Friday, April 29, 2016

Scarlett... we'll miss you

Shortly after we returned from our Thanksgiving trip to Ohio, Mommy B and I noticed that Scarlett wasn't eating much. This is a 7 1/2 year old Golden-something who hasn't missed a meal since we adopted her. At first it was just one meal here and there - maybe waiting to eat her breakfast until later in the afternoon or not eating her dinner until the next morning. But as the weeks passed, we noticed that she was going days without touching her food. We thought maybe she had just grown tired of eating the same dry dog food for 7 years. So, first we tried getting it a little wet so that it had a different consistency. That worked for a couple meals, then she stopped eating again. Next we tried getting her canned dog food to see if that would do the trick. Again, it worked for a couple days but then slowly tapered off and she would only eat a couple bites every couple days. As you can imagine, since she wasn't eating she didn't want to do much else. She would follow-us around the house and go outside to use the bathroom, but that was about it.

After watching this behavior slowly get worse over a couple weeks, we decided it was time to take her to the vet to check her out. The vet felt around and told us that he felt a rather large mass in her stomach area, but wasn't quite sure what it was. They also drew a little blood so they could run some labs. They informed us that it would take a couple days to get the results, so there wasn't much we could do at that moment. So we took the weekend to see if it was just a blockage that needed to pass, and would bring her back the following week to have an X-ray done on her so we could get some answers. The vet had called early the following week to let us know that some of her levels were high, so they definitely wanted to perform the X-ray to see what was going on.

Tatsy took her in to get X-rayed while Mommy B and I went to work, and the vet called Mommy B later that day with the results. He informed her that the X-ray showed Scarlett had developed a cancerous mass in her stomach area. This mass was pushing on her stomach which was making her feel full and thus not wanting to eat. He kindly advised that he could always try to surgically remove the mass, but there was no guarantees. For a dog that age, the rehab process would be long and hard... and there was no way of knowing if she would be "normal" again afterward. He didn't mention the cost associated with surgery, but I already knew the answer. Mommy B called me full of tears while I was leaving work to deliver the news.

I cried all the way home. Why? Why did this happen? Why did it have to happen so soon? She wasn't THAT old, how does she have cancer at this age? What will the kids think? What will they understand being so young? What will the house be like... feel like... without a dog? Will the next dog love us and the kids as much as Scarlett did? What if the next one seems nice but then bites or attacks the kids? So many questions and no answers... All I knew was that I wanted to get home and hug my poor doggy. For 7 years I've walked in the door from a long day at work and she has greeted me with a smile and a tail wag. That night was no different, only I held on to her for a long time when I walked in and sat on the floor.

Mommy B started crying right away, and of course I did too. The kids asked why we were sad, so we explained to them that Scarlett was sick and that she might need to go to the doctor soon. We tried to explain that when she went to the doctor, she wouldn't be coming home and that the doctor was going to help her go to heaven. Alli, never missing a thing, said "Will she see Grandpa Great?" Yes, Alli - hopefully she'll see Grandpa Great when she gets there. That might, Mommy B and I talked things over and made one of the most difficult decisions we've ever had to make as adults. We decided that surgery would be too expensive and too risky for a slim chance that she might get a little better, and we weren't about to watch her starve herself to death. So I made the ever-so-fun phone call to the vet the next day to schedule when we would put Scarlett to sleep. They had an opening on Saturday at noon, so I decided that would give us a couple more days with her and the kids would get to hang out with her for a bit that morning. Tatsy said she would come take the kids for that afternoon and evening so that Mommy B and I could have some time to grieve without the kids around. That night, we reminded the kids that Scarlett was very sick and that in a couple days we were going to take her to the doctor and he was going to "help her go to heaven" as they said.

So we tried to spoil Scarlett as much as we could the next couple of days. We let her eat table scraps, took her for walks every night, and basically just let her do whatever she wanted. On Friday afternoon, we took the whole family to a park down the street which also happen to belong to a neighborhood church. Fitting, we thought. The kids had fun playing with the dog one last time, and she had fun sniffing all the new smells. That night we made sure the kids gave her big hugs before they went to sleep and we took pictures of them laying on her. She had always been a saint when it came to putting up with the kiddos, so it made me tear up a bit watching them play on her.

