Archive for June, 2011

The phone is for me?

June 23, 2011 1 comment

Ever have one of those days where you are busy but don’t really do much?  Today has been one of those days.  I have spent most of the day on the phone.  This wasn’t how I had planned to spend my day, but it ended up this way.

I got up with the idea that I was going to do some dishes (I know…how exciting!) and then help mow my former employer’s lawn (I plead the 5th on this one).  After this I would watch my recorded Mariner’s game in the afternoon before we had to do some grocery shopping.

Last night I had done an online application for the EBT program that gives money for food.  I really didn’t expect to hear anything right away.  But right after breakfast (or as my two girls call it, breh-fix) I got a call to confirm information.  Well, that call turned into five calls from the same very helpful lady.  And it kept me on the phone for awhile.  Good news is after all those calls from her, we are getting very generous benefits and so we will be eating some good food!

During the last phone call, she told me that there was a man (Mark) working for a medical center in Seattle that is using my Social Security Number!  She encouraged me to go to the Social Security office and find out what I could do about it.  So, I thought I would run and pick up the food card and then go to the SS office.

Meanwhile the mail came.  I got a letter saying that my kids couldn’t be covered by the insurance policy that I had applied for.  It wasn’t open enrollment season so they couldn’t be covered.  With our insurance coverage ending at the end of the month, I didn’t want to mess around with this.  So, I had to call them.  Found out that I just needed a letter from my former employer.

So, after sending an email and walking over to the office, the letter was going to be sent and I could head out on my errands.  Picking up the card was quick and I headed to the SS office.  I took a number and realized that it was going to be a long wait.  I saw a sign that gave a phone number to call, so I headed out to my car and called them.  They gave me another number to call to report identity theft.

I came home and had lunch, and then called the identity theft number.  Another helpful person took my information and then told me how to report it to the credit agencies.  She also said I had to file a police report.  So, I called the credit report company (see..lots of phone calls!) but ended up going to their website to report the identity theft.  Got that taken care of and saw my credit report (which is still pretty good).

Got a text from a friend who needed some computer help and yes, I called to her to help her out.

My next call was to the local police.  First number was the wrong department and so I had to call another number.  Gave the basic information and, surprise surprise, I have to wait for another phone call!

In the mean time, I called back to the SS office to make sure that I covered everything, I found out that I am doing what I am supposed to do.  Then I called to check the balance on the food card (which isn’t activated yet).

So, here it is most of the way through the after noon and basically I have talked on the phone most of the day. I decided to throw in a blog in between phone calls because I think that this is the most phone calls I have ever had in one day when I wasn’t working.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had any calls about a job.  You would think with over 30 active applications that I would get at least one call!

My main question after all these phone calls is this: What would I do without my phone?


The story that I am looking forward to telling

June 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I have been unemployed for almost three months now. (You can read about it here.)  I thought it might be fun to tell the story of my new job before I actually get the job.  So, that is what this blog is going to be.  A little fantasy story for you to enjoy.

The quest for a job is not always a fun one.  When I found out last November that I was going to be unemployed in March, I figured that it wouldn’t be a problem to find a job.  To be honest, the first couple of months, I mostly just worked on my resume and focused on finishing up that semester’s classes in Seminary.  When January rolled around, I started looking harder.  My wife would even jump in and do some searching for me.

I applied for a job at a Christian conference center.  I didn’t get an interview for that position, but when an even better position opened up, I sent my application off once again.  I went through the interview process which included a failed trip to visit the center.  That trip was interrupted by the tsunami warning and our family drove back home in the middle of the night.  In the end, I was disappointed in being the second choice for the position.

So, it was back to finding other positions to apply for.  Along the way there were a few interviews, but nothing ever materialized. It wasn’t until the end of June that I got my big break.  Jen and I had determined that if possible, we would like to be able to live close to where we had been living so that our kids could go to a particular school.  I was applying for all types of different jobs all up and down the I-5 corridor in Washington and Oregon, so I could end up getting an offer that would cause us to move.  We spent much time in prayer about what job I would end up with. (FYI up to this point, the story is true…the fantasy takes over now.)

