April 29, 2012

The Great Adventure, 2012....

So yeah, haven't posted anything in a couple of months, but I have a really, really good excuse, I promise. The excuse is as follows: I changed careers and I moved earlier this month. For most people (including me, in some respects) that looked like a really sudden thing. So now I'm going to take you back in time to late February and explain what led up to this turn of events.

Sometime around the last week of February, I was cruising the job listings on Craigslist, because I was in the habit of doing that just about every night. Not that I so much hated working where I was working, but that I felt I had completely stagnated, had no potential for advancement, didn't feel like I was being challenged, didn't feel like my full potential was being realized, yadda yadda. On this particular evening I saw a post titled "Office Assistant/Leasing Agent", and after reading it I decided to send in my resume. Worst thing that can happen is that nothing happens... that's one idea I've gotten used to lately.

Imagine my surprise, then, when something happened. They called me, did a brief phone interview, and said that if I was chosen to interview in person I would hear from them again. A few days later I was called in for an interview. I went in, not really sure what to expect, and ended up actually having a quite pleasant conversation with the interviewer. We established over the course of this interview that I basically had no property management experience, very little office experience, and would have to be trained pretty much from the ground up if I were to be offered the position. She helpfully suggested some changes I might like to make to my resume and asked questions that were actually relevant rather than the standard "Where do you see yourself in five years?" (I hate that question, by the way... I don't know where I see myself next week, much less in five years.) We parted ways on very good terms that day, and I told my mom on the phone that night that I thought it was a very good experience but that I really doubted I would be hearing from them again.

Thus, imagine my shock when I was called back sometime in the second week of March. I was told on the phone that the nature of the position had switched a bit. Instead of being "Office Assistant/Leasing Agent" it was now "Leasing Agent/Office Assistant", with the emphasis on Leasing Agent, and if I was still interested in the position knowing that, they would be interested in having me in for a second interview. I was sort of like, okay, sure. If you're interested enough to talk to me again, I'll be interested in the position. Why not? And I went in for a second interview late in the second week of March (I think we had a snow day that day, so I wasn't working anyway).

I had an interview with a man and a different woman that was a lot more difficult than the first one had been, and they also made me take a test on Microsoft Word and Excel. I'm far more comfortable with the former than the latter, having done nearly all of my six years of translation work in Word. I took one semester of Excel class in college and never used the thing again. So I wasn't sure how that was going to turn out, but I gave it my best shot. And once again I figured I probably wouldn't hear from them again.

Now we get into the timeline... I know these dates precisely. Monday, March 19th, I had a call on my voicemail when I got home from work. It was from this place I had interviewed at, and merely requested that I call them back. So I did. The nice lady on the phone (from the second interview, not the first) said that they had decided to offer me the position and that there were two options. The first option was to take the job at a wage of $13 an hour (slightly more than I was making). The second, and the one that she strongly hinted that they preferred, was that we move to Gresham and manage the apartment complex on-site, where I would get a free apartment plus $10 an hour.

Talk about mind-boggling decisions that have to be made really quickly. I asked her a few questions, jotted down some notes, and asked her for 24 hours to think it over. She agreed and we hung up. I then called my mom. And over the course of that conversation and thinking out loud, doing the math, and talking through the pros and cons of each choice, I realized that the Gresham option was actually looking pretty good aside from the whole moving to someplace I've never been part. Seriously, I had no idea where the place even was, but I had gotten the address on the phone and I Googled it.

I talked to the Chamaco about it some that night. He was uncertain on the idea. So was I, honestly. But I decided that this was a decision that needed to be made as a family and needed to be an informed decision. So the next morning I called in *cough cough* sick to work and called the Chamaco's school and told them he wouldn't be in that day "for family reasons". And we got our MapQuest guide and set out.

