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  • “I watch the ripples change their size
    But never leave the stream
    Of warm impermanence
    So the days float through my eyes
    But still the days seem the same….
    Strange fascination, fascinating me
    Ah changes are taking the pace Im going through”

    David Bowie, Changes

    I had an eventful week, a week of potential new directions. Life is change. I learned awhile ago that the only thing constant in life is change. Once I got used to that, change hasn’t thrown me too far off my game ( except, when it has)! I made my way through the week, sorted through the various changes making their way to my door, each one with a new twist, new considerations, finally arriving at last evening, and the beginning of my week off. I got it off to a good start.

    I know, I know, I was just off at the beginning of last month, for two and a half weeks of furlough. More time off? But that was unplanned time off, and I struggled with what to do with myself during that time. It all worked out, of course, but it was not relaxing, to say the least. This week is somewhat planned, with time for spontaneity, time to get some things done, and time to relax. I still have “use or lose” leave, time I need to either use by the end of the year, or I lose it – I don’t get to carry it over to the next year. I have a high balance of unused leave, so each year, I have to use the full five weeks of leave that I accrue that year. I don’t mind.

    The changes I was dealing with were interesting. I have not been actively looking for jobs elsewhere, as I had gotten to a point of acceptance with my current position at work – not crazy about it, but finding it more and more tolerable, and getting used to the bosses and the rhythm of it. Six months ago, I was practically ready to retire, I was so frustrated with the job, but have been finally settling into it, lately. Even with the whole furlough business and all, I was doing o.k. with it. You might say, I had become resigned to the fact that this is what it is, I’m most fortunate to even have such a job, and I shouldn’t complain. So, I knocked it off, and just started showing up, and facing each day with the question, “what can I do today to make this a better place? How can I make the most of what is in front of me – right now?”, and of course, things have gotten better.
  • Then, suddenly, different opportunities got thrown at me. I learned of an opportunity for a position at another agency a couple weeks ago, that happens to be right up the road from where I live – ten minutes away, as opposed to the 45 – 50 minutes it takes me to get into work in D.C., now. It’s a government job, but with an agency that doesn’t get paid out of Appropriated funds – so, it would not be subject to furloughs and sequestration. Hmmm – close to home, no furlough – liking it more and more. When I read the job announcement, it read like it was written for me. I’ve had significant experience in all of the areas it covers. Plus, it had this statement on the job announcement that I just loved – “Education will not be a suitable substitution for related work experience.” I’ve never seen that statement on an announcement before. Usually, I am hoping that my experience will substitute for educational requirements for a job, because I don’t have a degree. Lots of coursework completed, tons of experience in many different areas, but no pieces of paper, no alphabets behind my name. I know someone who works there, who told me about it, and she thought I’d be perfect for the job. But, to be considered, I’d have to apply.

    Did I mention that I hate applying for jobs? I hate the whole process. The resume, the application, the ECQs (Executive Core Qualifications). I really hate it. I had two full weeks to prepare my stuff, and I let most of it go to the last several days. I tinkered at it the whole time, but didn’t really get down to business writing the ECQs until late in the game. That’s the part I hate most, those ECQs. But, I finally wrote them up, and even think I did a pretty good job with them - I am usually not happy with my ECQ write-ups, but I think I nailed them this time. I got it all done and in by the deadline, which was yesterday.

    It’s all done online. They had a practice questionaire – on that, it said that your responses to each of the five ECQ related questions was limited to 4000 characters. So, I prepared my write-ups accordingly. So, when I submitted the actual application, I got five red-flagged messages back - “You’ve exceeded the 3800 character limit for this response.”

