Category Archives: Family

Pictures-14

Trying out something new

A dear friend of mine (college roommate) has been blogging up a storm these days. It has been so much fun to read about her life. I really enjoy keeping up with all the comings and goings in her busy family (they are in the process of selling their house).

I write lots of e-mail, especially to/with my family (EMF–email family) but I don’t spend much time blogging. Reading Rachel’s blogs make me want to do more writing myself. Tim did some research and found us a new blog editor. He wanted to make it easier for me to blog and post pictures. Yay! This is my first try.

Kathy's college friends, 1992

Dear College Friends–Jodi, Me (Kathy), Anne, Cara, Kim and Rachel 

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Doing the Hustle

I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing at work recently … mostly phone screens to weed through candidates for some of the open positions in my group. One recent candidate actually refused to answer a technical question I posed to him over the phone … not a promising sign for someone who purportedly wants a job. My employer prides itself on ‘raising the bar’ with respect to hiring new employees … the interview process is quite grueling. I suspect that I was hired on largely because of my hard work while a contractor … I doubt I would have been hired on the basis of my interview alone. It is humbling to see people who are more qualified than I be turned away … it makes me wonder if there is a future for me in this job. Yet I am reminded that my future is determined not by my employer or by my abilities, but by my Master, who seems to have placed me here for His own purposes.

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Our tree this year is not up to our usual 9′ standards, but it is a well-sculpted, cute little tree, and we’re proud of it.

I am slowly becoming more experienced and improving my skills in Perl, but there is not a lot of scope for such improvement because of the extent of less challenging work. Most of my time is spent writing test plans and manually testing various system components, rather than writing code to perform the testing. I am beginning to assemble considerable knowledge of the systems I support, but I’m not sure how valuable that will be to me in my ongoing career. In my experience, many employers seriously undervalue the accumulation of business knowledge by their employees … they seem to believe that there is enough overlap of such knowledge that they can afford to let experienced employees go, either through layoffs or pay practices that are not competitive. It seems a penny wise, pound foolish philosophy, but is nevertheless widespread.

Lately the train has been full … perhaps as we approach the darkest and wettest time of the year, more people are unwilling to stand at bus stops or drive in the rain. I find that I usually have to share a table with two or even three other passengers, which can be a bit snug. One day recently I was typing away on some blog entry or other, and I noticed that a passenger beside me kept reading as I wrote. It made me rather uncomfortable … I usually get a chance to edit and rephrase before anyone sees what I write. We humans such strange, social beings … why should I care what a total stranger thinks of my rambling? And yet it stopped me from writing some of the things that I would ordinarily have said.

Kathy seemed discouraged last night … she feels overwhelmed by the competing priorities of home-schooling and parenting, not to mention the ongoing burden of keeping the house. She misses the teenagers who were available to help when we lived in the Duckabush. Once I started this job in April, she began hiring several helpers for as much as ten hours a week. She seems to feel that she is neglecting the older kids’ schooling and not giving David and Sarah enough attention … truly a lose/lose situation. My parents are helping, frequently babysitting and tutoring the older three … but Kathy still seems to feel that she isn’t able to do a good job in the time allotted. I certainly know how that is, feeling much the same way about my work situation … I wonder if there is something that can be done?

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‘Big Blue’ is a major help to Kathy in her read-aloud time, as demonstrated by showroom models, here.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed during this season … so much to be done by Christmas. Neither Kathy nor I do very well when faced with a deadline … we both tend to procrastinate and many things end up slipping between the cracks. Last night I finally paid some bills that badly needed paying … but there are still several Christmas gifts that need to be sent to out-of-town relatives, and we are rapidly approaching (if not already passing) the shipping deadline for packages to arrive by Christmas.

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Of course the season is not without rewards, such as this princely Christmas basket sent by Kathy’s Uncle Jim & Aunt Kay.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle it is easy to forget why it is that we celebrate Christmas. Joshua is memorizing Luke 2:1-19 and Kathy is doing a fairly detailed study of Advent with the kids each day. I think we just need to get our shopping and shipping done, and settle in for a delightful season of joy, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

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Work in the City

This is the building where I work — it is called the “PacMed” building — named for the Pacific Medical Center that still occupies a portion of the complex.