The next morning, we all had a family snuggle fest on our bed including the guest of honor. After breakfast, we went for a family walk and played with Scarlett as much as possible. Tatsy showed up a little after 11, and that's when reality hit me - it was almost time to go. We had the kids give Scarlett big hugs again and told them that it was time for Scarlett to go to the doctor. They seemed to understand and Alli was visibly sad that this was the last time they would see the only dog they've ever known. After they left, we loaded Scarlett into the car and headed to the vet's office. When we arrived, they ushered us into a room with a pad on the floor where we could get settled. After a few minutes of waiting, they took Scarlett into the back so they could put in the port where they would inject the lethal drugs. When they brought her back, she was understandably a little skiddish, but I think the combination of being sick and not eat much for a couple weeks finally caught up to her. She eventually laid down in the corner and just let me pet her for a while. Maybe it was exhaustion or maybe wishful thinking on my part... but as I looked at her, she seemed very at peace. It almost looked like she was ready to go. Ready to stop fighting a losing battle with something she didn't understand. Ready to rest... finally.

The doctor came in and he explained how the process would work - how the drugs affected the body and what the reaction typically looked like. I had been through this process before with my own childhood dog, but Mommy B had never put a dog to sleep. After saying a few kind words, we told him we were ready. He injected another fluid first to flush the port, then injected the drugs that would quickly and painlessly take away our first family dog. It happened very fast, as it usually does. As the drugs made their way through her system, she coughed a couple times, then laid her head down and closed her eyes. The doctor listened for her heartbeat for a few moments, then told us what we had hoped not to hear for at least another 4-5 years... that she was gone.

I leaned down and thanked her for being such a good dog and for teaching me so much. About how to care for another life that depended on me (she was good practice before the kids came around), how to reset my priorities, how to see life through a dog's eyes, but most importantly to not take life for granted. She only got to spend 7 1/2 years on this planet, but she had a darn good life. Mommy B's biggest point of sadness was that her life had been cut so short... and while I agreed, I also reminded her that if it hadn't been for us rescuing her, she wouldn't have even gotten that. She did more in that short time than many dogs get to do ever. While she may not have gotten to live a very long life, she got to live a pretty great one. I gave her a big hug and kiss on the head, then got to walk out all teary-eyed to our car. The doctors have a large tract of land out in the country, where they offer to spread the ashes of any animal that they euthanize. Mommy B and I agreed that Scarlett would have wanted that instead of being stuck in a jar or box on the mantle.

I managed to drive us home, where we hugged each other and cried some more. I had gotten most of my crying out the night Mommy B had called and delivered the bad news, so I didn't have many tears left. Anyone who has ever been through this process knows the empty feeling you have when you walk back into the house afterwards. There were no kids around, and for the first time in 7 1/2 years... no dog. It was awful, and I knew that nothing was going to help except time. That night, Mommy B and I sat on the couch and watched some shows, constantly looking down to Scarlett's favorite spot on the rug. I had a beer for each year she was alive, recounting my fondest memories of her with Mommy B. There was the time we went running on the beach when she was a puppy. And how I took her for a walk every. single. day. until the kids were born. And the countless times she made me swim after her in the neighborhood retention ponds, then bathe her after I had dragged her home. And the time she escaped down the street only to come running back into the garage with a deer hot on her tail. Or all the moles she caught. All the nights she was up with us the first few weeks after each kid was born. And all the licks she gave to the kids as the grew up before her very eyes.

She was our furry first-born. And she will be missed dearly. I hope she actually is up in heaven with Grandpa Great, getting all the walks they both want. Goodbye, sweet doggy... we all will miss you so much.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hello everyone!

I know it's been forever and a day since we last updated the blog. Things just got so busy between our new jobs and whatnot that we neglected to do what we created the blog for in the first place - to write things down so we wouldn't forget them. So much has happened in the last few months that I need to catch y'all up on, so here goes.

My job at Equifax has been going wonderfully. It has been such a great place to work and I absolutely love the people there. I haven't felt this "at home" somewhere in a long time - which is a very refreshing feeling. It has been a crazy few months there (which is reason #1 as to why I haven't updated the blog,) but things are finally starting to settle down. I've been putting in 50 hours a week for the last couple of months as the deadline approaches for employers to get their 1095-C forms printed and sent out to their employees. The IRS pushed the deadline from 1/31/2016 back to 3/31/2016, which made things a little easier on companies to get their stuff together but harder on me because now I have to deal with this madness for another 6-7 weeks. We'll get there eventually though... and as I mentioned the people I work with are so wonderful that they make it worth coming in and dealing with the craziness that we do right now. I technically have another 3 months on my contract, but my manager has already let me know that her boss (my hiring manager, Mark) wants to bring me on permanently once my contract is up. I told her nothing would make me happier than to stay at Equifax, but the salary would have to be there in order for me to entertain the thought. She told me that last week all the team leads had to rank their project managers, and that I ranked right up at the top with the 3 people who were already permanent project managers (who have been doing this job the longest.) It was very humbling to hear a compliment like that, but I know I've worked my butt off to gain the knowledge and experience that I have in these short 6 months. So, we shall see where this journey goes from here... but I'm optimistic that all my hard work will pay off for me.

