I live for games like yesterday's Cowboys/Packers game, or last week's Clemson/Alabama game.  Just amazing.

One thing I did - an it's not trivial - is to set up my drum kit.



Why is this not trivial?  Because it's more than symbolic for me.  For years I've lived in places where a drum kit would be a no-no.  One year I was living in a town-house in Mesa and I set them up just because I could.  I was tuning them...not playing them, but tuning them....for a half hour one Saturday afternoon when someone knocked on the door complaining about the "noise".  Drums inherently involve "noise".

I'm living in a house where (a) I have the space and (b) I have the freedom to make some noise.  So - after several years of NOT having them....I've set them up.  My bedroom looks like a cross between a recording studio with a bed in it but I'm ok with that.  Simply having them there means something.  Now I need to re-learn how to play them again.....

Brynn Tannehill recently published a list on Bilerico titled "The top 50 successful transgender Americans you should know" (link here).  It made me smile.  It reminds me of Lynn Conway's Transsexual Successes page (link here) from my generation.  That page, and what it represented, was a big big deal for many of us struggling to envision a life that was just.....a life.  Not a transgender life.  Not a life focused on "being" transgender, or on having to justify it.  Just....a well-balanced, multi-faceted, well-lived life....with a career, relationships,  interests, and everything else that comes with it.  I tend to shrug off lists as many of them come from people who don't have a clue.  But I applaud what Brynn has done with this.
This list is not comprehensive, and there are literally hundreds more we did not list. The careers represented are deliberately eclectic, as are their genders, ages, races, and are intended to show the diversity of the community.
Transgender people can accomplish great and admirable things as out and proud individuals. They should be role models not only for queer youth, but for anyone. 
Of course - it's like publishing a "hit list" for anyone looking to attack the community as a whole, but that's always the risk of being visible.   But to Brynn's point - it demonstrates the diversity of our community.  Finding that myself with the rudimentary tools available 15 or more years ago was a key component in my own journey.

Speaking about components of the journey, another thing from that time that helped were the annual documentaries that traditionally appeared around ratings week featuring transpeople.  They were usually cliche, formulaic, things but that didn't stop me from watching.  At the time, that's all we had.  I've actually been in a few of them because I think they served a purpose at the time.

Nowadays we're everywhere.  I avoid "Reality TV" and have said before the I won't watch shows like Caitlyn Jenner's or Jazz's.  I just won't.  Documentaries as we knew them are few and far between these days and I'm not so sure that's a good thing.  Regardless, it's the way of our world.

The reason I mention any of this is that a documentary titled "Gender Revolution", produced by National Geographic, will be broadcast in early February.  It supports the theme of their controversial current cover story featuring a spectrum of trans kids, and kids who demonstrate that gender isn't as simple as the binary.  Rather than provide any more detail I'll simply provide a link to Andrea James' blog - she's involved so I'm confident it's well done (link here).

Oh - and to provide a resource where List meets Documentary there's a recent HBO production titled "The Trans List"  (link here).  I have no comments on it because I haven't seen it.  I'd be interested to hear from those who have - what'd you think?

This is a big week in our nation's history.  Whether anyone likes it or not it's the last week for our current President and the swearing in of our next one.  8 years ago I was invited to attend the inauguration and I'll never forget it.  This week - I'll be as far from it as I can get.  I've considered leaving the country.  I'll avoid TV and news at all costs.  I suppose that sounds immature - like a young child closing their eyes and plugging their ears in hopes that they can escape something that's happening that they don't want to happen - but I don't care.  I can't control anything that happens there - all I can control is how I react to it and how I allow it to affect me.  I realize that there are people who may read this that are happy about what's happening and I respect that.  I'm not.

One of the things I'm proudest about from this past year was starting a podcast (link here).  I bought the equipment needed over a decade ago but the stars never aligned that were needed to transform it from vision to reality.  My college degree is in Radio/Television/Film and although that my career took a different direction I've always loved this stuff.

This year I met someone who could help to finally make it happen.  Her name is Diana, and I met her thru our electrologist....the always wonderful Maria.  She's a broadcaster, but more than that we "blend" well.  Starting this podcast was a highlight of my year.

Anyway - the sun is up and it's time to take the pups for a walk.  More than that, it's time to get on with the day.



