Marc’s Retirement Journey through 2021

This post is primarily for my friends and colleagues who I worked with at Chevron during the latter part of my career.  I worked in the Richmond Refinery in several roles between April 2004 to June 2011, primarily as an Engineering Manager.  I then moved to Tengiz, Kazakhstan in July 2011 and held a similar position, Designs Engineering Manager, until April 2020, for Tengizchevroil (TCO – joint venture with Chevron as the 50% operating partner).  Over this last third of my ~40 year career, I connected with many people – which I believe was a positive impact on all of us.  I learned that helping people is it’s own reward.

Here are my reflections since I retired from Chevron.

It took over a year for the emotional gyrations of retirement, compounded by COVID-19 pandemic, to settle out.  I have a strong desire to help others and be productive.  Some may say I like to stay busy – on reflection I believe I desire to be engaged with others for a common benefit.

Greater Monte Vista Firewise Neighborhood
In April 2020 I became involved in a neighborhood group with the goal of increasing preparedness for a potential wildfire that could occur where we live. As many know, California and many other parts of the world have increased wildfire frequency & severity – combination of people living in forested areas, years of forest mis-management, and dry weather / climate change. Our neighborhood, which is 14 miles from San Francisco, is known for homes built into the forested hills.

Basically, we got a group of people together, met with our local fire department (Moraga Orinda Fire District – MOFD), and prepared an application to become a Firewise Neighborhood through the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). I wrote the application; it was submitted and approved in 6 weeks. We have a committee of neighbors, and our focus is property owner education to both “harden” homes in case of wildfire (including advice on what needs to be done and service companies who can perform the work), preparation in case of an emergency evacuation, and resource for when property owners get their homeowners insurance cancelled or premiums raised – several insurers are getting out of California due to the higher risk that insures believe is not compensated with current premiums.

In 2020, in addition to working with others to communicate about these issues with neighbors, I worked closely with some nearby neighbors to clean up our properties. I helped develop scope of work for cutting down dead trees and removing brush, selected contractors, and then coordinated getting the work done. In 2021, we continued this effort plus I helped more neighbors plan and execute lot cleaning work on their properties. In one instance I helped a family who has lived in the neighborhood for over 50 years and had not done much in the last few years due to physical disabilities. I helped them select a contractor and then checked on their 7+ acre property several times each week to both monitor progress and resolve minor issues.  This property is so large that it took a crew of 5 plus chipper six weeks to clean the property to meet fire code – it has significantly improved the safety of our neighborhood.

In April 2021 I completed training as a Wildfire Safety Ambassador – includes a high visibility vest (I love work clothes).  As an Ambassador I walk properties at an owner’s request and provide advice on how to “harden” homes such as “limbing” up trees, reducing “ladder-fuels, cutting back bushes away from homes: the intent is to make homes more defendable in case of wildfire.  This volunteer position leverages MOFD personnel – they are planning to train more people in early 2022.

One “perk” of being an Ambassador was an invitation by the MOFD to observed a prescribed (planned) burn. This exercise is used for training Firefighters plus building large firebreaks in the community. The burn area was a large grassy hillside near a shopping area. The Firefighters were slow and methodical building a fire break around the area; once this was completed, they ignited the tall grass at several locations resulting in a wall of fire. One firefighter said, “The difference between an arsonist and a firefighter is we get paid to light fires.”

I have also joined the Orinda Firewise Council (OFC) – this is a group of 20+ Neighborhoods representing about 2,000 homes sharing information and helping improve wildfire prevention preparation across our entire City.  This group strongly advocated for a 1/2 cent increase to our sales tax to support these efforts – it was passed last November.  I have recently volunteered to plan and facilitate the bi-monthly OFC meeting – typically about 25 people on Zoom.  Many colleagues know how much I enjoy planning and running a meeting.

PICTURES

Apartment Building

In May 2018 we purchased an Apartment Building in Oakland CA, a 4-unit building, all one bedroom / one bath on a large lot.  It was built in 1924 and has a large garden in a relatively quiet neighborhood, about 1 mile south of UC Berkeley.  Actually, I bought the building with Karen’s acquiescence – I said it would be my retirement hobby!

In May 2020 one of the tenants moved out and I jumped right into remodeling, demolishing the kitchen in a day.  However, all the other tenants were working from home due to the pandemic and challenged the need to remodel during this time.  So I backed up, hired an architect and engineer, researched what I could do and not do (with the help of an attorney), built a schedule, arranged sub-contractors and ordered materials.  Once the tenants realized I could and would remodel, another tenant moved out, and we began remodeling in August 2020.

We remodeled the two upper units – the remaining tenants lived and worked directly below.  We tried to work around their schedules as much as possible but it was difficult on them as they had no work space to go to.  I encouraged them to speak with their employers to find them alternate work space – their rental agreements stated “for residential use only.”  I believe I did the right thing as Oakland has rent control – it is very difficult to get tenants to move out to improve the building – I took the opportunity of voluntary move out to make improvements.

We finished remodeling the upper units in late February 2021 but there was not a lot of rental interest upon completion (there was significant inventory in the market due to people moving out of the Bay Area and large apartment complexes completed recently). We rented one unit in April and the second in July – both for fair rents. I was tired of working on this project by the time it wrapped up (Karen pointed out I am not a great finisher – sure miss those I have worked with in the past who would drive work to completion my minor oversight while I volunteered to work on something else). We started the remodel of the first one on Aug 3, 2020 and I thought it would take about 12-14 weeks. However, with numerous delays and issues that I do not want to complain any further about, it took 6+ months with significant overrun (fortunately supplement approval was not required, but still “painful” due to numerous comments from Karen regarding my expensive hobby). Many many lessons were learned!

In September 2021 one of lower unit existing tenants gave notice, moving out end of October.  I contemplated just painting and renting again – not sure I was ready for another remodel as the other existing (next door on same level) tenant was most affected by the previous remodel.  But then the second existing tenant gave notice and moved out end of November.  Now I had the two lower units vacant at the same time – much easier and more economical to remodel two at once.  So I applied for permits in mid-November (remotely from Hawaii) and got both approved within days!  I decided to reduce scope and not use either the Architect or Engineer (we removed walls in the upper units which required Civil calculations for the permit) – permits were easier this time without removing walls.  I liked the Architect but since the new scope was similar to the previous units we are using the same cabinet layout and design, decided to proceed without the help.

So far we are 3 weeks into the remodel and have all the demolition complete and have most of the new plumbing completed including installation of new bathtubs.  We have started on the electrical – will be some rewiring to make it work with the existing electrical panels.  I will schedule the rough inspections in both units in late January.  Our primary issue for these remodels is material availability – we have ordered replacement windows (12-14 week delivery) and cabinets (17-19 weeks until installation).   Best case is to get them rented in May or June but believe the cost will be less / there will be weeks without remodel activity as we wait for materials.

PICTURES

Winemaking
This is a hobby that I do with a group of friends – joined this group in 2017. We do it all from crushing the grapes to bottling. Some people ask if we crush with our feet – NO. We have all the equipment to destem the grapes, crush then using a wine press, transfer into stainless steel vats for initial treatment, transfer into oak barrels for fermentation, and then finally bottle. In normal years we bottle three varietals that results in about 300 cases of wine (20 each). We typically make Chardonnay and Primitivo (same grape as Zinfandel). In 2017 we made an excellent Petit Sirah – we are going to crush Petit Sarah again this fall.

This is not a huge time commitment – about 15-20 workdays per year. I enjoy the camaraderie and the product!

Unretired in September 2021

In 2019, before I retired, my good friend Tony asked me if I would like to help him with his office in the Bay Area – he is the Construction Manager and was moving to the General Manager (GM) role as the GM was retiring at the end of 2020. My friend asked if I would help him with business development. My answer then was no thanks – I need to be retired first before I figure out what I am going to do with the rest of my life.

In March of 2020 (after I rotated out of Kazakhstan the last time but still not retired), my good friend John (who is Tony’s boss) asked if I could help Tony with his transition to GM (he was not aware of Tony’s 2019 request). I gave John a similar answer regarding my need to figure out retirement before committing to working again. To be honest I appreciated the respect my friends had in my abilities but was unsure if I could help them. My focus was on becoming fully retired and spending more time with Karen.

