Jonathan, almost crying: “Dad, I don’t want to play chess anymore. Nicolas won’t play easier.”
That’s Jonathan, the 7 year old intellectual prodigy, referring to Nicolas, the 5 year old boy who until recently tried hard to give the impression he had cotton fluff between his ears.
Editor’s note: see comments for title credits.
I’m going to write a post. It needs a witty title, and I’ve come up empty. So I’m having a contest. Suggest a title in the comments, and the best one (well, the one I like best) gets used. I’m guessing I’ll be biased toward something that sounds like it came from the pen of Dr. Seuss, but we shall see. I’ll change the post slug and everything (that’s wordpress-speak for the permanent URL). Okay, here’s the post.
When I opened the door to the garage, I noticed a smell. An evil smell, but I was thinking about other things and hustled the kids into the car so I could get them to school on time. Next I was off to the outplacement office for several hours of solitude and job searching. Then back to the car to drive home for a very late lunch. And when the AC kicked on, there was that evil smell again. “It’s soaked into my car!” I thought to myself, dismayed.
I chatted with Tricia while driving home, and she thought she had smelled something in the laundry room. I figured the smell had come in from the garage, which meant I had probably caught a stray mouse in one of the many traps hidden around the garage (leftover from the war that took place a couple months ago). When I got home, I checked it all out. Nothing. And the smell wasn’t very strong in the garage. Strange.
I ate lunch and then headed to my car, intending to drive to the library to work for a few more hours before dinner. The moment I opened the door to the garage, I was overcome by THE smell. The garage was thick with it. Hmmm… that meant whatever had died had to be… IN MY CAR! I drove to the library, parked in the parking lot, popped the hood, and started looking.
It took a few minutes, but I found it. I could only see the middle part of the body buried deep within the interworkings of a packed in import engine compartment, but I’m thinking rat. Either that, or squirrel, but my money is on rat.
It’s still out there, stinking up my car. I’m in here, trying to work, and thinking that this is one expense we will just have to bear. See, once I use our grill tongs to remove the critter this evening, those tongs are going straight into the garbage. And since we will be grilling for company this weekend, I’ll have to replace them. Some things are not meant to be washed and then used again for food prep.
Anyone following the mortgage/financial crisis we are in should probably read this: How to Get an “Iffy” loan approved at JPM Chase.
To summarize. The mess we are in, that the federal government is now bailing banks out of left and right at great cost to everyone else, was not some random business cycle. It was fraud.
First off, thanks to everybody who has been checking in on Tricia and I, expressing sympathy, and praying for us. Tomorrow will be three weeks since the layoff (really only about 2.5 weeks since I began the job search in earnest) and I had some good news to report. We’ll get to that in a moment.
I have continued to find this whole process of finding a job extremely time-consuming. However, with the kids on spring break last week through this Monday, I did largely take a break from it Friday morning until Monday evening. Instead, I built a picnic table with the kids on Friday (still have to finish the sanding and sealing), and then we all went to the Arboretum on Monday. Our family was treated to free parking and passes courtesy of a wonderful neighbor who loaned us his season pass (good for up to a family of six… just right). Oh yeah. There was also the small matter of the lake.
I’ve actually felt pretty good this past week. I don’t really notice intense, almost dizzy bouts of panic like I did that first week. However, my body is sending different sorts of signals. As I previously mentioned, I had my first real migraine in a couple years a bit over a week ago, and it was huge. Then I had a smaller one a couple days later. And I can’t seem to sleep very much, which is making me feel more and more fatigued. So I figure I’m still not yet “anxious for nothing”, and there’s more to learn from this whole experience.
I’m on my, oh, I don’t know, let’s say eighth version of my resume. I’ve been focusing on patiently working connections rather than simply submitting my resume via job posts. And that brings us to our good news. I had spotted a job at TI that looked interesting, and then ended up making a connection with the husband of a former colleague who was in that very group and knew the hiring manager.
