Recently, Russell M. Nelson, the Prophet and President of the church I belong to, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, issued a challenge to the world to spend the next week giving thanks each and every day, and post our expressions of gratitude on Social Media.
Millions of people took up the challenge. What happened was a week of almost total positivity on social media feeds and it was an incredible (and needed) change of pace.
Here, then, are my contributions:
Friday, Nov. 20
Stepping up to the challenge to #givethanks this week. I am eternally grateful for my wife who, in every other, more likely alternate universe probably ended up with someone else. I don’t think there was any ball during our pre-marriage gamesmanship I did not fumble. How she saw through my bad plays to the devastatingly handsome and athletic husband I mostly became, I’ll never know. But it fills me with gratitude. (Also, she has the best smile in the world. I should take lessons.)
Saturday, Nov. 21
Today, I #givethanks for the girls who turned my world upside down in the best possible way by making sure the second half of the life I’ve lived so far is the extended gender studies lesson I probably needed. I would do anything for them.
Sunday, Nov. 22
Say what you want about a pandemic, but DO NOT knock week-in-and-week-out church attendance in pajamas. Grateful for my Creator. Grateful for billowy pants that feel like they’re barely there. #givethanks
Monday, Nov. 23
Today, I #givethanks for hair. Not because I have any, but because I once did and I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time. Hair really is the whipped topping on the marvelous sundae that is our bodies. Or maybe the cherry. Or the nuts. The point is: my sundae stops at the ice cream now and I’m grateful for the time when I got to have toppings.
Tuesday, Nov. 24
I have to #givethanks for creativity. I went from wanting to be a banker or a lawyer as a kid, to creating comics, writing books, and making movies as an adult. I don’t know why I always seem to walk the wrong path first, but the brush clears away eventually and I am happy to take off running.
No matter how brilliant the light—the fortune, the love, the joy, the strength, the blessing, the peace—we can never truly comprehend or appreciate it without the dark—the poverty, the hate, the sadness, the temptation, the trial, the conflict. One without the other is meaningless, so I #givethanks for both.
Thursday, Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving)
Finally, I #givethanks for faith and science. For that which can give us confidence we will see an end to this pandemic, and for that which tells us how.
I #givethanks for the many inspired women and men who are working tirelessly to heal and to prevent. My hope is that they are properly supported and that the rest of are making the small sacrifices necessary–masking up, social distancing, taking time away from family and friends (especially during the holidays), and prayer coupled with fasting–to stem the tide of this thing and be rid of it once and for all.
There are spiritual laws and there are natural laws, and He is the master of them both. I am so, so grateful for that understanding and the peace that comes with it.
I gotta say, I super enjoyed doing this. I make it a point to be grateful every day, but thinking harder about it and all putting these things out there like this gave them even greater resonance and importance. My contention is that even in the most dire of circumstances we have much to be grateful for, and if we can focus on those things, we might not find our burdens changed, but they will be lifted.
How much does an unfinished story suck? I know I hate it. I didn’t intend to leave everyone hanging for so long, but as the responsibilities started piling up–most especially as I finished Worlds Apart in an effort to get it off to my agent–it got easier and easier to not blog. Sure, I jotted down blog notes every couple days and saved them as drafts, but you don’t want to read notes. Notes are boring. Notes are incomplete. Notes lack flavor. Pizazz.
Those notes were supposed to be used to resume the story of our double unemployment from where I left off, and then I was just going to continue it forward with blog after blog after blog.
I’m not going to do that.
What I am going to do instead is fill you in on everything that’s happened since I stopped updating in one go, right here. But first, let’s talk about why I stopped updating in the first place.
The truth is, the constant pressure of chronicling our double unemployment journey every day was not an issue in the beginning when everything was new and different, but as time wore on it all got to be repetitive and I had to drag the blogs out of me kicking and screaming. And biting. Some blogs bit hard because they were wild and not house trained and peed on me.
The point is, unemployment is not exciting. (Who knew?) It’s deadly boring and sad. It’s just sad. I can’t even make a joke about it without making people feel uncomfortable and sorry for us. And if I can’t joke, am I really even alive? Do I even feel? Do I breathe? Do I exist?
Well, let me tell you, according the employers of the world, no, I do not exist.
See? Not funny.
