|Badger of Honor|
[Author's note: This is an email I sent to my brother Michael. Mundane? Perhaps. I'm adding into my diary archive, because when I write emails, they turn out to be epic four page essays, which eerily resemble a standard diary entry. My brother's name really is Michael, but considering that the Social Security Administration lists "Michael" as the forth most popular name in the United States with an astounding 4,246,425 occurrences during the past 100 years, I'm not going to bother changing his name.
Also: when you're picking a name for your baby, try to be more original. And changing the spelling to something uncommon (Mikael, Micheal, Mykale) doesn't count as originality.
Also note: I did edit just a few things in my email to remove identifying information.
Also also note: Michael sent me a brief email which, in part, asked, "How are you these days? What's going on?" What can I say? I'm wordy. But I haven't spoken to him since October, and I don't like saying that I'm "fine."]
Woo. I have a nasty habit of hitting “Reply All” when I really only mean to hit “Reply.” (I’ve got to stop doing that at work.) Anyway, let me hit the right button.
Beautiful scenery on your latest hike. I loved the flowers and the squirrel, and it’s amazing how much of Mt. Adams you can see when you pressed the zoom key. When I saw the waterfalls, I was reminded of an anecdote Meg once told me. She was visiting Germany and staying with her (then) boyfriend’s parents. They were walking on a bridge over a river, and she excitedly peered over the side and asked, “Does it flow all year round?” The Germans gave her puzzled expressions and didn’t understand the question. I imagine the same would happen if someone from Tucson visited the Washington rainforest and asked the question of you.
Our rivers here are sadly little more than that in title most of the year. I drive to work over the San Rillito River, which is a barren scrubby piece of desert. Gloriously, when the rain comes, it rushes from miles away and bam, the word “river” is put to good use, although inevitably a few bodies are found downstream the next day.
Tucson has three official seasons: summer, monsoon, and winter. The concept of monsoon was news to me when I moved here, and Meg had to be explain it to me. Basically, Tucson starts to get huge thunderstorms and rain storms, which ramp up in late June and (on mean average) start June 15th, but (on mode average) it happens more often than not on July 3rd. So, I’m smack dab in the start of monsoon season here in Tucson. (The National Weather Service has lists of average rainfall per month and they measure the humidity to figure all of this out.) We got our first monsoon rainstorm on Saturday, the first time it’s rained since January I think? It’s been a while.
Regarding my previous email, we quickly got our AC repaired (a fried part on our condenser—I don’t pretend to know much about how HVAC systems work). Whew. A pleasant 74 degrees is where I like it so my brain doesn’t turn melty.
I’m doing great, to answer your question. Let me see… major events since we talked at length last year:
I wrote another book in November. My first stab at nonfiction, I wrote Part I of my autobiography. I did it in the time constraints of NaNoWriMo, since I write best with a deadline and a word count goal. It was fun to write, and I have half a mind to continue on to write Part II this coming November, or whenever I have the time. November isn’t probably going to be a good month, because I have a major project at work planned that month. I’ll see.
I’m starting to really get acclimated to my new job (official title: Training & Education Specialist. Unofficial title: Trainer). It’s just me and my manager in our department, and she treats me as an equal rather than a manager most days, and gives me a very long leash to follow my ambitions. I’m in charge of training all staff (mostly new hires or people moving to different job positions, and mostly tellers, member service representatives, and I end up teaching the entire staff of 165 employees now and then on various topics). In my spare time around all-day classes and meetings, I also do a lot of technical writing (procedures, updating training materials, creating forms, helping other departments write their own materials, etc.), testing, streamlining, correcting processes, and myriad of behind-the-scenes stuff.