Which led to my first interview yesterday. A phone interview, but an interview all the same. It went well, which was gratifying. I was startled by how nervous I felt. Normally, I’m fairly confident and have a decent track record in interviews. But yesterday I was feeling more like a guy who couldn’t keep a job and a lot less like the up-and-coming leader I’ve felt like in previous interviews. So I spent the final few minutes before the phone rang on my knees praying, which was probably a good thing to do even if I hadn’t gotten a bit wobbly in the legs.
Success in a job search feels very binary. You succeed when you get a job. But large goals are so much easier to manage if broken into a series of smaller steps with attendant celebrations (or recriminations). So I’m celebrating the interview and wanted to publicly acknowledge my thanks to God for his provision.
Regarding that lake. To review. I took a shower that was lukewarm. I looked under the house and saw several inches of standing water as far as the eye could see (which was, admittedly, fairly limited given it is a crawlspace with ducts throughout). I checked the water meter, and there were no leaks. So I reached the tentative, and admittedly impossible, conclusion that we were leaking hot water, but only when the water was running.
We had a plumber come by the next day. Turns out the number one cause of death for plumbers is electrocution, so he would not go under the house with all the water there. But he also said it was too shallow and dispersed to pump out. And he said my hot water leak hypothesis was impossible. Instead we had a broken cartridge in our shower faucet and an unrelated incursion of water from the recent rains.
Our shower faucet is of the unknown variety, so I headed to Teter’s Faucet and ordered a new one. Then I jammed a screwdriver in the old one and broke it further before putting the whole thing back together. Now it is biased toward hot water instead of cold water as we await the arrival of our new cartridge… much better for showers.
About the water. It’s actually very good news. We already knew we had a moisture problem under the house (due to the cupping of our wood floors), and we knew roughly how much it will cost to fix (installing powered fan vents). We just didn’t know how bad it could actually get after 7 inches of rain. What does all this mean? That no new expenses were introduced into the mix. If we spend money to control the moisture under the house, it isn’t a repair, and was already known.
But what to do in the interim when we can’t spend the money? And how do we lose the water so someone is willing to wire up electric fans under the house? I had this vision of using these, attached to a fan sitting at the entrance to the crawlspace, and venting the moist air out a window. Then my brother-in-law Peter asked, “Why don’t you just turn the fan facing down?” Yes, well, why not indeed.
So, here’s what my plywood-form-with-weatherproofing-and-big-fan looks like. It works amazingly. We just opened a window and closed the door to the room. Two days later, there is no visible water under the house, and the dirt looks less like mud and more like, well, dirt.
Or, how I’ve stayed busy thus far, in no particular order.
- Created a resume and sent it out (building a useful receiver list is actually quite time consuming)
- Created another resume that is intelligible to smart folks who happen to not have a background in telecom
- Sent that one out (much easier… just reused the previous receiver list)
- Answered most every email that came back in response
- Mailed rebate for new T-Mobile phone (easy)
- Mailed rebate for new laptop (hard… somehow lost the receipt and had to drive back to the store)
- Was conquered for the first time in my life by a piece of technology, my new T-Mobile Dash phone. I fought back, and I think I won, but it took quite a bit of time.
- Got my laptop set up the way a laptop should be set up.
- Filed for unemployment online
- Called unemployment office to discuss the set of questions that were impossible for me to answer honestly. Here’s how it went down. Question: did you receive wages this week? Answer: Yes. Question: How many hours did you work for these wages? Answer: Zero. Oops. Zero isn’t a valid answer. But my job related activities were to all cease the day I was laid off. And I’m still on payroll for the time being.
- Started jumping through hoops in support of unemployment insurance, whenever it does kick in. Pretty easy, really, as I was already doing all sorts of job searches and job applications and was keeping a journal of all of it.
- Did all sorts of job searches and job applications and kept a detailed journal. Wrote cover letters where possible.
