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Fall 2006

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Happy Labor Day!

OK, so this first started with ďHappy New Year!Ē, then morphed into ďHappy St. Patrickís Day!Ē, then ďHappy 4th of July!Ē, and now at last ďHappy Labor Day!Ē  [Or maybe, Happy Halloween?]

Why did it take so long to write?

Let me tell you, it has been a very eventful year+.  Key points include changing careers, traveling for the holidays, dating, back spasm leading to chronic leg pain, not dating, exercising and losing weight, singing, house-hunting, traveling to Europe, purchasing a condo, moving (and adding 2 roommates,) encountering technical difficulties, getting baptized as an adult, having one roommate go to the hospital, and now finally settling in and sorting out boxes and life.  [See the end of printed letters for new address information.  If youíre reading this online, e-mail me and I will send you an update.]

At the beginning of January I was still dating and he and I were traveling together to visit various relatives.  We spent Christmas with my nuclear family in Arizona, then went to the Pacific Northwest to see some of my friends in Seattle and some of his family in both in Seattle and in the suburbs of Portland [including some relatives that live on a small berry farm.  They make really awesome jam!]  Then we went to Alaska to visit his grandparents.  That was a great trip.  We flew into Anchorage and then took a small plane to Kenai, and a short drive to Soldotna.  There was snow everywhere Ė the perfect winter travel.  His grandparents place used to be a bed and breakfast, so I had my own little bathroom in my room (and he had his own in his room) , with daily home-cooked meals Ė better than any hotel! 

After the whirlwind trip it was time to get back to work.  In October of 2005 I started working in the QA department for a small software company called MTXEPS.  Whatís that?  We are an electronic payments company.  We make software that runs credit card terminals, communicates from the terminal to the cash register, from there to the store server, on out to the bank, and all the way back again.  Iím really enjoying it as I get to draw on all of my background experience, including the small company feel from working at Dadís bookstore while growing up, retail experience in cashiering and customer service, the networking experience I had from a few jobs after graduating college, and of course my software testing experience from Microsoft. 

Wait a second, werenít you studying to be a high-school math  teacher?

Yes I was.   As you may remember, when last we left our intrepid adventurer (by which I mean me,) I had just sold my house in Seattle (Spring 2004) and was moving to Southern California to work on getting a teaching credential and Masters degree in Education.  Well, I loved the classes I was *taking*, but not so much the ones I was teaching.  When we got into student teaching (after 2 full quarters of classes) I lasted 1 month, then had a bit of a breakdown that constituted a crying bout lasting 7 hours [I donít think Iíve ever cried more than half an hour, mayyybe an hour, before.  This was surreal.]   I immediately followed that up with strategic withdrawal from the program.  I took a leave of absence in case I would want to return, but had been experiencing insomnia and anxiety (which are very much not normal traits for me) and the longer I was out of the program the happier I was, so I decided to explore other career avenues.  Why didnít teaching work out?  Well, I think Iím really better suited to being a tutor.  I work well with a student 1-1 or in a small group, where I can assess the studentís needs and change pace or focus lessons accordingly.  In a classroom you end up having to focus on the needs of the many over the few, despite what they tried to drill into us in the teacher training classes.  There was a great disparity between the ideal approach we learned about in class, and the real-world approach of the master teachers we worked with in the field.    I was also not a huge fan of hearing discouraged teachers talk about problem students, or the current teacher union vs school board battles, etc.  I was not enjoying teaching 5th grade level math to 9th graders.  [Iíd much rather teach 12th grade level math to 9th graders.  =) ]  I was bored with the material myself, so couldnít see how to motivate the kids.  I was also extremely concerned for many of my students, to the point of distraction.  Some of the kids would come in and sleep in class, or talk constantly demanding attention, or skip class and then seem completely out of it when there.  It seemed they were undergoing life experiences I couldnít relate to (but in some cases had great sympathy for) Ė one student had no stable home life and changed where he was living week to week.  One student often slept in class, another it seemed may have been on drugs.  And these were students in a small class at a school with a good reputation in an affluent area.  I realized that if I couldnít make it through the challenges of a school like this, I certainly would never survive in a rougher area.  I did not want to be a babysitter, responsible for their behavior, but rather a helper and encourager, guiding them to learning.  I figure I can do that better as a tutor.

So, after chasing down a lifelong dream only to run headlong into a brick wall, I shifted gears again.  Oddly enough, I tried getting back into temp work doing admin assistant type jobs, but couldnít get hired.  I think they probably figured I was overqualified by that point.  So, I bit the bullet and went back to software testing, and will tutor a few hrs on the side when I have time.

