Saturday, November 24, 2007

At exactly what point did I become a Southerner?

At some point in the not too distant past, I took another step away from being a Yankee and towards being a Southerner (or Texan, in this instance, the distinction is incredibly subtle). I confess, I really, really dislike cold, rainy weather. Stick me outside (provided I've had time to select the proper clothing from my closet) in frigid cold weather; crank up the wind; let it snow, let it snow, let it snow and I'm good. Especially at first, I might even be happy. I'll relish the opportunity to wear my favorite wool sweater (yes, I have more than one). I'll breathe deep and enjoy the fact that I can feel the cool of the air all the way into my lungs. I'll have a smile on my face as my nose starts to turn red and run. And I'll chuckle at the reaction others have to my penguin hat. I love my penguin shaped winter hat. But, once it starts to rain I become like just about every other person living south of the Mason-Dixon line (and a lot of Southerners transported to the north, I would assume). Cold rain makes me want to curl up on my couch under my fuzzy Batman blanket, my two cats cuddled in close, a fire raging in the fireplace, a mug of hot chocolate close by and a book long enough and interesting enough that I am able to not have to leave the couch until the mercury either climbs to a respectable value or the sun comes out...preferably both. It's the weather that makes me want to hibernate until, like late July, when it's 127-bluezillion degrees outside and I seriously contemplate carry around a bucket, just in case I start to melt.
I didn't use to be like this. At least I don't think I did. I never remember liking cold, rainy days. But I also never remember disliking them with such a vengeance. Growing up, I think we were, in a way, thankful for cold, rainy days. Cause, then, at least, the rain wasn't coming down as feet and feet of snow. (Snow days weren't as idyllic for me as some media have made them out to be. The day usually started fairly early, helping Dad shovel a path so that he could get on the main road and go to work. Dad never missed work because of the weather. And, at that point, we were up and dressed, so we might as well finish the job of shoveling out the driveway and the sidewalk. By the time that was done, and my sister and I and some of the other kids from the block had gotten everyone who was foolish enough to venture down our street unstuck from the snow, the plow had come through and it was time to shovel out the entrance to the driveway...again. And then there were the elderly neighbors whose driveways we often helped shovel, or at least a path out their doors. Snow days were fun, but they were also a lot of work.)
I know I should be grateful that it's not 127-bluezillion degrees outside year round. But, on days like today...when it's cold and rainy, at least a part of me wishes that it was. And that desire, and the fact that it might mean that I someday soon have to give up my "Yankee card" scares me more than I really want to admit.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Obligatory Thankful Post

What do I have to be thankful for today? There's an awful lot. I've got the basics, health, family, salvation. Beyond that, I've got a nice home, good job, fuzzy cats, amazing opportunities, the list could go on. I think the easy way to sum up what all I'm thankful for is to say that, today, my biggest disappointment was having to watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade rather than being able to watch the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade on television while I thumbed through the Black Friday ads and baked a pie for dinner. If that's the bad that's going on in my life today, I've got it pretty good. I even got to IM with a friend who recently moved to Germany to be a missionary. (He had sushi for lunch today. Turkey dinner's on Saturday. Something funky with the time zones and international dateline or something. ;) ) There's so much I have to be thankful for...we all do. And we (which should be pronounced to include a great, big, capital "I" here) need to be mindful of that on days that don't involved gianourmous portions of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole and multiple varieties of pie.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How does Santa survive in that heavy suit?

Over the past week or so, a number of articles about how to get your home ready for winter have come across my RSS reader. And, I've skimmed through a lot of them and thought of a few things that I should probably add to my "to-do around the house" list. The thing is, it's just hard to worry about "winterizing" my house when it's 80 degrees out side and I have all my windows open most of the time when I'm home. As much as I really don't want to complain about this weather (it's incredibly beautiful outside. Like the summers up north that I remember from growing up outside of Detroit.), it's also almost November and, therefore, in my mind which is still obviously adjusted to Yankee weather, it should be getting cold...or at least colder. I keep telling myself that I'm wearing long sleeve shirts to work because my corner of cubeville has been chilly recently. But I sometimes wonder if I haven't slipped into the habit of selecting my clothing based on the calendar (which I'm convinced is what most people around me do) rather than based on the weather. This is the time of year that I really miss living up north. Of course, come February when it's back to being 80 degrees in the afternoon and Mom and Dad haven't seen above 40 degrees in the past two weeks, I'll be happy to live in Texas again.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Trying to be convinced to move to Maryland - Day 3 - The good kind of selfish

Trying to be convinced to move to Maryland - Day 3 - The good kind of selfish.

