Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Evaluating job offers

There are lots of things that go into deciding whether a job offer is right for you or not. One of the workshops I saw at my conference did a great job describing lots of different factors to consider.

Everyone always looks at the money first, but they don’t really see all the money there is, or all there is to the money. When is the higher salary not the best choice? It’s flattering to be offered a bunch of money, but sometimes there are hidden costs to that higher salary. For instance, a company that offers to match part of your 401(k) is giving you a benefit that will reduce your taxes and increase your take home pay. If that same company offers other perks like vacation days, sick days, personal days, child care assistance, low interest loans, or mortgage assistance, that will definitely be the better deal, even if the base salary is lower than another company’s offer.

We didn’t even get to health care yet. Just about everybody has to pay something for health insurance these days. It used to be that Kaiser was free, but now people have to pay for that too. So expect to have to kick in something each month, but know how much that something is before you accept an offer. Vision and dental plans can also add value to a company’s offer.

What about retirement? If you are twenty something, you may not be thinking about that. I know I didn’t. We were busy with a young family and didn’t save a dime. Like someone once said, Pay yourself first—put something aside in a 401(k) or similar plan. Depend on yourself, not the company or Social Security.

There is a dizzying array of benefits that companies may offer, especially as the economy improves and competition for candidates increases. I read that we have now gained back all the jobs lost during the dotcom crash, so perhaps things are finally turning around. Consider all these:
Stock Options
Disability Insurance
Employee Assistance Program
Tuition Reimbursement
Dependent Life Insurance
Flexible Spending Accounts
Concierge (dry cleaning, barber shop—there are still places that do this)
Adoption Assistance
Parking (if you work downtown, this can be a big expense)

There are other things to consider such as what you will actually be doing all day, the company’s expectations of you, how well your values mesh with those of the employer, the people you will be working for and with. Take time to talk over your options with someone before you decided. Whatever you decide, you’re going to have to live with it for many years.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The dog certainly missed me

Every time I go on a trip, like the conference I attended this past week, something always goes wrong at home. The basement floods, there is a power outage—something that only happens when I’m gone, and Kathy is left alone to deal with it. This time it was the dog. The vet changed his medication and screwed up his system. He was fine when we were using his usual regimen, but once I was gone, he was pooping all over the house.

It was awful for Kathy. Kodiak filled one of his dog beds with watery poop and left little presents all over the house. She scrubbed it out so by the time I got home you couldn’t even tell anything had happened. Even she agreed that he missed me and that probably compounded the problem. I certainly got a huge greeting when I walked in the door tonight, as he was beside himself with joy. We immediately left for one of our mile walks and he loved it.

Just wanted to get this posted so everyone knows I’m back in the game. I’ll say more about the conference later.

How was everyone’s week?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Just a quickie

I'm at a conference all next week, so it's unlikely there will be any posting or commenting.

One quick Max story:

I was playing with him in the driveway in the backyard the other day, and he was rapidly going through all the toys available, so I brought out the sidewalk chalk. He happily squatted and drew on the concrete. I was inspired and drew a circle around him, telling him it was a magic circle and he had to draw a door in order to escape. So he frantically scribbled some lines and jumped out. We did this several times to his great delight. He is always reluctant to leave our house, so later when his mother came for him, he jumped into a circle without a door and said, “I’m stuck!”, shrugging his shoulders elaborately. It didn’t work.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hospital Life

After some experience, I have developed three rules of hospital life, from the patient's point of view. Here they are:
1) If you want the doctor to come, fall asleep.
2) If you want the phone to ring, leave the room.
And finally,
3) No matter how bad a shape you are in, there is always someone else who is worse off.

I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones most pertinent to me.

In my last hospital visit, miracle of miracles, I had a single room for the first time ever (not counting some stays in the ICU). That did not keep me from hearing the life story of the guy next door who must have been hard of hearing because he spoke very loudly. (See Rule number 3.)

There was also a Physical Therapy unit on the floor. All day there was a parade of elderly people past my door, patients with knee replacements and hip replacements. It was kind of comical to see them using a walker accompanied by an attendant, followed by yet another hospital worker pushing a wheel chair to catch the patients when they got tired. It was only moderately funny, because I will be one of them some day.

The night before my surgery I was feeling restless, so I got out of bed, grabbed my IV pole and went to explore. As I walked around the floor, I was shocked at how crowded the place was, with patients in beds in the hallway. I certainly felt guilty about my single room when I saw that.

One of the nurses remarked to me that 17 times around the floor was a mile. I guess they would know that, since there was that PT unit on the floor. Well, she never should have mentioned that to me, since right away I saw it as a challenge. Darned if I didn't do my 17 laps that night! Later my knee was kind of sore and I realized that I had foolishly done my mile pounding around the floor in those little hospital footies.

So that would lead us to Rule #4: No matter how many times you are in the hospital, there is always something new to learn.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Released on my own recognizance

Just a quick note: I was released from the hospital today after my surgery on Wednesday. Thanks to all you who were praying for me. Everything turned out fine. As Arnold would say, "It's not a tumor!" The doctor got all the way in there and didn't see anything, so I guess that's a good thing. Whatever it was is gone now. Hmmm. How do you suppose that happened?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Ring

I gave Kathy her ring this morning while we sat at the kitchen table opening anniversary cards.

