2010: My personal Year in Review

December 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Candidate Process, Job Search, Life, Religion, Seminary, Work 

I haven’t done a Year in Review post for a few years because I didn’t have any good news then. The two New Years after the layoff were times that I survived rather than showing improvement. This year was different. Very up and down, but averaging to up.

I started the year still looking for a secular job and having little luck, depressed after just barely missing out on a job right before Christmas. (Irony: after I made my decision to change direction, the person that they picked left and they wanted to interview me again.) That all changed with two days close together in January. One day a good friend accompanied me to a job fair at Rutgers, which turned that day from a depressing trip to a job fair to a day with a friend and by-the-way time at a job fair. We also had lunch with the campus Protestant chaplain at Rutgers and I found myself asking her to have the local seminary contact me. Later I realized that I had no idea why I’d asked for that. A couple weeks later I had a rough Monday morning and the same friend met met for coffee. That conversation led me to make the decision that I had to do serious vocational discernment and seriously consider seminary. What followed that decision is a long story that gets told as the year follows.

February found me stretching in many ways. I started auditing a class at Princeton Seminary and meeting with folks from the seminary and my church about my sense of call. I started serving on my first presbytery committee. I started spiritual direction. And at this point in my journey I was on a dual track – religious vocational discernment and secular job search.

March found me working a part-time job for a local ecumenical group serving as the project manager for a June justice revival weekend. It also found me working full-time (to start) for the US Census counting noses at group living facilities and service-based locations (shelters, food banks). Regretfully the Census job didn’t pan out as advertised and the “full-time” work ended up being at best 15 hours a week and only lasted 3 weeks. But it did give me a technical break in unemployment that allowed me to form my own small business. That business continues to provide a small amount of income and will hopefully do so as I go forward in school. March also found me being approved by the Session of my church to apply to be an Inquirer in the PC(USA).

April found me making what was nearly the final turn to the new direction. The justice revival work got going in earnest. I started the Youth Ministry Certificate program at Princeton Seminary with a retreat before the annual Youth Forums. And I started some steps to take care of the space between my ears.

May was packed with growth for me. The work between my ears got going in earnest. My justice revival work was in high gear before the June weekend. I got to be in the audience of The Daily Show and spend a great evening with two friends. And I got to go to the Unconference (in Maryland in 2010) and make new friendships that I hope to have for years if not forever.

In June the justice revival happened and was an amazing and tiring weekend.  And I began preparations for July.  Also in June I began working on the family stresses that were created by my discernment process and change of career.

In July I got an opportunity that I’d been hoping for since I returned to the church and started working with youth – I got to go to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium.  The youth director at my church wrote the Small Group Manual, and as a result I was able to attend as Small Group Staff, Small Group Leader Trainer, and as a Small Group Leader.   My presbytery’s delegation was housed across the street from the dorm that I was in, so we got to spend a lot of time together.  I had a blast, and attending Triennium cemented my sense of call.  After that trip, the last obstacle between me and my new career path was resolved, and my new journey began.  At the end of July, Carolyn and I got to take a short vacation that we desperately needed – giving us time to reconnect and re-explore each other.

August was a quiet month of preparation work.  I spent the time getting ready for the new year at church (in my new role as President of the Deacons, and with new youth staff) and preparing to meet with CPM.  The Committee on Preparation for Ministry of my presbytery approved me as an Inquirer at the end of the month, beginning the official process towards ordination as a PC(USA) minister.  I also began my work on applications for Princeton Seminary.

September was a very busy month with the beginning of the church year and with seminary application preparation.  At the end of the month I submitted my Princeton Seminary application and kicked off the process of obtaining references.

October was a time of celebration.  Carolyn and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.  We also one week later spent 3 days visiting Princeton Seminary in the role of prospective student and wife.  Both of us felt very comfortable with that visit and very much at home.  And the big celebration happened a week later at the end of the month, when I received my acceptance for the MDiv program at Princeton!

November brought a chance to enjoy success and reorient myself to my new direction.  I delivered my commitment letter to Princeton Seminary while attending the Emerging Adulthood seminar early in the month.  The rest of the month was spent completing some work between my ears and preparing for the holiday season.

December has been a time of waiting and preparing.  With the help of friends, I’m working on preparing for seminary.  I’m building lists of books to read before I start.  I’m trying to decide about whether to pursue Summer Language (an intensive 10 week program for Greek or Hebrew) or take one last summer trip with my church youth group.  And I’m reorienting my thinking.  One bright event of December was a chance to meet a Twitter friend from Atlanta, one of her friends and a local friend for lunch at Drew University.  I also unfortunately spent the end of November and most of December fighting a sinus infection that took a lot of my energy.

