Days 51 and 52 – Leading at Church and Guiding in the Mall

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.

Sunday & Monday – October 19-20, 2014

On Sunday I performed my first acts as President of the Elders Quorum in the new McKinley Ward. I attended a ward leadership meeting in AM, and then during church I called someone to a position within the Quorum. I’ve never done that before. I’ve been on the other side of the experience dozens of times, but I’ve never sat with someone, said a prayer with them, asked them to serve, and then told them what I expected from them.

Actually, we didn’t sit down at all. I don’t know our new church building well enough to know where we can go for privacy, so I opened the first door I saw and we ended up standing together in the janitor’s closet among the mops and brooms. Now I know where to change into my super suit to fight giant robots.

We held our first Quorum meeting during the third hour. I had expected maybe 8 guys to fill the chairs, but we had twice as many show up, all looking to me to for what to do for an hour.

I’ve lead people before, but this is on a different level. We deal in the things of the eternities and salvation at church, so the only way to do a job like this is to have wisdom that reaches beyond mine. This is a spiritual job, and I am very much a temporal being. I have great faults. I stumble. I fall. The only difference between me and the other 17 men in the meeting today is that I was called to preside at this time, however long that turns out to be. No doubt some of them are thinking, “Please find a job in Albuquerque. Soon.”

* * *

Today, I got connected a little more to my baby girl. Violet is at the phase where she’s constantly pushing me aside in favor of her mom. She might just hate me a little. “No, not YOU!” is something I hear a lot. She’s three.

32b35788-c83d-4a6e-bb9e-eb0cfc921bc4

We went to the mall together to exchange a belt at Macy’s, but that only took about ten minutes. For the rest of the three hours, I let her tell Violet be the guide. We went to the Disney Store and she explored every princess item they had on display, but she also got very excited when an ad for Star Wars came up on the big screen in the center of the store. If we’re going to have a geek girl, she’ll be the one.

She was fascinated by the fountain in the middle of the mall, and I had to explain to her why I couldn’t fish out the money to pay for the candy she wanted from the nearby dispenser. I also had to explain why my pockets cannot spontaneously produce quarters. We went up the escalator in JC Penney and back down again, per her request.

We ate at the Food Court, went back for another trip up and down the escalator, and dove back in for another round at the Disney Store. She insisted the singing Anna and Elsa dolls be next to each other so they could harmonize, never mind they were singing two different songs.

We capped off the afternoon with a double shot of Orange Julius. As we stood in line, Violet spotted more fountains outside. She asked if we could sit out there and drink. I told her we could and she screamed “Hooray”, jumped up and down, and hugged me.

I really needed this time with Violet. Not gonna lie, as heart melts go, mine turned to a puddle more than once.

I will allow that all this dad stuff is probably pretty boring, but this was one of the sweetest experiences I’ve had since starting this whole unemployment mess and I’m telling you about it, dang it. This was special. It deserves to be recorded.

And yet… there were odd moments of disconnect throughout the afternoon. At times, I felt like a passenger on the trip, not the one driving the boat. I didn’t smile as much as I wanted and lacked an energy you’d think would go along with making your daughter happy over and over again. Even now, as I’m writing this, I feel not totally plugged in.

It might be because I’m posting and rewriting this blog today, October 31st. Eleven days from the mall and Violet and fountains with money we can’t take for ourselves, things are tougher. The constant striving and disappointments are wearing on me. I’m not completely hopeless. I’m just having a harder time seeing the light.

But we’ll get to that.

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?