Under Construction

construction site

And now, back to your regularly scheduled program:  rain. Oh, and wind.  And just-barely-out-of-winter temps.  Sigh.

We had our first construction meeting for the new shelter yesterday.  Yay!  We met in the trailer.  That in itself should be some kind of milestone.  Do I get a hard hat for attending it? I’d never been in a site trailer before. It all seems official now.

Anyway, we all sat around mismatched chairs at a folding table. There were a lot of us for this first meeting.  Ten, to be exact.  The number of attendees will ebb and flow on the project, but there’s a core there of at least a half-dozen who will always need to come.

We still have some issues to resolve, but I learned some new words.  No, not those.  Ahem.  I’ll share them with you!  Firepipe. Catch basin.  Sanitary and storm sewer conflict. Stubbed out.  Pump trucks.  Infiltration system.  Groundwater (and there’s a lot of it!).  Nine-inch anchor wedge.  Use the swale!  Easement.  Rebar.  Dog-leg the wire. Retention pond.

To be honest, a few of these terms I’d heard before.  But not all in one discussion.  Several challenges have come up on the site already – and no actual excavation has begun yet.  So, that’s where they’re starting first.

It appears that I will be attending meetings until the CDBG funding runs out. It should fall significantly before the end of the project, so October or November, I’m guessing.  I will also need to be on hand for audits, to guide and massage and keep things running smoothly.  “More coffee, sir?  No?  How about a pastry?”  Probably not quite so 1950s-era secretary, but you get the idea.  Also, retainage is part of closeout. The general contractor won’t get the final pay out until the project is 100% finished, everything accounted for. Look it up!

This project is complicated.  We have state funding and federal funding.  We have evergreen standards we must meet in order to pass state inspections.  We have to pass federal audits, well, at least one.  Every time we jump through one hoop, another magically appears.  It can make you crazy.

I am praying.  We need favor, wisdom, understanding, discernment, patience, grace, synergy…It’s a long list.  In a way, we are all under construction.  We’re not who we will be yet.  Several entities and personalities have to interact and intersect at this juncture.  We will rub along together for the project’s duration, making new connections and strengthening old ones.

But for now, I’m excited to be a part of something bigger than myself.  The completion of the new shelter and the low-rent apartments will help folks get back on their feet, reclaim a little dignity.  It will be a brand new building.  They won’t get flooded out at the new property.  It feels really good.

Give Me Shelter

The CDBG project got bid out!  We have a project, folks.  Yay!  This particular contractor has done these types of projects before where the funding is divided between state and federal monies; no education necessary.  What a blessing. The general contractor would like to complete the entire project – both the shelter/office and the apartments – in 7 months, which puts final walk-thru around the beginning of 2014.  When I heard that deadline, I almost hooted aloud.  But I kept my hoots to myself.  That is a very aggressive timeline.  They aren’t messing around.  The budget is small, so in a commercial sense, it is smart to get ‘er done.  Here’s praying for no more delays.

I met with my boss today.  We sat down to discuss what exactly my job is going to be.  She is amazing.  She has prayed her way through this thing  for the last 5 years and it is finally looking like it’s coming to fruition.  Miracle after miracle has occurred on this job.  She’s kept track.  God is in this new shelter and low-rent apartments capital project.  No question.

I need to reread the manual, all 6″ of it.  Hallelujah!  Bring on the iced coffee.  I need to be onsite every day the first week.  I need to be an expert in all things CDBG-related, our source of federal funding.  I also get to help track the budget.  So, in a sense, what we used to call Project Controls at IDC.  Where did the money go?  What’s left?

I’m getting excited to be a part of this.  It’s great to be a small part of taking care of the “least of these”, according to Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46):

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Of course, at this point, I’m not taking people into my home, but we’re making a temporary home for them.  They will learn basic life skills staying there.  Mason County needs this shelter.  We need to take care of people and help them transition to a better life.  Bring it!

Thursday Thoughts

So, just a hodge podge of things in my head today…

First, the shelter got approved to get their last bit of funding.  The draws and specs go out to bid – again- the end of this month.  The (very aggressive) timeline is:  bids due back mid-April, general contractor signed on by end of April, shovels in the ground by the beginning of May.  Whew!  Let’s hope it works this time.  I may have a real job yet!

I ran today for the first time this week.  I was too wiped out from lack of sleep earlier in the week.  After a bit of slow going, I felt like I was flying.  It was fun! Wow, I didn’t expect that, but it sure was welcome.

Note to Sheltonians:  yes, the weather is a bit warmer – 45-50 degrees each day.  It’s humid.  It’s still raining/drooling, in point of fact. It’s not flip flop weather.  Glad to see you have all your toes, however.  One does wonder.

