Annual Christmas Letter

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Every year for the last 10 years I have sent out a letter with my Christmas Cards.  I didn’t want to leave y’all out so … Consider this my open Christmas to all you blog readers (I shall dub thee, the Bear Baits).  Happy Holidays, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Spaghetti Monster Saucing Day.

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

For the last 10 years I’ve written a holiday letter to tell all that has happened in a year.  Never have I had to tell you so much that have happened.  Which ironically (but not too surprising) left me wondering where the heck to begin.  The real problem isn’t that there is just so much to say, its more because this wasn’t like one year to tell you, but two half years.

If you haven’t heard (which either you did from Facebook, word of mouth, or that really weird return address on this letter), I stepped onto a plane on August 4th in Wichita, Kansas where I lived and worked for 11-1/2 years, and stepped off a plane that night in Anchorage, Alaska where I began a new career and a new life.  I left my position as a Supplier Quality Engineer for Cessna Aircraft, and started a position as a Supplier Quality Management Specialist for BP Exploration.  In essence, I will be doing the same job, but I move from a major Aerospace manufacturer to a monster Oil & Gas corporation (yeah … not ‘a’ BP … THE BP).

To say this is a big move is an understatement.  Just think of the logistics … in less than a month, I packed up my entire life and sent it out to sea so it can land at the last frontier.  I put my house up for sale in Kansas (and it’s still up for sale if you want to buy it), shacked up in an apartment for 3 months, and then bought a new house.  It was 100° in Wichita when I left, and it hasn’t broken 60° in Anchorage since.  I went from hot, windy, and dusty; to wet, cool, and beautiful!

I could ramble on and on about this move, because there is so so so much to tell.  But truth is, I am already telling it.  After I made the announcement I was leaving the company, a colleague suggested I should right a blog about the experience — so I did.  Because people were taking bets on how quickly I would be eaten by a bear, the name for the blog fits not just what it’s about  … but what I am:
www.BearFeed.net
The blog has been good for me to stay on my research of this new home, as well as make constant jokes of how stupid I can be.  Included is my first bear sighting, snow in September, and more recently a 5.8 Magnitude earthquake that shook the city.

The experience has been what I hoped for.  In the first couple months, I found myself hiking the mountains and streams of the area around Anchorage.  I’ve explored down the Kenai Peninsula & the Cook Inlet.  I’ve found my way around town, made new friends, and found a great home.  I’ve made a run to Houston, New Orleans (let’s just pass by that trip without mention please), and even a week up in Prudhoe Bay … in December … the high was -35°F … THE HIGH was -35°F.

Above all else, I welcomed a furry poop machine – a now 3-month old Staffordshire Bull Terrier named AKC Fullthrottle Yukon Gold King … or Auggie for short (I had to shorten it because “quit chewing on that shoe, AKC Fullthrottle Yukon Gold King” just wasn’t working).  Having a dog is something I have wanted for a long while, but my travel schedule never allowed for it.  Since the travel won’t be as frequent now, I took the chance.  While he is a handful, and those nights when I have to spend time scrubbing the floors after he has an accident are a pain, but I haven’t regretted bringing him home.  Not in the least.

But like I said, this year is more than what happened with that move.  There is a good 6 months more that came before it.  Travel was still heavy for me before I left Kansas, as it had always been.  While I didn’t plan it, it seemed that the business trips were to places taking me down memory lane.  This spring, I spent a few trips in and out of Chihuahua, Mexico for work.  For you Alaskans reading this, Chihuahua is much like the North Slope except hey complain that it’s too cold (no, I didn’t screw up that order … the people in 50°F Chihuahua complain about the cold more than the people in -35° Prudhoe Bay).  Especially the last couple of years, I’ve made more than a few trips down that way but was housed there for two weeks in March – including Hockey Night in Mexico (Tecante Light, Pork Rinds, and New Jersey Devils on the laptop).  I also hit good old Los Angeles, bringing back the days from 2005/2006 where I spent more time there then Kansas.  There was even a visit to my arch nemesis: Cleveland, where there was one last chance to avoid the snow in April.