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It has a nice view of the city of Seattle from the 7th floor. Sadly, this is NOT a view from my window — but it is a view from a conference room where I often meet. I try to get a chair facing the window in case the meeting is boring (and most meetings are).

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Although the highway is within spitting distance (not that I’ve tried) of the building where I work, it takes me about 10 minutes to actually get ON the highway when I head south. This bewildering set of ramps is one of the things I have to navigate.

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The on-ramp for I-5 southbound actually begins near Safeco Field (seen in the background). Because of the unreliability of my little bronze car, I usually wait until the traffic has cleared (8 pm or so) before I head south, on the nights when I stay with my folks in Lakewood.

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A New Job

It is always exhilarating to begin a new job. It is also scary, headache-producing and exhausting, but I still enjoy it. It is fun to pit your wits against a new conceptual structure and wrestle it into a matrix of comprehension. It is also fun to display your intellect, character and skills to a new group of people who have not already formed fixed ideas of who you are. Mistakes and soured relationships from prior employment can be left behind, to be replaced by new errors and embarrassments.

I’ve never been a tester before. The formal term is “Quality Assurance” (QA) — the basic idea is to have a group of people who review new and updated systems to ensure that (a) all the new features work as planned, and (b) nothing else has been broken or disabled by the new code. Most people agree that a developer who creates the new functionality is ill-suited to test his own work — and so have been created Quality Assurance groups in nearly every Information Technology organization.

My job is two-fold — to ensure the quality of new systems produced by the groups that I support, and to increase the level of testing automation so that future QA efforts will be more exhaustive and less dependent on manual oversight. Long-term, I hope to build a set of automated testing tools that can be used for regression testing or daily validation.

I was hired as a contractor, for a 90-day term. Implicit in this arrangement is the suggestion that, after the 90 days has elapsed, I may be eligible for conversion to full-time employee. This depends, of course, on my performance and the needs of the company at that time. Ninety days is a good length of time for evaluating someone in my line of work — few people can (or will) conceal or misrepresent their work habits, ability and character for such a sustained period.

The worst part about this job is the commute. It takes me about two hours and 45 minutes to get to work in the morning, and right around three hours to get home — not much time left to enjoy my family, at least on weekdays. I only have to drive for about an hour of each way; I spend the rest of the time riding the bus, ferry, and shuttle van. On the ferry I have about 35 minutes to write on my laptop, as I am doing now.

I’ve been very much blessed over the past four years, working from home and enjoying my family. It was a tremendous gift from God to be allowed that daily, casual presence with my wife and children, even during my working hours. Last night when I got home, my little David and Sarah clung to me and sat on my lap for the first hour or so — even Joshua gave me a long (more than 30 seconds) hug. Kathy says that Joshua misses me the most, which surprises me — I keep expecting him to pull away from us, as he enters pre-adolescence.

It is hard to enjoy a gift for a long time and not feel as though it is an entitlement. I’m sure that many friends and family envied and even resented the privilege that I enjoyed, working from home for so long. Kathy tells me that most of the people, with whom she discusses my new commute, are singularly lacking in sympathy. Perhaps there is a sense in their minds that I had more than my fair share of privilege and it is proper and appropriate for me to experience the way the rest of the working world lives. It is unfortunate, because it cuts Kathy off from being able to receive support in this new (and rather unpleasant) lifestyle.

It must be very hard for Kathy to suddenly bear the full weight of parenting in addition to home-schooling — some nights the kids are already in bed by the time I get home. She is a very strong, cheerful and resilient person, but I’m sure that she feels the strain of suddenly being a “single mom” of five children.

I’m thinking seriously of moving to the city (maybe renting, at first) and making our home in the Duckabush available for lodging use by the Refuge. It would be sad to leave the beauty and comfort of our home in the valley, but I think it is more important for my children to have a Daddy underfoot, than for them to live in the country — cutting my commute down to an hour each way would free up almost four hours a day to be a family. Spending time together as a family is one of the highest values that I have — it seems foolish to allow this commuting situation to continue indefinitely.

It is a strange feeling, to depend on God for my future plans. I am more accustomed to a worldly perspective in which I make plans and try to include God where possible. I feel that at this point in my life, I want God to make the plans and to show me how I am involved. Now I just need to discover what God’s plan is for our family …

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