Posts tagged ‘moving’

The Road Travelled

my new workplace: the herpetology society

It always surprises me, when I get a new job, to discover the ways in which my past jobs have directly provided the experience I need to do the new job.  Especially since it is never something that I have planned.

The first two weeks of the class I am teaching right now, Strategies for Success, deals with change and goal setting.  I spend a lot of time talking to my students about goals, planning, prioritizing, determination, and all the things that go into being Highly Motivated  and Successful People.  We go over the five steps of the Change Implementation Model — identify change, research options, identify obstacles, establish a plan, and implement it  — as well as the four steps to writing a goal — goal statement, action steps, timelines, and narrative statement.  I literally spend hours talking about the importance of setting goals, coming up with defined plans, and following through on them.  And yet I almost never do this myself.

I can’t make a weekly meal plan, because I always decide at the last minute that I’m in the mood for something else for dinner.  I can’t lay out my clothes the night before, because I’ll want to wear something different when morning rolls around.  I typically decide on the next step in my life, on what will make me happy, and do what I need to in order to get there.  Then I stay there until I am no longer happy, or until something forces me out.  And then I look around and decide on the next step.  I hate the question, “What do you see yourself doing in five/ten years?” in interviews, because the true answer is, “I have absolutely no idea.”

I do set and meet lots of short-term goals for myself, but I have never been the kind of person who decides, “I want to be X by age Y,” and then lays out a multi-year plan for achieving that goal.  I have wandered my way through life, one stepping-stone at a time.  After high school, college was a given.  After college, I didn’t want to go on to grad school right away.  An offhand comment from an advisor got me thinking about volunteering, and a few days of research landed me with the Peace Corps.  After the Peace Corps, I just wanted to be with the boyfriend I’d been on the opposite side of the planet from for the past 2 years, so I moved to the west coast.  When I became dissatisfied with retail positions, I applied for a job at a credit card company doing customer service.  When I became dissatisfied with that, a dream sent me back to grad school.  After grad school, I was tired of research and not interested in pursuing a PhD, so I wanted to teach at the community college level.  It occurred to me that I would be more well-rounded if I attended an archaeology field school, so I went on a whim.  When I couldn’t find a teaching job, I applied for an archaeology position.  When I got laid off from archaeology, I applied for more teaching positions, and actually got one.  When I didn’t get enough adjunct classes, I applied to a part-time job with a herpetology society because the hours were flexible.

And yet, each job seems to be a prerequisite for the last.  My degree in English, even though my major was creative writing, was a great stepping stone for Teaching English as a Forgeign Language in the Peace Corps.  My Peace Corps experience didn’t help much when I was working in retail, but once I got to the credit card company, the “special English” I had adopted in Kyrgyzstan was ideal for working over the phone with clients who spoke English as a second language.  I also used the grammar I learned while teaching it to my Kyrgyzstani students, and was often asked to assist the technical writer.  When I went back to grad school, the skills I had developed at the credit card company for tracking information and juggling priorities were essential for getting through my thesis.  Not to mention, the contacts I made in the Peace Corps made it possible for me to do my field research during a single 3-month summer visit.  Once I got into archaeology, the descriptive skills honed through writing poetry in my youth were essential in writing understandable reports and site records.  Even in the process of moving from CA to UT, I went from an archaeology job where I worked on an enormous Nevada pipeline project, to helping out with a large Utah pipeline project.  And all those years of writing reports in Word, keeping track of data and forms in Excel, and writing grad school presentations in PowerPoint, made it possible for me to teach a computer class.

my current work station

But this extra side job in herpetology?  It just takes the cake in terms of utilizing my past experience.  I am cataloguing and posting for online sale a number of books, prints, ceramic figurines, and other miscellaneous items that were willed to the society by two different herpetologists.  Well, I have experience with books: my very first job was in a library, I worked at the college bookstore during my undergrad years, and even got to assistant manager at an outlet bookstore after graduation.  My writing and descriptive abilities will no doubt come into play when I need to provide summarized reviews of the books, and descriptions of the objects.  But it is mostly my archaeological skills being utilized here — the ability to sort, organize, photograph, document, and track a huge assemblage of items, along with the ability to make sense of scientific and biological nomenclature.

