July 15, 2013

Now What.

Posted in Life Lessons, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:42 am by openendedcomment

Today marks the two month anniversary of my “official” unemployment.   This is not a post of how poor the economy is, how hard it is to find a job, blah, blah, blah…because honestly, it isn’t all that hard to find a job.  At least it isn’t for me.  I’m lucky in that I have some really great professional contacts and have a few skill sets that seem to be in demand regardless of the economy.   Which begs the question: Why am I still unemployed after two whole months?  Well, it’s simple, really.  I have no idea what I want to do.

I know what I have done.  I have worked my ever-loving ass off since I was thirteen.   Seriously.  In high-school I held a full-time job and babysat regularly and was in debate and theater and speech and a cheerleader.  This tendency to be highly over-scheduled has continued for the eighteen years that have followed.   I don’t do relaxed.   I can’t handle monotony.  I need to dive into something and allow myself to be immersed in a challenge.  I love the thrill of the deal.  For sixty days I have been trying to replace my need to be productive in my career with being productive in my home.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve applied to numerous positions, have had a few good interviews and have had untold conversations with former colleagues, contacts and friends.  I’ve networked like a champ.  But a job search can only use up so many hours in a week and I’ve been filling the remaining sixty hours or so of my weekly time on a treadmill, organizing my home, making my children nuts, dealing with them making me nuts,  cooking, baking, cleaning, crafting, submitting prose to greeting card groups, writing marketing slogans,  taking online courses, gardening, making everything from “Scratch” (including cleaning supplies, baking mixes and breads), volunteering, fund-raising for various political organizations and in general doing whatever possible to make myself feel like a contributing member of my household and society.

It sucks.

As I peruse yet another batch of positions to apply to I am beginning to feel I am too close to the issue to have clarity.  I want the “perfect” job.  No, scratch that, I don’t want a  job.  I want the perfect career.  I do not want a job at which I will do well but spend the majority of my time plotting to leave.  I am too old for that crap.  I am not interested in anything that I can’t see myself doing for the next decade at the very least.  I want the ability to be challenged and creative.  I want to utilize my speaking and training skills.  I want to develop, design and flex my word-smithing ways.  In writing these slogans and marketing content I’ve been submitting online (many which have been purchased thank-you very much) I’ve found I sort of love doing it.  I did write content in my former position, too, but it wasn’t the focus of my position.   I like to and am willing to travel, but not too terribly much.  One offer I had was lovely in all ways aside from requiring 70-80% travel.  I mean, 30% is reasonable but 80%?!?  I think not.   I’d prefer to home-office, or at the very least have a flexible schedule.  I need it, I’m better with it and it makes sense for me to work where I am most productive.   I also want to interact.  I want to sell.  I love to sell…like love, love, love to sell.   Selling is in my blood.  It is a part of who I am.   I have always been in sales of some sort and I’m damn good on the phone and over a webinar.  Really, it’s sort of my thing.  I’m fast, I multi-task like mad, I can read people and manage relationships and I always figure out a solution that works for all involved.   So…now that you know all of that, I put it to you.  What on earth should I do?  If you were me, what would be your path?  Often “fresh” eyes are the best eyes and really,  what could be more fresh than this?

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April 3, 2012

100 Pounds.

Posted in Life Lessons, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:28 pm by openendedcomment

Yesterday morning, my husband woke up, got ready and left for work.

It was a defining moment.

Christmas Day, 2010, my husband was fired.  By his step-father.  For personal reasons.  Yes, this is a personal blog and yes, in order to tell this story I have to mention some personal things.  If you don’t want to know, don’t read it.  It’s that simple.  I’m not going to shy away from the truth and I’m also not going to delve into anything that doesn’t apply to this exact topic…that being a career, a marriage and the journey to finding yourself after devastating personal loss.  Now, with that out-of-the-way:  I think it’s fairly obvious that there was a great deal more to it than “just” losing his job.  He lost his family, too.  That is a shame and that is terrible.  That is also a story for another time…perhaps…it is still too raw.  His brothers, his Mother, some aunts and uncles…all lost and all at once.  You see, there are two parts to this story…the job loss and the family loss.

The job loss is this tale.