I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday, so I'll finish up my comments on the Maryland trip today.
MOst of Sunday was about getting home. Due to the time change, we had an extra hour to sleep. That was nice. It would have been nicer had the Indian type drum music not have come through the wall of my hotel room 30 minutes prior to when I had planned on waking up. I don't know for certain that it was India music. It reminded me a lot of the music that filtered through the wall of my college theater when Balethnic (ethnic ballet troupe, which always seemed to be doing something vaguely Indian) was in the "big theater" with which we shared a wall. So, I got up, got showered, enjoyed breakfast (the oatmeal seemed less salty but still wasn't as good as what we had on the mission trip in Reynosa, Mexico) and then headed back to the room to pack my gear. Thanks to all of the random stuff that I was given over the weekend as well as the box of banana Twinkies I picked up at the Food Lion, my duffle was significantly heavier than on the trip out. But it wasn't anything I couldn't handle.

We had to be down in the lobby to board the bus by 10am. On my way down, I stopped in the hotel's business center to print my boarding pass. Apparently there was a way to do that from any computer connected to the hotel's wireless internet, but I didn't feel like fussing with it. Greg, who is the alpha computer guy in my group and the guy I hung out with most of the weekend (his wife stayed home with the kids, mostly due to having a six month old son that she wasn't excited about leaving) tried it but wasn't successful. So, I didn't feel bad about not even giving it a shot.

The ride up to Baltimore was uneventful. I enjoyed watching the beautiful trees (just on the far side of peak color, so leaves were starting to drop off, providing the ground with a beautiful, technicolor carpet) roll by with my iPod providing a soundtrack of RUF songs. That also gave me a chance to think about the weekend and reflect on the possibility of moving to Southern Maryland. As I expected prior to the trip, I haven't changed my mind about not wanting to move to Maryland. Nothing against the place. I know now that I could live there. But, I really don't want to. Partly I wasn't that thrilled with the area. I'm used to living in at least a suburb of a large city, if not right in the middle of one. The two times that I've lived in a smaller area (Savannah, when I was a co-op in college and Lancaster, California when I was working at Edwards) didn't go well. I didn't like either area. I had trouble making friends outside of those I knew outside of the area. And I just really wasn't happy there. The other thing I thought about was the idea of having to start the outside of work portion of my life over again. And that's a big thing that I really don't want to do. I like my life. I love my friends who I consider family. I'm not ready to leave that. I do know that if God wants me to live in Southern Maryland, He'll let me know and he'll take care of me. He's been faithful in the past and I know He will continue to be faithful in the future. But, it's gonna take a lot for me to be convinced that moving away from the life I have here in Fort Worth is the right thing to do. and it's going to take even more if the destination of my move is anywhere other than the Atlanta area (that would only be like starting half over. Kinda like coming back to school after the summer.)

And, on the drive up to Baltimore, I did see three dead deer on my side of the bus, and that was when I wasn't dozing. I think that brought the weekend's roadkill count to five dear, at least two dogs and two or three smaller animals of indefinable species. Southern Maryland is a bit more rural than the DFW metroplex.

Upon arriving at BWI, Greg and I headed straight for security, stood in line for about 10 minutes and then realized that we had a couple of hours to kill before the flight. It was lunchtime, and just down from our gate was a Potbellys Sandwich works. I wondered how well an "order what you want" type sandwich place would work in a location with that high of volume. Apparently, it works very well. My sandwich was made to my specifications and with minimal wait despite there being a long line. The oatmeal chocolate chip cookie was good too. Lunch included a conversation about what are some of my favorite television shows. (Top five are 1.Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2.MASH tie for 3.West Wing (seasons 1-4 and maybe bits of five) and Battlestar Galatica (the new one) and 4. Veronica Mars. If we were to expand to top 10, Firefly and Sports Night (focusing primarily on the first season and neglecting the middle of the second) would definitely have made the cut. Interstingly, of the shows that I consider my all time favorites, only one is currently airing and multiple were cancelled after just a seasons or three.). After lunch, I settled in at the gate and picked up where I had leftoff at prepping my lesson for small group with my high school girls. That and reading and making comments on Psalm 32 for my small group kept me busy through about the first 30 minutes of the flight again, with my iPod providing background music (although I switched to instrumental hymns). After finishing up small group homework, I pulled out the laptop and enjoyed the first two episodes of Angel season 2 and some of the special features from Veronica Mars season 3 DVDs (including the season 4 presentation reel. That would have made for excellent television).