Who would have thought that 5 years in archaeology would help me get a part-time job working for herpetologists?  Or teaching a computer class?  Or that 2 years in credit card processing would prep me for grad school?  I can’t tell if I am making the connections with hindsight, or if I have been, in my own strange way, following a path to get to where I want to go.

It almost seems as though the steps I have taken through the years have been aiming me at exactly where I want to be.  For example, if I hadn’t attended field school on a lark, I wouldn’t have gotten an job as an archaeology field tech.  And I wouldn’t have been applying to CRM firms the next spring when my landlord in Arcata decided to sell our house with 30 days notice.  And I wouldn’t have had any other reason to take a job offer and move to Redding, CA if I my housing hadn’t just disappeared.  And if I had known people in Redding before moving, I might not have decided to finally get a dog to keep me company, after halfheartedly thinking about adopting a dog for years with no action.  And if I hadn’t gotten Cara, I would never have gone to the dog park and met my husband, T.

Maybe there was a plan, and I just didn’t know about it yet.  Or maybe, if you’re lucky, following your heart will get you where you need to go, whether or not you know where that is.


Who am I now?

For the first six months that I was doing archaeology, I couldn’t say the words, “I’m an archaeologist” out loud.

When someone asked what I did, my answer was always, “I’m actually working in archaeology right now.”  Right now.  Not forever.  Because I had just spent 2 years of my life becoming a cultural anthropologist, studying, getting a master’s degree, constantly identifying myself as a member of the cultural anthro program and NOT the archaeology program.  Despite the fact that I mostly hung out with the archaeologists (they were more likely to go to the bar on Friday night *smile*).

But I eventually got used to saying, “I’m an archaeologist.”  And eventually the story I would tell would go something like, “I stumbled into archaeology, and I love it, it’s a perfect fit for me!”  And there were a lot of things about archaeology that I was good at.

(Did you catch that?  Were.  Was.)

I spent five years as an archaeologist, always insecure about my experience and my abilities.  I was great as a field tech — I can hike all day looking for sites, identify flakes and groundstone, tell you the age of a pile of rusty cans, dig square holes in 10-centimeter levels, pick every single artifact out of my screen, or clean and catalogue artifacts for weeks at a time.  I could write a damned good site record or final report, too — assuming you pointed me to the appropriate background research, and told me what conclusions should be written.  I could do what I was told to do, but for one reason or another — lack of academic background, lack of confidence, poor spatial skills, or an inability to grasp the larger archaeological picture — I was never any good at knowing what to do next, where to dig, how to approach a project, and certainly no good at telling anyone else what to do.  Any time I was put into a supervisory position, I was miserable.  Constantly anxious and worried that I was failing, constantly at a loss for what I should be doing.

I got a job here in Utah where I finally felt like my abilities and experience matched my job requirements.  Until this spring, where I could tell I was failing at taking on a leadership role on our historical excavation project.  But I have zero background in historical excavation, so how could I lead?  More anxiety, more worry.  And then I was laid off, and there was my answer about how well I was doing.

And now I have a new job teaching.  I’ve only been at it for 5 weeks.  It’s hard, and I don’t have enough hours because there aren’t enough classes I’m qualified to teach, and the students don’t listen, and sometimes classes run short, and sometimes they run long, and I make mistakes — but I’m not miserable.  I’m really enjoying myself.  And I just got a second job, with a local herpetology society, where I will be sorting through two collections of books, articles, art, knick-knacks, and odds and ends, to help get them organized and sold to profit the society.  They estimate it will take about 2 years to get through everything.  I’ll be doing all of the menial sorting and cataloguing and photographing that I was good at in archaeology, with none of the expectation that I should develop into a project manager someday.