Mommy B has been slowly but surely getting into the groove of her supervisor position. She has been putting in some long hours too and it has not gone unnoticed. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous meetings with the higher-ups at her work in which she finds them fighting over her. I told her as awkward as it may feel because you are in the same room as all of this is taking place, it was a good problem to have. She has still kept her eyes out for other teaching positions because that is what she ultimately wants to do. As such, she had an interview just last week for a nurse educator position in an area she knows fairly well. It would mean getting her back to something she is a little more comfortable with and hopefully back to a normal number of hours as well... not to mention hopefully an increase in salary. Just like with my job - we'll see how it plays out and see what happens with it all.

Alli has been loving her new school. I get her up every morning at 6:10am to get out the door by 6:30 so she can catch the bus by 6:40am. She arrives at school by 7:20 or so and stays until 2:40pm, at which time she catches the Chesterbrook bus to go hang out at her old "baby school" (as she calls it) until Mommy B or I pick her up along with her little bro. In October, she was selected as the first "Terrific Kid" of the year. She got to stand up on front of all the Terrific Kids from the other grades and accept her award from the principal of Jennie Moore Elementary School. She was a little shy at first, but she embraced it after a little bit and has been impressing us constantly ever since. Her memory never ceases to amaze us, and Tatsy asked her the other day how many times she has missed the bus and she accurately responded, "Four," then proceeded to recount who took her to school each time. In all fairness, we actually have only "missed" the bus twice, and the other two times we drove her on purpose. She completed her first season of Little Kickers soccer and seemed to enjoy herself while participating. It didn't hurt that a few of the kids she goes to school with from JME were on the opposing teams and her coach was our neighbor, Mr. Mike. She was probably the fastest kid out there, but was still a little nervous about getting into the action.

Aiden has been following in his big sister's footsteps as many second-born siblings do. He recently moved up to Room 10 at Chesterbrook and has been loving being the only Meibers there for the majority of the day. He too completed his first year of Little Kickers soccer and after spending most of the season on the sideline because he didn't want to play - finally came out of his shell with two games left in the season. He was out there running around, getting in the mix with the other kids, and in his final game even took a fast break all the way down the field and scored his very first goal! Talk about a Proud Dad moment - and I was right out there on the field with him when it happened. I wish Mommy B could have seen it, but she was taking Alli to her last game at the same time. We signed him up for Spring soccer too so we can get him back out there again, and hopefully he'll continue his improvement.

There has been lots of other stuff going on, and now that things are settling back down a bit at work I'll try my best to get back on here and update things. It's been far too long in between posts, and I don't want anyone to miss out on the action of our crazy lives!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Get to work

After being unemployed for just over two months, I finally received an offer (two actually), accepted it, and started a new job on August 10th. Being forcefully unemployed is quite possibly the hardest job there is. Between applying for jobs, updating your online profiles, applying for unemployment, updating your resume, applying for more jobs, having the kids home 2 out of 5 business days, interviewing, normal chores, home improvements, stressing about money, applying for more jobs, and having more interviews... things are far from relaxing.

But, I hung in there and pushed on through. And go figure - after not hearing diddly squat for almost 2 months, I received two offers within 24 hours of each other. The first offer was from my former employer Blackbaud, who wanted to bring me back on as an Enterprise Senior Project Manager. It was more or less the same job I used to have there, only in a different business unit and a much higher salary. The other offer was for a 9-month contract position with Equifax. Yes, the credit bureau - only I wouldn't be dealing with that side of the house. I'd actually be working for Equifax Workforce Solutions which has recently developed an Affordable Care Act eligibility application. Employers purchase and use the software to help them determine who is considered full time (and who is not) and therefor who they need to be offering health care coverage to.

At first blush, you would think it would be a no-brainer that I'd go back to The 'Baud because it's the "safe" route. But, as I told the recruiter who asked me for the pros and cons of each, I know how the sausage is made. I left Blackbaud three years ago for good reasons, and I have no way of 100% knowing that those same reasons don't still exist. And even though the Equifax job is technically only guaranteed for 9 months, there is potential for a permanent position at the end of the contact. And worst-case scenario would be if Equifax doesn't re-up the contract, then the IT recruitment firm that brought me on has to find me another job.

Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I decided to take the position at Equifax. I know so many people there (former Blackbauders who also left for good reasons), and the money is out of this world. What's even better is that because I'm a contractor, I get paid hourly - so anything over 40 hours each week is time and a half. Cha-ching! I know it's a roll of the dice, and I'm not much of a gambler... so taking this type of risk (again) is really not in my nature. It was an extremely difficult decision, especially since Blackbaud had really come up big in the salary department - which was a shock. But Mommy B sat down and made a list of all the pros and cons of each, and at the end of the day the Equifax job just felt "right."