Saturday, January 14, 2017

My New Normal

I've been in Dallas all week.  My mom half-joked that airplanes are like taxi's for people who work for the airlines and that's almost true.  My commute is either 30 minutes between where I live and the data center where I work, or 2 hrs between Phoenix and Dallas where the balance of my team is located.

I realize I've complained about my commutes before but this is different.  I've got no complaints.  It's a balance and I actually enjoy both worlds.  I Phoenix I get, well..."home".  In Dallas I've got mom.

When I was hired last January I was a project manager for a large effort to replace out-of-date network gear at our two largest data centers...routers, switches, and such.  It was a big effort...well over a million dollars....and very visible.  The routers we were replacing affect every aspect our our business.

Part of the fun of this last year is learning about how airlines work, and all the behind-the-scenes stuff most people will never see or ever even consider.  The thing that connects it all is the network.  From our website, to ticketing, to the kiosks at every airport we service around the world, to the routing of the baggage, to the tools the gate agents use...it's all connected by the network.  But there's so much more.

There's an app that has pictures of each pilot and a gate agent needs to verify the pilot's identify before they are allowed in the cockpit.  All our maintenance records, manuals, fueling, scheduling, crew management, catering....I could go on and on.  It's all connected by a network.  And the devices we were replacing are the devices that connect it all.  So, when we touch one it requires quite a bit of communication, planning, coordination.  And guts.  Managing these replacements is not for the timid.

That was my job for the first 10 months at AA.  I had a team of engineers, a boatload of new equipment, and an aggressive schedule.  My weeks were comprised of days full of planning, long long nights of actually doing these changes, and lots of other stuff stuck in between.  I've never been part of anything like it before and at the outset the fact I'd be working late night hours in addition to the daytime requirements was a concern.  But once I got into the rhythm it was just the way it was.  It all clicked.

I managed these change calls where we'd have a dozen or more people involved.  As the engineers were unplugging the devices and moving the configs to the new devices the Help Desk could chime in at any minute indicating that Athens was reporting printing problems, or Tokyo couldn't print boarding passes and was doing them by hand, or that some other issue somewhere in the world was affecting our service.  It's really amazing to realize what even one of those cables among rows and rows of them can impact.

Once I got comfortable in it I could handle the change, manage the impacts, coordinate the various teams that would take part in the call, and then communicate the outcomes effectively. I like "different" - that's one of the things I enjoyed about consulting - and this was unlike anything I've ever done.  In some ways, it was a perfect job for me.

American Airlines as it exists today is the result of many airlines getting combined over the years.  Airlines from the past - Piedmont, Allegheny, US West, and dozens of others - are now part of AA.  The reason that's important in my world is that 3 or 4 years ago American Airlines (based out of DFW) bought US Airways (based here in PHX) to form what we proudly claim as "The World's Largest Airline".  As part of that merger several parts of US Airways based here stayed here - including the data center.

Most of the people here are here to support that in one way or another.  But our management hub is in Dallas.  That was another good thing....I was  PM hired to work with an engineering team based in PHX but my management was in DFW.  I didn't have anyone breathing down my throat, and I had the flexibility I needed to do what needed to be done.  As I say - in some ways it was perfect for me.

I was 8 months into it when I was approached by an engineering manager about my interest in becoming a full-time employee for AA.  I had expressed that interest to my own manager early in our relationship but he was non-committal, saying that it would be easier to do if I lived in Dallas.  But I didn't live in Dallas and wasn't planning to move again.  So, when I got the call to gauge my interest I was open to the conversation.

The role I was approached to do was different than anything I had done before, too.  The title is "Manager of Remote Network Engagements".  What it means is that our IT networking is divided in two ways: (1) Data Centers - there are 4 of them and (2) anything NOT a data center.  That includes every airport, maintenance facility, Admiral's Club, reservation center, and all sorts of other miscellaneous locations around the world.  There are well over 400 of them.

In this current role any time any of these groups needs anything done that involves a networking component they need to go through my group.  The things we're asked to do range from bringing up service in a new airport we haven't served before (for example, Havana Cuba) to moving/adding gates in an airport to expanding an Admiral's Club to expanding capacity...the list of things we do is a long one. I am responsible for all of them - from the intake, to assigning an engineer, to managing the engagement.  I'm responsible for maintaining our relationships with our biggest internal customers as well as external ones, I'm responsible for status reporting from a portfolio perspective.  I'm part of the management team that includes a Sr. Manager, a Team Lead, and a Sr. Architect.  And, perhaps most importantly, I thing I'm perfect for it.

