Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oh, man.

This had me laughing so hard that I started crying so hard that the Little Guy noticed and came over to give me a hug and say "Awwwwww." (Which, in Little Guy speak, is "There, there. It okay.") 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Well that was unexpected.

Even though I ended the day sick in bed with a horrible, sudden-onset cold, Saturday started out pretty good.

I rode the train into Salt Lake and then walked over to Trolley Square to pick up my Locals-Only tickets to the Sundance Film Festival. I also scored a couple of Best of Fest tickets. I had a roasted turkey and brie sandwich from Whole Foods, which I ate as I walked around, wearing a hat, scarf and fingerless gloves and listening to Mumford and Sons on my iPhone. I thought about stopping in at Trader Joe's but didn't have time before I had to catch my train home.

And then I read that paragraph and thought, dear saints, when did I turn into a hipster?

Fortunately for my sake, my shoes were neither vegan nor Chucks and I was not wearing my glasses. Fortunately for the sake of everyone else, I was also not wearing skinny jeans. Also, the hat and gloves were from Old Navy, and the Sundance tickets are for Austenland and not some depressing documentary about the environment or some failed indie music group, so I'm probably okay for now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Make the call.

I don't know how to write this post. It's been bumping around in my mind for days. I've been staring at my computer for much longer than I care to admit, and still I got nothin'.

I like to know, when I start a post, roughly where it's going to end. I like to tie things together, round them off, make them smooth and pretty and full circle. And this one, like Mr. Darling's tie, will not tie. But I need to write it out in order to start sorting it out, so here goes.

I first met Bee in high school in the "smart kid" classes. I think that's the only way our spheres would have intersected because Bee was popular and well-known and I was, well, not. I was painfully unconfident about myself and my likeability and so tended to keep a low-ish profile and watch rather than participate in a lot of social things.

But here's the thing. Besides being popular, Bee was just nice. But that word doesn't catch the magnificence of her personality. "Nice" when written out looks dull and flat and smacks of faint praise. Bee was radiant. Incandescent. Luminescent. She walked into a room and the sunshine of her personality and basic human decency exploded like a supernova. She was always nice, but not cloying. I can't think of a more genuine human being.

She was valedictorian and as odd as it might sound, my most distinct memory of her aside from the thousand times she would smile at someone in the hallways or laugh or make other people laugh was her speech at graduation. She talked about Robert Frost, because it was graduation and someone has to. (I guess as the English nerd I was the next-most-likely candidate to invoke Frost but the fact that I spoke at graduation at all was a fluke. See: low profile. I wrote a speech about video games purely as a joke—possibly on a bet of some sort—and somehow ended up on the program. But I digress.)

It was a good speech, with just the right sincerity-to-cliches ratio, and Bee did a good job giving it. Even with all the other times I've run across that poem in my later years as an English major nerd, I still think of her each time I hear it.

Bee was alive, lively, living, full of energy and love and life, and made that road less traveled look mighty amazing indeed.

So when I heard last April that she had been in a biking accident and hit her head, causing spinal damage that left her a paraplegic, I couldn't put the pieces together. She was so energetic and bubbling. She was a wife and mother to two beautiful children. She was a triathlete, for goodness' sake. The idea of her confined to a wheelchair didn't fit; the two elements were not compatible. How could such a vibrant woman be contained in any way like that?

Of course she struggled, but her optimism and determination showed through. You could say she had grit. She was bound and determined that she would walk again, and every time I saw her post about another bit of progress ("I moved my toe today" made me nearly giddy with excitement) I gave thanks to God for the blessings He was giving to my friend.

And then in November she announced that she and her husband had met with a doctor who does stem cell surgery for spinal cord injuries, which had great potential to help heal the injuries and help patients walk again. Bee was an excellent candidate: relatively new injury, in good health and physical shape before the accident, young, etc. They were going to try it. They felt very positive about it and as though they were being led in this direction. They just had to raise the money because insurance wouldn't cover it. Lots of fundraisers went up and lots of people donated, a testament to the light of Bee's personality and influence. The surgery was scheduled for early February.