But before I got started, there were a few things around the house I wanted to get done. And by "I," I mean Mommy B. Let me see if I can recount the items that I worked on while I was laid off...
  • Stained our master bathroom vanity and mirror
  • Installed pullouts on the faux drawers on the master bathroom vanity
  • Replaced all the oil-rubbed bronze fixtures with chrome fixtures in the master bathroom - including the two faucets, towel bars, toilet paper bar, and all vanity pulls
  • Replaced the light fixture over the sinks in our master bath - which required an assist from Pops because the idiots who built this house didn't run the electrical wire to a junction box where the fixture would have been.
  • Removed and replaced lattice under our deck that Scarlett had broken
  • Installed heat reducing film on two windows in our master bedroom
  • Painted the front entry way
  • Power washed the entire front porch - including all spindles and railings
  • Repainted all spindles and railings on front porch
  • Hung pictures of the kids in the hallway outside their respective bedrooms
  • Patched a few holes here and there - mostly in Alli's bedroom and our bathroom
  • Installed a new gutter on the far side of the garage roof to prevent flooding in the side yard
  • Fixed a few blinds that were "stuck" and wouldn't open and close
  • Hung a new calendar and key rings in the entry way
I'm proud to say that not once in the 2+ months I was laid off did I take a nap while the kids were gone. Obviously I didn't have time for that given the aforementioned home improvements and contact job searching. I did, however, run the bridge a few times to get reacquainted with an old friend. It had been a few years since I crossed the entire span of the ol' girl, and she still put up a good fight. Well, I think it was mostly the July heat and humidity - but the bridge is no joke either.

Alas, I've been back at work now for three full weeks, and I'm so glad that rough chapter is over with. Now it's time for Mommy B and I to recoup my lost earnings and put some money back in the bank. I couldn't be more proud of how we handled things. Mostly proud of myself for staying disciplined all those years and putting money away in case of an emergency. Going 2+ months without a paycheck would have been enough to put some people onto the street, but we had enough tucked away that it really didn't adversely affect us all that much. We made a few cutbacks (like getting rid of cable), and are probably better off because of it. It was a humbling experience to say the least, but I'm glad it's over. Now Mommy B can seriously say "Get to work," and I'll actually have somewhere to go.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spread your wings, butterfly

Today marked another milestone in our books... one that sort of snuck up on us, and one I don't think we expected to make us tear up as much as it did. Alli started pre-K at Jennie Moore Elementary School today. We had talked a lot and weighed options about her doing this program versus one more full year at Chesterbrook. When the school system decided to make pre-K full day this year, we thought, why not? You have to apply and get accepted to the program, and we got her acceptance letter back when we were vacationing in Aruba, and we were thrilled! Alli needed a new challenge after 4 years at Chesterbrook, and we couldn't wait for her to start this adventure. On top of it being a new adventure for her, it is actually a brand new school that just finished construction mere days before the older students started classes last week. Yesterday, half the class attended pre-K, and today was Alli's turn. Tomorrow, the entire class will be there and they will start a normal routine. Although it is far from the normal we are all used to... Including and especially Aiden!

This morning Aiden woke up at 4:45am (yes, you read that right), talking about Jennie Moore. I swear this sweet boy was so excited for his sister, and cares so very much for her. Alli came down a little before 6, ready and excited for her new adventure. We got her dressed in her pink JME shirt, took pictures, and headed out so we could all be there to walk her in. Pictures are worth a thousand words... The emotions, excitement, and even the big hug between siblings were all captured this morning by photo. She was beyond excited, anxious, and a little nervous when initially entering the classroom. For as long as she can remember, any transition into a new classroom at Chesterbrook has at least included familiar faces and familiar surroundings. This was all brand new. We helper her find her cubby, find her name at her desk, and Aiden gave her a big good luck hug. I think that's what truly did me in. He has never been at Chesterbrook without her, that's all he's ever known is his big sister right down the hall. And seeing her so big, in a big brand new school, hoping she will get on the right Chesterbrook bus after school to take her to that familiar home away from home until we can pick her up from work... I was a nervous wreck watching the clock all day and wondering what she's doing. But... Here we are, we all made it. Another big day, in the books. She told us she had fun, said she wants to go back (so that's a good thing!), and that she made some new friends. Our next biggest fear and feat is her wanting to ride the school bus from our neighborhood to JME. And that very well may be a feat we face tomorrow  morning... To be continued on that one. 

