Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Three Paths and Valentine's Day 2013

One of the biggest hurdles in this whole process was Steve getting a vision of what he was looking for in a career.  We knew he liked math.  We knew he could solve big problems.  We just didn't know how that translated to the industry.  So we started researching again.  I looked at all sorts of options and narrowed down three paths he could take-engineering, computer science and finance.  Now these areas were pretty broad but at least we could start to think about each one and then pick a direction.  

We knew that Steve had the ability to program.  His masters is in Computational Mathematics.  However, programming is not his favorite and he doesn't care to do it all the time.  He will program enough to solve big systems of equations as they relate to math problems, but not just to program itself.  It's not interesting to him.  So computer science was out.

Finance held a lot of promise.  Many mathematicians run statistics for insurance companies (they are called actuaries) and others work on the stock market.  Yet when we thought about this option, we knew it wasn't Steve.  He's not a flashy businessman-type.  He's more quiet and simple.  

What it came down to was this-Steve wanted to creatively solve big math problems.  The best bet for this type of work would lie in the engineering world working on real-world applications.  And since he had passed the EIT, he was considered an engineer in training so that lent him some credibility in the engineering industry.  But doing what in engineering?  There are millions of types of engineers.  That's when we started networking.

During this process, God led us to many people to talk to.  Steve has many relatives that are pretty academic and "mathy" so we started with them.  He talked with cousins, his uncle who is a math guy and various others about what he likes to do with math and how his skills would translate to the industry.  These conversations sparked a lot of thought and helped us narrow down even more what we were looking for.  Isaac's teacher at school got us in touch with her Dad who has been an engineer at Boeing for years.  Her Dad talked at length with Steve about his skills, gave him advice and was a great first encounter with the industry.  These conversations were not easy for Steve.  He had to really gear himself up to talk to all of these people, many of whom he did not know, and put himself out there.  It was really, really hard for him.  But he did it.  The Navy had given him a taste.  He wanted to know more.  

Meanwhile, I was always researching for him.  I discovered that Raytheon was a pretty big engineering firm and that they did presentations at various colleges throughout the year.  They happened to be coming to Stanford in February...on Valentine's Day to be exact.  So we made plans to go up there and see their presentation for Valentine's Day!  We didn't have much information about the presentation since Steve isn't a student there so we weren't even sure where the presentation was!  We literally looked all over campus for an hour.  It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  We had the GPS on our iPhone and the address and that was it.  I kept praying the whole time, as we circled, that we'd find it.  We had driven an hour and a half to find out more about Raytheon, but every minute that passed brought more and more frustration to Steve.  

I knew any minute he was going to give up.  I kept my mouth shut, only opening it to say positive things, and let him fight it out inside.  I knew everything inside of him just wanted to bail and go home.  I knew it.  But that was old Steve.  That was Steve at Cal Poly when things got difficult.  That wasn't Steve now, on the brink of graduating with honors with his Masters.  Steve now was responsible, mature and accomplished. He had to keep going.  I let him battle with himself and just held his hand in silence.   

Going to this presentation was a huge step for him and I knew it.  We had to find it!  Just when I could tell he nearly reached the end of himself, we found it.  Phew!  We had to bring Nathan with us so I sat out in the foyer and played with him while Steve watched the presentation praying the whole time that God would meet him there and give him some direction.  I had no idea what to expect when he walked out.  Would he be happy?  Feel like it was a waste of our effort?  Be intrigued?

I was pleasantly surprised.  He was totally blown away and encouraged.  He left saying, "Why have I never known there are jobs out there like that?  They are looking for people like me.  I can do that.  And I am so interested in that work.  How can I get there?  What do I have to do to get there?" He was pumped.  He had a vision now.  He wanted to work for a company like that doing creative math and engineering.  He talked to a recruiter afterward, getting over more fears, and got even more information on how his skills would fit in at Raytheon.  She also affirmed my belief that he should try and get an internship to get some hands-on experience for his resume.  All in all, it was very encouraging.    

Afterward, we were starving so we headed to In N Out at 9 pm to finally have dinner.  Both of us were beaming.  Nathan sat on the table in between us, we held hands, and declared it would be a Valentine's Day to remember.  We had received some direction.  We still weren't sure our future but Steve had a little piece of the vision now.  He had seen what was potentially out there for him and he was pumped.  Valentine's Day 2013 will always be a special, momentous day for us.  

