It’s a tradition that I send a Christmas Letter with cards to friends and family … and now, its tradition that I share it as an open letter to all you Bear Feeders.
Welcome to my annual attempt to summarize 12 months of a hectic, whirlwind of an adventure down to just enough words to keep the postage to one stamp. The traditional try to plug in as much stuff as possible, while making sure I include enough references to Auggie the Doggie to satisfy everyone. Some years this is easy to write, some years this is tough, and of all the years I wrote Christmas Letters … this is one of them (that was a joke, did you get it?). Anywho … let’s begin, shall we?
Really, this year has been a year of transition in so many ways.
A year ago at this time of year I was rolling out a big announcement, that being my move to California and starting at Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena. I started last December at JPL in Procurement Quality Assurance. One year in, and I am as happy as an Auggie getting a belly rub. Not going to say it is a walk in the park; working in space flight is a different planet (pun intended) than the jobs I had before; but holy cow it’s fun. I work in a great, teaming environment. Most at JPL are focused on similar goals with good cooperative approaches. That … and we make really frickin cool things. Rovers to Mars, Exploring Ice on Europa, Studying Our Earth, even Helicopters meant for other planets. How is that not awesome.
Of course, a new job means new place to live. I spent most of the first six months of the year looking for one. My plan was to rent for 6 months while I find a permanent home. That was a pretty big challenge – turns out sweet and fuzzy Auggie is an insurance risk for landlords. Why? … California, that’s Why. I practically fell into a house in Montrose, a pretty rough around the edges house, but a temporary place from day one. The owner was just waiting for permits to tear it down and put up a nice one in it’s place, and when I drove by it today it was already gone. After a lot of work, and making ‘open house weekends’ my hobby for half the year, I ended up getting a great place in La Crescenta overlooking the Verdugo Mountains. The little place, and I do mean little, is comfortable enough for us, and quiet beyond quiet. Albeit, in the path of the wildfires. Still, it’s a remarkable location. I can sit out on the front porch with a mountain view … I can, but I rather sit on the back deck under the lemon tree and look at the mountains … I can, but I rather sit on the higher back deck and look over everything to the mountains.
What’s been an odd transition is the travel. Granted, I am away from home far less than the last two years. 2014 & 2015, I averaged 240 nights in hotels a year. This year, I cut that nearly in half … but that’s still 135 nights in hotels. Granted, 60 of those days were the first two months when we were in transitional housing at a hotel – but still. Traveling for this job and out of this area is just different. Typically when I travel for work, it is either somewhere with a really short flight (or in driving distance) or somewhere in the North East. With short flights, I seem to end up with a fair bit of flying and working the same day. In fact, before this year I never flew in and out on the same day to someplace, and I did it three times this year. Whether nearby or close, each time I fly I seem to need to go out of LAX (which is between 40 minutes or 2 hours to get to depending on traffic) and many times at the crack of early. Add that to the time changes to get to the East Coast, and the travel days become long and annoying. But then again, the trips are short, and I get home a lot.
The real transition is to the new life out here. My old home in Boston didn’t really take; mostly because people from that area want to get to know you before they get to know you. Great people, but when you aren’t around, you don’t mesh. Yet that changed nearly immediately here. In no time, I was making good friends and finding new ways to have fun. That included the Renissance Faire, Octoberfest (which was a little weird for California, I mean they hold it in of all things October), and more happy hours that I think I ever went to. Many times, I’ve realized that I have to learn to have friends again – not as much meeting friends but being a friend. When you spend a couple years with people you know you will never see again, it’s a little weird trying ot realize they want to hang out with you more than once.
Those old hobbies of mine are shifting as well. I spend the fall judging again, now in my 20th year of judging marching band competitions; but because I was nearly exclusive to a midwestern organization, I needed to look for more opportunities locally – so I joined a California based organization, and WOW these bands are good. I’ve considered exploring other opportunities and may take up winter competitions this season as well.
Additionally, I’ve expanded on my little writing hobby. I still write my blog (www.bearfeed.net for those of you who care) at just the right pace for my parents to tell me it’s not enough. This year, for the fourth year, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote over 50,000 words for the third year in a row. But there again, I thought I would get a little more serious; joining writing groups and critique groups opening the possibly of doing more than just banging meaningless words on a keyboard.
But even the most cynical of you out there can probably see that everything about these transitions sound positive. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t living the happiest of lives; but transitions mean change, and change means improvement. Or more bluntly, it means hope; and isn’t that all we can hope for in a new year.
I hope all of you have a great holiday, hope all of you have a great 2018, and hope all the best for all to come.
From Auggie & Mitch
Merry Christmas &
Happy New Year