HIMMW: The Magic of the Holidays and Retreats

Disclaimer: This is one of many stories of how I met my wife, substituting real names for fictional ones from the Fire Emblem series.  If you happen to know who I’m talking about, I ask that you respect these stories and keep any comments or names to yourself. Thanks!

The idea of Fir would never be revisited.  Another seating chart shuffle would seat us across the classroom from each other and she eventually found a boy she liked through a school dance.  It didn’t matter to me though, I had my brothers in arms and the crush had faded. By this point, I actually had friends in high school; a clique to call my own.  Though there would always be that split of high school friends and church friends, the clique would be a good influence on me throughout the years.

Moving on to the next topic, Friday night fellowship for high schoolers would be an interesting change.  No longer just junior high boys, it would be co-ed and we would be doing more than just playing flag football and basketball every Friday night.  We would be split into small groups, which, by design, would separate me from all my friends. This is where Lyn and I would be put in the same small group.

Up to this point I only knew 3 things about Lyn:

  1. She can be brash, loud and obnoxious
  2. She was supposed to move to a different state, but didn’t all of a sudden due to some mysterious reason
  3. She used to have a crush on one of the WQ guys for probably the same reason I used to like Lissa

My interactions with her had been minimal, only briefly chatting with her on a day a bunch of us hung out at a friend’s house.  In short, I found her kind of annoying. We were a classic Ash and Misty, always making fun of and teasing each other for any little reason.  So, on top of not being with my friends, I had to be in a small group with her.  Naturally, it’s an uncomfortable situation; perfect for building character though.

What about the rest of the small group?  A few upperclassmen that were very welcoming, a passionate small group leader, and a counselor that was my camp counselor many years ago.  All of this equated to a good environment and it didn’t take me too long to warm up to everybody and sort of plug myself into this fellowship’s culture.  Yes, I even warmed up to Lyn a little bit.

Warm enough to where I got her a Christmas present.  The main reasoning was two-fold. First, I was on a streak of “if you give me a gift for Christmas, I will respond in kind”, otherwise, I wasn’t one to give gifts.  Secondly, for the people that did give me something, I think they expected me to give them some half-hearted gift that I found in the post-Christmas sale section.  So, I would have this mindset of “challenge accepted, I’m going to prove them wrong”.

The gift Lyn made me was pretty cool in that it was personalized.  Perhaps, more impressive was the fact that as long you were somewhat relevant in her life, she made an effort to gift you something unique.  For me, my relevance was that we were in the same small group. Lyn had been going on and on about how she really wanted an iDog. Probably accentuated by the fact that I really enjoy Christmas time, I happily set out to purchase it.  Remember, it was to prove that I’d get her a gift in return and that it wouldn’t be lame. When I gave her the gift, she was super happy. So happy that she hugged me; it was at the top of her wish list after all.

And then..?  Well, nothing.

It was one of those awkward hugs where they wrap their arms around you while your arms are down and you’re immobilized.  So I just said “oh okay.. You’re welcome” and the Friday night continued on as normal. You see, I was still at a crossroads with Lyn.  On one hand, I still found her annoying, on the other, she was pretty cool.

A couple weeks passed and our fellowship would all be at winter retreat.  Up the mountain and away from home in the crisp cool air, how delectable. I never really get a good night of rest on the first night anywhere away from my own bed, so on the first morning I dragged myself to the mess hall to have a hot beverage.  I sat by myself as I was still trying to wake up a little bit and didn’t really want to be social. As you might imagine, without any context it looks like a solemn scene and I must be sad or something.

“Hey, are you okay?”

I heard Lyn walking up from behind me and I explained to her that I was just tired.  Without warning, she held her hand to my forehead to check if there was any indication that I was ill.

“What are you drinking?  Hot Water? Here, let me make you some tea.”

After fixing up my drink, she sat with me to chat a little bit.  Others eventually joined us and we played some card games before Breakfast was ready.  It was this keystone moment that would eventually lead me to think:

“Hmm, she’s pretty cute.”