Our neighbors on the corner got broken into during the daytime.  The dad came over to ask me if I saw anything.  Very sad.  Nope.  It was pouring down rain all day.  People must’ve been desperate.  They stole cash and pain medications but not the brand new TV. I’m a rotten busybody.  Should have been peeping out my window instead of doing things like paying bills.  Folks who think small towns are enclaves of honesty and upright behavior – take note.

I had coffee with my dad today.  Very enlightening.  He’s still one of the most persistent people I know, especially when it comes to seeking God.  Because of his honesty about his own struggles, it encourages me to keep on when things get rough.

Rex left a mouse head near the back steps.  Presumably, the remains of the mouse made it into his belly.  Saved the best for us, I guess.

Ruby is sleeping through the night again.  So are Mom and Dad.

This weekend, we celebrate the birthdays of my mom, Jonathon and my stepmom. And happy Pi day!  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Monday Mash-Up

These were the teams, right?  Right?!

These were the teams, right? Right?!

Today, it looks like the sun’s rays just might poke out of its perpetual overcast hairnet.  Good news!  Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this year.  According to what I read, it’s only been 10 times in recorded history that he hasn’t done so.  What does this mean?  It means, my friends, that it’s entirely possible this winter thing wont’ drag on until March 21.  We might see things start to pop out of the ground much, much sooner.  And by “pop”, I mean plants, not little green men.

More good news:  I watched very little Super Bowl yesterday.  Football and rocket science elude my intellectual grasp. Doesn’t it sound like the Super Bowl should be a huge bowl of chips or something?  Why is there no bowling involved whatsoever?  I heard the power went out during the game.  Was that to make it more interesting, a possible handicap when one team is winning too handily in the future?

Yes, I think about these things.

My job at the shelter has taken a new turn.  I am pursuing possible grant sources to fund the rest of our building project.  As you may recall, we rejected all the bids submitted back in September; they were all over our budget.  Our trusty architectural firm value-engineered the project for the twelfth time (!) and brought the cost down still further.  However, we are still short several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have been tasked to look for other sources of money to get the project built already.  Wish me luck!

We had a very expensive Saturday.  Our oven died.  The light was on, but nobody was home. Food was just above lukewarm.  Not good.  Jonathon discerned it was a faulty igniter.  He bought and installed a new one so we could continue to leave cooking over open flames till summertime.  Then, his cell phone stopped charging.  It was the port where you plug in the battery.  I find it ironic that, despite all the times we drop our phones, possibly causing  phone brain damage, nobody can insert a wee set of pliers into that cavity to tweak the connection for the battery.

I think it’s a conspiracy.  Jonathon wasn’t complaining about getting a new phone; he loves him a new gadget.  This is his 3rd Incredible in less than 3 years.  I am thinking it needs to be renamed “Average” or “Just Ok”.

As I finish a second cup of coffee, I am grateful.  We had money to cover the emergencies. I have work at home and work outside the home to keep me busy.  All I need is a big bowl of chips.

Paradox of Push Back

Today is October 31.  It’s Halloween.  I started my blog last year and this was one of my first posts.  My feelings on the topic remain pretty much the same.

I attended a meeting with the Mason County Shelter yesterday afternoon.  The architect and federal funding group showed up to present the latest progress on the 2 new buildings.  Since all the bids were over budget, we were told, they were summarily rejected.  The concept of value engineering bids did not go over well with either the HTF (state funding) or CDBG (federal funding).  So, back to the drawing board.

As we sat in the Sunday school room/fellowship hall/beige box of one of our local churches, it all seemed a bit surreal.  My boss has been trying to get these new buildings erected since 2008. Many small miracles occurred along the way in order to get the parcel of land purchased and to even get the grant money necessary to put them up.  And now, more delays.  The architect informed us that his team had gone through 11 iterations since 2009 in order to get the budget for the structures down from $2.5 million to $1.7 million.  I’m thinking, What?!  You’ve gone through, line by line, and cut costs 11 times?  When do you push back and say, “That’s it!  Let’s get this puppy built or find another architect.” I don’t know. It’s not my call.

With the wistful rug of Jesus on the wall witnessing our entire meeting, I had to wonder.  When do you say enough is enough?

I had a little moment like that with Zac this morning.  Yesterday, he forgot his lunch. Yesterday afternoon, he returned home and devoured it.  He could have eaten a hot lunch at school but he has a balance on his account.  He didn’t even want to ask if he could have a hot lunch and risk possible embarrassment, so he didn’t eat anything for lunch. Fast forward to today, and as we pulled into the parking lot of his school, I asked if he had his lunch.