The emotions of today ran the gamut... From excited, to nervous, to sad, to proud, to happy... All those things you spend so much time preparing for as parents, yet never truly realize when they are taking place before your eyes. Who is prepared for a 4 year old to spread those wings, take all you've taught her, and learn to fly on her own? How fitting in that the mascot for Jennie Moore is the Monarch... Fly beautifully Alli Ru, we are so proud of you!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

So long, Dean-o - Part II

Grandma Great originally didn't want to have any type of memorial service for her late husband at all. At first, she just wanted to have a private ceremony with just us family members and call it a day. But her children talked her into having a full service so that all the folks in Findlay who knew Dean would have a chance to pay their respects. Little did I know that it would turn into... all the folks in Findlay.

I seriously thought the town must have shut down from 11am-1pm that day. Once the doors opened and people began coming in, they didn't stop - for over 2 straight hours. The line of people was out the door the entire time. Since I didn't grow up in Findlay, I had to continuously introduce myself as Mommy B's husband or sometimes even as "Grandma C's son-in-law." However, with the advent of a little social media website called Facebook, just about everyone in town knew who I was. Well, let me rephrase... they knew who my kids were. Mommy B and I honestly felt like Internet celebrities with the sheer number of people who follow the repostings of Grandma C's pictures with the A-team. Many of her friends might not have known me from Adam, but once they knew I was the father of Grandma C's "adorable grandchildren," the association was made and I became as loved as anyone else in the family.

That's the wonderful thing about marrying into this family... they have all treated me like family since the moment I set foot in that small town over 12 years ago. And it wasn't hard to see why - Dean was like that. All the time. He worked at Cooper Tire in the Payroll department for over 40 years. Back in the day before direct bank deposits, he used to walk the floor of the plant and hand-deliver payroll checks to 900+ employees. He may not have always be able to put a person's face to their name, but he could put their face to their employee payroll number. "Oh, there's Sammy... number 35298." In a town that small (especially back in those days,) it's no wonder the whole town showed up for his memorial service. He had probably cut a check to just about everyone in town at one point or another during his tenure there. I've only been to one other funeral in my life, and it was for my own grandmother back in 2006. But I have never felt more like "part of the family" than I did that day.

It became very clear to me as I watched the steady stream of people make their way through the line of family members that Dean had influenced so many lives in his 79 years on this earth. But not just touched them, I mean really impacted them. I couldn't count the number of stories Grandma Great recalled about how she and Dean had met the person she was talking to. The woman has a memory like a steel trap. Gee, I wonder where my children get it? Every one of them talked about how much Dean smiled, and how much he loved and was so very proud of his family. I know how much a smile means to people. If you were to look back at my wedding pictures and examine the group of groomsmen I had assembled, you'd find that they're all very different from one another. However, the one thing they all have in common was that I kept them around because they made me smile. A smile is infectious, in the best way possible. And that's exactly how Dean lived his life - with a smile on his face and a laugh in his voice. In 12 years of being around Dean during family gatherings, I don't think I ever once saw him upset or down.

Once everyone finally made it through and we had shaken and/or hugged them all, it was time to begin the service. The whole family sat up front, with myself to the right of Mommy B, who was to the right of Grandma Great. To get things started, two retired military members walked in, picked up the folded flag from the table, gave it a slow salute and officially presented it to Grandma Great. Then as one headed to the side door, the other lifted his head and said "Prepare yourselves for rifle fire." The side doors opened and in walked another man with a set of bagpipes. He began playing "Amazing Grace," which made everything all too real, all at once. Once the song concluded, three rounds of seven rifles all fired in unison, to which a trumpet then chimed in to conclude the military honors. By then everyone in the front row was reaching for their second tissue. I still get goosebumps even now thinking about it.

The family's pastor then began telling stories that the family had shared about Dean. Everything from sibling rivalries to children's memories of their father to wisdom passed to grandchildren. Some of the stories I knew, some I didn't. Dean was one of five children, and all the siblings look exactly alike. Each time one came into the room I could spot them from a mile away. Everyone had some good laughs recounting some of Dean's funnier moments. The pastor went on to remind everyone that Dean had lost a considerable amount of weight by joining Weight Watchers, completely transforming his body within a couple short years so that he could have as many more years as possible. And through it all, there he was... smiling from ear to ear. He may not have had the easiest life nor the longest, but he had the best by the way he lived it. That was my biggest takeaway from the experience, and I vowed to try to live my life by it from that day forward. And don't think I'm ignorant to the coincidence surrounding that statement especially given my current (un)employment situation.

