You find me back in Chattanooga, after a trip to Tampa and a stint in the heartland last week. I'm not particularly keen on traveling, but I’m working on a good project with a great client in Iowa. I hate to keep lobbing excuses at ya’ll for why the posts are short or off-topic, but I’m going to do it anyway. Because of travel and workload I haven’t had time to think of a new and exciting topic. Rather than give you another series of links, however, I will write off the cuff about my past adventures in the business of urban design. 

As for this weekend, I'm only hoping to survive Spencer's birthday party. Seven years old, S-E-V-E-N! How time flies. Each year on the weekend closest to his birthday (which always happens to be Memorial day) we have the family in town for a crawfish boil. The weekend is always great and it is the one I most anticipate every year. Aside from its obvious significance, his birthday is also a marker for other events in my life journey.

For as bright and athletically inclined as he is, he has yet to
grasp the concept of this particular rivalry. He does, however,
know the difference between Hondo and Rondo.
2005 was an eventful year. That year, D.Rushing was with child (my aforementioned son and heir), and I was working for Stroud at the Planning & Design Studio. Life was great. We had a very happy, comfortable (I speak for myself) and uneventful pregnancy. Working for Stroud was a joy and privilege, even if it wasn't always a bed of roses. The life of a silversmith’s apprentice City employee was not an easy one. The work itself was a joy, but dealing with the cast of characters at the city and in the broader community could be…trying.

In the late spring, Stroud got the sack and studio employees were shuffled to other city departments. I was designated for assignment in the public works department where I was to assist citizens navigating the building permit process. While I suppose there is something to be said for the fact that I was not fired outright, I can't imagine a more soul-crushing job for a designer. If my goal was to put in twenty years of civil service and retire with a pension, I might have stayed. As you might have suspected, however, I don't get down like that.

Long about this time, Spencer Sinclair Rushing arrived. In part out of loyalty to the Master, in part because I didn't want to be a cog in the bureaucracy (the pay sucked anyway), and primarily because my first son was born, I resigned from the city. How lucky was I to be able to spend the first three months of Spencer's life at home with him and his mother. After having that experience, I am convinced that fathers should be able to take paternity leave (especially for the family's first child as the couple is learning the ropes). The few dollars of income lost could never buy the experiences I had that summer. In the back of my mind, however, was the question about how I was going to continue to grow professionally and earn a few farthings in the future.

OK, so it wasn't all play- but "work" was fun.

That opportunity came when I joined forces with three of the brightest people around. Stroud, Ann and I were unemployed and our friend Jim was looking for the next step in his consulting business. We joined forces to form of Kennedy, Coulter, Rushing & Watson with the mission of providing planning and design for cities and their moving parts. Over the next six years we did some really nice work on projects like the Knoxville South Waterfront, the Nashville Riverfront, Kingsport Landing, and The Strip in Knoxville. While the project work was fun, educational and paid the bills, the great windfall for me was simply being able to interact with three very high level professionals. Watching and learning as they conducted business, both technically and personally, was like being in school again (in a good way).

Alas, starting a new business is no mean feat. We did well enough and kept our families fed, but starting a private sector planning firm during the Great Recession was always going to be a tough ask. In the end, we each started to gravitate toward our core competencies and last fall when Stroud decided to try out for the PGA tour we had a group hug and called it. We’re still finishing out some contracts, and I have shown dogged determination in keeping Stroud off the golf course and on an airplane. That fantastic chapter of personal and professional development, however, has come to a close with a debt to my friends that I’m not sure I can ever repay.

As was the case exactly seven years ago, I’m in a transitional phase. This time round, however, the summer will be hectic rather than blissful, as there are irons in the fire. In August I’ll take the family on vacation, catch up on some sleep, then take the next step in my career. Don’t worry, I guarantee it will not be as a writer.

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