‘Behind the Fence’

Brace yourself, this post has nothing to do with death.

Still with me then? Good. I’m glad.

So I had a pretty awesome experience last week. If we are connected on Facebook, then, well, you’re sick of hearing this again — I flew in a Blackhawk helicopter!

Well what does that have to do with my job in healthcare? Nothing. Or, maybe it does. Let me explain.

Each year, the local chamber of commerce offers a program designed to expose new leaders (that’s apparently me) with the opportunity to learn more about specific things happening in our area, in a variety of topic areas. The group (there are 22 of us) consists of people from healthcare, education, defense, finance, healthcare and a few other industries. We meet once a month to learn more about a particular topic.

We’ve done healthcare. We’ve done education. We’ve done judicial. We’ve done economic development. Along the way, this program has given me the opportunity to tour behind the scenes of an area casino, spend time with a judge and tour a prison, take part in an amazing program that aims to prevent teens from being distracted drivers and more — including the opportunity to listen and talk to industry leaders in this area.

While the program is teaching us new skills and techniques of leadership,  it’s also showing us just how much is ‘in our backyard’ and how the area in which we live are so dependent on all of the industries we are observing.

That was never more prevalent than last week.

Our focus? The military.

Now, this part of the world is heavily connected in the military community. We are, among other things, ‘the submarine capital of the world’ — since the world’s best submarines are, in fact, built here. We have a naval base that employs more than 10,000. We have a major service academy in our area, too.

We are military focused — yet for some reason, the leadership class hadn’t taken on the topic of the military.

Until this year.

Because this was the first time, the military partners involved in the tour rolled out the red carpet. And, well, that’s where the Blackhawks come in.

I, along with a few others, was completely stoked for this experience. Here I am a week later and I’m still in awe of what we did, where we went and how we got there.

The morning started on the base. On the way to the Blackhawks, our national anthem was played over the speakers for morning colors. Everyone stopped and it was hard to not feel different hearing it where we were — and with what we were about to do.

The Blackhawk was incredibly smooth — that’s what shocked me the most. It was such an easy, effortless ride. We touched down at the local National Guard camp and got a tour there, as well as multiple speakers explaining the Guard’s role and much more.

Back in the chopper for a 30 minute tour of our region — just an incredible experience to fly over places I see everyday and get a completely different perspective on the area I call home and all that’s around it.

We landed at another local facility where Blackhawks are maintained and refurbished. I had no idea this was going on in my community.

After that tour, one more short ride where we landed on the front lawn of the Coast Guard Academy. An absolute special experience to do that and then be toured around the Academy by a cadet, before joining up with senior administrators for lunch in the officer’s club. You couldn’t leave the  Academy without being impressed.

When we did leave, it was in a van this time (so depressing!) for a ride back to the base where the tour continued with a trip inside a submarine simulator used for training, followed by a look at how submariners train for deep water rescues and then finally aboard an actual US submarine in port for minor repairs and preparations to be made before its next significant voyage — which, according to the commander, could be as long as six months. Where to? He, of course, wouldn’t say. But, with all the continued drama in the Mid East, I couldn’t help but think this sub would soon be Syria bound.

So, Mike, you’re probably asking…here you are, more than 700 words in and you really haven’t explained the point of this.

Well, I say, it starts with the title of this post — ‘Behind the Fence.’

When the morning started, one the military types told the group that our access that day would take us ‘behind the fence.’ That we’d get to see things (the sub simulator) and do things (um, fly in a Blackhawk!) that others just don’t get to do. All of this, he said, was to show us ‘the other 1 percent.’ He wasn’t referring to the uber rich and talking taxes. No, he was talking about the 1 percent that protects the freedom we enjoy every day — without ever really thinking about it.

In exchange for this access, for this unique experience, he asked for something very simple in return. He asked for us to take what we saw back to our world and share it with people we know. To tell them not just what we saw, but who we saw doing it. And to see how much pride was involved.

So, here I am. Letting you know what a day this was.

Now, I’ve basically lived in this area my entire life, save a few years here and there. Obviously I know the importance of the military in this area. But, well, maybe I underestimated that a bit. I had no idea there’s a training ground not far from here where soldiers train in mock villages to simulate what they might discover in the Middle East. I had no idea that helicopters from 13 states along the east coast are brought here to be repaired/refurbished. I had no idea of the size and scope of the National Guard. I had no idea how impressive the Coast Guard Academy would be. I’d been there before, sure, but for a football game. I had never set foot in an Academy building until last week. I was thoroughly impressed.