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HIMMW: Mostly Irrelevant

Disclaimer: This is one of many stories of how I met my wife, substituting real names for fictional ones from the Fire Emblem series.  If you happen to know who I’m talking about, I ask that you respect these stories and keep any comments or names to yourself. Thanks!

There are two terms I’d like to introduce to you today.

  1. Irrelevant Crush – someone you had a crush on but didn’t do anything about it.  Usually because you aren’t in the same class or you have no means of communicating with them enough to feel relevant as a pursuant.  As a result, the feelings often faded away within a short time period.
  2. Oblivious Moment – a moment where someone was trying to make a move on you but you didn’t notice because you didn’t see the situation that way, or you didn’t see the person in a romantic manner.

They’ll come up in this story and maybe a couple more times down the line.

When I was in 10th grade, I met a girl named Fir.  She was a year younger than me, but we had one class together.  She was new to the school district, having moved from another city.

She was a confident individual.  I think she had to be since she wanted to make new friends and to fit in so she wouldn’t be a loner.  I found her attractive, but attractive enough where I dismissed her as someone who would never have anything to do with me.  So, as much as I liked her, I had already categorized her as an irrelevant crush in the back of my mind. By chance, a couple seating chart rotations would put us near or next to each other.  Naturally, we became friendly as classmates, even teaming up on a couple of group projects with others.

At the conclusion of the JV football season I did not have a 6th period, so I would go to the library to start on homework.  But let’s be real, I only did that about 20% of the time, so I would just roam the halls or find others who were in the same boat as me.  One of those people was Fir.

I didn’t see her consistently, and it’s not like I knew where she was everyday, therefore it was a pleasant surprise whenever I ran into her.  Most of the time, it was just random small talk as we ended up in the library anyway.

On one particular day, I found her sitting on a bench with a solemn look on her face.  When I asked her what was wrong, she wasn’t very responsive. Any answer that came out of her mouth was negative and was making me sad to be there to listen to this.  Fir just kepting dancing around my questions and concluding with the fact that she’s just sad. Not wanting to prod much further, I sat there in silence with her for a bit as we stared at the empty courtyard.

Then I had an idea.  Being on the football team, I learned a few things about the school.  One of them being that the announcer’s box at the top of the bleachers on the football field was accessible.  Even though the door was locked, if you pulled on it, it would still open. Within it, you would find a ladder that gets you on top, putting you on the highest place on campus.

I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea; I think I wanted to get her mind off of whatever was bothering her by showing her something cool.  I knew it worked because when we got up there, she started smiling. As the breeze blew through our hair, we enjoyed the view as she admitted she felt better.

Then I heard the bell ring in the distance, signalling the end of 6th period and the end of the school day.  Being an obedient one, my immediate instinct was to start heading to the part of school where I was to be picked up.  The ensuing conversation went like this:

Fir: “Where are you going?”

Me: “The bell rang, and I need to go now actually.”

Fir: “Oh… really?  Okay..” (Her smile began to fade)

Me: “Uhm, well, I can probably stay for a little bit longer if you want.”

Fir: “No, that’s okay.”

Me: “Oh, okay.  See you tomorrow!”

And so I left her up there as I walked to the front of the school, unaware of the fact that we may have had a connection moment there.  Honestly, it would be years before I thought to myself “what would have happened if I stayed up there with her..?”

I’ll never know.  A mystery left as just an oblivious moment.

HIMMW: The Bromantic Era

Disclaimer: This is one of many stories of how I met my wife, substituting real names for fictional ones from the Fire Emblem series.  If you happen to know who I’m talking about, I ask that you respect these stories and keep any comments or names to yourself. Thanks!

Despite her kind rejection, I still not-so-secretly admired Lissa a bit.  With time, I also came to realize that I did not need a girl in my life at such a young age and my affection for her would putter out.  You might think that I would just move on and have a crush on someone else, but there was no time for that. The formation of Clan WumboQ would usher in a period of pure Bromance.

Riders of Brohan.  The Brohirrim. The army of Broseiden.  And some other bro puns. We were all of that.

We rode our bikes to each other on weekends.  We played Halo together. We got in trouble. We solved problems.  We lead worship together. We excelled at Bible Drill. We invented our own card games.  We lifted His name on high.

