Spinning Head

I feel like I am announcing that my wife is pregnant, waiting until we know the baby is healthy and growing inside of her before broadcasting the good news.  I think it’s safe to say this, although nothing is 100% official yet, nothing is in writing but should be by tomorrow.

Last Tuesday I received a verbal job offer from the managing director of the U.S. subsidiary of a company based in Budapest.  This was after I met the owners during a Skype interview, a bit odd as they were concluding their work day in Budapest.  It was 10 in the morning here.  There were times I had to stifle a laugh as the Hungarians on the other side of the computer webcam got caught up in their excitement over something we discussed, forgot we were watching and engaged in a full blown discussion in their language.  I liked the people I met that morning, liked it even better when the managing director showed me around the small office I will be sharing with him and the office manager, then told me he was writing up the official offer for approval and presentation to me on April 25.

He sent me an email tonight.  They are proposing I start with the company on May 1, fly to Budapest on May 3, attend sales meetings there and train with them until May 15.  I will know tomorrow if the offer is officially approved, if I will actually be working for the company.

My head is spinning.  All of this happened very fast.  March 27 I woke up for the first time in more than 24 years without a job.  March 28 I found out that this job may be coming available.  I am perfect for this job, a much better opportunity than anything that would have been made available to me at my previous job, with so much potential that really depends on what I make of the opportunity.  There is risk because this is a new venture, but I love the fresh feel of starting with a ground floor venture.  The new company was not planning to hire until June or July, but I am perfect for the job because this company is a European equivalent to the company I worked for.  I fell into their lap, made it easy for them, so suited to them that they decided they need me now!

I get to fly to Budapest.  Wow.  I worked for a company that had offices in Belgium, Brazil, Shanghai, Toronto.. and I worked with all of them, but they never once sent me there.

So much more I can and want to say.  This time has been a time where God has shown me so much mercy, shown me that He really does look out for me.  I have found out that I have many, many, many genuine friends and relationships.. and I am grateful.  Support has come in so many ways.  I want to talk about that more, but I am going to save that for another blog.

AIN’T THIS COOL?!!?

I Work On The Meaning Of Life

Easter has come and gone, bringing with it hopes of warmer temperatures along with all manner of sprouting green plants and awakening grass.  In my household that means we finally get out of the house.  Our house is not a large house and after a long, frigid winter we begin to resemble Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy

All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy

All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy

All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy

All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy

All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy

Heh heh heh

Not that I have stayed in all of the time.  This is my year to shine again on the bicycle, I have decided, and as soon as temperatures began to climb over 20 degrees I started riding my bicycle outside.  I have been riding consistently since the beginning of March and am already beginning to feel good on the bike.  Last week I got out on the dirt trails, my mountain bike a bit rusty since my blue weenie ride in January, but the trails were perfect Wednesday night.  Since I enjoyed myself so much on Wednesday, I went back again on Thursday.

I ran over a rock the size of a loaf of bread, the wrong way so that it flew straight up and broke off the rear derailleur (translation:  shifter) on my mountain bike.  Oops.  The parts won’t be in until at least this Wednesday.  I got my exercise the rest of Thursday’s ride by hiking out to the parking lot with my bike slung over my shoulder.

Miriam frowned when I told her.  She reminded me that we don’t have health insurance right now.  Oops again.

It’s also fib truthfully season.  Nate and I are playing golf again.  Anyone who plays golf knows what I mean when I say ‘fib truthfully’.  It’s an art I see practiced most on the golf course.

The thought struck me last evening as we walked a fairway together that golf is the time when Nate really treats me like his father.  We don’t argue.  Lately Nate has been arguing with me about getting a smart phone and we had an argument about it all weekend.  Did he mention it on the golf course?  Not once nor did he on the way home.  I realized that it’s always that way when we are playing golf.

Hmmmm…. is there a way we can play golf all of the time?  I might actually get somewhere with the kid.

Nate is my size now.  When we played golf last November, I was hitting the ball farther than him.  The first time Nate and I played together this year (a week ago last Sunday), Nate was hitting 270-280 yard tee shots.  He has almost always been a better golfer than me but at least I could out drive him before now.  Oh well.  I don’t have to be better, just available.

And, finally, I thought I would share this little scene from the street in front of my house this afternoon.  It’s my neighbor Doug getting his ten year project running, a restored John Deere tractor.  Sweet.  I wouldn’t have seen that happen had I been at work.

