Be Wary of a Woman

There’s a song by Darius Rucker called “Be Wary of a Woman”.  It is one of the many songs I relate to my wife Beverly.  In fact, every person I know or have ever known has one or more songs.  Perhaps in a future post I’ll publish that matrix…

In any event, I’m going to post the lyrics and a link to the song here before finishing this.  It’s important to the reason for which I am writing this morning that you understand who Beverly is.  Darius seems to know her.  My favorite line is where he says, “Man you don’t stand a chance, don’t even try…”

Be Wary of a Woman

If you’re a man like me who’s good at leaving
If you like your space and you love your freedom
Don’t see yourself as ever settling down
Or your whole world being tossed around
Be wary of a woman
A woman so fine
Don’t wanna change you
Loves you just right
Makes you feel like a man inside
Sometimes she’ll make you cry
Till you don’t know what your doing
Your out of control
Forget about leaving your heart wont go
If don’t like that you better run and hide
And be wary of a woman like mine

She’ll make you laugh when you feel like crying
Make you wanna live when you feel like dying
So if you like living in the dark
Just walk away your gonna lose your heart
Be wary of a woman
A woman so fine
Don’t wanna change you
Loves you just right
Makes you feel like a man inside
Sometimes she’ll make you cry
Till you don’t know what your doing
Your out of control
Forget about leaving your heart wont go
If don’t like that you better run and hide
And be wary of a woman
Be wary of a woman like mine
Man you don’t stand a chance don’t even try
Be wary of a woman like mine

Now, on to why I sat down to write this post this morning…

Two Thursday’s ago, completely out of the blue, the government cancelled the contract I am working on.  I work for a sub.  The prime was kind enough to give us two weeks before we had to vacate.  I woke up on that Friday intending to install all the equipment I had purchased for my new 180 gallon saltwater setup.  Roughly $5,000 worth of equipment sitting in boxes, and a probably a thousand or two in things like sand, rocks, chemicals, etc.

Needless to say, what was supposed to be a fun even involving the whole family turned into a long ass weekend, wondering what the future holds.  It’s hard to sleep when you just lost your job… and spent a butt load of money.

So there was a flurry of email activity, phone calls, resume’s being traded amongst the folks in the office.  In fact I have to say I have worked in a lot of places, and I have never seen a group of people work so hard to help each other out.

But let me get to the part about my wife…

I got an offer fairly quickly.  $100,000 to do vulnerability management at the Pentagon.  I went home concerned…

I told Beverly about the offer and she could tell by my tone that I wasn’t excited. She asked me what the problem was and I told her honestly, “I don’t want to work at the Pentagon”.  And then Beverly did something I cannot imagine a lot of wives doing…

She said to me, “I have faith in you.  Even if you have to spend some time looking, I know you’ll find a new job.  If you don’t want the Pentagon job, don’t take it.”  And so I didn’t.

As of this writing I have another offer letter sitting in my in box, and two more interviews lined up for tomorrow.  True to Beverly’s prediction, I will I fact have another job.  But there is freedom in knowing I am married to a woman who has complete faith in me.

This is what allowed me to walk away from an offer when I had nothing else on the horizon.  This is what allows me to be me, and to be who I want to be.  It’s what let’s me know that no matter what life throws at me there is one constant I can always count on…like gravity…like the speed of light…

So let me say officially…  I love you Beverly.

And to those of you who aren’t married to a woman like mine… you should try it sometime. 🙂

 

 

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How a Fish Tank Kicked My Ass

On Thursday I left work excited.  I had purchased a bunch of new stuff for my 180 gallon saltwater tank.  Some of it I needed.  Much of it I just wanted.  I knew there would be some challenges, but I also knew I would overcome them.  I invited my children and my oldest daughter’s boyfriend to help out with the project.  I set up the camera to record it.

Then came Friday….

On Friday we began by upgrading the RODI unit while we waited for the kids to arrive.  Sometime early that morning I checked my email to find that the contract I was on had been cancelled.  Meaning, I am about to be unemployed.  So, I looked around my living room at thousands of dollars worth of equipment…and went back to it.