Given my current committments and schedule, I don’t see a way back into archaeology.  And I don’t think I really want one.  But I have been scared to admit that to myself, or anyone else really.  My many archaeologist friends have sent me links to jobs and still refer to me as an archaeologist, and it makes me feel guilty to not be “out.”  Why is saying I’m not an archaeologist anymore so difficult to do?  When I first thought about taking my layoff this spring as a sign to look for another career, I found myself thinking that if I left archaeology, I would have wasted the last 5 years.  When I was so sure that archaeology was the perfect fit for me, despite my weaknesses.  When my identity revolved around my job.  I mean, I’m  Archiegrrl, right?

But then I realized that I “stumbled into” archaeology after grad school, when I couldn’t find another job.  And what job was I looking for?

A teaching job.

I don’t know how long it will take me to be able to say “I’m a teacher.”  I’m actually working as a teacher right now, though. *wink*

the first time I was a teacher -- in the Peace Corps

NOTE: The worst part of admitting that I may have left archaeology for good?  I am Archiegrrl, writing a blog titled Arch and Crafts.  What am I going to do about that?

Tips for Moving

the moving truck

A few weeks ago, T and I went to help one of his coworkers move.  The coworker, J, mainly asked because T’s truck was big enough to help move the bed, washer, dryer, and their son’s crib.  We have asked plenty of people to help us move over the years, so I felt like we needed to pay back a little moving karma, and came along even though I wasn’t requested.  Since the guys were busy with the heavy lifting, I hung out with J’s wife, K, and helped her pack the last odds and ends into their family car.  And I immediately realized that these crazy kids (ok, adults in their early 20s) were totally novice movers who, IMHO, had no idea what they were doing.

Since returning from the Peace Corps in 2000, I have moved 10 times and lived in three different states.  And in the process of making all of those moves, I think I have come up with some really good tips for moving efficiently:

1) Move it all at once.  I know that this sounds daunting, and you think that if you spread the move out over several days, you’ll be doing yourself a favor, but it really isn’t true.  You can start packing in advance, but actually moving everything from Point A to Point B should happen during a single weekend.  Trying to split your time between two locations guarantees that you’ll always have something you need that’s at the other place.  Plus, you’ll lose track of what is packed where, which makes unpacking a much more daunting process.  Bite the bullet, rent a moving truck, shove everything in at once, and unload it all at one time.  When you consider the amount you’ll spend on gas for 15 trips to and from the new place, the moving truck probably isn’t as expensive as you think.  Which leads into tip #2.

2) Label your boxes, and stick to your labels.  Pack thematically, and be specific about what is in the box.  Don’t just list “Kitchen”  or “Bathroom” on the box, label things like “Plates”, “Glasses and Mugs”, “Pots and Pans” separately.  You will inevitably end up with a few boxes of “Kitchen misc.”, but that’s okay.  When you need to find the whisk for your first scrambled egg breakfast, you won’t have to search through each and every “Kitchen” box to locate it.  And make sure to label both the top and the sides of your box — when everything is stacked up, it will make finding things a LOT simpler.  And that leads to tip #3.

3) Actually buy some shipping boxes.  If you’re frugal like me, this seems like a terrible idea.  I moved several times by harvesting boxes from local stores or scavenging them from the recycling center.  But what I discovered the hard way is A) it’s difficult to find good-sized boxes this way, B) they’re often worn-out and damaged, and C) all the odd sizes are really hard to pack into a truck well.  When you buy boxes, they’re sturdy, they are all the same size, and you can use them for several moves!  Just break them down and store them, and you have pre-labelled boxes ready for your next move.  Just be sure to follow Tip #2 when you reuse them!  I recommend buying a slew of small book boxes.  They’re among the least expensive sizes, are big enough to get a lot into, but still small enough that it’s unlikely you’ll pack them so full with heavy stuff that you can’t lift them when you’re done.  And many places now offer to buy back boxes you don’t use, so feel free to buy a lot!

