It is a good idea to reflect, at times, on the recent past. It helps to recall the blessings and trials, ups and downs, best practices and lessons learned (common work-related phrases). Prior to this Spring/Summer, I had not traveled much, nor spent extensive time in an airplane. My travels had taken me overseas once via car, Mexico, and twice via air, Ecuador – when I was 18 months of which I remember nothing, and Brazil the summer of 2002.
Our family ventured on road trips for vacation and had a single opportunity to fly together while visiting relatives in the greater Chicago area. Laura and I have enjoyed drives to Miami, North Carolina and Houston, and flights to Washington D.C. and Houston. I think the furthest west I had ventured, and looking at the map in the Delta Sky Magazine as I fly home confirms this, is a toss up between Houston and Omaha, Nebraska – site of the national Awana Bible Quiz, yes I am a dork.
This background and potentially random ramblings does have a point. Within the past 6 months, and it is scary to think it has been 6 months since this has all occurred, I have visited the West Coast 10 times, split between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Seattle. A quick breakdown from a quantitative standpoint:
- Hilton – 29 nights
- Orleans – 10 nights
- Radisson – 2 nights
- Marriott – 7 nights
- Total – 48 nights
- Delta Actual Miles Traveled – 56,300
This has been both exciting, because of the new opportunities, contacts and relationships, but also taxing because of the distance from home, time zones and pace. Recounting and remembering this for posterity and to learn from for the future is important to me. Before I go further, I want to offer these thoughts.
Laura has done an amazing job holding down the house with my extended absences. She loves me without question and despite the difficulties of communication being strained due to 3-hour time differences, has supported me all along the way. She has kept Bailey entertained, the house cleaned and her life moving forward. She has used the time to build relationships, strengthen ties in an area she is not necessarily fond of and make the best out of a situation that would not be her choice. I know it is difficult, but I want her to know how much I love her and her patience with me despite the travels.
Additionally, for all those who have reached out to her during my travels, whether a phone call, email, dinner, or letter – thank you. They have comforted her while I am gone and have encouraged her. Thinking back to August 2008, when we moved here, and even more recently, this past February when it was difficult because we had not developed the relationships we had hoped, so much has changed in the past 6 months.
We continue to maintain a close relationship with Adam, despite our collective best efforts to swap geographical proximities, and are excited about his relationship with Carolyn. Laura has an extended network of close friends at work who she has dinner with, drinks after work, coffee during the “fun” times and depends on day-to-day. I have had the pleasure; I think that might be the right word, of interacting with them in various settings, and now with some on a daily basis. As an editorial aside, the two most recent hires that work with Laura both went to Florida State. One of them lived in the same dorm as I, freshman year, and I knew by the name precisely who she was.
Perhaps, though, the most important new relationships for us have been the couples in care group. Those who we spent a short time with in Gaithersburg and those who we now interact with on a more intimate level in the Northern Virginia area. It has been awesome to have folks we can reach out to have dinner, play disc golf, grab coffee, interact with on a level of true Christian Fellowship and, as it is often termed, “live life with”. We look forward to the path forward and the depths that these interactions will reach during our regular meetings of care group and the potential for the church plant.
I wanted to reflect on these relationships because without them, our marriage and relationship would have wandered. It would not be as strong, as improved and as deliberately orchestrated given the stretch of travel I embarked on. My original thought was to focus in on that very travel, but I thought it would be remiss of me to consider only the Mike-centric aspect of the equation and not also recount the more important blessings that were experienced at the Falls Church aspect of the equation.
For those of you I have ever talked with about my work or careers, I very likely have mentioned my apathy toward the daily grind of endless office work at a desk. It is very difficult to excel, grow, learn, innovate and develop in an office setting, when your field is constantly changing and adapting due to experiences, practices and interactions. It is what drew me to Emergency Management during my first class – nothing is the same, everyone is different, and the status quo should never be enough. And thus, the opportunity to interact and lead teams in various settings is what gives me enjoyment in my work. Through the last 6 months, I have interacted with local, state and federal officials throughout the country. We have worked with private and non-profit organizations, some traditionally found in response and recovery operations, and some new to the concepts. We have delivered workshops, offered personalized experienced and required that my comfort zones have been stretched. Below, under each trip I want to give a brief thought on what was done and any interesting notes from the trip. You will find on Facebook a limited representation of pictures of my travels.