Makes me think I am back home around Springfield, not in Chicagoland.

Makes me think I am back home around Springfield, not in Chicagoland.

Time To Write?

I am unemployed.  Some day I will write about how that happened, but for now….

I won’t.

After more than 24 years working for the same company, suddenly I have to try to figure out the nuances of looking for a job.  Times have changed.  No longer do I grab the newspaper and look up the want ads.  Everything is online with most applications linking to some type of social network – LinkedIn, Facebook, Indeed.  The way of writing a resume has evolved, including the necessity of inserting words that recruiters and company HR will use as keywords when they search for possible candidates.  Networking is done through email and FB contacts.  The old fashioned way of networking still exists and may still be the best way to find a job, however.  It still comes down to who you know.  In that way, 24 years experience helps.

It also hurts.  I am in that age category that is avoided, likely the reason why the growing company who just fired me was so eager to show me the door.  My replacement will likely be a recent college graduate.  They are looking for someone with an engineering degree, to fit a job description that looks like it was written with me in mind.  I chuckled when I saw that.  My college degree is a ministry degree. 

I am replaceable, I know.  Just ask my wife.

We are on a budget, one of those “geez, we’re going to have to sell a kid soon” budgets. 

The challenge is to concentrate my efforts on productive job leads.  There is a whole lot of..ummm.. well.. stuff I would never consider doing that is available as employment.  Gone are the days where I can go back to being a gigolo to pay the bills.

Nick, our sheltie, has the worst breath in the world.  Miriam calls him Tijuana Breath (she and I have enough experience there to qualify that one, especially from the ‘toilet’ facilities we had on our trips there).  My typical day starts with my getting out of bed at 5 AM as I am accustomed, then I leave the house.  It helps me to feel like I am going to a job.  Last week I stayed away all morning because the kids on Spring break from school and home all day.  This week I come home when I know my family is gone and get busy.  Nick is my constant companion, a nice thing except for when Nick gets tired of waiting for me to pay attention to him, stands next to me and pants in my direction.  I think the hair that I have left is turning green and curly.

Several friends have encouraged me to make sure I make this a time to recuperate, take time each day for myself.  That does not mean hours of Call of Duty.  My lunches the last two days have been spent riding a bicycle.  Three out of the last four days have seen me on a bicycle. 

Maybe some one will hire me to ride a bicycle?

I got to see my son play, and win, his first singles match for the high school tennis team.

My days have been very busy, much more than I could have ever imagined, but without the constant deadlines that seemed to be ever present during my work days the last couple of decades.  Believe it or not, I miss those deadlines and the purpose they gave to me.  The time without them has provided an odd feeling peaceful rest, productive, giving me energy that I have not had for a while.  It’s not like I wasn’t energetic before now, but, well, it is different.

The tables have turned a bit too.  A week before I was terminated, Miriam was promoted to a supervisory role at the elementary school lunch room.  She starts work at 7:30 AM, comes home mid afternoon.  Suddenly she is going to sleep early, waking up early instead of staying up past midnight and sleeping past eight every morning.  Weird.  That means I can roam the house in my BVDs all day.

Not really.  Don’t lose sleep with that picture in your head.

I do have a job prospect.  I have found several opportunities.  This time of unemployment may not last long at all.  We’ll see.

 

I Have A Talking Bike

We’re sick of existing indoors.  Just ask my bicycle, who after a short spin on the horrid stationary trainer while watching the latest episode of the Walking Dead, is leaning against the doors of the utility room in our kitchen and wailing about wishing for a long spin out in the fresh air.

“There is no where to go in here!” laments my cabin ridden bicycle.  It has spent the majority of this winter in the frigid temperatures of the garage, a few weeks ago readied for the season to come with a thorough going inspection and cleaning.  Really all my bike needs is some fresh rubber.

Image

I try to console my old friend with assurances that the weather will break in a week or two, the stranglehold the polar vortex has on the Chicago area gone, it’s last icy breath exhausted.  We will go on daily spins, short hour long jaunts after work and long relaxed strolls along the rolling hills west of our house on the weekends, the open prairies and wetlands of Fermilab less than a mile from our driveway.  This is what I dream of, aware that my dreams will come to reality soon.

