Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Tribute to the King of Fetch

We lost a good friend today, our eleven year old Boston Terrier, Bruno.

Losing a family pet is a tough experience, even when you know he's lived a full and fulfilling life, and was loved by all. Bruno certainly qualified on all those counts.

I was never a dog person growing up -- I was allergic to pet hair, and so dogs were right out. As I grew older, however, my allergies lessened, and Paula and I began to experience the joys of dogs.

Bruno was our second Boston, and he really captured my heart with his irrepressible personality. Never have I seen an animal so play motivated -- and his game was fetch. Every person in the family every day had at least one opportunity to toss a rubber bone or throw a tennis ball to Bruno -- a woe to he who made that first toss, because this dog didn't know the meaning of the word "stop". I don't think he would have passed up a good game of fetch in exchange for even his second greatest love -- cheese (which sometimes, mysteriously, would fall from the kitchen counter and onto the floor at his feet).

And Bruno's fetch game had rules.

Rule number one was, he wasn't giving up the toy to you easily. If you grabbed it while still in his mouth, you were playing tug-of-war. If ignored, he would drop the item of interest on the floor at your feet, and begin to handicap you. The longer you remained impassive, the further he would back up, until he was a dozen or more feet away. Then, and only then, could you grab the toy without a battle. Ignoring him further only caused whimpering and, eventually, barking. "Hey, did you notice? I put a toy down there. Yeah! Right there on your shoe. You should make a grab for it and see if you can get it before I do," he seemed to say.

Rule number two was, you weren't allowed to stop playing once you started. He was tireless in his play, and his pure enjoyment of the game was a pleasure to watch. I saw him wear out many guests to the house, but I don't ever remember Bruno being the one to stop the game.

That's how I do and will remember him -- a wild and playful pooch. And I'll miss him.

King of Fetch, rest in peace.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

To Post or Not to Post

Some months ago, not too long after I started to blog, I discovered how to post my first novel, Leverage. I set up a separate blog site for each one, loaded a table of contents and each chapter one by one, arranged the security settings and connections to this blog and my website.

In total, not an overwhelming amount of work, but it did take a couple of hours.

At that time, I already had a draft of Incentivize written, so I posted it as well.

Later, came the first draft of Lessons Learned the Hard Way, then Deliverables, and then later drafts of both Incentivize and Deliverables. If you add it up, I've invested a considerable amount of time posting all these versions of the books.

Now I'm finished with the first draft of Heir Apparent, and not sure if I actually want to post it or not. I'm leaning towards "not" at this stage for two reasons -- first, there are very few readers of the books using the blog site. The reason being, I think, that it simply isn't enjoyable to sit in front of a computer screen for hours, reading a novel when convenient paper and eReaders are calling. Second, because I'm a bit hesitant to grant permission for someone to read a first draft. Even second drafts are rough, and while I don't necessarily blanch at the idea of plowing through my own first drafts, I'd have little interest in reading someone else's.

So I'm changing my policy. From now on, I will only post a novel when I think it's ready for prime time. Right now only Leverage, and Incentivize qualify. But I'll grandfather the existing novels and leave their sites out there, I just won't update to a new version until they are done (at least my definition of done).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Running Away

The purpose of this blog has been and continues to be to follow my journey out of corporate America, and as I cross the one year point -- the time I'd originally said I'd take to find a new direction -- it seems like the proper time to reflect.

One question I haven't asked here is: running away, or running towards...something? On reflection, there is little question I've been running away over the last year. To say running toward something would imply a something that could be identified. I've been running into the fog, and trusting that I'd emerge a different person living a happier life once I was done. That's pretty much the way things have panned out, but there is no question my original motivation was escape.

A corollary question, then would be: Is running away bad, good, or is there no value judgment? That's a bit harder to answer.

I suppose most people would say running away shows a lack of persistence -- a character flaw, if you will, and one that is undesirable. But I don't think I lack persistence in general. Hey, you don't climb mountains and run marathons based on a limp will, or lack of commitment.

My running away had more to do realizing I'd put my brain on hold for thirty years, pursuing a dream from my youth -- one that was turning out to be further and further than I imagined from reality, by the way -- and then waking up one day and realizing the metamorphosized goal was inconsistent with the way I was wired as a person. And after thirty years of trying to stuff my square peg into Corporate America's round hole, I didn't want to do it anymore. Quite frankly, I no longer wanted the proverbial pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. It was an exercise in self-realization, rather than simply good or bad, or the manifestation of some character flaw, or any piercing insight.

So how has the year gone? Not like I expected -- I'll detail more of that in a future post. But it has led out of the fog, and the exercise has been terrific. I still have a toe in the business world, and try my best to maintain my old contacts and relationships. I've developed one of my interests and passions into a real career opportunity in the making -- novel writing, and while I haven't managed to get any of my work published, I will. Even if it means self-publication.

And what about all the other ideas floating around in my head -- non-profits, further education, radical career changes, becoming a pirate (no, really)? When they failed to create enough natural energy in me to sustain a full blown exploration, I let them die on the vine.