It only now (Monday morning) occurs to me that I could have simply sealed up all those shipping boxes and sent the stuff back.  At that point I hadn’t removed a single rock, fish, or gallon of water from the tank.  But, I have a tendency to focus on an objective, plot a route to achieve it, and move forward.  So the thought of giving up on the project didn’t cross my mind.

I think there is a tendency to reflexively look for an excuse when things go sideways.  It is certainly possible that the news of my pending unemployment, coupled with the fact I had just spent a whole lot of money, affected my thinking.  I know I didn’t sleep well Friday night.  In any event, for whatever reason, I made some mental errors.

I’ll end the suspense.  The tank is back up and running.  But, it was much harder than I thought it would be, and there were a few moments when it seemed uncertain.

On Friday, while I was still in relatively good spirits, I made an effort to capture a lot of the detail.  By Saturday night I was less enthusiastic about it, but I still captured some of the work we were doing.  Sunday….bloody Sunday…I don’t think I recorded a damn thing.

It boils down like this.  We took all the rocks and sand out of the tank and sterilized it with a bleach solution.  We disconnected the sump, removed the skimmer and other equipment, and sterilized all of that stuff as well.  We placed the fish in a 20g tank, and the inverts went in the 10g tank with the corals.

We put the new rock and sand in the tank and I filled it up…at which point I realized that I did not rinse the sand, and now my tank was a giant mud puddle.  I tried adding some clarifier, and we settled in to watch UFC 220.  At 1 am I was draining the tank again…  I got it empty and turned on the RO unit with the hose in the tank.  The next morning I discovered two things.

  1. The tank was only 1/3 full, and that wasn’t going to work.  So I finished filling it with the garden hose
  2. I had left the heater in the sump on all night.  Fortunately it was in the slightest little bit of water and hadn’t burned a hole through the acrylic.

After buying more salt and starting over we got the tank running and it cleared up reasonably.  My daughter and her boyfriend then hooked up all the pumps, dosing units, lights, controller, power bars, etc.  Needless to say the area beside my tank is a jumbled mess of wires and tubes.

Then came all the programming and calibration….

We finally finished at 8 pm Sunday night, and I went to bed exhausted.  This morning the tank is relatively clear, though not crystal clear like the 75g is.  The sump and everything in it is covered by a fine layer of dust.  The lights need to be mounted differently.  The corals need to be placed.  There is a ton of wire management needed.

Bottom line…. my weekend project is likely going to take a lot longer than that.  All the youngins are gone.  It’s just my wife and I.  I will spend days thinking of how I could have done it differently, more efficiently, better.  I will likely swap the rocks around repeatedly, chasing a “perfect” look that I will never find.

Eventually I will find some level of contentment.  There will be an agreement that what could be done, and what I can do, are not the same thing.  I will question for some time whether it was worth the expense, then ultimately conclude that it was.  In the end I will be happy with this tank.

But for right now, this fish tank is kicking my ass…

My Dog Died

Wow…has it been 5 months since my last post?  I wish I could commit to writing more frequently.  I’d like to put out more of my thoughts and feelings on a variety of matters; but the truth is if something doesn’t move me beyond my natural laziness barrier, I can’t find the motivation to write about it.

So, like the title says, my dog died Saturday night.  He was a little Jack Russell Terrier named Elric (named after Elric of Melnibone).  He was more my wife’s dog than mine.  He had been in declining health over recent months.  My wife and I had begun the conversation about putting him to sleep.  Then, Saturday evening, he passed away on my wife’s lap.

To be clear, this is not some tear jerker post about how awesome a dog he was.  I have no cool photos or heroic stories.  Much like my sentiments regarding my father, he was in my opinion not a great dog.  He was a dog.  A loyal companion.  A member of the family.  My wife will miss him.  I will not.  Though his passing did not please me, it also did not truly affect me.  Until this morning….

This morning on my ride in to work I began to think about a number of things relating to death.

My wife sat on the bed holding the deceased dog for a while.  She called me in to say good-bye.  When I went into the bedroom our Dobe “Kyrie” (his AKC name is Fate’s Kyrie Eleison) followed me in.  For those who wonder, yes… he’s named after the Mister Mister song, taken from the Latin meaning “Lord have mercy”.