My first foray back into this field was interesting.  I had come to the point where I had decided that I just needed a well paying job that I could do, I didnít have to love it, just get through the day and then have time to do the other things that mattered to me Ė spending time with family and friends, attending church activities and SCA activities, etc.  Well, sometimes when you think you know best, God lets you pursue what you think you want until you come to the realization that following Godís will for your life is much more fruitful.  I found a job that met all my criteria.  It was easy, almost to the point of boring, yet still in QA.  It was local.  It paid well, with potential for good bonuses.  It had great benefits.  And, it was scheduled during normal daytime hours.  Three weeks into the job I had a personality conflict with one of the VPs and got fired.  (At this point itís not looking too good for the home teamÖ)  Iím not really used to failure in my life.  But, as with the credential program, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and got back in the game.

Within a week I had my new job, this job, and I love it here!  Whereas the previous job was doing software QA for an insurance company, this job is testing for a real software company.  In the previous job they basically wanted someone to come in, only report the serious code issues, and basically rubber stamp the projects if they werenít catastrophes.  In this job, they want people who can dig in and find issues so the product is the best it can be before going out to the customer, and so that we can minimize the number of support calls we get.  Here my experience, drive, and proactive nature is an asset, whereas before it was a liability.  Since we are a fairly small (but growing) company I get to wear many hats Ė doing some telephone customer support, some documentation work, some partner liaison work, giving some design input, and contributing interview feedback on new employee candidates as well as the standard QA work of finding bugs and working with devs.  Being a small company it doesnít pay quite what I had made in the past, but the benefit of coming to a job I love with people I enjoy is worth a great deal.

OK, back to the timeline.  Later in January the guy I was dating broke up with me.  Why?!?  Well, it seems he was never really attracted to me, and the spark just wasnít there.   We had dated for 5 months, and I really should have broken up with him after about the first month, but you know how it goes Ė I wanted to give him more time to figure out what he wanted, and we were coming into the holiday season [who wants to break up right before the holidays?] and soÖ  By the time we finally kissed it was pretty clear there wasnít much passion there, but somehow through growing closer on our trip I had come to think maybe that would change.  We were never an exclusive couple (not that either of us dated anyone else then, but stillÖ there are stages to these things,) so I was always a little on edge.  He had characterized our relationship as ďcourtingĒ and was willing to talk about marriage and kids and places to live and weddings, etc., but somehow it was all just a dream and never quite became real.  Some part of me knew that all along, but through our time and the travel together I had stopped worrying about things and was just enjoying the time hanging out with him.  If nothing else we were learning more about what we wanted in life and how we each needed to grow, and who knows Ė love could have blossomed.  However, just when I was beginning to relax and think it might all work out, he broke up with me.  Cíest la vie.  The day before, I had been at a class at church and I donít remember what we were talking about exactly, but I remember coming to a point of peace and just saying a prayer that he would find happiness in love.  The next day he ended it, so I figure thatís a strong indicator that either we would have to be apart and grow as individuals before it could ever work out between us, or we would each end up finding love with other people.  It was hard for a while because we are still good friends and still would see each other a lot.  It was also hard as many people around us had so wanted things to work out for us that they continued to hold out hope, which became misleading that there might still be hope.  For any of you in that boat, please be notified that we have come to a very clear understanding between us, and whatever whisps of remorse or nostalgia there may be, there is not a lingering interest on either side.

And so, Iím a little older and a little wiser - we did help each other grow a lot and recognize areas in ourselves that needed work so that we will each be more ready to settle down once we find our life partners.  In a recent relationship study through a singles group at a different local church, I have learned something I hadnít ever thought about before.  Relationships are like a triangle, with the man and woman at lower corners and God at the center top.  As each grows closer in their relationship to God, they grow closer to each other.  Iíve spent much too much time in my life looking for that other special someone to make me whole, not really acknowledging either that I will be OK while single, or that only God can fill the deep void in our hearts, even for those of us who do manage to find someone special to share the rest of our lives with.  Sometimes we try to make our significant others make up for all the loneliness and sense of abandonment real or perceived that our other life relationships [family, schoolmates, former friends, past romances] have left us with, which of course is far too much burden for any one person to bear. 

I count myself truly blessed to have such great family and friends as all of you, and I hope you know how much I care about all of you.  Thank you for being a part of my life, past, present, and hopefully [for most of you anyway] future.

