Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Broken Jig

Personal Family

20111119_082459Warm sunlight pierced through
And the phone alarm vibrated on the stand,
Brrrr, Brrrr, Brrrr!

As the fog of sleep lift
Thoughts of my best friend filled every crevice,
How was he?  Would he still be suffering?

From the warmth of the covers,
To the cool air brushing past my face,
All faded away as I scrambled to change.

At first, I thought I’d do the usual,
Brush, clean, change and leave,
But then I heard my boy was still suffering.

Thoughts of time away,
Weeks I’ve spent on the road,
All brought guilt and regret.

Even time spent the night before,
Playing together in a field,
Chasing a ball, running for the sheer joy of the fresh air,

Even then I felt as I’d betrayed
My good boy, my friend, my Jig.

His softness I missed,
His smooth skin and beautiful brown eyes,
His passionate and loving stare.

Plans changed as did I,
Poised to bear this out,
With packed necessities, determined I walked to my boy.

20111203_092330 - CopyThere he lay awake,
With half-closed eyes looking at me,
Unable to do much but squirm.

Words seemed unnecessary,
We knew what came next:
His health, life and comfort was all I wished now instilled.

Minutes passed and we were out,
With him laying on the blanketed back seat,
Veda comforting him as we drove away.

One hospital closed, we left for another,
Closer still to home,
And all the while I still lamented the night before.

Had our run affected him so?
Or was it deeper still,
An ironic justice he suffers for me for time I spent away?

Nothing mattered, not any of the caring days or nights,
Only what I’d not given:
More of the effervescent moment.

Only one thing remained:
The twisted road ahead,
What awaited us at the hilltop, at the next bend!


What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Photo Credits

Yours Truly.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Conquering At Mt. San Gorgonio

Climbing Mt. Whitney

If you’ve been following the Climbing Mt. Whitney blog posts, you know that I’ve planned to hike up to Whitney by the end of this Summer.  To prepare for this hike, aside from the weekly regimen of exercises and hikes, I’d scheduled to climb some local higher elevation mountains.  Keep in mind, I live at sea-level.  So, anything over one hundred feet is “higher elevation!” 

The first of these higher elevation mountains was Santiago Peak.  This is the tallest peak in Orange County, CA at 5,687 ft.  Christopher T., my techie buddy who happens to be quite an athlete, and I completed this hike on November 9, 2011.  I wrote about it under the post heading, First Long Hike Complete.  The post inspired others to try the same.  One of our readers wrote about his trek in another article posted here under the heading, Hike to Santiago Peak.

Our next adventure was scheduled for March 10th to Mt. San Jacinto at 10,834 ft.  Unfortunately, family matters kept us from trying to conquer this peak.

That left the final hike before Mt. Whitney: Mt. San Gorgonio at 11,499 ft. scheduled for  June 30th.  This post is the retelling of our adventure that day.  Truth be told, this was one of the more grueling hikes I’ve been on and certainly filled with many surprises.  I’ll divulge now that at one point on the hike, I was concerned my hiking buddy wouldn’t make it back down the mountain alive. 

Read on and let me know what you think.

Start of Day
20120630_044030How do I start a long trek?  Same as I do any day, with a hearty breakfast of six egg whites cooked in a skillet with no oil, filled with an ounce of low fat string cheese and toped with half of an avocado and  LOTS of Tabasco Chipotle hot sauce.  Not only is this stuff delicious, it’s filled with protein and the right amount of the good fats that your body needs. 

The catch?  Given that I had to drive about an hour and a half to get to our trailhead in San Bernardino county and our desire to start by about 7 AM, I had to get up around 4 AM to prepare food and myself! Those are crazy hours for me.  I know some farmer out there is thinking, “that’s my every morning wake up time.”  It’s not mine and it was tough, but I’m glad I did it to save time in the day, as you’ll soon see.

After breakfast, I loaded up my gear and helped my hiking buddy, Jiggy, settle in the back of the SUV.  In case you’re wondering, Jiggy is my 75 lbs. American Bulldog mix.  This dog has heart like none other and had already accompanied me on all of my weekly hikes, as well as completed the Santiago Peak hike months earlier.  As I call him, Jiggs the Dude was ready. 

Our drive to the site was fairly uneventful.  The only excitement was during my call to Christopher.  I called to let him know I’d started later in the day and would probably arrive at the Ranger Station about 15 to 20 minutes after 6 AM.  “No problem.  I’m already here and there’s somebody else waiting in line for a permit. See you here",” he told me.

20120630_060548By around sunrise, I’d taken the turn off to the Ranger Station where we’d get our day permit for the hike, and where I was supposed to meet up with Christopher.  This was when I first glimpsed the Mt. San Gorgonio peak as the sun began to rise up from behind it. It was a beautiful sight.  the peak is the highest you see in the picture.  Seeing this, I was excited, yet calm.  The peaceful quite of the drive, with only Jiggy’s heavy breathing and the hum of the road, kept my mind occupied with all the possibilities for how we would celebrate summiting. 

Getting There
20120630_065729As I drove up to the Ranger Station, I remembered my call to them the day before.  After prompting from Christopher, running a last minute check to insure we had all the necessary parking and other permits, I’d called to ask if we needed day permits for our hike.  Wouldn’t you know it? We did.  However, they were fresh out of them.  The Ranger on the phone then asked, “Do you just need a day permit?”  Why yes, that’s all we needed and there were only two of us and my hiking buddy, Jiggy.  She continued, “Well, we always keep three day permits that we hand out at the beginning of each day.  If you can get here before 7 in the morning, you can get one.” 

Wow!  Now that’s lucky.  I asked her how busy it gets in the mornings and if there were others who had called asking for the same.  She tells me this is the busiest time of the season and she couldn’t hold or guarantee we would get a ticket.  It was first come, first served.

Hence, our reason to show up extra early.  Originally, we’d planned to start at the trailhead at 6:30 AM.  Assuming a 10.5 hour hike that would include stops, that meant we’d be done by about 5 PM.  However, given the Ranger Station wouldn’t open until 7 AM, we’d probably be delayed by an hour.  So, accounting for the extra hour and about a two hour drive back home, I’d told the family I’d be back around 8 PM.  To insure they knew how we were doing, I’d also mentioned I’d send text messages on my cell, assuming I had signal, or at least call around 6 PM when I was driving back home.  Piece of cake.  All planning complete.

20120630_065740I pulled into the Ranger parking lot and saw Christopher and another gentleman standing by a blue camping chair, in front of the Ranger Station.  However, there were about a half a dozen other people behind them just milling around.   There sure were a lot of folks interested in this mountain.  At least we wouldn’t be alone if we got lost!

This was at about 6:20 AM. I parked the car, opened the back of the SUV and let Jiggy take a look at the surroundings while still connected to his seat belt harness.  I walked over to meet up with Christopher, and after our hellos, we talked about the trek, what food and equipment we’d each brought, our last minute equipment check the night before in an effort to lighten up the packs, among other things.  We still had plenty of time.  20120630_065751So, I decided to take out Jiggy to relieve him and have him say hello to Christopher and everyone else.

Jiggy was eager to get out.  He is, after all, a big walker.  This guy LOVES any opportunity to be outdoor.  He never tires of a walk, no matter how many times he’s walked the same trail.  There’s always something interesting, some new spot he wants to mark, or a new fellow creature he wants to sniff, investigate or greet.