Anyway, Kyrie walked over and put his nose against Elric’s nose and sniffed.  Then he laid down.  Not a sound.  Not an odd look.  Not even an extra sniff.  He just inhaled, knew what he needed to know, and moved on.  And I stood there asking myself one of life’s unanswerable questions.  “What does Kyrie think happened to Elric?”

A little later that evening Kyrie walked over to the bowls set aside for Elric and ate his food, and then he laid down on the couch and went about his normal day.  And I began to think about life and death.

It is a fact that all living things must someday die.  But, I think that when we witness the death of an animal or a person it brings to the forefront how fragile life truly is.  We confront our own mortality.  We begin to think about things.

I began to think about things.  I will try to convey those thoughts and the way in which I thought them by putting it like this.  Read each of the following sentences as fast as you possibly can, and then times that by two.  After a period of time I slow down the spinning cacophony of thought and focus on one or two at a time.  But in the beginning it happens like this:

What does Kyrie think?  Kyrie doesn’t seem to think anything.  I wonder if Elric dying makes Kyrie think about dying.  I wonder of Elric knew he was dying.  I wonder if he was afraid to die.  I am not afraid to die.  Of course I’m afraid to die!  Everyone is afraid to die!  Why am I afraid to die?  Because I don’t know if there is anything after this.  Which scares me more, the thought that there is something, or the thought that there is not?  Hmmm…good question, let me get back to you.  Bev is hurt.  Bev’s a big girl, and she knew this was coming.  Yes, but you should be kind to her.  I AM KIND TO HER! (in my own way)  She’s calling people.  I will probably call people.  She posted his death on FB.  So will I.  Why do people share pain with strangers (or friends for that matter)?  I don’t know…but that’s another good question, so let me get back to you on that one too.

And thus we arrive, finally, at today’s post.

Why do we (specifically I) fear death?  Why do people share pain?

The easy one first…

We share pain IMHO for essentially two reasons.

We want to feel connected to other people.  So, we share our pain so that we might receive comfort in return.  We are assured in these moments that our losses are felt by others and that we are not alone.  This is the likely reason Bev shared the loss of Elric via phone to those who knew him, and via FB to those who did not.

The second reason is a bit more nefarious, but still true.  Having grown up in church I watched on countless Sundays as people stood to give their testimonies.  It seemed that with each passing week the circumstances from which the Lord had saved folks got more and more dire.  What started out with “I’m just an old sinner saved by Grace”, became detailed accounts of drug use, prostitution, prison, child molestation…you name it.  It seemed to me the point was to say “look at me and all I’ve been through”.  Like the Lord had to take a couple extra steps to reach down to where I was at.  Or maybe simply to say, “You wouldn’t have made it through what I made it through”.

This is essentially the basis of Münchausen syndrome and Münchausen by Proxy.  When it reaches the level of full blown mental disorder.  Prior to that it falls under the age-old axiom that misery loves company.

Now, with regard to death…

It is the essence of life to know and be known; to see and be seen; to love and be loved.  Many people have a serious fear of being lost.  When you boil it down, what does that fear actually represent?  “What if I die out here and no one even knows?”  So too I think with death.

Tomorrow something will happen, but you will not be here to see it.  Your kids will grow up (or not); your wife will remarry (or not); your job will get done (or not); and you will not be here to witness it.  And so, in a very real sense, because you did not see it,  it did not happen.  Much like a child does not remember their birth.  They were simply here when they first became aware that they were here.

So death is the end of the story.  A story you very well may have not finished.  Suddenly, it’s over…and you have no idea how it ends.  But the truth is, it’s a circle…it never ends.  As such it is also, in many way, utterly meaningless.  You’re born, you procreate, you die; and the universe moves on unaware of your passing.

Unless of course you are religious.  Then you move on to a “better place”.  You live on eternally.  You break the circle, and suddenly life has meaning!  Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

Unfortunately, I’m more of a first scenario guy.  So I reckon I fear death to the extent that I do because I cannot imagine life going on without me.  I also imagine that the inability of a whole lot of people to face that simple reality is the reason there are so many people searching for spiritual meaning.