First off, the area was not what I was expecting. I was expecting big city urban... buildings and traffic, etc. The area is actually pretty calm. Yes, it's right on a major street, but not nearly as noisy and busy and urban looking as I was expecting. We played stupid and went into the apartment office like we were just off the street looking for an apartment. The guy in the office said the manager had stepped out and he didn't have access to the keys to show me an actual apartment at that time, but he did walk us through the furnished "model" apartment that was adjoining the office. He took my name and phone number and said he'd have the manager call us when she got back (she was taking longer than expected) and he was generally so nice that I felt like I was lying to him. So I finally told him that I had been offered a job with the property management company and that we'd been invited to move there. He said, "Oh, you're the one we got told to hold an apartment for!" I told him that was probably so. He said he still didn't have keys and the manager would call me when she got back.

So the Chamaco and I decided to go investigate the other important thing - school. I had deduced in my online investigating which school he would probably be attending should we make the move, so he and I went to check it out. We went into the office, and the secretaries were very friendly. We told them we were considering a move to the area and wanted to check out the school. We gave them the address and they confirmed it was indeed the right school and offered us a tour. We got to walk the school, which the Chamaco told me he gave "8 and 3/4 out of 10 stars". And as we were getting in the car my phone rang. It was the apartment manager, who was now back on site.

We went back to the apartments, not far at all from the school, and when I explained to her who I was and what the situation was, she offered to show me the apartment they were holding, which was being worked on that day... it wasn't quite ready for move-in, but almost. The workers were in there all right... it was an upstairs apartment, and I liked that there wasn't carpet. Vacuuming is not one of my favorite things. The walls were freshly painted (we were warned not to touch them, in fact), there was a nice balcony, and it was on the back side of the complex where there were trees and a nice fence in between the complex and the retirement community that is behind it. It seemed like a pretty quiet area, and again far less urban than I'd been expecting.

After that experience, the Chamaco and I decided it was lunch time. We found a Taco Bell not two minutes from the apartment complex, which we thought was neato considering that Molalla doesn't even have a Taco Bell, and sat down to eat and discuss. I asked him what he thought we should do, and he said he thought we should probably move. I asked him if he had any concerns about that or anything that would bother him if he moved. The first thing he said was that he didn't want to leave his friends. I expected that one. We negotiated a bit, and I agreed to allow him to get an e-mail address so that he could e-mail friends from Molalla, and he already has a phone so he could stay in touch that way. His second thing, and this was the one that almost had him in tears, was that he didn't think he would get to spend Friday nights with Grandma anymore since she would be farther away. Yes, 32 miles is a little farther than 7, but Grandma and I agreed that we could probably work it out. Only after addressing those two concerns did he even ask about his dad. I admitted that it would probably be tricky to work out those visits since his dad doesn't drive or pay gas money either one, but I told him we could probably figure it out... it just might take a week or two to get the details sorted. He deemed that acceptable. And I asked him one final time, "Do you think we should move?"

"Yes. I think we should."

That was pretty much what I was thinking at that point too, so we sat in the parking lot at Taco Bell, I dialed the phone and formally accepted the job offer. We swung by the office on the way home and I filled out some paperwork (I still had to be background checked before they could officially hire me), and hammered out the details of when I would start. I managed to wrangle a full two weeks at my old job out of them so I could give two weeks notice, but that was all... I would end my old job on Friday the 6th and start the new one on Monday, April 9th. And we would be moving Saturday, April 7th. This was all decided on Tuesday, March 20th, and we'd been planning to leave town on March 24th to visit my grandparents over spring break. Yikes.

I almost cancelled that trip, in fact, but I decided that I would need the de-stress time if there was any way at all I was going to survive the move. But I did put out the word on Facebook that very night that I would be moving and I was looking for boxes. The next night at church, Jacob and Amy brought me boxes, and I started putting some non-essential items into them. I had four boxes packed by the time we left for Gold Beach on the 24th, most of them from my bedroom... I'm not hardly in there except to sleep anyway.

We made the drive home from Gold Beach on the 28th of March, and then the real fun started. I spent the last few days of spring break packing and planning.

The work-week that started April 2nd and would be my last at my old job was pure hell. I got up at six, was at work by 7:45, got home around 5, helped the Chamaco with his homework, got dinner done, spent some time with the kid and put him to bed by 8:30, and then I spent the time from 8:30 to about midnight packing, then collapsed into bed. Wake up at 6 a.m. Repeat. For five days. I wasn't sleeping well in the few hours that I did sleep, and I was stressed out and emotional... I was crying at everything, which is nowhere near normal for me. Thursday was my last day with the kiddos and both classes had small parties for me because it was my last day. I managed to keep it together for them, even as I said goodbye to kids I knew I would probably never see again. Friday I did center meeting and managed to hold it together for a few hours, even when my coworkers took me out to lunch.