Until then we go stir crazy.  My bike will return to the garage tonight until tomorrow’s workout, once again lamenting the cold isolation.

Some morning I will hear it crying from the garage — “COME ON, FAT A@@, GET OUT HERE AND RIDE!!!”.

Reality Bites

At Taylor University in Indiana with our daughter, Alyssa, right now.  She is interviewing for a scholarship tomorrow, staying in the dorm tonight.  We had dinner at the college tonight, then I left her to the first meeting for her scholarship and won’t see her again until tomorrow.  Felt real weird when it was time to say good bye tonight.. like my baby isn’t a baby any more.  Sigh.  The reality bite is kind of sobering.

That was my Facebook post a few minutes ago, unexpected tears filling my eyes as I wrote those last few words.  I really didn’t expect those tears, didn’t realize what I would be facing this weekend while taking my daughter to visit the college she will be attending this coming August.

I kind of feel old all of a sudden.  I miss her in some stupid way.  And I am so proud of her I can hardly describe it.

Taylor University is about a three and a half hour drive from our house.  Not too far away but far enough for her to be out of reach.  Being out of reach is not really an issue because Taylor is a Christian college with a unique community, a place where she can develop a faith that prepares her for eternity, perhaps more important than the education she will receive.  Our trip today was just me and her, another reason I looked forward to our trip, a dad and daughter day, maybe one of the last times I will get my little girl to myself.

I say “little girl” for a reason.  This is an orientation weekend, with around 700 parents and future students here, some visiting for the first time, some to find out more, some with students already accepted and here to interview for scholarships.  It started at six with a dinner, then parents and students went separate ways for various scheduled activities.  I looked at Alyssa, realized she was going off on her own, worried that she would be anxious about spending the night with people she had never met, in a college dorm.

“Dad, remember you left me at drum major camp by myself last summer and I didn’t know anyone then.  I was fine.  I am fine tonight.  Don’t worry.”

And she was right.  I was a bit embarrassed.  I am not the worrying type or at least not the type to show it.  She walked away, looked back at me to wave, and left with a student chaperone.  I was left with the other parents, all of us with various stages of concern on our faces.

I went to a small Q & A dessert at a professor’s home, listened to other parents ask questions, gave my story when my turn came during the introductions.

“My daughter has known she wanted to come to Taylor since she was a freshman in high school, known she wants to be a teacher since she was a little girl.  She took it easy on me when it came to visit colleges, had me visit two — first another college and then Taylor, and the other college visit was just to show me how good Taylor really is.”

It’s true.  During that introduction and time with the other parents was when I felt the weight of how real this is.  My girl is not my little girl any more.  She has been ready to grow up for a long time and maybe, just maybe, she is ready to do that now.

Dang it.  Dang it.  Just dang it.  Why does she have to grow up?  No.  I want it to happen and I don’t.  And I feel silly for feeling that way.  Real, real silly.

Today’s trip was so good.  So good.  She has so much of me in her, just enough of her mother, but so much of me that I feel alone thinking about not having her around full time any more.  I have until August.

I am going to be a basket case on August 22.

Valentines Thoughts

The chocolate and card is ready.  Beyond that not much else is expected.  So it goes on Valentines day for a well weathered couple after twenty two years of marriage.  I know what may happen when I walk through the door with my offering to her tonight — surprise and OH CRAP (my Baptist spouse will not likely use the word CRAP).  Why?  I know my wife.  She has been playing the “will he get something for me?” guessing game all week.  I will present my offering, she will thank me, then run out the door to buy a response at Walgreens.

Junior Mints, please.

Oh, yes, you can borrow my debit card.

A lot more interesting than my own “love” life will be seeing how this Valentines goes for my 17 year old daughter.  This year there is no boyfriend in the picture.  However, there are several suitors drooling in the wings.  She has been leading one boy around by the nose for several months now, the pitiful soul rushing to her whenever she calls.  The kid trips over himself.  He rescued her last year when her boyfriend broke up with her a few days before the homecoming dance and took her to the dance.  Ever since he has been following her around like a puppy dog.  Thing is that my daughter is just leading him on.  She is not interested in him at all.  But he doesn’t care how much she abuses him.  The other day he came over to take her somewhere, sat on the couch and watched while I played Call of Duty, sucking up to me so much that I almost said something (I held it in — but I just felt like advising the boy to dial it down a few notches). 

