I dunno why, narcissism maybe, but I just went back and read my own blog from the beginning. All 28 pages of it. Kind of had a long, wistful, mildly amusing, nostalgic trip down memory lane. I also noticed that in the recent couple of years, my posts have been more terse than interesting. It's understandable, I had a helluva lot going on.
So I thought I'd try to catch up. (like the title says. See what I did there? Eh?)
My last real posts really seemed to be before I became eyeballs-deep in graduate school -- something about the welcome dinner. Man, does that every seem like a different lifetime ago. Very vivid though -- a couple days over 2 years ago, and I sat with Francis and his wife, Eric, Tony, Gary and Heidi. And remembering names for me is a really big deal because I'm generally terrible at it. Basically, we got our initial books and assignments at that dinner, and several speakers -- both alumni and professors -- said something to the effect of "this will be the greatest thing ever, but you can do it -- AND DO YOUR PRE-WORK." And they weren't kidding. I headed into my basement, where I'd set up a makeshift home office/study area, and started an online statistics course. That consumed June. In July '09 I started the 12 chapters of Accounting pre-work. That consumed July. Then July 31 we had our official orientation, where we all met the 4 or 5 strangers who would be the other members of each of our study teams for the duration of the program. My team had four people, including myself. Today they're all close friends. That day, total strangers.
So after the orientation we all went home, we all had a week to kiss our spouses and our free time goodbye, and the next weekend we all converged on East Lansing for our initial one-week residency. I alluded to it in a post about two years ago...something vague about three full college courses in seven days. That doesn't even come close to covering it. It was hell-week. It was boot camp. It was shared misery. College courses take 16 weeks, not seven days. Man, I've looked back at my day-planner from that week and it's crazy. Every day had three classes of chapters to read, study questions to do, a case study to write up, a quiz to study for and maybe a final paper to start writing. Every day. They put me up in a hotel about 5 miles from the university, and every day would start at 6:30, shower, in the car at 7, breakfast at the Henry Center, class at 8 until lunch, class after lunch until 5 or 6. Coursework with the team at the facility until 8 or 9, then back to the hotel and individual homework until 1 or 2am. I didn't go to bed before midnight during that week. At all. And strangely, it was fun. It also taught every one of us just how much we could do if we really tried. And for amusement, we could watch the teams that didn't mesh very well start to self-destruct around day 5 of the 7 days.
At the end of the initial week -- this was in August of 2009 -- I settled into the routine that I would follow up until this spring. My days were pretty fully scheduled: Get up at 6:30, get ready, help get the kids ready for school, then go to work. Come home from work, eat dinner. Do dishes after dinner -- my attempt to keep my hand in at least a bit of the housework. Depending on how late dinner was, maybe spend a bit of time with the family, but not on a lot of nights. At 9:00, the kids went to bed, and I went into the basement to do homework. I tried to do homework until midnight or 1am every night. Wednesday nights was a teleconference with my team-mates.
Which brings up a quick description of my team. We were geographically spread out -- more than any other team in the program. One team had a member that flew in from D.C. for class, but the other four were near each other. Some teams had members in Chicago...but near each other. My team? Jeff lives in Marquette, closer to Wisconsin than the college. I lived in Traverse City, 3 hours from the college. Lynn lived in Midland, 2 hours from me and 5 hours from Jeff. Brian lived in Crystal, 1 hour from the college, 2 hours from Lynn, 3 hours from me, 6 hours from Jeff. Our team spanned probably 400 miles. So we teleconferenced.
Anyway, every other weekend was a class weekend. After work on Friday I would eat dinner, load up a bag, get into the car and drive 160 miles to Lansing. Overnight in a hotel, then 8 hours of class on Saturday. Back into the car, 160 miles home and I'd arrive at around 8pm. Sunday on those weekends I'd leave school strictly alone if I could. Honestly, I tried to keep Sunday free from schoolwork for the duration, with mixed results. But I tried to keep at least one day per week open for family time. It didn't work real well...I was pretty stressed and grouchy on most of those Sundays.
So, there was another one of those one-week residencies during the summer of 2010, but it lacked the balls-out craziness of the first one. It was more relaxed, and there was less coursework crammed in. There were a pair of large case competitions, one in spring of 2010, and one the day before the last day of class this March. And in my case (and that of other active job-seekers) there was additional work from the Career Services Department (CSC) to get us ready to land a big, fancy, MBA-level job. We had resume workshops, interviewing workshops, job search classes -- it was comprehensive.