And then the pandemic happened. The pandemic had a significant impact on their business – a lot of work was shut down or delayed in 2Q2020. Their business is a nation-wide Industrial Electrical and Instrument contractor – their home office is in Baton Rouge with a couple local offices including one near me in Martinez California. For background I met Tony and John when I was working for Chevron on a large fire rebuild project in the Richmond Refinery in 1999. We worked 11 months straight, 6 days a week – friendships built on completing a safe and successful rebuild of the instrument portion of a $300 MM project (aka the Burn Job).

In October 2020 we connected again – I said I was interested but not sure how much time I could commit as I was actively progressing the unit remodels of our apartment building. Both John and Tony said I could work when I was available. So, we signed a consulting agreement, and I started helping.  I gave myself the title of Management Coach – I did not want to be known as a Consultant (though many of my TCO expat friends predicted I would come back as a Consultant).

My first efforts were a 360 Feedback Survey of employees from the Martinez Office for Tony and helped organize the new Construction Manager selection – replacing Tony (with the selected candidate starting in January).

At the start of 2021 I helped plan and participated in the Martinez Office strategic plan meeting; purpose of the meeting is to identify the high priority improvement areas the office wants to work on over the next year. I shared facilitating duties for the meeting with a manager from Baton Rouge – it was a good way to meet many of the core Martinez Office employees. I prepared a report and organized the results into Improvement Opportunities including project frames and initial action items. Via the strategic plan and discussions with Tony we agreed my future efforts would be helping implement improvements in the following areas:

• Business Development
• Estimating
• Employee Development including Mentoring Program / Developing Leaders / Employee Motivation
• Job Descriptions / Employee Accountability
• General Manager Coaching (delegation and soft skills)

At the beginning of 2021 I committed to working part-time (~ 2 days/ week) through June 2022. My goal was to implement sustained improvements that support office revenue growth. Note I do not name the company I am consulting for – some friends may guess who this is. Primarily sharing that I enjoy helping others through skills and knowledge I developed over a 40 year professional career.

As 2021 year progressed I continued to try and figure out how to help Tony in his transition.  We onboarded the new Construction Manager and began working on the improvements.  Then the Martinez office  was hit by the “Great Resignation” – several key employees in Project Management and Estimating resigned in the first half of 2021 for better opportunities, and then the new Construction Manager and 10-year Engineering Manager resigned in August / September respectively.  With support from Karen I returned to work full-time effective September 1, replacing the Construction Manager, and sharing the responsibilities of the Engineering Manager with Tony.

I made a commitment to Karen that returning to work full-time would not affect our (her) travel plans.  I negotiated vacation plus un-paid time off when needed.  To be honest, I prefer being in the middle of the work vs. the coaching / improvement support I was providing.  I observe that I prefer helping from within – believe it has more impact, get to know the people better, and I enjoy it more.  The challenge has been to keep all the other activities described above going but it is working – my “wise” approach is “it’s not a crisis,” we can figure it out, and make sure I get my sleep.

I will close by saying I am still keeping up with friends far and wide.  I truly enjoy staying in contact with people who have enriched my life.  If you would like to contact me  please use marcfredevans@yahoo.com.

2021 Evans Family Holiday Letter

Hello from the Evans’ Family – we wish you good health and happiness – not easy these days.  So far our entire family has dodged catching COVID-19; very lucky, considering it appears inevitable to happen to one or more of us.  We started easing back into “normal” life this year – here is our story.

To start, here are messages from the Evans’ children – they provided the following updates as my Christmas gifts!

Zack

Despite numerous challenges, failures, and unforeseen circumstances, Zack has only gotten taller and better looking. He stands now roughly 9 and a half feet tall, and all of our necks hurt because of it. He decided in early 2020 to live amongst those most like him: the trees in Portland, Oregon, and now resides in Beaverton. He enjoys the weirdness of the pacific northwest, but sorely misses the warmth of California sunshine. The past year has been tumultuous, but every end is a new beginning. Zack is calling this his phoenix year, and many of us can relate. With a return to school on the horizon, he is ready to be reborn and burn more brightly than ever in 2022.

Grant

Grant is living in Seattle with his girlfriend Lauren and their two cats, Neo and Obi. He has been working from home (for Microsoft) since February 2020 and has built an expansive work from home setup he will be reluctant to let go when he returns to the office. In addition to working at Children’s Hospital as a Nurse, Lauren is studying at the University of Washington for a Nurse Practitioner degree (2-1/2 year program) – she just finished her first quarter.  Grant and Lauren are excited to ski this season, as they were not able to visit the mountains last year. Grant wishes all of his friends and family a happy and healthy holidays and New Year.

Drew

Drew graduated from the University of Puget Sound in May of 2021, with a Bachelor of Science in Economics & minors in math & business. He enjoyed (as much as possible) a COVID senior year, living in Tacoma with his friends. After saying goodbye to Tacoma, Drew headed home where he planned a road trip with his girlfriend, Emily, across the U.S.. Despite some bumps in the road, they were able to embark on their trip and headed Southeast, then Northeast, then due East, finding a turnaround point in Chicago, IL. Finishing in Portland, they drove 8,000 miles in about 50 days. After this, Drew stayed in Orinda, cat-sitting for a while, before he found out that Emily got the job she had been pining after, as a KUPU intern at National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawai’i. Within two months, they packed up together and moved in to a 1-bedroom in Lihue, Hawai’i. With sunnier skies and sea-breezes, they started their post-grad journey together in paradise. Soon after arrival Drew found work, applying for and getting a position as a Production Operations Analyst at Kauai Coffee Company on the island. Drew works at the largest coffee orchard in the United States!  Since then, they have met new people, experienced an entirely different way of living, and have grown immensely.  Emily & Drew are excited to grow, learn, and experience 2022.  Merry Christmas to all, especially you, Dad!

Claudia

Claudia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola Marymount University in May with a  degree in Political Science and minors in International Relations and Spanish. She spent the first half of her summer with her friends in Los Angeles, then spent 7 weeks in Vermont at an intensive language program at Middlebury College. This was excellent preparation for her next adventure: living and working as an English Language Assistant at a secondary school in Granada, Spain, where she has been working since September. She’s been enjoying the facilitation of a pen pal activity between her students and students in the USA who are being taught by her former high school Spanish teacher, a rare and inspiring experience for her and her students. She is excited to continue traveling in 2022, and Karen is excited to keep visiting!

We were fortunate to see all our children, more than once, in 2021.   They even saw each other …

Karen & Marc

We reached our 30th wedding anniversary in August – very thankful to have navigated all the challenges of life over this time together.  Karen continues to enjoy a healthy retirement, albeit with back pain (though you wouldn’t know it just by looking!); Marc had a “different” year – see Marc’s Retirement Journey post.  Together we’ve enjoyed going to SF Broadway Shows (opened back up this Fall), Golden State Warriors games (have pair of 1/4 season tickets for the 2021-2022 season), living with our cats Scar & Rocco, keeping up with our children and Big Family, and travel.

First Part of 2021 Travel

Except for a trip to New Orleans in March, we did not travel in 2020. So as vacation spots began opening up in 2021, Karen & I began to travel again.  We were both vaccinated in April so felt comfortable, at least driving in the first half of the year.

In February we spent a week in Palm Springs with Karen’s father Dick Weisbaum (aka Papa); it was a nice visit as we had not seen Papa in a while.  Mostly hanging out at the pool, walks and visiting outdoor art installations called Desert X.

In April we flew to Maui, Hawaii with our close friends Patty & Mark Thompson and Michelle & Andy Winter.  We have known these couples for 30+ years (Mark, Andy and I were friends before we each met our respective spouses). We took our initial friends vacation to the Caribbean in the early 80s on a sailboat; we call our group WET (Winter Evans Thompson) Sail.  We went out to eat several times in Maui – all outdoor dining –  and snorkeled, walked, and hung out at different beaches.  Mark, Andy and I enjoyed a fantastic bike ride down the Haleakala Volcano . I did not realize this was on my bucket list and highly recommend this activity!  The weather was awesome (almost always true in Hawaii).

