This book is dedicated to my best friend and partner for life, Trudie Ann.

Going Around My Elbow

HOW WE SURVIVED THE FIRST DECADE OF THE 21ST CENTURY

By Ken Hubbell

Copyright © 2010 Kenneth Hubbell All imagery and photography courtesy of the author. Cover by the author.
Wikipedia contributors, "Paradox," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Paradox&oldid=340637368 (accessed January 31, 2010). Wikipedia contributors, "Faith," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Faith&oldid=340964430 (accessed January 31, 2010).

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Publisher. Printed in the United States of America. Design by Kenneth Hubbell First Edition

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

1

At least I'm not hauling nitroglycerine!

Many of you reading this may not remember (or even have seen, except perhaps on TV-Land) the show Little House on the Prairie; but for those of you that do, there were several episodes where Pa Ingalls had to take on additional work to make ends meet on the farm. Pa had to do that a lot, going away for months at a time doing all sorts of jobs. His wife, Caroline, would manage the homestead, and while he was away, she and the children would wait for him to return. Just

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when it looked like Pa was never coming back, he would come home and all would be well. In one particular episode, he and his friend Mr. Edwards had to haul nitroglycerine to a mine quite a ways from their home. The trip was dangerous under normal conditions, and even more so carrying the explosives. When my family and friends ask how I am these days I reply, "Well, at least I'm not hauling nitroglycerine!" I am one of the many 21st Century “Pa Ingalls" in the global economy, and this is my family’s tale. Our story is true and I have only changed a few names where necessary. Like the old adage, we had to go around our elbow to get to our thumb. The journey started in Raleigh, NC, where my home and family reside, and then on to Troy, MI. Why would I for weeks and months at a time deliberately put myself 750 miles from those I love most, you might ask? Aaah, now we have the beginnings of a story.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

It all started with some investors, a bubble economy, and really bad timing...oh, and did I mention, this was not 2009. No, this story started a little farther back. It was September 14, 2001, 3 days after one of the darkest days in US History. No government bailouts! No mortgage or car payment forgiveness! Just an economic nightmare that for some of us has taken almost a decade from which to recover.

- Ken

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Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

2

We’re strong and we can do this!

So, how do you top off one of the worst weeks in American history? Why, three days after the towers fall, you walk into work and find out your investors have decided the game is over and just pulled the plug on the room full of shrink-wrapped software you and your team developed over the past two years. No warnings, heck, we were in acquisition mode; we were supposed to make money!

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Now, I will give our CEO some credit here for doing the right thing. For as unexpected as this was to us, apparently the investors would have preferred us to work another couple of weeks and then let us go without paying for the additional services. Our leader disagreed! At least this way we only suffered injury and not added insult as well. The injury, however, was substantial. Most of us had not taken vacations for several years. I watched eight weeks (two months) of salary vanish before my eyes. As for severance, well severance is what you get when you are laid off from a failed savings and loan or investment banking company. When a small business tanks, so does everything else associated with it. One of the biggest surprises was COBRA. You know. The magic health insurance Band-Aid that cures all of the pains related to job loss and transition. Well, guess what? COBRA requires that the company you formerly worked for actually still be in business. If the company is gone, so is the COBRA. And, by the way, self-insurance is expensive.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

Let’s return to the conference room on that fateful Friday. While the world outside was mourning the loss of life in the towers, my friends and associates were coming to the realization of what was happening to us. We knew the doors would be locked by that afternoon, so we looked the CEO and CFO in the eyes, asked a very bold question, “Can we take hardware and software in exchange for our missing vacation pay?” A smile came across the CEO’s face. He looked at the CFO and with a nod said something like, “just write up a list of what you take and we will balance the numbers.”
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Imagine the biggest sale at Toys-R-Us; right before Christmas. Now imagine your life depends on not only getting as much as you can, but the correct items as well. Now, picture pure pandemonium. In one of the pinnacle moments that allowed my family to stay afloat, I managed to acquire a digital camera, two laptops, licensed versions of the software

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I use for multimedia development, and multiple licenses of the software we created. Most importantly, however, I acquired signed rights to pursue our existing professional service clients and license to use the software we had been developing without royalties or additional license fees. The latter part proved to be a stroke of pure luck (claiming genius under those pressures would have been a bit of an overstatement) or divine intervention. By the way, since I realize the audience for this may vary widely, I will attempt not to be too “religious” as the story unfolds, however I will point out that there are circumstances that come to play in which logic and coincidence has no role. I am Catholic by faith, and I have come to realize more and more the power that faith has in our lives. This is not to say that faith comes entirely without frustration, tears and angst. It just means that when presented with those times, you have a strong set of spiritual arms to embrace you, and an ear that will listen, when no one else can understand.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

And, so, on that Friday I found myself on the phone with my unbelievably wonderful and steadfast partner for life explaining to her how I was driving over to one of “our new clients” to transfer the contracts from the now defunct company to us. Her words of encouragement still resonate within me today, “It’s okay, we’re strong and we can do this!” She said this knowing full well there were two children under the age of five running around the house and a ten-year old attending a private Catholic school; and not sure how we would even make the mortgage payment the next month. By the way, did I say wonderful, I meant absolutely priceless, and proof by her presence alone that God exists and truly loves me.

- Ken

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Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

3

Time travel and other paradoxes

"A paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition; or, it can be an apparent contradiction that actually expresses a non-dual truth (a truth implying that things appear distinct while not being separate)." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox

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One of the interesting things I am discovering as I write on past events is the razor sharp clarity of certain details while other segments are completely forgotten. Fortunately in this digital age, it is possible though photographs, emails and calendars to go back in time and rebuild many of the missing elements and revive some of those memories. As this story unfolds, one of my hopes is to have a much better understanding of how I got here and where I am going. Another is that those whose lives I affect come to know at least in part who I am and why things turned out the way they have.
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I enjoy reading science fiction. Some of my favorite stories are on the subject of time-travel, and in many cases the subsequent issues resulting from interfering in past events. These paradoxes often bring about changes beyond the original intent of the timetraveler. So, the question I have asked myself from time-to-time is, “How far back would I go to change the sequence of events that has led me to where I am

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

today?” At first, this seems like an easy question. Just go back to a time shortly before the pinnacle moment and change the situation. In reality, most pinnacle moments are the result of many other factors that in many cases have taken years to gestate. So, again, I ask myself, “How far back?” The paradox I find myself in is that much of who I am, much of the good I have accomplished in my life, has been a result of the “bad” things that have happened. Now, I am not saying that every lemon has become lemonade, but many of them have. Even travelling 750 miles back and forth each month, living in two cities has its benefits (more on this later). The trick, I have discovered, is all in how you look at it. And, a good partner is one of the keys to having and maintaining a positive attitude. Another paradox I have discovered is that you can do everything you were supposed to do. You can do it right. And, the team of people you work with can do

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everything they were supposed to do just as well. However, in the end, you can still fail. Failure is a tough thing to face. I went for 18 years without a significant failure. Oh, I made mistakes along the way, but they were the run of the mill kind that happen when you are learning new things. No, being laid off was a failure for which I was not prepared. Moreover, it took quite a bit of time to realize it was NOT a failure. I was not fired; the company just did not make it. I also found that what you do in those moments comes from the person you are, and those decisions determine the kind of person you will be.

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

4

Go fly a kite!

Being a type ‘A’ personality, I am prone to work hard and work a lot. “The project must get done.” “I am important because the team needs me.” And, when working for most companies, they love you for it. They want you to feel important and they like the fact that you will put everything you have into your job, even at the expense of those around you. Here is where having a great partner is important. I
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remember when my oldest daughter was three some years before the crash. We were building our first house, and, on top of that, I was the senior animator for a computer-based training company. Of course I had to work hard. They needed me and we needed the steady income. “Work-life balance” was not a common phrase back then. One morning after another late night at the office my wife said to me, “You need to come home and have lunch with us today. It’s a nice day to go fly a kite.” I looked at her like she had two heads. How was I going to explain to all the people at my office that “needed” me that I was going to go home and fly a kite with my daughter during lunch? She looked right back at me and said one of the most important things she ever said to me, “The work will be there when you get back, and your daughter will remember that you spent time with her.” She was right. We had the best time that day flying a kite and eating PBJs. And, the work was still there

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

when I got back.

- Ken

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Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

5

It’s your money, so take it.

So I found myself for the first time in my post college life without a job. Add to it three children, a car, a house, a cat and a dog and despair could quickly set in. I will say up front, we never had to sell any of these in order to survive. Finding work was my primary focus. I had a good resume and a strong job history. I was smart and energetic. And, so were the thousands of other job seekers who had just hit the market due to the bubbleburst of 2001.
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Contrary to current thinking, 2009 is not the worst economy I have ever seen. Many of us went through this “crisis” years ago. The only difference is that we did not get a bailout. Mortgage companies were not very kind or lenient. Few people understood why it was such a difficult time for us or why we could not just “get another job.” I continued development of simulations for the clients I acquired from the now-defunct company, but learned very quickly that having work and actually getting paid for it in a timely fashion were two different things. In the short run, my family needed to eat, so I found myself down at the local employment security commission filling out the paperwork for unemployment. This would allow us to receive a weekly check based on a percentage of my previous income for a short period determined by the length of my previous employment. To say I had never “looked down” on the idea of receiving unemployment would be a misstatement. In addition, knowing now what I was soon to learn then,

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

I realize I was a proud fool. Being unemployed is not the same as being on welfare. Being unemployed means you once had a job and are now looking for a new job as a result of circumstances not of your making. During all the time you had a job, you were putting money into a special government mandated “piggy-bank” called unemployment insurance. Yes! It’s your money, so take it. I had been paying into unemployment for 18 years. Therefore, for 14 weeks I would receive unemployment checks from the state. This was supposed to give me the time needed to find a new job without worrying about making ends meet; at least this was the theory. In reality, since the checks were for a fraction of the income I had been making, we were just sinking farther and farther into the hole. And this time, to add insult to injury, I discovered that I was responsible for paying taxes on the unemployment checks including the double social security tax that used to get matched by my employer. Another stipulation of unemployment is you can only

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receive it if you bring in less than a certain amount of additional revenue during the weekly cycle. Working minimal part-time and receiving unemployment meant there was no way for us to make my previous income. The difference was greater than the set limit: catch-22. To make matters worse, during the 2001 crash, a lot of senior level executives in the IT sector were forced into unemployment along with the rest of us and the state unemployment funds were running out (even though we had been paying into the system for years). In addition, these people were now competing for the same limited jobs as the rest of us. As we were young, my wife and I decided I would just stop taking unemployment and focus entirely on being selfemployed. Eight weeks to the day, we found ourselves starting another chapter in our lives – running our own business.

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

6

A piece of cake (not!)

Welcome to the “Great American Dream”: just hang up a shingle and start your own business. I went to sleep one night working for someone else and woke up the next day an entrepreneur. The awakening found me mired in a combat between self-doubt and a determination to succeed. I had managed to secure equipment, software, and a couple of clients so starting a business should have been a “piece of cake,” right? Hah. Myth #1 busted.

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Starting your own business is anything but a “piece of cake.” Quite the contrary in the professional services/consulting world. There are all sorts of things they do not teach you in school or in the corporate world for that matter. It’s no wonder most small businesses do not survive the first two years. The first thing you learn about starting your own business is that you need capital. Something I was severely lacking due to the circumstances. “Why do you need capital?” you might ask. Well, unlike working for a company, your income is based entirely up to what you are bringing in the door. A “regular paycheck” is what people who work for someone else receive. Those who are self-employed have to get it themselves. Oh, and here is the gotcha, because they pay the half normally paid for by the employer, the self-employed end up paying twice the amount of unemployment taxes as the rest of the working world.
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Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

Unfortunately in the professional services business when you get clients most of them do not pay you until the work is complete. Even if you can get them to pay some in advance, their accounts payable system is usually net 45 days from invoice (this means you send them a bill and they do not pay for 45 days, if you are lucky – I had one that decided it would be net 120). As a small business, you are the little guy. The time and cost to pursue legal action against your client’s accounts payables department is too high, not to mention the loss of good will. So, unless you have a relative that is a corporate attorney willing to work for free to get your money on time, you only get paid when they so choose.
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So we found ourselves with clients and work, but no money. We managed to survive until the first checks started arriving, and then played catch-up. We did this cycle for months. Unfortunately during the first year, this meant we did not have the luxury of putting anything aside for taxes. Desperation and lack of tax

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law knowledge is not a good combination as April the following year will attest, but we persevered, paid our dues in the end, and survived. If we ever try this again, it will be with a nest egg in the bank, and a good accountant and a powerful lawyer by our side.