To wrap things up, Mommy B was to read a poem to the audience. I told her I would accompany her up to the podium and read it for her if she was too distraught. But, she made it through like a trooper - her voice only faltering on the last two lines. The pastor said a few more words and the service was over. We all wiped what tears we had left and said goodbye to those who were still there. There were quite a few people I was happy to see had made it - Grandpa Ron, Mommy B's best friend Jamie drove up from Dayton with her son, and all of Grandma C's friends that I've gotten to know pretty well over the last decade. They were all heartbroken at the fact that Dean was actually gone, but held firm in their belief that he was in a better place now. Probably walking Jada.

We packed up a few things and went over to Grandma Great's house to eat our emotions away thanks to all the homemade food everyone had dropped off the day before. We spent the rest of the afternoon sharing more family stories about Dean and stuffing our faces with all the comfort foods you come to expect when someone passes away. Since it had been such an emotional day, we called in an early night and went back to Grandma C's for some much needed rest. The next day was Grandma Great's birthday (July 3rd), so we went over to Uncle Tim's house and repeated the process from the day before of eating ourselves silly. Not to mention that a couple of us added some beers to the mix as well. We even had some ice cream cake for Grandma Great, so that she could celebrate her 79th birthday in style. That morning while Grandma C let me drive her Harley-Davidson Road King all by myself, Mommy B had dug into her closet and found the letters that Dean had written to her while she was away at college. She brought her favorites to the cookout that afternoon, and we all laughed until our faces hurt at the content of said letters. It was the second time hearing them for me, since I was typically present when they arrived at Mommy B's apartment. But it was even better hearing them all these years later... proving once again that Dean could always make you smile, even after he was gone.

We flew home on Saturday and were supposed to get into Charleston just in time to hop in the car, drive to my parent's house, and head out on their boat with the kiddos to watch the fireworks in the harbor. Well, little did we know that some seriously bad weather had moved into the Charleston area that afternoon, and things were not looking good for that evening. After having our first flight delayed, we completely changed airlines in hopes of getting into town on time. Well, that flight was then delayed to the point where we were likely going to miss our connecting flight to Charleston. We landed in Atlanta and I hauled ass to our gate and was relieved to see that the airplane was still there and the door was still open. However, because we thought we weren't going to make that flight, we had our original airline confirm us on a later flight so we could at least get into town that night. We tried calling them back to have them switch us back to the original flight (that was literally 30 yards away with the door still open), but they were unable to get the computers to match up. So there we were, watching our flight get pushed back and take off without us - taking with it our only hopes of watching the fireworks with our kids. Talk about being down in the dumps.

Well, come to find out, the weather had gotten so bad in Charleston that my parents pulled the plug on the whole boat outing anyway. They simply did not want to take the chance of heading out onto the water in bad weather with our children while we weren't around. So Mommy B and I sat in the Atlanta airport and had some drinks to help pass the time. Obviously we weren't missing any festivities back home, so we tried to make the best of the situation. All we could do at that point was smile, because we knew that's what Dean would have done. We eventually made it home and the rain had cleared out a bit which made our descent much easier. And best part was, the next night's weather was amazing and our neighborhood put on a fireworks show of their own - just a short golf cart ride away.

Needless to say we were glad to be back home and done with what needed to be done. I'm certainly glad we made the trip to not only see the rest of the family, but pay our respects to someone who certainly deserved it. Dean will definitely be missed by those that knew him, and luckily he has passed on some things that he'll always be remembered for. Fortunately for me, many of them are present in my wife. She got his flat feet, infectious smile, and a heart that was made to love. As a nurse, she treats everyone like they are part of her family - because she genuinely cares about them as such. As a wife, she has always been there to help me up when I'm down because that's what best friends do. And as a mother, she loves and is so proud of the children we are raising together.

So long, Dean-o... we're really going to miss you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So long, Dean-o - Part I

To compound the stress of being laid off, Mommy B's grandfather Dean passed away a couple weeks ago. His health had been rapidly deteriorating for a few months, so it was a good thing Mommy B took the kiddos up to Ohio to see him back in April. On one hand I wish I had been able to see him one more time before he passed, but on the other hand I'm kind of glad I didn't see him in the state that he was in at the time.

It was Tuesday, May 30th, 2015. I was getting the kiddos ready for school so that I could come home and get back on my job searching. Before I got the kids dressed, I noticed I had a missed call and voicemail from Grandma C. As I listened to the message, my heart sank. She informed me that her father had passed away in his sleep early that morning and she was headed over to the nursing home at that moment to take care of everything. My eyes welled up and suddenly the world seemed a bit darker, like a light had gone off somewhere in the house but I couldn't tell where. I wiped my eyes and continued to get the kids ready for school... but everything felt different. The kids weren't listening to me and wouldn't do what I asked (then told) them to do. Suddenly, I lost it. All the emotion from the past couple weeks came rushing up and I blew my top. I screamed at the kids... louder than I've ever yelled at them before. It scared the pants off both of them and they began to cry, which rarely happens. I'm probably lucky the neighbors were already off to work so they couldn't hear how loud I was. In retrospect, how stupid was that? Did I really think the kids were going to hear anything that came out of my mouth after that? Did I really think that was going to teach them a lesson?