So I was called in for an interview.  Was I ever excited and nervous.  After not getting call backs from so many different applications, I was excited to finally get to the interview stage again.  I changed things up from my normal interview attire and went with some clothes that would go with my new dress shoes and tie.  I figured that I needed some new mojo going into this interview.  I arrived a few minutes early and found the bathroom so I could check my appearance and make sure I looked okay.

After one initial interview I had commented on facebook “that interview couldn’t have gone any better!”  I didn’t get a second interview, so it must not have gone as well as I thought it did.  But this interview actually couldn’t have gone any better.  The man who would end up being my boss was extremely nice. He had a great understanding of my skills, even though I hadn’t worked in a non-ministry job in over ten years.  But he was willing to take my experience and apply that to this job.  It was so refreshing to have someone appreciate my skills and abilities instead of just throwing my resume into the  recycle bin.

At the end of the interview, he told me that I would hear in a couple of days.  Now, I have heard that before and usually it is one of two things: I don’t ever hear back, or it takes weeks until I hear.  But he was a man of his words and the next day he called and offered the job to me!  Not only is this a job that I believe that I can do well, it is a job that I am going to enjoy. It will challenge me while I will be able to help people.

And my wife is so happy as well.  It pays me enough so that we will are buying a great house with a great yard.  Her dreams of a nice garden and raising some chickens are coming true.  And it is a job that will allow me to be home every evening.

So…this is the story that I am looking forward to telling.  I don’t know when I will get to tell this story or at least something close to this.  Keeping checking back to see when I really do actually get a job.

Categories: About Me, Jobs Tags: , , , , ,

The Autobahn (do I have to say more?)

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Growing up, I had heard about the Autobahn.  The place where fast cars got to go fast.  No speed limit.  For someone who enjoys driving fast, it sounds like a dream world.  When I learned to drive, the speed limit was only 55 mph, and that seemed slow to me (and to Sammy Hagar too!)  But a place where there isn’t a speed limit?  Sounds like somewhere I would like to go.

I got my chance while we lived in France.  Our church was a part of a convention of churches from around Europe.  Each year we would have an annual meeting somewhere.  One year it was outside Venice, Italy.

Me and Jen in Venice

One year the meeting was in Frankfurt.  Our pastor, music pastor, Jen and I drove from Paris to Frankfurt for the meetings.  While we were there, I was invited by a friend of mine to come and visit his youth group in Kaiserslautern.  This was more or less an hour drive.  I drove over by myself, following my friend.  It was raining and he didn’t drive too fast.

But after the youth group, I got to drive back to Frankfurt on my own.  Here was my opportunity.  I get to drive on the autobahn all by myself!  Oh…how excited I was.  I couldn’t wait to get my chance to drive fast!  Now, at this point you might be asking what sweet driving machine I was behind the wheel of.  If I made a list of 100 cars that I would want to drive on the autobahn, the car I was in wouldn’t have even made the list.  It was an Opel Vectra.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with Opel, it is a German company that was owned by GM until 2009.  They have been making cars since 1899.  But really, they are not exciting cars.

But this was the car that I had to drive, so I was going to see what it could do.  In the car’s defense, it was a well-built car that had been maintained very well.  So it was a safe car.  But how fast would she go?  I had no idea, but I had a goal in mind.  200 KPH (124.27 MPH for those who don’t want to convert this in their head).  If I could hit 200 kph, I would feel that I had really accomplished something.

What I needed to find a good long stretch of road that would allow my non-super car to get up to this speed.  Add in the challenge of other cars and I was going to have to pick my spot well.  When driving in Germany, you have to watch your mirrors for the faster cars coming up behind you.  If they flash their headlights  at you, you should move over very quickly.  As I was making my assault on 200 kph, I had to get over a few times to let people pass.  This slowed me down a bit, but didn’t deter me at all.

I pushed that little car and I was able to not only hit 200 kph, but go over it slightly.  My heart was thumping so loud and the adrenaline was pumping.  I was loving life.  And, to my amazement, even at 200 kph I had cars passing me!  I didn’t stay driving that fast for long.  I slowed down to 135 KPH…which is the smarter speed to drive.  While it is true that there isn’t a speed limit on the autobahn, what you don’t hear is that many insurance policies don’t cover you if you are driving over 135 KPH.  So if you get in a wreck going over 135 KPH, you are liable for any damages

I would have to say that driving on the autobahn was a blast…when I was going 200 KPH.  When I wasn’t, it really was just like driving on any other freeway…well, except for the fact that all of the signs are in German and I never did figure out where the heck Ausfahrt was.