They "officially" hired me in late September and it took a few weeks to transition my old role and into my new one.  This is the first job-job I've had since I left Dell in 2004, and I'm planning to spend the rest of my career here.

One day is rarely like another.  There's lots going on.  I get to use a variety of skills I've built over the years. The travel benefits are great.  The people are great.  And that's not to say there aren't some frustrations in there, too, but I'm in this for the long haul.  I'm committed, and this has become my new "normal".

More later.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs.....

New Year's only lasts a couple of days.  It's like a cliff - all the gradual uphill climb of the Holidays that starts around Halloween ends with a big band on New Year's Day.  Then, off the edge you go - it's back to the mundane reality of "normalcy".  January happens.

Last year, Jan 4 marked my first day at American Airlines.  After driving across country with only whatever would fit in my pickup truck and a U-Haul Trailer I needed to be sure that this was going to be a good fit before committing everything and bringing it all back across the country.

I was one of two people hired to manage a couple of large American Airlines network projects.  I've managed IT projects since 2000 - all kinds of projects.  Software development projects, infrastructure projects, risk/security projects, corporate environments, military environments...it has actually been a great career.  I made the decision early on that I enjoyed the type of life that being a "contract" worker provided...flexibility, more money, a specific purpose for being there...it's not for everyone but it was certainly good for me.

Part of the reason for coming across country in the first place was that I was changing.  My needs were changing.  My approach to a number of things were changing.  And, both symbolically and actually, coming back to an old new place at the beginning of a new year was a bold step into forcing a change that needed to happen.

Anyone who has read my stuff for any period of time knows I'm a big believer that each of us needs to have both hands on the steering wheel and actually drive our lives.  We're not passengers.  We can't be afraid to hit the guardrail from time to time, or to head down a wrong street.  And, in that same vein, we can't be afraid to take a risk.  Moving back to Phoenix was a risk for me.  It was based on some combination of listening to my gut, timing, and luck.

So - back to Jan 4.  Things fell in place quickly - there were immediate Signs that this was good.  Strange coincidences seemed almost like validation that the right things were happening.  For example, the other person who was hired that same day is someone I've worked with before.  It was a little odd to walk into the room to meet the "other" new person and realize that you knew each other.  More importantly, you actually like one another!

After a couple of weeks I decided that I liked AA and AA seemed to like me back, so I started to look for a place to live.  The plan was to find a place that would be "home", I can't stress that concept enough.  Home.  HOME.  Not just a house, or a place to put my stuff.  I needed that bigger thing called a "Home".   I needed to set my anchor.  I needed to be somewhere I really wanted to be.  I needed to get away from the constant moving that I'd grown accustomed to.  I needed a new HOME.  I've struggled with this for years and it has proven so elusive.  But I was dedicated to making it happen.

A couple of weeks into January I set aside a weekend to search for a home.  I needed a number of things - fenced yard for the pups, 3 bedrooms minimum, attached garage, Open floorplan with high ceilings.  I like a large master bedroom, and large master bath.  I didn't want an apartment, and I didn't want anything connected to anyone else.  I wanted something within 15 miles or so of where I was working.  And I wanted to keep it all under $1500 a month.

And, with those criteria, I looked through Craigslist and on Trulia to put together a list of "potentials".  In another of those odd coincidences, one of the houses on that list was a house I had lived in before.  I lived there for a year and a half in 2006-2007.  It where I was living when I got the pups, so this was our first home together.  In one of those odd twists of fate it had just become available again and I expressed interest without knowing what it was.

Even more ironic, my co-worker (the one who started that same day) lives just around the corner.  I mean - less than a dozen houses away!  From my perspective, the search ended as soon as I pulled back in the driveway I can still remember leaving.  It was like another piece had fallen into place.

This gig at AA was kinda new for me in that it involved networking.  That's one thing I haven't done before.  I'm talking about networking in a big sense....where things we were doing could bring down entire airports or more.  It was with a great group of people who I've learned to admire, trust, and like.  And I think they'd say the same about me.  Certainly not all those things are necessary in order to do your job but the older I get the more important those things become.

So - by mid January last year I had accomplished quite a bit.  I'd set a foothold in Phoenix.  I had found a "home".  I was again surrounded by people I truly love...people who have made a difference in my life.  It was another big big thing in a life full of big big things.  Most importantly - it all just felt right.

To be continued.....


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reason and Passion

Today is New Years Day 2017.