Overarching the year were a few events that do not fit the chronology well.  From late spring until today (and continuing) I’ve been doing a lot of work in my head to grow, and to process the changes that such a large career shift creates.  That large shift has also produces some stresses – in family, in friendships, and in relation to my church.  I’ve worked hard with those involved to try to navigate the emotions produced and the logistics involved.  This in turn has created further growth and improvement in me, in my relationships, and hopefully in the others impacted.  This work has been HARD, but well worth it.  And the relationships that have been involved I believe to be stronger now.  I won’t say that pain is necessary to growth, but I will say that getting through pain successfully often produces growth.  Last, a note that a few serious illnesses of family members came in the fall and that was rough too.  Those family members are on the mend.

Also not fitting the chronology well were the growth of a few new and old friendships through shared experiences.  I can only hope that I have given to them as much as they have given to me.

All in all, this year was a very up and down year.  I am thankful for my wife and friends who supported me through it, who listened to my ravings and pain, and who continue to stand by me.  While it has been rough most of the roughness has taken place in the service of growth in the right direction.  And there have been some glorious moments of celebration and happy-dances.  I’d never have believed that I’d jump up and down in my kitchen past age 40 until the day I opened my seminary acceptance letter.

I end the year with a new direction when I had no direction.  I end the year with strengthened relationships.  And I end the year with new friends that I value greatly.  And I end the year with a much, much stronger sense of the direction that God wants me to take, as well as many reminders that God is always with me.

I’ll take it.

I am a Project Management Professional (PMP)

March 5, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Work 

As of this afternoon, I am now a Project Management Professional (PMP), certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

In order to achieve this certification, I had to document 4,500 hours of time leading project tasks, 35 contact hours of project management training, and pass the exam.  I actually documented about 5,600 hours of time and 71 hours of training.  This certification is not so much a new skill for me as the formal recognition of skills that I already have and use.  This should enable me to more easily get through the screen for positions that require these skills and/or certification.

My wife got this certification several years ago, so we are now a 2 PMP family.

2008: My personal year in review

December 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Admin, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Young Adult, Youth 

Good riddance.

It’s not that the year was all bad.  Some of it was really very good.  It’s just that the bad outweighed the good.  Most of this was due to one very bad thing.

Work
This was a particularly bad year.  I’m not going to go into details, but you should assume that life at my former employer wasn’t particularly fun before August.  In August, I was laid off from a job that I’d held for 13 1/2 of the last 15 years.  It only helps slightly that this employer ultimately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November.

And if that wasn’t enough – the economy tanked at the same time.  The cause of the company’s failure wasn’t solely the economy, but it was a big part of it.  Jobs just plain dried up from September through early December.  There are signs that things are easing now.

If it weren’t for positive things and positive people in the rest of my life, I don’t know how I would have handled this.

Church
The good:
I LOVE my youth group.  The young men and women that I work with more or less every week are all wonderful, and I learned a lot about myself, them, life and God over the last year.  Sunday afternoon/evening is the high point of my week.

The summer trip to the Montreat Youth Conference was one of the top 10 experiences of my life.  I truly feel that God spoke to me that week in some fashion.  I know that my faith deepened, and that the same happened to most if not all of the group from our church that went on the trip.  I also feel that I grew outside of the religious aspects.  (Of course, this high leaves me wondering where God is in my life now, when things are not so good.)  The biggest thing that I learned this year – while I care a lot about our youth, they care about me too.

Putting together the Moderator Meet and Greet event in April was a lot of fun as well as being a lot of work.  I met a lot of new and wonderful people.  The event was well attended, and I hear that it helped commissioners make a decision at General Assembly.

Meeting in person and working online with other church leaders has been mostly positive.  I’m amazed at how strong the online Presbyterian-and-beyond religious community is.  I’ve felt support when I needed it and given and watched it flow the other way when others needed it.

Serving as a deacon has been rewarding.  This is work that I know that I can do and do well, and that is relatively easy, and that aids the church.  That’s sort of the point, isn’t it?  I just have to be careful not to schedule myself too heavily (like the Sunday that I had coffee service AND served communion AND agreed to set up tables for a later event).

My committee studying hospitality, visitor and community issues for the church has nearly completed its work.  We have identified 19 issues and more than 19 suggestions for how to change/fix/handle those issues.  We present to the Session in February.  The team has worked hard and learned a lot.