Friday night at about 10 o'clock, when I was still packing, hadn't even started on the kitchen yet, and knew there was no way on earth that I was going to have everything packed and ready to go by 10 the next morning when the U-haul got there, that was when I lost it. I called my mom almost crying on the phone and explained that it still wasn't even close to done and I was completely and totally exhausted and I was going to have to stay up all night packing, I was going to be dead the next day, and I had no idea how I was going to get everything moved and get the new place set up enough to be functional by Monday morning... I just didn't think I had it in me. She told me to go to bed (she and Dad were both pretty appalled that I was still awake at that point) and promised that she would come down early in the morning to help finish the packing before everyone got there to help move. 

Speaking of everyone, I should probably mention here that I have the best church family ever. I had put out the word that I would be moving on Saturday the 7th at 10 a.m. and would appreciate the help of anyone who might show up to put things in the truck. I expected maybe four people plus my parents, and I figured if I got four to six people it would probably only take an hour and a half or so to load everything in the truck. What I got was five men (at least a couple of which were capable of lifting large pieces of furniture unassisted) and three boys, plus my parents and the Chamaco. The truck was loaded in less than an hour. And the entire crew actually followed me to Gresham and helped unload the truck and carry everything up to the apartment and get it sort of in the right rooms. And when we got to Gresham we were met by some of my aunts and uncles, a couple of cousins, plus a couple of guys from the church in Portland that I had never met before but they'd come to help anyway since they were friends of my aunt and uncle. Despite the fact that the new apartment was a considerable distance from the parking lot and was also upstairs, that truck was empty in no time. By 1:30 we were on our way back to the U-Haul place with an empty truck. I was completely exhausted, yes, but I was also so grateful that I wasn't sure whether I should sleep or cry. (The Chamaco chose sleep... he slept with his head in my lap in the U-Haul on the way back. Fortunately my dad was driving.)

I should also mention here that I have awesome parents. My mom did come down early as promised (a bit after 7 a.m., if I recall correctly) and she pretty much packed my entire kitchen herself while I busied myself putting in boxes those last things that I hadn't been able to pack because they were things we used every day... toothbrushes, contact lens case, etc. Dad helped load/unload and drove the truck. And once we had the empty truck back to the U-Haul place, Mom stayed with me at the old apartment and helped me clean for several hours. She cleaned the kitchen pretty much by herself, I did the rest of the house, minus the bathtub which my brother showed up and did for me. When we were done, that apartment pretty much looked like we were never there, which was my goal all along.

Anyway, we spent Sunday afternoon after church getting situated. The Chamaco unpacked and set up his own room. I told him he could make it however he wanted so long as it didn't pose any sort of safety hazard. I did the rest of the house, starting with the kitchen, then the bathroom, the living room, and finally my own bedroom. Sunday night as I started packing the Chamaco's lunch for his first day at his new school, I realized I didn't have any drinks to put in it... this was at about 11 p.m. after he was already in bed and I was exhausted. I learned that night that it takes me exactly 9 minutes to drive to Safeway, buy drinks and get home.

I took him to school that first day, met his teacher briefly, and then did one of the hardest things I've ever done. I left him there. I turned around, walked out the door, and left him there in a place where neither of us knew anyone. I realize that most moms probably get over this right around the first day of Kindergarten, but I didn't do that because I was actually working at his school when he started kindergarten. Not only had I hand-picked every teacher he'd had up until that point because I knew them all, but also I would see him at various points during the day while he was in kindergarten... I always knew where he was, who he was with, and what he was doing. This held true even in first, second, third, and fourth grade because even though I no longer worked in his school I still knew the staff and knew the routines... I even knew most of the students. Here neither of us knew anybody, and the friends he'd been in class with since Kindergarten were miles away. All I knew about his teacher was her name, and I told him goodbye, told him I'd see him after school, and then left him there. I got out of the room okay, but before I got halfway down the hall I had tears in my eyes. By the time I got to my car I was crying like a baby, and it was only 8 a.m. And I had to go to my own new job. I was still mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted and the week was just starting. (Interesting fact: My mom later confessed that she cried when she dropped me off for my first day at Molalla Middle School too. I was in sixth grade, and she had not been employed at the school I attended K-5. Also by that point we'd been living in Molalla for pretty much all of summer vacation. Hmm.)

