I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to reflect upon this year. 2016 has been one of the most interesting and important years of my time on this mortal coil.
A photo break at the Grand Canyon during Spring Break
To fully understand the year, a little background is required.
I moved to GA in 2011 to work for CCLC, a division of Knowledge Universe. I had already worked almost 3 years for KU when I moved there. Then in 2015, it became apparent I was going to leave the company for a variety of reasons. Not wanting to speak ill, I will simply say there were a lot of changes at the company and the company had been bought out. It was evident the company was changing and not in a way in which I was comfortable.
I left the company in September, 2015 and did so without other employment in place. It was a big step, but it paid off. I was already looking for jobs before I left KU, but it became my full time job once I left. It was not particularly productive. I had several other friends from KU who also left or were in the process of leaving and we worked together to help each other stay in tune with good opportunities.
I was blessed that one of my good friends, Lori Walker, let me know about a possible opportunity with the school she where she was now working, Stratford School in Saratoga, CA. It turns out that a former co-worker was the head of HR for them. I had two strong leads into the company.
I went through a lengthy interview process that took me up to the point of meeting all the C-level execs and even having calls with some of the board members. I did really well with it all except for the calls with the board members. I am usually a very good interviewee, however, for some reason, I stunk on these two calls. Also, it turns out that the qualifications that the board members were wanting for this position were not necessarily aligned with those of the execs. Needless to say, I did not get THAT job.
However, I did strike a chord with the COO and we explored the possibility of me doing business development work on a contract basis. By the end of November, we came to terms on objectives and conditions and I began the planning phase of work for them in December. I was to develop a plan and then, if approved, I would begin work for them in January 2016.
So this is what leads me into a most amazing 2016.
The wide open road through New Mexico
The plan was approved so I was good to go for January. I could have worked remotely from GA, however, I felt the need to have “boots on the ground” at least initially. Saratoga, CA is in Silicon Valley, and is quite expensive to live. The blessing I received was that a good friend offered to allow me to stay in an empty bedroom. I cannot tell you how amazing that blessing was.
My van packed and ready for a 4,200 mile journey
On January 12, I loaded up my van, and started one of my most epic drives across the country. I allowed myself ample time so I made it an epic “reconnect” trip. My plan was to stop and visit friends and family along the way.
Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary Sue
Below are the stops I made on my over 4,200-mile journey. I could write pages on each stop along the way, as well as the drives in between locations. Since this post is already going to be too long, I am including links below to previous posts that will help fill in those gaps.
· BIRMINGHAM, AL – Leaving from McDonough, GA, my first stop was to visit my amazing Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary Sue. They are wonderfully kind and hold a special place in my heart. When I was about 4, I lived with them for months while my mother was hospitalized. In fact, they were in GA at the time.
The man, the myth, the Legend…Frank
· BROKEN ARROW, OK – I went to high school here and stopped in to see Frank Stinson, the father of Robert Stinson. I had not seen him in over 20 years. He is a most amazing man with many talents. It was one of the highlights of my trip to spend time with him. I also visited Nick Montoya and spent the night in his house with his wife, Eamber and children. I had not seen Nick since college. He also went to high school in BA.
With Richard in his newsroom
· ADA, OK – There was no way I could be in Oklahoma and not stop and see the world’s greatest photographer, Richard Barron. I met him at his work and we spent about an hour together. I wish I could spend more time with Richard. (Turns out I did get to see him in October of this same year.)
· ANGEL FIRE, NM – My next stop was at Nancy and Dave Hartson’s, my Aunt and Uncle. They live in a most beautiful home in Angel Fire.
· OREM, UT – I made the trek over VERY BAD SNOWY conditions to Orem where my children live. The roads were treacherous and there was seriously one point where I thought I was going to die when a truck cut me off. I picked up the kids and we headed to my next stop.
· CHINO VALLEY, AZ – We visited Lynn and Jim Simpson, my Aunt and Uncle. On the way we had a DAM fine adventure….as in Hoover. They live out in the boonies on a most beautiful ranch. They were so kind to us and we stayed in their camper which was so fun!
· OREM, UT – I had to take the kiddos back home before I headed to my final destination. We had a GRAND trip back…as in Canyon.
· SAN JOSE, CA – As mentioned earlier, I was so blessed to stay with a friend of mine who lived close to where I would be working. In fact, at the time, she was still working there too! #Love
The map of my journey to San Jose
My entire trip from GA to San Jose was perhaps in the Top 3 of all time. It was truly life changing and I think it set the stage for the rest of the year. It opened my heart, mind and soul and rekindled my love of nature and its immensity and grandeur. I now simply cannot get enough.
The coolest thing about having a contract work gig in San Jose was that I was only 800 miles from UT. I was able to make frequent trips either by driving or by plane to spend time with my kiddos. A few of the posts from those trips are found below.
Of course there is also so much to do in San Jose and the surrounding areas. There was NEVER a reason to be bored.
My former college roommate Jason Tarshis
First, I was able to spend great time and do some super cool activities with my friend. Second, I was able to save tons of money that I would have otherwise wasted on housing. Third, it turns out that my friend’s house was within two miles of my college roommate’s house. I was able to reconnect with Jason, meet his partner and we all had some good times together.
In addition to spending fun time with my friends, I also fell in love with hiking. I have always loved the outdoors but I never really connected with hiking until my time in CA. Some of my favorite outdoor adventures are listed below.
- A Rainy Castle Rock visit
- Big Basin State Park
- A second visit to Castle Rock
- Santa Cruz beach
- The National Cemetery
- Trip 1 and Trip 2 (with kids) to San Francisco
- One of the 2 most rigorous hikes I took of the year to Mount Montara
- Trip 1 and Trip 2 (with kids) to Del Valle State Recreation area
While working in CA, I came across a new employment opportunity that would afford me the opportunity to live in Salt Lake with my children. Here’s one of the most amazing things about getting the job. When I saw it listed on LinkedIn, I contacted the person who posted it on a Monday. By the Friday of THAT SAME WEEK, I was offered the job! What?
I was stoked!
I wasn’t happy to be leaving my work with Stratford School but I was ecstatic to be moving to Utah.
One of the natural consequences of living with my children is that I get to be integrated into their daily lives once again, which I totally cherish. While I feel like a taxi on most days, I enjoy the daily cadence of our lives. Mariana with cheer, tumbling, friends, and friends and friends. Juju and Riri with singing lessons and friends. There is nothing more on earth that I love than being dad.
Speaking of love, I have totally fallen in love with Utah. It is an amazing state with so much to do. While I was lamenting leaving the beauty of CA, I found another source of tons of activities right here in UT.
One of the key highlights of the year was the graduation of my son Stensen and my daughter Yana. One graduated in GA and the other in UT and they were a day apart. They both also started college. Stensen is at Georgia Southern and Yana is at Utah Valley.
John R. Smith 1946-2016
While I called this post “A Joyous Year”, I did experience sadness with the passing of my father John. While he was technically my step-dad, he was very much my father. While I miss him very much, I can still count his memory and the tremendous impact he has had on my life as very joyous.
As I finish writing this, I am fortunate to have my mother with us visiting for Christmas. She spent a portion of the day taking the girls shopping. You know they loved that! We are cooking 2 huge standing rib roasts and are getting ready to devour them. Our Christmas tree is overflowing with gifts.
Most importantly, we are together. That is the best of all.
I feel so blessed for many reasons, some of which I have already shared above. There are simply too many things to share.
I am hoping this rolls right into 2017. Can it get better?