Fellowship.  Friendship. Food.  Fun. And some other alliteration..

It has been said that our adventures were so legendary that an angel was sent to record it in detail, but all it could do was weep due to its grandeur.

No one made fun of us, because then suddenly 5 boys were suddenly making fun of you, making you look like a fool.  Also, who wants to mess with us when you have a Matt that looks like this:

Matt will

  1. Fight for his friends
  2. Flick you and you will fall

At least in our young minds that’s how it worked.  Anyway, you get the idea.  I cared a lot about these friendships we formed and they were like family.  Sure, we talked about girls, but that was it. Any crush any of us had on a girl were short lived.  We had each other. No girls needed.

This helped in my growth and confidence.  I had friends that had my back and I could count on them.  8th and 9th grade was a good time. All the weirdness of middle school faded and my outlook on things were generally positive.  This would build a strong foundation from 8th grade throughout high school and some of college.

HIMMW: Ready. AIM. Fire!

Disclaimer: This is one of many stories of how I met my wife, substituting real names for fictional ones from the Fire Emblem series.  If you happen to know who I’m talking about, I ask that you respect these stories and keep any comments or names to yourself. Thanks!

AOL Instant Messenger was really popular in middle school.  With some coercion from my siblings, I made an account. I remember the humble beginnings of having only 7 people on my buddy list (2 of which were Stu’s alternate accounts).  The ability to communicate with friends outside of school or church was pretty cool. Buddy icons, fonts and profiles were a plus too. By default, there were four distinct sounds the client would make when you sent a message, received a message, a friend signed on or when a new person was trying to message you.

I didn’t join chat rooms to find strangers to talk to, so whenever someone new messaged me, I probably knew them.  One day I got a message from SprightlyCleric987 (not her real screen name) saying “hey” to me. She claimed to be Lissa, and I actually messaged a few friends to confirm that.

“Lissa… who is that again..?”

I remember thinking that, because for some reason I couldn’t put a face to the name.  Without social media, I didn’t have a way to pull up a picture of her. Eventually I riffled through some old Camp group photos and found her.  With time, we would chat a little more. It started with simple questions and answers and it grew from there.

I enjoyed our online conversations together; it was a nice escape from the pressures of being a pre-teen boy.  Even though there was only so much two middle school kids could talk about; school, places, food, people. I remember looking forward to it as the school day wore on.  Looking forward to turning on my computer and seeing if she was online. And if she wasn’t, my eyes would dart to my screen as I heard the friend-signing-on sound play from my speakers.  I would never message her right away, I didn’t want to appear too eager. Sometimes Lissa would message me first and I would feel so good about that. Our conversations slowly grew more elaborate.  I wanted to brag to my friends like this:

It was a small confidence boost.  Small, because outside of chatting online, our interaction at church was close to nonexistent.  The guys and I didn’t make many efforts to interact with the girls at church unless we had to. Why?  Not sure, I think we sort of embraced the natural divide. But still, it was clear that I liked this girl.

Remember, I’m in middle school.  So what do boys do during sleepovers, hangouts and cabin times?  Play things that involve truth or dare or dares as a punishment. Being a boy that wanted to feel macho, I always tried to perform the dares given to me if they were within the realm of possible.  Over time, real world interactions with Lissa had increased to a non-zero amount (just from group-games or things like that). One day online, I found myself in a situation where Caleb dared me to ask out Lissa on a date.  Not being one to chicken out, I proceeded to do so via instant messenger. As bold of a move as that was, part of me hoped she knew it was some sort of joke, but the other part of me hoped she would say yes. The chat window remained silent as she still had not responded.  I think a good five minutes passed before Marty messaged me asking me what I was doing. I told him Caleb dared me and I was so honorable that I would do it and not tell her it was a dare. Silly, I know.

He proceeded to copy and paste his conversation with her to show me her verbally freaking out.  There were lots of exclamation points and capital letters. I messaged her apologizing profusely, stating that it was a dare and Caleb made me do it.  In the end, she was cool with it. Even telling me to tell Caleb that she said “yes” to mess with him a little bit.

