Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pondering my potential comeback...or lack thereof

I apologize for my absence. Just in case you noticed I’ve been absent.

I’ve been turning over some heavy subjects, not the least of which concerns whether I will have to return to work sooner than planned. (And pretty much anytime is sooner than planned, since I had cherished the hope that I’d simply be adored and supported comfortably by my patrons for the rest of my life. Don’t laugh; you know you hope for that, too.)

Now, please don’t misread my statement. I am not in a complete panic about the possibility of returning to work. There’s a not-so-small part of me that would embrace an opportunity to work outside of the home again. To work for pay again. To work for recognition again. To work at something I’ve studied and practiced and feel somewhat competent while performing. To be acknowledged by the rest of the working world. No, those aspects or returning to work don’t sound too daunting. My concerns run much deeper than that.

I fear that all the time and effort I’ve invested in my son will be lost. Suppose my investment should fade, those memories we’ve made become lost. Suppose his wild boy instincts are nurtured aggressively by an alternative caregiver, and my sensitive little sweetheart who loves to read and make his stuffed animals talk suddenly becomes a rough-and-tumble bruiser who thinks I’m a sissy neatnik. I know that will likely happen anyway… But does it have to happen already? So soon? I gave up a lot for this kid—and now he probably won’t even remember the bulk of my commitment, if it is to end at this point.

I also shudder when I consider that perhaps, no one will want to hire me. Why should they? What have I to offer? A frumpy housewife who’s been out of the workforce for over 4 years… My work experiences of late are probably not so useful to a potential employer. Yeah, I know there are lots of people out there touting the returning-to-work SAHM and how much common sense and no-nonsense attitude she brings to the office, but honestly, most of the folks spouting that opinion are—you guessed it—other SAHMs who are trying to return to work outside the home. The minute they see I’m not on LinkedIn, they’ll toss my skimpy resume aside like last week’s Us magazine. (Although, in honesty, isn’t LinkedIn just a work version of Facebook? “Connections,” “friends,” whatever you want to call ‘em—it’s all sort of high schoolish to me.)

And the biggest fear of all? That if I somehow can overcome everything, market myself successfully, iron a shirt and wear lipstick for a change, slough off the old homemaker/mom dinginess, and be a valuable commodity again, that it won’t be enough. Because, you see, it won’t be just me pulling myself up by my bootstraps and hitting the street, will it? No sir, it’ll be me…and thousands of other people who live quite near to me. Of which possibly hundreds are qualified to do the same sort of work I am seeking.

So, you can see why I haven’t had much to say of late. I’ve been thinking way more than I’d like to. Sometimes, it really does stink to be a realist.

Maybe next time, I can write something light and funny about my boy. I hate to milk him for amusing anecdotes like that, but I’m just not seeing much else worthy of sharing right now.

Stay tuned. And thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Something good

No, I don't have good news about employment yet. Lots of searching going on at our house. I'll keep you posted if anything worthy of sharing should occur.

For now, I just wanted to share these photos of floral loveliness. We went to an orchid show Sunday (don't worry, it was free) and took in some pretty amazing sights. This is the sort of thing I need to remember right about now: If God puts this much effort into a flower, just a flower, then I can only imagine what He is capable of doing in a person's life.

A typical caterpillar has 228 muscles in its head; spiders produce three kinds of silk (as if one wasn't amazing enough.) And we humans are the highlight of His creation.

I need to live like I believe that every day.

P.S. Wanna be humbled? Go to http://www.crazylovebook.com, then click on VIDEOS, and then click on The Awe Factor of God.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flip side

It’s so awkward when unfortunate circumstances dare to happen to you.

Why? Because in an instant, all those same uplifting advices you gave to people who’d experienced bumps in the road are the same pearls of wisdom that people are now sharing with you—the very same mantras that you’re chanting to yourself in between intentional deep breaths. Everything will be okay. This will pass. There’s something better in the future. This will make you stronger as a couple. God is faithful and He will provide. And even as these thoughts are handed to you, even as you repeat them in your mind, they suddenly seem so insufficient, so shallow and thin and fragile. In a moment of revelation, you see the thin gossamer of your optimism in the face of other people’s misfortune. And you see right through that flimsy fabric, into the glaring light of your own Very Serious Situation.

And you wonder how angry you might have made some down-and-out people.

To further complicate things, the book of James says that Christians are to embrace trials. We’re to understand that these situations that cause strife are actually the very same struggles that will teach perseverance—and perseverance will bring maturity and completion. I know from experience, too, that struggles in the life of a believer are usually instrumental in creating a more selfless person with greater faith in God. (That latter part often happens after the fact, of course, but there it is.)