Everyone at the sight loved him.  I initially let him loose, knowing he would just go over to say hello to everyone by the Ranger Station.  He did. Then he started moving around, relieving himself, wagging his tail, sniffing, marking, sniffing, licking a passerby…you know, just being a menacing love bug.  That’s just the way he is.  He’s always eager to greet people and explore everything around him.  He’s also quite good about sticking around.  He may go off exploring for a short while, but I call him with a, “Let’s go Jiggs…let’s go buddy!” and he comes running, ready to start on whatever adventure we have ahead of us.

20120630_065803You’ve probably already locked in on how much I care for my buddy.  He’s as true a companion as anyone can have and one of the best dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a life with.

You’ll notice I took a lot of pictures of him on this trip.  Part of it is the love I have for him.  The other part is that he’s the inspiration for the organization we’ve setup,, where we save pets by selling high quality pet products.  I post all pictures of his treks on our CanvasPet Twitter feed to hopefully inspire others to share their every adventure with their best friend pooch.

In any case, while we were waiting, a whole lot of other hopefuls showed up, all with the goal of getting one of the three remaining day passes.  It was then that we learned you could have up to 12 people per pass.  The hiker that told us about this arrived pretty late and was hoping to join one of the groups that had enough room for him and his three friends.  He asked us and we agreed to have them join us.  My only concern was that I would slow him down since he sounded like a very experienced hiker.  I told him this, but he dismissed it and told me he had “newbies” with him.  So, he wasn’t planning on walking THAT fast!  Nice!!!

20120630_073248Once the Ranger Station opened, we were able to get our pass fairly quickly.  While Christopher signed up for the pass, I loaded up Jiggy and made room for Christopher and his equipment in the SUV.  We would leave his car behind and I would bring him back to the Ranger Station on our way out that evening. 

We soon loaded up and followed our newly found fellow permit holders to the trailhead parking lot.  It didn’t take us long to unload, get our equipment ready, stretch and run a final check on our equipment.

Jiggy was certainly eager to leave.  He was already scouting for the path out of the lot by the time I had all of his equipment ready.  He too wears a pack, carrying his own water and food in a saddle bag.  His pack consists of a harness that has a handle to help lift him up and over boulders, streams and other obstacles. 

For that day, knowing it would be warm, I’d loaded one liter of water in his saddle bag water bladders, along with four cups of kibble in small zip lock bags. I’d also taken  seven liters of water for both of us in my backpack.  I’d packed my water filtration system just in case that wasn’t enough, knowing there were a few streams we would cross where I could fill up.

It was 7:38 AM when we started. Not bad!  We were only off by about 8 minutes from when I thought we’d start. I checked my phone to send my first text to the family and realized I wouldn’t be able to send any: I had no signal there. Neither did Christopher.  So long as we stuck to our return times, we would still be fine.

We walked up past a couple of campgrounds on a fire road with lots of gravel.  I was a bit concerned for Jiggy.  His paws are callused enough, but he has also cut up his paws on granite before.  I’d come prepared for that with some bandage specific for wrapping his paws, but if I had to use that anytime soon, I might as well end the trip early.  After all, I wouldn’t have wanted him to walk on injured paw all the way from the start!

The gravel gave way to dirt and I directed him to walk in areas with less rock.  He knew what he was doing too. Danger averted.

Soon though, he decided to empty his bowels. Why do I bring this up?  Well, I immediately realized that though I thought I’d checked everything before leaving the SUV, I’d forgotten to pack his waste bags!  That’s a double whammy since I was planning on using those for my bathroom duties too  Luckily, I always pack some zip lock bags.  That works well, except they have a small opening, increasing the odds of spilling the stuff…and they’re see-through.  In any case, it had to do.  I just picked up his stuff and wrapped the first bag with a paper towel and put it inside another before shoving in in his saddle pack.  

20120630_075718First misadventure averted! Phew!

By this time the hiking company had pulled well ahead of me and stopped at a crossing. After catching up with them, I learned we had to cross a dry riverbed…that was filled with boulders of varying size.  So much for avoiding rocks! 

I must admit, the riverbed looked beautiful and I was taken by the way the sun was now peaking past the trees and lighting it, showing us the sheer width and magnificence of how much rock mass the river had moved from the top of these great mountains to where we were. 

Impressive indeed.  What’s more, this was the unofficial trailhead and the start of our long hike to the summit.

Hike UP
20120630_081816So, what did we have ahead of us?  Let’s start with some stats about the hike:

  • Elevation at peak: 11,503 ft., making it the highest peak in Southern California
  • Total Elevation Gain: We started at 6,000 ft.  That would make the gain at 5,503 ft.  Do you know how many feet are in a mile? 5,280 ft, which means we were going to gain over a mile of elevation.
  • Total Distance from Trailhead to the Summit: It was supposed to be 7.8 miles, but we started a bit further down, making it 8.9 miles.  This meant a total of 17.8 mile round trip.
  • Average incline:  12% grade.  However, this is only average.  We knew there was a big variation from 10% to 15% and more.

We’d actually read that the first mile to mile and a half of the hike were brutal in that we would hit 20% grade.20120630_081824  It’s the kind of grade where cars have to shift to low gears to stay at 30 to 40 mph. 

It was certainly tough to travel that first mile and a half and we were all glad once we got past it.  With the exception of Christopher and our professional hiking companion, we were all breathing heavily. 

Oh, count in Jiggy as one who absolutely loved going up this hill with no trouble.  He was nevertheless happy once we reached the top and took a quick break, shaking off a bit and enjoying the view of all of the other hikers that were coming up.

It must have taken us an hour just to make it up to that point.  The sun was by now shining directly on us.  20120630_081831We decided to take a quick five-minute break to replenish on water.  Jiggy and I took the opportunity and emptied our bladders too.  I was already beginning to feel warm, pulling my hat further down to keep the sun out of my eyes.

We still had over 7 miles left, but I figured we’d gotten the steepest part of the mountain behind us.  Nothing could stop us now. 

My body was already tiring due to the weight of the pack though.  Given the amount of water I was carrying, the pack was making the steep steps difficult already.  I’d weighed my bag the night before at 28 lbs.  it was substantial especially for the pace we were keeping.  I had to either slow down, drop some weight, or both.  Based on what I’d read in the Hike to Santiago Peak post on this blog, I thought I’d find a nice area to hide some water to use on the way back.  It was cool enough that it made sense, but I wasn’t ready to do that just yet.

20120630_083305We continued our trek and I quickly noticed that our hiking companions, even though they had some “newbies,” were much faster than me.  I wasn’t used to the pace they kept.  I prefered walking at about 1.8 to 2 miles per hour. Accounting for breaks, on average I could walk 1.5 to 1.6 miles per hour.  I knew this pace would eventually give me trouble, but I was hoping for the best.

It took us a while longer, but we eventually arrived at the official part of the trail where we needed our day pass.  We were thankful we got one too.  It wasn’t too long before we met up with a Forest Ranger who asked for it.  I write “lucky”  since it meant the group had to stop and wait for me to catch up. Man I needed that rest!

In all of this, Jiggy was still very eager.  In fact, he was wearing away at my shoulders with his pulling on the leash.  Every time we stopped, he would look on to the rest of the trail, wanting to catch up with the “pack.”  At each stop I would give him some water, check his paws to insure they weren’t torn and just check his overall well being.  He didn’t care much what I did with him.  He just wanted to keep walking!