I haven't done an update on my blog in over a year now.  That's a little hard for me believe given my recognition that my blog was a dear, intimate friend for a long long time.  We talked every day - sometimes more than once a day.  Although the nature of our relationship changed over the years - I started the blog a dozen years ago - and the frequency of our "talks" has varied I've never gone this long.  An entire year.

I'm not about to start the New Year by making promises I can't keep.  HOWEVER - I'm going to try to be a better friend with my blog.  I've missed her in my life.

We've got a lot of catching up to do.  I don't play to do it all now.  I'll do it little by little, as needed.  However, I'll start where I left off.  I wrote an entry last year on Dec 22 - just before Christmas - and never posted it.  I'll start with that.

To set the scene - I had lived in Charleston for the better part of 4 years.  The problem (or, one of them) was that I had chosen to LIVE in Charleston but I couldn't find a job doing what I do there.  As a result, for the better part of almost 3 years I was working somewhere during the week and going home to Charleston on the weekends.

There was no balance.  There was constant motion.  There were long commutes - 3 or 4 hours to Charlotte or Raleigh.  I actually rented an apartment in Charlotte for a while so I had some semblance of a home to come home to.  But once all was said and done, it just wasn't healthy.

A couple of things that happened during 2015 affected my ability to justify it all.  First was an Easter week dust-up that I won't explain in detail here.  Suffice it to say that it changed my perspective on why I was willing to put up with so much to be there in the first place.

The second thing was when I ended up in the Emergency Room in early June.  Recognition that I could justify the dual job/personal lives I was living for the sake of convenience or economic necessity just didn't cut it anymore.  I recognized my need to surround myself with a support system of friends and people I cared about, and although I had never felt "lonely" in the traditional sense I became aware of a hidden "cost" I hadn't realized before.

I'm a big believer that the right things happen if you just give them a chance, and that you believe in the outcomes.  I'm talking about the kind of trust required to close your eyes and starting to walk - following only your gut.  That's the kind of trust, or courage, it takes to simply take another step.

So, as 2015 started winding down I started to investigate "what next" with specific focus on addressing the things I had come to realize during the course of the year.  The pull of Charleston hadn't lessened all that much - however, my willingness to deal with everything that kept me away from there had.  And - first and foremost - I was looking for some stability.

As my contract was winding down I started to send resumes to  opportunities that looked like good matches.  I've done this dozens of times over the course of my career - it's just the nature of being a contract worker.  But this time I sent a couple of them to companies in Phoenix.  Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2015 I interviewed for and was offered a long-term contract at American Airlines based out of PHX.

December last year was a blur.  It involved planning and implementing all the logistics needed to get myself back across the country to start this new job on Jan 4.  I had only recently finally brought the last of my stuff that I'd been storing in a storage unit in Phoenix TO Charleston with the mistaken understanding that my days there were through.  As events would prove - that was premature.

So - given that backstory this is what I wrote on Dec 22, 2015.

====================================================
I consider myself to be an emotional person.  I care.  I feel things deeply (although I may not seem that way).  For better or worse, I am often driven by passions first and rational thought second.  I can point to dozens of thing I've done that were not wise but were fueled by emotion.

Over the years I've noted passages from Kahlil Gibran's "The Phrophet".  He's got brief but deep insights on a variety of topics that effectively articulate very complicated things in very clear ways.  One of the chapters explains this delicate balance between Reason and Passion:
Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.
I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.
I get that.  I feel that, all the way down to the core of my very seafaring soul.

The one thing I'd add is the need to come to peace with the two of them.  Looking back at your life -specifically, at decisions you've made - with the benefit of hindsight and in the context of reason alone will make you crazy.  You can't do that.  It doesn't work.  I've tried, and every time my mind goes there I recognize the folly of it so I stop.

Much of what is happening in my life right now is tossed upon those stormy seas churned by passion and reason.  I'm approaching it in a very workmanlike way because it needs that in order to do everything that needs to be done in a very short period of time.  But every once in a while the emotion of it all creeps in.  I'll note that the Holidays don't help....

The past several days have been full of packing and bringing things to a storage unit.  Again.  How many times have I done this?!  This is actually the 4th time I've moved it all since last February - I haven't been posting regularly but I've moved all my stuff 4 friggin' times!  Knowing that is very much what this is about.  I can't keep doing this.

