Monday, June 30, 2008

Take a deep breath

Today was a hard hard day.

Today was D-Day. "D" as in Done with current job. "D" as in Destitute. "D" as in I woke up with a huge headache after having bad dreams all night about the prospect of not getting the phone call I was hoping to get. Yeah, that didn't start with D but I D-serve some slack after the last three months.

June 30 marked the last day of my position with the Center of Technology in Education at The Johns Hopkins University. I spent the last (almost) year there working with some wonderful people in creating an online graduate program for technology leaders in a local school district. The teachers I worked with were great and the folks I worked with at CTE were great but I can honestly say I was not exactly stretched. I spent my time learning and reading and conversing about all things e-Learning, emerging technologies, instructional design, etc. But, there is only so much time you can spend in a day with your head buried in a journal (or staring at a computer screen reading online journal articles as the case may be). I needed more, I asked for more, but more was not forthcoming. I anticipated the end, but I hoped that I was being neurotic. Turned out I wasn't. I was given a few months to find a new position, under the guise that funding had been cut for my position (which I think was at least half-true), but it turned out to be the hardest few months of my life. This is especially true because I had just gone through the whole job-search process a year earlier when my position at PGCPS had been cut by the fabulous new CEO. I wasn't ready to go through all that again. I knew how hard it was to find a new job. I had thought I found the one. Oh-well.

So I started looking. I sent out countless applications and resumes. I was invited to dozens of interviews. I was down to the wire for about 4 different jobs. I didn't get any of them. I started to lose hope. It was hard. With Wifey home with the kids it is pretty old-fashioned around here with it being my sole responsibility to "bring home the bacon." Forget that, it really looked like I wasn't going to be able to bring home a pig's foot, let alone the bacon.

Then, something D-vine happened...

Wifey has a wonderful friend who married a wonderful man. That wonderful man happens to have a job at a place that I had been trying to get an interview with for (literally) months. I knew I was ready for that job. I knew I had what they wanted. But after being up against hundreds of other people for each of the previous jobs (thanks to our wonderful leader and his war in Iraq and the resulting depression that we aren't allowed to call a depression) it wasn't looking too good that my resume would be picked out of the pile. But, this is when Wifey's lovely friend's lovely hubby stepped in and got my foot in the door. I did have a few fall-back opportunities with local school systems but this was the job I wanted. I wanted to stay within the JHU community, I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to be able to build a position and have real responsibility with real people counting on me. That was what this job offered. I wanted it.

I got a call for a phone interview. It went well. It got me a second phone interview. It went well again. It got me a many-hour interview with a few different wonderful people. That went really well. I was invited back for a final interview and the most nerve-wracking presentation I have ever given. I didn't know the topic, I was not an expert, and I was standing in front of a panel of folks who lived what I was trying to tell them about. The nicest thing was that they didn't laugh at me. They listened, they asked impressive questions and I was able to provide reasonably coherent answers. It went well.

I got a call today. "D" day. The day when I no longer had a job or insurance or any way to support my family. I got the job. And there was much rejoicing.

I am very much looking forward to my first day. This next year is going to be a hUGE learning experience for me. But the folks I will be working with are amazing, they are all interested in learning as much from me as I am from them, and they seem to be willing to let me grow into this position. I can't wait. The challenge is long overdue.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Time to watch the grass grow

Well, its done. Yup, all of it. Every stinking bit of it. All that is left of my mammoth yard project is to watch the grass grow. I finished it off today by laying down the seed and fertilizer and covering it with hay. Yeah!

Here are some pics from the day plus a video of the finished product. I love the picture of poor JAM shoved into the back seat of the van with the hay surrounding him. I always wondered what 100 bucks worth of hay would look like, haven't you? I bought waaayyyyy too much. I had no clue how much it would take to cover the new seed so I bought as much would fit into the van without the seats in it. 12 bales. Let me tell you, a bale of hay covers a lot more than you think. I only used like 2 and a half. Thank goodness Behnkes said they would take back what I didn't use.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The most important "to-do"

Something happened today that really doesn't happen much in our house... We had no plan. None. Not one thing that we HAD to get done. We talked about getting this done or that done but when it came right down to it, not one thing was important enough to worry about. And in this time of job worries (no, I haven't written about that because when you think about something every second of every day the last thing you want to do is sit down and write about it), major home projects and a touch of extended family drama the last thing we have enjoyed is a time of rest. So guess what we did today. Not one dang thing that would check something off of our to-do lists.