Not the most romantic setting, but it’s more emblematic of our lives than some fancy restaurant. We had been putting off the anniversary celebration, and had never even opened cards from each other or from her sisters, so we decided to do that today. I ran upstairs and took the little wrapped box from its secret hiding place and tucked it into the back pocket of my jeans. I have this favorite Christmas wrapping paper that I hoard for special occasions like this. It has the famous cherubs on it from that one detail of a Michelangelo painting. I wrapped it so that one of the little faces was right on top. Since we’ve met, Kathy has always been my angel, and I look for certain style angels as presents for her.

After we opened the cards I pulled out the box and set it in front of her. Sorry Stacey, but She had no idea. Her eyes popped when she opened the little hinged jewelers box and saw the three diamonds glinting at her. In her own words, she was “speechless”, “breathless” and “blown away.” She cried for half an hour. So did I.

She told me that when she first saw the box, she thought there might be earrings in there. She never expected anything like that ring. She never even put two and two together when we got those dunning phone calls from the jewelry company some months ago. (They thought I was late paying and so left messages on our home answering machine. I thought surely my cover was blown.)

After we settled down, Kathy went off to the grocery store and showed off her present to one of our favorite cashiers. Tonight we are going over to her sister’s house to watch the Kentucky Derby, and Kathy is looking forward to waving her hand around to see if anyone notices the new addition.

So, thanks to all of you who have been following this story. I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you.

Friday, May 06, 2005


I used to love helping my mother weed her vegetable garden when I was little. That’s when I first learned what “chickweed” was. Now it looks like it may just be spring in Cleveland. After several false starts, we may have finally just slipped from winter’s snowy mitts. Yes friends, that means it’s weed season. Time to sling the Turf Builder Plus 2 and nip the little buggers in the bud.

The variety of survival strategies devised by different weeds is amazing. Some will snap off just as you grab them, leaving the roots intact to grow another day. Others have prickly stems that discourage naked gardeners’ hands from touching them. There are weeds that look promisingly like something you want to keep in your flowerbed, so you give them a chance. This is your downfall as they grow taller and finally spit seeds everywhere before you realize you’ve been duped.

There is an especially annoying variety of weed in my backyard that seems to be a single plant, but when you pull it up, you find it’s connected to a string of plants with a cable of root that runs for several yards all through the garden.

And don’t get me started on dandelions. Has anyone ever actually gotten the entire root of a dandelion out of the ground in one piece? Now, be honest. I should be so rooted in my faith as those yellow devils are in my backyard.

There was a hedge of Rose of Sharon in our backyard for many years. I used to cut off the seed pods in the fall to try and keep them from propagating. I finally tore out all the bushes and I am still finding their progeny all over the place. They produce hundreds of junk plants that try to supplant the grass in the backyard. But do you know that if you had a Rose of Sharon seedling that you wanted to transplant, you have to baby it, watering it faithfully to keep it alive?

I can’t help but see parallels in people. There are those who snap off in your hand before you can get to know them very deeply. You probably know others who keep people at arm’s length by being so crabby they scare you off. Who wants to deal with downers like that?

Have you ever met someone who looked good at the outset, someone you’d like to get to know better, someone you thought came across well in the interview perhaps, or who seemed fascinating in the bar? Then they showed their true colors as they bungled things on the job or turned out to be selfish slobs you had to banish from your life with a restraining order.

You can learn a lot about people from what you find in your garden. Take a look sometime.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Maybe I should call Buzz

I always tell Kathy that I just want to be a normal kid. Whenever I’ve had surgery or gotten put into the hospital for one reason or another, I am anxious to get on with my life and put the physical problems behind me. Over the past few years, it seems that things go smoothly for six months at a crack and then I have another setback. Such is the case now.

After days of pain and hours of tests over the past week, I have been scheduled for surgery on May 11. There is some sort of blockage in my right kidney. They don’t know exactly what it is, so they will go with lasers blasting to take care of whatever they find. Suffice to say, my symptoms are not exactly table talk, so I won’t detail them here.

Working for the state of Ohio has its advantages. I once accumulated over 1100 hours of sick time. I tend to show up for work every day. Wouldn’t you know it? I needed almost all of those 1100 hours when I was out for six months with two open heart surgeries. I’m a little nervous now as there is only about 100 hours showing up in my account. There are about 250 vacation hours stored up, so I could use that if need be.

Max came over tonight. We spent a fun hour or so in his new Buzz Lightyear tent. Kathy found one on sale at the Disney store. Max immediately decided that I was Buzz and he was Woody. He is so serious about our roles. He would pretend to “fall” out of the spaceship tent and I (as Buzz) would have to rescue him from the space aliens. He brought his favorite toys into the tent and we had a riot in there. He makes all my problems disappear with one of his hugs, or a “Don’t worry, Da!”.

I’d appreciate your prayers for May 11.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Here's my excuse

No ring yet, no romantic dinner. We'd never be able to concentrate on it. We just came back from another ER visit. All they did was schedule a new test for tomorrow, and that's fine. I had that horrible pain that comes from kidney stones early Saturday morning, but then it went away. ...Well, they don't have to come on a Saturday morning necessarily, but it's the phrase "kidney stones" that's important here, not when they came--I'm sure you understand the distinction. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that's what it is, but we'll see.