Last Thursday I kept thinking about Bee all day, thinking that I needed to contact her to see what she and her family needed and what I could do to help. But the Little Guy was getting over a major illness, I was trying to fend it off, the laundry had been stacking up and a million other big and little things were on my to-do list and so I didn't get a chance to do it on Thursday.

And then on Friday morning she was gone.

I saw it on Facebook Friday afternoon and felt like I'd been turned to ice. It wasn't true because it couldn't be true. If the idea of Bee in a wheelchair was incompatible, the idea of no Bee at all was impossible. I know I keep saying it, but Bee WAS alive. Vibrant. Vivid. Lively. Full of life. I just can't think of better words to describe her. It just did not, and still does not, compute that this can possibly be a world where she is gone.

We weren't super close. To be honest, my less-than-confident self wouldn't have been willing to swear that she would have remembered who I was without prompting before we became Facebook friends. But her presence and life had been a light to me several times in my life when she didn't know it, and now the world felt dimmer.

Bee, I am so sorry that I didn't call on Thursday. I'm sorry I didn't take two minutes before I went to bed to write you an email. I am so sorry that I didn't let you know I was thinking of you or tell you how much I admired your example in my life.

When we meet up in the next life, the first thing I'm going to do is take a walk with you and apologize and tell you what you by now probably already know. But since I plan (God willing) on going on living for quite some time yet, that next meeting seems impossibly far away. I know I'll regret not contacting you last Thursday for the rest of my life.

So I guess all I can do for now to make it up to you is that next time I keep thinking about someone, I'll let them know. I'll pay the visit, write the note, send the email, whatever.

Next time, Bee, I'll make the call.

My love and prayers go out to Bee's family and friends, especially her husband and two children.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

And that, friends, is how we fly across the country.

(Title reference can be found here.) 

This is actually my 250th blog post, so it seems fitting that I'm finally getting around to telling this story.  I'll be writing up my year in review post soon, but in order for it to make any sense, I need to tell you this story first.

So early last year my husband was working for a company which we'll call Calypso. Calypso is owned by a mega company, which we'll call Command. One day in early February, Shallow Man was sitting at his desk when his boss, his boss's boss, and his boss's boss's former boss (if you got that one, you're good) all walked into his office and closed the door. 

Shallow Man said he lost about ten years off of his life. 

But their offer to have him leave Calypso didn't come in the form of a firing or a layoff, but a transfer to another company owned by Command. A big wig of this company—let's call it Extant—was Shallow Man's boss's boss's former boss, and had gotten to know Shallow Man during his stint at Calypso. He explained that Extant's last attorney (they'd had three when they acquired the company and had whittled the team down) had just given notice and would Shallow Man like the job? 

The catch: Extant was based in Florida. 

Now, those of you who have been around for awhile know both where I'm going with this and that Shallow Man grew up in Florida. For the past several years every time it started snowing in Utah he would grumble about "the enemy from above" and start looking for Florida jobs. 

He'd also, at this point, been looking for a better job than Calypso for a little over a year. He'd had lots of interviews, several callbacks, and no offers, which meant that he was more than a little frustrated and discouraged. The chance to move back to his home state while getting away from Calypso AND getting a pay raise (the driving reason for his wish to defect from Calypso in the first place) was very appealing.

My heart knew, about three seconds after Shallow Man called me to tell me the news, that we needed to go. My head took more convincing because I happen to love Utah, having been born and raised here. Mountains, snow, family, etc.—in the Florida vs. Utah battle, only one state had these features. Unfortunately, and trumpingly (is that a word? It is now), the one thing that did NOT seem to exist in Utah was a better job for Shallow Man. 

I didn't WANT to go. But I knew that we should. No, that we NEEDED to. 

So we packed up (amid a lot of adventures, like Shallow Man flying out two weeks early to start work and find us a place to live, while I did most of the packing and spent a night in the hospital with the Little Guy due to an unexpected RSV case eight days before we were supposed to fly out) and moved to Florida. 

* * * 

At which point those of you still hanging around this blog didn't hear from me for five and a half months. 