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

7

Déjà vu all over again!

I would like to think I have always learned from my past, and with these experiences keep from repeating the same patterns of behavior (at least the “bad” ones). But, in the heat of the moment, the human psyche tends to drift back to cycles of familiarity; even if they were destructive. And so it was with the lay-off and starting a new business.

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You know those ads on TV where they show people running their own businesses, working part-time and without the stress of a “regular job.” Well that’s a load of you know what. Running your own business is a lot of work. Now I was used to hard work. I had been a multimedia and simulation developer for years. For the now defunct company I had also been involved in business development and sales. The difference was that in the past, I had not been playing all of these roles at the same time. For example, if you are just a developer, while you are developing a product, someone else is drumming up new business so that when you are finished with one project there is another to take its place. When you are running your own small business, you find yourself having to sell during the day, and develop at night and on weekends. What might have been a 50hour a week job becomes a 100-hour, seven day a week job very quickly. It was Déjà vu all over again! So much for flying kites. It was after several months of this that my wife said to

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

me, “There will again come a day when you will be working full-time for someone else and you will not have the flexibility you have now to make time for the children. Take this opportunity to do something meaningful.” Now this is from a woman with three kids who knows money is tight and that every second counts. For her to say it must mean it’s important. Of course again I looked at her like she was out of her mind. She stood her ground, said it again and I eventually listened (by the way, I do eventually get better at listening the first time in case you were wondering). And what a time we had. I did things with my children I never would have been able to working for a regular company. I went to preschool and kindergarten events including field trips and parties. I coached the school’s girl’s softball team one year and the girls’ soccer team the following two. I got to know my children at home and at school better than I ever would have before the lay-off. My children really got to know me. And, she was right; eventually I did get a full-time job and stopped being able to do all of those things. But I had

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the time then; and it was ours.

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

8

My Superhero!

A stress analysis test I once saw listed all sorts of major life events and the stress factors associated with each. If you have too many in a short period of time, you are a prime candidate for a pine box and the pearly gates. Now, I am all for meeting Saint Peter and having a million questions answered by God, but I look forward to that coming a little farther down the road. During that first year we experienced the stresses of

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job loss, starting a new business, compounding debt, weddings, funerals and a host of other issues that peaked the scales of the meter. But that was nothing compared to what awaited us.
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Remember what I said about COBRA. Well, after a year, ours ran out. The company assets were finally gone and COBRA disappeared. “Luckily” for us we managed to switch over to another insurance company at a price slightly higher than our mortgage payment. It was at this time that a bizarre sequence of events took place, which would not only test the strength of our family, but our very faith as well. Shortly after changing insurance companies, I noticed what I thought was a red marking around my waist. Unfortunately, it was growing rapidly. Thinking it might be cancer or something like it, I had it checked. The doctor looked at it and promptly pronounced his diagnosis, “You have shingles.”

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

Now, many of you may be familiar with the condition, however, for those of you in the dark as I was let me explain what shingles are. When you have chicken pox as a child, apparently it never really goes away. No, it just finds a nice little place to hide in your spinal column and waits for a stress trigger to bring itself back to life in a different form. Fortunately for me it was only around my waist (there are more severe forms that go over the shoulder and can even cause blindness). Unfortunately for my kids, who had never had chicken pox, they now started getting them, one at a time. By this time, my wife was already my hero, but she became a superhero over the next several weeks. See, not only was the shingles a result of external stresses, but my internal systems had also been doing some curious things. My weight had been dropping rapidly for weeks. We had chalked it up to overwork. We even thought it might have been an ulcer, since I was getting sick almost every night. The red shingles markings had even had us thinking it was cancer.

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After a battery of tests, the doctors discovered I had Crohn’s disease. Basically, my body has an overactive immune system – similar to arthritis – which had caused my intestinal walls to become blocked and I was no longer able to process food. I was rushed to the hospital and given treatments for a week. All the while, my wife was still managing the chicken pox outbreak at home. After my release from the hospital, I continued to run our business from home (when you are self employed there is no sick leave). About a week later, my middle child was home with the start of his cycle of the pox, when I started getting the shakes. I looked in the mirror and understood the term “looking gray” for the first time. I could barely breathe. I called him in and told him if I could not get mom on the phone to call 911. It was lunch time and luckily she was in her office and answered. Then, between him and me, we managed to explain to her what was happening. She arrived home fifteen minutes later and rushed me to the hospital. My poor son had to wait outside the

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

front doors of the emergency room with a security guard due to his pox while my wife got me checked in. The screening nurse was rude and insensitive, and had no clue as to what was really happening. My wife almost had to scream at her to get her to move things along, all the while worrying about our son sitting outside. Once they ran some tests it was clear what had happened. A little over six hours after being admitted they determined my upper intestine had exploded and I was dying. Two hours later I was prepped for emergency surgery and my wife was being told of the risks involved. My relationship with God grew tenfold that evening as I made my peace and simultaneously asked for more time. The Lord must have been listening, because the surgeon He provided was the best. Believe me, when your life is on the line, you want a doctor working on you that knows how to take charge and get the job done right. He was like military commander on the battlefield, and the battle to be won was inside of me.

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I spent the next two weeks recovering in the hospital. And because of his skills I am here to tell my story today. And through it all, the mother of my children managed her job, the remains of the pox and worrying about the health of her husband. My only job was to lie in a hospital bed with a computer on my lap (remember, no sick days). She was and still remains my greatest hero. I will never, ever, be able to repay her for all that she has been through and all that she has sacrificed.

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

9

Exceptions to the rules (their rules)

One of the more frustrating parts of running your own business is getting your clients to pay their bills on time. These are not small businesses or general consumers; no I am talking about billion dollar corporations that cannot figure out how to pay a small company for services that have been rendered. The ultimate irony being that the larger the company, the longer it might take them to pay. The cost of a lawsuit is more than the value of most

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small projects, so my only course of action was to simply wait for the money. This continuous cycle was not a practical solution. So, after over a year of developing multimedia and simulation applications for these companies, I learned a few things about their accounts payable “rules.” First, the individual or business unit you are doing the work for is almost certainly not the person that will make sure your check is signed and in the mail. No, that task is carried out by someone who does not even know your name, does not care that your mortgage payment or utility bill is due, and most likely will go home that night and enjoy a nice dinner with their family while the check they were supposed to send is still sitting on their desk, and your family is having grilled cheese for the third time that week. Even better is when they go on vacation for a couple of weeks. Second, the “rules” can be modified as long as you are willing to pay (as in you pay them to pay you on time). Let me illustrate this wonderful thing known as “discounting.” When you establish a contract with

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

company X, you add a clause for the bean counters that discounts the price of your services in exchange for them paying you net 30 days instead of net 90.To make the math easy, we will start with a $10,000 value project and discount it by 1 percent, making the final value of the project $9,900. Now I don’t know about you, but having to pay someone to pay you on time is ridiculous. But, that is how the system works. I would love to try that with my bank some time. Imagine telling the mortgage company, “oh yeah, I’ll pay you on time, but you have to discount the price by a percent.” Yeah, right! Third, the “rules” can be broken. Well they can if you have something they need and you refuse to give it to them until you are paid. This one is fun in hindsight, but scary as heck the first time through. We had been developing a project for company B for several months. The work was concluded for the contract and we had been waiting payment for more than the net 30 in our agreement. Our contact at company B, let’s call him Jim, called and requested an

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additional contract be established because their internal team could not complete their part of the project and they were running behind on their deliverable. I let him know that we were still waiting on payment for the first contract and we could not begin the second until we had received a check. Jim did a little digging and found out that accounts payable was not going to pay on time. As a matter of a fact, he said they did not know how a contract was signed with net 30, when they never paid any sooner than net 60. That was company policy. Period. There are moments like this in which you can either get angry or get your money. I chose the latter. I called Jim back and said either pay or the work stops and he would have no deliverable. He again informed me there was nothing he could do, so I said, “Then put someone on the phone that can.” Shortly afterwards, his supervisor came on the line and gave me the same song and dance.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

At this point I played my trump card. I told him that if the money was not in our account by the morning, his client would not be happy with what was not going to happen. Again, I was told that company policy did not allow for this and these things just could not be done! And that was that, end of conversation. Now, remember how I said this third rule was “fun,” well I meant it. A few hours later, I received a very compliant call from the accounts payable area of company B. Apparently they needed some banking information to process a wire transfer to our account. Low and behold, the next morning our first contract was paid in full. I spoke to Jim later that day and finalized the details for the next phase of development. This included an upfront wire of half the money for the new project and net 30 day terms for the balance, which was invoiced immediately to ensure payment by the end of the project. We never discussed the situation again, except for one moment, when he said to me, “I have never seen anyone do what you just did and get away with it.” To which I

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responded, “Have you ever seen anyone try?” It does not happen every time, but remember, there are always exceptions to rules, especially when they are unfair to begin with. Stand your ground. If you don’t ask they won’t change.

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

10

It's not just a job, it's an adventure!

Do you want to learn something new almost every day? Start a multimedia development company. While there are the mundane tasks of the business itself, the adventure comes in consulting. Every project is an opportunity to stretch your abilities and immerse yourself in new knowledge and skills. Sounds a bit overboard, I know. But here are the facts. Weeks into my new life, I found myself at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center consulting with rocket scientists about new technologies to help them

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perform mission critical planning. I traveled to Las Vegas to attend the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) where I previewed three football fields of new technology. Throughout the next four years, I found myself in San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, D.C., New York, Toronto, and a host of other cities, learning everything from how to operate heavy equipment to the physics of golf.

Every customer was an opportunity to learn something new; about the subject matter and about myself. The multimedia applications we created helped companies do their work better; and, in one case, even helped protect the good old USA.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

Standing on the launch pad with the shuttle right behind me; digging a trench with a Caterpillar backhoe; learning how a slot machine works at a real casino; eating good food; seeing the world; these are experiences I will never forget.

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The best part about the whole thing is the relationships I built with my clients and other entrepreneurs. As with most things in life, it’s a lot more fun working together than alone. And, though none of us got rich, we all survived. Most of us are working for others now, but many of my fellow adventurers stay in touch and often still find opportunities to do business together today.

- Ken

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11

New York, NY!