And that’s the story of the first time I asked out a girl.  Even if it was online and was a dare.

Oddly enough, things weren’t weird after that and we continued chatting as normal.  We had that whole “let’s just be friends” talk. I don’t think she ever liked me back, but even if she did, what were we going to do?  Ask our parents to drive us somewhere so we could date as a middle school couple? The reality of being 12 years old sunk in as we joked about that in later conversations.  We were so young! And really, I think the main reason I liked her was because she was the first non-family girl to extensively talk to me.

HIMMW: Enter Hormones

Disclaimer: This is one of many stories of how I met my wife, substituting real names for fictional ones from the Fire Emblem series.  If you happen to know who I’m talking about, I ask that you respect these stories and keep any comments or names to yourself. Thanks!

Previously, I talked about Elementary School and how things were so free spirited and innocent.  It might have been just me, but I feel like the jump from 5th grade to 6th grade was pretty significant.  Let’s take a moment to talk about Middle school.

You go from staying in one classroom to having class periods.  Which thankfully, our middle school tries to help you transition by having 6th grade Math/Science and English/History being taught by the same teachers, respectively.  You lose those desks where you could store all your stuff to having locks and lockers. You have to wear PE uniforms now (and with that, change in front of other kids).  Recess is shorter and is now called snack break..

Middle school is a weird time for a lot of kids, myself included.  Add to that the fact that my siblings and I spent the Summer before at my grandparent’s house under my aunt’s and grandparent’s care.  My dad was in the hospital battling Meningitis and my mom stayed there with him. Even after he fully recovered and was discharged, we all stayed at my grandparent’s house as my parents made plans to remodel our home.  It felt uneasy being away from my bed, my toys, and most of my things.

In addition, my cousin, whom is only 10 days older than me, entered our school system when we were in 5th grade, and we would be attending Middle school (and high school) together.  For the most part, this was a good thing, but it spawned this inadvertent rivalry between us. You see, he also played the piano and violin, and probably did lots of things better than me.  I’m sure our parents, aunts and uncles couldn’t help but compare. It was never anything that caused too much strife between us, but it was always looming, whether we liked it or not.

Also, I was pretty chubby.  At some point in 5th grade, I took what my grandparents were saying too literally.  They kept saying I was too skinny, that they could see my ribcage and that I should eat more.  And eat more I did. To the point where I had set some random goal to be 100 pounds by the end of the year.  To the point where I would be eating and I would think “I’m not hungry.. I don’t care! I need to eat more!” And yeah, I actually put on something like 20 pounds and hit my goal.

Combine all of this and try to imagine being me as I enter my first week of middle school.  Kids are swearing like sailors. Kids are talking about vulgar things that don’t really make sense to me because I was pretty innocent.  I wouldn’t say I was “hanging out with the wrong crowd”, but rather I was being influenced by the wrong crowd. By chance, I was put in classes that didn’t have many kids that went to the elementary school(s) that I didn’t go to.  So, I didn’t have much comfort in familiar faces and people. And when you’re in sat in groups facing each other, you just talk. I got made fun of for being “fat”. My legs were still bald, so some kids would say I “shaved my legs”.  Looking at my peers and the older kids, I suddenly felt the need to care about what I wore. Spiked hair, sagging pants, and if you wore shorts you wore ankle socks. For whatever reason, I deemed this as “cool”. Though I never asked my parents to buy me any of that stuff, I would look from afar and think how “uncool” I was.  I would, however, try to compensate. I wore jeans as much as possible to hide my bare legs and my non-ankle socks. I purposefully wore larger shirts to hide my waistline. These kids that I sat around gave me the impression that you needed to be or to act tough. My shyness was escalated by thinking that asking questions or not knowing the correct answer was a sign of weakness.

Above all, the thing that stuck out the most in middle school was the public displays of affection.  Though it usually meant nothing more than holding hands, hugging and walking each other to class, this concept of boyfriends, girlfriends and couples was intriguing.  Slowly, my hormones churned and I began thinking that I wanted a special someone. I have to admit, it was interesting learning about who was “dating” who and how long it lasted.  In fact, I recall a time when two boys liked a girl and it was settled by a fight to the death. And by fight to the death, I mean 1 on 1 basketball game. And that girl accepted the results of that game.

