Sunday, January 22, 2017

How I Feel

A highlight of yesterday here in PHX and around the world was the Woman's March.  It was organized in response to our President's crude and mysogonistic statements prior to the election, and a demonstration that the power of the people to express themselves matters.  It exceeded expectations everywhere, with hundreds of thousands of marchers in major cities around the country and the world, and significant marches in smaller areas.  It's already estimated to be the largest single day of marches in our history.

I find the fact that these were universally peaceful events to be testament to the power to protest in this country.  Recently, when we think about protests, we think about large police presence, looting, violence, and an overall aura of danger.  From everything I've seen these events had an aura of unity, of hope, and community.  The seemed to be celebrations and most of the photos I've seen involved smiles, as well as some wickedly funny signs.

I said in our most recent podcast - yet to be published - that I think the election of Mr. Trump will prove to be a positive thing when analyzed in the context of time.  If anything, it was a wake-up call and a call-to-action, and yesterday that call was hear (and demonstrated) loud and clear.  This most recent election was the most divisive event in my memory, and events like today are a stark reminder that we haven't forgotten how do "do" unity.

It wasn't about a candidate.  It wasn't about a political agenda.  It wasn't about I'm-right-so-you're-wrong.  It was about solidarity in declaring the dignity of personhood.  I'd go so far as to say it was a necessary healing event, and it reminded everyone in the power of the people.  That power has been dormant for a long time.  Sure, we have the power of our vote at the ballot box, but this kind of power is a more active and visible one.  That's one of the things that makes it so important.

To be honest, though - I'm not sure that I noticed a consistent message.  Some were there to express support for womanhood in general.  Others were there for LGBT causes, and Black Lives Matter.  Many were seemingly there in hopes they could affect the election, but that ship has sailed baby and it ain't coming back.  The question of "Is this a movement or a moment in time?" still lingers because if it's a Movement I'm still looking for the theme and the goal.  Getting our President to voluntarily leave, or even change, isn't gonna happen.  Show of solidarity?  Excellent.  Sense of community?  Off the charts.

More importantly, do I sense that it will have any affect at all to substantively affect anything that happens politically afterwards?  Serious doubts....  Does that mean I don't feel it was a waste of time or purely symbolic?  Of course not.  But if people think that the good feeling that they shared yesterday will turn itself into change I fear they're going to be disappointed.  In other words, although I'd love to be proven wrong, my expectations are low.

All that said - I did not attend the march here in PHX.  I was there in spirit, but I was not one of the tens of thousands who marched here in Phoenix.  I spent the balance of the day with wonderful Maria, and taking care of some things in preparation for a very busy next several weeks.

I think I've only been in two "marches" over the course of my life.  One was the Trans March prior to the San Francisco Pride Parade in 2008.  The other was an effort form a human chain across the bridge between Mt. Pleasant and Charleston SC a couple of years ago after the shootings in the church there.  Both were very impressive, empowering events.  I'm sure those who participated yesterday came away with a renewed sent of people-power, and I hope it lasts.


For as many people who showed up to march yesterday, it's important to note that the essence of what they were marching for was not universally felt.  One Friend on FB shared a different perspective:
To all the Women Million Marchers - don't include me in your number. I do not need nor want anyone to march for me based on my gender. You say, "but what will we tell our daughters?" How about sometimes people don't get their own way. Take it on the chin and keep on going, like women always have. Pick yourself up and march figuratively, not literally, back to your jobs or school. You wanted change - we got change. You want gender fluidity - then don't vote for someone based on gender. Trump said some really crude and obscene things. That doesn't mean you fight back with crude and obscene signs to protest. We all have hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren. Give our new President an opportunity to get to work to perhaps change the things he can. You want your voices heard but you're just making noise. Like fingernails on a chalkboard noise.
This Friend is a real friend - someone I've known for almost a quarter century.  I respect her, and most importantly I like her.  Whether I agree with her or not (I don't) is unimportant, and it doesn't affect how I feel about her.  I'm not going to argue with her, un-Friend her, or demean her perspective in any way.  I'm sure I can find other similar feelings.  My point is that what happened was powerful, but it certainly wasn't universal.

Talking about different perspectives and FB, I made a recent statement there that I wasn't planning to use that forum to talk about a number of things.  As will explained in an upcoming Podcast episode, I perceive FB to server a purpose, but at the end of the day it's more toxic than beneficial.

One of the items I mentioned was the recent decision by President Obama to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning.  I had a couple of people write to me to ask my opinion in private.  I'll share what I wrote in response.
You asked about my thoughts on Chelsea Manning....I think it was a mistake to commute her sentence, for a number of reasons.  First, I believe one of the reasons she was pardoned was specifically because she's trans.  I don't think it would have happened otherwise.  If we're truly asking for equal rights, not "special" rights, then this violates that end.  Second, what she did was treason.  I've done top secret DoD work and I'm well aware of the oath that is taken to know what people in those roles come to know.  To make a decision that secret information should be public information isn't up to her, and she put the lives of people she'll never know at risk.  Third, I find it troublesome how so many in the Trans community are so quick to celebrate her and they have absolutely no clue as to what she's done.  All they know is that she's trans and they're trans so they support her for that reason alone.  It doesn't work like that.  And lastly, I fear that the community will look to her as a leadership voice.  The community is starved for one - Caitlyn Jenner did not turn out to be that person for many.  But hers is a tainted legacy and if she's smart she'll lay low.  But I doubt that will happen, and it will reflect negatively on many of us.  Criminals, mentally ill, perverts, narcissists ....  The parade continues.  Not good.  
 So there.  That's how I feel.   I suppose time will tell.....

And lastly this morning, I feel like I might be coming down with a cold or something.  I can't even remember the last time I was ill, as in sort throat/stuffy nose/no energy/fever ill.  It's been years.  But I have the beginnings of it and I'm rushing to try to quash it before it gets going.  Between all the travel I've been doing, the hectic schedule, and the many people I know who are ALREADY sick it's a wonder I've been as healthy as I have.

I've got a guest arriving later in the week so I want to take care of it by then.  In the meantime, I've got some work stuff, some cleaning, preparing, nesting....and take care of today.

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 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'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 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'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.  :)