11:Eleven — Peace

A Mistake? Perhaps...

I was only six weeks away from celebrating my twelve year anniversary with EDS when I allowed myself to be talked into resigning from the company in order to form a business with my then partner, Greg. Was it a mistake? Many of my co-workers thought so at the time and they may have well been right.

At first everything was “bearable” even if not perfect… We worked out of the home which was rather nice given Cassie was getting older; it allowed us to spend a little extra time with her. In time we would open in office in far north Dallas (Addison, Texas) and take Cassie in with us; Cassie was a very pampered cocker-spaniel. However, the stress of always being around one’s partner eventually took a strain on an already laborious relationship. Greg had proven himself to be controlling and with this latest decision I was pretty much at his mercy. It wasn’t a good situation and would only get worse over time.

Amigo program logoOur goal was to create a computer platform and database for handling pre-paid cellular calling. We partnered with a nice guy (Secundino) in Mexico City, creating a platform for Telcel. They were one of the two major channels for cellular activity in Mexico. Unlike Secundino they were not, however, to be trusted as they did attempt to screw us out of hundreds of thousands of dollars before the program was completely in place. (We got wind of their intentions and Greg had one of the programmers encrypt their database before Telcel had an opportunity to screw us over. Approximately a week later they relented and paid the company what we were owed. As far as I'm concerned Telcel is not to be trusted but those are my own opinions based on my experience with them.) Anyway, the program was successfully marketed as the “amigo program” and appears to be doing well even to this day. (You can do a Google search for “amigo prepaid cellular” for links to the current service. As far as a level of dependability you can expect from Telcel, I wouldn't be able to speculate any longer. I've long been out of this game.)

Without going into a lot of detail and/or placing blame suffice it to say our “relationship problems” made it impossible to concentrate on the business by 1998 and we closed the doors. I stayed with Greg for a little over two years after but [eventually] I just could not stand the abuse any longer and left on my birthday in 2001.

Though I didn’t know it at the time I had a few more obstacles ahead of me, many of which are tied directly to my ex’s abuse, infidelity and dishonesty… But with the help of a higher spirit I’ve somehow managed to survive those challenges, having become a stronger person for doing so.

A New Adventure

Logo for LandAmerica American TitleAfter I left Greg in 2001 I went to work for a temp agency and was placed with LandAmerica’s commercial office in Dallas. They would hire me on full time about a year later but it would be another year before what I was doing would make much sense. (Title work can be quite confusing in the beginning but once you’ve got the hang of it, it can be really fulfilling work. There’s always something new to learn – and that, my friends, is the key to living a good life; always learning.)

For those who don’t understand what a title officer does we’re responsible for ordering title searches on properties which are being bought, sold and/or refinanced. The title searches are intended to identify all matters which affect the property, such as debts/liens and easements (rights of way).

Once the search is in the title officer (or “escrow officer” as they are often referred to) is responsible for compiling a “commitment for title insurance” which is the company’s written promise to issue a title “policy” (insurance) provided stated requirements defined therein are met. The commitment will also show what exceptions will be made on the policy; these are the matters that the policy will not insure over. The escrow officer is responsible for ordering payoffs for all liens identified within the title search and clearing the title upon closing. All funding will be the responsibility of the officer. There are a myriad number of tasks that the title officer will have to research and coordinate prior to closing, as well as the final issuance of the title policy or policies. In time it all starts to become second nature though.

Unfortunately, nothing is set in stone and when incompetent people are running the company there’s a real risk of failure. LandAmerica all but died as of last December. Opinions abound but my thoughts are the company was run into the ground by the CEO, Ted Chandler and Bill Evans (CFO). The company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December and liquidated their only viable assets when three wholly owned subsidiaries were sold off to Fidelity Insurance December 22nd. Fidelity immediately began laying off employees left and right, myself included. Such is life; just as the relationship with my ex, this too shall pass!

Photo of a bald MichaelOn the Health Front

There are plenty of things to talk about but I suppose my biggest hurdles in recent years might be having to go on meds for the HIV (I was diagnosed in 2001, a gift from Greg) and battling cancer (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) which was also, the doctors believe, the consequences of a suppressed immune system.

I was diagnosed with lymphoma in October of 2006, when I went in to get an update on the status of my immune system. To be honest the status was something I felt encouraged to get because of the tremendous back pain I had been experiencing for the better part of the year. My back was hurting so terribly that standard over-the-counter pain meds were no longer doing any good. In the back of my mind I could hear a little voice saying, “you need to find out what’s going on with the HIV!” It didn’t make any sense to me what the HIV might have to do with the back pain but I’ve learned over the years that you don’t ignore intuition when it strikes; you just do what you’re being told to do.

more current photo of MichaelAs it turns out my CD-4 count which had been in the upper 480’s in 2001 had fallen to around 297 and my virul load (previously at 9984 copies) had SOARED to over 173000 copies. My immune system was trashed even though I hadn’t shown any other signs of infections, colds, etc. Just the intense pain in my back.

The back pain was the result of the enlarged lymph glands, one of which was pressing directly on my spinal cord. To make a long story short I now take Sustiva and Epzicom for the HIV (my immune system is MUCH IMPROVED today with a CD4 count of over 600 and virul load undetectable at less than 40 copies) and I’m also in remission (for the cancer) after having completed four long months of chemo.

And before anyone asks, yes, I lost all my hair during chemo and no, it didn’t grow back in differently than before. It is every bit as straight and lifeless today as it has been my entire life. (Well, it is more gray but what do you expect at my age?! LOL)