In sum? While you face fear and uncertainty, you simultaneously face the knowledge that you’ve probably annoyed a lot of suffering people with your well-intentioned statements. You know that you should be doing all the things you told them to do, and now you remember how challenging that is. And you realize that, since Christianity proclaims strength in weakness and faith through hardship, there may be some people watching to see if you really live by your stated belief system or abandon it in tough times.

It’s so much easier to just run in circles, scream, and shout.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The third unemployed morning

Cacophany of barking dogs
Has ripped me from a restless sleep;
The sun emerges from the east
And coaxes me to wakefulness.

A bus or truck is rumbling near;
It’s growing bright, a new day looms
With promise, light, and hope of—wait:
My husband got laid off last week.

Must find work.
Must find work.
Must find work.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This should come as no surprise

Silly me, telling you that my next post would be happy. Tut, tut.

Yesterday began simply enough. Todd’s truck was being repaired, so he took the car to work—which always makes me feel trapped. The kid and I woke up later than normal (that was nice!), hung around, played a bit, watched Sesame Street, and then decided it was warm enough to go outside. The sun was beaming, the sky was a glorious shade of blue, and we donned our jackets and stepped onto the porch.

It was a pretty day, but the wind was whipping. We ended up huddled first in the protected sunken driveway, and then on the sunny porch that is somewhat shielded from the buffeting gales. We finally gave up and went inside. The whole time we braved the cold, I was wondering where Todd was. He was supposed to come home for lunch, thus returning the car, and then I would take him back to work after lunch and he’d ride home with a friend who lived near the car-repair shop that had his truck.

He didn’t come. And he didn’t come. And a twinge of worry crept into my tummy. We started to eat a late lunch without him. And finally, I heard the garage door. He was home.

And I knew, as he climbed the steps toward me, that we had become a statistic.

I knew from his face, from the unspoken apology in his expression, from the stiffness of his gait. I knew before he ever said, “You don’t need to take me back to the office.” I knew.

No one yelled or cried. We were amazingly calm, although I realized my hands were shaking as I finished making my sandwich. It’s not as if we’re the first to have this happen, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been half-expecting this for the past year. We kept ourselves slightly perky, to belie our trepidation for our little boy’s sake. Daddy told him he’d need to find another job, because he wasn’t needed at this one anymore. And our attentive boy commented, “So 3 people lost their jobs.” Which means he’s been listening carefully—because yes, last week’s scary announcement at Todd’s job involved a layoff of 2 other folks from a sister company.

We finished lunch in mostly silence, while I tried to distract the kiddo with questions about preschool. I don’t think he was fooled, but he seemed to appreciate the conversation.

Then we all climbed into the car for the long drive to retrieve the truck, a haul even without traffic, and we timed it perfectly to coordinate with end-of-day traffic. To make matters worse, there’d been a misunderstanding between mechanics and while one had told us the truck was finished, in actuality it was not. We paid and loaded ourselves back into both vehicles, knowing all the while that Todd would have to turn around and make the same stupid trip the next day.

As I followed my boys through the streets of that small town, making our way toward the inevitable hell of rush hour around Pittsburgh, we stopped at a red light and I found myself gazing around at various store fronts. One place was an embroidery specialty store (now, honestly, do you see that surviving this economy? What a shame.) The store had a large window with a low, wide ledge, and I noticed motion on the ledge. Awww! There were two adorable pugs, watching the traffic, their funny compressed noses tilted slightly upward as they gazed at passersby. I looked at the light to make certain it had not yet changed to green, and then I glanced back at the storefront.

The dogs were copulating.

Yep, right there, in the window of an embroidery store. So inappropriate. And I guess I shouldn’t assume that the male dog was accomplishing anything—I was not close enough to be sure of his success or lack thereof—but the “under-dog” had resigned herself to the activity and was just trying to outlast the event. She looked distracted and weary. She knew there was no use fighting or trying to escape; she was just waiting until it was over. When the light changed to green, I pulled away, leaving the dogs to their scandalous window activities, and the thought that was foremost in my mind was this: I guess everybody gets theirs at one point or another.

The moral of the story? Sometimes you’re “top dog” (not to be facetious), and sometimes you’re the other dog.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mad as h*!l

At the risk of sounding like a broken record—or worse, someone else's broken record—I will still speak about what's on my heart: Rage.

Wanna join me? If not, go to a happy website like this and have a blast.