This had to do with several factors, like the fact that moving and blogging don't really dovetail very well, both requiring at least 90% of your attention and time (I'm an English major, but I still know enough math to tell you that I don't have 180% of my time to give); writer's block; depression; starting a new work project that kept me pretty busy; and the fact that I was, essentially, a single mom at the time. 

See, the reason Extant's last lawyer had quit was that it was just too much work. He was overwhelmed, constantly at work, and missing time with his young family, and also not really getting paid enough to give up the rest of his life just for a job (and I should mention here that, as a mega company, Command doesn't value the time and talents of most of its employees as highly or lucratively as it probably should). 

And Shallow Man walked into the same situation (although for significantly less money, as he later found out, but that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves). He was the only lawyer for a company of hundreds of employees. He was working long hours from the get-go. He got sick at the beginning of April and had to take a half-day off and just that small break put him so far behind that he had to work 12-plus-hour days for the next week and still wasn't catching up. (There went our plans to hit up Disney World for our anniversary in May.) We lived 12 minutes away from his office but he still spent more time away from home than when he was making the over-an-hour-long-each-way commute to Calypso while we were living in Salt Lake. Even with the overall raise in salary, if you worked it out to an hourly rate he'd taken a major pay cut. They kept saying they'd be getting another lawyer in soon to help with the load, but never really started moving on it. 

With all this, I was essentially a single mom, and mostly carless to boot. We only had one vehicle, and when we first got to Florida I'd drop Shallow Man off in the morning and pick him up around dinner, and have the use of the car for the rest of the day. Once the length of his workdays increased, though, he needed to take the car because he'd be getting home late enough in the evenings that the Little Guy had been asleep for a few hours, and sometimes I had already gone to bed, too, and he didn't want to wake us up to come get him at 11:00, 11:30 or (a few times) midnight. 

Which is not to say that Florida was all bad. On the weekends we'd go out and explore. We got a membership to the Tampa Zoo (best zoo in the nation, seriously). We'd hit up the beach (although the first time we tried to go over to Clearwater beach was, unbeknownst to us, the middle of spring break. Forty-five minutes into the twenty-minute drive but less than a quarter of the way there, we gave up and came home, still fighting traffic. The round trip took about four hours; longest beach trip ever with no actual beach involved). We'd eat pizza from the Mellow Mushroom. Life on the weekends was really not bad at all. 

Too bad we had to get through the weeks to get to them, and that on some Saturdays Shallow Man was still just trying to recover from the previous week. 

It was getting to be too much, and fast. By early May, Shallow Man had also discovered that the previous attorney, working under the same conditions, had been getting more than $60,000 more a year than they'd offered Scott. He didn't think he was worth quite that much since he didn't have as much experience as the previous attorney had, but he did go in to talk to his boss about getting a raise to cover the [many] extra hours he was working and the lack of any kind of support staff or backup. 

His boss didn't even say he'd think about it. He just said no. (Okay, he did say that they liked Shallow Man and would take care of him in the future, but that didn't do much to ease the blow.) Pretty much what Shallow Man heard is "Nah, we'd prefer you to work yourself to death for cheap first. Then we'll see about taking care of you." Demoralizing to say the least. 

* * * 

All of which sets the stage for May 7th. 

A couple of weeks earlier, the people renting our little town house in Provo had let us know that they would not be renewing their lease when it expired at the end of June. Around noon on May 7th, Shallow Man sent me an email on his lunch break going over what we would need to do to find new tenants, and we said we'd start discussing it that evening. 

And then at about 4:15 p.m., Shallow Man called me. 

"Um," he said. Pause. "So." Pause. "Uh…." Longer pause; he was clearly slightly in shock and trying to figure out what to say. As per our usual routine, I told him to spit it out. 

"I just got an email from a headhunter/recruiter. She says she'd like to talk to me about a new employment opportunity." 

"Really? Just out of the blue like that? What kind of position?" 

Longest pause yet. "It's in Salt Lake." 

* * *

I think I inhaled all the air in the zip code, but couldn't say a thing. 

"Should I call her?" Shallow Man asked after a minute. Another employee at Extant had recently been fired when the higher-ups found out the employee was looking for another job, and Shallow Man was already paranoid that the axe would drop at any minute, just because the Command folks could be capricious like that.