“Ah, Jeez!” he exclaimed. He did not have it.

“Well, you keep putting it in the wrong place,” he countered.  “You move it and I can’t find it.”

I patiently explained that I put it by his shoes purposely so he *wouldn’t* forget it.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t see it,” he groused.

Silence.

You have nothing to do today.  You could bring it up to me.”

I laughed. So that’s how you want to play it?

“Zac, I might do that.  But the point is that you forgot it.  You can’t blame it on me. You spent 5 minutes looking for your comb.  If it mattered to you, you would have located it.”

He didn’t like that.

“No, you moved it!  I couldn’t find it. You know I’m not a morning person. It was 7 o’clock in the morning. It’s your fault!”

I had had it.

I ordered him to get out.  I was done.

We rolled up to the dropoff point. He hopped out into the downpour and raced into the school.

Jonathon, merciful man, later brought him his lunch.  He also told me Zac was wearing the shoes which had been right underneath the forgotten lunch.  He had to move them to put the shoes on. Arggh!

We are trying, sometimes successfully, to teach our kids to take responsibility for their actions and to let consequences teach.  Sometimes it takes, sometimes it doesn’t.  But to us, it’s very important they learn this lesson at home when the loss is relatively small than out in the world when it could cost them their house or job.

With the shelter, we will continue on and keep good communication open and believe the best about the people involved in the project.  We have to press on.  The new shelter/office and apartments will be completed sometime if we continue to have faith. It’s a learning curve for all of us.

Most likely, Zac will return home and apologize. Jonathon’s act of kindness, and our unintentional good cop/bad cop style of parenting, smoothed things over a bit. There is a place for that, at times. I will apologize for getting angry. This will open the dialogue about where we should leave his cold lunch in the future so that it is easy to find. In this way, all of us will get to grow up.

Working Girl

So…today, I went for a job interview.  One of my friends recommended me for the position (thanks, sweetie!). I’d be a bookkeeper at a New Age cancer retreat center.  The campus overlooks the Hood Canal; it’s a beautiful view, even on a rainy day like today. I saw at least 6 blue herons fishing for their brunch. They rent the facilities out to companies for their corporate training.  They hold Wellness Retreats as well as host support groups for cancer patients. They serve about 7,000 people per year, with 34-36 beds.

Amazing.

I dreaded this interview. I felt so tired today, and rushing home from kettlebells, showering, dressing up and talking to a stranger didn’t appeal to me at all.  I mean, I’m already working for the shelter, though the term “working” I use loosely.  I got hired back in December and I’ve worked something less than 40 hours for them in total.  I’ve had several meetings, usually with the architect and the executive director, and read the notebook for the federally-funded program whose money we’ll be utilizing. But that’s it.  No files set up.  No office space (which will be in my home) delineated.  Nothing about when the money for the groundbreaking will actually arrive.

To tell you the truth, the limbo is killing me.  I hate the in-between space on anything.  I’m an either/or person.  I like things black and white, though I’ve learned to live with gradations of gray. I want to get this party started, to quote Pink.

The interviewer, who would be my boss, offered me the job on the spot after the interview.  That felt good. Our 20-minute interview was succinct, outlining what skills I’d need to pick up in QuickBooks to run the kind of reports this particular nonprofit needs.  They are audited annually and need quarterly reports.  They have credit cards that need expense reports tied to them, something I did back at Aspen for my old boss. They are finally starting to think like a business, trying to figure out profit margins on the events they host. 

And that’s what got me.  What, a nonprofit thinking like a business?! Profit margins?! Sign me up.  It’s about time.  Let’s utilize all we have in order to better serve people, right?  Let’s maximize our space, time and resources to get the most out of them.  Depending on donations alone is ridiculous.  Even nonprofits need to be competitive.

I am torn, however.  I want to give the shelter the most flexibility and my priority.  But 4 months of waiting has me a bit lackluster about the position.  When will it start?  Who knows?  There always seems to be another hoop to jump through, another study or group to be notified or appeased. I go weeks without logging any hours for the program.

If I take this position, I need to be there for one full 8-hour day per week.  Keep in mind I haven’t worked an 8-hour day since 2005.  At least, not in a professional setting.  Okay, the Microsoft gigs count.  Never mind.

So, I’m in prayer. Can I even do both jobs and keep the “space” in my schedule I so desperately covet? Can I find a good balance of work and play so this Jill doesn’t go nuts? I want to keep going to exercise classes, writing and volunteering at Ruby’s school. I need to contact my boss at the shelter and see what she thinks.  I have to put it before her, and see if she’d be willing to work around a more set schedule for me. Is this where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing?  I’m going to find out.