In the midst of winter and uncertainty, it was a bright day of hope and optimism.  God would direct us.  We just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust Him as He wrote our story.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Next Steps-The EIT and The Navy

Since we didn't know where to go next, we prayed.  We also researched various opportunities and discovered the Department of Defense hires many mathematicians.  All this research was a lengthy and daunting process.  Much of the feedback we received was good.  However, Steve hadn't narrowed down exactly what he wanted to do with his math abilities.  And without a clear vision, it's hard to move forward.

Last fall we made a couple of moves in a different direction to test the waters.  One of those moves was him taking an engineering exam called the Engineer in Training Exam (EIT).  We decided he'd take the exam about six weeks prior to the exam date in October.  Nathan, our fifth, had just been born in August.  Steve was in his second to last grad school class and was also teaching a new class for his day job along with his three other preps (subjects).  As a result, the fact that it was a last minute decision and that Steve was so overextended in all sorts of other areas meant he didn't have much time to study for the exam except for the week prior to taking it. But we knew it was a step in the right direction.  If he could pass this exam, on a whim, it would give him some confidence that his skills were valuable and transferable.  It would also lend him some credibility.  He had to try.  So we took the leap.  He passed.

During this time, we also started applying for jobs.  By "we" I mean, I applied for them, for Steve.  It takes so much effort to apply for jobs!  And since he was so tied up in working, finishing up well at A & M, etc...it made sense for me to research and apply for him.  Most of the jobs were mathematician jobs for the government because the government will employ math guys at the master's level.  Many other companies require a PhD.  So we started sending out a ton of applications.  Many of them came back with "Eligible but not passed on to the hiring manager."  It's tough to get rejection.  And we pretty much knew why.  He had excellent grades but no practical experience.  He needed some.  We just weren't sure how to get him there. However, we knew that in time, if we kept pressing forward, something would work out.

We had our first big break in December when one of the applications came back with an offer for an interview with the Navy.  I'll never forget Steve's smile when he came home that day.  He had forwarded me the email so I knew about it but I had no idea what he thought about it.  He was beaming.  The Navy wanted him out there as soon as possible.  So less than a week later, Steve was on a plane out to Virginia, with all of his expenses covered.  It was a whirlwind experience for him.  And we were ecstatic that this opportunity had presented itself to us.  Virginia is beautiful, affordable, and working for the Navy was not only financially expedient but a worthy cause.
Steve heading out to Virginia for his interview with the Navy
However, right after interviewing, Steve knew that both jobs (he had been up for two different positions) didn't quite fit.  He was looking to creatively solve big math problems.  One of the mathematician jobs had much more to do with finance.  The other one was helping to build guns on navy ships, which seemed interesting but the work environment that he witnessed was not attractive to him.  At least that was his impression and he was reticent about that side of things.

Everything else was amazing.  We would've done it.  We would've done it anyway despite the jobs not being a good fit because it was an amazing deal.  And at the time we didn't know if another opportunity would present itself.  Plus, although Steve is a very talented mathematician, he lacked practical experience in the work force so we felt that we had to take what we could get.  But God had His way.  Steve interviewed just prior to The Sequester.  I am unsure if you are familiar with that but there were some pretty big spending cuts that took place to the Department of Defense in January and these cuts were called The Sequester.  Steve interviewed right before Christmas.  So although the Navy liked him, they got put under a hiring freeze and could not hire him.

Needless to say, we were devastated.  Not only had Virginia been taken off the table, but it seemed that the entire job market that we had targeted, the Department of Defense, had been obliterated.  Where were we to go next?  It was a hard pill to swallow.  But after a bit, we gathered our wits about us, and hit the ground running again, this time focusing on more of the private sector.  We also really tried narrowing down the direction we were going.  Was it engineering, physics, math....?  We also started thinking about internships.

It's all about the networking.  Networking, networking, networking.  My husband hates talking on the phone and dislikes even more putting himself out there.  However, after having flown across the country on his first big job interview with the US Navy, he had a taste of what might be out there.  And that pushed him out of his box.

Networking and talking on the phone with all sorts of different people in the industry...what was God going to do with all of that?  Only time would tell.   

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Little History

When I first met Steve at Cal Poly he was switching out of electrical engineering into liberal studies to be a math teacher.  When I asked him why, I remember him saying that he liked working with kids.  I always wondered why he had started in electrical engineering though.  I didn't have any idea about his background at that point.  In fact, to be honest, I always knew he was a smart guy but it wasn't until he started his Masters at Texas A & M, where he competed against other math students like himself, that I really began to understand his exceptional abilities in math (that was about 7 years into our marriage!).

