By the summer of 2012, I was having a lot of brain fog and fatigue from what would turn out to be a gluten intolerance. Not knowing that's what it was, I just seemed to be slipping more and more away from being the productive, reliable Web developer I had been when we moved to Emporia in 2008. I was able to get my act together enough to do home energy audits, most of the time, but I had let all of my freelance Web clients go because I couldn't promise to meet their deadlines.
In 2009, about a year after we'd moved into our house in Emporia, I decided to get a home energy audit so I would know what improvements would be cost-effective. The nearest firm was in Topeka. The auditor was very friendly and asked about my Web work, which I was doing all from home. He said that I should consider getting into energy auditing because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds were about to hit the state, and Kansas was going to go big into energy efficiency programs, and because the work would make a nice change of pace from sitting at my desk at home.
When I met Jessie in August of 2007, I was content to work 1/4-time for Prairie Star District and freelance for various other Web clients. I had moved to Fairfield, Iowa, and the flexibility of my work hours allowed me to attend lots of community events and learn about sustainability. The cost of living in Fairfield was very low, and I knew lots of other people who were not fully employed.
My gig at Buy the Change, my volunteer coordination experience, and my lifetime of volunteering with the Unitarian Universalist Association helped me land a part-time position in January 2006 as Web Coordinator for the district UUA, which was based in Minneapolis and responsible for Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas, and the eastern parts of Wisconsin and Missouri. The job was not initially to maintain the Web site myself, but to coordinate the committee of volunteers who maintained it.
When I returned from my bike tour in June, 2005 and settled in St. Paul, I tried to resume my career in nonprofit management but quickly found that hiring committees did not think my taking a year off to travel was a sensible career move. They were concerned I might do something like that again and leave them in the lurch. There was some truth to that; I knew that I was probably going to move again in a year or so, so I decided I needed to find work that I could do from anywhere.
By the end of 2002 I had resigned from my job at World Population Balance, and my work for Theodore was not enough to pay the bills. Defining my career as nonprofit management, I took a position as assistant volunteer coordinator for the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library. It was a huge step down in responsibility from being general manager of Twin Cities Free-Net, but it was better than nothing.
In the summer of 2002, while I was working for World Population Balance part time, I moved with my friend Marisa into a larger apartment in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. One of our neighbors in the building was Ted Pinegar, a man in his late 40s who was being treated for AIDS and cancer. He and Marisa bonded over stories of chronic illness and navigating the health care and insurance systems, while I helped them both by running errands as their able-bodied friend.
Soon after I resigned from Twin Cities Free-Net in early 2001, I approached World Population Balance about working for them. I'd attended some of their talks and remembered my mother saying that she thought population stabilization was the most important issue facing the world, so I thought I could help make a difference. A few months earlier, I had received an inheritance and used part of it to pay for the publication of an elementary-school curriculum by Zero Population Growth (now Population Balance).
After my summer internships at NPTN and GLFN, I was ready to go to work for a Free-Net after college. As it happened, Twin Cities Free-Net (TCFN) in Minneapolis was hiring a general manager, and I scored an interview early in 1998. I had heard great things about the Twin Cities, and I was over the moon about the opportunity.
For the research project of my 1996 internship, I had studied three of NPTN's member Free-Nets, and my favorite by far was Great Lakes Free-Net (GLFN) in Battle Creek, Michigan, so in the summer of 1997 I got another grant to intern at GLFN. Unfortunately the same faculty member was not available to supervise my research, so he recommended a prof from the sociology department.