OK, enough sappiness, where were we in the timeline?  Ah yes, well February was pretty uneventful.  [Valentineís Day?  Whatís that?  Donít you know Feb. 14 is Arizonaís Birthday?]  In fact I donít remember much about the Spring at all, so Iíll take this short break to throw out that I have managed to lose about 35 pounds since moving to Southern California and am working to lose about 70 more.  [Finally getting rid of all the weight I put on while at Microsoft.  I sit most of the day at my job here too, but somehow itís different.  For one thing, itís warm and sunny and beautiful and you actually *want* to go outside, walk around, and be active.  Of course, Iím also not nearly as stressed as I was then, so that helps a lot too.  =)]  I now own a nice bicycle and picked up a training triangle for it so I can set it up as an exercise bike once I clear all the boxes out of the back area of the living room.  Itís a good thing Iíve been losing weight and am enjoying bike riding, because around Thanksgiving last year I had a spasm across my lower back, and ever since then I have had radiating pain down my left leg courtesy of a bulging disk pushing on the sciatic nerve.  What fun!  Yes, Iíve been to see the doctor.  I am now undergoing physical therapy again, and hopefully we will be able to get this more under control.  Unfortunately, several favorite exercise options (such as walking and going to Curves) are not as available to me now because of the pain.  [Though, oddly enough, hiking seems to make my leg feel better.  Something about moving across uneven terrain that helps work different muscles I guess.]  Next Spring & Summer I will probably go on some more bike rides with friends.  I went on a couple rides last fall and it was really fun.  My bike is a recumbent, which means it has a chair, so Iím sitting back more with my legs out in front of me.  Itís harder to steer since the wheel base is so long, and it takes some getting used to, but Iím hoping after some time using it for indoor exercise by next Spring going on actual rides may feel like second nature.

Also somewhere back in the last year I started singing again.  I coordinated a Madrigals group through the local SCA chapter [for more info read my online SCA web page, or check out www.sca.org, or contact me and Iíll tell you more.]  We took a hiatus this summer, but itís about time to get that going again.  I also joined a Gospel Choir that meets near my church.  We do a couple of performances each session as a service outreach to nursing homes.  That was also on break for the summer but I am very much looking forward to getting back to the music!

In April I started looking in earnest for a loan program as I had been considering buying a house or condo down in San Diegoís North County area, and I ended up qualifying for a new program called ďACORNĒ through Bank of America.  Because it involved some steps of credit review and counseling, I had to jump through even more paperwork hoops than usual, but in the end I got a great loan.  I had wanted to find a house, but the best I could do in my price range was a 1370 sq ft house, which since I intended to have roommates just was not going to work.  I was able to get 200 sq feet more in my condo, and I donít have to take care of the landscape.  =)  Once I had all the loan paperwork in I could relax a little bit before closing and moving.

Shortly before moving into the condo I took a week long trip to Europe to visit my college friend Jen who now lives in rural England.  The trip was great!  I got a chance to see my French penpal/sister, Rozen, briefly in Paris [I flew in from the States, took a taxi to her place in downtown Paris, stayed and talked a little over an hour, drove back to the airport, and flew off again for England.  Yes, I have been told (and freely admit) that I am crazy.  But hey, airfare was cheaper through Paris than direct to England, and why waste an opportunity for an international visit?]  I didnít get to see her husband, Mathieu, but did get to see her son, Louis.  He is growing so fast!  They all may be coming here for a short visit this Christmas.  After Paris I went on into Leeds, where Jen picked me up.  We drove out to their home, and I stayed with Rich and Jen about 3 days, but it feels like longer as we packed a lot in.  Took a drive through the country, toured a ceramics shop that makes all shapes and sizes of teapots, spent too much money on goodies at a chocolate shop, went out for High Tea at a lovely restaurant in town, shopped for shoes on the internet (whatís a visit with Jen without a little shopping, hmm?) and spent a lot of time talking and catching up.  The day before I flew out we took a train to London and met up with another college friend, Devin (husband of Stephanie, who together are the proud parents of my adorable Godchildren Treanna and Alaric,) who was in London on business travel for a few days.  The three of us went out for a bite and stayed up talking a while, then it was time to catch some Zs as I flew out early the next morning.  The last part of the trip I met up with my mom, Bertie, cousin Beth Lee, and her friend Paula for a brief tour of the south-eastern coast of Ireland.  [Now, you all remember this was a single week long trip, right?  Just checkingÖ]  We stayed in hostels or B&Bs and one night we stayed out on tiny island named Innis Oirr.  While on the road we stopped at a great little rock shop where I was able to pick up some souvenirs to bring back for folks.  On the island we mostly just sampled the local fare (Guinness anyone?  Yes I do occasionally sip a beer.  One.  I enjoy a social drink with friends and family accompanying a large meal and several hours of good conversation.  However, in addition to Biblical warnings against drunkenness I have never seen the appeal of making oneself intentionally ill.), toured around the island, gazed off to the horizon along the sea, and slept.  Now THATís a Vacation!  =)  The next day we spent in a town called Galloway.  I wonít trouble you with the details of our harrowing ride through the narrow streets trying desperately to find a place to bed down for the night [OK so it wasnít really that bad, but it was over 2 hours of driving in circles] but after a good nightís rest in a decent B&B we spent the day in town having tea and checking out shops.  I was able to find some more souvenirs, and also found a delicate inlaid silver cross pendant that was both simple and pretty, and not too expensive.  That night we headed back toward the airport and stayed at a third place along the way.  After checking in we found a nice Indian food restaurant and after dinner lounged on the park benches outside a pub that had a little pond complete with ducks and a little duck house.  It was very cute.  Then back to the world of airports, airplanes, layovers, and at long last home.  I was smart this time and scheduled a recovery day on the back end of my trip, so I could return to work with some level of coherency the next day after that.  Not so smart that I didnít then spend the next few weeks packing and moving though.  I donít really recommend international travel shortly before a major moveÖ