In November 2010 I went to a national MBA career fair in Chicago. I drove two hours south to Grand Rapids, and caught an Amtrak train from there to Union Station in Chicago. The conference was in the McCormick Center, and was a mind-boggling sea of black business suits. It didn't get me a job, but it was an experience that was totally worthwhile.
Concurrent with all of this, as I've said in snippets, I pursued a job lead in Tampa that wound up being my new job. I learned of the opening in November 2010 and pursued it. I had a phone interview -- while sitting at a frozen beach, in my car -- in January. They flew me down for a 2nd interview at the end of February. I started on April 4, and I've been living in a 216 square-foot apartment since then.
As I said, my family and I caravanned from Michigan to Tampa at the end of March, and they spent the week down here for spring break, then headed home. Two weeks later my wife's grandma -- the person my wife was closest to on Earth -- passed away. She went a little crazy with grief for the week until I could get up to Michigan for the funeral, but fly up there I did -- got a great deal from Southwest, not that that's important. That was on April 22 -- there was still snow on the ground up there. I haven't seen them since then, though we do talk on the phone most days, and I post pictures on Facetube every day for the kids to see.
Since then, I lined up a house for us to rent, then found that the car needed $1,000 in air-conditioning work so that I wouldn't melt into a puddle in traffic. Then I bounced the car off a cement pillar, so it's semi-permanently dented -- "urban camouflaged" I like to call it. I've settled into my job fairly well, being all project manager-ey and stuff.
And now it's coming right down to it. Tomorrow after work I go take delivery of our rental house. Thursday, Friday, Saturday I'll move the stuff I have in this apartment to our house, then early Sunday morning I drive the airport and fly home. For Father's Day, yay!
Monday morning we pick up our Penske truck, and load it Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday we drive all of us and our stuff 1,400 miles from Michigan to Florida. Friday and Saturday we unload the truck. Monday it's back to work for me, probably badly in need of a week off after my week off.
And then we start to dig out our finances after all the expenses of having two households, and moving us down, and starting a new residence. We're thinking that we'll be back on an even keel sometime in September, maybe. On the positive side, we just today received a solid offer on our house in Michigan. This is simply stupendous -- houses in northern Michigan just do not sell. My boss just sold his Michigan house last month -- and they moved down here two years ago. We had been planning to rent our house out and still have to pay $200/month of the mortgage, but if it actually sells and we're out from under it, that would be awesomely awesome.
As for the bike, it's coming down with us. I'm not hot to start riding it immediately -- as I've said about eleventy-billion times, it needs work. I'm looking forward to taking my time, building a proper workbench if the garage doesn't already have one, tearing the bike apart and rebuilding it. I'd like to include my son, if he wants to -- my oldest girl, if she wants to for that matter -- in the project, and take 6 months or a year to properly rebuild the motor and replace bushings and worn parts on the rest of the bike. At the same time, I wouldn't mind revisiting the beach-cruiser bicycle project that's been sitting in a box for several years.
I have to say, though, that being cooped up in my tiny apartment by myself for the past couple of months has given me time to think, and made me appreciate the things I have. I spent the past 2 years with my head either in a book or up my a$$, honestly, and I've not been the best husband or father that I could be...or even anything close to that. Not being with my family has made me realize just how much I miss them, and just how much of my kids' childhood I've actually missed out on. When I started school, my twins were still 2 years old. Now they're bearing down on 5, and we're looking at pre-kindergarden programs for them. My son just turned 11 and is interested in girls, and my oldest girl -- almost 9 years old -- is fast becoming a raven-haired beauty. I lament the time I ignored the kids to play on Facetube, or shushed them so I could hear a movie. I want to spend time WITH my kids, not just near them, when we get settled here. I can feel my priorities shifting, really. I don't expect my wife to trust it right away -- she's had a distant husband for a long time before I became geographically distant, and I don't doubt it'll take a while to bridge that distance.
So I'm hoping that this begins a new chapter in my life; in all of my family's lives. I have a new job that pays well enough that my wife doesn't have to work if she doesn't want to. My hours shouldn't be so bad that I'm always gone, and I should be able to spend time with my family. We'll be living in a region with awesome weather for 9 months of the year, and hot but pretty weather the other three months. There are things to do here, and hopefully we'll have the $$ and time to do some of them.
Ciao, and thanks to all of you for reading this blog as it's meandered along. With luck, in the coming months you'll start seeing posts here about overhauling the XS.