Surrounded by Blessings

Each day when I wake up I think how incredibly blessed I am to have a good job with good people. I am reminded how healthy I am, how prosperous my life has become. I am focused, confident and strong. Everyday I am getting younger, feeling more and more refreshed, growing in wisdom, wealth and health. I have four amazing boys, a beautiful and hard-working wife, and family that loves me. The best of my life is ahead of me! I can’t believe this is my life, it’s exceeding my hightest expectations.

Sadly, I don’t always feel this way. However, my feelings and circumstances do not change my blessings. Even when I wake up still tired, I am healthy. Even when my muscles ache, I’m still blessed to ambulate in any way I choose. Even when I wish I had more of some material thing, I have more than I need. Even when I don’t feel confident, strong or focused – I can be any and all of these things a lot of the time. Even when my boys act up or I argue with Rachel, I am still incredibly blessed. Even when i think my best days are behind me, I know that is not a true statement.

My blessings are often impacted by my attitude. Sometimes my attitude still stinks, but I’m making improvements in this area of my life. I have become tired of not feeling blessed when I know that I am. Here I am, the son of the King, and I feel like the world is against me. He laughs at that, God wrote the story of my life end to beginning, has counted the hair on my head, and has blessed me because of His grace (and certainly not my actions or because I deserve it). I’ve been getting better at letting God love me, I’m getting better at understanding I am blessed. I understand I’m here to serve a purpose greater than me, and am opening up my life to receive the countless blessings He wants to bestow.

You’ll Shoot Your COVID Out

Yesterday was Independence day in the United States of America, and a mixed-bag of feelings washed over me. While preparing for our move to Kentucky, I had to leave the house three times yesterday, twice to Lowes and once to Walmart. Like many of you, I try to avoid going out, and when I do, I do my best to practice social distancing. I do not always wear a mask (sometimes I do), but I could and maybe I should. In today’s world, there is more information available at our fingertips than ever. Some sources of information claim to be the source of truth and fact – and it could be true, or it could be false. Some information (like this blog) is just an opinion – I don’t claim to know more than you on the subject, it’s just my opinion. This opinion is the sum total of my life-long learning experiences, and I’m trying to do the very best that I can.

When I was a kid I thought all adults were wise. Later, I learned that all adults were not wise. Even later, I learned that all adults were wise, again.

I’ve learned that as I age, my mind adjusts to new information. I make opinions based upon what I’ve learned over the entire course of my life. Things I once thought were certainties are now surely false, but that may change. Even for those of us who aren’t the smartest, we still gain wisdom. I think this is also true for You (dear reader), Lebron James, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Dalai Lama, Joel Osteen and Charles Manson. Notice how I selected a wide arrange of people on the spectrum, although I don’t have much in common with any of these people, except that I am human, much like you – and that I learn things and grow in my own personal brand of wisdom. I don’t personally know anyone who is super wealthy or famous (or infamous), but I do know many people (like you) that are amazing people, and all of us have wisdom.

Some people think COVID is a conspiracy, others think it’s a virus that is spread and that we’re all in danger (sound the alarms!). The people I call my friends come from different backgrounds, some have a little money while others have little. Some of you are Democrats, some are Republicans, and some of you are neither. Almost everyone I know has seen A Christmas Story, and know the line “You’ll shoot your eye out”. Regarding that line specifically, we know that Ralphie, was told by every single adult he knew, including Santa, that he did not need the Red Rider BB Gun because he would shoot his eye out. However, on Christmas morning he ended up getting his prized wish. Shout out to irresponsible parents everywhere. As it turns out, Ralphie did not shoot his eye out, but he did shoot himself, breaking his glasses in the confusion.

You see, it was indeed possible that Ralphie would shoot his eye out (or his brother’s eye or perhaps a neighborhood dog’s eye). That’s possible – every parent in the world can testify to this simple truth. Parents struggle with giving their children age-appropriate things, because we know they most learn to navigate this world as an adult some day. Each of my children have learned at different intervals – some of them I might’ve given a dangerous toy too at a much younger age, others, I wouldn’t give them this same toy until they were much older. Parents want their children to grow and learn, we even want them to have fun, and we want them to be safe.

Sometimes parents make good judgement calls, sometimes we give our child a motorcycle on their third birthday – usually, it all works out just fine.

My faith plays an important role in my life, it sets the boundaries of what I believe in what is right and wrong. I share my faith with my children because they will need God more than they ever needed me. I fail daily in ways that God never will, He will comfort and guide them when I cannot be there. These faith boundaries guide us, and are important to us and our children. While we can never have faith in a political party, brand or movement, we can have faith that God will guide us through it all.