We landed a bit early and had to wait for the previous aircraft to clear the gate. And I got to thinking about the weekend again and chatted briefly with a coworker's wife who was sitting next to me. And, I realized that not only did I not want to move to Maryland, but that I really did miss my family here in Fort Worth over the weekend. I know that part of it was missing worship that morning (and not having the opportunity to worship with any congregation that day, due to the transportation schedule). And part of it was spending the weekend thinking about and investigating the possibility of moving away from that family. And, at some point in there I decided that if I at all could, I would make it to my small group as well as to small group with my high school girls.

After deplaning and a quick stop in the little I-don't-want-to-move-to-Maryland people's room, I caught the shuttle bus back to my car (at The Parking Spot....the company with the yellow buses with the black spots. They may look a little silly to some (not me), but you can see them coming as you're waiting to be picked up. And that's what matters.)
I got to my car, go paid and was on my way by about 4:20. I also found out that the Parking Spot now gives oatmeal applesauce cookies as well as a bottle of water when you checkout. They're not great, but they're something and I was kinda hungry. And then I was finally on the last leg of my journey home. My mind was still swimming and I knew I had to do something to focus and get my mind off of the sad thought of leaving Fort Worth and back into the game so that I would have a chance of giving some sort of coherent lesson for small group with the girls. So, I did what I normally do in that sort of situation. I put in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode CD, cranked the volume and sang at the top of my lungs. Not sure why this helps to stop my brain from swimming off in a million directions at once. Other CDs don't do nearly as good a job. It just works, so I don't question it too much. And about five minutes after 5pm I was home. Whoo-Hoo!!!

My cats were excited to see me, after I let them sniff around a bit and reminded them who I was (They get like that after I've been gone a few days, but not after I've been gone for about a week. It's weird. I think after a while, they're lonely enough that they're happy to have attention from anyone. The fact that it's me is just a bonus.) I tossed my bags down, transfered the stuff I needed into my church backpack, grabbed what would become dinner, changed shoes and within 15 minutes was off again. Schedule-wise, it would have made more sense for me to skip my small group. But I wanted to be with my family. And so I was. It was great walking into church and seeing all the people who I love and who love me. I had a quick chance to chat with a few, make the copies that I needed for girls' small group and then headed up to the room where my small group meets. And it was a great time. I'm still getting comfortable with my small group, but it's coming along nicely. I got to hold Winston, the four month old son of our group leader. He's a cutie and looks so much like his older brother. We talked about Psalm 32 and prayed a bunch. And it was good.
Then I headed down to the high school room for girls' small group. I had no idea how the lesson would go. We were talking about self-identity or "people according to God", about what we were created for, how we should think about that and how that should affect how we live. The thing is, it's a lesson that's heavy on thoughts and light on real concrete, check the box applications. Which is fine, it just also makes it a little more difficult to teach and I didn't have a lot of interaction built into the lesson. But I did have a nifty little illustration with a screw driver that I opened with and came back to and used to tie it all together again (which was good, cause I have trouble ending lessons well). And I think the girls' enjoyed it and found it beneficial. No one fell asleep. There was some participation. I don't think I scared off our visitor. I know there were times when the lessons was a little disjointed and I know I lost my train of thought multiple times. But, I figure for having been home for 15 minutes in the prior about three days, that was pretty good. Afterwards, I hung out with a few of the girls for a while and we chatted and bonded over a love of sci-fi entertainment (mostly television shows, but also a few movies). And we got a lot more done on the puzzle (we'll have it done before Thanksgiving...of this year. :) ). And it was great to get to hang out with my family for the evening.
I might have been a bit selfish in subjecting others to the discombobulatedness that was me last night, but as Scott (my small group leader) said, they were happy to have me there. It was the good kind of selfish.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Trying to be convinced to move to Maryland - Day 2 - I think I filled up my brain

Maryland predecision area tour - Day two (part one).
Today was day out with the realtor. George, my realtor, is a great guy. Based on some conversations we had before I got out here, he showed me a lot of the area and some of the housing areas available to me. We based the housing choices on what I could afford to rent (not sure I would want to buy, as I'm not convinced this is somewhere I'd want to live long term. Plus, unsure housing market and homes that are a whole whopping lot more expensive than anything back in double the cost and sometimes then some. Just silly expensive. Okay, part of that is that Texas is just silly dirt cheap to live. Where I live in Texas has got to have some of the most affordable housing prices in the nation. Taxes and insurance make up for some of it, but just for the house itself, it's crazy cheap.) And also on the fact that I have two cats (who I would say "Hi" to, except they can't read.).

For housing options, there's a lot. Finding stuff that's affordable is a bit more complicated. Finding stuff that's in a reasonable area, not too far from the base, not too far from basic shopping areas and not too far from one of two PCA churches in the area (we drove by both buildings. I need to remember to once again thank Fred for designing our amazing church building.) is more complicated. But the housing options are out there.