Serving as the new webmaster for the church’s website and weekly e-mailed newsletter has been a growth experience for me.  It has forced me to learn new technical skills and also to generate a little content independently.

The bad:
The worst has to have been the controversy over my blog in March/April/May/June of this year.  I don’t know if people realize it, but the church was about 12 hours from losing me in April – the only things keeping me were the facts that Youth Sunday and the Moderator Meet and Greet were imminent responsibilities of mine.  This event only took 2nd to the loss of my job in how poorly I felt while in the middle of it.

I am also continually dismayed by the negative tones in some conversations/fights/battle-royales in the church community over the hot button issues of today.  Those of us within the church fight harder and with less love than we do with our colleagues in other denominations or religions, even though the points of disagreement are far smaller and unimportant.

Home
Home life continues to be solid.  Carolyn and I have ridden out the very rough patches of the 2nd half of the year with no negative effect on our relationship.  Most of this is due to Carolyn’s very conservative nature when it comes to money, and the strong planning ability that both of us have.  She continues to be supportive at a very difficult time in my life and it has brought us if anything closer together.

The cats are still fine.  They turn 13 tomorrow.  Isaac is still suffering from a bit of arthritis in his hips, but the daily Cosequin is helping.  Both of them still have a fair amount of kitten left and still go running around like crazy animals occasionally.  Albert has had no recurrence of his kidney issues.

The house is fine.  We have had to put off a bit of home repair work (mainly fixing the fireplace chimney that failed a while back) for economic reasons.  Nothing important is wrong, and we continue to love living here.  It’s a great neighborhood – not too noisy, not too quiet, and plenty of kids running around.
My car has had a rough year.  I was rear-ended in July and minor damage was done to my rear bumper.  It was fixed pretty quickly, but it took about 4-5 months before the insurance companies paid my deductible.  Here’s a tip – no matter how late you are, don’t pass on the right on a one-lane on-ramp.

Health

No major changes.  On the Montreat trip I lost a number of pounds due to the stairmaster-like qualities of the village of Montreat (to get anywhere you have to walk down a big hill and up a big hill).  The emotional strain of being out of work took off some more.  I’ve managed to end the year a net 10 pounds down.  Otherwise, my health remains the same.

I’m hoping that 2009 will be a combination of the continuance of good things, and an end to the bad things that are happening now.  I see new hope in the elections of both our PC(USA) Moderator and the new President of the USA.  It remains to be seen if that hope turns into a better reality for the country, church, and me.

Happy New Year!

A bit of a round-up

October 9, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Ham Radio, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work 

Hello, readers.  I have been neglecting you lately.

Here’s a bit of a round-up on things going on with me at the moment.

Job Search
– I think I’m going to stop counting days on the blog.  I’ve been making good contacts in the last few weeks, and today I have my first meeting with a “hiring manager” (someone who is in the right position to potentially hire me).  It’s not an interview – just a meeting.  The search is going slower than I’d like, but apparently reasonably on track according to my outplacement coach.  The economy and general financial crisis aren’t helping.

Church – This part of my “non-work” life is busy.  My deacon work is adding a little time to my Sunday mornings, plus I’m serving as the “e-mail reminder” person who sends a note to the deacons scheduled for a particular Sunday.  My youth work is keeping me busy as well – the time commitment is a bit higher than last year because of some schedule changes for the Sr. Highs, but it’s completely worth it to me.  I was asked to be the webmaster for the church website, and I’m investigating how much time that actually takes – it might be too much.  Project Open Door is moving along nicely to the end of our chartered work – we brainstormed issues surrounding hospitality, visitors, relations with the community, and inactive members last week.  In our next meeting we’ll brainstorm solutions, and then start writing up the report to the Session to be delivered in January.  I’m looking at starting spiritual direction.  Aside from a minor dust-up this week, all is well in this department.  I will admit to my faith taking a beating due to my job situation, though.

Home – All is well.  Carolyn is a conservative spender by nature, and I am one when the situation calls for it.  We’ve pulled way back on our discretionary spending and even made some more economical choices with our necessary spending.  This is setting us up well for a long siege if necessary.  The lack of a job hasn’t hurt my relationship with Carolyn that I can see.  The cats love having me home more often.  The homefront is safe and stable right now, and financially prepared for a while.  Carolyn is still taking next week off from work (a Smith family vacation including my parents and siblings was planned for Orlando – we have to miss it for financial reasons), and I’m taking our anniversary on Wednesday off from job searching.