Once we got moved into the condo, there have of course been the obligatory house projects.  The first one was to sort out how to get the wireless network working.  It seems the building is constructed with steel beams [good for long-term occupancy, bad for wireless signals] so we had to sort out where to put things so that all our computers could be on the network.  A note on that: our cell phones donít always pick up when weíre in the house, so if you are trying to reach me and canít get through on the cell, please do try the home number.  You can also leave me messages there, though the cell is still better for that.  The next project was air conditioning, which was installed a couple weeks ago.  Itís now cool enough inside to work on the ongoing project of emptying boxes and finding the walls and the floor.  =)  [However, since my laptop died, boxes will take a back seat to re-entering my address book with all of your information so I can get this sent out to you all!  Now, what did I do with that USB drive backupÖ]

There are pros and cons to condo life, dealing with homeowners association rules being one of the cons, but itís a very safe neighborhood and I really like the area.  I drive past a beautiful lagoon on my way home, and my place backs up to a canyon.  I have an end unit tucked in behind the garage, so itís fairly private.  Out the front door you can hear birds, and from my back porch you can hear the gentle rush of a waterfall.  At night you can hear a steady lullaby of crickets chirping in counterpoint to the deep throaty calls of the frogs.  I can see a little lake (some call it a pond, I insist otherwise) from the sliding door in my room, and on the porch I can also see the little river come down from the lake to the top of the waterfall.  Itís beautiful!  You are all welcome to come visit, but you may need to stay at a nearby hotel as with me, Candi, Fumi, Candiís cat & 2 turtles, plus all our stuff, the place is a little packed.  That said we do have a fold-down futon in the living room and an extra futon mattress tucked away, so there is room for a few folks for a short stay.  When Candi and her fiance Shawn get married and go off to a new place together I will probably not get another roommate, but instead turn that room into a proper guest room.

Speaking of pets, I am thinking down the road that I would like to get a dog.  Current breeds of choice include either a West Highland White Terrier (affectionately dubbed ďwestiesĒ) or a Miniature Australian Shepherd (a very nice and very beautiful dog, but perhaps less well suited to condo life.)  I grew up with Miniature Schnauzers so the terrier concept strongly appeals, but I also like fluffy dogs (but small) which the Mini Aussie embodies.  Weíll see what happens when Iím ready to make the choice.  I may just pick a nice puppy (or older dog) from the pound.  My last pound puppy (I call her that even though she was already about 3) turned out well, and I was very sad when Mom told me Dolly had finally passed away of old age.  Some of you may be wondering what happened to the bunniesÖ  Well, my last bunny, Nickel, died around Easter of 2005.  It was a fairly sudden down turn and of unknown cause, but I was able to hold her while she was dying.  She was about 7 years old, which is about the age all my bunnies have passed away for one reason or the other, so while a vet had told me some breeds could live as long as 14, Iíve come to expect about 7 years.  I enjoyed owning bunnies, but am ready to have a pet that can come when I call, that will sit quietly in my lap or greet me with a happy noise when I come home.  We have some of that now with Candiís sweet cat Jake (heís a sweet cuddle bug but not much of the sit quietly type,) and I think I will miss him when they move.