In February I moved from my apartment to Charleston.  I didn't have a solid landing pad at the time so I filled a friend's garage with my "stuff".  After a while we needed to free up that space so I moved it all to a storage unit where it all lived for a couple of months.  That move almost killed me.

In July a friend helped me move it all to the place I'm living now.  I've been joyfully storage unit free since then.  Until last week, that is. To find myself moving back into one is - well - depressing.  You'd think that at this stage of life I'd have more stability.  Apparently not.

I like to believe that each of us can control our lives more than we know.

=============================

Immediately after that, things started moving fast.  I drove from Charleston to Asheville NC on Christmas Day to drop off the pups with Rachel and Lauren to love until I had a stable place for us all to be.  I drove back to Charleston the next day.  There were some crazy days of moving the things into storage, cleaning the house, and packing the trucks.  Then, a couple of days before New Years last year I started the 4-day drive across country.

The sentiments that I was trying to express at that time remain a constant.  They're still true.  The internal battle between Reason and Passion is ongoing and, in fact, I think it's that Yin/Yang dynamic that provides fuel for much of what drives me.  Some seem to feel that finding peace - a state where there is no conflict - is Paradise.  To me - the only thing I can imagine that meets that criteria is death.  Rather, the key to living for me is finding those brief moments of balance.  It's not the same thing.

One of the neat things about having a blog that you've kept up for a long time is looking back at your thoughts and actions with the benefit of hindsight.  That's one of the things I'll regret for not having kept this current for a long time....there's a big gap in the story.

I think that's where I'll end for now.  It's almost exactly a year to the day from where we are now.  And - as I say - I'd prefer to catch up in pieces.

Oh - it's nice to be back.  :)




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wandering Soul Syndrome

There are people who find a spot in life and make themselves comfortable there.  I was one of those people until the day I had my first injection of estrogen.  I realized, deep down, that I was crossing a threshold from which I could not retreat and would very likely lead to upheaval in every element of my world.

Until that time my life was very clearly divided into 3 parts.  I call the first my "Transient" Phase, and it covered the entire period from my birth until my high school graduation.  My father was an academic in a very specialized field and was paid to come to universities on one year fellowships to help establish biophysics departments there.  As a result, we moved almost every year.  When I think back to my time in grade school it's all based on where we were living at the time....6th grade Buffalo NY, 7th grade Santa Barbara CA, 8th grade East Lansing Michigan, 9th grade back to Buffalo.  Over a period of 5 years I attended 5 different schools.  Whereas kids of those in military service sometimes to refer to themselves as "Army brats" I referred to myself as an "Academic brat".  Different specialty, same result.

The second part of my life covered my 4 years of college.  I was anxious to live on my own but circumstance had other ideas.  I went to 3 colleges in 2 countries, and took an entire semester off, before graduating from Syracuse University in 1981.  Those years seemed to continue the theme of Transience that had dominated my life until then - the difference being that until that time I couldn't get away even if I wanted because I wasn't "of age" but for those four years, I was simply being practical.

That all ended one night in November 1990 when I met a woman who would eventually become my wife.  With her I found the stability that had eluded me to that point in life, and after a year of getting established we bought our first house near Rochester NY.  We lived in that house for 15 years - that was my Stable Phase.

Artists rendition of "home" on Cottonwood Ln, in Pittsford NY....
My son was born there.  My career grew from nothing and became successful there.  I had a side business that hatched and thrived there.  We made lots of friends there, and eventually the entire rest of my immediate family came to live there (only briefly).  My father died there.  The roots that had eluded me to that point in life finally took hold, growing deep and strong.

In 1995 we decided that we'd had enough of the harsh winters there and bought a house in Scottsdale AZ.  It seemed like paradise, and we expected to live there for the balance of our lives.  That calm lasted until the moment I described earlier, in 1997, when I got that first shot.  Everything that followed was a gradual but accelerating trajectory into the theme of my early days - no roots.

I left the Valley in 2000 with the expectation of setting new roots in Austin, TX.  I had been hired by Dell, and it was my first job ever as me - every job before that was thanks to the exterior I presented before transition.  I envisioned setting those same roots that I had established in Rochester there but time and circumstance had other ideas.  After 4 years I was back in the Valley.

Over the past 10 years I've had more than 10 addresses.  People have

The Valley seems to have a way of calling/bringing me back.  It's the most fertile place I've lived as far as career opportunities go.  I've got more dear friends there than anywhere else.  I love the weather, and the quality of life.  I've learned the hard way that there are specific areas of the Valley that energize me, and others with which I feel no connection whatsoever.