Ham Radio – I’m still participating a little.  I haven’t been able to purchase equipment beyond an HT (walkie-talkie-style radio) and accessories.  I saw the trouble in the economy coming even before I knew that I’d be laid off, and chose not to spend in this area.  I am staying involved with some emergency management and public safety events, and I’m still attending the club meetings.  I think I’m qualified now to get a key to the club’s radio shack and will pursue that soon – they have LOTS of equipment for club member use there.  Unfortunately, ham radio activities tend to be scheduled at the same time as church events, and between the two church wins.

That’s about it.  As always I welcome any comments, and assistance in my job search.

Fun with Presby language

September 2, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

I’m sure that I’ve written before about how my wife is Catholic, and I am Presbyterian.

I’m sure that I’ve written one or two things about how Carolyn sometimes get words wrong.  For example – there’s a British Comedy about people in a nursing home called “Waiting for God”.  She has been known to accidentally call it “Waiting for Death”.

Today we see what happens when she intersects with particularly Presbyterian language.

A week from Sunday I’m being Installed as a Deacon at my church.  You might be wondering why I’m not being Ordained – the reason is simple.  I was already ordained as a deacon 23 years ago in another church.  You only get ordained once to each office.

Carolyn has never seen a Presbyterian ordination or installation.  Wait – I take that back.  She might have seen our Associate Pastor installed, but that’s an entirely different ceremony than the ordination/installation of deacons and elders.  Somehow she hasn’t been at church with me at one of the 4 or 5 times we’ve installed or ordained deacons and elders since I re-joined.

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been careful not to plan anything on that Sunday so that I can be there and she can be there.  Personally I think she’ll be underwhelmed; she comes from a background where First Communion is a special service.

The terms have confused her.  She started out calling it an Ordination, only to have her Book-of-Order-junkie husband correct her and tell her that it’s an Installation instead.  (Side note – my father once wrote in the Christmas Letter that he was being “installed like a muffler” for his 2nd term as deacon.)  Then when she was on the phone with her Catholic parents she called it an Investiture.  I wanted to know if I got a pointy hat.

I think she has it straight now.

She’s also been helpful with keeping track of events.  We have New Officer Training this Saturday morning (as long as Hurricane Hanna doesn’t interfere).  We also have the Deacon meeting regularly the 2nd Monday of each month.

The other day I looked at the calendar.  On Saturday was written “New Decon Training” and on Monday “Decon Meeting”.  I asked if this was her event – after all she’s an engineer in the petroleum industry.  But no, and I explained that we didn’t expect to have any issue with contamination.

I wrote in the A’s.

I’m glad that she is so supportive of my church work.  I just hope she isn’t too disappointed when the ceremony is only 5 minutes long with only a little pomp and circumstance.  As it should be – this is not about us, it’s about service.

What’s going on

July 18, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Life, Religion, Youth 

My blog has been quiet, and light on what’s going on in my life.  Most of that is due to the Sword of Damocles question about what I should write here.  (By the way, more input is desired in the Bible Study on blogging.)

Here’s a short roundup of what’s been happening and what is going to be happening.

  • Car Accident – This happened back on June 20.  As I said before – minor damage and no injuries.  My car has been repaired.  I’m apparently at the beginning of the subrogation process – my insurance company has decided that I’m not at fault and has submitted a claim to the other driver’s company.  The other driver got a ticket for Careless Driving, so it should be an easy decision in my favor.
  • DirecTV – I have two DirecTV DVRs.  One of them developed hard drive problems and was randomly rebooting.  That has since been replaced for what amounts to Free.  It was just a pain, but much less of a pain than expected.
  • Deacon – I perform my first deacon duty this weekend.  I’ll be putting juice and iced tea on the table in Fellowship Hall after the service.  As one other blogger said, “They also serve who stir and pour.”  I’ll be greeting in August, and Officer Training and Installation will be in September.
  • Camp Johnsonburg – I’ve assisted twice with Sunday check-in.  Once I was a medical check person for the “no medication” line, and the other time I managed the medical form paperwork process (an all-paper process that is a bit labor-intensive for 200+ campers).  I was pleasantly surprised to run into one of my youth group members checking into the camp’s Leadership Training Program (a 3-week program that is essentially Counselor training).  I’ll be back again in August for one more Sunday.
  • Youth Group – I drove the youth mission trip to and from Philadelphia where they stayed at and worked with Broad Street Ministries.  By all reports a good time was had by all and several report transformational experiences.  I’ll be going with the youth group trip to Montreat for the Youth Conference (week VI) starting next weekend.  I’m a smidge nervous about that – the last time I did a week road trip with a bunch of youth was my trip to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in 1986, when I was a youth.  I’m hoping that a mostly out of shape 40-year-old can keep up.
  • Birthday – it was quiet, which is the desired result.  I didn’t ask for much, and the presents that I received were thoughtful.  I got a lot of cards with old people on them for some reason …
  • Ham Radio – I participated in the national Field Day at the end of June.  I was only able to help set up in the morning and operate for a few hours in the afternoon.  This event is when amateur radio clubs and individuals all over the country set up their equipment in the field (we were at Mercer County Park) and demonstrate their ability to operate in an emergency.
  • Home, Wife, Cats – all about as good as usual.