Knowing how there were rattlesnakes in the area, and following the local laws, I didn’t want to let him off leash.  Nor did I want to hand him to one of the others since I was concerned about imposing his pulling strength onto them.


Eventually, I gave in and let him off leash. This was well after we’d passed the midway point.  I watched him closely for a while and noticed he kept close to the others, remaining on the trail.  This was a good change of pace for me too as it allowed me to rest my shoulders and enjoy the scenery.  The shot below is right before we reached a final stream and where I finally dropped off four liters of water, more than half of what I was carrying.  My three liter water bladder was mostly empty at this point, but I figured I’d fill it at the stream.

(Quick note on the picture: It’s a panoramic composed of four pictures.  They didn’t align right.  Can you find where the image shearing took place?)


Our lunch break was at about noon at the stream.  I took the chance to fill up my water bladder using the cool water from the stream.  Jiggy found a friend here too, another dog that was off leash.  We had to leash Jiggy for a short time to insure they didn’t get too tangled up, especially since he was se eager to play with the other dog. Since Jiggy is not too keen on getting into water, I took advantage of the situation to lead him down to the stream to meet up with the other dog while I wet him down.  The weather was certainly quite warm by this time, likely in the mid 70’s, though it felt much warmer given our hike.  Nevertheless, I figured it was a good opportunity for Jiggy to cool down and insure he didn’t get heat exhaustion.

After about a half hour of resting, eating, and filtering water for everyone in the group, including the liter refill to Jiggy’s water bladder, we decided to take on the last leg of the trip.  I checked Jiggy’s paws again and noticed he’d cut the inside edge of a back paw.  I took out the elastic bandage and covered it up, after cleaning the cut thoroughly. I also checked that the wrap wasn’t too tight or agitating him.  He seemed fine.

Our pit stop at the stream was at 9,400 feet and we had a little over 2,000 feet and 2.5 miles to get the summit.  We figured it would take us another two to three hours to reach it.

An Alarming State
20120630_135101And that’s when I really felt it.  It wasn’t long after we left the stream that I felt lightheaded and, in general, a bit queasy.  Not only that, I had to have a bowl movement.  I told the others to leave me since I was walking at a snail’s pace at this point.  Even the use of walking poles weren’t helping me lighten the load.  Jiggy must have sensed I couldn’t keep up and he hung back with me.  I took my time and cleaned up, eventually taking up the walk again.  It wasn’t long before I got to one of the many switchbacks on the trail and noticed Christopher was waiting there for us.  He had given me room to relax and take care of my business, while keeping an eye out to insure I didn’t need help. 

We were now at 9,800 ft.  We had only gone about half a mile to get to this elevation.  I was drinking water at about every other step and sweating it all out.  It almost seemed I was just taking a shower, though most of the sweat was drying off of me quickly. 

If possible, my walking had slowed even more.  I was feeling a bit of pressure in my head and realized I may be affected by the elevation.  One quick look at my watch told me we were at 10,000 feet.  I stopped and took another swig of water from my water bladder while giving Jiggy some too. 
I turned to Christopher and told him I was done.  My legs were burning quite heavily at this point and I realized I wasn’t in the proper shape to summit.  My body wasn’t breaking down blood sugars fast enough to replenish my muscles.  I had to stop.

EmptyWaterBottlesChristopher understood and asked what we should do.  I saw he was perfectly fine and knew he would have to come back down our way.  So, I told him Jiggy and I would rest before heading down to the stream where we’d wait to walk back down with him.  I thought he should summit if he could.  It seemed like a good idea, but he was out of water. He asked if I could give him some of mine.  No problem, I thought…until I opened my pack and realized I’d drank all of my three liters of water in less than a mile! 

He was on his own, as was I. 

I checked Jiggy’s water supply…and breathed a sigh of relief: he still had 20 oz. left.  That should’ve been enough to get him back down to the stream.  This was a big concern for me since dogs can get dehydrated and overheated quickly.  This is due to their lack of sweat glands.  They use their tongue, partially sweat from the padding of their paws and raise their hair to cool off.  Of course, with Jiggy, raising his hair doesn’t do much since he has very short hair.  I figured with less than a mile, downhill walk descending 600 ft. would be easy enough after some rest.

After about a half hour, I felt a bit revived and thought it best to start walking down before it got too late in the day.  The time was about 1:30 PM and we were still at 10,000 feet.  After packing Jiggy with his saddle bag again and putting my backpack on, we started off…but not for long.  Jiggy couldn’t walk very fast, or just wasn’t willing to.  He made some whining sounds.  I figured I’d walk ahead of him, even though he had no leash, to motivate him.  All I had to do was call to him, “Let’s go Jiggs…let’s go buddy!”

But that wasn’t working.  He laid down and refused to get back up.  We were at a dead stop!


I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I suspected Jiggy was overheating.  I’d checked him for dehydration earlier at 10,000 feet by looking around his gums to insure they were wet, and pulling up at his neck skin.  The skin had returned to flat in two to four seconds, which meant he was fine. What’s more, he had drank some water.

20120630_135040Once he stopped and refused to get up, I checked him again.  You can see in the picture that the corners of his mouth were now dry.  When I checked his neck, the skin would remain wrinkled and pulled up.  That was not good. 

I figured I’d give him some water.  He did what I was afraid of…he refused to drink it.  So, I now had a dehydrated dog that refused water.  I checked his body temperature and he was warm…he was beginning to overheat.  this was not good at all.  The only positive note was that he was still alert and looking around at the wildlife.

I decided to cool his body with some of his remaining water and forced some down his throat.  This is one of the best characteristics of American Bulldog and American Pit Bull Terriers: even when they’re in trouble, no matter what uncomfortable thing you do to them, they trust and let you.

We spent another half hour and finished his water.  He seemed to gain a bit of strength and we walked…for only 100 ft.  We stopped again and rested for another 15 minutes.  I was concerned about not having enough water and time to cool him off before getting to the stream.  The remaining half a mile to the stream may as well have been 50 miles.  We weren’t going anywhere. 

I began asking for water from other hikers, not for myself, but to cool off Jiggy and hydrate him.  Everyone was on a pretty tight water budget this far up past the trailhead, but anyone that had any amount of water helped.  You have to admire the compassion and the camaraderie hikers have.

By about 3 PM we had come about a third of a mile and 400 ft down in elevation.  Jiggy had resisted walking, even when I lifted him via his saddle bag harness.  He had some scrapes too.  I was now thinking of other means of getting him to the stream…and concerned that I would lose him this close to the water. I vowed that no matter if he survived the day or not, I would stay with him and get him back home.  I knew he would never abandon me and I meant to never abandon him!!!

One of the groups that came by were quite concerned about him.  They combined and gave us close to another liter of water.  I used it all to cool him down and force down his throat in the hopes of hydrating him.  They also offered to carry my backpack if I thought I could carry him.

I didn’t want to chance staying there any longer.  We were at a stage on the trail where I could hear the stream…it was so close. We had to try something different.

I accepted their offer, gave them my hat and backpack, hoisted him up and held him close to my chest.  He was a heavy load at 75 lbs.  it didn’t help that we were at a steep decline, but I took my steps slowly to insure we didn’t fall.  The walk was slow, but we were making progress. 