It wasn’t that rough of a time, but it was certainly very different.  I managed my way through 6th grade, doing my best to be a good student and be “cool”.  I entered 7th grade with a bit more confidence, having a better grasp of middle school.  And then, almost as if out of the blue, I met Lissa

How I Met My Wife

It’s time I tell my readership the story of how I met my wife.  Very similarly to the How I Met Your Mother TV Series, it will be long and drawn out because it’s important to convey the process of what I went through.  The struggle, the climb, the journey.. all relevant to understanding the psychology of Josh and how he thinks and why he did what he did.  For sake of anonymity, I will be using different names, specifically those of characters from the popular Fire Emblem series. I will be reminding you of this often as to not be mistaken for some sort of weird fan fiction.

So, let’s start from the beginning, the very beginning.

Elementary School was a fun time.  Classrooms were decorated, there was a sandbox you didn’t care to get dirty in during recess, themed parties, dress up days.. It was great.  More importantly, it was so easy to make friends and talk to other kids. Sometimes friendships started for having just one small thing in common.  I know I might be losing your interest already, but I tell this because I feel it’s important to show you where I stood in terms of self-confidence in each chapter of my story.  All this to say that talking to and interacting with girls was a normal thing. Naturally, I was also shy when it came to talking to adults that weren’t family or my teacher.

To a set the precedent on how these stories will be told, I’m going to tell you about a girl we’ll call Fae.

She was the first girl I ever felt some sort of affection for.  She was a 5th grader and I was a 1st grader. Frankly, I only liked her because one time a couple kids were picking on me and she shooed them away.  Perfect 6 year old logic. Fae would hang around the monkey bars during recess and lunch time, and I remember purposefully running by to see if she’d notice me.  There was even an instance where those same kids were picking on me again. Even though I was faster and could pretty much get away easily, I had the genius idea to have Fae save me from them again.  I ran to the monkey bars and pretended to be winded. When those other kids showed up to pester me, Fae got down from the monkey bars and..

Then a lunch lady showed up to reprimand the kids that were bothering me.  The School year ended not too long after and she went to middle school and I moved on with my elementary life.  And that was that.

A silly little story to start things off, and I assure you, it will only get better.  I also guarantee that a certain Cheeseburger Eddie will love every word of it.

Etude Toccata

During all of my classical music lessons while growing up, there was only one song I truly enjoyed playing; Etude Toccata.

I remember it vividly still.  My piano lessons were always on Tuesdays at 4pm.  That was ample time to be picked up late from school, grab my piano books and head to the piano teacher’s house.  Before my time slot, there was always a Brandon having a lesson.

What do I mean?  Under her tutelage, Mrs. Chiu taught two Brandon’s, whom she decided to differentiate as Brandon A and Brandon B.  So, one of those Brandon’s always had the time slot before.  For this story, it’s Brandon A.

Remember him?  He’s from this story.

Sometimes I would arrive a little early, or the lesson was going a little late, so I would wait out the last few minutes of Brandon A’s lesson.  He was a level or two ahead of me, so it was so interesting to hear him play this song one day.  Have a listen:

The ending is so satisfying when you get it right.

It’s interesting because the first half of the song, you’re playing one note over and over again.  Granted, there’s much more depth to it than that, but I couldn’t help but think “that song is easy”.  But as he finished it up his lesson and I heard the song a few more times, it grew on me.  Given my lack of effort, it probably took me about two months to learn any song, and then another month to fully memorize it.  But not for this song.

In fact, I was able to play most of it after hearing it a few times.

This was a weird turning point for me.  Because in terms of piano, I considered myself to be a  “waste of God-given talent”.  I never practiced.  That might have worked out for me until late middle school, but then songs started getting longer and more intricate.  Anyway, for the first time ever, there was a song that I wanted to learn.  Before, it was just songs Mrs. Chiu picked out at her discretion.  I was so eager to learn it, I had it fully memorized and master within a week.  And from there, I started to care a little more about honing my musical skills.  This was around the same time I began tuning into kMozart more (when it was still on 105.1 FM).

