From one story to another

You have no doubt wondered where I have been these many weeks. Indeed, I’ve been quite a number of places and have traveled far, physically and personally. In November, DH and I packed a truck and moved from Colorado to Maryland so I could start my new job. As you can imagine, this has been a pretty busy  and significant time for us, so you are probably sympathetic to my lack of posting. However, something else has been afoot.

When I began this blog nearly two years ago now (so hard to believe!), I was sitting at the beginning of the end. I could see the faint glimmer of the end of a long journey, and over the next year and a half you walked with me during some dim and discouraging days toward the bright future ahead. Now that I’ve come through the graduation process and earned my degree, I’m ready to start a new phase in life.

I’ve spent a really long contemplating this. Since this is the beginning and no longer the end, I have ultimately decided that it’s time to transition from this story to another. Therefore, it is my pleasure to announce to you a new blog chronicling my journey in a new place with a new job.

The Taylor Approximation is now where I will reside in the blogosphere. It’s still me and my story, just with a new storyline related to my new life as a “grown-up.” 😉

I won’t be taking End of the Fiber down, at least not at the moment. However, if you are currently following me here and would like to keep following on the new blog, I encourage you to sign up over there to receive my latest updates as I will probably not be adding new content here.

Thank you all for sharing this journey with me, and I hope you’ll come share in the new goings-on over at The Taylor Approximation!

 

 

Hello Thirty-One

My birthday was on Sunday, just a couple of days ago. I turned 31, which doesn’t seem like a particularly remarkable age. I already did the big three-oh last year, so now I’m just glad that I’ll be in the low end of a decade for a few more years before ruing the onset of the forties. It is a prime number, which is kind of interesting, but that’s pretty much it.

I really love birthdays; it always feels like such a special day to me, one that only happens once a year and must be savored due to its infrequency. This year was a little bit different, though. With so much going on and being so busy, it was a little hard to remember it was coming up and to ramp up the excitement for it. By popular demand, I did decide to have my signature birthday party again this year. While it was a bit of work to pull a party together in the midst of packing and moving, it did finally draw attention to the fact my birthday was coming up and helped me finally get into the spirit.

The “Slash Bash,” a devastatingly clever name born out of inadvertent punctuation, is a birthday party/fall festival/masquerade ball that I’ve thrown every year or so for the last ten years. In fact, I believe 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of the first Slash Bash I had back in college. The attendees have changed throughout the years, but it’s always been a fun time to celebrate with my friends. This year it was also a bit of a going-away party, too. I wanted to thank my friends for the years of friendship and wish them well as we move onto a new chapter in our lives.

While there might not be that much that’s notable about turning 31 in general, there is indeed one notable thing about this year. It was ten years ago, around the time of the first Slash Bash, that DH and I got together. While we’d known each other for a couple of years through our campus ministry, it wasn’t until the end of our Sophomore year that we started talking more. We both stayed in town for the summer doing various things before the semester started, and we got to know each other a bit better during a summer Bible study. Then when Junior year started, we began spending a lot more time together.

I remember him helping me with decorations and such for the Slash Bash at the end of October before my birthday. We were hanging out a lot; it seemed ridiculously obvious that we liked each other. But we weren’t going out on dates or anything, just hanging out a lot, so that made it less definitive to determine if our relationship had changed into something else. I suppose we were both a little shy to talk about it, but finally when he kissed me for the first time, it seemed pretty evident where things were going. :p  That was probably the best birthday present ever.

Except the pair of flaming Vans I got that year. Those were ridiculously awesome, too.

Happy “Anniversary,” BT3. May God allow us many, many more.

And the winner is…

So which house did we choose?

  • House Number One, with fabulous kitchen but on a busy street?
  • House Number Two, with just the right amount of room but more or less pretty average? or
  • House Number Three, with a little less space but fantastic bathrooms?

We went with House Number Two!