The base. I had no idea how big it was. I had no idea how many sailors go through submariner school. I had no idea what life was like on a submarine. I had no idea how much work goes on when a sub is in port preparing for its next destination. I had no idea of the true economic impact the military has on, not just this area, but the state as a whole.

Flying in a Blackhawk. That was fun for me and the others in the group. But for the team flying us, it’s more than fun. It’s there job. For everyone we met that day, it’s more than just a submarine or a helicopter. It’s a job. But it’s really more than that. It’s about freedom. Their freedom. Our freedom. My freedom.

My nephew served and did multiple tours in Iraq. I’m proud of him. Or at least I thought I was. But now I’m even more proud of him — and the many others. Now that I got a better glimpse into the life, the work and so much more, I can start to appreciate the sacrifice even more. The sacrifice they make for me. And for you.

The point is, I understand it more. And I wish you all could experience what I was so beyond fortunate to experience. Who knows. I may never fly in a helicopter again — let alone a Blackhawk. I was given an extraordinary opportunity. One for which I’m thankful. And one which I wanted to share with you. Not just because I was asked to do it. But, well, because you should know. Particularly if you live in this area, you should know the incredible work that’s going on right in our backyard. It’s more than the obvious. It’s the stuff you’d never think about. Right here. This close.

And for that, those of us that live here should be filled with immense quantities of both thanks and pride.


A Different Focus

So I have a new job — some of you know that, some of you don’t.

That’s fine. I’ll eventually share more about it. But, fact is, it was a great move for me. The right one at the right time — for a variety of reasons.

One of the benefits of the new job? My brother Tom works there, too. He’s been there for about 10 years. We don’t see each other every day. Heck, I can’t even remember the last time I have seen him. We don’t even talk and/or email every day.

But, it’s been fun. He knows a ton of people there and they all say good things about him (I just figure they are being polite….). He’s given me some insight into some people that’s been helpful, and he’s put up more than a few times with emails meant for me that have gone to him. Of course, I’ve put up with being called “Tom” a few times, too.

We’ve had one lunch together in the cafeteria — and we’ll have a second today.

Afterall, today is his birthday. And, well, it’s Tim’s, too. Remember, they are twins.

So today, which has, at least for the last few years, been a tough day, becomes somewhat of a good day.

I was never really sure how to deal with today — particularly how to ‘deal’ with Tom and what I can only imagine he feels on this day.

But today, we’ll have lunch. We won’t talk about anything of substance, but that’s totally fine. Key is, we’ll be there. Together. We’ll talk about work stuff or even the horrible Patriots game. Most likely other stuff, too, since Renee and the kids are coming in to have lunch with “Uncle Tom,” too.

Regardless of what the lunch topic is today, many things that are spoken will actually never be said.

And, for this tight-lipped Irish Catholic family, that’s quite alright.

Especially today.


Don’t Block the Light

So yesterday had the makings of a really great day.

I know, listen to me! But it’s true.

Remember the crying at work episode? Well, while you don’t know the whole story, isn’t that enough? The good news is that the people that were upset with me had a meeting with my bosses. Things were smoothed over. Enough to the point that they called me immediately after that meeting and invited me to lunch to “mend fences and clear the air.”

I was nervous. But it went well. Very well. So much that the relationship is still alive and has a chance to grow. The keys? Honesty and humility. And no defensiveness. That last part is the trickiest for me.

And, someone I work with actually commented that I seemed to be in a much better mood lately. Wow. That was both a good thing and a bad thing. I guess I have been showing some signs…but I guess I also have started to turn it around.

I feel like I have. I feel like looking through that long, dark tunnel that there’s a speck of light there that I haven’t seen in a long time.

At least until last night. And this morning.

Had the worst night sleep I’ve had in a really long time. Why? Not totally sure, but it had something to do with an absolutely ridiculous dream that actually made me get up and go check something in our basement (don’t ask).

Then, Aidan was off the wall this morning — making our hour together a complete and utter challenge. When you’re in the midst of that, it’s hard to focus on that he’s probably tired, still fighting some sick stuff and probably nervous about school today. It’s easy to think about after the fact, but not always during the process.

And, have a meeting in just a bit with someone that I have a very hard time communicating with — and that’s something I need to work on. Thankfully, have a colleague in the meeting with me who can read me and will give a sign if I’m heading down a wrong path. Good to have a battle buddy with you.