The view from the men’s room of the offices on the 45th floor of the Woolworth Building encompasses
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most of Manhattan Island from the base of the financial district and north. One of the singular highlights of this view is another monument to this nation’s rise to power, the Empire State building. The perspective from my office window was a little more humbling; its venue was the shoreline and a corner of the gaping crater that once cradled the base of the Twin Towers. That I should find myself this close to the epicenter of circumstances that had not three years prior changed the entire world, and from my more myopic point of view changed the lives of me and my family is one of my life’s more bizarre coincidences.
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After three years of being in T-Rex mode - always searching for the next kill while still devouring the most recent - I was ready for something a little chewier with benefits. Not knowing where this something might be, I had started the old resume factory back up and did some soul searching with former colleagues. One of these happened to be the

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

CEO of the aforementioned and now defunct company from 2001. Let’s call him Bill. Although Bill had been in a leadership position that held ultimate responsibility for the fate of the company, he had also been a good mentor and had always treated me with respect. Respect that, had I fully understood and appreciated what my position at the time should have been, deserved more accountability by me. It was my role to help make him listen to alternatives to the business directions we were headed. I knew the right questions to ask and even some of the answers; however, at the time I was too intimidated by my new position to express them. I say this because, for reasons I am still not one hundred percent sure of, every year on the anniversary of the fall, I would call him and ask how things were going. Bill was an entrepreneur at his core. When the business collapsed, he moved on to start another. He kept his head above water, and appreciated my calls; especially since I was apparently the only one of the former staff that even cared how

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he was doing. These calls enabled us to build a friendship throughout my self-employment, and in the end opened the doors to opportunity. On one of these annual calls, Bill told me of his recent hire as CEO of a company headquartered in New York City. The technology firm he was now leading had a unique product; however, they were experiencing difficulties on the content production side of the business. Seeing an opening, I made the bold move of pressing my services on his new venture. What happened next was to be my first step on the road to the “prairie.” The timing was right. Salary plus benefits plus weekly travel expenses to and from the Big Apple seemed like a good idea to us, especially me. Working in NYC; now that would be cool. Obviously, there were some adjustments that had to be made around the homestead again. Flying out on Monday mornings and flying back on Thursday nights was going to put a lot of load on my wife. As Mama Bear had said, “enjoy the time and flexibility you have

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

now, because you will be back in the thick of things at some point, and the time you had will be gone.” And, of course, she was right!
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My first flight was remarkably uneventful. Bill had a limousine pick up and deliver me to the front steps of what had been, almost one hundred years before, the tallest building in Manhattan (prior to the construction of the Empire State building). What a sight – gold mosaic inlay, arched ceilings, solid wood and brass trimmed elevators, and polished marble floors. It is amazing how long it takes to travel up 45 floors in an older model elevator. Once I stepped out of the cab into the dark mahogany paneled office, I knew I was in a place out of time. Contrasting the antiquity of the building was the engineering marvel projecting from the office lobby. I have decided any time I have the chance to learn from others is time well spent. The company needed my skills, and in turn, I needed the chance to build

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upon those skills. The client base was internationally dispersed. I traveled in and out of the country to create a production network. In return, I developed an understanding of how “things get done” working sideby-side with a seasoned CEO and business development team. These skills would be very helpful in the years to come. A small hotel a few blocks away was to be my home away from home for the next seven months. Bill and I both commuted each week from our real homes, and although life in the city is grand, it lacks the southern comforts we had each grown accustomed – not to mention we had no desire to raise our respective families in New York. Our vision was to relocate the headquarters 500 miles due south, and so from spring to fall we set out to bring our vision to life.
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It is one thing to think you “know” a place from what you hear and read. It is another to walk the streets at all times, listening to the rhythms of the day and

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

feeling the space around you. Fear melts away with familiarity, and understanding comes from experience. I would often leave the office late in the evening. The “city that never sleeps” actually does in the finance district, and as I walked back to my hotel room, the streets were often very dark. It was on one of those dark nights I realized there is no greater fear than the ignorance you harbor inside. I turned a corner and found myself in the company of a rather large stranger. Now, I do not consider myself prejudiced or prone to stereotyping, however, at that moment on that street, all of my ignorance came pouring out and I prayed that I would just make it out alive. Ironically, the other gentleman must have felt the same way about me for as I turned that corner, he made it a point to quickly cross the street and continue very quickly past me. I learned that evening fear is a matter of perspective; and I vowed to keep my imagination under control.

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The only truly disappointing part of this time was that due to our financial situation, my family was never able to come up and share the experience with me. Opportunity lost due to circumstance. And, though I never felt the desire to move my family north, I did find myself adapting to life in this new world with a comfort I never dreamed possible. I also knew from that point onwards I could adapt to life anywhere.
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Fall that year brought about the big move. We acquired the new office space and set up our shingle. And, then we brought everyone down to our southern technical empire. The vision had become a reality. And on December 23, 2004, reality smacked us in the face. The board of directors had a change in focus and we discovered ourselves in the wake of yet another layoff. Bill and I would need more than Santa to bring a merry Christmas that year.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

I probably would have hit rock bottom had it not been for Trudie’s ability to help me see my own worth. In the end, we found support from those around us. Santa still came to visit. We had survived this before, and the promise of a new year made us all hopeful of what was to come.

- Ken

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Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

12

Satisfaction guaranteed!

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Given the financial climate of 2009, I count myself lucky to have learned this early and survived. Twice! Ask my family what they know about life, and they will tell you “take your strength from God, family and friends. Everything else you have to take with a grain of salt.” Because of the strength of my wife, my children have experienced all of this without falling into the gutter.
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When our water heater died during several of my months on the road, she brought back the art of boiling water on the stove for baths upstairs. The kids thought having baths instead of showers was a treat, because that is how she painted it. Trudie can make a vacation out of a trip to the park and did so several years in a row as we weathered the storm of self-employment. Spending $100.00 lavishly (i.e. everybody gets a snow cone, maybe two) is just as much fun to kids as frugally spending $3000.00 at Disney just getting by. She would load up the Red Flyer wagon, and take the kids, their cousins and their friends on an adventure that would make Huck Finn proud. She made it work by finding ways to make the ordinary special. Creating traditions for our family and our community to make memories where there could have been only sadness and misery. The kids could not go to camp, so she started an art camp for the neighborhood in our back yard. Each summer for

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

over a decade has produced a collection with which our patrons have been blessed. The annual neighborhood Fourth of July Olympics and Parade is another tradition that keeps our family and community ties strong. A dozen years of watermelon seed spitting champions have graced our driveway. Old friends, new friends, friends that moved away, all come to join us on that one day each year to celebrate our nation and our community. It is the community that provides the “guarantee of satisfaction.” For me, it ensures the kids have friends to play with and other fathers from which to learn the art of baseball and basketball when I am away. I can count on my neighbors if my wife and children are ever in trouble. Unconsciously we nourished a support system through unselfishly inviting our community to join us in our traditions, and though she may not say it, I know Trudie feels more secure knowing she is not alone.

- Ken
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Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

13

Beam me up, Scotty.

In my line of work I know the holodeck is right around the corner. My laptop is a very large tricorder. And, I use a communicator; I mean cell phone, daily. My big dream these days is that someone will find a way to develop a transporter. Being Pa Ingalls in the 21st Century would be a heck of a lot more convenient if each morning I could just step on a transporter pad and travel 750 miles to my office and then return each evening the same way. In

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the interim, road warriors have to be creative in reaching out to those we miss and who also miss us. Fortunately, this is a lot easier today than many years ago. I remember as a kid my dad going on long business trips out of state. Long distance phone calls were outrageously expensive 30 years ago. So my brother and I got 5 minutes or less a night to say hello and tell him about our day. Daytime was never even an option. My children on the other hand know they can call me anytime, anywhere. With in-network calling, we can talk as long as we want. It is through this we discovered something wonderful. Given their ages, they had pretty much outgrown me reading stories at night before I started all my travelling. The road trips changed this. My two youngest were having trouble falling asleep, so I stopped by the library and we rediscovered the art of the bedtime story. Note: when living on another city, find your nearest public library. It is a great source of free

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

entertainment including books, music, and other media. Mine even carries DVDs. I have found that almost all libraries have a section dedicated to children’s books. Those are my favorites. One of the coolest features of today’s cell phones is the built in speaker for meetings, or in our case bedtime stories. My wife would set up a stool in the upstairs hallway so all three of them could hear, and each night I would read a chapter or two to help them fall asleep. We read “The Tale of Despereaux”, “Edward Tulane”, a prequel to Peter Pan called “Peter and the Star Catchers” and many others. Even my teenager has truly enjoyed the revival.
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Being away from my family and home for several weeks out of every month means the bulk of the work raising and supporting the education of my three children (5th, 6th and 11th grades as of this writing) is also on the shoulders of my unbelievably, exceptional wife. In the past, my help would have been limited to

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a brief, long distance call each night and the short time each month I am home. A virtual meeting room product combined with my cell phone has changed all that. Last year this virtual chat room opened a portal for me to be able to communicate with my children and help them with their schoolwork as I never could before. I was able to use the whiteboard to show my daughter and her friend (at the same time, each at their own home) how to do algebra. One weekend I spent an entire Saturday (yes, nine hours straight) sharing my computer desktop so that my littlest could see me using the Internet and Google search. In turn, she shared her desktop with me so I could help her use MS Word while she learned to write a research paper. This product has once again allowed me to play an active role with a “physical” presence and given me back to my family. The best part was how easy the virtual space was to use. The first time we tried it, my oldest was

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

babysitting (read as no IT support from Mom) and we had to set up for her sister's report. I remembered the product from an email I had received and thought I would give it a try. I signed up, the automated emails went out, and installation was a breeze. The girls had no problem at all getting set up. The shared space and desktop worked flawlessly (for nine hours straight with no hiccups). It saved the day that Saturday. By the time mom came home, the report was finished, and she and my daughters were very happy. I have been the recipient of video fashion shows, musical renditions, and a variety of homework sessions. This year, my oldest daughter is taking physics (a very visual science and hard to teach via phone alone), and my son is adding a science fair project to the mix. My youngest daughter and I even play chess using the image object functionality of the whiteboard to prepare her for the school’s annual chess tournament. Sure beats sending chess positions by email!

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Technology is not a one hundred percent replacement for being there. It is, however, making it not so isolating. Although I still cannot just say, “Beam me up, Scotty,” I recommend these and other techniques to everyone who asks me the question, "How do you stay in touch when you are on the road?"

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

14 Go with the devil you know!

My New Year’s resolution for 2005 was to find a stable job. The rollercoaster ride of the previous four years was taking its toll on our family. We had leveraged and refinanced and spread ourselves as thin as we could. It was time for a recovery. The year started with a nice freelance project that kept us busy for the first few months. Then, in the spring, we saw a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

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Periodically we had seen small candles in the distance – low salaries, no benefits, etc. This one was like a bonfire. The interview went well enough, and as the second quarter began, so did my new job. I was brought on to lead advanced technology development for a global learning solutions company. Historically classroom based, they wanted to take their product in a new direction, and I was the man to do it. I had a team of developers on the West Coast and in the UK to support our Southeastern US headquarters. We had a strong and diverse client base. What could go wrong? If you ever find yourself asking the previous question, quickly look around and make sure you are awake. It is when things have the appearance of going smoothly that surprises most often happen, and they did. Three months later my boss, the Managing Director of the company, announced she was leaving, and we would sadly find out later she had terminal cancer.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

The next day I was introduced to our CEO. He flew in from Los Angeles to meet me in person and to offer me an interesting proposition, “Take on the role of Managing Director or help hire an unknown to be your new boss.” In other words, hire someone new or go with the devil you know. My wife said, “Go for it.” I will say upfront, I do not regret taking the position itself. I had not had the chance in my career to learn about key concepts like EBITDA and P&L. Living on the development and sales engineering side usually meant insulating me from C-level finances. I had always been there to provide technical strategy and operations leadership. The month of July was spent learning new acronyms, swimming in spreadsheets, and being screamed at by the most incompetent CEO for whom I ever had the unfortunate pleasure of working. Philosophically speaking, there are many ways to onboard someone into a new role. One of these is to provide a set of clearly defined goals and assumptions for the business and reinforce the ability to achieve

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these with the necessary training and guidelines to make a successful transition. The other is to flail your arms around and scream on the phone about how the numbers are not being met. I faced the latter. To make matters worse, the financial picture of the company was a nightmare. In addition to failing health, my predecessor had not managed the business well at all. Add to that a financial department that had been misreporting and misappropriating the accounts and you have a recipe for disaster. The smoking gun to just how bad things were was a day in August when I arrived to find the local sheriff chaining the doors shut because our lease had not been paid for months. A long, thoughtful trip to Los Angeles and a “come to Jesus moment” for the CEO let me initiate steps for change. A new COO and CFO were hired, and we proceeded to clean up the finance department, audit the books and determine the true state of the company finances. The company was in trouble, but there was hope.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

An apparent rift between our US and UK operations had driven our respective teams in different directions resulting in operational inefficiencies. Since this rift was due to past differences, I made it a point to quickly repair these relations by bringing my counterparts across the pond to meet and plan for our mutual futures. During our meeting, the CEO and our new COO worked with us to create a strategy to save the company. My peer from the UK had a passion for business management. I had a passion for sales and solution design and development. We decided that week to redefine our roles to best use these strengths to create new business. And we did. I joined forces with the sales team and we went hunting. Over the next few months, we bagged some large projects. I had moved from writing functional specifications to drafting multi-million dollar business proposals; enough to grow the development team and keep the lights on. It had been a good opportunity for

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me to see how the other side of the business functioned. There are some experts who say you should stick with what you do best and focus only on being better. I disagree, if I had not gone with the devil I knew, the experience would not now be mine. And, experience is often the key that opens new doors, especially when your other keys are broken. Since that time, my rule of thumb is this: if someone offers you the chance to stretch yourself beyond or completely out of your safety zone, go for it. If you are really good in your zone, you can always go back, but you may never again have the chance to really see what you could become!