4) Buy a tape gun and quality tape.  A tape gun is just a tape dispenser with a big grip handle, but it will make taping up all those boxes so much easier.  You won’t constantly be searching for the loose end, because the tape gun keeps the end ready at all times.  Just slap the tape against one side of the box, pull up and over the top, and then a flick of the wrist cuts the tape on the other side. And making sure to get a good brand of tape will keep you from constantly cursing your tape for tearing, tangling, and refusing to stick. And always tape your boxes, don’t just fold the ends together!  I promise you, it will be worth it.  Boxes will stack better without toppling over, and you’ll never have the bottom fall out while you’re carrying a heavy box.  When you’re ready to break down the box for storage, just slit the tape (don’t try to pull it off) and all you’ll need is a second layer of tape to reconstruct and seal the box the next time you move.

5) Pack your boxes well.  I worked at my college bookstore when I was a student, and this was one of the best skills I learned from that job.  When a box is packed well, you should be able to close the lid and have it lie flush, and when you shake the box up-and-down and side-to-side you won’t be able to hear anything shifting.  If you have breakables, like glassware and dishes, wrap them in paper and make sure that they are packed right up against one another.  Newspaper is easy to come by, even if you have to ask the neighbors or visit a local recycling center, but it does get smudgy and messy.  In a pinch, I’ve used paper towels, or even plastic shopping bags, to wrap my dishes.  The benefit of paper towels is, you can still use them after you unpack, if you’re a paper towel user in the first place.  Personally, I think bubble wrap is overkill, but I don’t have any precious heirloom dishes to protect.  When you are packing a box of odd-shaped objects, glasses or otherwise, you will inevitably end up with space that allows things to shift around.  You can use packing peanuts or more crumpled paper to stuff these spaces, but why not use other things that you need to pack anyway?  Dishtowels, potholders, washcloths and handtowels — anything that’s soft, really — make great packing materials.  Roll them up or just stuff them in around the corners until nothing moves when you give the box a quick shake.  That way you know your belongings are safe, and unless you drop a box full of glassware on the floor, it’s unlikely to break.

6) Essential moving supplies: straps, blankets, a dolly, mattress covers and Forearm Forklifts.  Whether you are using a moving truck or a friend’s pickup, adjustable straps are essential for keeping large pieces of furniture in place.  You can use the side rails in a rented moving van to keep tall bookshelves or mattresses from toppling over, and strapping down your belongings is the only safe way to move them in an open truck bed.  Blankets are another way of making sure your furniture doesn’t get dinged or scratched.  You can usually rent them from moving companies, but why not use your own blankets instead of packing them?  As long as it’s not your grandmother’s heirloom quilt, a quick wash after the move is all they’ll need.  Just make sure they’re between your furniture and any straps, boxes, or other furniture that is sitting on or against it.  A dolly is essential if you have a lot of boxes (assuming you’re not moving your things up or down a lot of stairs).  Instead of carrying each box separately, you’ll save trips by being able to carry 4-5 at the same time, even if they’re heavy.  You can buy one, but you can also rent these cheaply from moving companies.  Mattress covers are disposable plastic so they don’t cost much, they keep your mattress clean, and many of them have handles built into the sides, which actually makes it easier to maneuver those cumbersome, floppy mattresses.  And finally, the Forearm Forklifts are the best moving investment we ever made (and I promise they’re not paying me to say this!)  They make it possible to carry a lot more weight than you can with your hands, especially if you’re like me and you don’t have a lot of upper body strength.  T and I carried a washer and dryer down from the second floor, out the front door, and down and around the side of the house to the under-house root cellar by ourselves, and I NEVER would have been able to do it without those babies!  Just follow the directions, choose the right hole in the straps to make sure that your palms are flat against the piece of furniture when the straps are tight, and make sure to bend at the knees and lift with your legs.

7) Keep your receipts.  This is the tip I always forget, but hopefully you won’t.  In many cases, moving expenses are tax deductible, so keep the receipts and you’ll save money at the end of the year!

Worst. Move. Ever.