House Number One just wasn’t quite awesome enough to counteract the busy street, so we ruled it out pretty fast. We did go back and forth between Houses Two and Three for quite a while. If we’d only seen one or the other we would never have had a problem going with either one, but they each had some great qualities, making the decision pretty difficult to discern. We tried asking our Magic 8 Ball and flipping a coin, but in the end we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have a little extra space and went with House Number Two.

I really enjoy houses and real estate, which probably comes from my parents who would build houses to sell or for us to live in when I was growing up. I never lived in a house my parents didn’t build until I went to college. I also got used to moving to a new house, albeit only a few miles away, every few years. I sort of like moving to a new place and fixing up a new home, though the process of moving from our first home has proved to be significantly more monumental than hopping apartments. But at least we have a nice place to land when we get into town in a few weeks, and hopefully we’ll be able to make it a home while we get used to living in a new place.

House hunters, rental edition

With our house under contract and our move imminent, DH and I decided to make a whirlwind trip out east to find a place to live once we arrive. Inspired by my friend’s search for a home in her new location, I decided to share our ups and downs of finding a rental in a brand new location with only a couple of days to look.

We had a few criteria for a new place–some non-negotiables and a few desirables with which we could be flexible. First, since our pup was coming with us, we needed a place that didn’t mind a well-behaved, five-year-old, adorable dachshund with a lot of personality. Since he has a serious case of stranger-danger, we opted to search for a single family home with a fenced yard where he could chase squirrels and sniff in privacy to his heart’s content.

We don’t have a huge home now, but we didn’t want anything smaller than our current digs, particularly since DH works at home and needs an office space. A garage or carport would be nice so I didn’t have to scrape frost off my car on cold mornings, but we could live without it. Since my new job is, unfortunately, a mile away from the metro, I will have to drive to get there; therefore, we wanted a place where my drive time wouldn’t be miserable, maybe 30-45 minutes in traffic, while staying on budget. We could choose to afford something more expensive, but we’d rather save a little money if we decide to buy in the future.

Given these criteria, we felt pretty flexible to just see what the DC area had to offer. I decided that, since I was starting with little or no working knowledge of the area, a scatter-shot approach would be best–see a variety of places and locations upfront, then narrow the search from there. Starting a few weeks before, I began looking at available properties online through places like Zillow, Craigslist, and individual property management sites. I then made appointments to meet with people to see houses in a number of neighborhoods so we could get a feel for each area and what the commute would be like to my new job.

DH and I for some reason decided that a red-eye from Colorado to the east coast on Friday night/Saturday morning was a brilliant idea. Actually, it didn’t turn out too bad, though we were quite exhausted when we landed, got our rental car, and drove straight into DC for our very first appointment.

Our first house was an “updated Craftsman” with some “great updated features,” which meant it had been renovated in a couple of places (one wall of the kitchen and the master bathroom) and completely ignored everywhere else. Among other things, the exterior door in the basement was hanging on two of three hinges, the stairs were as steep as a ladder, and it seemed that the previous tenants had forgotten to pack half of their stuff when they moved. The two so-so upgrades weren’t even remotely capable of salvaging that train wreck. Fortunately we were able to laugh as we hopped in the car and moved on to our next appointment.

We stopped at an Open House that had been advertised on Craigslist. Evidently Open House was literally that…whoever was renting it seriously just left the door unlocked for people to wander inside completely alone. It was incredibly creepy, like we were trespassing. The outside was very carefully maintained, and the main living areas were actually quite nice, though the whole house was dated and smelled like old people. The basement was a dark, utilitarian cavernous space with a “rec room” that was a dark, cold, inhospitable cave with tile floors and wood paneling. While the location was fantastic, the overall impression of this house was less favorable.

