Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fri 24 Oct 08

Mary scored some authentic Meijer bulk gummy bears. My mouth stated watering the moment she even mentioned the possibility. So many good memories. Best gummy bears in the world and for $1.50/lb (on sale) nobody’s even a close second. The Meijer shopping bag was a nice touch.

Thu 23 Oct 08

Autumn in central Washington is ridiculously nice. The colors here aren’t as dramatic as they were back in Michigan (more yellows and browns than flaming reds and oranges), but the constant sunny weather easily makes up for that. Every day it seems like it’s in the 60s with blue skies. Sometimes rain is forecasted and it gets cloudy for a few hours, but then the sun pops right back out. I planted grass in some large bare spots in the back yard about a month ago figuring we’d get some fall rain to help the process along. Nope. Still running the sprinkler. If you look closely in the picture on the left you can see that we have the slider door open and the thermometer reads 60 degrees in the shade yesterday evening.

All that said, there is some possibility that this will be our last autumn in Washington. No real plans yet, just some possible rumblings. The project that I’m working on ($545M interstate redesign) for work will be kicking off construction in the spring of 2010, which means that much of the environmental planning work (my work) will be completed by late 2009. There is environmental work that will continue throughout construction, but that will be handled by the state workers. Our office in Yakima was created solely to work on this project, so when the planning work slows up, no more office and no more environmental planner job for me. There are a couple of possibilities that would extend the life of the office:

    1. Funding comes through for a second phase of work on the interstate. This funding would have to be at least on an order of magnitude of what we’re currently working with. It seems unlikely though that given the current economic situation that legislators would push through approval for a tax to raise $1B for a wildlife-friendly highway. Our project director has already predicted that this won’t happen.

    2. Our company is able to rustle up enough work (smaller projects) in/around Yakima to justify keeping the office afloat. This also might include support work for the Seattle and Portland offices. I don’t see that one happening either, given the size of this city and the specificity (transportation) of most resumes in our office. The original plan had been for employees to transfer to other offices once the work in Yakima was completed and I think that’s how things will play out.

The possible disbanding of the Yakima office doesn’t bother me at all though. It’d be an excuse to do something new, whether that’s a new job in Yakima or somewhere else. But recently I have been ruminating on the prospect a little more. I should have plenty of warning, but even a full year’s warning is not that long when you consider the time to make new plans, find new work, get organized, and sell a house. Realistically we should figure out some sort of game plan in the next six months or so. As I see it, there are a few prevailing options for us if my office closes next fall/winter:

    1. Stay in Yakima.
    Mary keeps working and I would find a new job. We could stay in the house that we put so much work into in a neighborhood that we love. I could keep running around the mountains and our weather would stay ridiculously nice. I might have to take a pay cut and the job market in the fields I’m qualified in are not exactly booming in a city of 75,000. But all in all not much would change.

    2. Move back to Michigan. I’d transfer to the Grand Rapids office.
    We have offices everywhere (60,000 employees) and GR is no exception (that huge triangle building on the corner of Sparks and East Paris. This option is very much dependent on there being a specific job opening for me in GR. I would think another company branch shutting down would work in my favor, but definitely not guaranteed. Mary would find a new job (or maybe an old one). Pros: Most likely 100% of our moving costs would be covered by my work. I would probably keep my Washington salary and a cheap housing market means more disposable income. Mary could re-enroll in the Counseling Psychology Masters program that she was all set to begin before we left for Washington. We would be close to family. Cons: I passionately hate Michigan’s weather and lack of elevation. Hate. I might lose my mind drifting into wanderlust. And I would still be sitting in an office all day with no sunshine-filled weekend mountain outlet.

    3. Move back to Michigan. We both would find new jobs.
    Pretty much meaning that I would end up working with at-risk kids again in an experiential setting (probably at St. J’s again), running around constantly all day and getting paid for it. A job that more and more I realize may end up being my career. Moving costs would not be covered. My salary would potentially half of my current salary. I wouldn’t be locked behind cubicle walls all day.

    4. Move somewhere else. I’d transfer to another city that has a job opening in my field.
    This solves one issue with option #2 and last I checked there were at least thirty openings in various cities that I would be qualified for. We’d have income from day one. It’d be exciting to live somewhere new and we could pick an interesting locale. I’d still be at a desk and we’d have neither the comfort of the house we’ve developed over the last two years or the familiarity and convenience GR.

I was driving to the gym tonight and as I pulled up to a traffic light I felt myself start to get annoyed. There were four cars in each lane in front of me. Eight cars at one stop! I felt like I was suffocating in a traffic jam! I get so used to traffic-free drives that this was genuinely a frustrating feeling for me. Until I thought about it and started laughing. I love where we live. There are no traffic jams. It’s gorgeous here. We’re within a two hour drive from dozens of classic peak climbs. We have four seasons and huge amounts of sun (it was a big snow year last year and I barely shoveled the driveway). We can walk to a perfect park for running our dogs. There’s no state income tax. People are friendly. Granted crime is atrocious in some parts of the city, but I don’t ever have to go to those sections.

But I don’t feel good sitting in an office all day. I don’t feel purposeful in my work. I’m just working for a pay check. I honestly felt healthier and more energetic in my old routine in Michigan than I do now. And there are few other realistic work options around here (I’ve looked). Mary tolerates her job much more than I do, but I think she misses working with kids too. She misses home and having family close by more than I do. I know she really likes where we live now though too, so I guess we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.

Really all I want is to be able to stay here, get a new job as a wilderness counselor, make the same amount of money I’m currently making, and have Mary be able to start a Master’s program she loves. And the dogs are happy as long as they have a tree branch to chew on.

Wed 22 Oct 08

My wrestling coach interview went really well. I made a good connection, the questions were easy to answer, I could tell the other coaches liked me and my background, and the head coach told me “you had a great interview.” But there’s no way I got the job. They interviewed three people: myself, a guy who’d coached youth wrestling in the area, and a teacher from the district. And they pretty much have to give the district staff priority. I was told this twice, once as I first walked in and once on my way out.

I get how the system works. The company I currently work for consults with a state-funded agency and occasionally a state job opens up that is completely earmarked for an already employed employee. Everyone knows this, so nobody else applies. The higher-ups can’t just interview one person though, so they go around trying to coax other employees, even if horribly under-qualified to put their name in so that they can show that they went through the process to fill the new job. So, the same here. In this case I’m not horribly under-qualified, but since they only had one district applicant they had to interview outside. I can have a phenomenal interview, but this one’s earmarked from the get-go.

I think it could work out okay though. As I was leaving the head coach gave me a very genuine invite to come up and roll around at practice any time even if the job doesn’t pull through. And this might be even better. No time commitments or constraints, just wrestling and drilling for the fun of helping some high schoolers get better.

Sun 19 Oct 08

Productive weekend filled with yard work and dog walking. Sunny and in the upper 60s, very pleasant for our ultimate Frisbee game this afternoon. Saturday I cleaned out our gutters and scooped several years worth of acorns from our deck roof. The dogs looked a little puzzled.

Wed 15 Oct 08

First leaf-raking of the year. I guess that means it’s officially fall. Our trees are still mostly green, but the peach is dropping its leaves anyway. The big old oak tree is just beginning to get its fall brown.