Today would have been Mom's 68th birthday. Or is her 68th birthday, depending on whether or not you're supposed to keep counting after someone dies. I decided to keep counting for Mom. Since I keep talking to her it's only fair that she gets to keep her birthdays.

It's not a "crazy person at Wal-Mart listening to voices telling them what to do" talk, it's just talking to her like I used to. 2 weeks ago I had a nice chat with her while I was going for my (what has turned into a weekend-) morning walk. Granted, her side was pretty, but I enjoyed catching her up. Plus it helped to motivate my walk.

I would worry about doing this except for a few things. I enjoy it, as it keeps Mom close in my mind (and my heart) even after all these years. I'm a Momma's boy, so that's important to me in the long run. Jerry told me he's been thinking about his Dad more than normal lately - it's the time of year when we both recollect about our missed parents - so I'm not alone in my weirdness. The most important reason I don't worry about this though, is because I don't care if it's odd or weird. It makes me feel good, with one of those warm, fuzzy feelings that we used to always hear about when I was growing up.

So happy birthday Mom. I still miss you. I'll always love you. I'll talk to you in a little bit.


Job Search 2014


For 4 months I was unemployed. Oddly enough, I guessed I would be unemployed for 4 months, which sounded about the average from what I've heard as far as what I do and the experience I have in doing it. I loved working for Spiritus, the company. I had a great boss that took care of everybody, I got to work with my best friend (who technically was my supervisor in the org chart, which we both made fun of). The drawback was that I hated my day-to-day job of going out on the Arsenal and the work environment that came with it. After almost 3 years of driving out there, plus around 7 of working on the same project that had evolved into a completely different project, I was ready for a change. When the project was transferred to another contract and company I decided to not pursue the position I held - it might be too easy to stick with what I was doing out of security and try to overlook that I no longer liked what I was doing. Instead I depended on Gina and the good people that pay Alabama taxes to support me while I tried to find something else.

Since the last time I was unemployed, all job listings for what I do are only listed online, so no more looking through newspapers for want-ads. Now it's a daily grind through job search engines. I had 16 bookmarks for job searches, although some were duplicates to differentiate between "php developer" and "web developer". Most sites listed the same jobs but there were enough differences to keep me looking at them all.

In the beginning my goal was to find a job in a work environment I liked with people I enjoyed working with (mark the Arsenal off the list) along with a programming language I'm comfortable enough with that I think I'm actually good (enter PHP web development, vs the C# I've been hacking away at for 3 years). I knew I would have to take a cut in salary from what I was used to making, but that's due mostly to Spiritus taking extremely good care of everyone. My goal was to try and not take more than a 31% cut, but I was realistically able to accept a 40% hit for something I liked and still be able to pay my bills.

I started out applying for the jobs that sounded good and for which I thought I was qualified. I heard nothing back. In the second month I got called in for 1 interview doing PHP development for a company that does streaming video conferencing. After the 30 minute interview that they said they would get back to me I never heard anything from them again.

I applied for lots of jobs. After 4 months I started applying for the government contractor jobs I didn't really want - the ones I really only felt marginally qualified for, but my resume showed my experience. I had phone screenings/interviews, some of which I could tell that I was in no way really a match for. In the fourth month I had my second face-to-face interview, this time for a job doing government sub-contracting where I only matched half the skills they were looking for. I nice enough interview, but I could tell at the end I didn't have enough of what they were looking for.

I applied at Dealnews, where Keith works. This was the best match of them all. Thanks to gaming with some of the Dealnews crew I had a good idea of the environment as well as the people. It's a PHP shop, albeit with more advanced programming techniques than I'm used to (mainly because my PHP experience has been me, Google, and Jerry's brain). It took some time, but I eventually had a phone interview with them.

Then things got interesting.

On a Friday morning I got a call from a company that had gotten my resume from the person I talked to at Interview #2. This company supported the one I interviewed with and in talking together they thought I would be a great fit for this position. The guy on the phone goes on and asks me a couple of questions.
Do you program in Java? No.
Do you have any Android Mobile Development experience? I've made websites that are mobile compatible, but not anything native to Android.
Have you made test plans?
At this point I've noticed I've been basically answering no to all of his questions. In addition, he's gotten my resume from someone who I interviewed with and he's hitting the key points I was lacking in that interview. Instead of saying no again, I decide to stretch the truth and fall back on Google tutorials later if it comes to it.
I've made test plan documentation, but not written code to automatically test code modules. Sounds like I know what I'm talking about, doesn't it?

