1998 Year-end Review

Welcome, friends and family!

As the photo suggests, the past year provided moi with juggling opportunities galore: o buying and remodeling my house (the keys) o the twists and turns of a still up-in-the-air job situation (the badge) o everything else (handful of ticket stubs)

And, of course, Stacy had her own priorities: 1) Hanson, 2) everything else.

The House

After six years of apartment living, last February I finally decided to start looking for a house. My realtor lined up several places to look at in two primary areas: Irving/Las Colinas, and the Oak  Lawn/Uptown area near downtown Dallas. Near downtown offered enticements, but at a price, and with the added drawback of further distancing myself from work and Stacy.

As it turned out, the place I liked best I found myself — a duplex I noticed on my way to the grocery store, only about a mile from my previous apartment. I loved the location, the size (about 1800 square feet), the layout including an enclosed, private courtyard entrance, and the fact that it was old enough (17 years) that it needed updating, so I could make of it what I wanted. Or, rather, what I could afford.

I made an offer in mid-March, and after a round of counters, signed a purchase contract a week later. Then the fun started. The inspection yielded a long list of deficiencies, the most worrisome involving a drainage problem. I was ready to walk away from it. But my realtor calmed me down and encouraged me to give the owner the opportunity to make good on a lengthy list of repairs. Sure enough, over the next two months the owner put in over $11,000 to make repairs, including alabyrinth French drain system both outside and underneath powered by two sump pumps. I closed on May 28th, and moved in (thanks to the strong-backed help of local family — Daddy, Donna, Tom, Lizann, Jessica, Britni and Stacy — as well as the augmented assistance provided by Uncle Perry and Aunt Linda from Seattle) on June 6th.

I mentioned this place needed updating. I spent a good deal of April and May in email and telephone consultation with my friend Joan in Philadelphia discussing remodeling/redecorating considerations. She did a great job educating me about different “looks”, and offered very beneficial suggestions, cautions, and things to consider. I share whatever compliments I receive with her – Joan rules!

Coincidentally, my sister Lizann and her family moved from Paradise to Bridgeport a month before my move, and my brother Freddy (Michael, to Arizonans) and his wife Kay bought a house in Gilbert, Arizona just last month. Must be some kind of recessed light. Oops, I mean recessive gene. Or something.

The Job Situation

To digress 15 seconds …..recall that in 1997, two significant work-related events occurred: 1) Raytheon acquired the Texas Instruments Defense Group, for whom I had worked since 1982, in July; and 2) I engaged in some serious job discussions with GTE in August, but nothing came of it.

So I began 1998 still working for Raytheon (formerly TI), on the Javelin anti-tank missile program, on which Raytheon was teamed with Lockheed Martin . We had submitted a competitive proposal to the Army in December 1997 for a potentially huge program to adapt Javelin technology on a replacement for the TOW anti-tank missile system. Our competition was Hughes Aircraft, the TOW contractor – formerly owned by General Motors but also purchased in 1997 by, uh, Raytheon. So in a real sense ‘we’ (Raytheon-TI/Lockheed Martin Joint Venture) were competing with ‘ourselves’ (Raytheon/Hughes). As the year started we were preparing to submit a Best And Final Offer (BAFO) to the Army.

In mid-January I received a call out of the blue from GTE, with whom I had last spoken in September 1997. Surprise, surprise, they suddenly wanted me. But Raytheon had extended a pretty sizeable carrot for me to stay in anticipation of winning the new program, so I reluctantly, with much chagrin,  declined the GTE offer. We submitted our Best-And-Final-Offer (BAFO) in March, and presuming we would win, began to make preparations for receiving the development contract in June. Suddenly in May, we received word that the Army had decided to cancel the whole program due to a budget crunch out in the 2005 production time period.

So the ‘carrot’ which enticed me to remain at Raytheon, for which I declined the GTE offer, turned out to be nothing but stick, and I found myself back on the Javelin program with no promises, but at least with some measure of security.

Until October 7th. Raytheon announced that in an attempt to reap further consolidation savings from the acquisition of Hughes and TI, they will close the Lewisville plant and relocate the work to Tucson, Arizona. (This despite the comments made a few months earlier, when the new CEO visited Lewisville and congratulated us on having one of the most efficient facilities in the country. Example of gallows humor: “RAYTHEON: Where the ‘L’ stands for Leadership.”)

I’ve received an offer to move to Tucson, as did almost all of the exempt salaried personnel. My program will move next May and June. I must decide to accept the move or not by January 29th. If I decline to move, I’ll continue with Raytheon until my release date, August 17, 1999, at which time I’ll be laid off and receive six-month severance pay with benefits. (To help me make a decision to move, Raytheon sent me out to Tucson two weeks ago for look-see 3-day weekend, which I used to good advantage to visit Freddy and Kay in Gilbert, near Phoenix.) But once again coming out of the blue, GTE called me last month. They have an immediate need in program management, similar to that which they discussed with me last January. However, the person I need to talk to has been out sick the past two weeks so I won’t talk with them again until after the 1st.

So I have several decision paths … stay with Raytheon and move to Tucson … seek and accept another corporate position here such as the one at GTE, as soon as it’s offered … stay with Raytheon in order to get the severance package and try to arrange another corporate position after August … stay with Raytheon in order to get the severance package, then plan to do my own thing … or something else.