It was quite tiring though and I had to put him down to rest for a minute.  One of the group’s members asked if I could carry him “fireman rescue” style, over my shoulders with his front and rear legs draped over me chest.  Sure thing, I thought.  That’s exactly what we did, though with some difficulty at first getting him on my shoulders. 

I admired my dog for his willingness to let me do what I was.  He was scared and shaking, but willing.  I had to stop two or three times until we were only a couple of switchbacks away from the stream.  I was quite tired at this point, but knew we would make it to the stream. 

And then Jiggy’s buddy, the dog we met earlier at the stream, came around a corner, downhill, toward us.  The dog and his guardians had summited and were on their way back.  Jiggy got up from where he was laying and wagged his tail.  He wanted to walk again.  His shaking stopped and he was moving, not rapidly, but moving nevertheless, following the dog. 

We walked the rest of the way and I immediately took him to the stream, asking the other dog’s guardian to stay with us so that I could soak Jiggy.  Once I got him cooled off, I took out my sweater top, laid it down on a flat piece of ground and asked him to lay there.  he did with some hesitation, but also what appeared as relief.

It was now 4 PM and we were recuperating.  I kept petting him and speaking to insure he knew I was with him, in an attempt to comfort him.

It was around 4:15 PM when the “newbies” from our hiking group made it back to the stream.  They too had turned before summiting, though they’d gone much further than Jiggy and I did. 

By about 4:30, Christopher and the rest of the gang showed up.  I recounted what had happened, leaving out my bouts of desperation. I told them I would wait another hour before attempting to walk back down, though I was willing to stay the night if Jiggy couldn’t walk.  I figured with the packed extra thermals, emergency blankets and the plenty of campers around us, we should make it through the night.  I also still had two cups of kibble for Jiggy and some nutrition bars for myself.  With the water at hand and my remaining three liter that I would pick up on the way down we would be fine.

Christopher said he would wait to go down with me.  The others had to get back home, but it was Christopher’s words that reassured me we had a friend and we’d make it back that night.  I was also determined since I wanted to get Jiggy to safety.  Of course, I also had to take Christopher back to his car at the Forest Ranger station.
We started our trek down at about 5:30 PM.  Do you recall the stream elevation?  9,400 ft.  Make a note as this is important for a later revelation.

We moved slowly at first and had to stop about 15 minutes into the walk.  Jiggy wanted to rest.  I took the opportunity to check his paws.  By this point I wasn’t concerned whether he would cut them due to the weight he was carrying since I’d already taken his saddle bag and the full harness off.  I was more concerned he would wear out his pads from inflammation and hitting a sharp rock.

20120630_194121His paws were fine, though his wrap from earlier had worn off.  So, in the process of re-wrapping that paw, I took Christopher’s advice and made him temporary “boots” by wrapping the others. 

He looked kind of cool.  The wraps looked just like snug socks and they worked beautifully.  He was ready to move again at this point.

This time, when he got up, he wanted to move ahead.  So, I didn’t leash him.  Within a few feet, he was walking ahead of Christopher.  Suddenly, it hit me: he may have had altitude sickness as well as been dehydrated.  I checked my watch: we were just below 9,000 ft.  That had to be it.  In fact, I remembered reading that dogs may feel the affects of altitude sickness earlier than humans, at about 8,000 ft. 

20120630_084050The rest of the way down was quite uneventful.  We stopped by where I’d earlier dropped off four liters of water.  Christopher took them, though we emptied some of the water.  He had to carry the water bladders since I had already fully stuffed my bag with Jiggy’s saddle bags. 

On our way down, we some some other great landscapes, though I was just mostly relieved about Jiggy.  I knew he would be fine, though I would spend more time acclimating him at 6,000 to 8,000 feet should I ever decide to take him on a high altitude walk again. 

It was now past 6 PM and I realized I had to contact my family.  They would be expecting a call from me right about now, supposedly on my drive home.  Huh!

I checked my phone and found no signal.  I kept checking about every half hour with no luck.

By the time we reached the SUV, the sun had already set and it was 8:20 PM.  That was almost 13 hours after we’d started the hike. It sure had been a long day, but also it’d been much past when I said I’d call home. I was hoping everyone at home was resting or preoccupied and had forgotten about when I said I’d call.  May be I could catch them just when they thought something may be amiss. 

We loaded up all our gear and ourselves in the SUV.  Jiggy was a trooper. Though he had walked gallantly all the way down from 9,000 ft., he was clearly tired.  He jumped into the back of the SUV, found his blanket and immediately laid down to rest.  I gave him some water, changed clothes and jumped in too.   We were ready to go home and put an end to this long, adventurous day.

Turmoil At Home
As it turned out, I had no signal on my cell phone until I reached the Ranger Station…and then my phone began to vibrate multiple times, alerting me to the large number of text and voice messages.  This was NOT good.

helicopterI called home immediately, without listening to or reading any messages, and after a frantic few seconds conversation confirming I was alive and well, my wife told me she had to hang up and make some calls…she had alerted the local police and rescues.  There was already a rescue team who was preparing to fly out.  Holly cow!  We both immediately hung up as Christopher told me he had also received a voicemail from my wife on his cell phone.

I later learned that my family had tried to locate me since about 8 PM.  They had called the cell phone company asking for my GPS location. Of course, with no cell reception, they had no way of finding me. 

They had then called friends asking if they knew my day’s waypoints.  Though I’d provided some details of my trip, I’d not told them the exact trail I was taking.  So, they had scrambled and, quite intelligently, figured out which one we’d taken based on my first photo of the day at the Ranger Station that had automatically uploaded to my Google+ page.

In short, they were rightfully concerned and suspecting the worst.  In a later call to them I apologized, though I’m sure it didn’t take away all the angst they went through.  When I recounted part of our story, I left out how close I thought I’d been to losing my hiking buddy.  When I hung up the phone, all I could do was drive…and tear up at the thought of how I’d risked my pal, Jiggy’s life.  He’s my one and only Jiggs the Dude and I sure don’t want to lose him anytime soon.  In the midst of all this self-lamenting and regrets, I was also glad to remember how we’d stuck together, as hikers should, to insure we both made it back down!

End of Day
Burger On my drive back I realized neither Jiggy nor I had had any food for a few hours.  We both deserved a treat.  I stopped in Loma Linda to use a restroom and help Jiggy relieve himself too.  I saw an In-N-Out and pulled it.  Immediately I thought we’d just eat there too.  But how can we both enjoy a burger together?

After letting Jiggy roam on the parking lot grass a bit, putting him back in the SUV and opening all of its windows, I went into the restaurant.  I too used the facilities, then ordered a 4x4 protein style (no buns, four pieces of meat, four pieces of cheese wrapped in lettuce) for me, along with four plain patties for my buddy…to go!

After picking up the order, we spent the next half hour in the back of the SUV, with the tailgate open, watching the passing cars and people, enjoying our food together.  Jiggy just lapped up his patties with delight, looking up with a pair of thankful eyes. We were both just a couple of dudes enjoying sharing and living the moment.  The cool air felt great, the ice cold water went down well, and the food made us both enjoy even more what we had together…our friendship. 