He asked a few more questions and told me someone from HR would call later. He stressed how they were looking to fill this position immediately, and that seemed to be a big deal. 15 minutes later, a girl from HR called. She asked some HR questions and asked me to go onto their website and fill out an application. That's fine, I've got a version on my resume that's copy/paste friendly for most places and how they want their input formatted. I went and filled it out, surprised it was as easy as 4 steps and just needed me to upload my resume.

Around 3:30 Friday afternoon I get a phone call from the HR girl that my application isn't complete, which seems to happen a lot. It seems the application process changes after uploading your resume to where it's not intuitive that there's still 7 more steps. Ok, fair enough, I can copy and paste stuff like I was expecting. The HR girl tells me to finish that, but that the person that will look it over probably won't get to it until Monday. Hopefully things will go fast and they'll get an offer letter out to me the first part of the week.

After getting off the phone it hit me she said offer letter where I was expecting set up an interview. Plus, I didn't really know what this job that I applied for entailed, since I basically answered no to 75% of the questions I was asked on the phone. Oh well, we'll see what happens.

Come the following Monday I got a call from Vanderbilt in Nashville. Thanks to Dr Blondie moving and taking a job there, I applied for a PHP position mostly for fun and partially as an extreme backup (it's a heck of a commute). They wanted to interview me, so I set up and interview for Friday afternoon, the next day. Mainly this was my excuse to visit Dr Blondie and her new digs. It would also get me my 3rd face-to-face interview and if nothing else I thought I needed the practice.

Since things were moving on the job front I decided to bug Keith about Dealnews. The following week was Thanksgiving, so I figured nothing would happen until after the holiday - probably nothing until after Christmas. Keith told me he heard they were planning on setting up interviews early in the week before Thanksgiving. Well that was a surprise! I wonder if I'll get called in? I sure hope so.

Tuesday and Wednesday go by without interest, and on Thursday I start thinking about my trip to Nashville the next day. Then the phone rings and it's the HR girl from last week. Sorry it's taken this long to get back to you. We're getting the final 2 signatures on your offer letter and then I'll get it sent out to you.. Offer letter? From a phone interview. Really? Ok.

A couple of hours later I get the offer letter emailed to me. It's a nice salary - only a 20% cut from what I used to make. The letter only states position title (Engineer/Scientist IV) and bi-weekly salary. No mention of what I'll be doing. Or where. Also they want an answer by Monday.

Even though I have no idea what this job really is, it's the first offer I've had in 4 months. 4 months was my "oh shit I've got to start looking for any job" start point. I called the HR girl and asked about a start date. Since next week was Thanksgiving I was expecting her to say the following Monday. Oh these guys wanted you to start last Sunday so the sooner the better. Really? How about Monday, before Thanksgiving, would that be ok?

It was. We set everything up to start on Monday. But before then, I took a trip to Nashville to see Dr Blondie. And have an interview.

On the trip to Nashville Friday morning I got 3 calls from the job I just accepted and was starting on Monday. There were confirmations that paperwork was going back and forth along with setting up times and places for me to be Monday morning. As I was pulling into the Vandy parking garage I got a different phone call. From Dealnews. To set up an interview on Tuesday.

I smiled. I smiled big.

We set up the interview for Tuesday and I went to my interview at Vandy. The Vandy guys are nice and the interview went well, but I could tell I'm too old-fashioned for them in my programming mentality. Best of all I got to hang out with Dr Blondie afterwards, and I managed not to embarrass her at work like she was afraid I would do.

Come Monday I started the new job and did paperwork and reviewed documentation all day. At the end of the day I still didn't know what I was supposed to be doing. The next day I went to work, then in the afternoon I went to Dealnews and had my interview. I think it was an interview. Mainly I felt like I was hanging out and telling a couple of guys, 2/3 of which I had never met before, about some of the stuff I had done and people I had known. Then I went back to work and read more paperwork.