Now, when we talk about his undergrad years, he wishes he could go back and tell himself all that he could do with an engineering degree.  He truly didn't know.  He had not caught the vision of what his future would look like working on projects that utilized his skills and catered to the way his mind is built.  He just really had no idea.  He stayed in liberal studies for the year and a half that we were dating.  He hated it.  It was not the right fit for him.  So the first quarter we were married, he switched into math and that was the degree he earned upon his graduation.

As I am sure you can imagine, this kind of path lends itself to a lot of baggage.  Steve was young and didn't quite understand how his choices would affect his future.  However, as time went on, it became clear that he hadn't made the best choices with regards to his education.  And he regretted it-big time.  He knew he had wasted a lot of his potential.  He carried that regret around inside of him all the time.  Often he would talk to me about it.  I didn't know how to help him with it.  I just prayed for him.

We started having children, he began his career in teaching and we still talked about those years.  He ached inside to learn more math, to solve big problems but felt his opportunity to do so had flown past him.  He would tell me how it felt like he was already forgetting what he learned in some of his classes at Cal Poly.  He liked doing math and physics everyday for his job.  But he wanted to be challenged.  That's when he started talking to me about his masters. He had found Texas A & M's Masters in Mathematics program online.   

We had two kids at the time.  I thought it was impossible.  But he kept at it-which was very surprising to me.  I knew how school had gone for him the first time around.  I was afraid of what it might look like with him working full-time and with us having children.  As a result, in mind, it was risky and it was expensive.  At the time, it was the only Masters in Mathematics program online.  We put it off because I didn't think we could pay for it.  

By the time Joshua was a baby though, Steve couldn't get it out of his mind.  He had to go for it.  He asked to just take their entrance exam to see if he could pass it.  He had to get at least an 80% to put in his application.  Of course I was in agreement.  He got 100%.  Then he said he wanted to take the GRE.  I stepped out another step...he got a perfect score in the math!  Thank the Lord for his test scores, for at the time, those test scores are what got him into Texas A & M.  Without them, he probably would not have been accepted.     

He did not start the masters with an intention to switch jobs.  He liked teaching.  He just wanted to do more math.  And he really wanted to be challenged.  Nevertheless, about two years before Steve graduated from Texas A & M, he started to change his mind.  One of his friends from Cal Poly, an electrical engineer, told him, "You know, once you're done, you can do anything you want.  Many companies out there want guys like you."  He was right in the middle of the Numerical Analysis series at the time, which is pretty serious stuff.  I remember him telling me, "This series will determine how I do in the program.  If I can do well, then I know I'm going to make it just fine."  They were only the 2nd and 3rd classes he took.  And after tons of hard work, he got A's.  

Steve didn't ever think a career change was possible.  He thought his time had passed.  Yet, the longer Steve was in school and the more success he had in his coursework, the more we both knew that he had to make a job change.  He liked to teach.  But he liked solving really big math problems much, much more.  However, these types of changes don't happen over night...especially with lots of little people to feed.  We had to be certain.  And to be honest, we just didn't know the direction we were headed.

So...we were moving toward some sort of change.  Where, when and doing what?  We had no idea.

But we knew this-Great is God's faithfulness.  He would be with us, every single step of the way.  Plus, Steve had a great job.  So we weren't in a hurry.  We could take our time, let him finish up the program and in the meantime figure out the direction we were going.

In time we'd know.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Time to Fess Up

So for the past year, there's been a lot of silence on my blog.  It's not because I don't like blogging anymore at all.  In fact, there have been a lot of reasons for my prolonged absences.  One of the main reasons is lack of time.  I only have one consistent napper now.  My house is rarely quiet in the afternoon.  My older kids, who are not at school, do have a rest time but I am often still managing them at times and find their playtime to be some of the only "off" time my brain gets.  And then the biggest boys come home and want to tell me about their day.  So, my main writing time has shrunk.  Five kids has caught up to me!

But there have been other reasons.  One of them, pretty much the most important one, is that our family's future has been uncertain.  A lot of the goings-on, coupled with the many lessons I've been learning have been tied to these issues.  And I haven't had the freedom to write about them....yet.  I don't know, something about the whole world having access to our very personal matters just didn't seem wise so, I kept a lid on it.  

On purpose. 

But it's time to fess up.  

I won't be able to address the whole journey in one blog post because it's simply too large to document at once.  However, I hope to at least get the ball rolling.
Steve reading his acceptance letter to the kids.
The big news is this-we are moving.  We're not exactly sure when but it will be within the year.  Steve has been accepted to Colorado State's PhD in Mathematics program in Fort Collins, Colorado.  He has received funding and has also landed an internship with a national lab.  There are many unknowns still at this time but, we know that we are going.  