Day two began with a gigantic, 4000 square foot house that was on a huge, beautiful wooded lot but was just too big and had been cheaply updated. We moved on to what we thought would be our hottest lead of the entire trip–a nicely updated home in a great neighborhood at a great price. The owner wanted a short-term rental until the spring when he’d put the home on the market to sell. We thought that would be great for us, since we also might be interested in buying before too long. Plus, the numerous pictures he sent of the home were fabulous. However, we were a little surprised to find that it had just been rented for one month by a couple with two small children. They had literally moved to town two days before and were tasked by the owner with showing us the house. There was another awkward situation. The house was really great, as indicated by the pictures, but the situation with these tenants, the timing with our move, and the awkwardness in general made it a big if. Plus the location didn’t seem quite as convenient to work. While it had a lot going for it, we decided it was like a hot, crazy chick who looked good but had too much drama. We sadly let go and moved on.

The rest of our three day trip proceeded in a similar manner; each day we’d have showings, scout for rental signs as we went along, make calls, then, armed with new information about neighborhoods and locations, head back to the hotel each night and scour the internet for properties that fit our narrowing scope. On day two we saw four places, and on day three we squeezed three more house showings in at the last minute, thanks to some really on-the-ball and motivated agents. With all the homes we saw, good and bad, we finally narrowed it down to our shortlist of three homes.

Home number one was a spacious brick colonial with a brand-new kitchen with really nice, cherry cabinets and stainless steel appliances. There was an ample yard with a fence all around, and it was in a really good location. The downside–it was on a pretty major street. That would make parking a moving truck difficult, and we just imagined constant traffic noise from inside. However, for the price we got a lot of house for our buck and were a few miles closer to work.

Home number two seemed, at first, pretty far out of town. However, we gradually realized that this area was actually more convenient to work, as it was on the same side of town as my job and didn’t involve getting on the Beltway at all. In moderate traffic it only took 33 minutes to drive to work (though rush hour would be anything but moderate), and there would be multiple alternative routes for getting there.

This was a very spacious house without feeling too huge. It was on nearly a 1/3 acre lot with lots of trees in a nice, quiet neighborhood. The yard was fenced, though kind of steep. While it wasn’t super fancy everywhere, the bathrooms were clean and more modern than some we’d seen, and the master bed had its own bath and walk-in closet. The kitchen was very updated and large with stainless steel appliances and lots of cabinet space.

Since we liked the neighborhood so much, we decided to call about a second house we saw for rent there. So, House Number Three was the second house in this area. It was a one-story ranch, smaller than house Number Two but still ample space for us. It had a slightly nicer yard, though it lacked fence across a small section, something we could deal with. The kitchen wasn’t fancy or huge, but it was nice and clean and functional with nice appliances and counters. The basement was finished with a really great utility and storage area. And this house had, by far, the absolute nicest bathrooms of any home we’d seen anywhere on our trip.

So, at the end of our trip as we drove to the airport, we wrestled with the decision of which house to pick. Should we go with:

  • House Number One, with fabulous kitchen but on a busy street?
  • House Number Two, with just the right amount of room but more or less pretty average? or
  • House Number Three, with a little less space but fantastic bathrooms?

On — er, I mean off — the market

I was going to write up a thoughtful post about what it’s like to have your house up for sale, but before I could, our house sold.

Yeah, crazy.

After we returned from Europe and I had accepted the job, it became clear that we were definitely going to be selling the house. We spent a fair amount of time sprucing up the house to get it ready to list, and my parents had also done quite a bit while they were house sitting to make our list a lot smaller. While our house is far from dumpy, every house experiences entropy and energy must be put into the system to keep it spiffy. Once those items were done, we were ready to find a realtor.

Our friends moved a few months ago and recommended their agent, so we called her up almost two weeks ago. She came out to meet us and take a look at our house; then she went to study comparable sales in our neighborhood and come up with a suggested list price. The next day she sent us her findings, and we were a little surprised at how optimistic her numbers were. We’d been expecting the worst given the downturn in the market, but it’s ticked up a little in our area, and there just aren’t that many homes for sale in our neighborhood, making for a classic supply and demand scenario. We decided to go ahead and list with her.