After the first week of work I felt like I was once again in a government contracting job, and it was just a 3-day week thanks to Thanksgiving! The people were better than the batch I was stuck with on the Arsenal. The daily environment wasn't as depressing as the Arsenal. Good lord but there's a bunch of politics going on within this project though. There are 2 sub-contractors that it seems secretly don't get along, and they have to share resources. That's the short version. From what I had heard about the contract I had a bad feeling long term. Maybe it was because I've gotten laid off twice due to government contract changes? I could be contract gun- shy!

Monday after Thanksgiving I get back to the grind. More documentation. 3 meetings amongst the 2 companies I'm involved with. In the morning I get a call from Dealnews HR that they're going to call my references in case I want to warn them (that's exactly how she said it!). Well I guess they wouldn't go to this trouble if they weren't going to go forward with me. Call away! I quickly txt all my references to warn them of the glowing recommendations they're about to have to make up, which they all do.

At this point I get a txt from Jerry who asks what I'm going to do if they make me an offer. This is the place that I feel I want to work at, that's a good fit. I'm not sure if I've been intentionally picking out the negatives of the job I started last Monday to make it easier to switch in case the offer is substantially less. But I tell him unless the offer it below X (which is $15K below the new job), I'll take it and not think twice. He then asks me when I think I'll hear back about an offer and what I think it'll be.

I smile again, which he doesn't know because we're texting. When everything happened at once with all the interviews and original job offer I got the feeling that Mom was behind it all. She's been gone almost 7 years but I still admit she looks after me. At this point Tuesday, the next day, would be the 6th anniversary of the day she died. "They're going to make me an offer tomorrow for Y (I picked $10K below the new job)" He asked if I would take that? Yep, without thinking twice.

Tuesday, the next day, at 9:30 in the morning, I got the phone call telling me the offer. It was for $10K more than the new job I just started, which was only 12% less than I used to make at Spiritus. Mom's still looking after me, and I start Dec. 10!

Now I've got a job to go quit.

Throughout the job search I kept up with where I applied to (so I wouldn't apply for the same job over and over) as well as what happened afterward.

mom programming/interweb

A New Mom Dream


It's been a while, a long while, since I had a Mom dream. The last dream or two I remember she was pretty much just in the background. Last night, I had a proper Mom dream - granted, it doesn't make much sense.

The dream started out with me and Gina watching TV/a movie at her house. The furniture was laid out a little different, but it was her house and it was daytime because the sun was shining through the living room window. Gina would look out of the window occasionally and she would say "Awww, solicitors!" at which point one or both of us (it kept happening) would run back into the bedroom and hide until they knocked or went away.

Finally this repeated and she told me to go hide in the bedroom (evidently I wasn't presentable) and she would find out what they wanted. I scurried back into the bedroom with a nondescript Yorkie on my trail. The dog wasn't any of the dogs that Gina usually keeps, but he was cute. I went back and hopped into the bed, then lifted the covers to let the dog get under them. He did, and as the covers floated back down he scurried up to the head of the bed where we cuddled. I know, this sounds nothing like me, but it had too much detail in my dream.

Laying in bed with the dog I heard murmurs at the front door between Gina and whoever was on the other side. Through the closed bedroom door I heard Gina tell me "Honey, you're going to like this" and the bedroom door opened. In walked 40 year-old Mom. Behind her were 6-10 nondescript people with notepads and various pieces of recording equipment (small cameras, tape recorders, I think a Dr. McCoy scanner might have been in there), and Gina standing in the doorway smiling.

I was sitting up in the bed open-mouthed trying to figure out what was going on, as none of this made sense. Mom walked around the foot up the bed up to where I was, saying "I'm so sorry, I heard this was hard on you. I never thought it would be." She ended up sitting on the bed next to me. I wanted to ask her what was going on, what happened, all that stuff that would make sense to someone you see after they're supposed to be dead. I guessed, looking at all of these people that came with her scuttling about the room with their recording devices, that there was some reason she originally had to go. Mom held my hands and told me "I've arranged it where they'll let me see you once a month."

