I Would Walk 500 Miles and I Would Walk 500 More

I’m about to head to the airport (it’s 4:51 am EST as I write this) to fly from chilly Vermont (15 degrees fondly Fahrenheit right this second) to sunny San Diego (today’s high, 77 degrees).

It’s time for the 2018 San Diego Susan G Komen 3-Day!

This will be my 18th 3-Day as a walker (dating back to 2008) and my 29th event overall. (I’ve also served as support crew 11 times). If you total up the miles I’ve walked on event as a walker so far (one event was cut short due to weather, and twice, due to injury/health concerns, I wound up sweeping part of the way) I’m probably at something like 960 miles total. Which means that, barring unexpected circumstances this weekend, I’ll have walked my 1000th 3-Day mile sometime late on Saturday! (This doesn’t count, obviously, all the miles on training walks and such leading up to 3-Day walks.)

With all that walking, cancer must be pretty much cured by now, right?

Okay, well, no. But progress has been made in many areas over the last ten years, and the $50,000+ that I’ve raised through my walking has probably made some slight difference. Total up the millions on millions that all of us walkers have raised and the 3-Day overall has made a big impact. We walkers owe it all to you, our supporters and donors.

Veterans Day 2018

My thanks to my sister Julie Furr Youngman and my brother in law Paul A. Youngman for their US Army service, and to all my friends and acquaintances who served and to strangers everywhere as well, for the work they did, the risks they faced, and the sacrifices they made.

On this, the 100th anniversary of the day the guns finally fell silent in France, there is nothing profound that I can say that has not already been said elsewhere, and better. I will simply say “Thank you”. Thank you to all of you who faced hardship and danger in the service of your country.

Woo-Hoo!

I finally got to see the vote totals for the Justice of the Peace race here in Richmond, VT (population, a bit over 4,000).

Long story short: I won.

Slightly longer version of the story: so did 11 out of the 12 other candidates on the ballot.

“Woo-hoo!”, anyway.

I was one of seven Democrats on the ballot and (if I recall correctly) the only first-timer among them. There were four Republicans and two independents on the ballot as well. A town our size is permitted to elect 12 JotPs, so with 13 candidates on the ballot, only one person would lose out.

I was interested to see that I came in last out of the seven Democrats but ahead of all the Republicans and independents. I honestly don’t know most of the people on the ballot even though I’ve lived in town sixteen years. I travel so much for work that I can never show up at selectboard meetings and so on, and what’s more, I’m not a native of the town.

I assume that the other Democrats are all prominent enough that they had greater name recognition and consequently got more votes than I did… and that my total wasn’t based on my being my being more popular than the six who finished below me but rather was due more or less entirely to running as a Democrat. The woman who got the most votes, incidentally, is our former state representative and owns the hair salon on Main Street. Everyone knows her.

(I was personally sort of pleased in a petty way to see who came in 13th and as a result didn’t get elected. Said individual is sort of our town gadfly and bête noire and used to be on the selectboard until she annoyed so many people that she stopped getting re-elected. She’s been losing election after election for various offices ever since. I hadn’t looked forward to attending meetings with her if she had been elected. Glad to see I won’t have to.)

I mentioned a while back that the job of Justice of the Peace in Vermont is nothing like it is in Texas, where it really is a judicial job. A Vermont Justice of the Peace:

  • is a member of the “Board of Civil Authority”, serving as an official at elections
  • serves on the tax abatement/appeals board in case anyone wants to contest their property tax assessment
  • conducts marriage ceremonies (if asked)
  • serves as a notary and can administer oaths
  • serves as a magistrate (if needed and so commissioned by the state Supreme Court)

So basically, I’ll be on the town election board when my position officially starts on February 1. I hope I get to conduct a marriage ceremony at some point.

Don’t think I’m impressed by my accomplishment — running in a race where 12 out of 13 candidates got elected, and where the powers and responsibilities are so slight, is not going to go to my head. But I am looking forward to doing my part. I’ll have to plan my 2019 travel schedule around Town Meeting Day and elections since I’ll need to be present.

