2008 in Review

This morning while everyone sleeps, I thought I would give a quick year in review.  Wow, what a year.  Probably the best year of my life.  I hope I can continue to say that every year!

One year ago, it was the first day of being laid off in my life.  Good ole Bank of America laid off the entire Wholesale Division.  My life as a underwriter came to an end as the mortgage industry was obviously in signs of trouble.  I decided to leave the entire industry.  Boy, am I glad I did!  1 January 2008 brought a month of trying, scrambling to find out what to do.  I had severance for a year and my job working professionally as a genealogist.  That carried us through.  I have been doing genealogy for the same family over the Christmas Break to supplement our income.  That is certainly a great blessing.  I know it is a blessing to their family and those who have gone on before as well.  I have probably added more than 2 or 3 generations on each of their family lines.

The first week or two of January I received an offer for employment in Pasco, Washington covering the states of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming for Inlande Environmental Resources.  I would be making more than 10K more, have my own vehicle, card, and a whole lot more.  The only downside is I would be in Idaho most of the time while Amanda would remain in Virginia to finish her education.  We decided it was a great offer, much better than our options in Virginia, and could help open doors for the future.  The end of January, Brad Hales flew out, and we made a cross country trek in my pickup.  Brad has always been a very generous, kind friend.  Who would have thought a mission to England would have such long lasting repercussions?

February through June found me working for IER working with existing customers and making new sales.  The only big contract I found was with J.B. Swift in Hyrum, Utah.  It was 2 or 3 truckloads a month at present.  They were having so many problems with Thatcher Chemical that it was a fairly easy sell.  Honestly, I was just at the right place at the right time.  I really don’t think I personally did anything that really made the sale but it made me a favorite with the bosses.  We opened quite a few doors.  The big thing I enjoyed was the travel.  Salem, Portland, The Dalles, Weston, Pendleton, Gresham, and more in Oregon.  Toppenish, Yakima, Zillah, Sunnyside, Grandview, Pasco, Kennewick, Wenatchee, and Colfax Washington.  Wenatchee was another example of just being in the right place at the right time.  We were solving a foaming problem with apple concentrate waste.  We just had the right chemical but became known as the defoaming expert!  I also traveled all over Utah, Vernal being the most exotic visit.  I sure enjoyed Inlande Environmental.  They were really good to me and I enjoyed working for them.

May rolled around and I decided to accept an opening at Oklahoma City University for Law School.  I announced it to my bosses and they were more than accepting.  They knew when they interviewed me for the job I was seriously considering law school.  They were so good to me!  In fact, they let me keep my salary through to August while Amanda and I took our trip to Europe and here to Oklahoma City.  Amanda also graduated in May.  Amanda’s parents and I flew out for the big occasion.  We sure had quite a bit of fun!  During the time there we packed everything to move all our stuff to Oklahoma City.  We did a little sight-seeing as well.  Monticello was probably my favorite place to visit and I was fortunate everyone else wanted to go as well.  In the end, I flew back to work in Idaho and Amanda with the in-laws drove to Oklahoma City in a moving truck, and from there to Kaysville in the car.

A big first for the year.  We purchased our first home!  A quaint little 30′s home near 23rd Street NW in Oklahoma City.  A wonderful little home with plenty of things to keep me busy but still liveable.

June rolled around and then Amanda and I went on our very expensive weight loss program.  I can boast losing about 20 pounds running around Europe.  We spent six weeks in Europe.  Many, many firsts for both of us.  We visited friends in Belgium and they were very kind to treat us.  Primarily, it was perfect for getting over jet lag!  We then went crazy in traveling for the next 6 weeks.  About 4 days in Belgium.  We attended a Stake Conference in Antwerp and attended dedicatory prayers in Dutch.  That prepared us for Brugge, and where we spent our next few days in Amsterdam.  We saw the sights and even made a trip to Den Haag.  Off we shot across The Netherlands, across Germany to Berlin, and down to an ancestral home in Dresden.  I still think Dresden was probably my favorite place.  Even better than Vianden or the rest of Luxembourg.  Dresden is also near to Meissen which was another ancestral home.  I would love to spend a week in Dresden.  We shot across Germany through Leipzig down to Augsburg.  There we were based to hit Munchen, Dachau, and Fussen for Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein.  Then we headed off to visit Stuttgart with Neuffen and Holzgerlingen (ancestral towns) before heading to Salzburg.  Salzburg was definitely another favorite.  Gorgeous town.  Then off to sweltering Venice via Innsbruck.  There we spent time in a very different culture and climate in a city on the water with no water to drink!  After Venice, up through Padua to Zurich and down to Bern.  Bern was definitely another favorite.  I really wish we could have spent some good quality time there.  Then off through Lausanne and Geneva for a few wonderful, long, unorganized days in Paris.  If there was ever a point Amanda and I were getting tired it was in Paris.  More with each other than with the city.  But we really enjoyed Paris nevertheless.  If we had been stuck in Amsterdam during this time, we may have been in marital breakdown, but Paris made it bearable.  After Paris, we headed back to Belgium for a day or two before flying off to Prestwick, Scotland.