I still wanted to ask questions, but part of dream-me knew that (1) I shouldn't, and (2) it didn't matter. Still sitting in the bed, I put my arms out and hugged mom, and held her as tight as I could trying not to cry. I'm pretty sure I did (I am now, but not bawling). One of the recorder-people was asking me a question, and I must have been ignoring her until I heard her yelling. I looked away from Mom and asked "What?" and saw a short Asian woman with a notepad loudly asking "THE CAT, WHAT NUMBER IS THE CAT?". I didn't know there was a cat in the room, but I should my head and looked her and said "I don't know. Make up your own number. Two?".

I turned my attention back to Mom. Even though I had questions running through my head about what was going on, I didn't want to ask. 40 year-old Mom was looking good. I asked her if she was ok. "Yes, I'm doing ok." she said. "I've got a girl now, and might be having another one. We've just got to get the parts approved." This made sense in my dream and didn't sound weird at all. Since waking up, this is the part that makes me say "what the hell?".

The milling people with recorders started to make a louder background murmur and some of them started to file out. Mom had the look that told me her time was up and she had to go. She sat on the bed and we held each others hand. I still had questions but I didn't want to ask. She looked sad that she had to go but knew she didn't have a choice. You could tell both of us wanted some more time together but didn't want to take the chance that doing so might prevent us from doing this again (evidently in a month). And with that I woke up.

Waking up from a dream like this is weird. There's a few seconds of "ahh, what a nice sleep I had" followed by a rush of the high points from the dream playing at quadruple speed. Finally, there's a little shock at what was in the dream along with a "what the hell?". After that, usually, comes "where did that come from?".

I'm still working on "where did that come from".

None of that explains why Mom was 25 years younger with an entourage. Secret agent? Witness protection? She had a girl and might have another if the parts were approved...?

Dream-me wouldn't ask any of those questions. It was like I knew asking, or the answers, might make everything fall apart. Kind of like finding the penny in Somewhere In Time.

Now I'm curious to see if anything happens in my dreams in a month.


Another Mom Moment


There are times I miss Mom, lots of times, actually. This past weekend was one of those times just because of where I was.

I was at my local Hobby Lobby, not for anything specific but just dropped in because I was in the neighborhood and thought I would look around and see if they would happen to have anything that would fit some of my straggling Zombie Mall accessory needs (they did not). While walking around the store, I went by the fabric/sewing section and decided to check prices on cutting mats, as my big one that I inherited from Mom is about chopped up - not to people using cutting mats, they're for rotary scissors and not razor blades when cutting matte board.

By the cutting mats are drawers of sewing patterns. Flipping through the patterns was a gray (actually white) haired woman who made me think of my grandmother, if my grandmother had white hair. Sitting next to her was her husband, who would really rather be anywhere else. I had a silent chuckle remembering all of the times Mom dragged me to a fabric store. There goes the next hour! If I'm lucky. No amount of "I'm bored" sped her up. I could tell by looking at these two that no amount of "I'm bored" was going to rescue him.

Even when I left to continue the circuit around Hobby Lobby, I stopped for a bit to watch them some more. In the whole time I watched, which was a good 5 minutes between looking at cutting mats and the weird stalking I was currently involved, the white haired woman never looked up from those patterns. Simplicity must be some form of crack.




Today would have been Mom's 65th birthday. She's been gone for 3 years, and I still think about her more often than I ever thought I would (which I'm pretty sure is a good thing), but I always think about her more on her birthday.

Tonight I followed Gina to the Nashville airport so she could drop off her son's car. It can get more complicated from there, but it's not really relevant right now. On the drive up I65, I had a weird feeling, a feeling that I was supposed to be driving toward Nashville on January 5th. It made sense, I had done it for years. On top of going to see Mom on my birthday, I would try to go see her on her birthday too.

I've made that trip along I65 so many times I made myself little landmarks to break up the monotony of driving through Tennessee. Exit 6 is the Boobie Bungalow. Exit 17 is Sarge's Shack. Exit 22 is The Tennessean Truck Stop. Then it's a longer stretch until the Love's at Exit 46. Tonight I was checking off exits and had that familiar feeling of "Here I am on Mom's birthday, heading up to Tennessee."

It wasn't a bad, melancholy feeling. Somehow, it felt good to remember that this was what I used to do.

So even though I was on my way to the Nashville airport, somewhere between The Tennessean and Love's I ended up singing Happy Birthday to Mom. Then I told her I love her and I miss her.


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