A little nervous about later today. Appointment with a different counselor (easier to say this time!). Remember the new therapy thing I mentioned last time? Well, first session today to see if it’s going to be a good option — and I believe it is. I want it to be.

And tonight, well, I step back to 1876 to do something I absolutely love. It’s a time for a 100 percent escape from modern day and focus on some simpler things.

Sounds like a great concept, doesn’t it?


Struggling.

There. I said it.

Right up there in the headline. See it?

Yup. It’s official.

I’m struggling.

That’s part of the reason I haven’t been here in, oh, forever. Because, yeah, I was really looking forward to writing the “I succeeded at Forty by Forty” post. Not so much.

That’s just one of the ways I’ve let myself (and probably others) down.

There are more. Lots more.

And remember that lesson that this isn’t a space for you, it’s actually a space for me. Yup. It’s true. Especially now.

I’ve been wanting to come here for a while and didn’t know what to say. Still don’t, really. But figured I’d start with this. Gotta start somewhere, right?

Part of this hit me the other day when I saw a facebook status of two friends being together. One of them I’m in regular contact with. And the other, well, I should be — and I’m not. And it bothers me. To the point that I need to fix it. And to the point where the one I am in regular contact with texted me the following, “No matter what, you can’t lose sight of the people that have always been there.”

That stung. Hard. And it’s totally true. This person is someone I trust explicity, have shared so much with — and I’ve totally dropped the  ball. Why? I don’t know. I have a reason, but I’m not sure I’m even buying it — but now I need to correct my actions — and that’s just one area.

I had a major screw up at work last week. Well, hard to call it a screw up. Point is, I delivered on everything I was supposed to deliver — and well, I might add — but the recipient didn’t think the same way. And the person’s words attacked me at the core — questioning my ability and my decision making. Why did it hurt? Because I put my heart and soul into making this really good thing  happen. It’s still a really good thing. It just probably won’t happen again (when it had the chance to). And, so, yeah, I cried at work. Absolutely lost it. When your insides are challenged — as mine were — that’s one way to respond. Maybe not the most professional, but, yeah, I did it. Only one person saw it and handled the situation amazingly well, but now, yeah,  you all know it.

Oh, and I’m 40 now. Nice. Moving on.

Just questioning a lot of things. Re-examining a lot of things. Trying to figure out a lot of things.

Impossible? Might be. But have to try.

Because if I don’t, I’ll only struggle even more.


I’m Not Quite the Energizer Bunny…

…but here it is three years later and I’m still going and going and, well, going.

Yup, this blog is three years old.

Not only that, this is my 300th post.

I’m actually surprised — I wouldn’t have figured that I’d average a post every three days or so. Despite my recent hiatus, I guess it does go to show that (at one point) I was writing fairly regularly (and I’m trying to build back up to that pace — honest).

For that (the writing regularly part), you can thank Molly.

In fact for all of this, you can thank Molly.

It’s as simple as this — without her encouragement, this blog never would have started.

And, quite frankly, without her encouragement, this blog wouldn’t have lasted.

It’s funny in a way. When she and I get together now, she mentions my writing and tells me not that I shouldn’t stop, but that I can’t stop.

So, here I am, reading her stuff tonight and she’s asking the same questions I’ve been asking lately. And my answer to her, it’s not that she shouldn’t stop. It’s that she can’t stop.

See, I was debating what the heck to write about for a three-year/300th entry…then tonight it hit me plain as day. Talk about the person that got you started here in the first place.

Of course, I went to her when I was looking for an idea for this entry and she might as well have used my line and said, “I got nothin’.”

She actually did have a great idea — it would just take me too long to do right now. And I need to get over this 300 hump.

What’s kind of funny is that while I’m writing less now, I’m even reading less. Only a few blogs are in regular reading rotation right now — Molly’s being one of them.

What could I possibly have in common with twenty-something blogger? Well, in her case, it’s a lot.

We’ve each written about each other before. I’ve called her my little sister. She’s called me her big brother. That’s just the relationship we have.

We had a great working relationship that turned into a fabulous friendship — even after she left for what was then greener pastures.

I don’t see her as much as I’d like, but it doesn’t matter. When we do connect — like today at lunch — it’s fabulous.

Our conversations cover it all — light, heavy and anything in between. Ususally over pizza and onion rings. But, today, we’ll do it over salads instead. And that’s ok.

True friends make a mark on your life — a mark that sets them above and beyond others.

Molly made a mark on my life two years ago — in a big way. I doubt that Molly and I will ever lose touch, but if we do for some reason, I’ll always be grateful to her.