April 1st – 4th: Los Angeles
- First time to the West Coast
- Supported Evacuation Planning for a collection of local officials in the Los Angeles County area
- Experienced Dodger Stadium thanks to our friend at Los Angeles County Fire Department, sat 15-20 rows in between home and 1st – wonderful seats
April 6th – 10th: Baton Rouge
- First time at our Headquarters and an opportunity to meet many of those whom I had emailed or spoken with for 8 months
- Tasted alligator for the first time – way too salty and fried to get a good read
- Experienced Zia’s, amazing rotisserie-style meat
April 28th – May 1st: Chicago
- Only non-Delta or Delta affiliated flight of my summer
- Strategized planning needs for evacuation and sheltering in the greater Chicago area
- Visited Wrigley for the 2nd time, enjoyed from the right field boxes
May 3rd – 6th: Los Angeles
- Continued the support of Evacuation efforts
- Drove from Los Angeles down to Laguna Beach to have dinner with Walsh, different type of landscape that is gorgeous in its own right – the coast is unlike what we have on the East Coast
May 19th – 22nd: Houston
- Assisted with Emergency Operations Center Design and Management workshop
- Visited with the niece and nephew – yes, Uncle Mike still reigns supreme
June 2nd – 5th: Las Vegas
- First ever visit to Sin City
- Task led efforts for Clark County (the larger entity comprising the southern geographical area of Nevada and preferred terminology for government scheduled trips) to work on recovery and debris management planning
- Stayed at the Orleans Casino, off the main strip, and comparatively, a dive
- Found out that ESPN Zone has recliners, that you can eat in, in front of two HD projection screens with 16 other LCDs surrounding them, yeah…watched Game 1 of the NBA Finals
- Determined that listening to co-worker’s “sure things” are a bad idea
- Learned that no matter what I’m not a risk taker, and I like that J
- Had In and Out burger for the first time, it’s pretty great
June 23rd – 26th: Atlanta
- Supported planning meetings
- Had a very short, relatively boring and uneventful time
June 29th – July 2nd: Las Vegas
- Follow up on recovery and debris management
- Visited the Bellagio again, this time coming away with a very small victory
- Determined that living in a locale that feels like someone is following you with a blow dryer isn’t all that enjoyable
July 6th – 9th: Los Angeles
- Supported Mass Care and Sheltering efforts with a small targeted group
- Found Bass shoes and clothing – at outlet stores – for cheap, very nice
July 14th – 18th: Las Vegas
- Led, in Angie’s place, the volunteer and donations management and transportation services workshops, along with a final wrap up session
- Again experienced the wonder of ESPN Zone for the MLB All Star Game
- Found out that if everyone always won, Vegas would not exist J
- Learned that walking from the Texas de Brasil restaurant to the Bellagio is way too far in heat, after eating a lot of beef
- Learned how to play Paigow Poker, it’s weird
July 29th – 31st: New York City
- Supported Evacuation Planning
- Stayed less than 1000 feet from the site of Ground Zero
- Experienced Carnegie Deli’s pastrami and cheesecake – the richness and creaminess of the cheesecake is unparalleled and does not overwhelm you with sugary-ness, yum.
- 2ndtrip to NYC – subway does not come close to comparing to WMATA
August 2nd – 6th: Houston
- Follow up for Emergency Operations Center Design and Management
- Visited the booming metropolises of Brazoria and Montgomery Counties
- Thankful for Best Buy, return policies and laptop chargers
- Visited Minute Maid Park to watch the dismal Astros with the Odenator and John, sat third base side, upper deck
- Enjoyed a local disc golf course I had previously played with the brother-in-law and sister-in-law
August 11th – 14th: Los Angeles
- Follow up trip for Mass Care and Sheltering
- Went to Angels Stadium, sat right field corner box
- Enjoyed samplers of breweries in the area at two different restaurants
August 17th – 20th: Seattle
- First trip to Seattle
- Supported Logistics and Resource Management workshops
- Ate a dismal dinner on the pier overlooking the water
- Enjoyed a nearby disc golf course
August 23rd – 25th: Los Angeles
- Follow up trip for Mass Care and Sheltering
- Quickest trip for the distance of the year
September 9th – 11th: Baltimore
- First trip to Baltimore
- Led the largest team of my career (11) supporting the largest event (80-90) people for Logistics and Resource Management
- Ate crab cakes that were a sorry excuse for a town known for their crab and seafood
September 20th – 23rd: Seattle
- Led team for volunteer and donations management workshop
- Ate another less-than-impressive dinner in Tacoma, service acted as though we were inconveniencing them by visiting the restaurant and asking questions about the menu
- Spent 4-5 hours driving completely around Mount Rainier – wow. We started at the Southwestern entrance (Nisqually River) and proceed to do a complete loop of it. Absolutely beautiful (pictures on Facebook) and enjoyed the rental vehicle (Camry) flying up and down the mountain roads
Looking back on these trips, the relationships with co-workers that have been built considering I am the only one within preparedness programs in our office have been great. I have been blessed to experience all of these things without a single dime of my own money and they call it work. I hope that these opportunities continue in a slightly less frenetic pace.
The tangible benefit seen by Laura and I will be experienced in just a few short months as we head south to Costa Rica to experience 7 nights at the JW Marriott with both of our round-trip airfare costing a combined $84 for the entire accommodations/travel. This trip has been one of the things helping Laura as I travel around the country.
As I end this, and realize it approaches four full pages on Word, I wanted to share as an expression of thanks for the opportunities and experiences, as well as a reflection on what has happened the last 6 months. If you read this far, I applaud your perseverance. And with that you may not hear from me for another year J