Perhaps not the deep psychological epiphany you were looking for.  But IMHO it’s the truth.  We fear death because we fear that we will be forgotten, and thus our lives had no meaning.  We seek comfort in religion because it promises us that we will remain.  Alive and aware, eternally a part of the story (and the best part if the writings are to be believed).  But then you have to ask yourself why it is that Christians cry at funerals…

Anyway, it’s about time to go home and bury the dog.  He deserves that.

 

 

 

 

 

The Living Years

I got a phone call Tuesday from my sister informing me that my father is on his deathbed. Stage 4 bone cancer. This on top of the dementia that has been eating away at his mind for the last several years. The last time I spoke to him it was a struggle to form a coherent sentence. He knew me, but could not tell me who my wife or kids were. That was a year or two ago, so I have no idea how far gone he is now.

Some of you may recall a song by Mike and the Mechanics from the early 90’s called “The Living Years”. The song is all about the distance and disagreement between a father and his son. The first verse says:

“Every generation blames the one before, And all of their frustrations come beating on your door.

I know that I’m a prisoner to all my father held so dear I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears I just wish I could’ve told him in the living years

Oh, crumpled bits of paper filled with imperfect thoughts,

Stilted conversations I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it he says it’s perfect sense , You just can’t get agreement in this present tense

We all talk a different language, talking in defense.”

 

That pretty well perfectly describes my relationship with my father. I did not listen to that song this morning on my drive in to work, but I heard it in my head nonetheless.

My father and I have been estranged for quite some time. So, as I type this post this morning I am not entirely sure how I feel about the news I have received. I guess, if I were a “normal” person I would have called in to work this morning, taken the rest of the week off, and rushed off to see him in his last moments. I didn’t do any of those things.

I did inform my manager of what was going on, simply because I am not sure how I am going to react. I wanted him to be prepared in case I abruptly left, or began sobbing uncontrollably, or something…

The thing is, I am as much a spectator in this situation as everyone else. I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know how I will feel. I have no idea how I will react when the anticipated passing of my father happens in what I assume will be the next few days. So I am, in many respects, watching a movie I’ve never seen before, and waiting to see what happens.

I think it’s entirely possible that when a new idea or concept strikes many of us we have a tendency to believe we have “discovered” something. Our epiphany is an epiphany for all mankind. I’m sure this is particularly true if we are considered (by ourselves or others) to be “smart”. But then you talk to someone else, or read something someone else wrote, and realize that there is nothing new under the sun.

Nevertheless, while exploring my thoughts and feelings on the matter I was struck by the notion that in the end our lives are really just a series of snippets in the memories of other people.

We are born, in many cases we procreate, and eventually we die. The circle of people who care about any of these things is relatively small. The number of lives most of us will touch is also relatively small. In the end, even if a whole lot of people know who we are, the people who actually feel our loss is a small subset of that number.

Who we were becomes a function of how we are recalled by those still living. Being forever silenced and unable to correct the record or defend ourselves, perception becomes reality. All the things we accomplished fade away. The awards and achievements, the degrees and certifications, all of the accumulated pieces of paper and plaques…all piled into a pine box alongside the husk of who we once were…and turned to ash and dust along with us.

All that remains are the smiles or frowns of those who knew us when, from time to time, we come to mind. The things we said or did traded in for the things people think we said or did. Nothing lasting, nothing permanent. In my case, having fathered two girls, not even my last name will carry on. All that will matter when all is said and done, is what those two girls think of me, when they think of me.

Lest I depart too sharply from my normal manner and thereby cause consternation amongst my friends, let me follow up by saying….I’ll be dead. So, in reality, I won’t know, or care, what anyone still alive thinks. It certainly does make for some interesting thoughts though…and no doubt quite a few tee-shirts and bumper stickers about how all that matters is how we treated others, etc.