All that writing is a round-about way of saying that I am hoping that my history of Wandering Soul Syndrome is finally coming to an end.  Ever the optimist, I'm approaching what happens over the next several months cautiously and for many significant reasons I will refuse to fully relinquish my connection to the the Low Country.  But if and when the stability I'm seeking proves to be more than a mirage I'll do what needs to be done - whether that be in Phoenix or in Charleston.

I'd be lying if I said I haven't grown weary of all of this.  But I'd also be lying if I said I'd allow that weariness to determine where I ultimately land.  I suppose time and circumstance will work their magic, as usual, to help make the decisions clear.  Until then, onwards.

Last week a group of us spent a week in Phoenix to attend dear Maria's Holiday Party.  Dear friends came from all over the country to attend, and I had a wonderful time.  It reminded me how much I miss life there and was a very much appreciated pre-welcome back.

Some of my dearest friends in the world converged in the Valley recently for Maria's Holiday event
One of the highlights (among a week of highlights) was a weekend run along my old running route.  In the earliest days, before transition, I started to train my body in an effort to re-shape it.  All the muscle I'd built over the years needed to go, and I needed to lose 20 pounds to get to a place where I'd be comfortable moving forward.  In order to achieve that I trained as hard as I've trained for any physical event or competition I've ever entered.  A key part of that involved early morning runs near our north Scottsdale neighborhood - up near Pinnacle Peak.

It's gorgeous country.  Unspoiled, large saguaro cactus everywhere, largely removed from "civilization" - even after these many years since I ran with a keen sense of purpose.  I took an hour on Saturday afternoon to re-trace those steps and although I'm not as fast as I remember the run was more enjoyable because of the appreciation of what those many miles along those roads have led to.

The beauty of the Sonoran desert along my running route - a truly magical place for me.
I've had some of my most introspective moments on those runs, where the mind just wanders and goes places it doesn't seem to go when the body isn't in motion.  My most recent run was similarly magical, and I look forward to doing more of them in the future.

On the medical front I went to the surgeon today to get the results of my recent CT scan and was told I've got a clean bill of health.  My discomfort is likely due to physical exertion but there's nothing that needs to be "fixed".  I'm glad, and relieved.

I talked with my mom today.  I've got a lot on my plate, and a lot on my mind, and talking with her helped.  I expect to see her again sometime between now and the New Year, on my way to Phoenix.  I appreciate the opportunities I've got while I can.  Like so many things - you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Onwards!






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Planning Within the Headlights

It has been quite a while since I have checked in here.  I have no idea if anyone even visits anymore, although I know at least one person (hey Sophie!) misses me.

I have no explanation other than I haven't felt the need to write.  I think there are a number of reasons.
Two contributing factors:  (a) the availability of other avenues to do it and (b) my need for a little time and space.

The main "other" area where I share elements of my day-to-day life is Facebook.  Over the years I've established a definite love/hate relationship with FB and admittedly don't share with the same depth or detail there as I typically do here.  Although I've got many "friends" there, most don't know me or haven't followed my life other than what the see or read via what I share there.  I've reached a point where I don't share much there anymore - if I post a brief update more than once or twice a week that's a lot.

A lot has happened in my life since my last post.  There's no way for me to catch up here on everything between then and now so I won't really try right now.  I think a year-end retrospective is probably on the way so I'll fill in the necessary blanks a little later.

That said - I'm back because I NEED to write.  I've got a lot going on in my life right now and writing has always been a pathway to clarity for me.  I've always felt that if you can take the time to articulate complex thoughts and emotions you provide yourself the opportunity to make sense of it all. What I'm about to say here is only available here.  Less than a half dozen people know any of this, but heading into what's about to happen I've got a lot to work out.  As a result - I'm back.

Two events have shaped my current mindset this past year, and have affected decisions I've been making.

The first was when I ended up in the ER in April.  I was in Charlotte, where I've been working for the better part of the past two years.  When I was lying in that hospital bed, curled up in pain, the nurse was asking me intake questions. This is what I wrote in my blog entry at the end of May:
As I lay in the hospital last week the nurse asked me if I had anyone locally that they could call, or who could pick me up if I needed it.  As I thought about it the depressing reality was "no".  I really have no friends in Charlotte.  I work there.  My co-workers and I get along great but we're not on a level where I'd want to share too much personal medical information.  For all intents and purposes, I was all alone.  And that sucked.
Over the course of the last several months that singular realization has felt like a wake-up call.  It said volumes to me about the trade-offs we make in life and the fact that I was accepting my dual-existence of home/career where bulk of my time is spent away from home as "ok".  It isn't.