We then were in a car for the next 3 weeks!  That day we made our way through Glasgow before ending in Edinburgh for some wonderful times there.  We really liked that city.  I could certainly feel we were back in the United Kingdom.  There is a flavor in the air that reeks of Britain.  From there we worked our way down through Manchester, Liverpool, Northern Wales, Birmingham, Bath, Dorset, and finally to London.  In the UK we spent two weeks of it in the old stomping grounds of the England Manchester Mission.  We visited loads of people I knew and tried to balance that with seeing the sites for Amanda.  I think we did a good job.  We also caught up with some long time friends, the Gores and the Byroms.  We also met up with my old missionary companion Elder Gheorghe Simion and his wife who now live in Liverpool.  After the mission we visited ancestral homes near Birmingham, even stumbling on a cemetery in Halesowen with plenty of ‘my’ Coley line.  It was fun.  Bath was quite a bit of fun crashing that night with a cousin in Milton Abbas, a gorgous little Dorset town.  They treated us very, very well.  Then off to London crashing with the Jeppesen’s in Weybridge.  We spent our remaining time with them in their posh house until we flew out.  All in all, we loved our entire trip.  Paris could have used a bit more planning, but the trip as a whole was utterly marvelous.  We feel very, very blessed to have been able to take the trip.

We landed in Utah and the gears started grinding in different ways.  I tried to make sure everything was a successful transition for IER and we headed out for Oklahoma City.  We arrived here the very last week of July.  Before August had arrived we had moved all our possessions into the home and started setting up for the next few years.  I went to work on the yard, Amanda went to work on the inside.  We came to know our ward, get lined up for school, Amanda a dental hygiene license, and job.  Everything fell into place within a month.  I was rolling with law school and Amanda had a job blocks from home.

The rest of the year was fairly uneventful.  I sat trying to recoup some of my weight lost in Europe (I have been unsuccessful, not that I really want it back) in the law school library.  I picked up squash here again.  Amanda works her days away.  I am slowly remodeling a bathroom with all that extra time.  Amanda took up sewing our Halloween costumes and organizing Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then the year was over!

All in all, what a year!  I feel highly blessed of heaven.  Who could ask for anything more?  We have started paying off student loans for Amanda.  We are also paying for some work done on the house and what little remains of our trip to Europe.  We paid off the washer and dryer, now the refrigerator next.  Then we can start socking it away for retirement (since our retirement took quite a hit in October and since!).  Plus there will be plenty more to do to the house if we should really want to invest.  But all in all, God has been very good to us.  May he continue to light our paths and may we continue to do what is needed to bring down the extra blessings!  I am looking forward to 2009, although I think it will be much less eventful than 2008.  But hey, who knows?