No, I Didn’t Actually Change Jobs

A few days ago I got around to updating my profile on various social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook with my current employment information… and thanks to the wonders of modern algorithms, dozens of people I’m connected to on those sites promptly started congratulating me on my “new job”.

Thing is, I didn’t actually change jobs. I’m in the exact same job I’ve been in since May of 1998 (although the job has expanded and grown with me), but I’m on my third employer in that time frame.

“Wot?” you say?

I started at IDX Systems Corporation in May of 1998. IDX was a Vermont health care software corporation with offices in Seattle, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, and a few other places. We wrote and sold the software that did the scheduling and billing for hospitals and physician practices (we also had an imaging division and an EMR division, but I did very little work with those).

GE bought IDX in late 2005 and rolled us in under their “GE Healthcare” division. Unfortunately, GE a) didn’t always seem at home in the software business (its strength was in hardware), and b) the massive losses in the Great Recession in the GE Capital division caused GE to turn around and slash the legacy IDX workforce, getting rid of products we were developing, cutting back on new initiatives, and so on. We continued to operate, but I can’t tell you how many great co-workers were either RIF’d or took other jobs. GE had a tremendous sense of commitment to its existing and new customers, but the urge to grow, expand, and enhance our software products just wasn’t there.

So when GE started its serious struggles in recent years, we all wondered when the other shoe was going to drop. Were we going to be spun off, sold, shut down, what? The answer came in the spring of 2018, when Veritas Venture Capital agreed to buy the value-based care division of GE Healthcare (basically the legacy IDX products and staff with the exception of radiology and imaging systems) and spin it off into a new company. Veritas was an unknown to most of us, but we soon learned that Veritas has a track record of buying underperforming operations from other companies, investing in them, and getting them strong enough to sell off again. And as far as we know, that’s more or less the plan for us. Right now we’re all feeling pretty optimistic.

The sale to Veritas closed in July and we operated in kind of a weird limbo of sort-of-GE and sort-of-not under the name “VVC NewCo”. We’re still in that limbo (my email address is still ends in @ge.com and my laptop is a GE laptop, and so on) but as of a couple of weeks ago we finally got our new name: Virence Health Technologies. But my co-workers are the same co-workers I had before GE sold us, and in some cases, they’re the same co-workers I had back when I worked for IDX. Our customers are the same customers I worked with before the sale. Operationally, very little has changed. So far. I expect things to get interesting as the remaining connections to GE are severed and the company’s shiny brand-new leadership launches us on exciting and challenging endeavours.

Same job. Third employer. Life is weird.

Holding Back The Years

I have been feeling pathetically old lately. I’m actually only 51, but the gray-haired stranger that stares out of the mirror at me is someone who (to me) looks far closer to joining Marley (who was dead, make no mistake about that) than I’d like.

I need to arrest my slow decline by becoming much more active, one freaking way or another. There are folks my age who are out running sub-three-hour marathons. No, I don’t expect to do that. But when I was running regularly I had gotten my 5k time down to 28:00 or so. Then my doctor added metoprolol to my high blood pressure medicine regimen, and anyone who’s ever been on a beta blocker knows what those do to your metabolism. But I’m not on metaprolol right now and the beta blocker I am on (carvedilol) doesn’t seem to leave me as tired as metaprolol did. Perhaps I can regain lost ground. (Perhaps I can dig a hole through the Earth to Madagascar using a soup spoon and go off to live among the lemurs, too!) But I’ve got to try something in that regard.

Piddle, twiddle and resolve. Sigh.

When I’m home, I need to stop letting Carole dictate whether we go out and do things. Carole is God’s gift to “I don’t wanna” regarding any plan she didn’t’ come up with.  As a result of my trying really, really, really hard to avoid fights and arguments with her, I’ve spent a ton of time just lolling around the house when I could have been out doing things I enjoy. (This is not character assassination, by the way. Carole knows she has problems with oppositionality. Big honking hairy problems. With googly eyes and fangs. That doesn’t make it any easier for her to overcome her passive-aggressive resistance to any plan I come up with. The point is, I’ve got to take responsibility for my own fitness, whether Carole wants to come along or not.)