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

15

When God sends a boat, take it!

There is a joke that goes something like this: A man is lost at sea and drowning and prays for God to save him. A boat comes by and offers help; the man thanks them but says, “No, God will save me.” A little while later a dolphin swims by and tries to nudge him to safety, but the man pushes it away saying, “Go away, God will save me.” Lastly a helicopter flies over and drops a ladder, but again the man declares, “No, God will save me.” Then he drowns. Upon arriving in Heaven he is greeted by God and the
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man asks, “Why didn’t you save me.” God replies, I sent a boat, a dolphin and a helicopter, what more did you want? Sometimes you have to open your eyes and pay attention to what is really happening around you. While the sales team and I were closing deals and my UK peer was running the shop, the accountants were discovering more skeletons in the company’s dark closets. We soon found out that our survival was not only defined by new business, it also depended on the elimination of mounting debt resulting from bad real estate deals made in the previous decade for our classroom training division. To achieve these goals required an insertion of investment capital. And so we all entered the wonderful world of mergers and acquisitions. M & As (mergers and acquisitions) are colorful and exciting on TV - deals behind closed doors, stock options, wining and dining. In the real world, that is not the case. The process involves full disclosure. Everything printed out, bound and matched with

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

supporting explanations - eighty-five three inch binders. Imagine your worst tax filing and multiply it by 1000. That is what it was like. And then we waited while the prospecting company put us under the microscope. The process took several months. In the meantime we also performed our day jobs. We kept developing courseware, closing new deals, and keeping the business alive. Fortunately for me, I also received the occasional call from head hunters. Yes, after having learned from past experience, my resume had been updated, posted and submitted upon realization of the company’s perilous situation. One such call was very interesting and the follow-up phone interview even more so. The company was larger than any I had been involved with before. The benefit package even included life insurance and a 401k! My wife and I were very excited. And then we had to wait. Large companies apparently screen early and then take their time making a decision.

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One year after taking on the role of Managing Director and then moving into Business Development, destiny made a follow-up call, and I found myself on a plane headed to the state of Michigan for my final interview. Everything went smoothly. The staff of managers and developers was great. The organization was the most solid company I had ever seen. And they wanted me to play a leading role on their team. The role was a managing technical strategy and supporting sales proposals; a dream job with great benefits. What was the catch? We would have to move 750 miles from friends and family. And, we would have to somehow fix and sell a 12 year old house during a bad economic period. To make matters worse, since I had not worked at any one company for two years or more, it was going to be very difficult to purchase a new home in a new state. The final decision was not easy. Especially when I announced my intentions to the COO and she elected to counter the offer. I had received some sage advice in the past that accepting a counter offer is not always

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

a politically sound basis to maintain a business relationship, so we looked for direction from within. Trudie and I did a lot a praying, made a few lists, and ultimately decided the opportunity was too good to turn down. In August of 2006, I truly became a man of two cities. My family watched me pull out of the driveway and head fourteen hours north. Less than a year later the company I was leaving collapsed. Little had we known at the time that God had provided us our rescue and fortunately we had taken His boat. Our new life was full of uncertainty, but for the first time in six years we felt our future was secure.

- Ken

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Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

16

Stranger in a strange land

When I was a little kid, we moved around a few times, but always in the same city and state. It was not until I was in the eighth grade that we did the big move from Florida to North Carolina. I had to leave all my friends, my school, a city with over 100,000 people, and a neighborhood I knew like the back of my hand.

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The culture shock was incredible. The sign of our new town said it all, population 400. After our arrival we increased the count by 1%. There is something special about a small town and life in the country. Our nearest neighbor was the equivalent of four city blocks down the dirt road that ran in front of our nine acres. We had lots of space on which I learned how to hunt and to grow vegetables. But it was different, and our home was not only spaced well apart from our neighbors, it was in the middle of nowhere. It took a long time to get accustomed to the new lifestyle. By the time I had really made some good friends, it was time to leave for college. I swore I would never put my children through the same experience. With this thought on my mind, I found myself driving roughly the same distance as my parents had some 30 years before, only this time I did it alone. I am a firm believer God asks of us only what we can

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

give and gives to us only what we need. Our sacrifices are each measured in different ways. My sacrifice would be to spend time apart from my family. My wife’s sacrifice would be far more difficult. Her life had already been on hold since 2001; now I was also asking her to take on all the responsibilities of the home for weeks at a time. The rationale was simple. Our children live in a great city, attend great schools, and have friends they have known their entire lives. Determined not to make them change, the sacrifice of my being gone was worth it to us. It did not, however, mean life would be easy.
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When you are away, you miss ball games, dances, first dates and more memories than you could ever believe. Photos and stories are great, but nothing like being there. To say I was completely miserable, however, would not be completely honest.

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There are some perks to being gone for weeks at a time. You can catch up on your reading. Take that business course you always wanted. Get in shape. Watch an entire season of Lost in one weekend. Sleep. In the end though, it is very lonely living miles away from home. And, missing time with my wife and children is a steep price to pay. During one of my weeks home, I discovered, however, that time is a relative thing. My son walked in and announced to his mom and I that he really liked my new job. I looked at him incredulously and asked him why. For a ten year old, what he said next was quite profound, “When you worked for yourself, you were here all the time, but you were never ours. You were always taking calls at dinner or running off to some meeting, and working all the time. With your new job, when you are home, you belong to us, 100%.” I guess it is true, quality makes up for quantity. Since I give 200% to the office when I am away from home, it is only right that I give 100% of myself to my family during our time when I return.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

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Another amazing thing my wife and I have learned is that the secret to a long healthy marriage is time spent apart. Now, we never planned on there being this much time absent, but it does definitely make the heart grow fonder. It also has an interesting affect on everyone. When I get home, the kids are excited to see me, the dog and cat are excited to see me, and my soul mate is very, very happy to see me. And, most of all, I am excited to see them, too. The first thing I usually do is send her to her sister’s for the weekend. That gives her some much needed respite from the chaos she has been managing, and gives me some one-on-one time with the kids. We come back together by Sunday and then we all spend the rest of the week as a family. It’s a good time to try to get ahead on school projects and see them during their activities. I take over as many of the household duties (I do not know how she does this for weeks at a time by herself) as I can. The

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"honey do" list is usually pretty packed, so I try to catch up on them as well. By the end of the week, I have come again to appreciate her more than you can imagine and she feels the same for me. After two years of this, leaving to go back to work is still the hardest part of the whole thing. Even though the travel has almost become routine, you never get used to the sadness of leaving your family behind. The hugs and kisses goodbye are never enough. Our goal is to somehow reverse the pattern so I can spend more time working virtually from home with an occasional trip to the northern office. In the meantime, I do have actual vacation time plus holidays (something we did not have in the lean years) in which we strive to maximize our time whenever we are together. And, though when I am away I feel like a stranger in a strange land, I always know I can return to the loving arms of my family.

- Ken

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

17 Dad, I want to build something!

Boys are amazing creatures. Having been one myself (and according to my wife, may still be), I can identify with certain drives brought about by the increasing levels of testosterone around the age of twelve. My wife is convinced, and rightly so, that an integral part of the male psyche is the urge to go out and create something with your bare hands. I will add that the inclusion of lots of power tools is almost an unwritten rule to effectively pacifying these feelings.

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Flip through the channels on cable TV for more than five minutes, and you will see what these urges become – Mythbusters, Extreme Home Makeover, and dozens of other programs that show men and boys alike that inventing and creating things is why we are here. Now, allow that to be the backdrop for one of my trips home from the great white north. It was sometime in late August, which in the north means getting out the sweatshirts, but in the south means get your swim trunks we are heading to the lake. I entered my house and was almost trampled by my son’s enthusiasm. My wife had cleared our schedule for the weekend for a special male-bonding project. The ensuing conversation went something like this: Izy: Dad, I want to build something! Me: Okay, what do you want to build? Izy: Mom said it would be okay if we use power tools and everything as long as you are here. Me: (looking at my wife) Sounds great, what do you want to build (still thinking it would be

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

a birdhouse or something)? Izy: I found the plans in this book ("The Boy Mechanic: Best Projects from the classic Popular Mechanics Series"). Me: Cool (see, I had bought him the book). Which one (still thinking it was a birdhouse or maybe water shoes)? Izy: This one! (At which he proudly turns to the pages where it shows how to build…a boat!) Me: (looking at my wife, stunned into silence) Mom: (smiling with a wink) Wow. Do you think you can get it built this weekend? A boat! My son wanted to build a boat. And not just any boat, a wooden boat that folds up and fits in the back of the car for easy transport to and from the lake. Given the obvious need for some serious male bonding, I told him to let me look into what it would take to build it and we would see. Now, I have built a lot of things in my time. I can knock out a hardwood floor, hang sheetrock, build a deck, but I had never constructed anything that had to
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actually float on water. Nope, that was a new one. And to make matters worse, it had to float safely so that mom would not have to worry about anyone drowning. I love Popular Mechanics magazine. As a kid I used to dream about personal ultra light airplanes, urbatrike motorcycles and all the rest. Apparently, it was even more ambitious for boys back in the 1950’s. In those days, according to the book, they were building their own electric trains and boats from scratch. There must have been a lot of scrap lumber and metal around, because to do some of those projects today would cost a fortune in supplies and tools. Not to mention, the plans were a bit sketchy, which in our case was a good thing since we were going to have to make a few modifications.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

The concept was fairly simple. Build the boat in three sections that folded in on each other to form a closed box. The resulting box was 4’x4’x2’ and would fit in the back of our SUV.

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The trick was that the original plans called for the hull to be constructed from 5/8” x 4” pine and pitch. The process of shaping and gluing up the stock would have taken too much time, not to mention the boat would have weighed a ton once we were finished. I remembered reading about marine grade plywood somewhere and that’s when Izy and I went “Googling.” Google™ has to be a Dad’s best friend as far as information goes. Especially when you have a son who starts most conversations with the words “Dad, I’ve got a question…” So we did some searching and lo and behold we found a local supplier of marine grade plywood. And, we also found out it is very, very expensive. We went back to the original plans – not designed for maximum use of 4’x8’ sheets – and modified them to get the whole thing to fit on two sheets, including the paddles. A phone call and a little negotiating later secured us two sheets from a wholesaler in town at half the normal cost. Now marine grade does not mean 100% waterproof. It

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

just means that if treated properly, it will not fall apart or rot in the water. Waterproofing comes from the special boat paint and varnish purchased separately and applied in several layers to form a tight seal. And given we intended to paddle it across the lake, we wanted a very tight seal. Oh, and last but not least, we needed something to hold it all together (and that would not rust). We purchased some brass nails and the most incredible glue in the world, Gorilla Glue. In fact, the nails merely kept everything positioned while we clamped it. The glue is what really holds it together. Construction started bright and early Saturday morning. Izy and I measured, cut, glued and sanded all day long. By dinner the three sections of the hull were built and the first coat of paint was applied to the outside. In the morning we applied the second coat. The paint had to cure for a week. I am not sure who was more anxious to try it out, but we both managed to make it through the next five days. It was an

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absolutely thrilling experience to see the look on Izy’s face when it all came together.