May Graduations

Claudia graduated from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and Drew from University of Puget Sound (UPS), on consecutive weekends in May.  LMU was very restrictive on their graduation – it was on Zoom (which we did not attend).  But Karen & I drove to LA and spent the weekend. Claudia and her 4 roommates held a small celebration in their backyard with a few friends and family.  It was nice to hang out with her friend’s families – ordered some food, some drinks, played only a couple drinking games. Karen has yet to congratulate me on my restraint. Claudia stayed in LA through July, enjoying the warmth and excitement of a post-grad summer.

The next weekend several of our family travelled to Tacoma WA to celebrate Drew’s graduation.  UPS had an in-person graduation but only 2 people per student could attend (significant social distancing while sitting in the stadium).  Claudia, Grant, girlfriend Lauren, and Zack plus Karen’s Dad, Brother, Sister-in-Law, Nephew and my 2 sisters attended.  Drew and his friends threw a party in their backyard the day before – larger gathering, more food, more beer, and significantly more drinking games (restraint was a non-issue amongst the frat brothers) . The families also hired a photographer, which was a great way to capture the end of a college career.  Drew stayed in Tacoma for about 3 weeks before coming home to the Bay Area to prepare for his road trip; such a celebration cannot be wrapped up so easily it seems.

Summer 2021

Karen and I returned to Bakersfield for 4th of July Weekend for a WET Sail outing (has been an almost annual tradition, especially when our kids were younger).  This year it was just the 3 couples and one lone child (Claire) – hanging out at the Winter’s pool, playing games, and checking out Bakersfield’s fast-growing brewery scene.

We visited Santa Barbara in mid-July to hangout with my two sisters, nieces and their families. 3 days in an Airbnb near the home of my younger niece Alison, husband Graeme and daughter Hopie Gehlen-Wingate were spent hanging out with older niece Lauren, husband Jamie, and daughters Rose and Bea Houssain, along with my sisters Robin Gehlen and Joanne Evans.  Graeme, Jamie and I took care of the kids one day – the women in the family enjoyed a spa day and dinner without children.  It was a treat to hang out with my siblings and their children / grandchildren, our growing village, and create some sweet memories. 



We visited New Jersey, NYC, Vermont, Boston, and Washington DC in August. We started with the wedding of a good friend’s oldest son in New Jersey, followed by a week of attractions in New York City.  Karen & I both enjoy New York, lots of walking, good restaurants & museums but no Broadway Shows – we will return.  We then picked up Claudia at Middlebury College in Vermont (where she finished a competitive and challenging language program) and went to Boston and Washington DC to see the sights and connect with friends.  All 3 cities were enjoyable – there were less tourists than normal (plus DC is very quiet in August with Congress out of session).

Last Part of 2021 Travel

Karen & I went to Spain to help Claudia move for her new job in late September.  We rented an Airbnb in the center of Granada and greatly enjoyed the life of Southern Spain – people friendly streets, lots of historic sites, many tapas restaurants to choose from, afternoon naps, and walking around the town, including the famous Alhambra.

While there, Claudia found a roommate (in the same English Language Assistant program), found a 3 bedroom flat in a good part of town, practiced her commute to work (bus ride of about 25 minutes), and other move to new place type of things. I was there 10 days while Karen stayed another week to help Claudia get settled in. 

In November, Karen and I met up with her father, brother and sister-in-law for another trip to Hawaii (this was planned 2 years ago).  We spent 1 week in Maui and 1 week in Kauai.  We were hosted by her dad and stayed in Westin Resorts – what a treat.  We hit our favorite sites in Maui including snorkeling at Honolua Bay plus Happy Hour at Fleetwood’s in Lahaina.

This was our first tip to Kauai – with the added BONUS of Drew & Emily living there.  We stayed in Princeville, visited the Waimea Canyon, Allerton Garden, a water tubing activity through old irrigation canals (much better than it sounds) and of course a tour of the Kauai Coffee Company.

December Holidays

In the middle of 2021, as COVID appeared to die down, Karen and I decided we wanted to take a special vacation with all four children for Christmas. We planned a trip to Eastern Europe to experience the historically vibrant Christmas spirit of Austria and surrounding countries with our family.  So our in-house travel agent, Karen, spent endless hours making hotel reservations in Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg.  This was for all 8 of us (including Lauren and Emily) with different arrival times and departures – each city had different number of hotel rooms or an Airbnb.  It was a significant undertaking – including plane reservations to/from 4 US cities plus Granada, Spain.

Around Thanksgiving the Omicron COVID variant hit Europe – we learned that Christmas Markets were closing down and there would be a high risk of quarantine if anyone tested positive.  With great sadness, Karen cancelled the entire trip – additional endless hours getting refunds or asking for a future date.  We have were able to defer a couple hotels until next year – that vacation will be in next year’s Holiday Letter.

With all our children already having scheduled time off, we pivoted and rented Villa Castillo in Puerto Vallarta (PV), Mexico.  We reserved a couple activities – an ATV jungle tour (highly recommend), a dinner cruise with an exciting circus troupe, and our favorite zipline tour – it has been a great time.  This trip is significantly lower stress than a Europe Trip with all the inter-city travel, plus the weather in PV has been beautiful – low 80s every day.  Our place is about a 30 minute walk / 5 minute taxi ride to Old Town – beach restaurants, shops, restaurants, bars.  The place we rented had a pool and large deck – great space to hang out.

Best Wishes and Happy New Year

To all that took the time to read this far, we hope your Holiday with Family & Friends was wonderful, and we wish you health & happiness in 2022.  We look forward to when our paths with you cross again!

Marc and Karen Evans: January 2, 2022

2020 Evans Family Holiday Letter

We hope this message finds you and your family healthy!  As I write this message in January 2021, I recognize that we did not send out a 2019 Holiday Letter – at the end of this post are 2019 highlights chronicled through our iPhone photos.

Evans Family 2020 News

The Weisbaum-Evans family is very fortunate; so far no one in our extended family has caught the virus and everyone is still “kicking.”  We had a special event this year: the birth of our great-niece, Hopie Gehlen-Wingate in Santa Barbara, CA.  Ali Gehlen and Graeme Lee-Wingate are her parents – she is a happy and curious baby.  Not everyone in our family has been fortunate to meet Hopie in person but Ali shares lots of videos and facetimes with us.  At the top of our family list (when the pandemic abates) will be a large gathering to welcome Hopie into our Big Family.

Hopie was born in April – Claudia and I visited in early August when she moved back to LMU

KAREN

Continues medical retirement, continues to have significant back pain, continues to never complain about anything.  She kept sane by watching cooking shows, walking (and listening to podcasts), and stays connected with friends through zoom calls.  We recently outfitted a home gym with recumbent bicycle and large TV – she is working out almost every day.

As her friends know, Karen loves to travel.  She had 2020 planned trips for us to Hawaii, New York, and Sedona, and was beginning the planning process for a visit to eastern Europe late last year.  Of course these were all cancelled – we stayed mostly in the Bay Area this year except for a short trip to New Orleans in early March (we learned later this was an initial COVID hot spot):

CLAUDIA

When Claudia returned in January 2020 to Loyola Marymount University (LMU) for her Junior Year Spring semester she had lots of plans: she moved into an apartment near school with 2 friends and began her 1 year reign as President of the LMU Pi Phi Sorority.  Due to COVID all those plans changed – she moved home in March, continued school remotely, and led sorority zoom calls.   Hard to explain Claudia’s disappointment – she was happy to be back at LMU after a semester away and then finds herself at home – opposite of an exciting college experience.  She spent her 2020 summer working as a camp counselor in San Francisco with a friend, and then moved back to LA in August to a group house near LMU with 5 friends.  She lives within a ½ mile of the LMU campus, but all school work in the Fall semester was remote.  Still, living with friends while going to school was much better than living at home – she is hopeful there will be a mix of remote and in-person learning during the 2021 spring semester.  Claudia will graduate from LMU in May with an undergraduate degree in Political Science with minors in International Relations and Spanish.  She is starting to look for work and may go to an immersive Spanish course in Vermont this summer – she was accepted last year but it was cancelled.