“My” Chevelle and the Impala.

June 10, 2011 2 comments

1974 Chevelle. Ours was burgundy with a black top, but still had the sweet rally sport wheels.

Ah…my Chevelle.  Now, I say that it is mine, but it was supposed to be a family car.  But as far as I was concerned, when I turned 16, it was mine.  I went to a small Christian school, and so our parking lot wasn’t real big.  So, I quickly claimed “my spot” right across from my two friends’ spots.  I loved this car and would wash it and dream of ways to fix it up to make it better.

I do have to tell you that I did everything in my power to keep my older sister from driving it (sorry, sis!).  One of my best tricks was whenever I knew she was going to drive it, I would run out to “my” car and disconnect the main wire on the distributor cap.  This would keep the car from starting.  It would sound like it should start, but it never would.  She would get mad and take our 1975 Impala and I would then get to take the Chevelle.  This worked well until my father, who was a mechanic, figured out what I was doing.  Then I would be in big trouble if I tried that.

Now, the Impala looked horrible.  I actually got into my first accident in the Impala.  It wasn’t my fault, and didn’t do much serious damage, but it did make the ugly brown car even uglier with dents all along one side.  The top had the vinyl covering that was a faded off-white and was flaking off.  This didn’t help the look of the car either.  But, this car could fly.  I could burn out (spinning the tires) with just a little power braking, (sorry Dad, I used up your tires)  and this was always a hit with my friends.

1975 Impala…Our was ugly brown and didn’t look this nice.

The Impala was easily the faster car between it and the Chevelle, even though they had the same size engine.  (I attribute this to the transmission in the Impala that was geared better.)  So, my choice of cars to drive depended on what I wanted to do, look cool (Chevelle) or go fast (Impala).  When I did drive the Impala, I would usually amaze people with how fast this big old boat really was.

Since I loved driving fast, my parents would let me go to the local drag racing strip and race there on some Friday nights in the summer.  Now, my dilemma was…do I want to look cool or go fast.  Well, since it was racing, I went with the Impala.  I took a bit of a hit driving that ugly boat with all of the other cool cars there, but in the end, it was so worth it.

Now picture the other drivers, that come with their very cool looking Novas, Camaros, Mustangs, and other sweet looking muscle cars.  And I roll up in my poop brown, dented up Impala.  I know that I heard some snickers and saw some people point.  But, like I said, that car was fast.  After I ended up beating them in a race, they weren’t laughing anymore!  I even made it to the semifinals one time, but I lost because I went too fast!

It was also fun, because many of the guys that my dad worked with had really awesome drag racing cars, and they were all there.  So I was able to hang around with them and their cool cars.  That helped a bunch.  Plus they would give me good pointers on how to race faster.  My parents would come out and watch me race.  I know that my mom didn’t really like the racing all that much, but I knew that she was up in the stands yelling as loud as she could for me to win.

Eventually, after I graduated from college, my dad sold both the Impala (someone bought it to take the engine and put it in another car for racing!) and the Chevelle.  I was sorry that these two cars had to go away.  Not as sorry as when my dad “sold” our Chevy Biscayne, but that is another story for another day.

Can I parallel park? Bien sur!

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the most interesting things about driving in Paris is the parking.  It is hard to find places to park on the street.  You can usually find a parking garage, (“un parking” in French) but what fun is it to pay a bunch to park?  No, the challenge was to circle the block for an open spot. It is cheaper (or free) and you get to hone your parallel parking skills.

Now, here in the good old US of A, many spots are marked out for you.  Whether you have a big car or a small one, you get the same size spot.  Not so in Paris.  If you can fit your car in the spot, you can park there (one of the reasons that Smart cars are so popular…you can park them anywhere).  So, your parallel parking skills are really put to the test.  But on the flip side,  you can be aggressive in your parking.  What?  That doesn’t make sense!   Oh yes it does.  You can totally bump into the cars in front and in back of you.  So the spot only needs to be a few inches bigger than your car in order to fit into it. 

