It has been easily a month since I have written anything for this blog. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a men’s Bible study that was just starting up, and each of the men was saying something about their hobby. One man spoke up: “I write.” It piqued my interest … what kind of things does he write? And then I sadly remembered … I used to write!
One day about two months ago, Kathy called me at work. “You’ve gotten three calls from recruiters today,” she told me. What bad timing … I had just begun a programming class funded by my employer, and was scheduled to go on vacation in a couple of days. When I got home, I looked over the e-mails and messages … they were all for the same job requisition, which must have just been released into the wild of recruiting land. Looking them over, I noticed that one recruiter had actually read my resume and had picked up on what I consider to be the key statement:
I am a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Interestingly enough, this recruiter also seemed to be the most straightforward of the three, talking frankly about billing rates and the share I would receive. I agreed to have them submit my resume to the prospective employer, and found myself on a phone interview a few days later. They put me on speaker-phone and barraged me with questions, four of them to one of me … I hate those kind of interviews. It is very difficult to project a sense of who you are to more than one person over the phone, lacking visual cues. I guess the interview went well, though, because while I was on vacation in Texas, they offered me the job, sight unseen. I was to be an independent contractor for a six-month period, working for a major wireless company in the Seattle area. After praying and consulting with a number of folks, I decided to take the job. While it is scary to think of being in the market for another job in only six months, the hourly rate they were offering was very attractive, and the work they want me to do was much more in line with my preferences than at my former employer. So I took the job, and am now in the fifth week of employment as an independent contractor.
The last week at my previous job was horrible in a self-inflicted sort of way. There were so many things that I had done in a slap-dash fashion or that needed just that little bit more of effort (or documentation) to make them workable for my successors … even on my last day I had a list of 24 things I needed to do. I finished most of them, but ultimately had to call it a day. It was very strange to hand in my laptop, give up my train pass, hand in my badge and pager and walk away. Even though I was voluntarily leaving for what I expected to be a much better position, I felt a poignant sense of loss. I guess I had really come to enjoy the people I worked with, if not the job that I was doing.
The commute to my new job is a little tricky. If I try to work ‘normal’ working hours, it takes me more than two full hours to get to work; driving, riding the train and riding the bus. Traffic on the highways to this particular location make it prohibitively difficult to commute for an 8-5 workday. Although my new boss seems a little more rigid about work schedules than I prefer, he agreed to allow me to work from 6-3, so that I can avoid the worst of the traffic. I’ve been leaving the house around 5 in the morning and getting home about 4:10 in the afternoon, which is not too bad. David and Sarah keep asking me, “Why are you here?” I presume theirs are not existential questions, but more along the lines of “Why are you home so EARLY?”
Construction at The Refuge (http://www.olympicrefuge.org) continues apace.
I really like the work at my new job. I’m doing internal tools and intranet web development, which I very much enjoy. The contract agency who pays me made a special effort to get me my first check … it is always nice to be reminded of why I get up so early in the morning and trundle off to work. And it is strangely pleasant to be back in the telecommunications world … a lot of things have not really changed very much in the three years that have elapsed since I was working at AT&T Wireless.
While I was on vacation in Texas, I did not work on my programming class homework, and (as a consequence) I became rather far behind. With the flurry of leaving my former employment and starting a new job, I found that I had little time to catch up. Today [well, it was "today" when I wrote this] is the last day of the class, and tomorrow is the deadline for all homework to be submitted, or I’ll fail the class. I’ve spent nearly every waking free moment in the past three weeks working on the homework assignments … happily, I’ve finished them all and am waiting only to find out if the last half of a problem has been accepted. (If not, I’ll have one last chance tonight to resubmit it.) While it isn’t that big a deal to fail the class, it is the prerequisite to a certificate program I hope to begin in February … if I have to re-take it, that will cost me $600 and another ten weeks’ delay. I certainly have worked hard to complete these assignments … it reminds me of end-of-semester project deadlines back when I was an undergraduate student at the College of William and Mary.
[Editor's Note: I did manage to pass the class, mainly by wearing down my professor with repeated submissions of homework. "Enough!" he finally cried. "You passed the class, now leave me alone!"]
A couple of Mondays ago, with hardly any fanfare, I restarted the tradition of Special Days with my children. When we first moved to Washington, I began spending one hour a week with each of my kids individually … taking them on bike rides, going for walks, often just driving to the local McDonald’s Playland and watching them play. They really seemed to enjoy having some focused Daddy Time, and I’ve continued the tradition off and on over the last five years. While I was working at my former job, I had Mondays off, and so I grouped the five individual Special Days into a single weekly Special Event or Field Trip. While we were able to go on some cool day trips, I think that some of the kids (especially the older ones) really missed having one-on-one time with me (and I with them).
The trouble is, my schedule is still a little fluid, such that I don’t come home early every day. The kids have Awana on Wednesday nights, and so there are perhaps only three days a week where I am home early enough to easily do a Special Day with a child. Happily, I came up with the idea of not tying Special Days to a calendar week, but rather using a random-selection method on the days when I can spend an hour with just one child. In this way, each child will get a Special Day about three times a month, and I won’t be tempted to neglect my wife or other responsibilities.
A few years ago Kathy bought me two little books: How to be your Daughter’s Daddy and How to be a Father to your Little Man, both containing 365 activity suggestions. Some of them are not particularly applicable, and some of them are things I already do often, but they both contain some clever and workable ideas. I decided to buy one for each of my children and to write the date beside each thing that we do. I hope that they will keep these books and leaf through them from time to time, remembering how much their Daddy loves them.
I’ve really missed riding on the train, but Kathy says she really likes having me home early. If I take the train, I can sleep in an hour longer, but I get home three hours later in the evening, with a total loss in family time of two hours. This is somewhat balanced by the fact that I can use those two hours on the train, and that I hate driving in any kind of heavy traffic. Thanks to the high cost of gas, the train is just as economical as driving alone, so there is no heavy penalty there. Maybe I should take the train once a week or so, just to make time to write? I was hoping to join a vanpool, and enjoy the best of both worlds, but I’m having trouble finding one that follows my rather eccentric commuting route. Most people live a lot closer to their jobs than I do, I wonder why?
[Another Editor's Note: My apologies to the die-hard fans (both of you) who have come to expect a blog entry more often than once a month. You can see I had a few excuses, leaving a job, starting another job, finishing a class, starting a Bible Study, etc. In all the excitement, I found that I didn't really have much to say.]