My living arrangements over these past couple of years have been a little less than ideal, given the fact that I typically commute over 200 miles a week between Charleston (where I live) and Charlotte (where I work).  It has taken quite a bit of time, energy, and money to maintain this dual life.  But the fact of the matter is that my deepest need in recent years has been to set roots as "home" and I had decided (for a number of compelling reasons) that those roots need to grow in Charleston.  The unfortunate outcome of that decision - and one that I had simply accepted - was acquiescence that the cost necessarily involved travel.

Starting the night I was in the ER, I headed down a path that stressed the importance of surrounding ourselves with our support networks - our dearest friends, the people who care most about us, the people you can count on or can call any time night or day and they'll be there.  Having those people around you is more than simply convenience - it's critical.  So - coming out of that experience I found renewed dedication to surround myself with my support network.

There are 3 places I've lived in this world and have those kinds of friends.  First - there's Rochester NY.  That's home.  Second, there's here in Charleston - but the problem has consistently been that I can't find a job here so I end up traveling and making my life complicated.  Third - perhaps the largest group of those people in my life are in Phoenix.

The second event was much less dramatic, but equally as affecting.  To be honest, I still don't know what caused it and if I were to try to explain it my words would only trivialize it.  It happened over Easter when plans that had been made got changed.  It wasn't so  much that they changed that caused the upheaval in me....it was HOW that week unfolded that caused the uproar in my world.

In that same blog entry from late May I wrote:
I look at the various events and people from my life who have led me to where I am now.  Some of those people and things have faded away, others have weaved themselves into the fabric of my world, and others have become foundational elements.  Good decisions, bad decisions, wisdom (or lack of it)  in choosing friends and placing trust, strongly held beliefs that transform themselves into life decisions....they're all part of this tapestry that makes up my life right now.
The key phrase in all of that is  "Strongly held beliefs that transform themselves into life decisions".  As the beliefs change, so too do the possibilities worthy of consideration and the subsequent decisions that get made.

Both those events have led me to question whether or not the foothold that I thought I had in Charleston is really the long-term "roots" I've been seeking.  It still might be, but whereas I once felt sure now I've got questions.  When I've set my mind to something I can be pretty tenacious about it, but when something causes me to stop and take a step back it becomes time to reassess given the appropriate opportunity to pause.

The next natural opportunity happens at year-end, with the end of my contract in Charlotte.  I've been there for two years now, and a number of decisions needed to be made about "what next?"  Given my mindset - there are more options than simply accepting that more of the same is ok.  I was offered a 3 month extension, which I turned down - more of the same ISN'T ok.  I've exhausted efforts to find something worthwhile locally.

Without going into all the details - I have accepted a long-term opportunity that will bring me back to Phoenix at the beginning of the year.  The logistics of how that is going to happen become overwhelming to this little brain whenever I try to wrap my mind around them.  I'm sure they will be the source of future entries here.

If getting myself back across the country in two weeks weren't enough - there is the potential complication of a medical procedure that may need to happen between now and the end of the year as well.  I had an appointment with a surgeon late last week who sent me for a CT scan to get a better idea of what's going on.  I've got an appointment with him tomorrow to review the results so I expect I'll know more then than I do now.

I've very good at considering life in short-term bites.  I call it planning within the headlights.  It's like driving on a dark road at night - all you know is that is illuminated by your headlights - the rest is just dark.  You react to each turn as it appears in front of you, and you can't really get too far ahead of yourself.  That's how I approach things like this.  I'm gauging everything that needs to happen between now and the day I'm supposed to start my new job in Phoenix (Jan 4).  The rest is just the details (although I'm told that's where the devil lives).

There is quite a bit of irony in all of this.  Most of my life "stuff" lived in a storage unit in the Valley for several years until I finally went to get it 18 months ago.  I truly expected that my days of calling the Valley "home" had come to an end.  And even as I write this I'm not saying that my time in Charleston is over, either.  We'll see how all of this unfolds.  What I am saying, however, is that life as I know it is about to change.  Again.  It's a good thing I deal well with change.....

Lastly - it's nice to be back!  :)