For basic necessities and niceties of living, well that depends on what you're interested in. If you want water sports, life is good. You're never more than a few miles from the water here, being on one of two penninsulas (or one of two island areas. But that affordable housing thing comes up again.). There's enough shopping that you can get buy...the basic Generica options (Target, Old Navy, Best Buy, Wally World, gas stations, super markets, chain restaurants) as well as some mom and pop places. There's some urgent care facilities and well as doctor's offices. Although the nearest hospitals are at least 20 minutes out...and that kinda makes me a bit nervous. I'm used to having hospitals down the street. But I also have to remember that I am in very good health and, while it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that I could be in an emergency room in less than five minutes, it's probably not a huge deal that the hospital's a bit farther away. Similar situation with the fire department. It's all volunteer fire departments here. I've never lived in an area with that situation. But I know people who have and who do and, again, especially if you're in predominantly good health, it's not a huge deal. No warm fuzzy feeling, but not a huge deal.

Overall, I think I've got a good feel for the area. Or, I will, once my brain gets a chance to digest everything. Cause right now, my head feels a bit over full.

So, for the question of whether I could live here, I now know that the answer is yes. It would be more expensive. But it's not out of the question unaffordable. The bigger question is do I want to? And, especially, am I willing to pick up and start over coming out here. Most people in this position are married and many have kids. So, while it's more complicated to move an entire family (especially with a working spouse and/or school age kids), at least they get to move as a family. There will obviously be some issues with leaving a support structure, friends and all of that. But, at least the family is together. For me, being single, the considerations are a bit different. The people who I live my day-to-day life with, the people I consider a part of my family, wouldn't be coming with me. My friends, my church family, the gang at the gym, all the people I hang out with, depend on regularly and live my regular life with would be staying in Fort Worth. It'd be just me and the cats. And so, for me, I'm pretty sure that I'm just not ready to volunteer to leave that at this point in my life. I know that a lot of those people who are a part of my Texas family aren't ready for me to leave them....they've told me so (it's great to know that you're loved like that).

So far, this weekend, I've gotten out of it about what I expected to. I've got a basic familiarity with the area. I'm pretty sure that I could find everything, infrastructure-wise that I need to live. There's still a question of church home. But I do know that there are at least two churches of my denomination, another PC(USA) (the denomination I grew up and where I worshipped in college) and a variety of other churches of varying denominations. Plus there's always the base chapel. So, I'm pretty sure I could find a congregation to be a part of. But, what I haven't gotten is the 2x4 over the head that says that this is where I need to be living in the near future. And, with the activities that remain (dinner tonight and then all the transportation required to get back home tomorrow) I don't think that will come (still could, but the smart money is on "not gonna happen").

So, that's what I'm thinking.
As for what will happen now, I'm not entirely sure. It's easily going to be at least six months before I'd be asked to make a decision. Probably roughly a year before I'd actually physically move (should I decide that's what I need and/or want to do). So, there's some time, which is nice. The thing that I'm worried about, and that many people who I work with are worried about is how much of a decision it will actually be, on our parts. Or, really, what the decision will be. Will it be just as simple as move or stay in Fort Worth and travel (or not travel). Or will it be move or find a new job (in Fort Worth, somewhere else but still in the company, at another company). These are things that we don't know yet and which we won't know.

The one nice thing about this is that this is the last of the area tours. And, with the decision still months away, after recovering from this trip, I can shift all my thoughts of this stuff to the back of my head at least until we get through the holidays. And that will be nice.

Oh, and one nice added bonus from today is that I got to check off one thing on my list of things to do before I'm done living. Right before coming back to the hotel, George (that's my realtor, see the first paragraph) and I dropped by the Pax River museum. The gate to where they have the aircraft on static display (and out door area) was open, so we wandered in. I got to see the X-35C (Navy variant of the concept demonstrator aircraft. One of the aircraft that helped us win the contract to build the F-35). And looking inside the nose wheel well, I saw a bunch of names written in black sharpie marker. Among those names is mine. I wasn't out here when the airplane quit flying...I only supported the first two weeks. But when the team that was out here came home, I remember someone...Greg or John or Ricky saying that they had written all or our names up in the wheel well. I always trusted that they were telling the truth. But I had never seen them. Now I have. And I've got pictures (unfortunately, I didn't bring anything to get the pictures from my camera onto the 'puter. So pictures here will have to wait. I'll try to get them up next week.). It was really cool to see my name written in there and to just see get to touch the aircraft. She's still as beautiful as I remember her. Especially when compared to the X-32 (Boeing's airplane...which suffered many unfavorable nicknames...some of which are not exactly fit for public consumption. My favorite that is was "The Sailor Inhaler", so named due to the gapping maw of an inlet that the airctraft has.) which sits across from the X-35. It's been almost six years since I've seen the X-35C. Getting to spend a few minutes with her was kinda like catching up with an old friend.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Trying to be convinced to want to move to Maryland - Day 1