Lessons Learned
There are too many lessons to spell out here, but I’ll just list highlight a handful:

  1. Whatever you plans, make sure you share them with those close to you in case they can help
  2. When taking a risk, take it with friends.  I owe Christopher a debt of gratitude for giving me the strength I needed on multiple occasions he offered his help, whether explicitly or not, on the way up and, most importantly, on the way down the mountain
  3. No matter the circumstances, be thankful for what you have, even if it’s just being thankful for the scenery and the experience
  4. Giving up at the first sign of danger is not an option
  5. Not reaching a goal is not giving up, so long as you come back to try, try again

What’s Next
That last lesson should give you an idea of the next step.  I’ve delayed the Mt. Whitney trip to next year, and decided to ascend Mt. San Gorgonio again, but summit this time.  I know that I failed the ascent since I wasn’t physically prepared for it. 

Here’s the interesting part though. Since I think I need two to three months of training, this’ll mean ascending San Gorgonio in the October / November timeframe.  Will there be snow? How will I prepare for that?

What I know is that I must conquer my physical weakness exposed at this mountain, and I will not stop until I’ve summited its peak.   Of course, to insure I don’t risk anyone’s but my own safety, I’ll do this without Jiggy.  I’ll just make sure to come back with a good story!


What Do You Think

Feel free to share your comments below, including your own harrowing hiking and climbing stories.

Photo Credits

Your truly, Steve A. Johnson, Larry Kwan, Dave Goodman, Marshall Astor, rmceoin

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Let’s Celebrate This July as Never Before

Call to Action

We're only a week away from July and the all the festivities that follow. 

With the 4th of July holiday, I'm always reminded of the days that follow and the love that our friends and family show us through their well wishes and gifts.  Last year was an especially big effort by all and I thank them for it.  Our friends and family made that celebration quite memorable and beautiful, one I will never forget.

You may have read a few posts back that I, along with my wife and a family member, started mid last year with the public launch this past January.  As a quick recap, our mission at CanvasPet is to save as many pets as we can through donating 100% of our profits.  We do this by researching and selling high quality pet products that are sourced and manufactured in the U.S.  These products are not just good, they're good for your cats and dogs.  We're completely dedicated to delivering on our mission and have opted to take no salaries for the first two years to insure we can donate as much as we possibly can to our cause.

So, why am I writing about this now?

This year I'm asking each family member, friend, coworker and acquaintance to celebrate our great nation’s Independence Day differently.  I’m asking you to visit our site and make a purchase of $25 or more.  Choose products for your pets or a friend's pets from the variety of snacks, food and soon toys that we carry.  With your purchase, you're helping us help the organizations below through our donations of all of our profits:

  • ASPCA (American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) rescues animals from dog fighting breeders, puppy or kitten mills, pet hoarders as well as other cruel situations and people.  Here's one example of the type of work they do nationally and locally:  ASPCA Rescues 50 Dogs in Bronx Dog Fighting Case

    Puppy Rescued By Humane Law Enforcement

  • BAD RAP in San Francisco helps rescue, socialize and place bully breeds, similar to our Lola and Jiggy, into loving family homes, working toward eliminating the bad rap that Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs and similar breeds have unfairly received. This is the same organization that helped socialize and place many of the Michael Vick's Dogs, with the majority of them earning the Canine Good Citizen certification. Read the update on Vick's Dogs here:  Vick dogs: Five years post-seizure. Has the cruelty ended?
  • Irvine Animal Care Center is one of the few no-kill shelters that's generously funded by the city of Irvine's forward thinking city government to keep animals alive for at least 21 days.  This may seem like a very short time, but most shelters can't afford to keep an animal alive for any more than three days!!!  2011.09.10_Perplexed2012-05-30 18.18.33
    Irvine Animal Care Center is where we adopted both Jiggy and Lola, and where we plan to sponsor one or more kennels each year to help some of the animals that don't get adopted within 21 days have a better chance at finding a home.  This is part of the shelter's Third Chance program to help support such animals for 90 days or more.

So, what am I really asking from you? 

I'm asking you to purchase products that your dogs and cats, or your friends' dogs and cats, will absolutely love.  Products that you, as their guardians, will love giving them and that are good for them.

And by doing so, I'm essentially asking you to help us rescue those that can't help themselves, who love us unconditionally, but are abused by those that see them as nothing more than a means to a profit or an avenue to satisfy their cruel personal wants. 

It'll be through your generous help that we can begin to exemplify Gandhi's notion of a great nation: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

I thank you in advance for making a difference through your actions.  Here's the link to's products page.

What Do You Think

Feel free to share your comments below.

Photo Credits

ASPCA, BAD RAP, Yours Truly

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Construction Work Ahead–Part 4 of 4


Editor’s Note: This is part 4 of a guest post series by a dear friend, A. Scot Tedisco.  See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to get the full story.

Do you remember where we were?  I’d just made the rounds with Randy to let him know I was applying to the Project Manager role at Harris.  He understood and let me know the solar job wasn’t turning into anything.

Then there was Sam and his company. I’d sent the references over with a request to get back with me. That book is now closed though: he never got back with me.

So the interview with Chris and his Project Managers at Harris’s offices is at the LA City college campus. As is usual, I am a couple minute early.

Peggy shows me into the conference room. In less than a minute, Chris is there to greet me and let’s me know he is going to round up the other guys.

Though the interview is relaxed, they ask some difficult questions. Like, “would I go back to Bernards if Bernards asked?”. There are also moments of just talking and cracking a joke here and there for everyone’s laughter.

The interview reminded me of my first with Jeff Bernards, where Jeff was able to make it a very relaxed discussion just by his presence. The other Project Manager’s seemed like decent people and I knew I liked Chris from when I did the CDC project. Though the hour went by quick, it didn’t seem rushed. We talked about some of the other projects, various perks from Harris, and some of the general duties. At the end I mozied out with a hand shake to Chris and asked him to call me if he was interested in making me an offer.
The drive home was uneventful. I called [my significant other] a couple hours later. I tried to tell her ALL the detail of the interview. I think I even told her what the other guys were wearing. Do you want to know at this point?

So as I am telling her the story, I happen to check my email. I see there’s a message from Chris. It was time-stamped from ten minutes after I left the interview. I shared with Nina what Chris said in his message: he was hoping to catch me before I left because he wanted to make me an offer. This was 10 minutes after the interview!!!! OK, so he knew me from before, but STILL!. I hung up with Nina to call Chris.

2012.04.27_Sean_MacEnteeI had to leave him a V-mail. He called me back pretty quickly: less than 15 minutes. So I note to him his message was 10 minutes after the interview and he comes back with an, “Of course it was quick, I already had my mind made up before the interview. I just wanted to see if the other guys had any concerns. They all gave the thumbs up. Even if they had hesitated, I still may have made the offer.”

I tell him I’m stunned … a couple times. So we start talking about the offer: the salary , vacation, and other perks. It all sounds pretty good. No gas card or car allowance like I had with Bernards, but a base salary increase that makes it about equal to what I was making. Considering the market, where most people are taking 10% to 20% less for a job, this was great!

I wanted to say yes right there, but I knew I should let it all sink in a bit. I let him know that I wanted to sleep on it. He agrees and lets me know that other things will have to happen if I accept: They will need to get me approved by the college (they never rejected anyone else, he says) and some paperwork from the Harris HQ.

After hanging up I called [my significant other] and told her all the details. She tells me she’s not surprised: they should be honored and are very lucky to have me; no amount of money can compensate for the care and dedication I give to my work. 

