Ascension Mass

September 29, 2004

Two weeks ago I walked into the bedroom after coming home from work and Mrs told me that she was quitting her job. OK, so it wasn't a big surprise because we had been talking about whether or not her latest "opportunity" would make financial sense.

Besides, there are also issues in the work environment that I am painfully aware of, issues of whether or not you can trust the people you work with, issues about whether or not you fear for your job, and being appreciated and such.

Let's not forget economics.

Especially let's not forget economics, because Mrs is after all, married to a financial planner, and one that is extremely well versed on issues of retirement plans and the like.

Heck, I've been to Washington to testify before the IRS about the regulations that govern how folks take their money out of their plans at retirement.

So the fact that Mrs was walking away from a retirement plan was not lost upon me.

We had already sat down and calculated just how much money she would be walking away from, especially since she is so close to being "vested" in her plan. That means if she quits she takes the plan with her, or at least she gets the pension when she turns 65.

The plan has a provision called "cliff" vesting, meaning that if you quit before you have been in the plan for 5 years, you lose, "YOU GET NOTHING, GOODDAY SIR." (I think that comes from Willie Wonka)

A year and a month is all that she has to work there.

Just a year and a month.

But the new job has this monster match for their 401k that says if you put in a buck, they match with 2 bucks, and it's all yours. No vesting. And yes there is a limit to how much they will match, but its a nice number.

Wow, real money, and you can take it with you.

So the offer she has in front of her is a great one, just a little more real salary but this kick butt retirement plan and the name of a GREAT BIG FAMOUS UNIVERSITY behind it.

She said, "A couple of years working in that place and I could walk into just about any hospital and find work."

Yes and no.

Sure it would be inconvenient with the commute of about 45 miles one way and the gas cost would eat up any salary increase.

But you want to know what's the worst thing about it for me?

It's here.

It's in this state that can boast of being the third cloudiest state in the United States. (Alaska 1, Washington 2).

And I don't want to be here.

I protested.

I told her I needed to get out of here and move to someplace where the sun shines.

Mrs called it kicking and screaming but I prefer to call it persuasive communication.

In the end, here is what I suggested.

"Look," I said, "if you are going to walk away from your job, let's go on the site for your association and let's look for a job in a really nice place. I'll quit what I am doing if I have to, I'll work in the hardware store if that's all there is."

So we looked, and that night less than 2 weeks ago we faxed out resumes and cover letters to places like Durango Colorado, Couer d'Alene Idaho, and Missoula Montana.

Cast your bread...

A week ago we got a bite, a real bite, and it's in her specialty.

I was a little lukewarm about the idea, since I've been to that particular town once and was not really that impressed. Granted all I saw was a quick trip from the airport to an office building and then back again, but it ranked in the "just OK" category.

While she has been on vacation they have bit harder.

She told them she has another offer on the table but has not given notice to her current employer. She told them if they were serious they would have to move quickly.

Right now they are at the stage of match the new salary offer, pack us up and move us and deliver a hefty signing bonus that is "now money" not later.

Did I mention that I've got two kids in college for the next 2 years?

So I've been doing a bit more research.

OK, so the town only has 310 days of sunshine a year. I can live with a few clouds now and then.

Yeah it's dry, semi arid in fact, but nothing like Arizona, and it even has seasons. And besides, I like deserts.

It's called a "four-season destination" and is known as a "sport lover's paradise."

We get one season to be a destination in Michigan, and that is iffy most times at best.

I'm thinking that maybe I should light a candle or something, maybe I should go to Mass.

Yeah, I know, the Ascension Mass. It's part of a liturgy that goes back to the very beginnings of the Christian faith. And at this stage, trust me, I think I can use the help of a higher power.

During the mass you light candles and say some preparatory prayers.

But I'm not Catholic.

When my wife called this afternoon she said that that would not matter. They wanted her to fly out this week and interview and they arranged it for me to go along as well.

They said it would be a great weekend to see and experience the town, and although just about every room in town has been sold out for weeks now, they got us a room.

So let me tell you what's up.

The interviews for Mrs start Friday morning and end with a dinner with the doctors that evening.

Saturday morning starts a week of activities that has been described as having "grown into the most photographed event in the world."

(Lighting of the candle image swiped from the official web site)

The promoters say that it is the most spectacular display of sound and color in all of aviation.

Saturday morning the shuttle busses start to run to the site at 4:30 am. The liftoff of hundreds and hundreds of balloons each morning is called the Mass Ascension.

I'm thinking I should probably take my camera and this time, watch someone else light giant candles in the morning sky.

Freedom truly, may be in the air.