And you should be, too. After all, without her encouragement, I wouldn’t be here.

Thank you, Molly.

Wouldn’t be here without you.


Battle Buddies

It’s never easy watching a co-worker leave.

That’s what happened Tuesday. It’s someone I don’t really know all that well, but whenever we had interaction, it was a kick. A true match of wit and sarcasm — always trying to one up the other in that way. And, if you know me, you know I like that type of challenge.

I mean, she worked in Finance — and yet still had a sense of humor. That alone is an astounding fact in my book. Nevertheless, I’ll miss her wit. I know, just the fact of a witty finance person is almost impossible to comprehend. But, in this case, it was true.

Now she’s off to (much) greener pastures. And that’s a good thing. You always have to look out for number one. Always have to keep options open. She did that. And she’ll be fabulous where she’s going. A great addition to their team.

But, at the same time, it’s hard to see someone good that, well, ‘gets it,’ go.

Before today, I had two of those experiences in my current position — and, while it was the best move for each person, I can still remember their last days like they were yesterday.

When Molly left — it, well, hurt. A lot. Not because I was losing a great assistant (though she wasn’t really my assistant), it was because I was losing daily interaction of a great friend. Truly of the little sister I never had.

But,  here’s the thing. We are still in regular contact, and while we don’t see each other every day, we stay up on everything and when we do see each other, it’s fabulous.

When Sara left — it, well, hurt. A lot. (Sensing a theme here?) Sara and I were in different departments, so we didn’t have the constant contact like Molly and I had, but when we had contact, it was stellar. She gave me something when she left that nobody knows about — and I’m not telling, so don’t ask. It was so “us” and still is — that when I see it in my office, I crack up.

Sara and I have stayed in contact, but I wish that I was doing a better job at it. Her life is changing in a very good way and I couldn’t be prouder. And I’m planning to go visit her in a couple of weeks for what will no doubt be another stellar experience.

I have some amazing colleagues now. People that like Molly and Sara have gone beyond colleague status right to ‘friend’ status. People that aren’t in my life for a reason or a season. People that are in my life for a lifetime.

And to those battle buddies, please know I stand with you — regardless. I am in awe of you every day — for the work you do and, more importantly, the way you do it.

I am proud to be on your side.

And, more importantly, I’m proud to be your friend.


I Hope You’re Still Here

It seems like forever since I’ve been here.

Oh, that’s because it has. Well, maybe not forever. But close.

How have you been? Still checking in with me to see if I’ve dropped by with some words of …well, I was going to say wisdom, but not sure I really offer those.

Hope you’ve been well. And if you have been stopping by, my apologies.

Things have just been nuts. And by things I mean work. And by work I mean, are you kidding? Seriously. Are you kidding?

Is it a good thing when you know the third shift security guys by name? And they know you by the voice when you call them on the phone to say you’re leaving the office at 11:30, 12 or even 12:30? No, not a good thing.

But, as my favorite saying (well, I got nothin’ is my favorite…so I guess this is my second favorite) goes, it is what it is.

Just a lot going on. A lot of uncertainty. A lot of questions. (wait, those are basically the same thing, right?).

Just a lot of stuff. And, for some reason, I’m one of those that is crazy dedicated to the job, so I go back some nights after the kids are down and as Renee is correcting papers. I go back because I can get more done in three hours at night then I can in eight hours during the day. What’s wrong with that picture?

Should I be going back? Probably not. But it’s the only way. And it’s the only way I know how to do it. And, it doesn’t help that I’m under some scrutiny right now (no reason for the scrutiny, mind you…it’s just my time in the department to be under it). And it sucks.

But, bottom line? I love what I do. And I love where I do it. And I love who I do it with. You can’t find a better team. And when you have connections with some of these people like I do, you work not just for the place, not just for yourself, but for each other.

It’s what we do.

So, in the meantime, thanks for sticking with me. I’ve had these little hiatuses in the past, and, for some reason, you’ve stuck with me. Which means I’m going to stick with you.

I mean, get this. Through the beauty of facebook I’m connecting with people I went to elementary school with. One of them sent me a message the other day and said that she found the blog and was reading it. Like, all of it. Said it was better than a book.

I mean, that continues to blow me away. This started for me. It was a place to just let go. Now, it’s also for you. And I never really thought it would be for anyone else but me. And I suppose it really still is — but the thing is, if you’re reading this — for whatever reason — then you’re a part of me, too.

So, in that respect, this isn’t just mine.

It’s yours, too.