I also have to be an expert on all related banking regulations (federal, state, NCUA interpretations, etc.). My boss likes to say that she’s seen more change in regulations in the last five years than she’s seen in the last twenty-something years she’s been in the financial industry. And it’s really true—there’s been so many regulatory changes recently it’s hard to keep up with. The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 was a major whopper, and we’re scrambling to implement changes as the CFPB pumps them out. Some, I’ll admit, make sense and are good changes, but damned if they don’t keep messing with things that aren’t broken. Washington (the D.C. one, not yours) really doesn’t have a grasp on what’s important and what’s not when it comes to banking and most especially how it affects smaller credit unions. (Moral of the story: if you are ever in the position to start passing laws, think hard before you start changing banking regulations.)
Fortunately, I work for a credit union who has their heads screwed on straight with the direction it’s been taking during the 2008 meltdown and subsequent recession. For a while there we were taking a loss with the rest of them (2009 was the worst, with repos and charge offs at an all-time high), but we turned around awfully fast and started making a profit again in 2011 and are doing even better this year. My credit union is now taking in a whopping 30% of all credit unions doing indirect loans in Arizona (an indirect loan is one get at a dealership when you sign all the paperwork and get the loan through ABC financial institution).
Anyway, work consumes my waking hours as I’m sure yours does for you, and my mind often drifts to work-related issues when I’m at home. I think if I could get paid for it, I’d work 60 hour weeks to get everything I want done. Blood, sweat, and tears and all that.
Last April, I went on a week-long conference in Anaheim to learn about our financial core processor. Right near Disneyland, but wildly different focus. But I learned a lot and it was great to have my first official business trip of any significance. I remembered back to Dad leaving for all his business trips when we were growing up, and thought, “At least this isn’t Wichita!”
Last month Meg and I went on our third cruise, which sailed to a number of islands. Our all-time favorite was St. Thomas. If you ever have the chance, visit this lovely little island and go snorkeling with the sea turtles and squid, and be on the lookout for wild iguanas. (Or as the British pronounce them, “ick-you-awn-you-uhs”—it’s adorable.) The iguanas are considered pests and not native, but they’re still cute. (I think they stowed away on a cargo container or an uprooted palm tree, like they did when they decided to move from Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands, before they evolved the ability to swim.)
Grand Turk was our least favorite on this cruise. Hard to explain our passionate dislike for the place. The best part—which isn’t saying much—is the very random NASA exhibit in their touristy dock/shopping square which has a replica of the Friendship 7, which splashed down in the ocean near the island. Grand Turk? Not so Grand. If you were going to pick an island to be stranded on after your boat sunk, I’d advise you to continue swimming onto Cuba.
Puerto Rico was interesting. Rich history. When we stepped off the ship, the first thing that happened was that a rainstorm opened up the dampers right then and dumped several million gallons on the overhang above.
[Writing break—time to take Penny the dog outside for her nightly constitutional. Holy bananas, I just saw a palo verde beetle in my back yard and it was trying to fly. Whatever you do, don’t google “palo verde beetle.” Next time I go outside, I’m taking a shovel or gun or something.]
Puerto Rico has several castles. If you’re a stupid tourist, and Meg and I occasionally fall into that category, you might not know that there’s a free shuttle that circles around town and saves you from having to walk in 173% humidity up cobblestone streets. We did it the hard way. Really a wealth of history on that little place though. I always find the Caribbean fun when I see places that I can connect to huge historical events. For example, I’ve read books about the Spanish armadas that carried gold from the New World to go back to Europe to fund the Spanish government (and the pirates and privateers who preyed on the Spanish). And then I stood on thick walls of Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan, I looked out at the crashing waves below me. And then looking up at the entrance of San Juan Bay beyond, which was the most important quarter mile of water in the western hemisphere for three hundred years. All the Spanish ships laden with gold sailed through those waters. All the currency flowing in Spain’s coffers was, once upon a time, afloat on the waves I now looked at. Battles were fought at the castle too—the Dutch vs. the Spanish, the English vs. the Spanish. The Americans installed bunkers in World War II to defend the castle and bay from the Germans.