The last major recent event in my life is that on Sunday July 30 I was baptized as an adult.  Now, most of you know that I was baptized as a baby, and those of you whose e-mail I have probably already saw a note from me detailing my decision to be baptized again as an adult.  Primarily I wanted to be able to have a memory of the event that I can share with others when I talk about my faith.  If you want to know more, e-mail me and I will send you what I wrote up about that.  Originally it was supposed to be a beach baptism event, but unfortunately it had to be moved back to the church since there was a health issue with waste in that beach area at that time.  Oh well, we all made it through, and I now feel ready for a wedding: you plan all the details and analyze the symbolism up front, then something happens and all your careful plans fly out the window, then you pull together with family and friends to work out a backup plan, when the event actually comes itís all a blur, and when itís over youíre simultaneously very happy you did it and donít ever want to do it again.  Those of you who know Ė it sounds about right, doesnít it?  =)

Well, thatís all the major news in my life.  Now to the rest Ė one major event in our house is that Candi ended up in the hospital for a few days and then was placed in a nursing facility for healing and recovery time.  Iíll let her tell you details if she wants, but basically a cut became infected, which left her more susceptible to other infections, which are now all under control and healing up nicely but sheís still been out of commission for a few weeks.  Fumi and I (and of course kitty-kat Jake!) are hoping she will be able to come home soon.  In the meantime we are all doing fine, and trying our best to go visit her as often as we can, but usually only once or twice a week.  Fortunately Shawn has been able to work out his schedule in such a way as to be able to see her most days, and many family and friends are regular visitors, so hopefully the boredom is being kept at bay.  With any luck she will be back home by the time you all get this.

As for the rest of my friends and family, everyone is doing fairly well.  My oldest brother Greg is still in Seattle, though he recently changed jobs and apartments and roommates as well.  Touch base with him for the details (I canít remember exactly what heís doing now, but reports from the parentals indicate heís enjoying it.  I should call him again soonÖ)  My younger older brother, Don, (younger than Greg, older than me) is still in Lincoln, Nebraska, working at the bookstore and spending most of his free time exploring the gaming World of Warcraft with his buddies online.  Mom is still tootling across the country, now in her new RV [I canít remember if she got that earlier this year or last year, but anyway sheís enjoying the extra room.  This one has slide-outs.]  She seems to be enjoying herself, and shows no signs of slowing down or coming to roost in any one place anytime soon. Instead of focusing on a place of her own, she has spent the last couple of weeks working on a Habitat for Humanity project helping build a home for someone else.  Way to go Mom!  Though, I believe she is starting to think a little more about finding a place in Colorado or Oregon, but I think itís too soon to tell.  Dadís still living in Arizona.  About the same time Mom sold her house a few years back, Dad bought a sprawling 1-story house that has room for all of us when we go back most years for Christmas.  Lastly, I am now sponsoring 2 kids through World Vision, so stay tuned to future letters for details on their lives too.  =)

I am hoping to get up to Seattle next month to visit friends.  Then I think this year we will be spending Thanksgiving in Nebraska and Christmas in Arizona, then hopefully I will see Rozen and family when they come out this way.  Next summer I plan to take a driving trip with Dad from Lincoln out to Seattle and then down to California to drop off boxes from his parentsí old place that are being passed along to Greg, cousin Cindy, and me.  A couple other shorter vacations, one with my good friend from Seattle, Tristin, and one with mom are also being planned, as I received some free hotel stays after attending one of those time share presentations for a place nearby.  More details on those trips in next yearís letter.  Eventually I will be doing more projects on the condo, including replacing the patio tile and replacing a green Corian countertop with a nice brown & cream toned granite that will better accompany the hardwood floors in the living room and dining room.  [I already replaced the green carpet with a nice neutral cream.  The blinds will be next Ė I donít know why there is so much green, but it must go!  I much prefer the natural green of all the plants outside and houseplants inside.  =)  ]

All right, well I think thatís more than enough for this year!  If you read all the way through this, congratulations!  I should give you all a medal!  Enough about me, Iíd like to know whatís up with each of you, so please send me a note or give me a call to fill me in on your life too.

Have a wonderful year and God Bless one and all!

Love,

Mickie

mickie@fleuressence.com                  Click here to see my other letters.               Click here to return to the main home page.