A Review of 2017

Though I wasn’t undefeated, I started the year off by taking down another Prerelease by myself

Aether Revolt, 4 wins 1 tie, 1st Place!

Wow, I went to 8 weddings!  Congratulations to the Chow’s, the Hai’s, the Woon’s, the Chan’s, the Su’s, the Chau’s, the Yoshiba’s and the Fong’s.

Groomsmen for 3 of them.  Best man for 1 of them.

Generally speaking, I do not enjoy travelling.  Despite that, I still did a quite a bit of travelling by going to..

-San Francisco, CA for a day trip with Rachel to celebrate Valentine’s Day


-San Diego, CA for Eddie’s wedding

-Sacremento, CA for weekend family trip to visit my sister

-Escondido, CA for Lauren’s bachelor Party

-Orlando, FL for a Disney World adventure planned way in advance


-Portland, OR for Marty’s bachelor Party

-Pleasant Hill, CA for Marty’s wedding

I spoke at an EPIC general meeting.  It’s something I always wanted to do, to impart whatever little wisdom I have

I went to the Ice Cream Museum

I became an uncle

I proposed [on my birthday]

I got a new job and I moved into an apartment

Rachel will move in in February

Despite excelling at like 6 of the 8 events, I got the Silver Medal at the 2017 Yuan Olympics.  You’d think there’d be bonus points for turning in your banner on time or solving 71 math problems in 1 minute.

..and of course, I did an escape room

Central Bank @ Fox in a Box [23% completion rate]

So, I was Unemployed Again..[The God Factor]

Let’s rewind it again, but a little further.

During my long period of unemployment before I started working at Kaiser, I was actually interviewing with LA Fitness’s corporate office.  Unfortunately, the timing just wasn’t quite right.  LA Fitness offered me a job the day after I accepted the job offer from Kaiser.

Fast forward to the tail end of contract at Kaiser.  I had a few phone calls and interviews, but no luck.  Remembering I still had the contact information of the manager that interviewed me at LA Fitness, I reached out.  After some back and forth, I got an interview.  That was followed by another interview the next week.  The next day, I got a job offer!  I was also able to negotiate a later start date to to give me time to find and move into an apartment since the job was located in Irvine.

Let’s talk about God’s timing and how perfect it is.  Even from the beginning.

  1. Initially, LA Fitness wasn’t ready for me.  When they contacted me with a job offer the first time around, they kind of just made up a position for me.  I probably wouldn’t have had the same opportunities to grow professionally if I was some sort of advanced intern.
  2. Getting the job at Kaiser was clearly act of God.  If you recall, I was initially rejected for a more qualified candidate.  It was about a month before they revisited me.  I didn’t learn about this until much later, but apparently there were 5 other candidates before they settled on me.  The first turned down the offer for a better one.  The second accepted the job offer, but then had a family emergency, forcing her to fly to China for an extended period of time.  The third was an in-house hire, who decided he didn’t want to leave his old team, so he turned down the offer.  The fourth was fired after her first week because she refused to adhere to the dress code policy.  The fifth wanted to accept the job offer, but wanted 3 months before she could start working.  6th place is the best place I guess.
  3. Working at Kaiser allowed me to be close to home.  I had planned to continue serving in college and youth ministry at church until certain senior class graduated from their respective ministries.  I’m glad I was able to see this through
  4. Kaiser employees are required to fulfill a certain amount of service hours, trainings and extensive surveys every year.  Being on contract meant I got to sidestep these minor inconveniences.
  5. Being on contract meant being paid hourly, which meant I was properly compensated for working overtime.  I worked a lot of overtime since Helen (the new director) started there.
  6. Kaiser is considered to be technologically ahead of its competitors in terms of the medical field.  Yet despite this fact, it quite behind in general.  I worked in an environment that had poor coding practices, no version control and no developer peers for me to bounce ideas off of.  I was the only software developer in my department.  All this to say that working there wasn’t great, but it was tolerable.  And the thing is, for a lot of people (including myself), tolerable is enough to stay at a job.  Had I been a full time salaried employee, it might be easier for me to be “stuck” there.  Being on contract meant the decision to leave was made for me.  God had bigger plans.
  7. Everything about moving to Irvine came together so seamlessly; God’s hand was in everything.  Technically speaking, I was only unemployed for about a week.  The job offer given to me was pretty generous, factoring in that employee prospects are expected to do some negotiating.  The only thing I really asked for was ample time to find an apartment, which was given to me.  Within 4 days of the job offer, I had an apartment lease signed and ready to go.  Conveniently, I’m exponentially closer to my fiance now.  No longer do I have to commute 1 hour 1 way just to see her.  The extra time I had to move in was used to furnish and settle into the apartment and even take a trip with friends without having to worry about nonexistent vacation days.