I pondered this for a minute. "It couldn't hurt to get more information. See what she has to say. You don't have to apply if it doesn't sound good." But really, I thought to myself, could it be much worse than what you're going through here?

One more pause. "Okay. I'll talk to her. Can't hurt."

* * *

Let's just say the pitch was more than intriguing. It sounded wonderful. Even taking into account the perspective we were coming from, it seemed to be right up Shallow Man's alley. A Fortune 500 company (let's call it, say, Versal). A small legal outpost in a low-cost center. A brilliant and experienced team leader and mentor. Ground floor opportunities. Also, did I mention it was in Salt Lake?

And—do you believe in signs?—the starting salary was exactly the amount that Shallow Man had requested for a raise, and had been turned down by Extant.

There was a lot more behind-the-scenes drama that went into the final decision, which, frankly, I don't want to relive. Let's just say that former-Calypso-current-Extant-guy-who-brought-Shallow-Man-over didn't really decide to go with "gracious" or "supportive" as his adjectives of choice. But in the end, we made our decision, Shallow Man gave his notice, and I started repacking all the boxes.

And that, friends, is how we ended up on an airplane back to Utah exactly three months and five days after I moved to Florida.

* * *

Things worked out well. We ended up in a hotel for a couple of weeks while our tenants' lease ended—another major bright spot in the proceedings had been the moment we realized that we wouldn't have to try and find new renters—and then moved back into our little Provo townhome on July 5th. (Yeah, the day after the fourth of July. There was some fist-shaking when I realized that our nice Cabela's lounge chairs were going to still be on some truck where I couldn't get at them for fireworks time, but we lived.) Versal paid for the move, which was great.

We had packed up the truck in Florida in what amounted to a monsoon, and we unloaded the truck in Provo in nearly the same weather, only less hot and humid. The state had been going through a drought and a rash of crazy wildfires, so I like to take credit for causing the rainstorm that solved some of those problems.

It's been wonderful to be back in our little green house, as I call it, and to be back in our old neighborhood with old friends.

Most of all, though, it's been wonderful to see the change in Shallow Man. Going from the mental strain of feeling physically ill and cringing away from going to work in the morning (think me at my job right before law school) and being overworked, underappreciated, and having no mentor or real colleagues, to basically stepping into his perfect job. Versal appreciates him, recognizes his worth, and makes it known. They support him and give him good assignments. They help him learn what he needs to know rather than just saying, "Eh, you'll figure it out." They provide actual training. He has a mentor. He's learning a specialized practice area. He's getting a good paycheck. And, best of all, even with the commute back and forth (about an hour each way), he's still home waaaaaaay earlier than he ever was with either Extant or Calypso. It's a rare day that he's not home before 6:30, and he's so much happier when he does come home.

In short: best job ever.

The interesting thing is that Versal had been looking for someone for his new position since October of last year, seven months before we moved to Florida. I wondered at one point, why couldn't they have called him up earlier? You know, so we could have avoided the two cross-country moves in three months (I so do not recommend trying this under anything resembling normal circumstances). But it turns out that the clinching factor for them, what made them really decide they want him and what got him this job, was the work he'd done in Florida. The fact that Command liked him well enough to move him across country from Calypso to Extant made Versal want him—you know, when it rains, it pours.

Which explains the prompting I had felt immediately about going to Florida. I see the hand of the Lord so clearly in the proceedings as a whole, and in a lot of little details that I'm not going to be sharing in this public forum, that it would be foolish to deny it. We're exactly where we need to be, and we couldn't have gotten here any other way. In order to stay in Utah, we had to leave. In order to get his dream job, Shallow Man had to have his worst job first.

Like I've said before and elsewhere, you need the dark first before you can appreciate the light.

So. That's the story of how we flew across the country and moved to Provo.

Crazy? Yes.

Exhausting? Absolutely.

Miracle? Yeah, I'd say so.

And if that much packing and that many cross-country moves don't entitle me to some slack for my blogging laxity, I really don't know what does. Oh, wait. Yes, I do: Flying cross-country twice with two cats and a toddler. Boom.