If it weren’t 215% humidity and if we hadn’t walked uphill and around the city walls to get to it, Meg and I would have probably found out more about the two castles we visited that day. But staring at that stretch of water, it was impossible not to shudder just a little bit with the site’s significance. It’s been a while since I’ve visited anything historical, but it reminded me I should get out more and learn things. Someday I’d like to go back to Washington, D.C. and visit some of the museums there. Meg’s never been, and I haven’t been there since I was 14.
And let me see… any other events of importance? I suppose you’ve heard from the family grapevine about Meg’s pregnancy last year. It still saddens me, and I don’t really want to burden you or this letter with melancholy. Hard to believe it’s been almost a year, or that it hadn’t been ectopic, I’d have a three-month old baby now. Meg was three weeks pregnant and starting to bleed. She had a bad feeling, and when a nurse has a bad feeling, you go to the ER right now. She went into surgery the same night and they removed one of her fallopian tubes with the fetus growing in it.
The good news is that her other fallopian tube still works fine (the doctor checked it out while he was poking around inside her with his camera), and that we’re still able to get pregnant. We’ve been trying ever since but no success yet. (Part of the problem is our reverse schedule—we only see each other four nights a week. Seeing each other often is the first step for baby-making, as I’m sure you know.)
And anyone saying they’re against abortion needs to think a good long time about situations like my poor wife’s. I don’t want to contemplate what would have happened if I had lost Meg last year. I boggle at some states trying to pass laws that actually state the procedure we had to do to save Meg’s life is illegal. Illegal. How backwards is that? How evil?
Anyway, that’s a tangent, but I know you’re anti-choice or pro-life or whatever you want to call it, so I thought I’d give you food for thought. I would have saved that child if I could have. Meg and I really want children and I’ll be delighted to be a father if I’m lucky for a second chance.
Speaking of politicking, I’m glad you’re stepping back from being so active. Judging from your last two emails and the videos, it looks like you’re starting to enjoy life again. It’s interesting about the national delegate/presidential elector business. I don’t entirely understand the Electoral College—I have a very basic understanding—but how does one get into those positions?
When you say, “Unless Obama does something astoundingly stupid, I won't have to vote for Mitt as an elector.” Does this mean that you’re in favor of voting for Obama over Mitt, or just that you plan on voting the way the popular vote comes through? If I were to take a wild guess about you, you’re more libertarian leaning than Republican (or maybe “tea party,” if that means anything), and that’d you much rather personally have Ron Paul or Gary Johnson for president than Romney or Obama, even though they have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected. And if I were take another guess, I’d say you’re not very happy about Romney being a Mormon, since your branch of Protestant Christianity (Baptist? I’m not sure what flavor you are these days) doesn’t consider Mormons to be Christians? This isn’t even to mention Romney’s other charming political history and attributes, naturally.
Generally speaking, I’m in the “lesser of two evils” camp when it comes to Obama. I actually think he’s done a pretty decent job considering the huge roadblocks Republicans in Congress have kept throwing at him, although some of the things Obama’s done I’m not very happy with either. I don’t think as an atheist, pro-separation of church and state, pro-science, pro-choice, anti-capital punishment, pro-unregulated internet file sharing, independent voter, I’ll ever see a candidate I’m entirely happy with. (And that’s just a small list of my unpopular attributes.) C’est la vie.
Honestly, I’m hesitant to cheer you and K. on with your political aspirations, since our philosophies are so vastly different on most things. It’d odd how my brother and I could have taken so wide swings in different directions. I find myself hoping that you’ll come around and become an atheist like me, so we can talk long into the night about philosophy, science, and the wonders the universe holds. (How very Carl Sagan of me, I know.) I miss deep conversations with you, but I don’t miss the frustration at hitting the intellectual brick wall our differences present.
With that said, I’m glad to hear from you and apologize for the entirely too long and random content of this email.