I can’t do a damn thing about one particularly depressing aspect of aging — the realization that Carole and I are officially too old to have kids. I had been holding out hope, year after year, that we might still decide to have a kid or two, but as I’ve said before, even if Carole could conceive at age 48, I don’t want to be the guy getting mistaken for a grandfather at my child’s high school graduation. And besides, Carole says the question is now officially moot, time-of-the-month-wise. It depresses the hell out of me that I have no one to pass things on to. We achieve immortality through each successive generation of our families; when I die, the world ends.

Short-term — well, that’s where Garnier Nutrisse Medium Natural Brown comes in. (I hate dyeing my hair. I used to do it fairly frequently, but got out of the habit. But as a short-term mood improver, perhaps it’ll help to see something other than steel-gray hair in the mirror each morning.)

3-Day Camp Mail

Hey, all.

An unusual feature of the Susan G Komen 3-Day breast cancer walks is that families, friends, co-workers, supporters, and so on are encouraged to send notes, cards, and the occasional canned ham to the walkers and crew at camp.

Don’t.

I can tell you from past experience (28 walks and counting) that it is a boost when you’ve just walked sixty miles and you stop by the “3-Day Post Office” in camp and find notes and cards from your donors and supporters, sharing their stories of what the fight against breast cancer means to them.

If you want to send me mail at the San Diego 3-Day camp, you’ve got until November 6 to have it postmarked and sent. The address to mail to is:

Susan G. Komen 3-Day Camp Mail
ATTN: [INSERT NAME OF PARTICIPANT HERE]
P.O. Box 721043
San Diego, CA 92172 

Thanks!

San Diego

HELLO WORLD

I will be taking part in the 2018 San Diego Susan G Komen 3-Day in a few weeks (November 16-18), walking sixty miles in three days to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. This will be my eighteenth walk as a walker in the eleven years I’ve been taking part, and my 29th event overall (I was support crew in the others).

I’ll be walking with friends from the Kindred Spirits 3-Day team, an awesome group of women and men who, as it happens, have collectively raised over $3,000,000 in the years they’ve been taking part in the walk. (That makes them the number one 3-Day fundraising team of all-time, by the way.)

I wish cancer wasn’t a thing. I wish people never had to worry about cancer at all, let alone fighting it and having it recur and fighting it again and having it recur and all that miserable stuff that survivors go through year after year. I wish no little girls and boys had to show up at their mother’s funeral wondering when Mama’s coming back. I wish there weren’t women and men out there wondering where the money to pay for their cancer treatment was going to come from. I wish there weren’t men out there cluelessly ignoring the lumps in their chests because “men don’t get breast cancer.”

I believe in the Susan G Komen organization and the work they do. I respect their commitment to reduce the deaths from breast cancer by 50% by 2026. That will take a lot of funding, a lot of action, a lot of research, and a lot of education. Did I mention a lot of funding? Money for all that effort doesn’t grow on trees. And that’s why I take part year after year. I know my supporters really aren’t donating with the goal of seeing me walk the sixty miles, but it’s the commitment to walk sixty miles that gets their respect and attention. And it’s both encouraging and sobering to interact with the many survivors and families of victims that you meet every year on the event.

I’ve made my minimum fundraising goal for the 2018 San Diego walk, but it’d be insanity to sit back and go “I raised my minimum that gets me into the walk, tra la.” I’d really like to raise as much as possible. Thanks to caring angels out there, I’ve raised $3,264.61 to date. My goal is $5,000. If you’d like to sponsor me, I’d be forever in your debt. You can click the huge pink thing below if you’d like to help out.

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day
By the way, if you’re wondering about that “More Than Pink” slogan, it’s like this. I’m not some dumb-ass who wears pink one month a year and buys products with pink ribbons on them as an exercise in virtue signaling. I actually do care and have been involved in Komen events for 11 years now. I know a lot of you care as well and I thank you for all you do.