DREW

Drew came home in March 2020 when COVID hit but quickly learned it was more comfortable living in his group house in Tacoma – he missed his friends and girlfriend Emily – he went back in April.  He finished his Junior year at University of Puget Sound and then stayed in Tacoma for the summer taking classes.  In July he moved to a new group house with some Fraternity brothers and socializes with his house, Emily’s house and one other – pod of 15?  He lives within a ¼ mile of the Puget Sound campus and is also hopeful there will be a mix of remote and in-person learning during the 2021 spring semester.  Drew will graduate in May with an undergraduate degree in Economics with minors in Math and Business Administration.  He is trying to line up a job or internship in London this summer – he was accepted last year but it was cancelled.

 

GRANT

Grant started 2020 working for Avanade – he joined them in September 2018 after graduation and summer travel.  He was assigned to large financial project with Microsoft as the customer – this started in 2019 and continued into 2020.  In the spring it was decided that the intellectual property of this project would be sold to another company; at this point he was not sure of his next Avanade assignment.  Through a series of fortunate events, Grant and several others from this project moved directly to Microsoft in June.  He transitioned between jobs smoothly all while working remotely – he even did his Microsoft onboarding remotely.

He lived through the year with his UW Fraternity Brothers in condos – as his roommates’ situations changed, they moved to another condo in the middle of the year but remained in Seattle.  Grant just moved in mid-January to a townhouse with girlfriend Lauren Shade – in  the Green Lake area in north central Seattle.  Lauren works as a Nurse in the oncology department at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  Karen and I had the good fortune to meet her parents Carol and Bill in Fall 2019 – we have a lot in common.

ZACK

Zack started 2020 at home and ended the year in Portland Oregon.  He became unemployed in March due to COVID, collecting unemployment benefits.  As he worked in the service industry it did not look good regarding reopening, at least as a full-time job (he was right).  Zack connected with a friend from Los Angeles and they moved to Portland in July.  He continued collecting unemployment in Oregon and had been searching for a job for the last few months.  He came home for Thanksgiving but stayed in Portland for Christmas with his friends.  He enjoys living in Portland and started a new job in January.

 

How we Spent our December Holiday

This year the tree went up right after Thanksgiving and went down after New Year.  Karen collects ornaments including adding to our collection on most vacations.  I always enjoy reliving the memories of years past through her collection.

We were fortunate that Grant, Drew, and Claudia came home a few days before and stayed 1 (Grant) or 2 (Claudia & Drew) weeks with us.  In comparison to Christmas past it was quiet (no gathering with either side of our families) but very memorable.

OUR EXTENDED BIG FAMILY

As mentioned at the beginning of this holiday letter our best news of 2020 was the arrival of Hopie Gehlen-Wingate.  We have been holding Zoom Family Gatherings – we celebrated August Birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays this year.  When we are in person we enjoy playing games – always a laugh to see how competitive we can be even though the prize is just bragging rights.  This year several of our youngest generations (Chris and Carson Claas and Rose and Bea Houssain) helped us play Kahoot games.

MARC

Retired, got involved in a neighborhood group, helped the kids move (Zack to Portland; Claudia back to LA), and remodeled 2 units at our apartment building in Oakland (finishing in February).  This is the short version – if you would like to read the longer version please see blog post “Marc’s First Retirement Year” – it will be posted in the “near” future.

OK: that is enough for now – until next year’s Holiday Letter ….. wishing you and yours great Health & much Happiness.

Evans Family 2019 Blitz

Claudia continued at LMU and spent her Fall Semester in Florence Italy and traveled in Europe; Drew continued at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma; Grant continued as a Software Engineer for Avanade in Seattle; Zack continued working and living at home in Orinda; Marc continued working at TCO in Kazakhstan; and Karen planned and travelled the year away.

Marc, Zack and Grant visited Whistler in January

Karen & Marc visited Mexico in March with

Patty & Mark Thompson and Michelle & Andy Winter

Karen, Marc & Dick Weisbaum (aka Papa) visited England and Scotland in July

While in England we visited with friends Mark & Pippa Wardman

August in the Bay Area

Zack and Papa visited India in November & December


Karen and Claudia visited Paris in November

 

Thanksgiving at Home

 Marc and Sisters Joanne and Robin went to Warriors Game in December

Karen, Zack, Grant, Drew, Claudia and Papa visited Portugal over Christmas Holidays

 Karen and Claudia visited London in late December

DE Women: You are the Best!

I wanted to let you know how rewarding it has been to observe and help you during my years in Kazakhstan. There has been awakening in society, throughout the World, about how important it is to respect and support all women. There is a long way to go in many places but I am grateful we worked together and I saw up close how capable, resilient and amazing you are!

I have shared with many of you that I was raised by a strong mother, have 2 great sisters, an exceptional spouse, an awesome daughter and fantastic nieces (3) and great-neices (3) – my family is blessed by them all. In my career I have had the good fortune to have an inspiring back-to-back (Sharon), top performing bosses (Barbara Smith and Cheryl Brandt) and an incredible General Director (Eimear Bonner).

These women, by their actions, encouraged me to help as much as possible to make TCO Designs Engineering sensitive, supportive, and challenging to you DE Women. The TCO Women’s Network and our DE informal discussions reinforce the World is better when Women are empowered and supported. The following recent article from the Washington Post demonstrates your leadership potential.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/04/20/female-world-leaders-hailed-voices-reason-amid-coronavirus-chaos/

One favorite memory is when Eimear visited the 2018 KTL TA Trailers.  She pulled me aside and said it was good to see all the Women in Designs Engineering.  I replied that we have great Engineers and Designers in DE; it is not chance that many are women – we select the best available.

Thank you all!  Marc

 

Saltanat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Evans Family Holiday Letter

Feeling Thankful – AGAIN

Greetings – hope you are well in all aspects of your life.  Our family collected great memories (again) this year – let us share a few.

 

 

 

 

 

Grant’s UW Graduation

We converged in Seattle in June to celebrate Grant’s graduation from University of Washington Information School with a bachelor’s degree in Informatics, Data Science.  We could say he had to work really hard to graduate (he did) but he also created great memories through his membership in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, and I have memories of the annual Dad’s weekend with Huskies football; Karen has memories of the yearly Mother / Son dance).  Grant accepted a job offer with Avanade, a large IT company with Headquarters in Seattle.  He and 2 ADP brothers are renting a condo in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drew and Claudia Excellent School Experiences

Both are in their sophomore years.  Claudia continues at Loyola Marymount University in LA, studying International Relations, on the cheer team and joined Pi Beta Phi sorority.  Her motto: work hard / play hard / chill hard.  Drew is at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma studying Economics and joined the Sigma Chi fraternity.  He volunteered as the philanthropy chair and organized a charity event for the Huntsmen Cancer Institute – he, and a few brothers cut their hair off for the cause.  Claudia visited Drew at his school in October – the twin bond endures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zack

At home, working, enjoying friends, music and tie dye.  He is saving $$ for travel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen

As mentioned last year Karen was considering a Spinal Cord Simulator Implant.  Early in the year she received a temporary version and felt immediate improvement.  About 2 months later, she had the permanent version implanted, and although it helps, Karen continues to work with her doctors to maximize results.  Although medically retired she gets out to see friends frequently, exercises at the gym most days, and enjoys going to the theatre in SF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marc

I continue working for Chevron in Kazakhstan – great people, engaging work and enjoy the benefits of rotation life.  I have been fortunate to learn about the Kazakh culture – family oriented (many times grandparents, parents and children live together), welcoming, diverse, interesting history and celebrations.  I consider myself lucky that my career brought me here.

Members of the Tengiz Big Hat Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My new back-to-back Sharon Molnar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We bought an apartment building in Oakland.  I had been thinking about doing this for a few years – enjoy the process of caring and improving buildings.  Fall of 2017 I spent some time researching, and then we became active buyers early in the year.  Mid-year we found a sweet four unit building that has character, excellent location (near Rockridge BART), big garden, roof top deck with a view, and a “Superintendent” office.  Zack helps manage the building while I am away – so far so good.  This is not a fix and flip investment; see us owning this for 20+ years (Marc’s retirement hobby).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up on the Roof (bee hives behind us)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation in Italy

Karen and I visited Amsterdam, Venice, Florence, Pisa (day trip), Cinque Terra and Rome in September, staying in each location for three nights.  Karen was our travel agent – selected memorable places to stay in each city.  The last time we visited Europe was when we were dating (in an attempt to impress her, I took her to Paris during her last year of residency in Houston).  We comfortably worked around Karen’s limitations, had a few early nights, but did lots of sight seeing, museum visits, walking and memorable meals.  We foresee more travel in our future as this is Karen’s retirement hobby (I accompany her to carry the bags and make the dinner reservations).