Except the one that should be there each and every day, smack dab at the top of our lists...


Done. Got it. Scratch it off, at least until tomorrow.

I posted earlier about the Great Star Wars Adventure, and I mentioned our family breakfast on the new deck, and playing in the rain, and now we are all sitting around, golf on the TV (really only for me but the kids are actually a bit interested too!!!) while the kids play and Wifey is playing in the kitchen making some baby food for Pudge and life is really good.

And we are thankful.

The time has finally come.

In my estimation, part of having children, and being a responsible parent, is being very careful about what your children are exposed to and when. There are of course some times when you can't control what they come across but most times you can do a great deal to limit what your kids see and hear. For the past seven years we have done all that we can to control what JAM has seen, especially when it comes to the TV and movies that he watches. We've been around children and parents who speak of adult movies as if they were meant for young people, that four-year-olds going to see Spiderman or five-year-olds seeing Shrek are matters of course.

So, in a family where Star Wars has become part of our culture (no, not the real hard-core dress up like Stormtroopers stuff - although this is a great picture isn't it?) it has been really difficult keeping JAM from seeing the actual movies. We've known for a while that he has been getting close to ready so we started with some of the graphic novels last year for Christmas. He has honestly read each of them about 10-15 times. He has gotten his hands on all of my old Star Wars Legos and plays with them all the time. Really... all the time. Then, about two weeks ago JAM started to finally ask about seeing the movies. I smiled, knowing that it had only been a matter of time. But, I didn't say yes right away. I put him off for a while knowing that once this door was open it wasn't going to close again. I also knew that the earlier movies are far easier for younger viewers to handle. The movies made in the late 90's - early 2000's were much darker, more violent, and not at all appropriate for kids his age. So, after a few days of thinking about it we finally thought it was time. After a morning of a family breakfast outside, hanging out, playing in the rain and a little lunch it was naptime for the babies. And then it was movie time. And yes, JAM was out of his mind happy. It was all worth it. And, I am glad we waited until he was old enough to be really ready for it. He got to enjoy it, he understood (at least on a rudimentary level) the themes and why certain characters did what they did, and the smile on his face was just perfect.

I really didn't imagine the fun I would have watching this movie with my boy. I knew I loved the movies, and I knew he loved what he knew of the movies, but as I thought of putting those two things together I really focused on the appropriateness question, not the joy we would share. But as happy as I was for making him wait, I am happy for myself too. I didn't have to sit and cover his eyes or ears, I didn't have to answer any questions, I didn't have to censor anything. We just sat and enjoyed together. It was perfect.

Only now I have to think about how to time the viewing of the next movie. The credits hadn't even begun when he asked "Now can I watch The Empire Strikes Back?" That's my boy.

On a related note, I really recommend the Kids-in-Mind website for all parents to get acquainted with. We use it all the time before we even think about letting the kids see a new movie. It isn't a replacement for seeing the movies ourselves of course but it does give a ton of detail, more than even I think about as I watch the movies.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Welcome to my JHU Friends

This post is a welcome to all of my "students" that just started a course with me at The Johns Hopkins University. It will be an amazing trip and I wanted to say that I was so ... proud is not the right word ... impressed with all of you and the work you did Monday night. I threw a TON of new information at you all and wanted to see how it worked, didn't work, how we might stumble, etc. and you all stepped up and knocked it out of the park. Sorry, JAM had a baseball game tonight and I've got a million baseball metaphors in my head.

I now have all of your blogs in my reader and can't wait to see where this takes us.

Good luck and let Demetri or I know if you need any help. And I expect your delicious accounts to start filling up with blog help sites and tutorials very quickly. :)