Let’s do this. Let’s break out the bullet points (because everyone loves bullet points, right?) and run down everything that’s happened since October 31st, 2014 (holy crud) in one go. Ready? Read:
• I went on two different dates with two different women in one day. In the afternon, I ate seafood with my daughter Cami, and in the evening I went to dinner and a movie (St. Vincent with Bill Murray–great movie!) with Erin.
• Erin got bold and contacted an acquaintance who is also a Pharmaceutical Rep about how to break into his industry. He is now mentoring her because the blessings are kind of nonstop like that.
• While watching the Marvel 75th Anniversary television special on ABC, I noticed a piece of art created by my SuperFogeys cohort Marc Lapierre was featured prominently and by mistake. I contacted the comics media and the story soon went viral, resulting in Marc actually getting compensated for his work! It was awesome. You can read the whole story here.
• Cami started SCREECHING whenever she feels joy. The screeching makes me feel anger, so, one day, I yelled at her. I am a horrible person.
• I FINALLY heard back about the job in San Francisco. They decided to halt the hiring process. That was a tough day.
• Erin explored selling life insurance. Decided definitively that it was not for her because you actually have to pay money to start. There’s some legal rigamarole that explains why that is, but I’ll skip to the conclusion: it’s stupid.
• Saw Big Hero 6 with the family. Cami made it through 60 seconds before melting down. She and I spent the rest of the movie in the lobby. Movie theaters used to be one of her favorite places so this was tragic on a level I can’t even explain.
• I got a real solid lead on a job with a local school district. I applied, they decided a month later that I, as someone who does not have classroom experience, am not qualified for a job that does not require me to teach in a classroom. (Can you hearthe heavy sigh?)
• Cami got whooping cough despite having been vaccinated against it. Then she got pneumonia. Her body is getting weaker and her doctor advised us to keep her away from kids who have not been vaccinated whenever possible. This is almost entirely impossible. I’m so glad people love polio so much.
• After reaching a peak place where the stress of unemployment was wearing on us to the point that Erin and I were arguing and angry at each other every day, we fell off that cliff and arrived a sort of serene, peaceful place together. Stress gets to us like it does everyone else, but if I could identify one of the true strengths of our marriage it’s that we always, always, always pull together when it counts. Also, it helps when I finally clean the fan blades and bring her flowers.
• Wrote a blog entitled “Perfect Attendance Awards are an Abomination” and never published it.
• Suffered from insomnia. A lot.
• Finished Worlds Apart and gave it to Erin to read. She had many notes, which is fair since she’s a main character. Made many revisions.
• Batman, one of our two dogs, snuck into Cami’s room during her whooping cough fits and insisted on sleeping next to her for several nights until she was through the worst of it.
• Erin got a call to come interview with another local company and it went EXTREMELY well. Almost two months later and they still haven’t hired for the position, but we still hold out hope.
• I spent Thanksgiving sick out of my mind, away from family, and watching special features on a Hobbit Blu-ray all day long. (I’m entering the preceding sentence in a “Saddest Story Ever” contest.)
• (No, I’m not.)
• The group I’m in charge of at church put on a very successful Turkey Bowl activity at which I played football for the first time in 15 years. I was… not very good.
• Erin and I attended a combo Hmong/Protestant wedding. Besides how lovely the couple and the ceremony were, the MC, who also acted as translator for the evening, was the best. Actual quote: “Now we will have the speech from the Best Man. It is called the Best Man Speech.”
• Erin got sick. A lot.
• Broke a handle on my car.
• Left the garage door open one night by accident. Thieves stole our GPS, a scooter, and all of the personal items I packed up on my last day at the job (including hundreds of dollars worth of comics).
• Wrote a blog entitled “Dear Future Employer” to address the people who say this blog is a bad idea. Posted it for 60 seconds before getting a sick feeling in my stomach and pulling it down. Not sure why. The one person who managed to read it was very complimentary.
• I was drafted to create a slideshow video of photos and home movies from families at church for the Ward Christmas Party. I did, I think, a pretty decent job on it.
• The additional time spent at home means I have grown immeasurably closer to our youngest, Violet. That may be worth all the unemployment trouble by itself. For example, one morning we just took her to the zoo. Because we could.