The boat has three separate, water tight sections; a practical design for many reasons, especially for weight distribution. Three people could ride in it as long as the third was relatively small. Two people and some supplies put in the fore section works best. And so on the following Sunday afternoon, Izy and I took her out for the maiden voyage. We had built the boat, the question now was would we stay dry or have to swim. I am happy to say, there was no swimming that day. Our project was a great success.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

I have moved from kites to boats, but the reason remains the same. Find something, anything that creates the opportunity to spend quality one-on-one time with my children. They are each special in their own way. They want to explore the possibilities knowing I am there to guide them along the way. They want to do it with me, not just have me do it for them.

Once again my wife was there helping me be a great dad. Take the challenge, find the time, and make the moment real. I look forward to every chance I get to try something new with them.

- Ken
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18

Saint Ken

At some point in time in the future, my beautiful wife will be standing at the pearly gates of Heaven. Saint Peter will open them, a red carpet will roll out before her, and a host of angels will carry her to a haven of quiet bliss – no more uniforms to iron or children to feed; no worry about her travelling husband or job demands or errands to run; no coughs to quiet or homework to monitor or lunches to pack; and no more stress, stress, stress.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

She runs our entire family every day by herself for weeks at a time. She works full time, coaches the cheerleading team, teaches drama, takes my son to ball practice, carries my daughter to ice skating and taxis my other daughter to all of her high school activities. She carries all of this with grace. She has given it all for us. By all rights she is a saint. I will be the first to admit that humility is a trait I have to work at daily. This is not to say I am a braggart or a peacock. On the contrary, I do not purposely like to “toot my own horn.” I do, however, enjoy the spotlight. I have since I was in high school. Whether on the stage or in the class or in the office, I enjoy the clamor of an audience pleased with my performance. The real saint of this chapter, my wife, loves this characteristic of mine to a point. But there are times the spotlight falls on me, when by all rights it should be on others, including her. This is not to say she is a jealous person. Quite the contrary, she is the best at being the lead, yet playing the supporting role. There are those times, however, when I can tell she wishes

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others would realize her contributions and understand her sacrifice. She is not a martyr. Nor does she hold a grudge. Instead she just does more and more to make our lives and the lives of those around her the best they can be. “Saint Ken” is the nickname they gave me at the Catholic school my children attend and where my wife works. When I was unemployed, I would deliver lunches, make repairs, coach school sports all while running our business at home. See, as a father and a man, participation in these kinds of activities is still viewed by many with awe. As such, the staff and teachers saw me often and applauded my service with sainthood. The name stuck, though today it is applied to the wrong person. You see, “Saint Ken” arrives home on a plane after leaving his wife and children to survive by themselves for weeks. When he arrives, he is greeted by smiling children who love him dearly. He sweeps in and fixes things and helps around the house. He goes to a ball game or a practice. He does some

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

volunteering at the school. And everyone says to my wife, “isn’t he wonderful.” “You are so lucky.” “I don’t know how he does it living so far from home.” Yeah, right. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my family dearly when I am gone. And, when I arrive, I am one busy son of a gun. But that is only a token compared to what has been done for me on a daily basis over many, many years. Missing my family is much easier than managing them all by myself for weeks on end. Believe me; I have enough trouble doing it the weeks I am home. In the performance we call life, every part is important to the success of the show. Without the crew, the stage remains unlit and the actors perform dialogues in the dark. From opening to close, the entire ensemble is what brings the house down. It is important to remember to upstage yourself from time to time, and ensure the light is shining brightest on those who are making your life successful.

- Saint Ken
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19

The Carousel

Life is like a carousel. It carries us up and down. And occasionally brings others on to share the ride.

I wrote those lines in 1982, my junior year in high school. I had just enjoyed one of the best summers of my life. Little did I realize the ride had just begun.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

After all of the ups and downs of the past eight years, I have learned much about the ride. There are those who chose to ride the swan, because it is beautiful, constant and smooth, and then there are those who ride the stallions emblazoned with gold leaf and bright colors urging the ride faster and faster. In the end, all of us reach the same destination, the question is, “who has had the more fulfilling experience?” For one reason or another, I have found myself riding the stallion; multiple stallions if my count is correct sometimes changing horses at full gallop. The most wonderful part has been the others who have chosen to ride with me, and with whom I have had the opportunity to ride. Some ride for only a little while. The breeze in their faces and music in their ears; a mixture of laughter and fear and then they are gone. Others are on for the duration. My favorite riding partner has ridden with me the longest; she is of course my wife.

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Interestingly enough, the music on the carousel changes as we ride. Sometimes I enjoy a particular piece, sometimes I can hardly bear it. But I stay on, cycle after cycle, because I know that change is coming, and it is worth the wait. Another wonderful aspect of the carousel is that it gives you a full three hundred and sixty degree view of all that is around. North, south, east and west are all there. You can see the sun rise and the sun set. And if you allow yourself, you can sample it all. There is a price you pay to ride, and it is steep. To fully enjoy the ride means to give yourself to it. The Ride Operator really asks only two things, believe in what He has given and share it with others. His compensation is never more than you can give, and usually more than you ever thought you had. It is the spirit of the transaction that determines how wonderful the experience will be.

- Ken

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20

Know thy self

At the core of each one of us is the essence of who we are. Athlete, plumber, artist, electrician, musician, mathematician are but a sampling of the myriad of traits residing within us. In some of us it is apparent early in our lives. If cultivated from the beginning in the right environment, they often bloom and produce wonderful things. Others of us wait for years to peel away the layers of the world to find our center, our true purpose.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

I have found it is easy to be who you think you want to be during the good times. It is during the hard times that you struggle between who you truly are, who you want to be and what your environment is trying to force you to be. Sometimes we win the struggle, yet are discouraged when we realize that what we wanted to be and who we really are is not the same. Sometimes we lose the struggle and become what we never should have been. And, sometimes we win not only the struggle, but discover our true nature in the process. At key moments in my life I discover these traits. Each time these have manifested themselves differently, yet at the core they remain the same. At my core, I am a problem solver. When I was seven, my core poured out through Lego blocks, models and football. At twelve it was crystal radios, computer programs and soccer. And in high school, it was math and science and music and drama. Every stage of my life was a series of problems to be solved; fires to be put out. The funny thing about it all is that I what I thought I

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wanted at each stage was different. I wanted to be an engineer, a musician, an actor, a programmer and many other things. And, though I dabbled in all of these things, I was never the greatest at any of them. Oh, I was successful, but not the best. In reality, what I did best was adapt to the changes life threw at me, leveraging a core I did not fully understand.
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The first layoff really hit me hard. In 2001, I was in a high state of achievement. My career was moving along very well and I was in the best position for success I had ever been. The key to winning the struggle caused by the layoff was the support of my family and my ability to adapt. I went from developing software and forming business alliances for one company to doing it independently for myself. The problem to be solved at the time was learning the rest of how to run a business. Over the past eight years, problem solving has been instrumental to my survival. Problem solving has also moved me farther and farther from what I thought

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

was my true calling as a multimedia and software developer. That is not to say that I am not intimately engaged in those fields, rather I find myself on the strategic side of the business more than the actual hands-on development (though I still enjoy getting my hands “dirty”). As I look back in my life, I see that in most cases the act of doing was merely a physical extension of the problem solving process that is core to my being. This involvement was rewarding, but temporary. Once the solution to the problem was in motion, all I wanted was another problem to solve. The mundaneness of the execution was nowhere near as intoxicating as discovery. The trick is to take a situation like the layoff or any other circumstance that takes you out of your safety zone and use it to reveal a little more of thy self.
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Many careers take the path of moving from production to management or strategic planning. Part of that comes with experience that needs to be shared and applied to many facets of the business and not confined to one project at the grassroots level. This is

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not true for everyone. At the core of some are abilities that must stay at the production level because that is where they are the best. That is where they shine. Actors and athletes, mathematicians and programmers, teachers and coaches all shine when they are performing. Point in case, the former CEO of the high tech company I worked for now runs a custom retail store. The technology involved includes embroidery machines, cash registers and a website. What he discovered was at his core he understands people and what they need. It took him several decades through many different roles until he found his center. Discovering my center has led me to realize in some ways I am still learning about myself. My mission now is to find the appropriate venue to apply my core. My current position looks like it is headed in the right direction. Only time will tell if I will need to adapt again.

- Ken

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21

Love at first sight!

Crazy as it sounds, I do believe in love at first sight. The pragmatic, logical and predictable me does have a flip side, and it lies in the emotion of the heart. Take a trip down memory lane with me for a moment: summer stock theatre, 1987, at a college campus a few hours from my own. Day one found me sitting with my back against the wall of the guys’ dormitory waiting for it all to begin. And there she was, walking down the hallway, light blue jumpsuit, her hair tied

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

back with black electrical tape, blue eyes sparkling and a smile to die for. The guy sitting next to said five simple words, “Don’t even think about it.” The logical side of me said, “hey no problem.” See, I had just come off of a string of bad relationships. Seems my passion for design had been getting in the way of their wedding plans. So that summer I was just going to focus on being the best props man in town. Inside my heart, however, flint had met stone and a chain reaction was getting ready to ignite. I had decided the previous year that I wanted to be a production designer. My degree in Industrial Design would help me follow the path of George Lucas’ team at Industrial Light and Magic. A summer designing and building props for a professional summer theatre would provide practical application for what I was learning in school. And so I found myself working with the Art Director to bring his vision to life. My new home was the prop shop. I love wood, clay, fiberglass and paint. The smell, the texture, the pure

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pleasure in bringing something to life that had earlier only been lead on a napkin are as much a part of who I am as my own skin. That summer, however, I found something else that would become a part of me; working across the shop with a paintbrush in her hand creating magic with color and canvas. Of course, since I had no desire to become romantically entangled, I found many ways to avoid the issue. She and I became the unspoken guardians of the high school senior interns. Each evening, to keep them out of mischief, we would go on an excursion. Ghosts in the graveyard (in a real graveyard), bowling, pizza, and all the while watching a beautiful friendship bloom. It is absolutely amazing how deeply in love you can fall when you remove the slightest possibility of displays of affection. No hand holding, no kissing, just running around with a bunch of teenagers trying to keep them from doing likewise. We found ourselves up at all hours of the night with our production schedule and show times. And then we discovered the fountain.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

I love to hear her talk. She is very passionate in everything she does, and conversation is her way of expressing it. Night after night we would sit along the inner wall surrounding a small fountain not far from the dorms. See, the dorms were not co-ed like they are now; after ten o’clock we were not allowed in each other’s dorms. So we found ourselves alone in the dark talking about everything from politics to religion to playwrights to the interns; everything that is except us. And it was great! This went on for weeks. There was even one bizarre night when a duck (or somebody having fun with us) started quacking nearby. We looked and then the quack came from a different side. After several minutes of it we just gave up. Some nights if the sky was clear, we would lie along the top of the wall headto-head with our bodies stretched out in opposite directions talking until we fell asleep. One evening we found ourselves sitting on the bench outside her dorm. We had had a great time and that spark that had been smoldering was now a bonfire in

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my heart. I held her hand for the first time and leaned over to kiss her. She said, “No, it will spoil everything.” But I kissed her anyway. Fortunately she was wrong. Three children, a dog, a cat and twenty-two years later we are still together albeit sometime 750 miles apart. I will never forget those days for as long as I live. Granted it was easier back then with no kids or ‘real’ responsibilities. But that is what makes each stage special. We look forward to one day having the luxury of time like then. They say love happens when you least expect it. That summer I found out what that really meant. I had to leave early from summer stock to work another job I had already agreed to at a friend’s parents place up in Massachusetts. Summer stock paid a lot in experience but not in cash. Leaving her was the most painful moment of my life. I never knew what they meant by heartache until I got in my car and drove away. On the plane ride up all I could do was wonder if I had done the right thing in leaving. I wrote her several times during that last month. We

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

had one or two calls per week (remember this was pre cell phone and free long distance). And then the summer was over. Unfortunately my free ride home ran into some difficulty and I suddenly found myself having to use all of my hard earned dollars to buy a plane ticket home. Or at least I thought that was what I was going to have to do. If you ever find yourself stranded and a beautiful blond girl with blue eyes and hair pulled back in electrical tape says to you, “don’t worry, my friend and I will come up and get you,” hold on to her and never, ever let her go. She is the one that will always find a way to make things work. She is the one that when you wake up each morning and see her sleeping you say a silent prayer, “Thank you God for bringing us together.” It was this same spirit that has allowed us to survive this past decade. We still talk for hours to work through it all (okay, there are times the conversations are a little louder and more animated than around the fountain). Sometimes it’s about the same old topics;

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sometimes it’s about what new issue faces us. It was much easier talking about interns and politics than discussing bills and jobs, but the point is we still talk. I still feel the fire of her in my heart. It is that fire that keeps me warm when there is a minus twenty-seven degree wind chill factor. It is our friendship that binds us over the miles. It is our love that gives me faith that everything will be all right.