We spent that weekend filling out some annoying paperwork, and then a photographer came out early last week to take some nice photos for our online listing. Once all of that was put together, our house hit the market on MLS early Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, we’d already scheduled a couple of showings for the weekend, and before it was over five different people had come to look at it.

DH went up to the mountains on Saturday, probably his last opportunity to do so while we’re here, so it was just the dog and me as we prepared the house for the showings. I got everything as clean and tidy as possible, and it was really looking spiffy. The problem is that it’s impossible to actually live in a house that is that spiffy! Life just happens, and even if my house is clean and picked up, there is always something on the counter or clothes to be washed or artifacts of some activity we were doing that day. I really hoped it didn’t linger on the market, because keeping it that benign was going to be a lot of work. My friend had a perfect saying about selling a house: “It’s like wearing a bikini to the beach; you have to keep it all sucked in and pretend it’s that way all the time.”

Ten minutes before the first showing, Murphy and I hopped in the car, and it started pouring down rain. While our house is the same in the rain and sunshine, a dark and dreary day will unavoidably make an impression on a prospective buyer, anyway. But it was what it was. After the allotted hour, the dog and I came home for a few hours before the next showing, then went out again. This time the sun was out, and the house seemed be in rarefied form with the golden afternoon sun showing through our west-facing windows.

Murphy and I returned after that outing, finally in for the day. It was very interesting that the dog ran into the house barking like crazy; somehow he just knew people had been in there and possibly expected them to still be there. He very much knew something strange was afoot. Later, DH called on his way home; our agent called to ask about something and mentioned that one of the families that saw the house really, really liked it. That was optimistic, we thought. At least somebody liked it.

The next morning, we had showings scheduled for 9:00 and 12:30. Since we were supposed to be at church during those times, we decided the dog was going to have to come with us and hang out in the car while we were in the service. Fortunately, it was a cool morning, so he was quite comfortable hanging out there for a few hours. After church, we went out to lunch with friends, as our house was being shown again.

While we were eating, our agent called, telling us we had gotten an offer. Not just that, but the people who had “really really liked it” yesterday were planning on making an offer, too. We were a little startled…it had only been on the market for two days, and we already had people wanting it, nay, almost fighting for it.

There was drama all afternoon; the first people gave us only a few hours to respond and chewed out our agent over the phone when we didn’t accept their first low-ball offer. They responded quickly with a full-priced offer, though, but only gave us three hours to respond (for the record, that’s ridiculously short). The second people were trying to get their offer in before that deadline, promising it was going to be a good one. We hated to turn down a full-priced offer without an actual better offer in hand, but for some reason we were rooting for the other guys (and not because they were going to give us more money, either–probably because their agent didn’t chew ours out over the phone :p). They made it in time, and we were able to accept their offer for MORE than asking price.

We were absolutely astonished. God definitely provided in the speed of getting it sold as well as giving us a little extra, too. We are so thankful to have that hurdle crossed, though it’s definitely not over until it closes. We’ll pray that nothing unexpected comes up in the inspection and closing process. And besides all that, I don’t have to keep it ridiculously pristine for showings anymore!!! Let the packing and ramshackle stacking of boxes begin. :p

Some other beginning’s end

After a two-and-a-half hour march across Paris from the Latin Quarter to Pont de Grenelle, just south of the Eiffel Tower, I was absolutely exhausted. It was our last night in Paris, and DH wanted to see the replica of the Statue of Liberty that stands on the tip of a small island in the Seine. But after six days of walking around the City of Lights, my back and feet were relieved to plop down on a rail by the quay as he took some nice dusky pictures of the stature.