So, I'm in Maryland this weekend. It's a company sponsored "Pre-decision area tour" where we are shown the best that Southern Maryland has to offer in order to help us decide if moving here to support flight test on the F-35 is the right decision for us and our families. It's a quick trip and I'm not certain how good a feel I'll get for the area, but I think the trip will be profitable.
Today was mostly about transportation. We flew into BWI (Baltimore), collected our gear (except for one couple who's luggage missed the flight and, last we had heard, hadn't been tracked down yet, yikes!) and loaded onto the bus for the drive south. The box lunch we got wasn't bad. Excellent bread. Good brownie. The fruit wasn't the best, but it's hardly the season for melons and berries and I do appreciate the effort. After about 90 minutes, we pulled into the hotel to unload the luggage and then we were off for a tour of Pax River Naval Air Station (where, in true Navy fashion, the restrooms are "heads", you're greeted with "Welcome Aboard" and "We've got a full ship" means that everyone is present.). This is where we will be doing a majority of the Navy and Marine variants of the airplane. I recognized a few bits of the base from when I was out here in early 2001 supporting X-35C flight test. The work area is shiny and new. And it has real live windows which actually work! (It doesn't take much to exite me when I'm talking about cubeville.) After the base tour, we headed back to the hotel to get into our rooms, clean up and get ready for dinner. My duffle apparently didn't make it up to my room with the rest of the bags, but it soon arrived (thankfully).
Since I had some time, I wandered over to the Food Lion (grocery store) to stretch my legs, wander around, check prices and just have something to do. The store reminded me of the Food Lion I shopped at in Savannah (smallish with not much to really distinguish it, definitely a no-frills store). The prices were about what I expected. Fresh produce and milk were higher than at home. Packaged items were about the same or slightly higher. I didn't find any items that were lower. And no double coupons. I would say that grocery prices would be, overall, roughtly 20-25% higher for me here than at home (taking into account that I'm a big couponer). Although I only have the on data point and this does seem to be a bit more expensive of an area than some of the surrounding places. So, I could be wrong.
Dinner was pretty good. Not great, but of hotel banquet food, it was reasonable. I sat with some guys I work with, a woman from HR (definitely not an engineer), one of the real estate people who's helping to coordinate the trip and a woman who does business development in the community here. We didn't chat about the area much. Most of us were pretty tired and, honestly, just not all that up for conversations of this nature. At least not us engineers anyway. We've decided that HR and staffing people are definitely more talkative than engineers. Some might say more interesting. I tend to think it's just a difference in what we're interested in. :)

And now it's after dinner. I'm enjoying the evening with some old friends, the staff of the 4077th MASH unit. Seems that, if you have cable, just about any time of day, you can turn on the television and enjoy an episode or five. Hallmark and TV Land are currently showing episodes from sometime in the last three seasons (Radar is gone which means Klinger's no longer dressing in drag). These are my favorite episodes (I much prefer seasons 4-7ish. The Colonel Potter, BJ and Radar era, particularly when Frank was still on the show, but some of the early Charles Winchester episodes are just as much fun.). When I was living in California, I watched a lot of MASH. I identified with their situation. Stuck in a place they would rather not be, away from home, in difficult conditions (okay, mine weren't near as bad, but you get the idea) but doing the best they could to do their job and make a life for themselves. Now, when I'm traveling, I enjoy watching the episodes. I'm familiar with almost all of them (I think I've seen all of them at least once), and the show wasn't serialized enough that you have to watch them in order, so it's easy to just sit down for a bit and enjoy. And, even though I know they're just characters on television, it kinda feels like I'm among friends when I'm alone in the hotel room.

Tomorrow I get to drive around and look at housing options with a realtor. This will be my best chance to get a feel for the area. I'm still not convinced I want to move here. I don't think that tomorrow will change any of that, but we'll see. I do want to be open to the possibility. If God makes it clear that this is where He wants me to be, I'll come. But it's gonna take a pretty big sign (2x4 to the backside of the head big).

Toht, I'm hanging out in the hotel room (high speed, wireless internet, comfy office chair, wide, flat screen tv) with some old friends...the docs of the 4077th MASH.