After I finished scolding them for whatever it was, I stormed out of the living room and into our bedroom to get myself changed. After I had a few moments to think about what I had just done and how dumb of a thing to do it was, I went back into the living room and sat down on the floor in front of the couch where they were both still sobbing. With tears in my eyes, I held my arms out and told them how sorry I was for yelling. Still a little wary, they both came and timidly gave me a hug. I had them sit on my lap and I tried explaining to them that I wasn't mad at them and I had just gotten some bad news and that was what I really was upset about. They both seemed to accept that and told me that they didn't like it when I yelled at them. I replied by promising to never yell at them like that again. I swore that from that point forward, I would do my best to never yell at them that way again. As their tears and sobbing subsided, I gave them big hugs and kisses and reminded them that I loved them more than anything in this world. After we all wiped our tears away, we picked ourselves up off the floor and got on with our day.

After dropping the kids off at school, I came home and promptly called Grandma C. She told me they still didn't have all the details ironed out at that point, but they were going to have a memorial service for Dean in Findlay, Ohio on Thursday at 11am. I told her I would immediately start looking for flights for Mommy B and I. I had talked with my mom the previous week about Dean's declining health, and she said that if things got really bad (which they now had), that she and Pops would watch the kids for us. She said the last thing we would want is to have to worry about the kids while going through all of that too. After some serious searching online, I was able to find some halfway decent flights from Charleston to Detroit that didn't cost an arm and a leg. We would fly into Detroit Wednesday night at midnight (then drive an hour and a half home), then fly home on Saturday afternoon just in time for the 4th of July fireworks in the Charleston harbor on the boat with my family. That would give us plenty of time for the memorial service and a whole day to hang out with Mommy B's grandma on her birthday before we came back home. Once the flights were booked, I called my mom to let her know the plan and called Mommy B so she could put her notice in at the hospital. Luckily for me, I didn't have anyone to report my leave to.

We flew to Detroit by way of Washington, D.C. late Wednesday night and actually made it into Detroit around 11:30pm. Grandma C and her friend Tom picked us up and we made the dash back to Findlay - only stopping for some wings and a beer on the way. It was close to 2:30am by the time we finally hit the sheets, and we knew we were going to have to be up in a few hours to be up, showered, dressed, and somewhat presentable by 10am. It had been a long day, but we were both glad we were there.

After what felt like a short nap, we drug our butts out of bed and put on our dreary, black clothes. Although we looked formal, it was pretty evident we were headed somewhere somber. A McDonald's patron even commented to Mommy B and I while we were waiting for a bite to eat for breakfast... He pointed to a group of younger adults who were dressed in tattoos, tank tops and pants halfway down their butts and said "You two look so nice, all clean cut and everything... and then you have this over here," thumbing in the direction of Findlay's future police blotter stars. I held my poker face and replied, "Thanks, but we're on our way to a funeral." My tone probably read more like "I appreciate the compliment of being held to a higher regard than common white trash, but I'm in no mood for comparisons at the moment." We grabbed our McMuffins and walked out, hoping that a little sustenance would help alleviate the pit in our stomachs.

We arrived at the funeral home where Uncle Tom and Grandma Great had just arrived, as well as Uncle Tim, Aunt Trisha, and Mommy B's cousins Zach and Paige. The whole clan was there, minus the patriarch. It was the first time Mommy B or I had seen the rest of the family since Dean had passed away, and the tears certainly proved it. Uncle Tom was already wet-eyed and Mommy B began the waterworks when she hugged Grandma Great for the first time. After hugs all around, we went inside and prepared ourselves for the service - with Uncle Tim and Aunt Trisha hooking up a laptop that had a streaming collage of pictures of Dean. At the front of the room was a table that held a tri-folded American flag (Dean was a former seaman in the Navy in the mid-50's) as well as the urn that held Dean's ashes. Surrounding the table was more vases of flowers than I could count, as well as two large poster boards that contained more pictures of the family - all staring Dean. After making small talk with the family, the first of the visitors began arriving to pay their respects. Little did I know what I was in for...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Good Done (not so) Great

My apologies for neglecting you, Followers. As most of you have probably learned by now, any time there is a big lag in between posts, it's usually because lots of stuff is going on. Of course, that's usually the case around here more often than not.