• Erin and Elora presented together at EPU, a local group that helps families with young children with special needs. Elora, 12, who talked about her experiences as Cami’s sister, is the youngest person to ever present for EPU (she presented when she was 10).
• Erin and I both had occasional, what-the-crud-has-happened-to-our-lives freakouts.
• Tremendum Pictures, a locally based film and video production company with a movie, The Gallows, coming out this summer from New Line Cinema, asked to meet with me. They are looking to grow and want me to come on board. They’re small right now, but… yes, please. Not a job, per se, but lots of potential. Going full steam ahead with them for as long as I can. Doesn’t solve all our problems, but it’s promising.
• Erin and I went up to the Portland/Vancouver area to visit my brothers, McKay and Tyler, and their wives, McKenna and Karen. It was wonderful to get away from the stress and worry and complication of our normal lives for a little while.
• McKay and McKenna asked me to read them chapters of Worlds Apart out loud. I happily obliged. The instant gratification of their laughter and guffaws was exhilarating. I get why stage actors do it.
• I spent an afternoon at Powell’s Books in Portland just writing on my laptop. I now have my very own Hipster badge.
• While were were in Vancouver/Portland, every single one of our leads for paying jobs dried up. Four months in, we went back to square one.
• Our oldest, Elora, got her braces off. Suddenly, she’s ten years older.
• Just before Christmas, we were blessed by kind people and their giving hearts.
• Missed the Family Christmas Eve Party because some of the kids attending were not vaccinated. I was bummed, but having Cami has always required sacrifices. We make them gladly.
• Found out a close friend also lost his job. Great, now we’re contagious.
• Erin’s parents took us all to Disneyland, an annual tradition ever since a trip we took years ago during which Cami came alive in a whole new way. The past couple of years have been rough for Cami as she’s developed an aversion to large crowds and dark places, but we stumbled on a solution when we gave her a toy to fidget with and she found her happy place. I had a much more difficult time enjoying myself. Couldn’t help walking around the park and feeling like an outsider as I considered the employed state of everyone around me.
• Post Christmas, peace reigned. A disturbing amount of peace. Peace, despite still-present moments of freaking out, became our overriding state of being.
• Sent Worlds Apart out to beta readers, along with a link to an online survey to facilitate their feedback. This was the right move. Most of the 10 readers read it within 24 hours of starting it. It’s a heartwarming, romantic comedy page-turner with lots of tension and suspense, which is awesome.
• Took Cami to see Annie in the movie theater, risking another meltdown. This time, I took the fidget toy we bought in Disneyland and that did the trick. Cami friggin’ loved the music.
• Rang in the New Year up in Bass Lake with friends and board games, just like last year. We would happily continue this tradition for years to come. This year has to be better than last, right?
• Met with a client with Tremendum for the first time to formulate ideas for a marketing video. I’m going to have a blast with these guys. If I can turn this into my job then everything that’s happened will suddenly make a whole lot of sense to me.
• Cami’s body might be betraying her. A bone density scan shows that her bones are soft and, fearing that her body’s small size might mean bad things internally, we went up to San Francisco to meet with her neurologist. She allayed our fears for the most part (the size of her organs compared to her frame–the biggest potential problem–is really only an issue if she isn’t mobile), but we still need to meet with endocrinologists to determine what’s really going on. This is our constant roller coaster with Cami. There’s no real diagnosis for her issues and we have no real idea of how long we can expect her to be with us. So we enjoy what we can, which this time included walking through Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 with her and watching the sea lions.
• Sent Worlds Apart to my agent. She burned through it quickly, just like the beta readers, and loved it. Now we’ve gotta find the right publisher. It’s an unusual book that doesn’t end in the way I think most readers will expect. Is that a good thing? Bad thing? We’ll see.
• Erin figured out that, above all, this is a trial of patience. I can’t disagree with that.
Annnnnnd you’re all caught up. This info dump brought to you by: my guilt. Now that I’ve done away with all those blogs I didn’t write, I’m free to do things a bit differently.
No more “Day This” and “Day That.” That’s done. The unemployment continues, but I think from this point forward I’ll be a much better blogger if I just write about what’s happening, not when it’s happening. Topics and events, not days. It will free me up quite a bit and hopefully prove more interesting for all of you. How does that sound?
Thanks for sticking with me this long. Always nice to know people are out there who care. Let’s see how this all ends together.