Friday, November 28, 2014

Annoucement - New Blogger

Hear ye, hear it known by all present that My Sister...The Devil has bowed to the pressure from numerous sources, including her none to humble brother and now blog father (that'd be me), and started her own blog wherein she can wax poetic and/or vent her spleen as she sees fit. Her brain drippings can be located at Texas N Sanity. She has even posted content. Go forth. Read. Comment. Be kind and encouraging...or you see fit.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Where Has Waldo Been?

As some of you may have gathered from the recent teaser pic, Daddy Hawk and family escaped the confines of our current living arrangements and hit the open road for adventure. Every year, our church keeps God's Holy Days as outlined in the Old Testament. The last of the fall Holy Day season is the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (don't worry...I will not turn this into a preaching post) which is 8 days long (7 days for the FOT + 1 LGD). The church picks a place or two (or a dozen depending) where church members from around the country/world can gather together and celebrate the feast, worship together, fellowship, etc. This is a big reason why The Queen, who grew up in the church, knows people EVERYWHERE (I'm not kidding about that either).

Any explanation, this year, the choices were Oxnard, CA; Tulsa, OK and the middle of nowhere Kentucky. The Queen, being a California native, REALLY wanted to go there. Health (The Queen's) and circumstances (my employment status) threatened to derail our ability to go at all much less California. There was also the minor detail of how to get there.

You see, the Queen can not fly anymore. The last several attempts have literally been disasters. She puked in a Cessna that I had rented in straight and level flight on a calm day (guess who got to clean that mess up). She passed clean out on a Southwest Airlines flight and required smelling salts to be revived. The last time she set foot in an airplane was 2006 when we attempted to board a flight for Florida. I say attempted because that was near the beginning of the mystery illness. She started having difficulty breathing, and we had to get back off the plane and rush her to the hospital. Our luggage had a lovely trip to Florida.

Us, not so much.

So, driving was our only viable option.

I digress again. Our plan to travel this go round was further hampered by yours truly who fell Friday evening before our intended departure date. I was carrying M&M, and we were climbing up some rocks at the lake to get to a boardwalk when a rock shifted under my feet. It threw me off balance. The Queen was out of arms reach and unable to assist. I had a choice of falling over backwards and potentially cracking my skull open or worse or dropping both M&M and I straight down. I held M&M out at arms length in the hopes that I would not land on her and tried to fall gracefully. I don't have pictures of the damage. M&M was physically fine but lamented the loss of the gumball she had been licking in horrible wails of anguish. I lost some skin on my right foot in two places (dime size and quarter sized) and had a huge knot swell up in the meat of the arch of my right foot. Walking was painful to say the least (I thought I had broken something at first).

We went home and elevated and iced the foot. By Saturday, the swelling had gone down and I was able to walk with less pain. Regular shoes were right out because the larger patch of missing skin was right below my ankle and rubbed on everything. Fortunately, I have a pair of sandals that didn't interfere with the mess.

Sunday morning dawned, and The Queen gave a green light on her end. No one was clammering for my services for the near future. So, we loaded up a small Uhaul cargo trailer with our luggage (The Queen does not know the meaning of the phrase "pack light"), some camping equipment, a cooler full of food, and pointed the Navigator west.

First stop: Carlsbad, NM.

I should mention that we left the house with no (zip, zero, nada) accommodation reservations. Since we did not know whether we would be able to go until the last minute, making reservations seemed a bit presumptuous (not to mention potentially an expensive waste of money). So, we made the reservations (if any) as we went. Our first night was spent in the KOA campground outside of Carlsbad. It's actually a very nice place to stay if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods with a yen for something other than a hotel. They even have small cabins for rent. We chose to pitch our tent for the night and had a restful, if chilly, night's sleep being serenaded by coyotes.

Day two started with breakfast at the Denny's in Carlsbad (truly, horrible service...worst restaurant service I've had in a long time) followed by a tour of Carlsbad Caverns.

Imagine pictures of a really big cave here...none of the ones I took were blog worthy. We did get a nice tourist to take a family shot for us...which you would see in this space if Google Drive were being cooperative right now which it isn't.

I gave up on Google Drive and went with the laptop hard drive
After that, we drove back into Texas, through El Paso, across the rest of New Mexico and stopped at the KOA in Benson, AZ just outside of Tucson. The Benson KOA is not as nice as the Carlsbad one, but it clean and quiet nonetheless.

M&M sacked out in a pile of comforters...for such a small girl, she can cover some real estate
Day three started at Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery in Tucson, AZ. Really. Good. Gluten Free backed items. If you need or want that sort of thing. The GF Cinnamon Roll was more of a iced cup cake than roll, but it was still tasty. Other than that, well worth the stop. Discussion was had about making a stop between Tucson and Oxnard, and it was ultimately decided to press on and arrive ahead of schedule. We arrived at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Bay in Oxnard at around 1:00 AM with no reservation. They found us a room, and we passed out.