As many of you know, I started a new job back in March with a small tech start-up here in Charleston called Good Done Great. I thought I had finally found "my place" in this budding tech town - I was brought on board to help build this company with my talent, skills and experience in project management. I was going to "get in early" and ride it all the way to the top. And with stock options waiting in the wings, it was only going to be a matter of time until my big payday arrived. Well, that dream fell disastrously short of everything I had hoped for.

It was Thursday, June 4th. The following Tuesday, June 9th, Mommy B and I were scheduled to fly to Aruba for 5 days sans kids. We were going to meet our good friends from college there, sans their kids as well. I get on a video conference with my interim manager (my direct manager who hired me quit a few weeks previous - which should have been a sign) and I thought we were just going to discuss how my onboarding had gone and how I was ready to take on the new projects they said were going to close for months. Well, another screen popped up and it was the president of the company. I knew right away that this conversation was either going to be really good... or really bad. Unfortunately it was the latter. The president told me that the Sales team hadn't been able to close the deals in the time frame they had anticipated when they hired me. This meant that there was no "new business" for me to be assigned to, which basically meant they were paying me to not do my job. He said that they could no longer justify keeping me on without having a client for me to bill my time towards. While I reassured them that I'd been keeping busy documenting their processes (which they didn't have before I got there), I also asked if there was any other role there I could assume until the deals closed. They both said that unfortunately there just wasn't the work coming down the pipe and there was nothing anyone could do to speed up the process. That afternoon was to be my last day at Good Done Great. In turn, they reassured me that this was not a reflection on my performance or anything personal, and that they would both act as references in my job search moving forward. I was to turn in my laptop by the end of the day and not to bother coming back in on Friday. I thanked them for the opportunity to work at such a "cool" place and wished them the best of luck in the future.

I've lived in this town long enough to know that there are just sometimes you have to take your lumps and keep your class, because making a scene or getting all upset would damage my reputation to the point that getting another job would be very difficult. So, I swallowed the lump in my throat, ignored the pit in my stomach and took the remaining hour of the day to collect my belongings and say my goodbyes to everyone. Needless to say, they were all stunned at the news. They had no idea that the company was in that bad of shape financially that they couldn't afford to keep me on a little while longer until some deals came through. Well, come to find out, they let another person go the next day... so it sounds like they were hurting for our paychecks back all along. I don't hold any resentment or ill will towards the company - I realize it's a numbers game and often times the last one hired is the first one fired. All that being said, I certainly got my first lesson in joining tech start-ups - you never know what can happen!

I came home that night and told Mommy B the news. She actually was more upset about the situation than I was. After putting the kiddos to bed that night, we talked about what to do about our vacation the following week. I promised that I would send out as many applications as I could while we were still in town and given how slow people are to respond here in the South, we might as well skip town and enjoy ourselves. I figured that there would be little to no response that week anyway, and there was no point in me sitting around staring at the computer (and my phone) waiting for something to happen. Plus, I didn't want to disappoint our friends who had been looking forward to this trip just as much (if not more) than we were. So we decided to hell with it, let's go to Aruba and get drunk on the beach all day. I'll try to post about that trip soon.

But here I sit - out of work for over a month. The job search and application process has been nothing short of disheartening. I applied for unemployment the week we got back and just received my first check yesterday - so stupid. I've sent out over 15 applications/resumes to various technology companies in town, and have barely gotten a sniff. Maybe my resume needs polishing, or maybe this town is so small that you really just need to know someone to get in. Personally I think it's the latter. I just don't understand how after reading the job description and requirements, you think it's a great fit and send in your application, all you get is... crickets. Nothing. NO RESPONSE AT ALL. Don't companies realize that by ignoring people completely, you end up really pissing them off? And they forget how small a town it is too - their reputation is upheld by word-of-mouth opinions. There was one company I applied to and they reached out to me in less than 12 hours... so why do other companies take weeks or just never write back at all?

Did I mention how frustrating this process was?

In the meantime, I've been trying to take advantage of spending more time with the kids. It is summer time after all, so that just means more time at the pool! Alli is taking private swim lessons (thanks, Tatsy!) nearby, so she doesn't wear any floaties any more. Aiden has gone a couple times, but I think next summer will really be his time to shine. We've spent some time out on my parent's boat and have been to the beach a couple times. Uncle Tom is coming to town tomorrow for the week, so that'll be a great time for them to ditch daycare and hang out with he and I instead.

The job front finally started looking less bleak this past week, as I finally got some nibbles for a couple applications. First interviews (aka the idiot test) are in the books, and I'm looking to get some more scheduled next week. Stay tuned for more as the saga continues.