That first week was interesting. Damian's school called around lunchtime on the second day and told me that he was in the office with a 101.3 fever and needed to go home. Normally I would have asked my mom to go get him, but she was kinda far. Also if he was that sick, I figured limiting exposure was in order. So I asked my aunt to go get him and see how he seemed, and if he seemed bad I would see about coming home. Because remember, it was only my second day at my new job too, and I wasn't sure how it would go over if I left early, especially since it was my boss's birthday and we were out to lunch to celebrate it. So toward the end of lunch I called my aunt to ask how my kid was doing. She said he'd thrown up in her car. Crap. Fortunately everyone, even the birthday girl, was very understanding. Even when I pointed out that Damian would not be allowed to go to school the next day no matter how well he felt by that point, and if I couldn't find someplace for him to go I wouldn't be able to go to work. They said to let them know. So I went home with a sick boy and worrying that I was already starting to look like a flake to my new employer, on whom I depended for my housing. (By the way, if I'm ever fired or otherwise decide to leave my job, I have 24 hours to vacate my apartment. It's in my contract.) The good news was that I found someone who was willing to keep the sickie the next day. The bad news was that she was in Molalla. So we got up extra early the next morning and drove to Molalla and I left Damian with my sister, who is also awesome. Then I drove all the way back to Clackamas where our corporate office is. Damian was fine that day, by the way, and my sister reported that he was eating everything in sight. So that evening I drove back to Molalla to get him, then to Woodburn to pick up my contact lens order that was in, then back to Molalla to drop off my sister who had gone to Woodburn with us, then back home to Gresham.

Now that we're beginning our fourth week here, things are starting to level out. I'm working on-site now, having gotten the basic training at the corporate office, which means that my commute is a three-minute walk from our apartment to the office. Damian's getting the school thing figured out and is doing awesome with his new set of responsibilities here... seriously, I could not be more proud of the kid. When he gets off the bus at 2:30, I take a break (either a 10 or my lunch, depending on how the day's been) and walk him to our apartment and let him in. I don't get off work until six, so he stays home by himself and does his homework, any other little chores I might ask him to do, and entertains himself until I get home and make dinner. He's got a phone so he can call or text me if he needs to, and if he really needed to he could come to the office or I could run home, so it's not like he's cut off, but he's handling it very well. He's even starting to make friends with some of the kids in our apartment complex. Pretty much the only driving I'm doing now is to church on Sundays and Wednesdays, plus a trip to Molalla once a week to pick Damian up from his dad's (my mom is getting him there after he does his overnight at her house, and she's been meeting me in Oregon City to get him). Also I drive to the store sometimes (less than a mile) and a couple of times I've taken Damian to school (just over a mile). We've also begun to explore the area and have found a couple of decent parks that aren't too far away, as well as the local library. I'm still teaching English on Saturdays, and in fact the move has put us close enough to one of my earliest English students (who stopped coming to class when she moved to Gresham because she didn't have transportation) that I was able to pick her up and take her to class yesterday and then take her to church today.

April has been a pretty hectic month and one that we won't soon forget. I think overall this move will be good for us in the long run, though. Damian's learning to adapt to new environments and make new friends, and I'm working at a more challenging job where I will gain (and am already gaining) new skills that I could potentially take a lot of other places in the future. Once I get a full paycheck (my first check was a partial one because of when I started working), we should be doing better financially as well since I won't be dedicating a large chunk of my income to rent and I'm dodging the current high price of gasoline by pretty much not needing to drive anywhere. It's been an adjustment, for sure, but I think both of us are going to come through this as better, stronger people.

I think I mentioned back in January that I had a sense this was going to be a year of change, didn't I? ;-)

Our new living room, back when it was still in a state of empty.

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