Day 50 – Celebrating 50 Great Days of Unemployment!

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 18, 2014

ID-10086740Day 50! Wow, what a milestone. I just never thought we would make it this far. I’d like to thank the job that let me go, and all of you who said “Brock, I believe in you! You can do this. You can be unemployed for 50 days straight!” You were right. There were times I didn’t believe, but… you were right.

What I hear from people who have been through this is that a months-long wait for employment is not unusual. It’s not just about finding the right position, it’s also about wading through the interview and hiring processes, which can be stressful and lenghty. Funny thing: most companies aren’t in as much of a hurry as I am. Go figure.

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Today was a Saturday and Saturdays are always a bit easier to take than other days. This is a day I wouldn’t have been working anyway, so I skip through it essentially guilt-free.

Yes, there is a bit of guilt associated with all this. Not because of anything I did wrong or any job performance issues I might have had to lose my job in the first place (nothing I did was the cause of the loss), but because I’m just supposed to be working. I feel bad for not working, period. It’s not a rational thing because it’s not like I’m living like this by choice, but at least I have Saturdays when I know I wouldn’t have been working anyway. It’s a small relief to engage with life without looking at the calendar and thinking about where I would be otherwise.

I used my blessed Saturday for a mishmash of things. I took Cami to go ride her horse out the Heart of the Horst Therapy Ranch, moved the treadmill out of our bedroom to make room for a desk so I can stop writing and drawing and working at the kitchen table, and I did a bit of pro bono design for the upcoming McKinley Ward Halloween Party. Always feels good to do stuff like that, even if it takes me away from my own stuff for a few hours. The sacrifice, actually, is what makes it worth it.

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Today I posted Day 42 – What Happens When You’re Unemployed and Working Too Hard. Eight days ago I was having a pretty tough time balancing home life and the other projects and freelance work I’ve got going on while I wait out this storm. It’s encouraging to look back and that blog and realize that I’m doing much better with all that now. I’m spending less time on the computer and paying better attention to my family.

The consequence? As I feared, I’m falling behind. This blog is getting tougher to turn out and other projects aren’t as far along as I’d like. But it’s probably a fair trade off.

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TWO SHORT STORIES FROM TODAY:

Erin told me this morning she applied to a job for me here in Fresno that could be great for me. This is encouraging because I can almost never find anything in my field here in town. I looked at it and it has a crazy amount of qualifications and requirements. I don’t know anyone who can do all that and knows all of those programs.

She reassured me it’s just a wishlist. After all, she only got half of what she wanted in a husband.

Awesome.

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Violet (age 3), who had been watching Return of the Jedi this afternoon, ran up to Erin with the most broken-hearted little look on her face and choked out the following:

“MOMMY! Darth Vader… is Luke’s father. IT’S JUST SO SAD!”

shawscene

I agree, Violet. It’s a real tearjerker.

Day 44 – Faith/Religion in the Blog: Sprinkle or Shower?

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 11, 2014

powerI was on deck as the Stay-at-Home Dad today, a role I fill with complete and total adequacy. It wasn’t quite supposed to work out this way, but Erin had a lot of places to be and I trust they weren’t all “day spa.” I’m actually quite happy to be the parent on deck. I think the (quite excellent) job Erin has done raising our kids at home over the past 12 years is maybe the hardest job a person can do. It’s child-rearing, it’s cooking, it’s cleaning, it’s taxiing, it’s giving comfort and aid, it’s educating, it’s disciplining–it’s all of that, 24/7. No real breaks or vacations. I think I could do a more than adequate job if I had to, minus the cooking part. It probably helps that she loosened the lid a bit and our household already runs like a well-oiled machine.

Since it was Saturday, I started the day by taking Cami out to the Heart of the Horse Horse Therapy Ranch for her half hour ride. Once again, she had a hard time letting go. She let everyone know, forcibly, that she wanted a couple more laps before she was willing to be her usual, agreeable self and get down. Seeing her assert herself like that and make her wishes known is a new thing. I like it.

The rest of the day was spent in the house with the kids, sneaking in an occasional bit of writing here and there. At 4pm I had a church priesthood meeting at the Stake Center.

I’m going to try to unpack this as best I can:

Mormons attend church according to geographically designated “wards.” Everyone who lives within certain boundaries attends church at the same time, in the same building. A Bishop and his two counselors run the ward according to the direction they receive from the Stake President, who leads the stake. A “stake”* is made up of about 6-10 wards. The Stake President gets his direction from the Area Authority who leads many Stakes. You can can follow this on up the chain to the President and Prophet of the Church himself, Thomas S. Monson.

*Why “ward” and “stake?” I don’t know. We’re not crazy people and we’re not building tents or killing vampires at our churches, so the designations only seem right to me by virtue of the face I’ve been using them all my life.

But let’s stick to the local level.

So, this afternoon was a meeting at the Stake Center–the chief meetinghouse where the Stake President has his office–of all the priesthood brethren in the Fresno East Stake. In the Mormon church, boys and men 12 years of age and above hold the priesthood. This means I ill-advisedly number among them, but I’m glad for it on several levels–not the least of which is the brotherhood we all enjoy.*

*Right now, admittedly, my interaction with everyone is a bit different than usual. Those at the meeting who met my eyes all asked the same question: how’s the job hunt going? I’ve lost a bit of my identity in that way. I may as well wear a badge that says “Hello, My Name Is Unemployed.” It’s okay, though. I understand how it is. It’s always nice to know what to ask a person to create an instant conversation. Makes things easier. 

To get further away from the point of this blog and back to the topic at hand, I’m giving all of this background info so you can begin to understand the frame of mind everyone was in today as we went into the meeting. You see, there is a rumor there are big things about to go down.