Right now, in a house I’ve never seen, in a town I’ve never been to, surrounded by people I’ve never met…my father is dying.   When I imagined for a moment what going to his funeral might be like, and what I would say if I were asked to say something, I came to some conclusions. I guess it’s up to the reader to determine if those conclusions are sad, or insightful, profound, or ambivalent. I can’t rightly say.

For the record, and for those not familiar with the situation, I will briefly recap. My father left my mother in the most cowardly manner I could imagine. He was a pastor and he ran off with the church secretary. He married her shortly after his divorce from my mother went through because, as he explained to me at the time, they didn’t want to live in sin, “any longer than is absolutely necessary”.

My mother is, as are we all, a flawed woman. But she continually and constantly pounded one refrain into my mind from the time I was old enough to speak. “I hate a liar”. That can be translated over to, “I hate a hypocrite”. I did see, and still see, my father as a hypocrite. I believe he violated sacred covenants, abandoned his flock, led people astray, and committed a whole host of other things that his faith deems “sins”. Nevertheless, he did them. And he did them for the most base of reasons. I have never truly found it in my heart to forgive that.

That fact is in and of itself intriguing to me. I know women whose fathers sexually molested them, and they have found it within themselves to forgive them and attempt to repair the relationship. My father broke a vow to a God I don’t quite believe in, and (to be fair) he also lied to me in the process. But these things seem so much smaller than the things other people are able to see their way past. So I have to consider for a moment, is the failing his, or mine?

Not that I bear him ill will, or walk around with anger in my heart. I just added him to my internal list of people I prefer not to associate with. What that translates to is, in the last 15 years I’ve seen him once and spoken to him by phone 3-4 times.

I guess in my dad’s case what angered me was that he set himself up as a leader and an emissary of God, and then fell on his face. And he didn’t stumble over some unusual set of circumstances or extraordinary moral conundrum. He was tripped up by the same shit he lectured me on.

He demonstrated conclusively (in my mind) that Jesus isn’t changing hearts. He tore apart his own family, and the family of the woman he committed adultery with, and then he shrugged and said, “God forgives me, if you don’t that’s your problem”.

And now he’s dying.

What would I say if I were asked to say something?

My father was not a great man. Some would tell you he was a good man, and I wouldn’t rise to oppose them, though I would disagree. In the end, he was a man. He had his flaws. He had his vices. He had his shortcomings and failures. I do not begrudge him any of these things. We all have things about ourselves we are less than proud of. But he lacked honor, and was therefore not someone I chose to spend time with.

My father paid his bills, fed his kids, and served his country. He spent 4 years in the Air Force and the rest of his working life at NSA. He taught college courses, coached tee-ball, baseball, and softball. (An interesting aside, my dad was tried out to play Catcher for the Baltimore Orioles way back in the day.)

He gave to me my love of reading, chess, and debate. He taught me to think. And when he was younger and in decent shape, the man could play baseball.

He participated in the rearing of two moderately successful children. His progeny is no burden on society.

I hear that in recent years he got involved with child welfare and became some sort of court appointed advocate.

That’s it. That’s all I know about the man.

I recall a few ridiculous things like the way he would stick his tongue in his cheek when he was angry. I remember a few times we almost came to blows during my teenage years. I remember he was a bit of a clown, and enjoyed being the center of attention…which I suppose is the unspoken reason he chose to go into the ministry.

Mainly, since I hung up the phone with my sister, I have been thinking about more abstract things.

I wonder if he’s scared. I wonder if he’s even cognizant of what is happening. I wonder if he’s looking forward to “going on to be with the Lord”. Or is it possible that now that the question is no longer rhetorical, he has his doubts?

I wonder who has come to see him. I wonder, when I am in his position, who will come to see me? I wonder if he wonders if I will come…or if he even remembers my name. If he does remember my name, and does hope that I will come, will the last thing he feels be profound sadness? Is that my fault? Does it matter?

Assuming he has anywhere near a firm grasp on reality, I wonder does he look back on his life with regret, or satisfaction? I wonder how I would answer that same question.

In the end I am simply writing this because I am experiencing an event I will only ever experience once. I am not looking for pity or condolences. My father has not been an integral part of my life for a very long time. I won’t miss him more the day after he’s gone than I did on any given day last month.