I also called Arash, my chief counselor. After telling him the story, he says that it sounds like my mind is already made up. He also agrees with me about sleeping on it. As he said, he almost made a mistake of agreeing to an offer too quickly. I let him know how right he was about the flurry of interest just a couple weeks from when he’d said it. More on that later.

I also gave a call to Randy to check in with him. While I didn’t feel obliged to him, I wanted to make sure we weren’t missing opportunities with each other. He said he still had nothing and didn’t want to string me along with something that wasn’t there and didn’t know if it would ever be there. That night I talked with [my significant other] about the job some more and also how it would affect our time together. She got spoiled with me being home so much. We had to process such a change.

The next day, Chris and I fine-tuned some details about the offer. I made sure to get a formal offer letter with all of the details.  He said it wouldn’t be a problem.  Someone in HQ would be sending me something, via email and hard copy. He wanted me to start right away. We were talking on May 18th / 19th. Given that they needed to get approval and that I wanted some time to “cool off” from the excitement of it all, we agreed that I could start on June 1, 2011, about 8 months from getting the news from Jeff that I was being let go, downsized, put out on the street, encouraged to find work elsewhere,… given the boot. I thought I would treat the week and a half as a vacation. Not so lucky…I’ll get to that in a minute (or as fast as you can read).

Recall that Arash predicted I would be getting a plethora of interest: The day after I accepted the offer, I get a message through LinkedIn from a recruiter with Disney. As I read the message telling me how I look like I might fill the position they are trying to create, I am in wonder over 1) how Arash’s prediction is coming to pass, and 2) that they (Disney) thinks this of me just from my LinkedIn profile. And, they want to talk to me more about how I would fit in.

I gave it a weekend before I tried to contact them, to let them know I had just accepted an offer. During the conversation, I let them know that I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t interested, but that I’d committed to Harris. I also told them the Harris offer was conditional.  So if things didn’t work out, I would definitely like to hear more about the Disney opportunity. They were appreciative of that approach and I let them know that I would like to keep them as a connection and would “network” and let others know of their interests.

Once I posted my new position at Harris on LinkedIn, Disney sent me a message congratulating me on having the offer go through. I thanked them and let them know I would stay in touch. As things go, I may need to do that more than I would have expected.
As to this supposed “vacation” I was to take... It wasn’t but a couple of days into the week that I received a package from Harris HQ with all kinds of paperwork to fill out and a notice of being sent up to Concord, CA for my official orientation.

P2012.04.27_DigitalInativeaperwork! Who would have thought one could get used to not doing paperwork in only 8 months?  There was so much info: Insurances; health, dental, vision, payroll deductions, 401k info… all too much to do in one sitting. It seemed like too much, I sent a message to Chris and one of the office girls telling them that I hadn’t even started yet and I was already buried in paperwork. Chris said I better get used to it. I’m not sure how much he intended that comment to be funny.

So, now, many pages and some time later, I’ve completed my story. The challenges I have are more and different than what I expected, but I will persevere.

I certainly learned a lot during this ordeal, including how important it is to keep that human connection, to care about and deliver the best results on every project and endeavor without a care whether it’ll ever come back, and knowing that it always will in some form or another.  It’s been turbulent, exciting, and a life changing experience...with many more interesting days ahead.

Wish me luck.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

Photo Credits

A. Scot Tedisco, Sean MacEntee, DigitalInative

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Construction Work Ahead–Part 3 of 4


Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of a guest post series by a dear friend, A. Scot Tedisco.  See Part 1 and Part 2 to get the full story.

You recall, I was doing Randy a favor by walking a job site, where I’d met up with a previous contact from a project, Angela.  She’d made it clear that she hoped I’d land the job, even after learning I was no longer with Bernards!

Angela and I had exchanged some final words and said our goodbyes. All that was left for me to do was to tell Randy of the meeting. I couldn’t help feeling a little odd over how Angela and the rest not only remembered me, but with such … fondness? Not something I am used to anyway.

Now I have to call Randy, AND tell him that I will be interviewing with Sam at Erik’s old Company! I give him a buzz later that day and tell him about the walk and my acquaintance with Angela. He’s not surprised about the project, nor how I am remembered. He tell me it was through my efforts that Bernards was able to get an invitation and was recommended to write proposals for design-build project (vs. design, bid, build) for the LA Community College District.

When I tell Randy of pending interview, he takes a long, deep breath. He tells me “know which questions to ask.” I ask him to elaborate and he lets me know that the company is very demanding and expect long hours. I let him know that I don’t want to cause any issues with him and using me in a proposal. He says it’s ok and that I should do what I think is right for me. His tone is clear: he doesn’t think that the other company will appeal to me. I take his view (as he suggests himself) with a grain of salt.

Sometime in that same time frame, Randy asked if I would be interested in a solar power project he was looking at. I can’t remember the details of when this happened vs. the other items. He must have mentioned it sometime before the interview with the other company. (In hindsight, this was important in that Randy was trying someway to get me on board with his company). More on this later...

Taking Randy’s suggestion about finding out more of this other company for the interview, I try to get a hold of Doran to get his perception, but I get no call back. C’est la vie.
So Friday comes. It’s 9 AM and I’m down in Irvine. I find the place without an issue and wait in the lobby. I’m a few Minutes early and the receptionist tells me she will let Sam know I am here.

Quite some time slips by. A few people walk through the lobby from the offices, but none appear to be looking for me. Finally, Sam comes out. He apologizes for being late, the reason being he didn’t check his email for the message from the receptionist letting him know I was waiting. (huh!)

We make it to his office, which is littered with drawings and boxes everywhere. He starts heading to his desk.  I see my resume on his desk.  He asks if I would like something to drink. I remember that I left a water bottle out in the lobby and I go fetch it.

While doing that, I realized he intended to conduct the interview across his desk. This doesn’t appeal to me. His office also had a small couch with a “lobby-type” chair and coffee table. He sees me come back to his door and he says he’s going to get some coffee. When I enter, I take the couch. He comes back in and pauses, then gets the resume off his desk and takes the chair across from me.

We start talking about some generalities of my experience and the questions keep coming from his side. I figure I can wait till the end to shoot off some of my own. About 15 min. into this, his cell phone rings and he answers it. When he gets off the phone, we go on for a while more, with two main points that indicate that the company expects results that I am not willing to put in the hours to achieve, basically 80 hour weeks.

He asks if he could get some references and I ask from which segment of the industry: Subcontractor’s, Owner’s, Architects? He says sure and maybe a Superintendent. Now I start thinking it’s close to 10 and I need to start getting some of my questions in. I get one or two minor ones in and he looks at the clock and tells me he has other appointments to get to, pretty much shutting down the interview. I let him know I will get the references to him on Monday.

When I get home, I start thinking about the list of references and if I really want to be with Sam’s company. Well, sending the refs is what I said I would do and doesn’t commit me. So… I contact a superintendent and a Project Manager (both with Bernards). “Sure,” they say. I can use them, I need not even ask. I like to ask anyway. So, next I need a reference from the owner’s side. Wasn’t Angela just giving me some positive vibes? So I call her up.

A couple of rings later and I am ready to do some minor chit chat and confirm to use her contact info. Right after our greetings, she asks, “ Are you still looking for a job?”

“Well, yes, that’s why I’m calling. I was…”

“Good,” she says. “I was talking with Chris Dunne [he’s the overall manager at the City college campus], he is looking for a Project Manager, and I told him I saw you and thought he should talk to you about the job.”