Everything Else

  • Last February, Stacy and I took our trip to Seattle to visit my Uncle Perry and Aunt Linda. Read our trip report and see some photos.
  • In March, my sister Lizann and I decided to move our grandmother, “Mom” Armstrong, from the nursing home in Carlsbad, NM, to one here in Decatur. After my aunt Billie died in August 1997, we kept Mom where she was as we tried to decide the best course. Lizann researched and made arrangements with Sunny Hills Nursing Center in Decatur, just 10 miles from her house in Bridgeport. The staff in Carlsbad assured us that Mom, despite her paralysis and neurological damage, could make the move and would probably be better having family close by. Lizann and her family visit Mom regularly, and Sunny Hills seems to take good care of her. We also benefited by moving her because we were able to get her approved for Medicaid, for which she was ineligible in New Mexico.
  • In September, we celebrated Mom’s 85th birthday at Lizann’s house. Then in November, my Uncle Jerry and his daughter Monique came to visit and Lizann again arranged to have Mom brought to her house for dinner.
  • Lizann hosted our attempt at an ad hoc family reunion in June, which included: Grandmother Stockdale, her sister Mary Helen and Harold, Uncle Johnny and my cousins Whitney and Michael, Uncle Perry and Aunt Linda, my dad and Donna, Lizann, Tom, Jessica and Britni, and Stacy and me.
  • We’ve missed Mother for another year.
  • I continued my work as a Trustee of the non-profit Institute of General Semantics. This gave me the excuse to make two trips to the New York area in July and October. During the October trip I again had the privilege of staying with Jim and Jim in Manhattan, and visited the Guggenheim Museum for the first time. I enjoyed serving as a general-semantics ‘mentor-by-email’ for several students at Alverno College, Wisconsin. (Interesting to watch a videotaped student presentation in which someone you’ve never met talks about you, based solely on email exchanges. Yikes!)
  • Speaking of Jim, his niece’s wedding in Olton last July gave me a reason to visit my hometown for the first time in several years. I stayed with Kenny and Betty in Lubbock and really appreciated the first reunion for Jim, Kenny and me since 1992.
  • I had Dallas Mavericks (basketball) season tickets, which enabled Stacy and me to see  Michael Jordan and the Bulls in March. We learned a tough lesson first articulated by Prof. Yogi Berra: it ain’t over till it’s over. We left with Chicago leading by 15 points with three minutes left. The Mavs came back to tie it, force overtime, and then won it while Stacy and I drove home. Otherwise, there wasn’t much worthwhile to say about the Mavericks, other than the new arena deal which will give them a world-class arena in 2000/2001. As for the NBA lock-out, I’d just as soon they cancel the whole season so I’ll get a full refund.
  • I also renewed my Rangers (baseball) tickets for 1998 and experienced Opening Day with Stacy, and my first real post-season baseball game, despite the 3-hour rain delay and the loss to the Yankees. But last month the Rangers announced they were raising prices again for the third year in a row, and I’ve decided enough’s enough.
  • Other entertainment highlights included touring productions of Rent, Chicago, Peter Pan and Showboat. Thanks to Tom and Lizann, Stacy and I saw Red, White and Tuna at the new Bass Hall in Fort Worth in July. Then Stacy and I celebrated Christmas evening by going back to Bass Hall to see A Tuna Christmas. I only attended three concerts this year, but they were memorable — the Forever Fabulous Chickenhawks (thanks, Amy Claire!), the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies (thanks, Bill!) and Warren Hill (thanks, Lizann and Tom!). I could add Backstreet Boys, to which I escorted Stacy and her friends Rochelle and Candice, and then, of course, Hanson. (I could, but I won’t.)
  • A year ago, I uploaded the first incarnation of my own personal web site. Since then I’ve learned a lot. I predict with some confidence that we cannot overstate the impact the Internet will have on most aspects of our lives over the next five years. This ain’t no hula hoop or CB radio fad . . . if you’re not on it, you’re behind the power curve. Evidence? In twelve months, my meager little web site welcomed almost 2,700 visitors from over 50 countries, and over 150 universities.And of the 90 or so of you who (I hope) read this, only six will receive it via snail mail. Through email, I’ve re-established contact with several old friends from Olton and the Academy, while continuing relationships with others from (literally) around the world.
  • I’ve actually made several cyber-friends this year from various Internet excursions. And in the non-virtual ‘real’ world, I expanded my circle of acquaintances to include a half-dozen or so who played significant roles in some of my more, uh, interesting moments of the year. One such encounter proved particularly memorable, if not exactly entertaining.
  • Just like everybody else, I had my opinions on the Bill and Monica goings-on.

Looking Ahead …

I know what some of the big pieces of my 1999 puzzle will be about … I’ll probably change employers for the first time in 17 years … I may try my hand at self-employed consultancy, teaching and writing … I’ll keep updating the house, concentrating on spring landscaping with a frugal budget … we plan to hold a first-ever weekend seminar in general-semantics in Dallas … Stacy’s decided she loves travel and I’ll get her up to New York City sometime, and she and her cousins will probably make it out this summer to Phoenix … She’s going skiing in Colorado with her church group in February … She’ll finish her
sophomore year and will probably choose to not play varsity basketball next year … she’ll get her driver’s license in June and turn Sweet 16, not that 15 hasn’t been … I won’t make it to any Rangers game, but we’ll see if the NBA comes back next fall. Etc.

Even though I ‘know’ what some of these ‘pieces’ will consist of, I haven’t a clue as to their size, shape, timing, or how they’ll fit together. And of course, I feel confident in predicting that I’ll get handed many ‘pieces’ which I won’t ask for. But I’ll try to integrate all these uncertainties into some kind of a cohesive picture for 1999 – not so much solving my ‘puzzle’, but rather developing it. I’ll let you know what results. And if you wish, vice-versa.

Over and out, until next time…