It’s funny to see that scenario from the dad end rather than from the suck up side.

 

Icy Thoughts

Below zero temperatures have been the norm this Winter, as has been snowfall, phenomena that should not be all that unusual for northern Illinois and Chicagoland.  We have been spoiled in a way the past few years with mild Winters.  Last year, for instance, Nate had played several rounds of golf by now, the grass around here greening early and the transition from Winter to Spring barely an event.  2011 was the same way, the money I paid for indoor bicycle training classes seemed a waste by February because the weather was already suitable for riding outside, with so little precipitation that the roads were clear for riding.

Living with my PT Loser is always a challenge, especially during the Winter months.  When it is cold, there usually is barely enough cranking power left in the battery to turn the engine over much, so if the engine doesn’t fire after a few cranks I am usually resigned to using the jump start battery.  I don’t even keep the battery in the trunk any more.  It is on the floorboard of the back seat where I can get to it faster.  There is a power draw somewhere in the car, so I also keep the negative battery terminal loose and disconnect the cable when I get out of the car.  I am not sure how many times coworkers have come up to me to let me know that my hood isn’t latched.  My CAR hood….

The PT Loser doesn’t get to live in our garage.  The much favored family van lives there, as does the ping pong table and eight bicycles.  That is tough on a car, so I try to cut my old car a bit of slack when I go out to start it on cold mornings like today’s -4 degrees F.  This morning I went through the normal routine — lift the hood, push the negative battery terminal down on the battery, drop the hood, climb in behind the wheel while speaking soothing words to my car as I slip the key in the ignition.

“You can do this, buddy.  I know you can.  Just fire for me.”  My breath comes out a frozen fog of vapor as I plead with the PT.  I swear I see an eyebrow raise over the left front headlight, as if my car is expressing its doubts.  I expect it will try to start.  As much of a mechanical wreck my car is, one redeeming quality of the PT Loser is its heart.  At 105K miles it still runs well.  And when there is enough juice in the battery, especially if I go out and start it before going to bed, it usually fires when I turn the key.  This Winter has been incredibly hard on any car, definitely hard on a car that sits outside all of the time, so the PT Loser has had it’s share of non-starts.

I turned the key, expecting a slow cold cranky complaint in return.  Instead the engine fired almost simultaneously with the turn of the key, as if the PT Loser was anticipating the command.  I chuckled incredulously at the pure impossibility of the event, surprised at my good fortune, amazed as the engine hummed smoothly as if it were a warm Summer day.  My car earned a few extra points, saved itself a few future tire kicks.

Winter will breathing its last gasps in a few weeks.  On Saturday, I loaded my road bicycle into the back seat of the PT and took it to a friend’s bike shop for a thorough going over and tune up.  The shop took the bike completely apart, cleaned all of the parts, checked the chain, trued the wheels, replaced worn spokes, adjusted the brakes and shifting, and even put new red handlebar tape on.  It’s read to ride, waiting for me on its hanger in my garage.  I will ride my back up bike on the indoor trainer, get out on the mountain bike, until the Winter muck is off of the roads and my white steed can be safely subjected to the outdoors.

I like the Winter and snow.  I know it is about gone, so I can tolerate a few more weeks of cold, ice, and white landscape.  Unlike the past few years, the transition from Winter to Spring will be a true event, a celebration that everyone around here has been anticipating.

Heck, maybe this year should be celebrated by a naked bike ride?

 

Hummenna

Hi.  Hello.  Heh.  Yeah.  Uh huh.  Snow.  White.  Cold.  Is that a bagel I am eating?  Oh no, guess not.

First Tuesday of the month was last night.  For me, that means I get the privilege of giving back to my community and go to the monthly meeting for the city commission I serve on.  Yippee.  Someone throw some confetti.

It was the shortest meeting I have attended roughly forty minutes long, if that.  And all because of Natalia.

Hi.  Hello.  Heh.  Yeah.  Uh huh.  Ummm.  What was I saying?