If so, go here and watch this video about the credit crisis.

Then go here to listen to a voice of reason in an insane world.

Then make a telephone call (or more than one!) about the $410 billion spending bill that's already passed in the House. Start with Specter (R-PA) at 866-960-8136.

Lastly, stockpile some food, lots of water, and self-defense methods—and pray ceaselessly for God to become our country's focus once again.

When I can write a more positive post, I'll be back. Looking forward to it. Hope it's soon.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kindness instead of cruelty

Many years ago, when I was in first or second grade, I witnessed an ugly scene.

It was in the golden days, when elementary-aged school children were released en masse onto a playground and permitted to roam freely all over the place, even with no fences and semi-thick woods crowding the borders of the designated play area. Those were the good ol' days, when recess sometimes featured absolutely unsafe snow tubing (I lost one of my front teeth and never recovered it on a snowy hill), and some of the regular playground structures were a vomit-inducing merry-go-round and the fracture-encouraging monkey bars... But I digress.

So we all flooded the playground one day, and ran like crazy children to our favorite haunts. I couldn't help noticing a group of kids huddled in a semi-circle on one side of the basketball court, all looking in the same general direction. I wandered over to see what was the fuss (I'd never been fast enough to secure a swing right away, anyway).

There was a boy in the middle of that cluster, probably my age or a year older, and next to him was a girl. There was nothing spectacular about either one of them, until I noticed something unusual on the boy: one of his hands, and the same arm from elbow to wrist, was under-developed. It was very small, like a young toddler's hand and arm. The deformity was noticeable, and the poor boy was being teased mercilessly. I don't recall what was being said; I only remember his frightened, ashen face and choppily cut hair. And his silence.

The girl who stood with him was apparently his friend, and was telling the other kids to leave him alone. At one point, as the crowd pushed in too close, she picked up his arm and swatted at them with the offending tiny hand. The kids all crushed back upon each other, away from that hand, as if something so small and innocent could harm them.

I only witnessed that moment, perhaps 30 seconds of the entire event, and I don't know how long it took for the group to scatter because when they all leaned away from the hand, I turned and walked away, feeling sick. I've never forgotten that boy, his loyal friend, and the reaction of the crowd of children. Where were the teachers? Why was this poor kid left vulnerable to a bunch of young, insensitive playmates?

I wonder where he is now, and what sorts of scars that incident, and countless others, left on his soul. I wonder if teacher defenders would have made it better for him, or worse. I wonder what became of him when he grew to adulthood and found, with utter disappointment, that many grown-ups respond the same way those children did. (See here.)

I really wonder more than most, I suppose, because my sweet little boy has a slight deformity on his left hand. When he was just born, and I was lying there thanking God that he was out, that he was a boy like his dad had wanted, that I was still alive somehow after that ordeal (I suppose all those thoughts are pretty normal for a woman who's just finished birthing a kid), one of the doctors called Todd over to the exam table and explained that our son was missing approximately the last knuckle of three of his fingers on one hand. I heard this exchange as if in a fog, thanks to the many drugs I'd been given to prevent seizures, but I did hear it and the news did register.

It didn't really hit me, though, until my sweet little guy was starting to spend time with other children consistently. Would the kids in Sunday school notice his fingers? Would the others at preschool have unkind things to say about that hand? Would my darling boy whom I love so much ever face a crowd of curious, cruel children pinning him into a corner?

I think the answer is yes, but I also think that answer applies to most kids at some point. Marcus is nearly 4 now, and he's never mentioned his fingers. I'm prayerfully hopeful that his lack of concern mirrors the lack of attention that hand gets. It's not a terribly noticeable disfigurement, and it's never slowed him down one whit. But I worry. I still worry. He's the dearest thing to me; how could I not?

The weird thing about it all is this: at the same time I was trying to convince Todd that I was the one for him and he should propose marriage, his best friend was dying of cancer. A quick, unexpected death, a death that none of us could possibly have prepared for. That best friend died before we ever married. He died well before Marcus was conceived or born. He never met the little boy whose middle name was chosen in his honor. But perhaps the best friend knew him? Perhaps? Because, you see, that best friend lost, in a work accident, the end knuckles from his last three fingers.

The same three fingers.

Not the same hand. But I'm not grasping at detailed straws here. I believe there are no coincidences.

I don't know what it all means. I won't pretend to know. But when I worry too much about that hand, and my boy, I remember the friend who bore the same short fingers. And I know it means something. I just hope it all's explained to me someday.

In the meantime, let's all be nice to everybody. EVERYbody.