Am I in a happier and more fulfilling place today? Yes. Is it the end of the journey? Probably not completely, but I think I'm close. Would I recommend the same path for others? Now that's a good question!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Close, But No Cigar

We almost made it under the wire.

On March 10th, the Ethiopian Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) announced they would be radically reducing the number of International adoption cases they processed from 50 per day to 5 per day -- a ninety percent reduction. I won't go into the rationale for why they are making this change, or my perception of the underlying issues -- suffice it to say all of us with adoptions in the pipeline are impacted.

You might be tempted to think with a court date of March 4th, a successful meeting with the judge, and the judge's successful meeting with the relinquishing family, we would have made it just under the wire -- before this massive slowdown by MOWA.

Alas, it has not proven to be the case.

After we exited the judge's chambers, I was informed she couldn't issue the adoption decree because our case was still awaiting the adoption recommendation from MOWA -- a recommendation which should have already been provided by that date. I was assured by our agency's attorney that MOWA had promised they would deliver the recommendation by Monday, March 7th. But it didn't happen, and as the 10th came and went, we realized that we were caught in a slowdown vortex.

The judge continued our case until April 16th -- a lifetime under these circumstances. And unfortunately, I really don't know if that will motivate MOWA to provide the recommendation by then. Now that we've met our new son, it is extremely difficult to wait the extra time. Even after MOWA provides the recommendation letter (and I'm assuming there will be no issues with this), we still are dependent on them to provide a birth certificate as a part of the package that goes on to the US Embassy for their investigation and approval.

The wheels turn slowly. We don't know how much longer it will take, but it's painful to be so close and yet so far.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Exercise in Frustration

Over the last ten years, I've been a fairly serious runner. I've done short races, I've done long races. I've enjoyed trail runs, beach runs, road work of all sorts, and endless miles run on treadmills when the weather wasn't agreeable. I have even participated in (short) adventure races, a couple of combo bicycle and running events, and even an international marathon -- one of eight marathons I've had the pleasure of running.

It's a well documented fact that runners slow down as they age. I've always expected some of that. My fastest race times were six years ago, when I was peaking in fitness levels. I was able to hold onto my paces and times for about three years after the peak.

Since then, running has become pretty frustrating. I've faced down one injury after another. First shin splints, then a knee problem, then plantar fasciitis, followed by the other knee. And even in the brief intervals when I'm healthy, I seem to be getting slower and slower.

On Monday, after a solid week of rest during my trip to Ethiopia, I was feeling great. My knees finally are starting to feel normal. Feet are strong. No hint of a shin splint for months on end.

So, I went out for a little four mile recovery run -- I figured, I should start slow. Two point eight miles into the run, my left calf stiffened, then went into spasms. Now it hurts to walk, and another run is...somewhere in the future.

Meanwhile, without regular training, I gain weight, get slower, and lose my hard-earned cardio capacity.

Truly an exercise in frustration.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Beautiful Ethiopia

Ask most Americans about the country of Ethiopia, and they will give you a story about desert, famine, poverty, and (maybe) governmental failure. That is, if they can even identify it.

But that isn't the Ethiopia I've come to know and to love. So let me pass along some personal impressions.

Ethiopia is mountains. Most of its people live in the highlands, and most farm. A population of eighty two million, with the largest city being Addis Ababa, the capitol, at three million, and then next largest perhaps a tenth of that. The remote villages still haven't changed much from the past. People survive on local materials, farm, live, love and die with limited exposure to the world at large.

Ethiopia is friendly. Everyone I met, everyone I interacted with. People are happy, despite what they lack. They are curious, respectful, and laugh easily.

Ethiopia is culturally diverse. Roughly eighty languages spoken by as many tribal groups. And unlike some of the former European colonies, where the tribes seem to be in a state of constant clandestine combat, people generally get along.

Ethiopia is religiously diverse. Muslim, Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic and Protestant all seem to more or less respect each other's space and co-exist peacefully.

Ethiopia is growth. Everywhere I went, there was new construction. Granted, it might progress slowly, and the methods might be mostly manual, but it represents an attempt by the people to pull themselves up -- and they are making progress. It isn't China, but it isn't Somalia, either.

Ethiopia is sights and extremes. The lowest, hottest place on earth -- the Danakil depression, One of the earth's three permanent lava lakes -- Erte Ale, the second highest elevation capitol -- Addis Ababa, the ancient obelisks of Axum, the stone-hewn churches of Lalibela, the source of the Blue Nile -- Lake Tana, the womb of mankind -- the middle Awash River. The only African country never colonized, and the richest history in all sub-Saharan Africa. It is a country worth exploring.

Ethiopia is in need of our aid. Too many people on too little cultivatable land. No major natural resources, few goods to generate economic lift. Limited sanitation and clean water outside of the major cities. Millions of traditional and economic orphans. Problems of corruption and inefficiency in government. And irregular droughts and resulting famine, which can change difficult into dire.

I look forward to again visiting beautiful Ethiopia, and doing what I can to aid its people.