“Wow, sure, I can definitely talk to him about what he has in mind.” I let her know I was surprised, because I was just calling to see about using her as a reference. She says that’s fine too just in case the other thing is more appealing than what I’ve seen so far. I thank her, let her know I will get with Chris, and hang up.

Now I may be working for a Construction Management group? I’ve spent the last 12 yrs. or so trying to target General Contractor positions. Recalling a little irony though, I also vowed not to work at fast food. What does 7-1/2 yrs. at In-N-Out mean? OK, so it’s not even an interview yet, let alone an offer. So let’s first see what’s the opportunity.

I leave a message for Chris and he calls me back a little while later. He lets me know he’s hiring a Project Manager and a Project Engineer. The Project Manager (me) would be working on a new Student Services (SS) building, which would include demolition of the old library building.

Under the same contract would be a renovation to the building next door to the new SS. This was somewhere in the realm of a $42 million contract, combined. It all sounds interesting to me (and I need a job), so I let him know I will shoot him a copy of my resume and we set up a date for a formal interview, where he wants me to meet the other Project Managers. Chris also mentions in the conversation about the good job I did at the CDC.

I still have this Solar Power thing hanging out there with Randy, so I let him know I will be interviewing with Harris & Assoc. He says he understands that I’m not just waiting for him and he doesn’t want to string me along. He let’s me know the solar job isn’t turning into anything... yet anyway.

Then there is Sam and his company. I shoot the references over to Sam with a request to get back with me. That book is now closed though: he never got back with me.

So the interview with Chris and his Project Managers at Harris’s offices is at the LA City college campus. As is usual, I am a couple minute early...

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

Photo Credits

A. Scot Tedisco

Friday, April 27, 2012

Construction Work Ahead–Part 2 of 4


Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a guest post series by a dear friend, A. Scot Tedisco.  See Part I for a full introduction.

You recall where we left off?  I’d shot a message to Erik thanking him for passing me on to Patrick. Not ten minutes later, an auto-email response tells me that Erik is no longer with that company.

What the...? Yep, that’s was I thought!

The auto-reply also gave a new contact person for that Company. I shot her a note explaining I was just in contact with Erik and if she would now like my info. Of course she does, who wouldn’t?

I also get to speak with Patrick and ask him some more info. We got to talking about Erik and Patrick said that Erik’s company had just merged with another out of San Diego and Erik’s position was a duplication of the new HR dept.

Patrick eventually gets around to asking if I was interested in yet another company. Sure I am, but I tell him to wait for a new resume, as I’d found a couple small problems with the one he had. As of this writing, he hasn’t gotten back with me, even after I shot him a follow up email!

In the same time frame, I get a message from Doran saying that Erik was no longer at his company. I knew, I told him, and he replies asking for a copy of my resume. Though I already shot a copy to their new HR dept., I shoot him one too.

Now, Randy calls me. He tells me more about his company and what he’s trying to do (getting their LA office off the ground). He wants to know if he can use my resume in some of his proposals and says, “if we get a job, you get one.” Sounded good to me, so I shot him a formal copy of my resume.

The next day he calls me up. “Scot, what are you doing? Are you busy? Can you do me a favor?” I’m not doing anything critical so I tell him to give me the low-down. What he needs isn’t all that hard. Just show up at a pre-bid job walk that conflicts with another that he needs to go to. It turns out that this “walk” is at the same campus where I managed the Child Development Center, turning a hostile project into a letter (email) of recommendation for Bernards. That project is the one I am most proud of, as it was an achievement of managerial skill not technical prowess. The walk was in a couple of days, so I get all the vital info from Randy.

Another day goes by and I get a call from Sam (from Erik’s old Company). Doran has given over my resume and Sam says Doran had a lot of good things to say about me. In our short phone call, something odd strikes me about Sam. At this point, you the reader, needs to know that my Resume is six pages long, four of which are a listing of all my projects with budget size, description and if they were General Contracts or Construction Management.

So, Sam asks me how many of my projects are Construction Management? I was a little confused, though gave him the answer, and asked if he had a complete copy of my resume. He says, “I don’t know.” I ask if he has all six pages. He says, “I don’t know.” Really? How can he not know this, the page numbers at the bottom say “x of 6”. Whatever, I let it go.  We schedule a meeting for that Friday, a few days after Randy’s job walk.

Throughout all of this, [my significant other] is telling me all of these people really want me and I am worth more than what they could pay me. Okay, I am paraphrasing a little. She is very supportive and eager to give words of encouragement and confidence.

The day of the walk is a Tuesday, and I’m scheduled to be there at 9 AM. With traffic (going right through downtown Los Angeles) I figure 45 minutes to an hour, so I leave at 7:45’ish. So, me being me, I end up getting there at 8:30. Oh well, I always have music to listen to.

A few minutes before, I head over to the meeting room on the campus. On the way over, I notice an estimator from the Construction Management team overseeing all of the projects on the campus. He’d worked on some of their internal estimates to compare to my change order requests on the CDC project. I couldn’t remember his name, but he noticed me and said, “Hi, Scot” and put his hand out for a shake. The CDC project ended in January of 2009, and he still remembers me, more than two years later! Fortunately (or Unfortunately, depending), he sees that I can’t recall his name and says it’s John. Now, I remember. He says, it’s good to see me there to look at the job. I didn’t take the time to tell him I was out of work and just doing a favor.

The meeting room is packed to the walls, 20 General Contractors, at least, for a $13 million project. They go through the general, usual spiel.  I won’t bore you with it.  During all of this, I notice someone who should recognize me, but it isn’t until nearly the end that she does. It turns out Angela will be the Project Engineer for the new project.  Technically, she works for another company as a subcontractor under Harris & Assoc. (the main Management firm at the campus). She’d come to the CDC project after me and after most of the hostility had abated.

We stayed back after the meeting and talked a bit.  It was the typical pleasantries and “what are you doing now” questions. She also says, “I hope you get this job.” I let her know I’m not with Bernards and she says, “I still hope you get this job.” Meaning that she doesn’t care who’s my employer!

We also reminisce about the CDC and she tells me that Emilio, the Construction Manager for Harris, left and started his own company.  She asks if I would like to talk to him. Sure! She calls him, tells him what’s up and hands me the phone. Emilio is doing well, paying the bills and is generally happy. We promise to trade contact info and stay in touch.

Angela and I say a few more words and then our goodbyes. All that was left for me to do was to tell Randy of the meeting. I couldn’t help feeling a little odd over how Angela and the rest not only remembered me, but with such … fondness? Not something I am used to anyway.

Now I have to call Randy, AND tell him that I will be interviewing with Sam at Erik’s old Company!!!

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

Photo Credits

A. Scot Tedisco

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Construction Work Ahead–Part 1 of 4


ScotEditor’s Note: The following guest blog post is the first in a series from a dear friend, A. Scot Tedisco.  Scot is one of those rare breeds of professional who believes in long-term commitment to a company, so long as it’s reciprocated.  At one point or another, many of us have changed employers seeking a challenge. Scot always seeks those challenges internally.

His dedication has worked well for him.  So much so that the economic meltdown of 2008 didn’t seem to affect him, even though he worked in the construction industry as a Senior Project Manager.  He was gainfully employed through all the rough patches of our Great Recession. 