Now how we got to this point is QUITE a story.  And when I say, "quite" I really mean it.  It's been the perfect display of God's tender hand leading us.  There have been many disappointments along the way and lots of triumphs!  We are thankful for this opportunity and know that the adventure will far outweigh the difficulties (which will be many I am sure). 

The kids "celebrating.  Moving to the snow was big news to them.
Stay tuned.  I'll be posting the story in installments over the next few weeks.  It's been an amazing journey to get to this point.  I couldn't be more proud of my husband who has worked so hard for this.  However, we both know that none of this was our doing.  It is so much more than we deserve!  We give all glory to God!  He is the One who writes our story and we are so grateful for His many blessings.  We are humbled by this whole situation and are continually on our knees asking God to continue to provide in the little details, for there are many.  

Two verses that have been a constant assurance and encouragement to me for months are these:  

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19

Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.  For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground.  I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  Isaiah 44:3

We covet your prayers for our family during this time of unknowns and transition.  Yet something I know in depths of my heart is that God will be with us as we venture out and He will be there every step of the way.
An attempt to get a pic with all of them and the letter...fail.  But still hilarious.  We're taking our five kids and going to get a PhD.    Are we insane?  Who would've thought?? 
I am totally ecstatic and broken-hearted to leave, all at the same time.  Such a woman.  But more than that, I am caught up in my husband's God-given mission, and am so willing and ready to launch into another season of grad school as his wife, best friend, and help-meet.  I'm sure there will be many stories to tell along the way.  I hope you'll be ready to hear them.

To God be the glory!  Amen and amen.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Remembering September 27th

Last Friday marked five years since Joshua was born.  I can't believe my third child is five!  Time flies faster now...it's an ephemeral reminder that I am not in fact immortal and that my days are numbered.  Whenever his birthday rolls around I am brought back to that night in early autumn when he and I were both very much on the brink of death.

A few days later, on Monday I had my yearly trip to my OB's office and I wouldn't say that we're best friends but, we've been through a lot together.  And we like each other.  He's a gentle, quiet, gruff old man, full of experience and not a lot of words.  Me, well I have been in his office many times over the last several years trusting my health and the health of my children to him.  So as I sat in his office, updating him on all the children and hearing about his family (children/grandchildren) as well, I was again struck by that night when God had used him to step in and save both of us.

I told him with tears in my eyes that Joshua had just turned five a few days earlier
He looked at me mystified and said quietly, "Has it really been that long?"

I remarked, "Yes."  Then ventured to say one more thing in the hopes that it wouldn't be too much conversation about a sensitive topic.

"Yes.  It's been five years since that very scary night when you saved him...since you saved me."

He knew what I meant.  I had already told him before that we knew God had used him to save Joshua and myself.  He shifted his eyes downward and said, "I'm just glad all turned out well.  And look you've even had more children since."

I don't know what possessed me to bring up that night.  We hadn't talked about it much except in reference to me never laboring again with my subsequent two children.  Maybe since it's been five years it was just fresh on my mind.  Or maybe I just wanted to make sure he knew that I knew and that I was grateful.

I don't know.

But for whatever reason, I had to say those words.  I had to remember it.  And I wanted him to know that I knew.  That Steve and I knew.

After my VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section) attempt failed with Joshua (my VBAC with Caleb prior to Josh had been successful), I was so angry about it.  I could not think about the whole thing without hot, angry tears rolling down my cheeks.  Outwardly I was somewhat collected but inwardly a war was waging.  How could this happen?  I had worked so hard doing everything I was supposed to!  I was young.  I already had a successful VBAC.  I hate, HATE c-sections!  I was so embarrassed and felt like an utter failure.

Steve knew I was waging war and that if I didn't come to peace with it, it wouldn't be good.  So because he loves me, he began battling for me.  He listened to me, and ever so gently kept pointing out that even though my body had failed me, God hadn't.  He let me cry but did not let me wallow in my anger.  He gently told me to stop it and to remember what God had done.

God had reached out in the middle of a disaster and He had chosen, in His mercy, to save us both.

To rescue us.

From death's door.

I was hemorrhaging badly from my uterine rupture, every minute losing more and more blood-at the time, no one knew why, and Joshua was retreating further into my uterus trying to survive the barrage of blood invading the birth canal.

And God reached out...

No longer do I remember just the disaster.

Five years later, I remember that God had grace.  And that He gave me Joshua and He gave me life.  He also allowed me two more children.

Remembering September 27th as a Rescue.

Thanking God for His unending grace.