Monday, Monday

I remember a time with my Mission President, President Stucki gave a talk on constant perfection.  He made a comment that if we ever felt like we were comfortable, like we had things figured out, like we could sit back and relax it was a great sign we needed to rise up and repent.  Life is a process of constant repentance through improvement and progression.  Somehow I have really taken the counsel to heart and don’t like to feel comfortable.  There is always more to do, someone else’s life to bless, some work needing to be done.
My weeks of late have been filled with a whole host of events.  Tuesday nights finds me at the Family History Library.  I have been spending about a week an evening out with the missionaries.  The Home Teaching list with 6 families requires diligent effort, coordinating with the schedule of my 14 year old companion, and hoping some of them might come around.  There are two widows in the ward whose family history I am inputting on the computer and preparing for temple work.  That requires constant updating and exchanging of information ever week at church.  Preparing and teaching the Family History Class on Sunday.  I go visiting with President Hahn usually about once a week for the Elder’s Quorum Presidency.  Last week I gave a talk in church on Family History.  Tomorrow and Saturday we are preparing chili for the ward and work chili cook-off.  Creating a couple gallons of white chili takes hours in itself.  Chopping up those four huge onions kept my eyes watering for several hours.  A black tie event tomorrow night, costume party Saturday night, Squash on Monday nights.  I don’t feel like I have much time lately.  But I feel very fulfilled with my life at the moment.  I hope someday my life will be remembered like that of President Kimball (whose biography I finished earlier this month) where his life was like an old shoe, worn out in the service of others.
Amanda and I attended a wedding last Saturday and because the weeks have been so busy we had to run to the temple afterwards and come back that same evening.  The week before Amanda spent the whole weekend in Grundy.  The week before was General Conference, which was fantastic I might add.
Work has continually picked up and I am feeling like I have a pretty good grasp on the work and what is required.  I think I may have actually gone a day or two where I did not have to ask a question of a co-worker.  Then today the bombshell came.  Bank of America is doing away with the entire Wholesale Channel.  December 31st will be the last day of Wholesale’s existence.  Meaning, I am without employment January 1st.  Sure, I get a month’s pay for severance.  But hey, I just got hired on!  I started as an official Bank of America employee on October first after four months as a contractor.  Now on January 1st, I am starting over.  Geez, I will have spent more time as a contractor at Bank of America than as an actual associate.  What does the employment world hold for me next?  Will I find another position in Bank of America?  Will I stay in the mortgage industry?  Where will I work for the remaining 6 months I am in Richmond, Virginia?  At any rate, I have the next three months to find a new job.  (Two months at Bank of America, one month’s severance).  My Monday at work was just about to close since I had gone through the rough tumble of learning the in and out of a new job.  Now I get to start all over!
We have decided to take a trip to Europe in June of next year.  We are thinking of spending 3 weeks in Britain and 3 weeks in Northwestern Europe.  We would probably spend 2 weeks in the old mission visiting and staying with people, another week touring parts of Britain, then three weeks with Belgium as our home base.  Our friends James and Catherine Cazier have invited us over and we will probably crash with them at their home in Belgium.  So much of northwestern Europe is within a few hours of there.  I hope to quell Amanda’s desire to live in Paris and we both hope to see much of the storied lands.  I think we will have to skip Germany this time around since there are so many places I would like to personally visit for family history purposes (not for research, just to visit).  Amanda’s goal is to earn the money to pay for the tickets to Europe and then I will pay for the rest.  However, we will have to see how the trip looks as we get closer.  Hopefully we won’t miss a beat in preparing to meet our bills while away on vacation for 6 weeks and pay for the trip itself and then the move to wherever we will move for Law School.  So much depends on my finding a good, new job.  Hopefully not at a lower salary than the one I was earning with Bank of America.
For those who asked if I am still thinking about attending law school in England, the answer is no.  I had an answer to prayer that made it plainly manifest I was not to attend law school in England.  Despite the heartbreak it brought, there was a certain relief at not having to try and figure out the ramifications of attempting to do so.  We also found out that Amanda would find it virtually impossible to work in the UK as a hygienist.  Basically the UK now says no to any hygienist unless they are a EU citizen.  To qualify she would basically have to take half of her schooling over again and the cost would be too prohibitive.  One would think that a country where citizens pull their own teeth for a lack of dentists would openly welcome hygienists and dentists to immigrate.  Classic socialistic medicine at work!
Well, time to shut down.  I have to get up in the morning for a company that doesn’t want me anymore.  There is incentive to do a good job!  Talk about moral hazard temptations abounding all over the place.  Why should I care if I do a good job since there will certainly be no rewards.  What are they going to do?  Fire me.  Wait, they already are.  My incentive is not to care so much since job performance means nothing.  Who cares about customer satisfaction?  It will be a tough walk for all those involved.  Should I take my sick days while I can, even though I am not sick?  What about those paid vacation days I have accrued, use them all, now?  How much time should I dedicate to finding a new job?  It will be a temptation minefield to remain integrity, honesty, and dedication to the company who feels in most senses to have turned against us.  To remain proactive and pushing forward where there are very few incentives will be difficult.
What does the future hold now?  I haven’t had much time to relax and think I am content lately.  The next few months will probably hold even fewer.  The table now has to include job hunting.  I haven’t even completed writing the personal statement and applying to law school (which has some large costs as well, although Amanda tells me I can’t apply to California schools now).