...And then the day came when he was asked to come into the central office, instead of going to the work site. He was given a three-months notice to find new employment.  The company recognized his dedication to the firm and extended him the courtesy of looking for work and remaining with the company through the holidays at the end of 2010.  Nevertheless, he was out of work.

Given he’d spent the greater part of 15 years with one company, he’d not spent much time building relationships outside of it...or so he thought.  In this and the posts that will follow, he shares his story and the lessons learned along the way. 

I originally received a copy of this story in August of 2011.  I asked to share it in this blog since there was so much that others could relate to and learn from.  So, keep that date in mind as you read these posts.  Also note that Scot’s former employer was Bernards.


Well here it is… I’ve been unemployed for about 8 months. It doesn’t seem that long.  Time has flown by in just a wink of an eye. Sure, some of the time has been spent helping [my significant other] set up her office, but that was not all. I spent time filling out the unemployment forms too, with the most time spent looking for work!

Thanks to advice from a best friend (who shall not go unnamed, Arash) I learned how to search the job boards for possible opportunities, [network] and to completely rework my resume. So, week after week, I searched and shot out ever-revised resumes to companies large and small, with prospects strong and weak.

Most leads quickly went nowhere, as would be expected in this market. Then, six plus months into bouncing off walls, Arash says, “this is when your initial contacts dry up and a new flurry spring up” [Editor’s note: From the onset of unemployment, Scot had begun attending industry events and making new connections, helping the people he met along the way. This was the main reason for the resurgence of leads].

How right he was!

2012.01.12_ScotLIOn the same day he made this comment, I noticed one of the former Executives from Bernards, Randy, had moved to a new company.  I quickly shot him a congratulations message through LinkedIn. Later that same day, I received a message through LinkedIn from Erik, an internal recruiter at another company.  This third company is a General Contractor with which I was familiar in that a project manager from Bernards, Doran, had taken on duties there. Doran and I had collaborated on writing subcontracts for his last Project at Bernards, and I remembered we’d worked well together.

Eric’s message asked for a copy of my resume.  So, I thought things were looking up. This took a couple of emails over a few days, during which, Randy (remember him formerly from Bernards?) shot me a message thanking me for congratulating him, and asking for my contact information.

LandscapeI wondered. Would there also be an opportunity with Randy’s company? So, I shot Randy my info and waited to see.

Less than a week from Erik’s introduction, I get an odd voice mail on Google Voice from someone named Patrick. I listened to it a couple of times. It turned out that Patrick was a recruiter for the Construction industry. He was given my resume by Erik.

Odd, I know!  Why would a recruiter from a GC give a resume to another? Patrick explained in a later phone call  that he used to be Erik’s boss and they maintained a collaborative relationship. Patrick also mentioned that he was the one that introduced Randy to his new company. Are you lost in these circles, yet? Don’t feel bad, it was quite odd to me too, even being there first hand.

Over the next couple of days a lot happens: I shoot a message to Erik thanking him for passing me on to Patrick. Not ten minutes later, an auto-email response tells me that Erik is no longer with that company.

What the...?

Continue to Construction Work Ahead, Part Two… 

What do You Think?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

Photo Credits

A. Scot Tedisco, The U.S. National Archives

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who Cares What You Do for a Living

Business Startup

Do you care about what you do for a living?  Do you pursue it passionately enough to want to spend every living moment thinking and doing something about it?  Are you doing something that at your death bed, as you review your life in those last moments, you can honestly be proud of?

Here’s why you should pursue in business what you passionately do outside of it.

My wife, one of our close friends and I launched last year.  Below’s an excerpt of the organization’s mission:

[To provide] a one-stop-shop for conscientious pet owners to purchase organic, environmentally safe products to treat common family pet health issues, while donating 100% of our annual profits to local and national dog rescues.

Our intent has always been, and continues to be, to help pets live a happier life, whether through the pet products their people purchase from us to live healthier lives, or through the donations we give to pet rescues, to insure pets find good homes where they’re loved by their people.  This mission was inspired by issues we had with our own dogs and 2012.03.01_GandiGandhi's quote:

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Whenever we tell the story, we get one of two reactions: disbelief or complete support, the latter possibly accompanied with a bit of envy.  Your reaction too may fall in one of these buckets after reading our mission statement.

The disbelief has cynical roots: that nobody cares enough for our fellow companions to devote a whole business to it.  In other words, some may think this is just a “clever” marketing scheme to get people to spend money with us, and that we will hide our profits as salaries, bonuses, or expenses.  Once we explain that our goal for 2012 is to take no salaries and donate all of our profits, and that we’re filing our 501 non-profit status with the federal government this year, the disbelief melts away.  This is especially true if the people are aware that by becoming a non-profit our finances will be available for public review and scrutiny, thus preventing us from giving ourselves high salaries or bonuses. 

The point here is not to defend and its practices, but to illustrate a point: genuine interest to do good for those who can’t help themselves, often demonstrates an organization’s mission for even the most cynical among us.  In fact, preponderance of facts supporting this, in conjunction with heart-felt curiosity about people’s needs and wants, wipes away any last doubts.

The second reaction conjoined with envy is quite interesting as well.  The words we’ve heard used in these situations often are statements like, “that’s the kind of work I’ve always wanted to do,” or, “I wish I could leave my job and do what you’re doing,” and even, “how can you possibly do that and make a living.” 

As a society, we tend to think we can either do good or work for a living, where our work involves exploiting people in some way. Somehow, somewhere in our lives, we incorrectly learned that business can’t possibly do good, since a business is purely about forcing people to purchase what they don’t need nor want.  We’ve divorced a business from doing good for society. 

That’s simply untrue.  Business can do good.  I’m not just referring to how businesses create jobs.  Of course they do.  Heck, they must, but that isn’t the only good they can deliver.  To claim that’s the best a business can deliver is similar to claiming that the best a pen can do is require paper to write on! Just as a pen becomes an instrument for a person to inspire, free our minds, and ameliorate understanding among us, so too can a business do good by the people it serves.

A business does well for the society when it fulfills a need to make it healthier, better and its members happier.  The employment, the cash it produces, the profits it generates then become byproducts of this effort.  They should not be the end-goal of any business. 

2012.03.01_CashBundleDoes this mean a business shouldn’t care about cash flow and profits? Of course not.  In a capitalistic system, cash is the means to exchange goods. Unless the system changes this means, no one can ignore cash and profitability, especially when we want to insure our continued future support for the causes we believe in. 

Cash is simply the means to deliver goods and through which a company can do good.  It’s cash that’s used in exchange for food and shelter for those in need, to help those that can’t help themselves, to provide comfort and long-term happiness for the masses that makes any endeavor worth pursuing.  So, yes, cash flow and profits matter, only to insure we can do good for our fellow man, the animals that keep us company, all living things, including our ecosystem and, thereby, the world at large. 

So, if you feel envy for any business that aims to better society in some way, get in the game and become a part of it.  Shed the idea that helping society is something we do part time, when we have time away from our daily work.  Do it now, whether that means joining a non-profit, starting your own, or finding a for-profit company that aims to improve society as opposed to just make money.

2012.03.01_CagedDogGet in the game NOW and help those who can’t help themselves and need you to protect them, or find a means to make people’s lives more meaningful, moving them up the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

What Do You Think?

Please feel free to share your thoughts below.

Photo Credits, 401k, dgoomany