Yup, that’s how I’m feeling about it right now.  Here’s how week 2 post-home-ownership has gone so far:

  • Saturday, we decide to forgo the packstravaganza for one day, to cope with our needs at the new place.  We haven’t been grocery shopping in 2 weeks, so it begins with breakfast out.
  • Go bed shopping.  We are sleeping on a hand-me-down mattress that’s over 20 years old, and we both wake up sore every morning.  Not to mention, it’s a king bed in a Cal king frame, which causes all kinds of shifting problems.  It’s daunting to find a good mattress we can afford, but we decide it must be done.
  • We stop at one small mattress store, and then RC Willey.  We think we want a memory foam mattress.  We get a great salesman who’s been doing this “only for a little while — since 1969”, and he shows us that we are wrong.  Innerspring mattress, soft side for me, firm side for T, $500 cheaper than we expected with an X-Box thrown in to boot.  We are thrilled!  And it only took about an hour!
  • Go look for Cal king comforters.  No one sells them.

    mud sponges

  • Head for the hardware store, to solve the mud pit problem.  The new dog door to the outside has developed a mud pit right in front of it, and since Cara’s fuzzy feet work like sponges, our kitchen and living room are starting to look like a mud pit too.  So it’s pavers and a section of indoor-outdoor carpet to go.  Plus some random lawn care items.
  • Get everything home, then do some online bedspread shopping.  Discover while trying desperately to find Cal king bedspreads online that they either don’t exist, or are sold as Cal king, but are the same dimensions as a king.  Decide to look for the largest king we can.
  • Shower and change.  To thank T’s friend H for all his heavy lifting last weekend, we are taking him and his lovely wife, M, out to dinner at a Brazillian steakhouse.  Fortunately, M’s mom is watching their two small children for the evening.  Dinner in Trolley Square, a converted trolley station, is followed by some window shopping, saltwater taffy purchases, and a beer at a bar in the Trolley Square complex.  A wonderful grown-up time is had by all.  Oh, and I can add “ate a chicken heart drizzled in lime juice” to my “Bizarre Foods” list.
  • Sunday.  We have to tackle the old house.  Good lord.
  • “Lemme explain.  No, is will take too long.  Lemme sum up.”  I pack inside the house, T packs in the garage.  T takes a pickup-load 45 min to the new house.  He comes back and starts reloading, I head off to Ikea for a (king!) bedspread and bedroom curtains to block out the morning light, and bring back lunch too.  We eat, then keep packing.  We take a double load to the new house (even though my Escort doesn’t hold much), unload into the garage, then head back to the old house.  T picks up the new basement door to replace the one we destroyed by putting a dog door into it.  He installs the door, minus the hinge pins I apparently packed somewhere, while I pack the basement.  I head off with a full car while he finishes packing the truck.  Once I get to the new house, I make mac and cheese with hotdogs and broccoli.  T shows up with his truckload.  We eat, we unload.  It’s 10 pm.  We go to bed.
  • The weekend is over.  There is at least one more load of stuff.  We have not yet even begun to clean.

I have never moved this way before.  Moving from one rental to another usually means you have to be out of one place by the 30th, but you can’t get into the new place until the 1st.  So you pack every single thing you own, you cram it all into a truck, you drive to the new place, and unpack it all.  You already did as much cleaning as you could before you left the old place, so once you’re at the new place all you have to worry about is figuing out which box your shampoo and breakfast cereal are packed in.

This move seemed like it would be easier.  We’d have more time to pack, we’d have more time to move things from the old place to the new.  It would be less stressful.  As it turns out, not so much. 

Moving a little at a time means you’re trying to live at the new place while half your belongings are still at the old place.  We ended up with plates and skillets at the new house, but no silverware or cooking utensils for the first few days.  And we are still spending all our free time packing and cleaning the old house, so I’ve had very little time to unpack or organize the new house.  That means I’m trying to cope with chaos in both spaces, and it’s frustrating.  And I am still commuting 1.5-2 hours to the old place after work, just so we can pack/clean for a few hours and then drive the 45 min back home.  But at least by the end of this week we will be done with the old house, and we can focus on the new one.

But next time?  We’re moving in one fell swoop.  I am promising myself that.

The Move

Well, we still don’t have Internet at the new house, so I haven’t been able to post pictures yet.  But I figured I could spend a little time this morning on a post about the process of moving.