Geocaching (my little GPS based scavenger hunt hobby) played heavy in my year again.  Early in the year, a traveling exhibit on Geocaching was at Wichita’s Exploration Place.  I volunteered to man the exhibit and give a few Geocaching 101 classes to introduce new people to our game. It was a great way, also, to hang out with people who liked geocaching as much as I do.  It led me to use it as a way to meet folks when I got up to Alaska, as it was just as big up here too.  For the record, I have now found caches in 49 states – with a short weekend vacation to Maine where I had a $15 lobster meal and enough finds up there to make it count.

I had a chance to get in a long vacation too, making a run out to Gettysburg, where I spent time with the parents for a few days on the 149th Anniversary of the battle.  I get to Gettysburg quite a lot (this was my eighth trip since 1997) but this was the first I was there with other people.  Seriously a difference experience.  I had grander plans for that vacation, but they were cut short by the news the week before that I was moving to Alaska.  So the plans were shortened to a midnight battery change in Illinois, 100° hikes in the Appalachians, and an opportunity to meet up with Laura, an old friend in Erie that I hadn’t met before (that’s a story too, but wait for it).

Later that trip, I met up with old Cadet Friends including Ferrari’s and (annual Christmas/postcard recipients) Glerums.  Doing the math, it was over 12 years since I got together with them.  They weren’t the only “long-time-no-sees”.  Like, in February, I stopped by Temecula, CA to see the Creeds who moved out there a while back just to get away from us idiots.

We said goodbye to my Aunt Janie this summer, but as it happens as we grow older; it was a chance to see my father’s side of the family – something I hadn’t been able to do for years.  Then I was able to slip down in November for Cousin Ted’s wedding to make it a much shorter span between visits.

But in between, I got to say goodbye to great friends still back in Kansas.  Some showed me more of what I will miss than I guessed.  Deanna Brown pitching in with the madness that was getting my house ready the last month before moving out is hard to forget.  Those great cachers like Ernie Cantu willing to help out close out some things back in town.  Or giving a final go at stupidity with Jeremy Phillips in our last few nights.  In a quote from Winnie the Poo that I spotted in the last days in town: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

The year itself is hard to summarize, but one week in there does.  I had Nadcap meeting in Berlin, Germany in July – an aerospace quality organization.  I had attended those meetings since 2002, but this one was special as I was assuming the chair of one of the largest groups in Nadcap, a role that would put me in the forefront of the processes they cover; where those who held it before were called amongst the most influential in the industry.  By Monday, of that week, I knew that it would be my last … as I received the offer to move to Alaska while standing outside of a Beer garden in East Berlin.  Professionally, I was on the highest summit my career, yet I made the decision to climb a new mountain.
To be honest, though, when I look back at that week, it is one night I spent in Bochum that stands out.  I’ve been an on-line gamer for years, and over that time you meet loads of great people – but one has been a close friend for five-plus years even though we never met.  That night I met my old friend Nick Jacobs, and together her and I stayed up to who knows what hour talking, drinking coffee, and nibbling cheese like we were oldest of friends.

You see, 2012 was filled with life changes.  When I last wrote a Christmas Letter I was guessing at what the year had in store for me, and a plan to make changes whenever I could.  When I look back at the year, it isn’t the events that stand out; it’s the friends & family.  It’s getting together with people I haven’t seen for years, it’s getting together with people I never met, it’s getting together with those I am not sure when I will see again.  It is the support they have shown.  It is the encouragement they gave me.  It is the thanks I can’t give enough.

So as the year ends, to friends, family, and random people who find this letter after the zombie apocalypse:
From the coldest of places and darkest of nights, the warmest of holiday wishes on the brightest of days.

Happy Holidays

and Auggie says: bark bark (which means either Happy New Year, or he is hungry … again)

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