Greetings from Abilene

Behold, common, everyday hotel laundry room equipment.

 

On the left, the humble dryer. On the right, the serviceable but modest washer.

Guess which one I happily loaded clothes into, added detergent to, dumped coins in, and then sat and watched for a good fifteen minutes before finally thinking “… wait a minute”.

Bingo.

(In my defense, I was very tired. Honest to God, this is not the sort of thing I do every day.)

I Hate My Brain

My brain lies to me all the time.

Right now there is nothing wrong with my life. Everything’s okay. Work is fine. I’m not over my head in debt. The weather’s fine. I need to lose about 40 pounds (okay, that’s one major dissatisfier), but otherwise I’m not in desperately poor health or anything. To the best of my knowledge my wife isn’t planning on leaving me any time soon. Things are actually pretty good.

But I feel mentally awful.

Imagine that you can’t stop worrying about your overdrawn bank account and about all the credit cards you owe money on. But then imagine that you’re NOT overdrawn and your credit cards have zero balances. But you can’t stop worrying. Even if you log in and look at your balances in the bank and on the Chase and AmEx websites and see that everything is just fine, moments later you go back to fretting about how you’re going to make ends meet.

That’s kind of what my brain has been doing to me lately.

know I’m depressed. I know that my brain is lying to me. But that doesn’t help me deal with the malaise and the angst. I can remind myself every five seconds that everything’s okay. I can soldier on rather than crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head. Yes, I can get by.

You ask: are you taking antidepressants? Yes, I’m taking antidepressants. Perhaps it’s time, in theory, to revisit which ones I’m taking. But right now my MD and I are playing a balancing game with my high blood pressure meds and we really don’t want to screw around with multiple things at the same time.

You ask: am I seeing a therapist or counselor? No, I am not seeing a counselor routinely. There are people that talk therapy simply doesn’t help. I’m one of them. (If you have the urge to hit the ‘reply’ button and tell me I’m wrong, spare me. Five minutes’ Googling on “talk therapy clinical trials’ or ‘talk therapy doesn’t always help’ will show you that I’m not talking out of my hat. If you want to seriously cheese me off, tell me that my depression is due to my not seeing a therapist regularly.) I am acutely aware that the feelings I’m experiencing are not based on actual life experience. I am aware that my brain is like a computer pre-programmed to see every glass as half empty. Knowing that your bathroom mirror has been replaced by one out of a funhouse arcade doesn’t automatically help you see yourself clearly.

And for what it’s worth, I’m a former board member of the Vermont affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I’m not an uninformed goober who prefers to curse the darkness rather than light a candle.

I think the one thing that would probably help is “getting a lot more exercise”. Sweat the crazy out, as it were. But there’s the rub: my brain is very very very good at saying “Tomorrow.”

I hate my brain.

Marching Into Oblivion, Part 2

A few days ago I wrote about how depressed I am about:

  • not having had kids
  • realizing that when I die I have no one to stick with getting rid of all my junk, and
  • realizing that my life is pretty much just “blah” at this point and will likely stay so for the next few decades until I shuffle off this mortal coil

I hedged a bit at the end, acknowledging that there is one thing I’d really like to do before I die but that it’d be hard to explain and that I’d sound like a loon if I tried.

But then I thought about it and realized that that ship has pretty much sailed anyway. Anyone who knows me halfway well knows I’m eccentric (a polite way of putting “annoying as hell and needy for attention”)… and probably is tired of hearing me talk about my “daddy issues” (“my dad beat me and never had a kind word to say about me, oh no!”) So, yeah, I probably can’t surprise anyone at this point.

So here goes:

When I was in my second year of graduate school, I had no girlfriend and no real expectation of getting one. Newsflash: A guy with ultra-low self esteem doesn’t attract women.

Inexplicably, though, when I least expected it I did meet someone. Someone smart, pretty, fun to be with and as far as I was concerned, way out of my league. I developed a severe crush on her.