- Ken

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22

Summertime!

When I was a kid I just loved summertime (as did probably most of you reading this). Summertime meant sleeping in past 7 AM, playing outside 'til well past dark and spending as much time as possible in the pool; especially when we lived in Florida and there was no such thing as a cool day in July. It was also the time of the great family road trip. We would travel up I95 where we inevitably got stuck on the Jersey Turnpike at noon with temperatures approaching one billion degrees (okay, maybe a hundred, but it felt like a billion) in the back of a Ford LTD station wagon; out

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

of dad's reach, but also beyond any wisp of the air conditioner. It was worth the heat, because we were heading to Connecticut to see Nana and Pop-pop, the mountains and the streams, and the blueberries and apple trees of summer. As I look back, my favorite memories started each year at the end of May. Oh, I enjoyed school, probably better than most kids did at my age (I was a bit of a geek you see), but it was during those three magical months that learned about life. I learned how to swim. I learned to play tennis. I went to church camp, soccer camp and Boy Scout camp. As I grew older, the "camps" just got better. In 1976, the University of South Florida hosted a math, computer, and science program that opened my eyes to the reality that I was not the only geek in the world. During my junior year of high school, I was accepted into the greatest summer camp in the universe, the North Carolina Governor's School. I spent eight weeks on a college campus studying advanced choral music, philosophy and girls (the last part was not officially on

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the curriculum, however, being a former geek, it was a major change for my self esteem). Rounding out my reasons for summer being the greatest season was the summer of ‘87, when I met my wife and best friend at Summer Stock Theater. Now, with three children of our own, that break between grades has a completely new meaning. For my wife and me, it means no more carting children to school or staying up late helping with three sets of homework (I think we have done more homework over the past 12 years than we ever did in school ourselves). There is time to work on a puzzle all day long or take a hike around the lake. Personal projects take a priority and the only books they read are those they choose for themselves. For a few precious months each year, it means we can watch the kids just being kids.

- Ken

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23

Like father, like daughter

Driving south in preparation for the week of our annual 4th of July celebration, I realized I was passing the college campus where my daughter was attending Governor's School; and at a time of day when she might be able to have a visitor. As timing would have it my first call resulted in her voice mail picking up, but then I was rewarded by a return call and her sweet voice on the line. She was in-between activities and events; so sure, she would love to go have coffee with her daddy.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

It seemed like just yesterday we were moving her into the dorm. She was excited, yet apprehensive of her summer away from home. Oh, she had been to drama camp at her grandparents for several summers, but always for just a couple of weeks. This year it would be for six weeks - totally on her own. Governor's School is a free opportunity for gifted students in North Carolina to spend six weeks focusing on their area of expertise in a college setting away from the trappings found in your average high school. They study three areas: their main topic (in Alex's case this was drama), philosophy, and sociology (their place in the world). The emphasis is on the experience, not on the grade. Each student selected for the program has already displayed the ability to make the grade and excel beyond the norm. In our current political climate, one could say it is a program that, for over twenty-five years, has achieved the vision President Obama is now pushing for America reward those who have the skill and desire to succeed with even more opportunity to reach their goals regardless of their demographics.

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My daughter has been blessed in many ways during her seventeen years gracing our world. Gator (that's what I've called her since she started walking something about gator wrestling on the living room floor) has an abundance of friends, she is beautiful inside and out, and she is very talented (and that is not just what her proud papa says). This summer, however, the blessing also brought about trepidations, as she was to leave her safe haven and branch out to new territory. Fortunately, she heard me describe how wonderful Governor's School had been for me and gave it that "old college try."
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Twenty-seven years ago, I too left home for the summer. In my time the program was eight weeks long (budget cuts are affecting everything these days). Unlike Gator, although I had talent, I lacked the social skills to be popular, so true friends were rare. To me, Governor's School offered a clean slate; a place where no one knew who I was or more importantly, who I had been. It was a world filled with people just like

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

me. I went with open arms and embraced the summer in ways I had never been able to before. With my travel schedule keeping me away most weeks and Gator just being a teenager, our time together and conversations in general had dropped off to almost nothing. It was bad enough to know that in a year she would be going away to college for good, let alone feel like the bond we had always shared was being severed by boyfriends and just life in general. Whereas my relationship with my younger two children was growing stronger, I felt like she and I were drifting apart. Governor's School just made it worse. A fiveword text message here and there and a very short late night call was all I got for the first two weeks. I was dying to know if her experience mirrored my own, alas I would have to wait. The wait was more than worth it. As I pulled up to her dorm that Saturday night, she rushed to the car and gave me a huge hug. She said my call actually made her cry with excitement as she left the group she had been with to come see me.

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We went into town to have coffee and talk. Gator was bursting with all of the wonder of her first college experience. All of her fears of being away for the summer were washed away and replaced with a longing for it to never end. In her eyes, I saw the passion I felt during my summer those many years ago. Coupled with it was the realization that high school was temporary, and that life was now and what was yet to be. For me it had been new found freedom and opportunity that I had never felt. For her it is focus and direction and a confidence that she can achieve her heart's desires. Self-perception is an interesting thing. I have always seen Gator as beautiful beyond words, and she is. Ironically, she does not perceive herself in the same light. I, on the other hand, was always the "nerd" at her age. Socially awkward, a math and science guy, to even consider myself in her league was unquestionable. Therefore, I would have thought our reactions to Governor's School would have been markedly different. I was wrong.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

I viewed GS as my golden opportunity to be everything I had always wanted to be. That first weekend a few other guys and I organized a toga party (sans alcohol) as a way to introduce ourselves to the ladies (remember we were "former" geeks) and get the ball rolling. For the rest of the summer we were popular. We experienced life as I always thought my daughter has. As I said before, this was a matter of misperception. One of Gator's biggest revelations (and most amusing from a "father's" perspective) was when she announced that she and one of her girlfriends were the "hot chicks" at school. Now, as a father, this kind of conversation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want your beautiful angel to be adored by all. On the other hand, discovering she is one of the "hot chicks" can take the breath out of you. So, of course I just smiled and nodded my head and said, "That’s terrific!" Unbeknown to me, although Gator has many friends, much more than I ever had, she still shared the same

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insecurities that I experienced during high school. Cliques are cliques, and no matter who you are, there is always some group that wants you to feel less than who you really are. This was also true in my little girl's case. Her experience this summer has helped her come to the same conclusion that I had reached: high school is temporary. I realized that by the time I was her age, I was spending the summer in basic training at West Point. See, I had merged eighth and ninth grades years prior accelerating my high school exodus. At that time, I felt I was a man, and by all rights, the little girl sitting in front of me has every right to feel like she is a woman, ready to go forth and seek her place. We shared an hour and a half that night, just drinking coffee (lemonade for me - never could swallow the other) and talking. It was like God had carved out a little pocket of time for her and me. Her passion for her work radiated from across the table and I felt reconnected with my baby.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

In the day-to-day, it is very easy to exist and forget your dreams and ambitions. Being part of the group becomes more important than stepping out and being something special, doing something wondrous. As it was for me, this summer has given my daughter a gift. It is a gift that will live within her forever. I still look back on Governor's School with great fondness. It helped shape who I am today, as I can see it already shaping who she is for tomorrow. Due to the current economic crisis, the North Carolina legislature has cut next year’s budget for Governor's School. To me that is a tragedy. For a country that needs the best and the brightest to come forth and succeed, we have a tendency to dowse their flame instead of stoking the fire. For myself and my daughter and all of the other wonderfully talented and gifted students, I hope there is always a way to impart the gift so that that gift can keep on giving back to us all.

- Ken
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24

Like father, like son

When my son was born, he was extremely small. At around six pounds, he was just a little thing, desperate for warmth, yet alert and full of life. We called him Isaac, for he returned joy to birth, where in the too recent past had been nothing but sorrow. Moreover, with that joy came laughter and love and chaos. Chaos, you might ask. Yes, in the best possible way. Izy learned to crawl and then walk early in life. By ten months, he could escape any crib, and locks were but another plaything. We have video of him climbing up

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

on his toy box, getting down a wire hanger, proceeding to our locked bedroom door, placing the hook of the hanger into the doorknob, pulling it until it bent straight, and then plunging it repeatedly in the lock until he struck the pin and the door opened. It was upon this success that he flashed us an impish grin as if to say, "Want me to do it again." This year Izy turns thirteen. When I arrive home after my travels, he greets me at the door much in the same way as when he was little; a running bear hug. The only difference now is there is more "bear" in the hug. It's kind of like being loved by a small Abram's tank. But it is love nonetheless. The love of a boy for his father; a man he looks up to, and emulates while I am away. Izy is all boy. Whether in the woods playing soldier with his friends or in the crik with a bullwhip and his fedora searching for treasure as "Carolina Hub," Izy finds adventure in life. That he is blessed with good looks and charm to boot ought to make me think twice as he rapidly enters manhood. Thank God, he is

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blessedly sandwiched between two marvelous sisters, whose sole purpose is to simultaneously provide him someone to watch over and protect, while constantly reminding him of his "true" place in the universe. As it was for me at his age, this summer has been great for Isaac. Being the budding businessman, he started a lawn service in our neighborhood. Having a cash flow has definitely helped his perspective on the value of a dollar; especially when it comes to buying ammunition for his airsoft guns. Speaking of airsoft guns, this is also the summer of Bond, James Bond. It started with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and continued with the original Ian Flemming novels. Of course, mom was a little shocked with the cover art from the 1960 pulp fiction; however, she was relieved to know that the Bond girl sex appeal was restricted to the covers. Of course, his sisters took full advantage of an opportunity for relentless teasing. I remember when I was Izy's age and "being" James

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

Bond - the gadgets and the adventures and the girls. At that age it was mostly the gadgets and the adventures; the girls were just the pretty things in between the car chases. Nothing more complicated than knowing in the end, Bond always saves the world and gets the girl. Even with the weight of the world on his shoulders sometimes, being the hero is more than just a fantasy when I am on the road; and Izy perseveres with a style all his own. Oh, he's not perfect. Every hero has an Achilles’ heel of sorts. However, along with tenacity, Isaac has compassion and empathy. He believes in people and in the inherent goodness in all of us. When all is lost, he rallies his mother and sisters and makes them feel safe and secure. When I look at my son, I see in him the strength of my father, the wisdom of my father-in law, the lovingkindness of his mother and my own passion for life and all its potential. He is at the launching point of adulthood, with maturity forced upon him and accepted far too early; and by God’s grace, he will

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achieve the greatness he deserves with the humbleness from whence he comes. In the end, it is his trust and faith in God that radiates brightest as he reaches out to those weaker or less fortunate and with that resolute bear hug calls them friend.