I’m simply thinking about things, and seeing them, in a light that only shines once. So I’m capturing my thoughts and passing them on.

Maybe I’m just creating a snippet in the memory of someone else…

Management Decisions

I have been sitting here this morning listening to the two senior people in the security operations center I work in discussing staffing and access.  You see, the security operations center does not currently operate.  We are in the process of standing it up.

In any event, as I listen to them speak about what access entry-level and journeyman people will need versus what rights and privileges “senior” people will need, I am reminded once again of a fatal flaw in organizational thinking regarding management.

In a couple of months, when this operations center is fully operational, I am certain I will find myself reporting to some “senior” person.  However, the use of the term “senior” is meant to describe the level of experience the individual in question has with a certain set of tools, or in a certain environment.  It is akin to describing an auto mechanic as a journeyman vs a “master” mechanic.  The problem being, knowing how to fix a car doesn’t mean you know how to run a dealership.

I am speaking now as someone who will always be a technician and never a manager because I do not have a degree or a PMP certification.  But the simple fact is that both I and every other contractor I know has worked on one or more failed programs run by people who do have degrees and PMP certifications.  So, while I know no one is ever going to actually read and act on what I have to say here, I will say it anyway.

Management is not a college major.  It’s not a name tag.  It’s not a corner office, power ties, or business lunches.  It’s not being called “sir” or “ma’am” by ass kissers in your office.  Management is a role, a process, a means to an end.  And on the whole I think we have entirely too many wholly unqualified individuals sitting in big chairs, with big titles…who don’t know shit.

Management starts with clearly understanding what has to be done, and selecting the right people to get it done.  It begins with the creation of accurate job descriptions.  It involves cooperation between recruiters, hiring managers, and the actual manager who will lead the personnel in question.  It involves actually understanding the work and the skillsets required to accomplish it.

After you have determined the goal and hired the personnel, you need to clearly define the roles, the milestone, the expectations, the penalties and incentives, and the risks.  Then you need to pass this information on to your people.  There is nothing less productive than an employee that does not understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, when it needs to be done, and in what manner.  A clueless employee is just a butt in a seat.  An FTE.  An excuse to bill hours to the customer.  You do your customer, your company, and your employees a disservice when you engage in this type of management.

Management involves a clearly defined and understood chain of command.  One of the things I liked best about my favorite manager of all time is that when the customer showed up in our space and started grilling us, she would intercede.  I can still recall her saying, “If you have a question or a problem, you come talk to me.  Do not talk to my people.”  *That* is management.  That is freeing me to do my job by taking on the responsibility of doing yours.

Lastly, management involves a lot of intangibles.  Sure, you have the pedigree.  You have your bachelor’s or master’s…or God-forbid your PhD.  You have your PMP.  You have your 40 hours of this training and 80 hours of that.  All wonderful.

Do you know how to motivate people?  Do you know how to get the best out of the people who work for you?  Do your employees see themselves as part of a team, and you as the team leader?  Do you take the side of an employee when they are right, even if it puts you at odds with YOUR manager?

Or do you see your job as simply standing by the clock to monitor when people come in and when they leave; cracking the whip from time to time during the day; taking long lunches and; hanging out with big-wigs?

Can you juggle multiple tasks, and people, and events?  Do you freeze in an emergency?  Are you capable of prioritizing, providing guidance, and pushing your team across the finish line?  Or do you simply provide the excuses and point the finger at other people when things go sour?

I will never be a manager, because I lack the credentials.  In spite of the fact that I manage an international gaming group with hundreds of members, and spend my evenings managing a much larger group of people than most of the organizations for whom I work.  In spite of the fact that I can, and do, all of the things I listed above.

The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t really bother me much.  I have enough to deal with at home and in the cloud.  I am happy to do my job, cash my check, and go home.  But on some level, it does stick in my crawl a little.  Always having to answer to people who I wouldn’t let run one of my guilds, much less handle national security related activities.

And the further truth of the matter is, it’s their loss not mine.  I make plenty of money.  I forget what’s going on at work as soon as my ass hits my car seat.  I have my evenings and weekends to spend as I like.  There are no long hours or late nights.