I think our best scientists, leaders, politicians, and activists want what is best, but I also know they too do not know everything. Like you and I, they’re making decisions based on a lifetime of learning and the best information available to them. They may one day look back and regret making a decision to mandate this or that. In fact, I think that’s the expected outcome. That’s why the government moves so slow, it was built that way on purpose – so that we could not, in the heat of some moment (or weeks or months), give or take away a freedom that would forever change the fabric of this great experiment called America.

Yesterday while out and about I saw fear everywhere – people were either giving me judging looks, or just avoiding eye contact altogether. Everyone is giving everyone lots of social distance, which I think is what matters most at the moment. Most people did not speak, I spoke to a few and tried very hard to be friendly. If you know me, this was a task – but I know people are hurting and confused, and we need each other now more than ever. We need to be nice and friendly, we need to be human to one another. If you or I were to die due to COVID, I would hope someone would have something nice to say about us. But even that is in danger – funerals, work, school, businesses – life and death are now postponed until further notice.

Yesterday was Independence Day, a day that is designated to celebrate the freedom we have enjoyed in this country. But I had many mixed feelings because we live in a time where our freedoms are restricted. Not in a small way, but in a large way – we cannot go out and about like we once did. Vacations, cancelled. Family reunions, cancelled. Walmart closes early, like every other store, and restaurant, bowling alley and skating rink (even if those places are open now, I’m not even sure).

There is evidence that what we are doing is not enough to flatten the curve. There is also evidence that we’re doing too much, and that we’re giving away our freedoms in the form of compliance. On Independence Day I was saddened that we’re not being more brave so that we could enjoy more freedom. Friends, I want you to be you, loud and proud. Whether you think it’s a conspiracy or whether you think you have all the data to confirm the worst-case scenario. And I want you to be safe, and to keep my safety in mind. Is it even possible to have both safety and security?

I want to interact with people without fear that you’re judging me for what I’m wearing on my face, who’s political party bumper sticker is on my car, or what the color of my skin is. But here we are, against one another, caught in this terrible act of violence that is judging. If there were a conspiracy, it might be something like “have them all turn on the other and then we can do whatever it is we want to do”. I’m not saying that is really happening, but sometimes it has the feeling of that.

What is really happening is much worse, we’re not being nice to one another anymore.

Many of us care more about shaming or sharing opinions than we do about how a person is feeling or doing. Some of us are really struggling – no, I think most of us are really struggling. It’s hard to be home with the kids all the time, to not be able to do the things we want to do, to be isolated and alone. It’s really hard, even if you think you’re adjusting well (which I think I am), it’s still really hard.

When you go out in public, with our without a mask, I would like it to be your choice. You might shoot your eye out, or you might shoot my eye out, or it might turn out okay in the end. We cannot be certain of the outcome yet because nobody is that smart and correct – we’re all learning, doing the best we can. But, what I implore you to do now more than ever is to be kind to your fellow human. Whether or not they vote Red or Blue or Green, whether they wear a mask or don’t, whether they support the Black Lives Matter movement (or not) – be nice. When I was a kid someone once told me that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile; I still don’t believe that statement. What I do believe is that even if smiling is hard, do it anyways. Wave at your neighbors or have a discussion with them. It’s okay to have and share your opinions. But we all have them, some are right and some are wrong – some are right now and may be wrong later, and some are wrong now and may be right later. None of it will matter when you have your funeral. People will remember you most for how you treated them. Treat people well.

I’ll Take My Spoils Now

The statues and symbols that represent The Confederate States of America have again come to the forefront in The United States of America. I want you to take note right now how both of those nations are independent and different than one another. Hank Williams was wrong, If the south would’ve won I wouldn’t had had it made. Instead, I wouldn’t be permitted to love the people I love – my children couldn’t play at the same parks or drink at the same water fountains as their children. Not only that, The Confederacy was the enemy of the country I served for, The United States of America. If you love The Confederacy and the ideals of white supremacy, you’re the enemy of my country and you’re my enemy.

Betwen 2000 and 2004 I served in the United States Navy. As a veteran, I’ve guarded the lives of men and women of color, as they have guarded mine. They stood their watch, I stood mine, for one another. I’ve been served and have served people of color, not because I must, but because I could. It was a true honor to have served with the many women and men of color who I could call shipmates. If you don’t love people of color, you’re not just their enemy, you’re my enemy.

Over the last decade of my life some of the finest and best people I’ve ever known are people of color – I don’t just like them, I love them. They have taught and coached my children as their own, I have taught and coached their children as my own. We have stood beside one another on football fields, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and at lacrosse tournaments. These families trusted us with their most precious gifts – their children, as we did them. I have loved on their families, and they have loved on mine. If you don’t love people of color, you’re not just their enemy, you’re my enemy.

On April 9th, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and The Confederacy was no more. The Confederacy existed between 1861 and 1865, and they lost. The Confederacy does not exist any more, as it suffered a similar defeat to The Third Reichthey lost in compelling and convincing fashion and the world became a better place because of it. We, as the citizens of The United States of America are the victors. The victors of war get to enjoy the spoils, one such spoil is writing the history.