Venice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manarola (Cinque Terra)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sedona and Hawaii with Papa

Karen and I visited her Dad Dick Weisbaum in Sedona in February – nice hanging out with him for a few days.  In October, we stayed with Papa at his timeshare in Maui.  This was a relaxing low stress holiday – mostly chilling by the pool or taking walks along the beach.  We did visit Mama’s Fish House – food, drink and view are all top notch.

View from Papa’s Sedona Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama’s Fish House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maui pool cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Extended Family

2018 was another enjoyable year connecting with family.  Most of our family was in Seattle to celebrate Grant’s graduation – Karen’s brother Bruce, Courtney and Cooper attended as well as our nieces Lauren (w Jaimie, Rose and Beatrice) and Alison (w Graeme).  This Christmas we were fortunate to celebrate with Papa, my sisters and mates, Joanne and Steve, Robin and Rodney, and our Nephew Kevin (w Tina, Chris and Carson).

Marc’s Sisters Robin and Joanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weisbaum-Evans Clan

 

 

 

 

 

Nieces Lauren and Alison

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Christmas Gathering

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

To you, your family, friends, pets, co-workers and anyone else who may read this.

Hoping our paths will cross again soon.

Marc, Karen, Zack, Grant, Drew and Claudia Evans

 

 

2017 Evans Family Holiday Letter

Feeling Thankful

It is the morning of December 29th, all four children, Karen and the cats are asleep.  The house is quiet and the neighborhood too (no leaf blowers at this time of day).  The sun is up and I have a nice, if somewhat obstructed, view of San Pablo Reservoir.  What a great moment to reflect on all that we are thankful for in 2017.

I returned from Kazakhstan yesterday – smooth travel which is not always the case, especially during winter.  We had a white Christmas in Tengiz, just a few inches of snow that made it look at it’s best.  We had a low key Designs Engineering celebration after lunch on Christmas Eve, and I had dinner with good friends at the Dome 3 Canteen on Christmas Night – reinforced for me what wonderful people I work with.

As usual, my first day home I wake up early, and go through the mail.  Made myself breakfast, a pot of coffee, and then found the stack of mail Karen leaves for me (primarily bills).  But this time of year there are the Christmas cards and Holiday letters!!  In the age of the internet and facebook, there are fewer snail mail cards, but still quite a few.  Reading each card allows me to reflect on how special this is that someone wants to stay connected with me and my family.  Every card has an interesting aspect: the art of the card, the family photos, and the snippets of news about the life of our friends and family.  Each and every card makes me thankful that our life is filled with people that we care about, and care about us.

So in a very thankful mood, and with a second cup of coffee by my side, let me share the 2017 news of the Evans Family.  In a break from tradition I will start with our youngest first.

Claudia

Graduated from Miramonte High School in June, and started at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles in August.  She just finished her first semester and had a wonderful experience, making good friends, joining activities (including the LMU Cheer Team), and doing well in all her classes.

 

What we are most proud of is how she handled the first semester – stressful at times, overwhelming at times, but also fun and interesting.

Close-up at the LMU chapel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stroll through Santa Monica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew

Graduated from Orinda Academy High School in June, and started University of Puget Sound University (UPS) in Tacoma, WA in August.  Drew had an equally great first semester, enjoying his Economics class and exploring Tacoma and Seattle area.

 

UPS had a week-long orientation at the beginning of the semester – to integrate the new students.  Drew shared that it took him out of his comfort zone but also paved the way for making good friends that he studies with, works out with and hangs out with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grant

Just finished the Fall Quarter of his senior year at University of Washington (UW).  He moved out of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house this year with other seniors – 11 guys in 3 story house a couple blocks from the frat.  Grant worked the first half of the summer and then took a 4-week trip to Europe with his girlfriend Vanessa and others.  It was an amazing trip – look him up on facebook and you can see a video that Vanessa put together.

 

 

Grant is on track to graduate in June with a bachelor’s degree in Data Science from the UW Informatics (the study and practice of creating, storing, finding, manipulating and sharing information) School.

Photo is from out Thanksgiving in Seattle – Grant is with Jacob and Tig Michaels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zack

Lived at home this last year working a couple jobs.  He planned his year around music festivals and connecting with friends.  He is going to local Diablo Valley College in January –needs a few more credits to transfer to a University.  Zack plans to explore classes in a couple majors before deciding where to transfer to.

 

 

 

 

Another picture from our Thanksgiving in Seattle.

 

 

 

 

 

Karen

Working out at the gym most days each week, and managing her chronic pain as best she can.  She has recently been working with her pain and spine doctors and trying different treatments.  Karen is considering a Spinal Cord Simulator Implant – should know soon if she is a good candidate for this device.

 

 

Marc

I continue to work in Kazakhstan for Chevron, co-managing an on-site engineering group.  Have been working rotation 6-1/2 years, and expect to work a couple more.  I have been preparing myself a bit for retirement – joined a “home” winemaking club this year – we crushed 6000 pounds of grapes in September (Chardonnay, Primitivo (similar to Zinfandel), and Petite Syrah).  After the wine has aged sufficiently it will result in ~ 300 cases of wine.

Did I already share that I am thankful?  2017 was a good year for us – we are all moving forward.  We ended 2017 at home with all 4 children – recognize how special that is when that this phase of our life is soon to end.

Our Extended Family

All good with our family – Karen’s father Dick visited us for the Christmas Holidays.  Karen and I made separate trips to Portland this year and connected with her brother Bruce, Courtney and Cooper.  My side of the family gets together frequently – we all attended our niece Alison Gehlen’s marriage to Graeme Lee-Wingate in May – great celebration / great memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

2018 New Year Quote: Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience. (Eleanor Hibbert).

I close by wishing ALL a Healthy and Happy New Year.

 

2015 Holiday Letter

Holiday Greetings to you and yours,

The tree is up and decorated, the shopping is done (of course by Karen and Claudia), the annual picture card has already been sent out, and Claudia  added more Holiday sweaters to her collection this year.  Our last bit of Holiday preparation is this letter – which I am finalizing the day after Christmas!

This year was memorable, ranging from fun to difficult, from sad to satisfying, and from challenging to astonishing (that would be the Golden State Warriors winning their first NBA championship in 40 years).

Karen is managing her back pain as well as she can.  It has been a year of follow-up, medication adjustment, and more minor surgery (on one hand due to carpal tunnel pain).  Karen pushes herself to manage our household, mostly as a single parent for half the year.

Zack moved home in the Fall from Santa Barbara – it is nice to have him home as he helps cook and other chores / errands around the house.  He has a job lined up to start in the New Year and will attend the local community college as he continues pursuit of a Film Studies career.

Grant is in his second year at University of Washington; he is studying Computer Science with focus on Informatics.  He is now in a shared room with one other frat brother at Alpha Delta Phi – survived living on the porch with the other pledges last year.  He worked again this summer as a camp counselor near home, and then just before he went back to UW in the fall he had sholder surgery (his arm kept popping out of the shoulder joint) – the recovery is progressing but it limits his activities for another 6 months until fully healed.

Andrew was also a camp counselor again this summer but at Cal Berkeley Strawberry Canyon Camp (following in Zack’s footsteps).  In the fall he decided to move to Orinda Academy – it is a smaller school but also in Orinda.  He has been attending about 2 months and we all agree it is a better fit for him.

Claudia finished her dance career attending her final competion in the summer – she still keeps up with her dance friends (and Karen with the Dance Moms).   In the fall Claudia joined the Miramonte HS Cheer team – she has enjoyed making new friends.  In addition to school she volunteers at a pet shelter and recently joined the Los Amigos program where she will visit a Centeral American country next summer (not sure where yet) to volunteer for ~ 6 weeks.