So why am I “bitching”?  Because it grates on me a little that someone who has no real skill or ability in management will be placed in charge of me because the “paper well”.

Sigh…. 20 more years to go….

 

 

My Changing Perspective

There are moments in life, or at least in my life, where I come to sudden realizations.  Epiphanies they call them.  But there are also slow, inexorable, seemingly decades long processes where I confirm what I suspected at the start.  I don’t know if I can put my finger on the moment when that confirmation became a reality.  But, I suspect I am in, or near, one of those moments as I type this.

I spent a good portion of my life pretty well broke.  I can still recall when my children were little and I had separated from their mother.  I was living in a rent-controlled studio apartment on the wrong side of town.  Driving a vehicle graciously given to me by my former father-in-law.  One day in particular stands out.  My kids asked me to take them to the park, and I had to tell them that I didn’t have gas money for a ride to the park.

Broke!  Like, for real!

Which is why I develop a special level of anger at people who assume that because I am white and/or male, that I do not understand the plight of the poor.  As if you have to be minority in order to have no money.  Let me state for the record…I understand the plight of the poor.  I live every day with the knowledge that if I were to lose the access I have to the facilities I work in, I’d be right back in that same boat.

Anyway, Lose Yourself by Eminem came out and the third verse really stuck in my head.  I decided that I had to formulate a plot…or end up in jail or shot…

In any event, some 12 years ago (or thereabouts) I began to aggressively pursue success.  First through a contact of my then girlfriend (now wife), and then through other contacts made as time went on, I found myself in increasingly better paying jobs.

I did some telecom work for a while.  8 hours a day standing on a ladder, pulling wire over my head.  I walk around with messed up shoulders (they tell me it’s arthritis) nowadays as a result (IMHO) of that experience.

Then I got a security clearance and began a series of jobs.  Some were physical, some were technical, but each time I took on a new position I got a raise in pay.  When you’re dead broke a raise in pay is pretty much all you care about.

Eventually Bev and I got married.  Between the two of us the money going into the checking account went up about 10x.  I went from telling my kids I could not take them to the park, to sending my oldest to London as part of her senior class.  It truly warmed my heart to be able to provide things for my kids, and I regarded this as my highest calling (aside, of course, from teaching them to be decent people).

When I was sitting around watching paint dry for a living (yes, really) I kept thinking (and saying) that I was meant to do more.  When I worked Helpdesk, when I filled a small IA role, when I did Requirements work…I kept thinking and saying that I was capable of more.  I even wrote a number of blog entries right here about how life has to be about more than just trudging to work to pay the bills.

Oh yeah…the bills.  For those who do not know, or have only walked on one side of the street, let me take a moment to tell you about the bills.

When you’re broke…and I mean gas money broke…you “shop”.  You find deals on things like food and toilet paper.  You try to make sure you have enough money left over to pay for internet access or cable tv…because after all, there has to be something to do on the weekends.  You accept gifts and donations from friends and family.  You buy books on how to fix things, rather than pay someone to fix them.

When you cross over to where I am now (my eldest still recalls me telling someone that I make enough money to pay someone to punch them in the face), life is different.  My wife, having never really lost her low income mindset, still calls me to say that she wants to get her nails done.  I always reply with, “Do whatever you want.  I don’t care.”

These days I do things like spend a grand a month adding ink to my arms.  I wake up and decide I want a Harley, and that afternoon I ride home on my Harley.  One of my daughters asks for something…and they get it.  In short, I am now living the life I imagined I wanted back when I couldn’t afford to drive to the park.  And don’t get me wrong, this is not one of those posts about how money cannot buy happiness.  It absolutely can!

When I am sitting at the winery enjoying a good time with my friends…that’s happiness.  When I am riding down the road with the wind in my face on the Harley I wanted since I was a kid…that’s happiness.  When my daughter gets to see the world, and do things that other kids don’t get to do, and she hugs me and says “thank you daddy!”…that’s happiness.  All sponsored by money.