“To the victor goes the spoils” – William L. Marcy

For many years in America, there have been sympathizers to the southern cause. The man who shot and killed one of America’s most beloved presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was a Confederate sympathizer. James Earl Ray, the man who murdered Martin Luther King, was also a sympathizer to the ideals of white supremacy. Yet, I consumed the the media that was tolerated within the main streams of American culture. I loved to watch The Dukes of Hazard, with the Confederate flag emblazoned on that bad-ass Hemi. Some of us even went to schools named after those Confederate leaders. For what it’s worth, I still love that Hemi, but I don’t love that flag. Here we are in 2020, many southern Americans celebrating the monuments of an ideal that was defeated more than 150 years ago. Below is a chart of monuments built to The Confederacy by year and I can’t help but ask – why do the victors allow for this?

Confedarate monuments (2).png
By Volunteer Marek – revised graph with panels removed, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The short answer of why this has been allowed is because racism is not only tolerated in America today, it is celebrated. When the Allied Powers invaded and freed Germany from the Nazi regime, citizens and military alike destroyed symbols and statues that had been built to the Nazis. In America, we’ve tolerated the symbols of hate that The Confederacy built for too long. I’m here to tell you today, as a Victor who can enjoy the spoils of victory, I do not stand for this or with this.

In 2020 victorious American’s are demanding these statutes and memorials be taken down. Slave owner? Take it down. Leader of The Confederacy? Take it down? White Supremacist? Take it down. If you believe differently, you’re an enemy of the greatest country the world has ever seen, The United States of America. Today, we’re taking it all down so that our children will enjoy the spoils of victory that we have been promised since 1865. I stand with my brothers and sisters of color, in a chorus of love and unison when I say this – take them all down, we’re the victors and we’re rewriting the history books today.

The Last Shark

For the last several years I’ve been an embedded software tester on a highly performing team. My beloved team, nicknamed the White Sharks, has been the source of much pride. As a tester, I obsess over producing quality code, and have been very proud of a team of great developers who bought into an approach that developing quality applications mattered. We had a strong Definition of Done, Quality Gates, and informal Working Agreements that allowed us to deliver good software at a fairly fast pace. In December of this year, the fabric of that team began to fall away.

In December, our Senior Architect left for another job. A couple months later, I think sometime in March, another great developer and architect left for greener pastures. Shortly thereafter, a third senior developer left. Weeks later, our Senior Devops Engineer left – and finally today, another dev left. This last developer had only been on the team for about a year, but he was the last team member remaining on a team that I have been a member of for many years. Finally, I am The Last Shark.

When people have departed, they have been replaced by some great guys and gals – smart, sharp and friendly developers and testers who have worked their guts out to pickup the pieces. These have been internal replacements, from other teams within our company (save one new-hire). While they’re amazing men and women, they don’t have the requisite domain knowledge to keep us going like we once were. I have been thrust into a team leadership role, I’m here trying to grab the helm of this fledgling ship to pull her away from the rocks and steer her into the deep bays, and, finally the open ocean.

I could talk about the technical challenges, but I’m writing this to talk about the personal challenges this has presented. When the third developer left I literally cried at my desk. Luckily, I work from home, because I would’ve cried in the office too. I knew it was an end of an era. I felt like things could never be the same, at least for a long time. More, for years I have shared the story of my life with these folks – they knew my kids, they knew I loved cats, and of the many personal trials and victories I’ve went through in my life. They knew I shouted in glee when I found a bug, and that I made a lot of noise during the course of the day, mostly talking to myself. I’ve tested their code, they’ve fussed at my intense drive for quality – but more than anything, I miss the people behind the code. I miss the people who wrote the code – not their knowledge, passion, and love for their job – but the people I shared my life with.

Those friends are gone, working with some other tester, sharing their lives with someone else – and I miss them. The absolute hardest part of my job the last 6 months has been losing people I’ve grown to love. There won’t be anymore work lunches, or chats about our families, lives or happenings of the day. Those days are gone, forever. We’re building a new team. I’ll get to make new friends and have new relationships, we’ll deliver some good code. They’ll get to know my kids and my quirks and that I love cats, if they stick around long enough. I’m hurting, and sad, and devastated – work relationships are important. I find myself feeling like I’ve been dumped, over-and-over again. However, it’s a job, and we’re all professionals – it’s not personal, and I know they didn’t leave me, or even because of me. But that doesn’t stop the pain or the hurt, or the feeling that I too should leave. But that feeling of wanting to leave, that’s the feeling of a quitter – and I’m not quitter, at least not yet. Most days, I’m pretty happy with the technology, my bosses, and the chores of the day. But everyday, I miss my Sharks. Farewell and following seas to my team: Greg, Thomas, Michael, Henry and Caden. Someday our paths may cross again. I’m forever grateful I got to share my journey with you, and you, me.