Blogging will be non-existent between July 25 and August 3 or so due to the youth trip.  It may be light until then, unless I think of something compelling to say.

I am 39 and 366/366ths

July 16, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Life 

Yep, it’s that day.

This year my birthday is a day for reflection.

This is the first year that my body is starting to get creaky.  In the last 2 years I’ve gotten reading glasses and I’ve learned how NOT to move my muscles suddenly when I’m just waking up.  I’m aging, but generally healthy.  It could be worse.

This is also the year that I realize that some doors have closed.  There are just some things that I could have done, but which I can no longer do because I didn’t take that side of the fork in the road.  There are things that I never could have done (I was never going to be an NBA star).  There are things that I have done.  This is the year that I realize that there are things that I didn’t do, and the opportunity is gone.  I don’t regret the decisions but it’s sad to see the closed doors.

This past year has also been a rough but fruitful year.  I spent a LOT of time outside of my comfort zone.  In some ways that has paid off.  In other ways I’ve bounced off some metaphorical walls at high speed.  Some of this has produced personal growth and a lot hasn’t.  Ironically, most of the “new” things in my life are actually a return to a part of my past.

I have made a number of new friends in the past year both locally and nationally.  I cherish those friendships.  I have been able to help a few of these new friends with their lives and goals and that is gratifying.

Probably the most rewarding part of my life in the last year has been my work with the youth group at church.  I love our kids, and watching them grow has been wonderful.  Sunday evenings have been a very bright spot in my life.

Life with Carolyn continues to be wonderful.  I think we’ve reached the beginning of the “growing old together” stage of life.  It’s good.  Every day I learn something new about her (or gain a new story – there are LOTS of those) and yet we know each other so well that we’ve reached the point one or two words speak volumes.  (“Do you know where …” – “Here you go” – and it’s exactly what she was looking for.)

And our cats are still as snuggly as ever.

It could have been better, and it could have been worse.  One more year in the books.

p.s. –  Happy Birthday, Harry!

Alabammy Bound

May 7, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Life 

Carolyn is headed for Birmingham next Monday through Wednesday to look at a machine casing with a hole in it.  (For her job – it’s not just for fun)

Any restaurant recommendations?

Carolyn’s badge

April 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Life, Work 

(Before I go any further, I want to note that Carolyn gave me permission to put this on my blog)

Yesterday, Carolyn (my wife) made a trip to the Ladies’ Room.  At her office this is her own private domain – they had to build it for her specially when they moved her and a few other engineers out to an office in the factory.  She’s the only woman working in that building.

While doing her business, she noticed something on her shoe (dust, lint, who knows?).  She bent forward …

She wears her badge on a lanyard.  The badge descended below the seat at which point she realized and sat up.  The badge got caught on the seat and popped off the lanyard.  It didn’t fall into the water in the toilet but rather laid there on the porcelain.

However …. it was at this point that the urge to pee overtook her.

She reports that the badge looks fine after being rinsed off.  As of last night she hadn’t checked to see if the little smart chip on it still worked on her laptop.

Her co-worker is reported to have said, “I’m not going near your ID badge again!”

Vacation Warning

October 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Admin, Life 

Attention readers!

Starting later today, I am on vacation.  Blogging may slow dramatically or stop completely for a week.

Carolyn’s plane from Germany just landed at Newark (we pilots know where to look on the web to follow these things).  I hope she was on it. 🙂

Tonight we rest.  Tomorrow it’s off to NYC.  We’re staying at Intercontinental The Barclay New York for 2 nights.  Sunday we go to the matinee of Spamalot.  (Our first date was 20 years ago Monday to see Monty Python & the Holy Grail at Rutgers.)  We’ll probably go Catholic for church – St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a few blocks from the hotel.

Monday we head home.  No plans at all for the rest of the week.  I might fly one day.  Mostly both of us need the downtime so there might be lots of snoozing with cats.

See you in a week!

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