Day four dawned to a beautifully clear sunrise and no idea where we were going to stay for the next 8 days. An attempt was made to have breakfast. I say attempt because, apparently, someone was so anxious for me to get in touch with the rental property manager that I was not allowed to finish my omelette before being frog marched at knife point to my phone with strict instructions to make arrangements.

There were three properties we were interested in. Through careful process of elimination, it was determined that only one of the properties had any chance of working for us. Fortunately for us, the most likely candidate was the one we had been most interested in from the beginning. So, after a couple of calls, arrangements were made to see the property in person. It passed muster, and we went around the block to the property manager's office to sign papers and fork over money.

This was our prize and home for the next several days.

This picture does not do it justice. The main selling points were that it is right across the street from the beach and was the most unique place we had seen. It was originally built in the 1920s as a beach shack and had been added onto, remodeled and rebuilt over the years. According to a plaque on the curb, it was redesigned by a 14 year old with help from his dad.

You thought I was kidding
While we waited for the official check in time before unloading our stuff, we drove around Oxnard and actually found the house we had stayed in the last time we were in Oxnard 14 years ago. Not a bad trick considering we didn't remember the address and only had vague recollections as to the general vicinity.

Check in time rolled around at 3:00, and we were ready to be rid of the Uhaul trailer that had stalked us all the way from Texas. While I was unloading the trailer, I got a phone call from a major insurance carrier that had invited me to apply for a position. Lo and behold, they wanted to schedule an in person interview at their offices in the DFW area. I explained my present location and inquired as to when they would like my presence in theirs. They said "How does Friday, October 24 work for you?" I said, "Perfect."

I informed The Queen that I had something positive to look forward to when we got home from the trip and continued my efforts. The Queen was pleased.

But wait, the job hunt news gets better. Not only did I get the Ronco major carrier interview and turnip twaddler scheduled, but Day Five dawned to find an email in my inbox from a recruiter that said:

"I know this is wild, but [major third party administrator company] wants to extend you an offer based on your resume."

A phone call confirmed that they were offering a contract temp senior adjuster position handling commercial general liability claims at a "market rate" salary. The "market rate" was the hourly rate that I had asked for. So, I couldn't exactly complain even though it's 33% less than what I was making. Come to find out that the rate I asked for is at the high end and even above the high end of the current market rate for senior adjusters. We'll talk about that in a minute. The start date was negotiated to begin shortly after our return from California, paperwork was received and sent back and The Queen was pleased to know that there would be a job and a paycheck waiting for us when we got back. I was, frankly, relieved to know that someone wanted me even if it was for a step back in position and pay.

I was told, by the recruiter, that the position had the potential to go full time, and that the company would likely just convert the hourly rate over to salary and all would be well. If you've ever dealt with recruiters, the worst of them are rather distant acquaintances with the truth. This one might have met truth at a party once, but experience reveals that he hasn't trying calling the fake phone number she gave him. 

Oh, the company likes me alright, and they would like to keep me (after first telling me that they didn't hire temps). Unfortunately, the salary does not convert over, and their salary ranges are somewhat lower than "market rate". Which is a shame because the people are nice, and the work is not difficult. I just can't cut the budget any closer to the bone than I already have. 

There's more stuff in the works on the Jobba the Hunt front, but nothing is ripe yet. I've applied for 56 positions so far. I've had exactly one face to face interview (the aforementioned major carrier interview) which didn't pan out due to differences in salary expectations. There have been only a couple of other telephone screening interviews, but the vast majority of my application efforts has failed to yield anything more than a "thanks, but no thanks" email. 

It's enough to give a guy a complex. 

Anytrip, enough about my employment search. There's trip pictures to share.  

The return trip home was nothing special. We had to cut it a day short because M&M started having allergy issues and was miserable. We made it home safely. It's hard to believe that was a month ago already. 

Much has transpired since last we spoke to borrow a phrase from the Denton PD "Dear Chief" letter. It's my bed time. Y'all write when you can. I'll do the same. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Please Enjoy The Hold Music of Your Choice

I've been working on a "Where's Waldo Been?" post in what little free time I've had lately. What do I mean by little free time? Well, for those of you who do not already know, I've officially moved from unemployed to temporarily underemployed which means getting up at obscenely early hours to commute 70+ miles one way into the heart of the DFW metroplex. It's a contract position with a possibility of going full time. If it does go full time, we're looking at a 33 to 40% pay cut not including bonuses and a couple of steps back in position.

But, it's a paycheck when I needed it most.

So, I'm putting everything I have into it so that I have a better shot of making the most of it. Some other things are in the works both short term and long term. If all goes according to plan, I should have a little more free time for writing and blogging by the end of the year.

Until then, I'll give you what I can when I can.