All Glory to God

It was a tough journey.  I remember praying a lot, asking God to let His Will be done and not my own.  I remember asking God to show me His plans, since things were not looking too promising for me.  I remember learning a lot of patience and trusting in God.

I thank God for what He has done for me.  He gave me the strength to push through it too.

So, I was Unemployed Again..[A Preface]

First, let’s rewind a little bit.  In March 2016, I was suddenly laid off.  But after several grueling weeks of unemployment, I was given a job offer at Kaiser Permanente in May.  A blessing considering it was so close to home, and allowed me to continue serving at church.  It was a contract-to-hire position, meaning I was considered a contractor until they onboarded me to a full time employee.  That also means I don’t accrue any vacation time, don’t get paid during national holidays, get paid hourly (as opposed to salary) and I don’t get to enjoy Kaiser’s great benefits.  I don’t really know the advantages of a contract-to-hire role, other than having an arbitrary probation period (standard is 60 or 90 days).

What are these great Kaiser benefits?  The standout perk is if you retired with Kaiser, you basically receive Kaiser health insurance for free for the rest of your life.  Why is this important?  Before I began working there, it was announced that this perk would no longer be supported starting 1/1/17.  So, if you wanted to keep the old system benefits, you would have to retire before then.  For ease of following along, here are some names (not their actual names):

Alex – the vice president of the financial department, and David’s boss
David – a director of the department and Ned’s boss
Ned – the manager of my team, and my boss

I’ll admit, I had a shaky start learning the system and getting a hang of things.  I don’t think Ned really liked me all that much at first.  But David liked me, and that mattered more.  Unfortunately David was retiring in September for the benefits.  As I sat in his office during his last week, David said he liked me and wanted to onboard me, but he didn’t feel right doing it as he was leaving the company.  So, he didn’t.  Even though I’ve worked there for 3 months and should be off the probation period.

Yup, that sucked.

In time, I proved my worth to Ned.  After 7 months of being on contract, we had a conversation where he said he liked me and wanted to onboard me.  He even said he would give me a small raise.  About a week later, Ned got back to me saying he was vetoed by Alex.  Alex wanted the decision of onboarding to go to whoever replaced David.

Yup, that sucked.

It was around here that Ned announced his retirement.  He didn’t care about the benefits since he’d be starting a company and travelling the world to teach underprivileged kids.  At the end of April 2017, 11 months of being on contract, Kaiser finds and hires Helen, who fills David’s vacant spot.  You can imagine some of my anxiety during this time, since the contract was originally supposed to end after 1 year.  After Helen goes through the motions of meeting the whole team and reorganizing things, she gets a chance to sit down and talk to me about my contract situation.  She barely knows me but at least acknowledges that I have some value here, so she extends my contract to the end of June.  I’ll shorten this story a little bit and say this pattern repeats itself 4 more times!  So, for 4 more months I have this back and forth uncertainty of whether or not I’ll have a job at the end of the month.  Until finally Helen said she wouldn’t extend the contract past the first week of October.

Yup, that sucked.

Of course, I had been applying to jobs and seeking other opportunities for a while.  More on that next time.

All the negative stuff aside, I could tell my presence there was appreciated.  I had like 3 or 4 goodbye lunches and parties before I left, and it was topped off by cupcakes and a card signed by the team on the last day.

 

After all the major projects I worked on, the reason my contract ended was because there just wasn’t much else for me to do.