No, this post is about the constant drive to do more, learn more, and earn more.  It’s about the fact that when you are always on the bleeding edge…it’s you that does the bleeding.  It’s about the thought that maybe I have reached a comfortable place…and then I took one more step…and maybe I should take a step back.

It’s about thinking that maybe a nice, boring, 40 hour a week, do it in my sleep, no certs or training required, type job might not be a bad thing.  I had one of those a few weeks ago, and I moved on to where I am now sitting.  Because I wanted to do something meaningful and “important”.  I wanted to work in “security”.  Cyber security to be exact.  So here I am.

I haven’t been here long enough to really form an informed opinion.  I will give it some time before I really make any important decisions.  I am simply writing this because for the first time I can recall in my life, I have moved on from one place to another, taken a step ahead in pay and responsibility…and thought that maybe I made a mistake.

There are a lot of reasons why this thought has crept into my mind, but I won’t bore you with the details until I see how things pan out.

Time will tell.  When it does…so will I.

Cheers

 

Stop Talking

Have you ever run into someone who feels the need to speak every time they walk by?  I’m not just talking about the guy who says your name a little louder than needed each time you pass them in the hallway.  I’m not even talking about the guy, obviously raised by a single mom, who doesn’t understand urinal etiquette and asks, “How’s it going” while you’re both standing there.  I’m talking about the guy who walks up to your desk and starts a conversation about absolutely nothing.

In my case it is a guy I report to.  As it stands right now, while the project is staffing up, I am the only person who reports to him.  As such, in just under three days, we have apparently become old friends.

He stops by my desk with a notepad and pen in hand and says, “Questions for me?”  Apparently unaware that if I had any questions I would have come to his desk and asked them.  Interestingly, when I do go to his desk with a question there is generally no good answer forthcoming.  That’s what I do… I ask the questions you don’t have the answers for.

In any event, he has become fascinated with the various aspects of my life.

I have always been something of a conundrum to the majority of the people I work with.  Though to be fair there are usually one or two people at every workplace who get me.  This guy is not one of those people.  But man he sure is trying!

As I have said on several occasions, I am a defense contractor.  I spend much of my time surrounded by people in various stages of business attire.  From time to time a few of them whip out their Master’s degrees to see whose is bigger.  There are lots of shiny shoes…and shiny cars.

I report to work in jeans and a polo.  I am well into the process of getting full sleeves done on both arms.  My definition of “the mission” is to feed my kids and pay the mortgage.  What I do is not my life, it’s the means by which I finance my life.

This guy seems like he wants to get it, but the goofy smile tells me he does not in fact get it.

It appears that to him I am simply a combination of caricatures or things he has seen on TV.  With regard to my tattoos for instance, upon learning that I have quite a bit of ink his response was, “Freakin’ Navy guys.”  I have never served…

I mentioned an expression we in the gaming community use, and his reply was, “Gaming community?  Are you a WoW’er?”  Like everyone who plays games plays WoW.  Or more to the point, WoW is the only game he is familiar with.

Yesterday he came up to my desk and asked me if I have written any SOP’s yet.  We are three guys sitting in an Ops Center that is not operational yet.  The other two guys are the Op Center Lead and the CND Lead.  I was brought on in an entry level capacity.  My purpose in being here is to learn the tools and skills, and gain the experience, to continue on a Security track during the remainder of my career.  In other words, I’m here to learn.  But he wants to know if I’ve written any SOP’s yet…

I left a position in property management  to come here.  At the moment of my departure I had no interest in continuing in that capacity.  Security has always been of interest to me.  Property accountability and management has never been of interest to me.  But I have to say, this morning I really started thinking about that position.

Having to chase technical certifications every year and dealing with high stress, high consequence situations, may not be as much fun as I imagined.  I will have to give that more thought.  But there is one thing about which I am certain.  Two actually..

  1. I do not like when people who do not know me talk to me like they do know me.  It’s presumptuous and irritating.
  2. The people that I work with are the largest contributor to whether or not I enjoy my job.  They create the environment.  They make the day go faster…or slower.  So if this guy doesn’t stop talking, we’re going to have a problem.