Monday, March 21, 2011

Disapointment Part 3

I think the worst is past, but then again, maybe I am in the eye of the hurricane. I am no longer discouraged about not being selected for the Faculty-in-Residence position. One reason why is I realized that I made a strategic error in the interview process. It's hard to be mad when you realize it's your fault.  I overestimated the leeway I would have in this position.  I sold myself as X, but they wanted X+Y.  I told them I was a comfortable chair and a great radio, and they said "fine, but we want a car that actually drives".  There are reasons I had this misunderstanding, but I won't go into that anymore.

There is, however, another reason I am no longer discouraged. And this reason is a more dangerous reason. I am more likely to feel the sting of rejection again by pursuing this Reason Number Two, but I am pursuing it anyway, because I feel called and compelled to do so.  Reason number two is...

I have applied for a second Faculty-in-Residence position that is not affiliated with the engineering dorm!  Today I had the interview and I think it went well, although there are many applicants for this spot because it is open to faculty from any department all over the university. I know what you're saying.  What is he thinking?!?! Didn't he he just get through moaning and complaining about not getting the first position?  Yes, yes I did.  Maybe I am crazy. Or maybe I am some other adjective that I can't think of at the moment.

Is this some kind of rebound dating phenomenon?  Am I grasping at straws, you ask?  I don't think so. I really like this "girl".  We have a lot in common.  I think we could be an item, you might say.  And while I'm not comfortable giving you any details yet, I think this second Faculty-in-Residence position may be even better suited to our family than the first one.  It is an opportunity to enjoy community life, be surrogate parents to 350 college students, reach out to the struggling and hurting, and maybe, just maybe, spend even more time overseas during the summer months helping to bring about the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Stranger in My House!

I awoke at 4:00 AM to the whimpering of my cocker spaniel, Maggie, that sleeps in our bed.  We keep her on a leash to avoid midnight mischief, but I released her because I thought she needed to go outside to do her doggy business.  She ran off down the hall as I slowly rose from my slumber.  Before I had taken two steps, I heard the sound of unhappy pets: barking dog, hissing cats, and the sound of paws scampering and sliding all over our hardwood floors like a riot on ice skates.

I stumbled down the hall and turned on the light in the living room just as they ran passed me in a blur of fur, hissing, and speed. As this animal stampede entered my bedroom, I was able to see well enough to realize that one of those animals was not mine!  I ran down the hall yelling at the animals and warning The M that "there's a strange cat in the house!" just as it came blasting back out of the bedroom.  As it passed Gracie, our ill-tempered black cat, she gave the stranger a rapid-fire swatting with her claws extended: a faster-than-human kung fu, reminiscent of The Matrix.

I managed to shut our pets inside the bedroom and close the doors of the boys' bedrooms to keep the wildcat from running in and clawing their eyes out, and I opened the front door in hopes that it would run out.  I left it in the front of the house, somewhere, and I went and put on blue jeans and shoes to protect myself from any claws or bites from this now-terrified strange cat. It was then I remembered how my own cats had recently started using a special "cat door", made by my son David with a soccer ball: a broken window.  It dawned on me that this strange cat must have come in the same way.

It was meow-moaning in a disturbing way behind the couch in the front of the house.  It pooped on the floor, presumably in fear, and I could smell it.  I peered at it with a flashlight from a safe distance, and saw that it had a collar on.  I think it was the neighbor's cat.  I pulled up the shades to expose the broken window and found a broom with which to shoo it out.  After a while it came out and jumped up on The M's desk, and then out the window.

Whew.  I felt like I had put out a fire.  I covered the window with a board and duct tape, something I should have done a few days ago.  The weather has been so nice lately, and I have been enjoying the fresh air, but it was not worth tonight's adrenalin.  After cleaning up the mess, it took me an hour to get back to sleep.  But eventually, I rested peacefully, knowing that I had a story for the blog.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Disapointment Part II

The exiting Faculty-in-Residence offered to have The M and I over to the apartment to answer questions we might have and see the place. I set it up, though The M was still thinking there was no way we would apply for this position. But the day we went to the apartment, she became envisioned. She caught it.  Now she understood why I thought this was perfect for us.

The exiting FIR was so kind and answered all our questions. She told us they were looking for someone who would have a ministry with the students, and that was the most important thing. That resonated with us very much, as we enjoy being with students and getting to know them on a deep level. We love to encourage them when they are down, and simply walking through life with them.