Marc’s sisters Robin and Joanne (plus husband Steve) all retired this year.  Robin’s retirement occurred in the Spring – she enjoys the ability to see her children / grandchildren more frequently.  Joanne & Steve closed their small business late this year, and by early next year they will no longer make the daily commute to their shop.

Our nephew, Cooper Weisbaum, graduated from HS (Karen attended) and is now attending Southern Oregon University.   Cooper’s parents Bruce and Courtney continue to do well in Portland.  Karen’s Dad Dick and wife Cynthia are still in Sedona and fit in lots of travel, including a visit to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving.

As for Marc, still in Kazakhstan.  We had a large maintenance turnaround this year and another equally large planned for summer of 2016 – continues to be challenging and rewarding work.  We also completed a kitchen / master bath remodel in the first half of this year – was able to be the General Contractor with help from many (primarily Karen) to keep everything moving while I was on rotation.  We took a long time planning the remodel but once we started the execution went per plan – we are very happy with the results.

Wishing you a healthy and happy 2016.

Precision Cabinets Review

Sharing an exellent experience from design through installation for a kitchen and master bath remodel.  We selected Precision Cabinets based on recommendation from our Architect (K. Price Design) who suggested Precision based on high quality at a fair price.  I have read the other reviews and understand that some people have had difficulty getting follow-up calls or issues quickly resolved.  If you are researching cabinet makers you should understand that Precision’s business model is as a high volume cabinet maker.  If you want someone to hold your hand through out a project with many design development changes or a lot of non-standard details then find a small cabinet shop and be ready to pay the corresponding high price.  If you want high quality cabinets but at a fair price and know what you want, then consider Precision.

Link to Yelp Review dated 22Jun2015:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/precision-cabinets-brentwood?hrid=hjxbNMJsEoUMYW1BX9tGEg

Here are some specifics regarding our experience.

We started working with Precision in October 2014 – our Architect Katie Price developed a solid design for both kitchen and master bath cabinets, and we wanted cabinet estimates to finalize our overall budget.  Our General Contractor (GC), who we hired to develop budget and schedule, obtained two other bids and Precision was very competitive.

We decided to work exclusively with Precision to finalize their cabinet quote, which would be the basis for our overall remodel cost.  Sean Young was our primary contact – he worked closely with us over several weeks regarding various options and how they affect price.  Sean was very patient with both us and our Architect as we covered a lot of details as we knew the cabinets were one of our larger expenses (about 20% of our total budget).  Ultimately we reduced some cabinet scope of work that was not associated with the kitchen or master bath and developed a final budget estimate in mid-November.  This initial experience with Sean Young gave me high confidence in this company – he knew his product and guided us to a cost-effective solution.

As another reviewer pointed out it is essential to go their factory in Brentwood to see their samples and make your selections.  They will also give you a tour of the factory floor – they have an efficient setup with the savings passed on to the consumer.  It was clear that Sean Young was handling several customers simultaneously (needed an appointment / had another appointment after mine) but he set aside the necessary time to explain both the cabinet options as well as the fabrication schedule.  At this initial meeting I learned that typical turnaround from cabinet measure (framing complete) to cabinet delivery would be 6 weeks (more about this later).

About this point in our project we received from our GC the total estimated cost for our project (complete kitchen remodel including structural work under the house plus complete master bath remodel, including replacing windows).  We found the total cost higher than we felt was appropriate for improving our home.  Over the next few weeks we looked at several cost reductions – ultimately we decided to remove some additional cabinet scope, picked less expensive appliances, eliminated work not associated with the kitchen or master bath, AND decided to be our own GC.  One of the reasons we felt comfortable being our own GC is we had spent a lot of time with Precision developing the quote, and they provided a reasonable adder to also install the cabinets.

By the end of the year we had our construction permit and then worked close with Sean Young in January to finalize our cabinet quote – we placed our order with 10% down on 13 Jan 2015.  At this point Precision prepares final Design Drawings – both layout and elevations.  They also provided us with 3D drawings from several perspectives to help us verify all details with our Architect – our job was described on 24 pages.  At this point Sean invited Precision Engineer Gaby Lien to meet with us and Sean to finalize all the exact details and dimensions – we were impressed by Gaby’s professionalism and knowledge of our job – this solidified our confidence in Precision providing quality cabinets.

During this meeting Sean confirmed that the Precision backlog was growing, and that we should plan for six weeks for manufacturing.  To release for manufacturing we need to 1) approve the shop fabrication drawings and 2) have a final measure once all framing was complete.  We finished the framing end of February but due to availability of the Precision Field Rep Vic, and some rework needed on the part of the Framing Subcontractor, we did not get the final measurements completed until the first week of March.  As I already had scheduled other subcontractors to come in right after the cabinet installation (scheduled for Monday 13 April) it appeared we were about to lose at least a week of schedule, and probably more due to conflicts with other Sub-Contractor projects.  Sean checked with the Precision Fabrication manager and they were able to reschedule some other work and advised they could complete our fabrication in 5 weeks – now I am appreciative and happily paid the next 40% to release the cabinets for fabrication.

To shorten the install time Precision suggested they deliver the cabinets on Saturday before the install – a 6 person crew showed up on time and efficiently placed the cabinets inside the home, including lifting up through an outside deck to the Master Bedroom.  Everyone was professional, took excellent care staging the cabinets, and safely navigated the delivery truck up and down our steep winding road.  Another good experience with Precision workers.

On Monday a 5 person install crew arrived and installed most of the cabinets in the Kitchen and Master Bathroom that day; a smaller crew returned on Tuesday to finish the original installation.  It was a interesting experience to observe three different sets of cabinets going in simultaneously – lots of remodel activity that day.  There were a couple issues to work through but we had both the Electrician and Plumber on-site that day and we resolved everything to my satisfaction.  The install crew worked very well with the other craftsmen and was clearly experienced resolving fit-up issues.  By end of day Tuesday the plywood counters were all installed, allowing the counter subcontractor to measure the next day and maintain our remodel schedule.  At this point we paid another 40% for initial install.

Another positive with Precision is they assigned the same installer, John-Paul (JP) Trevisano, to work the details on the second install day as well as all future visits.  JP came back in late May after the counters were in place to install the upper cabinets, and then returned again in mid-June to trim out the cabinets once the hardwood floor was installed.  In all instances JP was efficient, focused on quality, had all necessary tools and materials, and completed the work in a timely manner.  He worked well with the other craftsmen including the painter and the tile installer – it was clear JP has pride in his craft.  One other interesting note I learned is that JP has been in the cabinet business for over 10 years and researched Precision Cabinets before he approached them for a position.  He advised he is very satisfied working for Precision – this reinforced my belief that selecting Precision was an excellent choice.  We paid the final 10% payment after the follow-up installations were complete.

One other person to recognize at Precision is Michelle Jensen, their Customer Service Manager.  I was out of country on business for parts of the remodel and through email and coordination with my wife Michelle helped keep everything on track.  Always pleasant to speak with and helped coordinate some late additions – another positive experience.

Sean, Gaby, Vic, JP and Michelle, and everyone else we met from Precision, were excellent to work with.  Precision Cabinets is a 5 star company in all parts of their business.

2015 Remodel

This post is about our 2015 home remodel.  We started planning for the remodel in Spring 2014 with the intention of starting the remodel in October, and finishing in March 2015.  However we spent more time in the planning process then we initially thought was needed, because we wanted to have a very solid execution plan before demolition began, to minimize the amount of time we would be without a kitchen.

Planning

We began working with an Architect (K. Price Design) and General Contractor (GC) Jim Watters in March 2014 developing plans to remodel our master bath and kitchen.  One of the key design aspects of the kitchen remodel was to open up the kitchen more to the den, to make the two rooms “flow” better.  To achieve this we hired a Structural Engineer Joshua Kardon to work with both the Architect and GC and developed a plan to remove an existing short wall between the kitchen and the den, remove the post that was at the island, replace the beam that ran across the kitchen about 2 feet below the ceiling, and install a sheer wall behind the new stove to address earthquake design criteria.

Here are plan drawings of the existing kitchen and master bathroom.

INSERT Link

Here are plan design drawings for the new kitchen and master bathroom.