I idly pulled my smartphone out of my purse; we weren’t paying for cell or data coverage here, so I was relying on wireless internet during our trip to connect with the world back home. Our apartment rental came with free access to a city-wide wifi network, but it was a long shot that there would be a wifi hotspot here. However, I was in luck. I connected and proceeded to download something like twenty emails, mostly junk mail and advertisements. However, one message caught my eye.

It was an email automatically generated from the same automated online system I had used nearly two months before to apply to one of the jobs for which I had interviewed in August. Evidently it was news of some kind about my application. I opened it and quickly scrolled through; after many uninformative and irrelevant words I saw the ones that mattered: “You were not selected for this position.”

Halfway through our European trip was not the time to fret about life-altering decisions and revelations. After a few minutes of absorbing the news, I stood up, dusted myself off, and walked to the nearest metro stop. I thought about jobs I might apply for when we got home; we pondered the possibility of living on one income for the foreseeable future. We settled the matter in our minds and proceeded to enjoy the second half of our European trip.

One week later, after 11 hours on a trans-Atlantic flight from Rome to Charlotte, NC, I eagerly turned my phone on to access domestic cellular and data for the first time since we left. I knew my parents would want to know we were back in the states, especially since they were picking us up at the airport when we made it back to Denver. However, what download to my phone was not a voice mail from a friend or family member, but one from the very same job that, one week earlier, I was told I did not get.

All I can figure is that there was some strange goof in the automated system. The voice mail, from that very same morning while I was in the air over the Atlantic, was from a real, honest-to-goodness human being offering me the job. So, with American soil under our feet for a mere two minutes, all of our resolutions and Plan B’s were completely erased and all of a sudden I was faced with a monumental life decision.

It was too late to respond that day, which was just fine. I still had customs and immigration, another flight, and the drive home to process what was even going on. When I called back the next morning–exhausted, jet-lagged, fighting a cold–she reiterated what she stated in the voice mail and gave me until the end of the following day to make my decision.

It may seem like a short turn-around, but in reality there wasn’t that much more to think about. All the time I was applying for the job, talking to them over the phone, going there in person to interview, I was formulating the answer to the question “what if.” All the time I was waiting for their decision I was determining what I would say if they offered. I knew what my answer was going to be. I didn’t need the time to decide, only to find the courage to accept the truth of my decision in my heart.

I know it sounds ridiculous that I could know I made the right choice, know that I had peace about the choice, yet still sob into DH’s shoulder for a long time after I returned her call to let her know my decision. I knew it was the right choice, but the repercussions of it were so significant. I knew I was grieving for what I’d be leaving behind; I was terrified for the new that was to come; I was unsure of all we’d now have to do to get there.

But I knew that I was taking the job and that we were moving to Washington, DC.

After the end of the fiber, a journey I started eight years ago was now complete and another beginning.

************

Closing time…every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

In Nobel company

Yesterday, the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Serge Haroche and David Wineland “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.” Haroche is a professor at the College de France and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. Wineland is a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.

And did I mention that Dave Wineland is from the Time and Frequency Group at NIST in Boulder?

Dang straight, people; this is the third award in Physics given to people associated with our division in just over a decade. I can’t tell you how much I love NIST and how amazed and lucky I am to have been a part of this organization. My only regret is not having been on site yesterday to witness all the festivities firsthand but I’m proud that all my friends and colleagues are having this moment.

David Wineland; This image is Copyright Geoffrey Wheeler, NIST

The work cited in this award has many applications, but the two biggest are ultra-precision clocks and quantum computing. As you can imagine, I am particularly interested in the former application, though the world of quantum computing is definitely interesting. However, I am much more familiar with the techniques of trapping ions quantum particles and manipulating them to access stable transitions used as clocks. These techniques are currently paving the way for the most precise and stable clocks in existence. I am ridiculously excited that advances in precision time and frequency are held in such high regard by the scientific community as to warrant multiple Nobel Prizes and other prestigious awards over the years. I ridiculously love my field of research. Congratulations Wineland and Haroche on the significant recognition of your work!