The rumor is this: that all the ward boundaries are about to be redrawn. While there have been slight adjustments from time-to-time, if this rumor pans out, it’ll be the biggest change in over 25 years.

It’s a necessary change because of the shifts in population growth over time. For example, my current ward, the Fresno 7th Ward, was one of the smallest wards–if not the smallest–in the Fresno East Stake when we moved in 10 years ago. Now, it’s far and away the biggest. We’ve got people sitting in the choir section and on the floors in the foyer because we’re just too big to handle right now.

If the change does happen, it’s going to quite difficult for many people. Our closest associations happen at and through church. Friendships will be tested as people will be moved to different buildings and simply not able to be in as much contact with each other as before. I remember when this happened to a friend a friend and I between 6th and 7th grade. Our ward split and he went one way and I went the other. He got new friends and I didn’t see him as much. I hated it.

This time around, I’m looking forward to it. It didn’t happen in today’s meeting, nor in the second, general adult meeting in the evening, but I don’t think anyone really thought it would.

Still, there’s a sense of finality in the air. Tomorrow, we have another special meeting. We’ll see what happens.

* * *

I didn’t go to the second meeting because I took my turn with the kids again so Erin could go. To her surprise, a friend of ours, Jennifer Ward, was one of the featured speakers and she made lengthy reference to this very blog. She even quoted a fair bit of it. I gave permission for this to happen, but didn’t think to ask during which meeting it might occur. And I didn’t tell Erin about it. She was somewhat… shocked to find that suddenly the hundreds of people in the chapel with her were learning all about her unemployed state. I was super bummed I missed it.

Jennifer’s purpose was to hold this blog up as a positive example of how to share faith online without being preachy or hitting someone over the head with it.

I hope that’s what I do, if that’s what I’m doing at all. My faith is not my focus here, but my faith is a big part of who I am so naturally it’s appropriate at times to share that perspective and insight. Sometimes it’s a sprinkle, sometimes a shower.

To be honest, I’ve never been particularly interested in preaching to the choir in my writing. It’s a far more interesting challenge to try to reach outside of my world to reach others. It’s just more exciting to me.

You all are better judges than I am. This particular entry was obviously a little heavy on the Mormon of it all, but I don’t think I go to this well too often.

Do any of you read other blogs by people of faith? Does it bug you when they don’t shy away from that, or do you appreciate it for what it is?

Day 37 – Horse Therapy and The Glorious Boring

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 4, 2014

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Today, Cami rode a horse. She does this every Saturday morning, at the Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch just outside of town. At the Ranch, they work with kids and adults with special needs, performing miracles on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is or why it happens, but there’s something about some horses that is magical* that brings out new things in people with difficulty.

*Besides unicorns, obviously. 

The first time Cami went to Heart of the Horse, she did something Erin and I had never seen before: she sat up still and straight. Cam is a fidgeter and to see her in total control and perfectly balanced moved Erin to some very real tears. We’ve been going every week ever since, for the past year and a half. Each time, without fail, a melt-your-heart grin washes over Cami’s face as soon as the horse starts moving. It’s incredible. It’s this whole other side to her we don’t see any other way.

The new thing Cami did this morning was push everybody away when they tried to take her down off her usual horse, Bandit. We already knew she loves to ride, but she’s never asserted herself like that before. We love it when Cami fights like that. Usually, she’s so agreeable and, because she’s nonverbal, it’s hard to tell what she wants. Not today.

This is a short video I edited, and shot with my friends Austin and Jesse. We did this as gift to the Ranch to help them with their first fundraiser (Cami is in it quite a bit):

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For Mormons, today was huge. Twice a year we gather at church buildings and around TVs and computers to hear the words of Apostles and the Prophet to know God’s will for his children today, in real time. It’s a stone tablets down from the mountain kind of thing, but via the internet. It’s a real time of spiritual refreshment and uplift.

It’s also terribly, at times, truly boring. The Conference lasts two days and plays out over five 2-hour sessions of, mostly, old men talking heads. If you’ve ever thought about becoming Mormon, I probably just ruined it right there. Also, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir tears the roof off throughout the sessions. This is all great if Errol Morris docs and organ-inflected hymns are your thing, but it can be a bit of a challenge it sit through if you prefer your visuals lean towards the Steven Spielberg end of the spectrum and your songs accompanied by more than one instrument.

So why watch this thing? Well, why I admit Conference is boring, that doesn’t mean I’m bored watching it. It engages me and others who watch it on a level beyond its entertainment value. I think entertainment is important, but the actual benefit entertainment provides is, essentially, escapism. Conference, and other religious services (when done properly), nourish and comfort, and that’s far more important. I approach Conference with a spiritual hunger. I don’t need to be entertained. What’s more, to be honest, I don’t even want to be entertained during what is supposed to be a direct download of truth and perspective. I think there’s a certain amount of artifice that goes along with entertainment–a manipulation–and if you lean too heavily on those tricks you risk compromising the message. I don’t want to be “sold” an idea with bells and whistles and jazz hands, I want truth presented to me, plainly, that I may see it accurately and can decide for myself without manipulation whether or not it is right.

THAT’S Conference in spades. That’s church. It’s boring, but it’s engaging. If you’re watching, really watching it to discover and participate–if you’re having that internal dialogue within yourself about how what you’re hearing applies to you and seeking to know God’s will for you from what you hear–you can’t help but be swept up in it just as much as you would the latest blockbuster.

And it’s boring. It’s dead boring and all the more glorious for it.

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The preceding had nothing to do with unemployment, as was my day. I don’t know if I should be worried about that or relieved that I’m not obsessing over our predicament quite as much.