INSERT LINK

The bathroom remodel was more straightforward – we had a large bathroom but it was very outdated, including a sunken bathtub in early 80s purple tile.  Our plan was to remove the false floor at the sunken bath, install a larger shower and standing bathtub, a vanity and extra storage. Once we had the structural design finalized for the kitchen we worked through the details for both rooms including cabinet layout, appliance and counter material selection, and worked with the GC to develop a cost estimate which we received in October 2014.  Of course the estimated total cost of the job was much higher than we had budgeted – and we worried that this large investment would not be recovered when we sell the house.  So we identified scope reductions but still the estimate was higher than we felt comfortable with.   Ultimately we decided that I would be the GC, even though it would take longer with my rotational job in Kazakhstan.

When we decided to be owner/builder for our remodel of course wife Karen wanted to know when it would be done.  I shared that we would start the physical work in mid-February and I was confident we would be complete by mid-November as it was our turn to host the annual family Thanksgiving dinner at our home in 2015.  I believed we would be complete in June or July but just like all experienced Project Managers or General Contractors I did not want to initially share an optimistic schedule, particularly as I could not control the sub-contractor’s availability.  Since Karen was OK with “done by Thanksgiving” that was the official completion date.

Mid-December 2014 / Mid-January 2015 Home Rotation

I arrived home on 16Dec2014 with two goals in mind – enjoy the Holidays with our family and obtain an approved building permit before I departed for my next work rotation.  This would set us up to perform demolition the next home rotation.  So we met with our Architect Katie Price and finalized the last details on the permit drawings, first going to the City of Orinda for planning sign-off on 22Dec.  We needed to make a couple minor changes to the drawings and then brought them back to City of Orinda the morning of 23Dec; I walked out out with city planning approval that morning.  I then went to the Contra Costa County Building Department that afternoon in Martinez expecting to drop off the drawings with the hope of getting approved building permit in 2-3 weeks, hopefully before I returned to Kazkahstan.  Apparently because it was slow due to the Holidays the plan check engineer came out and reviewed our drawings and civil calculations, and approved on the spot.  Excellent – fees paid and permit in hand – we are already ahead of schedule.

With the approved building permit, and detailed construction plans – our next step was to select sub-contractors and order materials.  As we had a building permit two weeks earlier than expected I decided to arrange some work while I was in Tengiz on my next rotation, with the existing kitchen going out of service when I returned in mid-February.  I had already made some contacts in November regarding subs but now we needed to select and schedule the civil / structural work (needed for both kitchen and bathroom modifications ).  We bid out to 3 firms and selected Christensen Brothers Construction (Jesse and Josh).  We awarded  the work to Christensen Brothers just before I departed on 13Jan and arranged for them to begin the under house civil and structural work while I was away.  Christensen Brothers held a kick-off meeting with the Architect and Structural Engineer the week after I left and began preparation for the concrete work.  They received sign-off by a 3rd party inspector (Testing Engineers) on the epoxy dowel holes drilled into the existing concrete on 22Jan.

Late January / Early March 2015 Home Rotation

I was scheduled to return home on 12Feb but due to family issues (a blog post for another day) I returned home on 27Jan.  The morning I returned the concrete forms had been signed off by the county inspector – the first county inspection.  The concrete was poured on 02Feb, with the pour observed by Testing Engineers.  The Christensen Brothers framing crew mobilized on 03Feb to begin the below house structural work.  Since I was already home I decided to move the demolition up a week so the framing crew could move right into the kitchen and master bathroom once the below house work was completed.

Ramon (all crafts though his favorite is electrical), his brother Aristeo (plumbing) and son Jonathan Camacho (helper all crafts) mobilized the week of 02Feb and we began.  First we installed a temporary kitchen in the downstairs family room, reusing some kitchen cabinets.  We even relocated the dishwasher which made life a little easier for Karen (during the 1997  kitchen remodel in our Oakland house we (Karen) did dishes in the bathtub).  Karen and I worked all week cleaning out the kitchen and our bedroom, setting ourselves up in Grant’s old bedroom for the remodel duration.  09Feb we pulled the sink and dishwasher and set them up downstairs – the official kitchen “out-of-service” milestone.  The remodel clock is now ticking.

Realizing that I had another 4 full weeks before returning to Kazakhstan I decided to push the schedule and get all the framing complete (which is needed to measure for cabinet fabrication) plus all rough inspections signed off before I went back on 10Mar for my next rotation.  Since the structural / framing work was Lump Sum, and the electrical and plumbing work was Time and Material, I worked these two crafts simultaneously with the framers, probably cutting about two weeks out of the schedule (but we did have some minor rework).    The final cabinet measurement was performed on 04Mar, I signed off on the cabinet fabrication drawings on 06Mar, and the final rough inspection visit was completed on 09Mar.  Christensen Brothers Construction exceeded my expectations completing all their work in six weeks. Some memories of this first phase of the remodel:

  • Our new beam design utilized two massive glue-lamb members that are “sistered” together, and sit on two large posts just inside the exterior walls.  It was a challenging installation as it took 8 guys to carry the beams into the house, through the recently removed kitchen sink window, and then two manual lifts to move them into the ceiling after the ceiling joists were cut.  I was in my office during installation when a loud boom occurred, shaking the whole house.  I quickly raced down the stairs to the kitchen to see the framing crew standing there.  I said “Did you just make that noise?”  “Yes.”  “Was anyone hurt?”  “No.”  What happened?”  “One of the lifts failed while lifting the beams.”  These guys were professionals, they had installed cross members between the two temporary walls in case a lift failed, it would only drop the sistered beam a couple feet.  So it was just a loud building shake, thankfully.
  • The demolition of the main bathroom took a week, something that we originally thought would take 2 – 3 days.  This was due to the massive amount of tile including the sunken bathtub.  Once we got the demolition done we discovered extensive dry rot, water damage and a small amount of termite damage (we were expecting some water damage but it was more severe than anticipated).  We decided to remove the small roof just outside the bathroom so we could get to the siding where this damage was located and make sure everything was repaired.  Ramon and I knocked this out in half a day, which allowed the framing crew to replace siding and framing.  We had the right people in place to make a quality repair.
  • Ordered and received all the lighting fixtures – found a competitive internet store online (CansandFans.com) that had a great salesperson (Ryan) who helped me order and get it all shipped in a couple days.
  • One of the key reasons we were able to meet this aggressive schedule is my friend Tony Lozoya came over two weekends in a row to sort out all the electrical circuits and run the wiring to the appliances, lighting, etc.  Some of the circuit demo was done before I got home (or not paying attention when I was home) as we needed to move wiring / plumbing under the house to allow the new civil/structural work to progress.  Ramon cut several wires which we had to trace hand-over-hand back to the sub-panel to make sure it all went back together as planned.   Making the effort more difficult was the fact that circuit assignments changed significantly between the old and new kitchen, plus the existing sub-panel schedule was not current.  Anyway, Tony was key in helping us figure it all out and make it work.
  • Christensen Brothers installed the new window in the Kitchen and two new windows in the Bathroom during this period.  I had worked with the GC and Architect on my previous rotation in Kazakhstan to get them on order and they arrived in time so the framers did not have to remobilize (and I did not have gaping holes to deal with in the middle of winter (though it is mild here in CA)).
  • Tile design was approved, tile installer was selected, and tile quanties were finalized for the master bathroom and kitchen backsplash.
  • Comcast came out and ran a new internet cable to the kitchen desk area, allowing us to cut over to the new line once the kitchen cabinets are installed.
  • Before I departed Precision Cabinets did us a big favor by agreeing to shorten the cabinet fabrication time from six to five weeks by juggling other customer jobs, keeping us on schedule.

Early March / Early April Work Rotation

Ramon was left with a worklist when I departed on 10Mar.  I typically called every couple days to check with Ramon how things were moving plus talked with Karen every day.  No major issues arose while I was gone – Ramon kept things moving.  The goal for this period was to be ready for cabinet installation the Monday after I returned.

During my rotation in Kazakhstan Ramon managed to oversee completion of the following: cleaned the ceilings in the dining room and bedroom to remove rodent droppings; replaced / reinstalled the insulation; sheetrocked the kitchen and master bath; repaired the exterior siding where the windows were installed: reinstalled the roof outside the bathroom; worked on plumbing and electrical punchlist items, and obtained county sign-off of Sheer Wall Nailing, Framing, Framing Insulation, Ceiling Insulation, Rough Mechanical and Drywall.  We also ordered remaining tile and electrical materials, and arranged for the Tile Installer to begin.