From Kentucky to Florida – and Back

I have some big news to share! My family includes 4 boys (3-16 years old), two grown-ups, 2 dogs and 2 cats – and in the next couple of months we’ll be moving. On July 1, 2011 my family (then including only 3 boys aged 7, 4, and 1 and a single cat and two grown-ups) moved from Kentucky to Florida. I remember that move because it was so incredible, you probably wouldn’t believe me.

Coming into the summer of 2011, my wife and I made the decision to move to Florida. I was harshly under-employed, we were still struggling from the recession of ~2008, where we lost our home to foreclosure. Things were tough, to say the least. In search of a better life, we put almost everything we owned into a storage unit and rented the smallest uhaul trailer you could rent, and packed some toys, clothes and a few other household goods and headed south. Well, we did have a plan, but it was very concerning, especially looking back. My wife had been a nurse for a number of years at this point, so she took a job as a travel nurse. Our first 3 month stop would be in Panama City, Florida. This job paid her well, and even would pay for housing for all of us. It was a chance to improve our conditions, and a chance for me to find work in the field in which I was educated. The plan was for her to work, and when we found a place we liked, I’d look for employment. Meanwhile, I home-schooled our oldest son (then in second grade) and cared for our other two boys while she worked.

I’ll never forget that first night arriving in Panama City – we literally arrived with not much more than the clothes on our back. We were counting on the agency who hired my wife to follow-through, there was no backup plan. We pulled into this small apartment complex on the east side of Panama City and got the keys to our very small, fully furnished, 2 bedroom condo. It was probably 800 square feet, if that. Later, after requesting a larger unit, they moved us to Panama City Beach into a 2 bedroom apartment that was much larger. After three months in PCB, her next position was in Hudson, Florida. Hudson was just outside of Clearwater, near Tampa. This time we decided to handle our housing ourselves, and found a house in the country, if you can believe this! I have really fond memories of this house, it was really secluded, the only other house nearby were the folks who rented this really nice double-wide trailer (it had a wrap-around porch in the middle of many large oak trees, you never would’ve guessed it was a double-wide).

The “drive-way” to our new home was at least a mile long, I think longer. While my wife was at work, I home-schooled our oldest. Daily we would take walks along this road on our “lunch break”, along with the other two boys (and our cat, who would walk with us and still does today in our neighborhood). There were cranes and other beautiful wildlife nearby. One of my lasting memories of this place was how incredibly dark it got at night – and being secluded, it was uncomfortable, but comforting at the same time. We spent our first Christmas in Florida in this house. It was a beautiful ~70 degrees that morning, and it was wonderful. My wife’s next assignment would bring us to Pensacola, Florida. We moved there in February of 2012, and once again rented a nice home outside of a little town named Gulf Breeze.

Since my wife and I thought we’d enjoy the area, I started looking for work almost immediately. In March of 2012 I was hired by a company that made Software as a Service to do some Project Management type work. We rented a home on a permanent basis (which meant another, short, move). We enrolled our oldest in school, and found a daycare for the other two. We have been here ever since, embracing the life that has been given to us. Since then, I transitioned to a role as a software tester more than a few years ago, and LOVE doing this job, I think it’s what I was meant to do all along.

In January of 2020, my wife and I returned “home” to Kentucky to visit family. When we arrived at our hometown, both of us commented that we’re so glad we moved and couldn’t imagine moving back. By the end of the week, I mentioned that I might be willing to move back, if the circumstances were right. We discussed this in depth on the car ride home. When I returned to work, I told my manager I wanted to work remote full-time so that my family and I could return to Kentucky. I wasn’t hopeful, but submitted some paperwork and updated my resume, just in case.

This spring, right before COVID-19 really struck and forced us all into quarantine, my full-time-remote status was approved. Since then, we’ve been adjusting like everyone else. But as we come to the reopening of society gradually, we’re starting to make movements towards our destination, returning our life full-circle and moving back to Kentucky. This weekend I pressure-washed the house and did some other work to get it ready to list. I fully expect to be living again in Kentucky by July, pending selling our home and buying a new one, and all the work associated with that. I’m worried, concerned, scared and looking forward to our new adventure together, again.

New Domain Name New Me?

I migrated all of my personal blog to my new domain name today! Thanks to SiteGround for making this process super easy – I stood up the site and added SSL in just a few minutes. Next step, I exported all my WordPress personal blog-posts from JasonOfFlorida.com and imported them to this new site.

With my personal blog detached from the brand, I think it will empower me to share more and without having to think about SEO or any of that business non-sense. I’m extremely happy to have finally made the leap, it’s been on my to-do list for a while. This is going to be another amazing and fun adventure!