- First went to the hospital at which all my children were born and then the county clerk’s office. Got a birth certificate for Josiah (already had one for the other kids).
- Used birth certificates and tax returns to prove my dependents are really my dependents so they stay covered on my insurance (for the short time I have it). I call this the new “No (love) child left behind” except, of course, they are trying to leave (love) children behind.
- Had the first killer migraine I’ve had in a couple years. Really bad. I’m at a loss as to what the trigger was, given that I generally get migraine’s from emotional stress.
- Canceled lots of services, including my broadband card with Verizon Wireless.
- Desperately tried to pay off my Verizon account, but no one would take my money since, you know, my account was canceled. Like this was a new situation they had never encountered. Eventually had to drive to an ATM, get lots of cash, then drive to a Verizon store and hand the cash to them.
- Sent in various signed pieces of information to various locations to secure my severance package.
- Went on bike ride with my dad, a round trip from Valley View Park to White Rock Lake. On the way, we were pushing into 70 mile an hour wind. I don’t remember coming back, as the 8 miles went by so quickly it was a blur, what with a typhoon blowing us home.
- Worked most nights very late into the night / early morning looking over job posts and responding to email.
- Pretended Friday was Saturday (you can do that when you don’t have a job). In the morning, enjoyed a wonderful grandparent’s day program at the Covenant School. Then spent some time weeding the yard and hanging out. Even flew kites with the kids at the nearby elementary school yard.
- Will probably end up pretending Saturday is Friday…
I was laid off Thursday by Alcatel-Lucent. At one level, I’ve known this was a very real possibility for some time now. It still came as a shock, and the initial information given me regarding the package was quite ugly. By Friday, however, I had a complete picture and was glad to discover the package was actually very equitable. So I’ve got some time to find another job.
Thursday was spent dealing with the initial emotions and panic. I was walked within an hour of being notified, sans my laptop and phone (both owned by my employer). I still have three boxes to unpack. Friday gave me a chance to work through the details of the package, talk a good bit to HR, and begin the slash and burn of our ongoing expenses.
By Friday evening I had also figured out that I did not want to put my job search at risk by performing it from the kitchen (where our home computer resides). I immediately began looking for a good deal on a phone and laptop, both of which I purchased on Saturday, after having a long discussion with my daughter about the concept of “it takes money to make money” to give her the chance to understand why I was spending money on a computer while cutting all sorts of other costs.
I’m now sitting at a table in our local library using their free wifi with my new laptop writing this post, listening to Royal Hunt and other obscure euro-metal bands on Pandora Radio. I’ve got a rough cut resume done, and an ever-growing checklist of stuff to do (sign the termination package, send in laptop rebate, etc.). My goal is to enjoy a day of rest and worship tomorrow, and then spend Monday morning putting together a job search strategy, as well as starting to tackle that checklist.
I leave you with the Psalm that came to mind for myself and Tricia (independently, I might add) on Thursday, and then showed up in an email to me from one of the deacons at our church the next day.
Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus? was my introduction to Larry Norman.
Sipping whiskey from a paper cup, You drown your sorrows till you can’t stand up,
Take a look at what you’ve done to yourself, Why don’t you, you put the bottle back on the shelf,
Yellow fingered from your cigarettes, Your hands are shaking while your body sweats,
Why don’t you look into Jesus, He got the answer.
Gonorrhea on Valentine’s Day (v.d.), And you’re still looking for the perfect lay,
You think rock and roll will set you free honey, You’ll be dead before you’re thirty three,
Shooting junk till you’re half insane, Broken needle in your purple vein,
Why don’t you look into Jesus, He got the answer.
He was not a normal man, let alone normal Christian, but some of his music moved me. I can remember painting in our first house while blasting Only Visiting This Planet (Tricia was out and about). Perhaps this is a good tribute: Razing the Bar (ht Looking Closer Journal).