Oh yeah.  Nataliaaaaaaaaaa.  Efficient Natalia, who replaced Lee as the city representative to our commission while he is on sick leave.  Tall Natalia in a tight short skirt, who turned our all male commission into a group of babbling numbskulls when she walked into the meeting room, fools barely able to contain our puppyish enthusiasm.  Russian accent Natalia, who read the city report and the otherwise boring OMA garbage in a way that left us incapable of speech.  Although, I swear we asked questions just so we could hear her talk.  It didn’t hurt that our agenda was short, but having Natalia there helped us zoom through the meeting with little fanfare, just rapt bliss.  At one point I looked around the room at the faces of my fellow commissioners, all with silly deer in the headlights grins on their faces.

We’re all hoping Lee a long recovery.  Take your time, buddy.

Would You Read This?

For years I have wanted to find out if I can write a story, testing the waters now and then, sticking my toe in then pulling it out.  For a while, I wrote little short stories from my blog (not this one) and had a lot of fun with it.  Three times I have put myself through the experiment called NaNoWriMo, culling one marginally usable story from that experience.

Someone encouraged me once to begin by telling my own story, that other stories would come from telling my own experiences.  In a way, that is what blogging has been for me.  Really that is what it has become.  I like to tell stories, seem to have a lot to tell.

So that is what I am going to do.  I am going to start with my own story and see where that takes me.  The characters have already been written.  I know them and their colors are in my mind.

I don’t have much yet, but here is the intro I wrote over the weekend.  Would you read this if I kept going with it? –

My childhood was spent mostly blissfully unaware, blind to the troubles and worries the world have brought to my adult self, hooded in the aura of small town life and a family strength that simply prevented life from swallowing me up.  Maybe that does not make sense to someone who has not experienced what that is like, missed out on the opportunity so to speak.  For me it is impossible to imagine my childhood being lived any other way, barefoot memories mixed pleasantly amongst carefree days on a bicycle, roaming the neighborhood on bubbly black tarred gravel streets, the sting of the thick tar oblivious to the calloused toughness of my perpetually bare feet even on the hottest summer day, a baseball glove hooked on the handlebar of my bicycle and a basketball tucked under my arm.  Pictures from those days show me shirtless, tanned, a boy with a butch haircut.  Usually my brother, Mark, squatted next to me with that I-know-something-you-don’t smirk on his face, stocky and strong, deceptively stoic.  Oddly enough he is still that same boy today, a bit of an adult his entire life.  He was my companion and best friend, not that I knew it then, a year younger than I but his practical strength part of the reason I survived through those naïve days.  Family made us both stronger, not just the family Mark and I were born into, but also neighbors and church who knew us in a way only possible with the familiarity small town life brings.  Looking back, that was what defined my childhood – family, church, neighbors, and St. Louis Cardinal baseball – a carefree freedom that shaped me into the person I am today, however good or bad that may be.  I like it.

A Weekend In My Briefs

Hanes.  Tighty whities.

The kids left for a winter church youth group retreat at Lake Geneva on Friday evening.  They were not going to get back until Sunday afternoon.  Yeahhhhhh babeeeeeee!!!!!  Time to roam the house like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.  I popped my Bob Seeger in the CD player, ready to par-tay.

Mir looked at me like she always does.  Steve is nuts, kooky, off kilter, goofing on Elvis (or Seeger in this case).

The Xbox was mine all mine.  Mir chilled on the couch reading a book while I saved the world one video bit at a time.  We took a break to hit the hard stuff — Blizzards at DQ (Reeses for Mir, Heath Crunch for me).  Mir did something she rarely does, she went to bed early.  I did something I rarely do, which is stay up past ten PM.  I kept saving the world until almost 3 in the morning. 

Mir slept in.  I got up at 8, which is sleeping in for me.  Peace.  I took in new snow that had fallen over night, brewed a pot of coffee, enjoyed a sweet bowl of Cream of Wheat, settled in with a book and took an occasional break by looking at used cars on the internet.  No hurry.  No dad taxi required all day.  I had done the checkbook Friday night, so that was done.  Nothing.  All.  Day.  When it came time to shower, I left the bathroom door open, walked the house in the pink, did the humpty hump for Mir as I grabbed some clean tighties for the day.

We did our own thing all day yesterday.  Enjoyed an evening of dinner, cards and a movie with Mir’s sister and her sister’s boyfriend (Arvind).  Actually watched an R rated movie (Rush) without worrying about the occasional nudity in the movie.  This was a wild time for us.  And we went to bed at the same time, something that happens so rare that I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Not a bad weekend.  Not bad at all.