- Ken

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25

Like father, like daughter (again)

The grand finale of our lives came late one spring about mid afternoon. She was absolutely beautiful; a perfect completion of our full house. One look at those eyes and I knew I was truly blessed. We named her Darby, after a professor we had in school and just because we loved the name. Her name is Gaelic and means free man (or woman in her case). From that point it was up to her to live up to the title; and she has yet to let us down. One of my favorite parts about being a father is the

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

uniqueness of each of my children. Each of them shares some mix of the mental and physical characteristics of my wife and me, and by ancestry, our parents. Personality, however, comes from within, and she is all Darby. If I had to select one of my children and say, “this one will someday be a CEO,” she would be the one. Since Darby was old enough to understand the value of a penny, she has been determined to make something of herself. Part of this may be due to the fact that by the time she was three, we were in the midst of our first recession: the big layoff of ’01. When you are the littlest amongst three kids, you learn quickly to make sure you get your share. She did this with stubborn grace; determined to succeed, despite the odds. "Share" at that time included not just physical items like food and toys; it also included more precious things like time and attention from mom and dad and her siblings. In Darby’s case, it also meant growing up a little faster than the first two. Whether it was dolls

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or skateboarding or target shooting or riding a bike, Darby learned to do it almost the same time her older brother did, and in some cases a little earlier. In that way, she could ensure some attention if by no other means than being caught up in the fray. One of her “firsts” was the X-Ray for a potential broken arm. Seems she thought it would be a great idea to go down the slide in our backyard on one of the sleds left over from the snowfall that winter. About two seconds into the run she flipped off and the rest is history. The sprain probably took longer to heal than a break would have, but only because she would not let it stop her from keeping up with her siblings. Another "first" led to a nickname of sorts: “Dead-eye” Darby! She had accompanied her brother Izy and me to an Indian Guides' gathering at the house of one of the braves. His dad had a shooting range of sorts set up in their backyard for the guys to take turns blowing the heads off of Barbie dolls, wiping out Godzilla action figures and shattering plastic poker chips. After the boys had taken their round, Darby was asked if

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

she wanted a try, and of course, she said, "Yes!" Now, the boys had done OK, but little did they realize that underneath those braids lay the soul of a sniper. I don't remember her missing a shot, and neither did the boys. One of her most endearing traits is the inclusive nature of her spirit. Her inner circle is so big it is a sphere we call Earth. Everyone is welcome as long as they do not hurt anyone else in the circle (although unfortunately there are some that have done more than that). Over the years she has had to become more careful, but even now to most, Darby is a true friend in every sense of the word. This summer, for the fourth year, Darby went to “Grammy and Grampa camp” in the mountains to see my parents, attend drama camp for a few weeks, and spend time with one of her true friends. They see each other once a year and exchange a phone call or two the rest of the time. Their regular lives are as different as day and night, but they are kindred spirits, and their summers are priceless.

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Given my schedule, it is rare that my parents even see me, let alone their grandchildren. This summer was especially wonderful for my mom and Darby. Darby gets much of her strength of character and her way with the arts, like drawing and crafts, from her mom. Her passion for sewing (Note I did not say fashion design. That one still comes from her mom, as anyone who has seen me trying to select a wardrobe will contend.) comes from me. Grammy taught me to sew when I was about Darby’s age. As the mother of two boys, she was determined that we would know how to mend a rip or affix a button when a crisis arose. I took things a little further and reached a point where I could actually make little stuffed animals (I found out girls really like that around Valentine’s Day) and costumes for plays and Halloween. Several years ago, Grammy had moved on from sewing clothing and taken on the art of quilting. Since my other two children and my nephew had no interest at all in the subject, she was beginning to think the

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

passion for the needle and thread would end with her. Then a miracle occurs and Darby asks for a sewing machine one year for Christmas. “Is this just a fleeting interest or is there hope?” There is hope Grammy, and her name is Darby. Darby is the apprentice for whom my mother has waited a lifetime. You see, where many children her age are being labeled hyperactive and attention deficit, Darby is the opposite when it comes to things like sewing. She is extremely patient, and wants to learn everything about the subject.

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My mother had her for three weeks in which time she passed on the basics of quilting and the results were amazing. She made a couple of purses, a wallet, and a small blanket for her dolls. Next year they are going to make actual clothing. Thank goodness for “Grammy’s Quilting Camp.” When I am on the road, I miss all my children, but in many ways, I miss Darby the most. I had more time with the other two when they were young. I have watched Darby grow up at a distance, and though we spend time on the phone and online, it is not the same. She is my cuddle bug. When it is stormy outside or cold or I just want to curl up, watch a movie and eat popcorn on the bed, Darby is the one that cozies up to me and will spend the day being happy just being with me. She is the one who says to me, "I could move up to Michigan and live with you, daddy." As they say, “like father, like daughter (again).”

- Ken

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26

Marking Time

The fourth year of our journey began without any fanfare; just a few more gas receipts and another 750 miles on the speedometer. My father once told me the older you get the faster the years go by. I now understand what he meant. And as if in pace with the hours I travel, the days and months are whipping by like the mile markers along the road with only the occasional rest area break that I call home.
◄ ►

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

I have come to believe that everyone has their own unique way of marking the passage of time. In fact, the ways we mark time actually change as we grow older. Take my life for example. When I was a kid, time almost seemed to run in reverse. It seemed I would never be old enough to do this or that. I could not wait for my next birthday or Christmas. Even in school I tried to race as fast as I could. Selfpaced learning was my friend, and so with the aid of the SRA Reading program, I was at a high school grade reading level by the fifth grade. I always wanted what was coming next, sometimes sacrificing the things I should have enjoyed most; including a year of my childhood. The year we moved to North Carolina was a year of opportunity and loss (although I did not recognize the loss until much later in life). We had moved in the spring, right at the start of the fourth quarter of my eighth grade year. I remember sitting in the guidance counselor’s office at my new school, excited about a fresh start, but apprehensive all the same. A girl about

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my age came in with a stack of books under her arm and I said to my mom, “Hey, they use the same books we used in Florida.” To which the guidance counselor replied, “I think we may have a problem.” The problem we discovered was that the girl carrying the books was in the ninth grade, not the eighth. Apparently at that time, the schools in North Carolina were a little behind the schools in Florida as far as curriculum went. So, with a little reluctance from my parents, I found myself catapulted ahead in time by a full year. Little did I know that time is a one way street. You can go forward, but you can never go back. Now, in many ways this was okay. My dream of getting to high school and college quicker was being fulfilled. I started dating a year earlier than my peers. Heck, my peers were now a year older than me; including the girls. I learned about life faster, but in hindsight I do not think I learned about it better. And as a man heading towards mid-life, if I had the opportunity to do it over again, I think I would have opted for taking it a little bit slower. Some things in

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

life are there to be savored, not gulped down quickly like a meal at a fast food joint.
◄ ►

Fast forward three years and the X’s on the calendar started marking the days to the prom and the end of high school. Planning for the future became more important than living each day. The girl I was dating at the time even spoke of post college nuptials. The madness of graduation was upon us and time was meaningless. Even during our graduation ceremony we marked time. Time to enter the hall. Time to wait for the speeches; time to wait for my name to be called (mine was always in the middle, equal wait on both sides of the alphabet); time to turn the tassel; and then it was over. The first quarter of my life had come to an end; another milestone along the road.
◄ ►

There are moments in my life I know that time has actually stopped, or at least my perception of time has

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paused for an instant. I had one of these moments a few months later when I found myself sitting at a football stadium in West Point, New York, kissing and hugging my mom, dad and girlfriend goodbye as I started plebe year at the US Military Academy. I remember looking at them that last time and thinking this is it. This is the beginning of my life. I have felt those pauses on other rare occasions. The night I received a standing ovation performing as Professor Harold Hill. The first time I kissed my wife on a bench in front of her dorm. My wedding day when I said, “I do.” The first time I held each of my children. The cold grasp of death as my insides exploded. Each goal or basket or point scored by my kids. The quiet seconds holding the ones I love dearest to me. Still life with meaning might be the way a painter would describe these instances. Life, however, is anything but still. There is vibrancy and motion on the canvas. The images are more like a clip than a frame a movie not a photograph.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

◄ ►

At the Academy we measured time in “butt days.” The Firsties (seniors) asked us each morning, noon and night, “How many days.” To which we would reply, “There are 256 (or whatever number of days remained until their graduation day) and a butt days, sir.” The butt was for the portion of that very day the request was made. Days were important at the Academy, because each day was one day closer to freedom, or so we thought. When I was a kid, freedom seemed like a great thing to find; freedom to do what I want, when I wanted. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to be free. Naïve little child, I did not realize how free I actually was. This same naivety followed me from the Academy to design school. College life at the university was the most liberating time of my life, and yet my quest was to get through it as quickly as possible to be able start my career; to reach my next marker. In those few short years I overlooked the facts that freedom comes from independence, and that independence disappears

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once you have dependents. And once you have dependents, you realize that independence is a long time away.
◄ ►

And so it was on the fourth year of my journey that I found myself acutely aware of how much time was passing by. This was my oldest daughter’s senior year of high school. Her milestones were laid out before her and they were racing towards me at 100 miles per hour. Senior pictures, invitations, college planning sessions, applications, the senior play, the senior prom, culminating at graduation; STOP! Ironically, at the time in her life when she wanted time to go by faster, I wished it would slow down. Echoes of the words my parents used reverberated in my mind. “Slow down.” “Enjoy the moment.” “You’ll be old enough before you know it.” It was then I realized there was still time; not much, but enough. If I could somehow decelerate, slow down and watch the scenery instead of just seeing the signs go by we might be able to enjoy this time instead of regret its passing.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

And so it was that as my daughter raced ahead, I looked for off ramps that would give us more time. I wanted time to be a part of her life’s journey where in the years past we only intersected on occasion. A selfish time to mark the inches and the miles before our roads diverge on the path to her future.

- Ken

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27

A random sequence of events

There are times when our lives seem to be just a series of disconnected events, moments we enjoy or endure until the next. Traveling as I do, these events take on new meaning with definition that keeps me tethered to those who might otherwise drift away. Each moment surrounds me with memories of what has come to pass and a promise of those yet to come. As luck would have it, one journey home centered around a series of such events. Within the span of two weeks, a random set of miracles and tragedies and

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

victories played out before me. Of these events, only one was planned. The rest just managed to take place while I happened to be home. This year is the 100th anniversary of the school my children attend. As the Advancement Director, my wife has been orchestrating the centennial gala for the past five years. She has reached out to all of the alumni, going all the way back to the class of 1930. The big night was prepared and of course, I was going to be there; this was the one event I knew I would not miss. Unfortunately, while life has its good moments, it also has its bad. A week before the gala event, my wife's father was diagnosed with colon cancer and admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery. Two days later they removed a baseball-sized tumor and a good part of his colon. My trip home was advanced by two days so I could be there after the surgery to help my wife with the kids so she could dedicate time to be with her dad. His surgeon was amazing and by the following week he was back home. As a precaution, he will have

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to endure chemotherapy. By all rights it is a miracle and we are thankful he is recovering well. Being home a few days early is always a good thing, even under these kinds of circumstances. Under duress, the strength of the family is incredible. We all comfort and support each other and make it through these events. The miracle is not just that he survives today, but that he survives in our sometimes world gone mad, surrounded by all of us who love him. Alas, while a miracle saved my father-in-law, tragedy was to greet us the morning of the gala. The morning of the celebration, at the same time as the open house for our past alumni, a wedding was scheduled in the Cathedral. While greeting alumni for a tour, I happened upon one of our priests. Usually joyous of heart, he was troubled that morning. As we embraced, he shared the sad news that the wedding of which he was to preside had become instead a memorial. The groom was in an automobile accident on his way to breakfast. Another driver ran a red light and the groom was killed instantly. Too late to notify the

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

guests, the bride to be chose instead to remember him through a testimonial from her heart. The world continued turning and the day went from tragedy to celebration as over two hundred guests shared company while enjoying the memories of the past. The same Father I connected with that morning needed a ride to the festivities that evening. As I was the designated chauffeur, right down to the cap my wife provided, naturally I volunteered my services. I learned I would be transporting not just him, but the Bishop of the diocese and the Rector of the school; thrice blessed through a random event. The days passed quickly as they always do when I am home. Weather conditions were great and school sporting matches went as scheduled. Our school is small, but determined. We play a strong game; however, with lack of reinforcements, we do not often win. This time it would be different. On the day before I was to return to Michigan I saw not one, but two of my children score the winning shots in their respective sports of volleyball and soccer. Given my

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schedule, I was fortunate in my timing to witness these two moments of victories. As I look back, I realize my life has been blessed like this from the start. Good or bad, each event has in some way led to the next; random dots on a page over time revealing the picture that is me; remove any pixel and the image would not be the same. God has a plan; I just have to be patient for it to come to full resolution.