One time I had to take a friend to pay a bill at a hospital.  I saw a spot and told him I would wait for him there.  This was going to be tight, but I managed to park in a tiny spot, on a hill no less.  While I was sitting there playing games on my lame cell phone, I felt the whole car rocking and shaking.  I looked around to see what hit me when I realized that it was just a car parking behind me.  It felt like bumper cars, but that is just how they park!

Most Friday nights, my wife and I would drive in from the suburbs to our pastor’s apartment a few blocks from Trocadero for a Bible study.  This is when the fun would begin.  We drove two different station wagons while we were in France, first an Opel Brake and then a Volvo V40.  Both of them were small by American standards, but in Paris, they felt like trying to park a Humvee!   Our plan was to circle the block (or about four of them) and find a spot to park.  Then the fun ensued!

I would determine that our car would fit into the spot, then I would begin my 15 point parking process.  Now, if you have plenty of room, you can parallel park with a three point process (which would have been nice to be able to do on my driving test, but that is a completely different story).  But when you are trying to get in a spot with much less than a foot on either side, you can’t do it in a few moves.  In order to maximize every inch, it is acceptable to touch the bumpers on the cars on either side.  This allows you to get into much smaller spaces than you could ever imagine.  It is a fun challenge!

I came back with the ability to parallel park like a pro.  But, often I lament to Jen that I really miss my bumper car parallel parking.  But I try to be good and not touch anyone’s bumper.  Look at me, not being aggressive.  (If you haven’t read my blog about driving in Paris, check it out here.)

It is possible to be too aggressive.  Here is not how you park in Paris (at the end, listen to the people who are watching yell at the guy).

The “Pond”

June 7, 2011 Leave a comment

One summer when I was a kid, my brother and I decided that we needed a pond.  I really don’t know what made us decide that we needed a pond, but it seemed like a great idea when we came up with it.  Our house was right next door to a vacant lot that we had to take care of, so it seemed okay with us to dig ourselves a pond.

We got a couple of shovels, went out to the middle of the weeds and started digging.  Now, in my mind, I had the idea of a huge pond with lots of fish, frogs, and lily pads…and maybe even a fountain or waterfall.

A beautiful pond in Duinrell, Netherlands

What we were digging in was really just a vacant lot…lots of weeds and rocks.  But that didn’t deter us.  We were young and had nothing else to do. So we dug like mad men…for about 15 minutes or so.  We didn’t have a very big hole yet, but we decided that we needed fill the pond and see what would happen.  Now, summer in Eastern Washington where we lived was hot.  And the ground hadn’t seen any type of water for awhile.

Well, needless to say (wait…that phrase means I don’t have to say it, but that wouldn’t make for a very good story, so I will say it anyway), the water didn’t form any kind of a pond at all.  In fact it didn’t even puddle a small bit.  It just ran down into the ground.  Hmm…what to do now.  Oh, let’s just dig it a bit bigger and that will help.  So, we dug it a bit bigger and then tried some more water.  Same result…big surprise, right?

That evening my father saw the “pond” and wondered why we were digging holes.  We told him of our plan and I am pretty sure that he thought that we were crazy.  He told us to quit wasting water.  We needed some sort of a liner to keep the water in the pond.  Some plastic would work.

Holes is a great movie!

The next day we found enough plastic and lined our pond with it.  Now, keep in mind that we didn’t have one big sheet of plastic, but about 4 sheets that we had to overlap.  We used some big rocks to hold them down.  And then we filled up our pond.  YES!  Success!  There was water staying in the pond.  We left the hose running and went off to ride our bikes.  We came back a bit later expecting to see our pond full and maybe even a bit of wildlife in it.  (I have no idea where wild frogs and such would come from, but I hoped anyway).  Sadly, our pond was only about as full as when we had left it.  Go figure that our patchwork plastic didn’t hold water.

That was enough of a disappointment for us to give up on our pond idea.  We put the hose away and went back to riding our bikes.  In our mind, the failed attempt was over and we moved on.  But, my dad didn’t think our project was finished.  He sent us back out there with our shovels to fill the hole that we dug.  It was sad for me to have to give up on my dream of my very own pond, but deep down, I felt relieved that our failure would be covered up.

Someday I hope to live in a house with a nice yard that will include not only a pond but a waterfall as well.

Categories: About Me, Spokane Tags: , , ,

D-Day and Pointe du Hoc

June 6, 2011 Leave a comment

A roundabout near where we lived outside Paris. Flags pictured from left to right: France, Great Britain, USA, Canada.