It slowly dawned on me that she had developed quite the crush on me as well. (Even after I spotted a post-it note on her office phone with all four phone numbers — home, work, academic department, academic department study lounge — that could be used to reach me, I still found myself thinking, “naaaaw”. I’m an idiot.) We wound up talking daily on the telephone, for hours, and I used any excuse I could to spend time with her in person. We had dinner out together a few times. We met for coffee now and then. But, because I’m me and because I was just as much of an bonehead then as I am now, I still found myself doubting that she really, um, you know, liked me. That is, until one night when I found out in extremely convincing fashion that she did.

That autumn was probably the happiest time of my life. I kept thinking that at any moment I was going to wake up and find out it was all a dream. People who knew us could tell just by glancing at us how utterly head over heels we both were and thought it was kind of cute, kind of funny.

(Parenthetically, this all happened during the fall of 1989. Between the San Francisco World Series earthquake and the fall of the Berlin Wall, some would say it was a pretty momentous time. Well, from my point of view, it was more “who cares about the end of the Cold War? I’m in love.”)

So what?

There was only one problem. She was married. Very unhappily. She’d asked for a divorce once already and her husband had begged and pleaded with her to stay and had promised to change. But he hadn’t. He was emotionally cold, was not physically interested in her at all, and I hated his guts without ever having met him. The problem was compounded by the fact that she’d grown up in a pretty conservative family in the upper Midwest. She alternated between being deliriously happy and being utterly miserable with guilt. She just knew that seeing someone (me) on the side was WRONG WRONG WRONG no matter how awful her marriage was and no matter how happy I made her. But rather than leaving her husband for once and for all, she developed a complex where she had an imaginary scarlet letter on her forehead and she “knew” that if she DID leave him for me, everyone would know what we’d been up to and she couldn’t bear that shame.

Heeeeeey, guess what? I’m not the only insane person around!

We wound up in this crazy cycle of “c’mere, c’mere, c’mere, get away, get away, get away.” We both acted pretty irrationally. Some days it was just like nothing had changed. Some days she acted like she was shocked at my familiarity. Drove me bonkers. I got a little crazy too. Eventually my wistful puppy-dog eyes got to be too much — she couldn’t stand knowing how desperately I wanted her and knowing how much she wanted me back — and she cut off all contact. Then she and her husband moved away. I got on with my life.

End of story?

Well, yes and no. I spent two and a half years sunk in depression, before I met Carole and decided to get my act together. And I’ve been very happy with Carole. (We’ve been married 21 years and we’ve been together for almost 23. I’d better be happy with her.) But there’s this part of me that still thinks about … Her. And wants desperately to talk to her one more time before I die.

I know it’s just totally batshit that I think this way, that I want to somehow be friends with her again. As it happens, I know where she lives, I know that she’s still married (and never had kids), where she works, and so on. Google is your friend. (Yes, I’m pathetic.) I’ve even sent her a letter or two or three over the decades, apologizing for anything and everything I can think of. No response. Probably for the best.

It really really really sucks to have a subroutine in your head that just won’t let go of memories of one’s first love. Carole has something of the same thing going — she had a boyfriend in college that she would happily have spent the rest of her life with. Problem was, she was young and stupid and took the relationship for granted and … then she didn’t have that boyfriend any more. And she still thinks about him from time to time. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that a lot of people have the same problem we do — living in the past, dwelling forever on the mistakes that cost them someone they cared for a lot.

But that’s the one thing I wish I could have, that I wish I could accomplish, and that I know that I’ll almost certainly go to my grave without achieving: I’d like somehow, someway, to repair that long-ago damage that we did to each other and somehow be friends again. Just friends. We used to have these long wonderful talks on the phone about this and that and the other and, well, I miss them.

I’ve been able to make amends to some of the people I’ve fallen out with over the years. I’ve tried to right wrongs where I can, and I’ve tried to be a better person. I’ve tried to let the people I care about know that I care about and value them. I don’t want to wind up on my deathbed with a long ledger of things I never got around to resolving.