- Ken

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28

Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” - Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities” (1859)

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

Once upon a time, there were two cities. In the north lay a small bedroom community suburb supporting a shining manufacturing pillar of chrome and steel. In the south was the epicenter of a land of tobacco, textiles, and technology. Each represented some of our country’s best emerging from World War II and moving to an era of prosperity. Since the 1950s, Troy, Michigan and Raleigh, North Carolina, have carefully managed the diversity of their job base by encouraging a variety of industries to invest in their cities. The current fiscal crisis facing Michigan, however, is miring Troy’s progress due to the state’s mass exodus resulting from the demise of the automobile industry. Raleigh faced a similar crisis back in the early 1980s with the outsourcing of textile manufacturing and the anti-tobacco movement. Fortunately, the state of North Carolina had begun diversifying its economic base in the early 1950s making it better prepared to react to the crisis by localizing the economic downturn and minimizing its scale.

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If there were a villain in this story, it would be the unions: the United Auto Workers Union and the Textile Workers Union of America. Initially established to help the average factory worker, they evolved into political dynamos whose purpose transformed to one devoted to self-interest. The unions ultimately controlled these companies and helped lead to the destruction of both American industries and their supporting communities. The unions made it impossible for these companies to be competitive in the global economy, and this ultimately led to the affected companies finding alternative ways of either doing business elsewhere or simply going out-of-business. With a population of roughly 80,000 people, Troy has experienced no major growth in the past ten years. Raleigh on the other hand has experienced a 29.6 percent increase in population growing to 375,000 in 2009. The unemployment rate in Raleigh is 7.40 percent compared with Troy’s unemployment rate of 9.70 percent. Recent job growth for both cities is negative; however, Raleigh jobs have only decreased

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

by 3.30 percent whereas Troy jobs have decreased by 9.3 percent. Economic slowdown in both areas has introduced some interesting corporate dynamics. While the unemployment rate in Raleigh has remained low, so have salaries. Resulting from the downturn of 2001, income has remained 10% to 30% lower than in years prior. Two key growth characteristics for Raleigh include low unemployment and rising incomes. Although Troy has elected to follow the rest of the state of Michigan in providing tax credits to bring companies to their region, the availability of skilled resources has made staffing a challenge. To solve this problem, businesses are importing resources, like me, from other states or they are supplementing their rosters with virtual employees. Is there a happy ending to this story? Well, the forecast for both cities is mixed. Raleigh’s commitment to its history, the arts, education, business, and the environment consistently make it one of the most desirable places to live and work.

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Annual awards for Raleigh include “#1 Best Place to Live in the U.S.” (2008, MSNBC.com), “#1 Best Place for Young Adults” (2008, Bizjournals), and “#5 Recession-Proof City” (2008, Forbes magazine). Troy has one of the best public school systems in the country and is home to several major universities. Troy was ranked 22nd “Best places to Live” (2008, CNN Money). North Carolina’s economy is expected to continue to grow through the next decade, with Raleigh and Research Triangle Park leading the way. Michigan is more difficult to forecast due to the collapse of the automobile industry and its ripple effect on suppliers and associated businesses. Unfortunately, much of the Troy’s economic prosperity was based on automotive-related business, especially small-scale manufacturing and supply operations. As a result, Troy has no clear forecast and may have a slower recovery due to the larger impact of the state economic conditions. The more I travel, the more I realize just how many other people are sharing the life I lead. Lay-offs and company bankruptcies are causing many to rethink

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

the job market and explore new ways of providing for their families. Real estate foreclosures and the recession have made it difficult to relocate. “Unconventional” has taken on new meaning. You live and work where you must even if it means separate locations for each.
◄ ►

2009 has become a bedtime story for grown-ups. The moral of the story is to work hard, buy only what you can afford, pay in cash, diversify, pay attention to what is going on around you, and be honest. If you follow these simple guidelines, you should be able to sleep at night.

- Ken

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29

Wherever you go, there you are.

So where do we go from here? The days and weeks are passing by quickly. The journey reached its three-year milestone at summer’s end. My oldest daughter is in the throes of selecting colleges and experiencing her senior year of high school. My younger children are working hard in junior high school and enjoying their turn at school sports and a myriad of other activities; all of which I wish to play a part. The miles, however, are getting in the way.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

As the economic downturn of ‘09 takes its toll on America and the world, I find myself being a bit selfish and wishing for more than just a great job and a paycheck that provides funding for those that need me. I know, however, I should be grateful, for God continues to provide for us, asking only that which we can handle. I worry constantly about my wife and the stresses this past decade has placed upon her. She remains my superhero, though I know she needs me to be hers as well. Our kids seem to take it all in stride. They are empathetic with friends whose families are now facing the trials we have endured these many years. I am amazed at their ability to reach out to those in need; truly concerned when a friend’s family must move away to survive the crisis at hand. Mostly I am touched at how their faith has grown stronger and their passion in turn gives them strength to meet each challenge head-on.

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I have much to learn from children in this regard. At my core, I trust God and His plan for my family and me. It is at the surface I sometimes find myself praying that His timing could be more in synch with my own desires; “all things in good time,” they say. This year my wife and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary. For many reasons it was without much fanfare (although we plan to make up in spades on our 25th). Our life is not "perfect" or “normal” in any way either of us ever imagined. One thing I can say is this: given proper care and support, neither distance, nor time, nor circumstance can diminish the power of true love, family, and friendship. For now, we hold those who mean the world to us as tightly as we can; even if the embrace is on more than one occasion sent electronically. In the end, we know that we will be together again wherever this tale leads us.

- Ken

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30

Faith

"Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith

Faith is an interesting word. To some it is deeply rooted in religion, for others is the foundation for relationships and some still find it means nothing at all. At various points in my life, it has meant all three. Recounted in this tale are quite a number of events

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

which I have concluded are either direct or indirect actions of God in my life. I am not afraid to admit that when I need Him, He is there - sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, but always there. In the fall of 2009, I found yet another definition of faith as I struggled to find a way to close the distance separating me from my family. I was leading the advanced learning strategy on a program to train air traffic controllers for the FAA. No longer centric to the Troy area, I was now traveling to facilities all across the USA. I found myself at locations from San Diego, California to Washington, DC and everywhere in between. Given the Raleigh/Durham International Airport was just a short drive from my house, I made the decision to try and work from there for a while. My wife had been asking me for months to "just close up the apartment in Troy and work from home." I was reluctant to break the lease and pay the fees, so I waited until it was due to be renewed at the end of October. It was there that I took a leap of faith.

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Without confirming my desired working conditions with my boss, I turned in the papers so that the termination of the lease would coincide with the Friday before Thanksgiving week, trusting that everything would work out, or else I would be looking for a new place to spend my nights in Michigan. Call it divine intervention or coincidence, but during the next two months, we had an explosion of work requiring the addition of thirty plus new employees. The wave of new bodies set the office building to a critical mass, ready to burst out the doors. There was not an empty “cube” to be found anywhere, and my office mate and I were being squeezed out to allow for more desks. I saw this as a sign and approached my boss with a solution. Trying to hide a smile, I said to him, “I am willing to take one for the team and give up my office and work from home.” He responded, “Okay!” And that was that. On the 20th of November, I packed my entire apartment into my car and headed back to North Carolina.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

The months of November and December went as planned. What with vacations at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and trips for the FAA, I would have never been in the Troy office anyway. Two months of lease payments would have been for nothing. Instead, I got to work from my home office and spend desperately needed time with my family. As with other times in my life, faith also has its little surprises. Driving home from Thanksgiving, I received a call from a recruiter who had seen my profile on LinkedIn and was interested in interviewing me for a new job opportunity. Trudie was sitting next to me in the car and I could tell she was ready to burst as I completed the call. I told her the news, but since I did not have many details, we were excited, but had to wait. The interview the following week went well. The job was perfect, and come to find out; it was in a town just 2 hours and 44 minutes from Raleigh. I had another interview a week later and then, due to the holidays, had to wait until the first of the year for the next step.

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Fortunately, due to my travel schedule for the FAA, I had quite a bit of vacation time backed up (faith or coincidence?) and the first week of January 2010 found me at an all day interview. Interestingly enough, I also discovered that projects I had reluctantly managed the previous three years were strongly relevant during these interviews, and I thanked God for the opportunities I had been reticent to show my appreciation for in the past. Several days later, I was rewarded with a call from the new company that they wanted me to join their team. During another moment in time when everything stops for an instant, I realized that had I not had faith that God would find a way for me to be home with my family in October, much of what transpired might not have been possible. If I had not listened to Him speaking through Trudie, two months of precious time with my children would have been lost. As it was, we found ourselves prepared for the transition, and for the first time we could see a light at the end of a tenyear tunnel.

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

The journey has been long, both in miles and hours. I am grateful to God that he has provided for us along the way. We have never gone for want of food or shelter. Against all odds, He enabled us to keep our children's community and education constant. And through it all, our faith in each other and in God has remained strong.

- Ken

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31

…to get to my thumb

"…when you are forced to do something that is simple, the hard way" - Anonymous

I’ve been told many times that I should never play professional poker. It’s not that I am a poor card player. On the contrary, I play quite well. The problem is that I don’t have a “poker face.”

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

When life deals me a great hand, everyone around me knows it. It is written all over my face. And, while the effect is wonderful for those around me, it can make negotiations problematic when the other side of the table knows what’s on your mind. As it is, over the past twenty years of being married, Trudie has helped me learn to keep my Cheshire cat grin in check when it comes to business. Many a night of throwing darts in the garage while rehearsing the correct words and expressions have enabled me to successfully keep my face calm, while my heart was ready to burst. So it was in January that I found myself watching the sun rise over a beautiful lake as I drove to my interview only to realize that my exit off the highway would locate me in between two fingers of the lake itself. Two round a bouts and a short distance later along a tree lined road I watched the same water lap against the bank bordering the trees as I made my way to what would become my new office. I must say, the contrast between Michigan and North Carolina is no

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more strongly emphasized than in the month of January. And as I enjoyed the evergreens and sunshine, I knew I would be working hard to maintain a poker face for the next eight hours of interviews. Fortunately, I managed to keep a straight face and parlay my excitement and enthusiasm into the confidence I felt during the interview. Now I have the luxury to let my emotions run free. I smile both ways as I make my drive from city-to-city. Fortunately, the distance is drastically reduced, and my family will get to see me each weekend. The drive is even short enough to allow for unexpected events during the week, and the knowledge that I can be home in case of emergencies is a wonderful gift indeed. The economy is changing once again. I do not expect all will be cured overnight. It has taken four long years to return to North Carolina, and may take another decade to repair the damage done to other parts of the country. We have “gone around our elbow to get to our thumb.” And, for now I am simply thankful to

Going Around My Elbow: How we survived the first decade of the 21st Century

God and my family and friends for being there when I needed you most. We are going to take the year to allow the kids to finish up with school and then relocate in 2011. And, as the second decade of the 21st Century begins we will have a new home and a new journey. This one we will travel together.

- Ken Hubbell

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From bubble burst to government bailout, "Going Around My Elbow" recounts the challenges of today's economic impact on the family. Experience one man's journey discovering what it means to be a 21st Century husband and father. And, come to understand the power of unconditional love as a family survives life's obstacles by finding creative ways to maintain their ties and put bread on the table while living 750 miles apart. His continuing tale can be followed at http://kenhubbell.blogspot.com/

Ken Hubbell is a father, husband and learning solution technologist who, with his beautiful wife, is raising three wonderful children while living in multiple cities: Raleigh, NC, Troy, MI and Davidson, NC.

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