I am writing this on June 6.  This is an important day in history.  Unfortunately, for many Americans, we have forgotten why this day is so important.  I wanted to spend a few moments talking about one important battle that happened on D-day in 1944.

When I lived in France, one of the highlights for me was when friends and family came to visit.  If they were staying long enough, my wife and I would try and take our guests to Normandy.  We would go to the wonderful little town of Bayeux, to the American Cemetery from WWII, and to Pointe du Hoc.

Now, I understand that many of you are not familiar with Pointe du Hoc, and that is okay.  I am going to give you a quick snapshot of why the battle that happened there is so incredible, but I won’t be able to give this story due justice.  There is so much to tell, that I can’t cover everything in this blog, but I will highlight some of the great points about this story.

Pointe du Hoc is a small point that overlooks both the Utah and Omaha beaches.  The Germans had captured many guns from the French including the six long range guns (155 mm) that were placed at Pointe du Hoc.  These guns had a range of up to 12 miles!  So from this overlooking point, the Germans could hit the incoming troops at both beaches.  In order for D-day to succeed, these guns had to be taken out.  The point has cliffs that are 100 feet tall and the Germans considered the cliffs to be unassailable.  So, their fortifications were all set up for forces coming from the land, not the sea.

Medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force striking Pointe du Hoc on June 4, 1944, the beginning of two days of intense bombardment and naval shelling leading up to the assault on D-Day. U.S. Air Force/National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion was given the job of taking the point and destroying the guns so that the boats bringing the troops to the beaches would be safe from these long range guns. The Rangers had quite a time even getting to the point.  Their navigator mistakenly headed for a point (Pointe de la Percee) that was between their target and Omaha beach.  They were able to correct, but it cost them important time.  The boats that carried the Rangers had been refitted with extra protection.  But this caused the boats to take on water.  The Rangers were actually bailing water with their helmets to keep the boats afloat.  One of the boats sank and only eleven of the soldiers survived the two hours in the cold water.

One of the remaining bunkers at Point du Hoc

225 US Army Rangers landed and scaled the cliffs amid gunfire.    Because of the navigation error, the Rangers were late getting to the point.  They were supposed to hit a window of thirty minutes that had bombing raids on either side of it.  They missed the window and the Germans were actively defending the top of the cliffs.  Because of the firefight, the rangers were not able to signal their reinforcements that they had arrived.  So, the reinforcements went to their secondary target at Omaha beach. (An interesting side point that was crucial to the Allies taking Omaha beach was the arrival of the the redirected rangers on the west side of the battle allowed them to flank the Germans and they truly turned the tide in that battle. Omaha beach may not have been taken without these men coming in.)

Me poking my head out of a bunker at Pointe du Hoc

Despite all of these setbacks, the Rangers were able to fight their way to the gun placements, only to find that the guns had been moved farther inland.  Two separate groups of Rangers worked their way back to where the guns were removed to destroy the guns and extra ammunition that they found.  For two days, the Rangers held the point against the superior numbers of the German forces until reinforcements came.  Out of the 225 Rangers that attacked, only about 90  were able to still fight.

The land has been deeded to the United States in honor of the men who fought there and secured this important victory.  It has not been restored, and so you can see the deep craters (10 feet deep or more) and the remains of the gun placements and bunkers.  It is truly a moving site to visit and makes me so proud that the US Rangers fought so hard to secure this important victory in the war to liberate France and Europe.

There is much more about this battle to learn about, and I encourage you to do an internet search and see more about what happened in the pivotal battle.  Even better would be a visit to the Normandy region for yourself.  And if you are willing to pay for us, my wife and I will come along as your own personal tour guides (did I mention that she speaks fluent French?)!

The French are extremely grateful for what the Allied forces did for them.  Overlooking Paris, not far from where I worked, is an American cemetery.  It is mostly soldiers from WWI but there are 24 soldiers from WWII.  This cemetery is next to a place where French resistance fighters were shot by the Germans.  The street that runs in front of the cemetery is called Blvd Washington and on specific holidays, they fly the French and American flags.  Let us Americans never think that the French have forgotten our sacrifices for them.

The French and American flags fly proudly in Suresnes overlooking Paris.