I guess, though, that I’d better get used to the idea that I’m going to die with the biggest loose end out there left dangling.

Credit Where It’s Due

I’ve spent more time than I really should’ve bitching about how much I hate birthdays. (Correction: how much I hate my birthday. Others’ are fine.)

Well, it’s time to give credit where it’s due. This year, for my 51st birthday, Carole really stepped up, and I want to thank her for that. (Thanks, honey!) I was out of town for my 51st birthday — onsite at a customer in northwest Arkansas. But when I got home, Carole had a celebration ready. Cake, presents that I wouldn’t have thought of myself and that she didn’t just find on a sale table at Big Lots, and even a fun excursion on Lake Champlain on a sailboat, with a picnic she prepared and packed and brought along. (I’m avoiding telling her justjyet that this raises the bar higher for future occasions –she better really go all out for 2019’s Arbor Day.)

 

 

 

Marching Toward Oblivion, Part 1

In a few short years I won’t exist anymore.

That’s true of everyone, obviously. To the best of my knowledge, everyone dies in the end. Some of us are fortunate enough to die happy, surrounded by family, secure in the knowledge that those they love are provided for and that all will be well. Lots of people die alone, sad little pathetic deaths, and are remembered by nobody.

When it became obvious to me a few years ago that there was no way I would ever have children — when it was absolutely clear that that ship had sailed — I started to see the world differently. I know that Carole and I might live for quite a few years more, or we might die in an accident tomorrow. Either way, there’s no one to remember us. No “next generation” to pass the baton to. When we die, the world ends.

When my father died (Mom had died years earlier), my siblings and I had to empty out his house down in Florida, take what we wanted, donate the rest to charity, and get the house sold and out of our hair. It took years. Thank heavens for a cousin who lived across the street from Dad, and an unusually helpful local realtor. Without them on the scene to take care of immediate nuisances as they arose, we’d probably still be tearing our hair out.

Well, when Carole and I die, there’ll be no one to do that for us. There’ll be no one to sort through our stuff and go “I want this, but I guess you can have that” and so forth.

That’s why I kept telling my siblings, each time the question arose of “who gets the silver, who gets the jewelry, who gets this, who gets that” that I didn’t want any of it. If I inherited Mom’s silver, it’d just pass out of the family for good when I die. If my sister, the only one of us with children, got it, one of her kids could inherit it. I know that when I’m dead I really won’t be in a position to care where some old shiny eating utensils wound up, but right now, it’s vaguely comforting to know that in a strange sense, there’s still going to be some continuity from generation to generation. Mom’s stuff to my sister. From my sister to her kids.

But as far as my stuff goes, there’s no one to leave any of it to. I’ve sort of figured that at some point I’ll write up a will. It’ll be the usual thing — Carole gets everything, of course, if I predecease her, but if I’m the second to go, I’ll probably just leave everything to my sister or her surviving heirs. Let them empty out the house. It’ll be good for them.

In the meanwhile, though, I’ve started looking around the house and going “that brings me no joy, it’s just clutter and in the way” and getting rid of things. We have a local community mailing list network here in Vermont that comes in handy for saying “hey, anyone want X?” (I will never hold my own yard sale. As far as I’m concerned, when really bad people die, they’re sentenced to roam the Earth attending yard sales.)

I no longer have a lot of unrealized ambitions. I’m really, really good at my job and have about as much job security as one can have in this day and age, but … famous last words, right? I’m very happy with my house and don’t feel a need to pore over real estate listings in Hilton Head. I have no urge whatsoever to spend a chunk of money on a fast car. I know that nothing I can do at this point is going to get me into the history books.

I have a few simple desires: provide for Carole and make sure that she doesn’t want for anything, take a vacation every year or so to someplace fun that I’ve only ever read about in books, and if I can, not make the world a worse-off place before I go. Anything else is gravy.

Well, okay, that’s not 100% true. There is one thing I’d really like to accomplish before I die, but it’s hard to explain without sounding like a complete wack-job and it’s extremely unlikely to come to fruition. Forget I mentioned it.

I footnotes