Furthermore, The M and I both have a history of clinical depression, and she has also struggled with an anxiety disorder. This opportunity to taste a little suffering of our own has been used by God to cultivate a deep compassion in us for the hurting. It's a compassion I didn't have ten years ago. I wouldn't have chosen to get it this way, but he really does find ways to use the bad in our lives to bring about good.

And we also know that there is a higher-than-average incidence of mental illness among intellectually gifted young people like the ones in the engineering dorm. It's our empirical observation and we believe it is true, but it's not widely known outside of mental health circles. So The M and I were particularly excited to reach out to those struggling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and so on. I didn't plan to start "seeing patients" or making diagnoses, but I do have "eyes to see" the symptoms and help students get the professional help they need.

(These reasons do not adequately explain the multi-faceted way that we saw ourselves not only being a blessing to the students in this role, but also being blessed ourselves by it.  My description here is one-dimensional in comparison to reality, but it's more detail than you want to read or I want to share in so public a venue.)

To make a long story short, we applied, were interviewed, but did not get the position. I think that our interpretation of the position was not exactly what they were actually looking for. I think they were looking for more of a leader and an organizer, and less of a shepherd and a nurturer.  Perhaps I was in love with the idea in my own mind, and not the "real" position, in the same way young couples love the person they think they are with, but who, eventually, prove to be someone else altogether.

It's been nearly two weeks and I am still deeply disappointed. I have not wanted something so badly, and had it denied, in a long time.  The only other sense of disappointment that I can remember on this level was not getting into the Master's program I wanted back in 1990.  And this time, my entire family wanted it with me, especially The M.  So I feel extra disappointment for letting her down.  And I feel extra rejection, because she was rejected with me.

I know I am going through the stages of grief.  I am passed "Shock and Denial" and somewhere between "Pain and Guilt" and "Anger and Bargaining".  Inside my own mind, I am second guessing everything I said in the interview (guilt) and angry with everyone involved in the decision and the other applicant that got the job (anger)!  I know it's not rational.  In my head, I know my pain is not their fault nor my own. But in my heart I am reeling.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wind Turbine Project: Part 14 (really)

For the last few years, our Engineers with a Mission chapter has been trying to build a small wind turbine on a farm near our university. It's been so long since we started it, that there is only one student left who has not graduated (and he's only here because he's working on an MBA).

Drum roll please... it is now working!! We built it from scratch using only a set of plans, and that wasn't even very clear. The tower had to be designed without even a plan, and then built. So now it sits at the World Hunger Relief farm spinning in the breeze, making electricity. Right now we have the electricity being dissipated in a set of high-power resistors (turned into heat) analogous to flaring natural gas.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Disappointment, Part 1

I have had a big fish on the line for the last couple of months. I wanted to blog about it, but I felt it wise to wait to see if I would get it in the boat or it would get away. It seems it got away. My line has snapped. Fishie go bye bye.

Now, instead of writing about the new chapter in my life, the new transition, the new adventure, instead I am going to write about the disappointment, the frustration, and the confusion I find myself experiencing. Instead of writing to interest my readers with an unusual story, now I am writing to purge my own soul of a toxic reality.

-------------------------------Part I----------------------------------------

At the university where I teach engineering, there is a large apartment-style dorm that is dedicated to engineering students. A lot of the students that are in my classes live there, and I have been there many times for various events. It's a beautiful building and the university is rightfully proud of it. The goal of this concentrated cluster of engineers is to cultivate a sense of identity in the students, to provide a place where they are surrounded and supported by their own kind, and where life-long friendships are forged in the furnace of Fourier transforms and some other thing that starts with f.

Living in the midst of the students, right in the dorm, is the family of an engineering faculty member, called the Faculty in Residence. And as the former FIR was stepping down, the opening for a new one was announced last November. I came home one day to discuss with my wife the idea of applying for it. Surely, I thought, The M would be open to this. Surely she would, like I did, immediately see how we were perfect for this role. Surely she would see the vision I had for it and for our family and agree that this was the greatest idea in the history of good ideas.

"What? Sell the house and move into a college dorm? Are you crazy?" What about the boys' school? They were both thriving in their schools. It's not a good time to sell the house. "Maybe in ten years" she said. I listened for a while, but I was not convinced that her cons outweighed my pros. Nonetheless, after so many years of marriage I have learned when to push now and when to wait and push later. It was time to push later.