    See, this is why I hate this process. Of course I exceeded the 3800 character limit. On the practice questionaire, you said I had 4000 characters to work with! I used them all. Do you know what I went through to get my write-ups down to that number? That was just so stupid! But, I went back into each one, and was easily able to pare them down to just below 3800 characters. Once I get that job, those HR folks are going to get a piece of my mind about that one! Oh, wait – once I get the job, they’ll work for me… even better!
  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch…last Thursday, I saw a message on e-mail that our agency’s Chief Financial Officer was retiring next month. I knew it would only be a matter of days before someone was knocking on my door. I’m their favorite “pinch-hitter” over there. I’ve been on four different details over in the Chief Financial Officer’s office. I’ve been the Deputy Budget Division Director, the Financial Management Division Director, the Deputy Chief Financial Officer, and the Chief Financial Officer. I’ve gained a ton of experience over there, all on details when there was this crisis or that problem going on, that they needed someone with my experience to step in and get them through it for a few months, or a year, or whatever. In fact, some examples I used on my ECQs came from those details! Sure enough, Monday morning this week, they came knocking. Looks like I’ll be going over there when I get back from my vacation, as the Deputy CFO. The thing about it is, I never want to work there all the time. Budget and Finance is simply not my cup of tea. It’s not how I like to spend my time and energy on a long-range basis. I’m good at it – I just don’t get that feeling of fulfillment at the end of the day. I’ve reached the point in my career that, if I have any say in the matter, I want that in a job. Short of that, I’ll just be thankful to have a job, which I am. But, I won’t consciously choose a permanent CFO type position.

    So, these opportunities have just appeared on my doorstep when I wasn’t looking, when I was just minding my own business, getting o.k. with a less than a completely fulfilling job, making the most of my time. Life always seems to go like this for me. When I stop looking, get out of my own way, opportunity knocks. So who knows what the future will bring – I’ll just keep showing up now, today, and see where this day takes me, and go from there. Let the future decide what it will be and do.
  • My week off started off with get togethers last night. One of my softball teams wanted to meet up for drinks and eats at Glory Days Grill – I had a ticket for free wings there, courtesy of my hockey team scoring 5 goals Tuesday night (a promotional deal they have), so went and got my wings, hung out with my friends for an hour, then went over to Bruce’s place for a night of poker and music.

    Bruce had the house to himself. He decided to maximize the opportunity, so he had a bunch of his musician buddies over to jam in the basement, and a bunch of his poker-playing buddies over to play poker upstairs. That joint was rockin’ all night long! I played poker and banged on a big old bongo on a great impromptu jam we got going in the basement late, just losing myself in the music for awhile. Good times. I also managed to win a few bucks playing poker, which is always a bonus. This crew likes to play all kinds of weird games, like “follow the queen”, 7 card stud where the card that comes up after a queen is the wild card, but can change at any point in the game, if another queen comes up. Then there’s one-eyed Jacks and suicide Kings being wild, high and low hand splits the pot, all kinds of goofy variations on straight-up poker themes. I love it. I can also appreciate playing straight up with no wild cards poker, but with this crew, the goofier variation, the better.

    Today, there’s leaves to rake – lots and lots of leaves. Tomorrow, after I make my food donation Sunday morning run, we’re running down to Fredericksburg to catch the University of Mary Washington’s production of “Spring Awakening”. This was a play that, when we saw it on Broadway, I had such an emotional moment, it really overwhelmed me, caught me by surprise, towards the end of the show. The only other time I had that powerful a moment during a show was when I saw the Broadway production of Hair, at Valley Forge in the Round, while I was in the middle of my Navy career. Just one of those transcendent moments you get, when you feel like the show is about you, and in that moment, you get it. Our son J.B. just started working down there, his alma mater, this week. A great job for him. He saw the play on Thursday, and highly recommends it.

    Monday is Veterans’ Day – one of my favorite days of the year. Tuesday’s my birthday – 59 and getting younger each year! It really feels that way for me. I’m getting lighter, carrying less psychic baggage around, living more in the moment than I ever was. I may have wasted a lot of my youth, but I am making up for it now! Thursday, I’m running up to Philly for a retirement luncheon for a colleague I’ve worked with for 30 years. The house might get painted in between all of that – we’ll see if I can fit that in to my busy itinerary for the week. Maybe I can…that’s a change Kathy will appreciate!
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