Early April / Early May 2015 Home Rotation

I arrived home on 09Apr – Ramon had completed all priority punchlist items to be ready for cabinets.  Mark Andreson, Tile Installer, had also mobilized and prepared the master bath shower for inspection.  Karen had scheduled the County inspection and the day after I returned we obtained sign-off of Wet Wall and Shower Pan Leak Test in the bathroom, plus Gas Test of the new natural gas line to the stove.  As we had just a short gas line run the County Inspector allowed just a bubble test.  We now had all inspections complete except for Final.  Excellent – all that was planned while I was gone was complete.

The goal for this rotation home was cabinet installation, kitchen counter top installation, master bathroom tile installation and ktichen wood floor installation – four different sub-contractors to work in the same 3 week period.  If interested please see long reviews for each of these four sub-contractors, plus Christensen Brothers Construction, in individual posts; short reviews have been posted to Yelp.  Here is what happened this rotation home.

Precision Cabinets On Saturday 11Apr a crew of 6 arrived – was a bit challenging to get their 24 foot box truck up the hill but they managed.  In a couple hours they staged the kitchen cabinets in the den and the bathroom cabinets in the master bedroom, lifting them up through the outside deck. On Monday 13Apr a crew of five arrived.  They set up work space on the deck and split up the cabinet installation into three simultaneous work fronts: one person in the bathroom, two guys working the main kitchen cabinets and two guys working the desk.  We resolved a couple of issues:

  • Microwave outlet was inadvertently sheetrocked over; found this just before the cabinet was about to be installed.  Checking construction photos we quickly found the outlet, exposed it, and then had to relocate to the other side of the stud.  Ramon handled the fix, only held up the microwave drawer cabinet install about 30 minutes.
  • Desk did not fit as planned even though the dimensions had not changed from final cabinet measure.  Precision had to cut some of the raised floor and the sheetrock at the kitchen table area post to make it fit – these modificatins will not be noticible.
  • Gas line to new range was too low, was located at the base of the cabinet (per code there needs to be an accessible first valve before it transitions to the flexible tubing that routes to the gas range).  Also realized the cabinet we had it going into was a drawer, not a door as I thought.  We decided to relocate the gas line 180 degrees and have the first valve in the pantry.  Ramon handled this as well, holding up the lower cabinet to the right of the range about 30 minutes.

Precision met all their commitments for this initial install – our good fortunate with schedule continued – we are now in week 10 and the cabinets are installed – right on track.

Quality Tile Mark Andresen mobilized in early April, and started work in earnest with two helpers on 13Apr (same day as the cabinet installation).  All tile materials had arrived except the 3 x 6 field tile in the shower.  This tile had been held up in Customs (demonstrates we have the same problems in USA and Kazakhstan trying to get materials for a job ) and ultimately was delivered on 14Apr.  Mark was in and out my entire rotation home, primarily working on the bathroom.  He is a one-man company (with helpers) and so sometimes pulls off the job to work for another customer.  He worked long hours and weekends as needed to keep is on track – he paid attention to the overall status of our remodel and made sure his work did not hold anyone else up.

Victor Medina Granite We had lined up our Stone Counter Installer, Victor Medina, in late January – after we had selected the granite we wanted for the kitchen.  Later we selected the quartz for the master bathroom and kitchen desk, all material selection was made well in advance.  We had confirmed with Victor in early March that we would be ready for him to perform counter measurements on Wednesday 15Apr – at this point I believed the counter installation would be complete before I returned to Kazakhstan as Victor advised it would take 1-1/2 to 2 weeks from measurement to installation. Victor did get the bathroom vanity counter installed on 04May, the day before I departed, but did not finish the kitchen counters, including desk, until the week of 18May.  Partial explanation is we decided we preferred honed granite counters vs. the polished granite slabs we purchased (an extra step in fabrication for Victor).  I believe the primary reason for the delay was Victor was juggling customers and he was not dedicated to our job staring 15Apr as we had hoped.  We are very pleased with the installation of the counters as the quality if very high but we lost 2+ weeks on schedule and communication regarding installation timing was very poor with Victor – it was difficult to get him to commit to a date (believed due to juggling other customers).

Floorscapes We received a couple of wood floor installation bids before I let in early Feb, and I advised Jeff Burlison of Floorscapes that we selected his firm to perform the work in late March.  Jeff visited the house on 12Apr to make sure all was in order, and delivered the flooring material on 14Apr.  He assigned Mike to perform the installation – kitchen wood flooring was completed 27 April.  The nice touch was Floorscapes removed some floor planks in the Dining Room and installed new planks across the Dining Room / Kitchen threshold, tieing the two rooms together (another room flow trick).  Wood floor was also installed in the pantry and under the spiral staircase; both required more cutouts than a typical room. The quality of the installation was excellent.

Carpentry/Electrical/Plumbing While the four sub-contractors were working Ramon and I with help of Aristeo made steady progress on carpentry (installed the pantry barn door), plumbing (relocated a water heater) and electrical (installed lighting trims and worked on undercabinet lighting). This rotation home we made steady progress but not as much as I hoped – the delay in counter installation delayed installation of upper cabinets, etc.

May Work Rotation

Of course I left Ramon with an updated work list as well as provided Karen a sequence of sub-contractor work that would occur while I was away.  The work planned while I was away included:

  1. Kitchen / Den / Dining Room
    1. Install Granite Counters including Main Counter, Island and Desk (Victor Medina)
    2. Install Upper Cabinets at Main Counter and Desk (Precision Cabinets)
    3. Install Tile Backsplash (Quality Tile)
    4. Install Range Vent Hood duct cover (Ramon)
    5. Complete Finish Carpentry – trim kitchen window and dining room / kitchen doorway (Ramon)
    6. Refinish Hardwood Flooring in Kitchen and Den
  2. Master Bathroom / Master Bedroom
    1. Complete tile installation (Quality Tile)
    2. Install Shower Door (Diablo Glass)
    3. Install Bathroom Doors (purchased from Truitt & White) (Ramon)
    4. Trim Bathroom Doors and Windows (Ramon)
  3. Paint all rooms (Ramon and Ascension)

This rotation at work I called home almost every day, speaking both with Karen and Ramon as lots of work and lots of coordination occurred each day.  Katie Price stopped by a couple times  to see how things were progressing and so did my family, Joanne and Steve Claas.

Karen decided to hire a Interior Designer to help with paint selection – money well spent.  We did change our mind on the paint colors; believe we painted almost every surface at least twice.  But the end product looked great.  I returned home on 04Jun with the goal of completing the remodel before I went back to Kazakhstan.

June Home Rotation

The wood flooring in the kitchen and den were refinished the day before I returned; now we could move into finish mode.  Here is the summary of my punchlist I prepared the day after I got home:

  • Install Refrigerator, Range and Dishwasher
  • Finish Electrical (outlets, switches, etc)
  • Finish Carpentry (install baseboards, trim out pantry shelves, etc)
  • Complete cabinet trim now that wood flooring is complete
  • Install cabinet knobs and pulls
  • Reface Den Fireplace
  • Obtain Country Final Permit signoff
  • Clean
  • Move Back In
  • Hold Remodel Celebration

All the above was completed before I returned to Kazakhstan on 30Jun; the country final permit was signed off on 25Jun, we began moving back into the into the Kitchen and Master Bedroom / Bath the next day, and held a Remodel Celebration on 28Jun, attended by our family, neighbors, Ramon, Aristeo, and Jonathan Camacho, Katie Price, Jessie and Josh Christensen, Tony Lozoya, and JP Trevisano AND their families.

It was a steady push this home rotation, but the day I arrived home I knew we would finish before I went back.  We even had a family dinner in the new kitchen with all four kids on the Monday before I returned – it was nice to share a meal in the new kitchen.

Here are links to my Flickr account that has photo albums associated with our 2015 Remodel.

New Kitchen Photos

New Bathroom Photos

Before Remodel Photos

In Progress Remodel Photos

Remodel Celebration Photos