I did a count yesterday, and realized that this is my ninth move in 10 years.  If you count all the moving back-and-forth from dorm to dorm during college, the longest I’ve lived in one place since graduating high school is the three years I lived in Arcata, CA after I got back from the Peace Corps.  I really hope that we can stay put for a little while now that we own a home!

T and I took Friday off, and spent the weekend trying to move as much as we could.  On Friday, I packed at the old house while he waited on carpet cleaners and tried to get cable hooked up at the new house.  Turns out, the previous owners ripped out the cable conduit running theough the back yard when they put in sod, and they forgot to mention that in their disclosure statement.  So we may have to fight with them over the cost of replacing it.  Meanwhile, we have moved over our Dish Network service to the new house, even though we wanted to go back to Comcast, and we have gotten an interim cable provider, which I think will be hooked up today..

Saturday, T’s friend and coworker, H, was kind enough to come over and help us move the big stuff.  We rented a big truck, and T and H got all the furniture and many of the boxes I’d packed from the old house to the new one.  They were amazing!  So Saturday night was the first night we slept in our new place.  Oh, and the alarm system got set up that day too, a novel concept for me.

On Sunday, T waited on Dish Network and worked on installing the dog doors at the new house, while I went and kept packing at the old house.  For some reason, the uncertainty surrounding our move kept me from packing much in advance, so there was still a lot to do.  But the plan was for T to meet me in the afternoon, and we’d load up his truck with as much as we could that evening.

Well, the dog doors have proved to be quite a challenge.  The main floor consists of a single, large space with kitchen on one end, living room on the other, and dining space in between.  The one door to the back yard is located in the middle.  So if we put a dog door there, we’d have an icy cold draft all winter.  Instead, we decided to install one dog door going into the garage, which is also off the kitchen but towards the front of the house, and a second door going through the wall of the garage and into the back yard.  The problem is, we have a concrete foundation that puts the kitchen a few steps above the garage, and that the dog door to the outside has to be above.  Also, while the door we had was made for it, the outside wall proved to be much thicker and tougher than expected.  So I spent the entire day packing by myself, and eventually had to come home with just as much as my little Escort could hold (which isn’t much).  Poor T was still working on that dog door at 9:00 that night.

So we’re in the new place, but not completely.  The upshot of the small load on Sunday meant that we had dishes, pots and pans at the new house, but no silverware or cooking utensils.  There are boxes everywhere that need unpacking, and very little time in the evenings before we collapse into bed.  The house feels only partially colonized to me — there are several rooms upstairs that have nothing in them, and everything is jammed into the kitchen and our bedroom.  The walls are bare and much of the house is very echoey as a result.

There are also a few problems to overcome.  Because of the step down into the garage, both from the kitchen and from the outside, the dogs seem to dislike using their doors.  I tend to find them outside, waiting by the back door instead of letting themselves in.  There are dozens of light switches, particularly in the kitchen, and I am constantly struggling to figure out which ones control which lights.  And there is no door to the master bath, just a lovely archway, meaning that when T goes to shower at 4 am he needs to use the guest bathroom, or else the light will wake me up.  But that tub is small, and T is not, so he ends up wrestling the shower curtain the whole time he is in there.

But there are some major positives to the new space.  The living room is much more roomy, and we can spread out more in there.  The kitchen and pantry are both four times the size of the old house, so there will be plenty of room for all our wedding presents, and we can actually stock up on staple foods.  And I have kitchen island drawers that can fit my pots and pans!  I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled I am about that.

But the chaos right now reminds me that I am a person who likes order, with a place for everything and and everything in its place.  I feel like the external chaos becomes internal somehow — when my belongings are jumbled, then so are my thoughts.  If I can’t easily follow my morning routine, because we don’t have towel hooks or bathroom rugs, and my vitamins are still packed somewhere, and there’s no coffee table to eat my breakfast cereal off of, then things get forgotten (like my water bottle) and I’m out of whack for the day.

The stack of boxes is a little overwhelming.  But I guess I just need to tackle a few each day, until we get it all done.  And then we’ll be moved in, and comfortable.  And I think that our new home will make us very happy.