There were financial losses, too.  He was the main bread-winner in our home.  He had the benefits…our eldest has special needs…and $1500 in monthly medical expenses to go  along with those needs.  Unemployment didn’t even cover the COBRA…much less the deductible, which was large.  We didn’t qualify for MNCare or any other medical assistance program as I earned “too much” but I am a contract employee and have no benefits.  Self insuring was going to run, at a minimum, $900 a month…with a four thousand deductible.  Per person.  But there was no choice so pay we would.  On top of firing him and stripping their grandchildren of medical coverage; they also denied his unemployment.  Initially.  He won the appeals…they did this twice.   After a few months of zero income from his end while we were dealing with that; we figured other minor things, like mortgages and prescriptions, out.  I worked harder.  I budgeted like a champ and proceeded to work some more.  He did anything and everything possible to make things work while looking for a new position. We made it through.  And I digress.

This post is about the JOBNot the money and not the people who stripped it from him. The blessed, needed and long-awaited JOB.  Which, incidentally, if you’ve ever been without you know is not “just” a job. My husband, like many men and women, found and finds much more than an income in his career.  It is a part of a person’s identity. For my husband, It. Was. His. Identity.  Who he was.  What he stood for.  What he had built.  His source of pride and his place of belonging.  He helped to build the company…literally, he helped to design and then put the building up.  Brick by brick.  He designed the products.  He hired the staff.  He chose the equipment.  Cultivated the clients.  Knew every single detail of every single order, person, issue…you name it.  He had been there since he was fourteen.  He began under his grandfather.  Whom he adored.  Who was, after losing his Dad at a young age, the closest thing to a “real” Dad my husband had from age twelve on.  The JOB was not a job…it was his tie to the man he loved, admired and respected above all others.  Even after his passing several years ago.  Each day when my husband walked through those doors he saw his grandfather’s name on the building and it filled him with pride.

When he lost that, he lost almost everything.  He wasn’t himself.  He couldn’t breathe for the first few weeks…he didn’t eat for two…sleep came, finally, at week six.  I had to remind him to do simple things…he just wasn’t tracking.  He felt as though he had failed everyone and everything.  There were no words I could utter that would have changed it or that could help. Eventually, as with all things, with time, he got better.  By Spring of 2011 he was starting to find himself again…to learn for the first time who he was/is without that integral part of him.   Spring was difficult but far preferable to the Hell that was his Winter; Summer was better still. By Summer he was able to go on interviews with his head up. By Summer, I was pushing him.  I was, to be honest, nagging.  I was tired…stressed…carrying the weight of all of us on my shoulders and trying to find a way to get him to share the load.  He wasn’t ready.  He lost weight.  Alot of weight.  I backed off.   By Fall, he had identified what he could bring to the table and why a company would want him.  He was learning his worth.  He has so much.  By Winter he was frustrated but focused.  Positions in manufacturing in Minnesota are hard to come by these days.  Especially C-Level ones.  He lowered his sights…it was about more than a title or pride by that point…it was about survival.  Our survival.  Pushing resumed.  With force.  He had road-blocks and I was going to make damn sure he plowed right through them.  It was the only way.  No references?  Fine.  We’ll handle it. (Yes, a 25 year career with no references…difficult at best to explain away but equally impossible to give given the situation.)  We were getting him hired come Hell or high-water. I applied him to hundreds of positions.  I am not exaggerating.  Hundreds.  At first because he couldn’t bring himself to admit what had and was happening and later because we established a sort of routine.  Other families that have fought through job loss know what I’m talking about here.   He went on interview after interview.  I hated it for him…the look on his face when he got the rejection letter…the look when I tried to blow it off with “Honey, it’s OK…there are so many applicants these days.”…he knew the reasons just as I did.  We didn’t speak of them.  No references.  No history.  He kept going.  He kept going and I kept pushing.  Full steam ahead.

Perhaps in all of this there weren’t my best moments or my most perfect of all actions as a wife…but I was tired.  I needed help and I needed him. Fifteen months of me carrying it all.  Them all.  Fifteen months of budgeting and scrambling.  Fifteen months of reassuring him and supporting him through all of the hurt, the doubt and questions.  Fifteen months of keeping it from touching our children…or trying to.  Fifteen months of chin up in public…and private…acting like it was all OK…when it wasn’t.  Even.  Close. Fifteen months of trying to find a way to keep us moving forward without sacrificing the medical care, tutoring and sports for my children.  Fifteen months of saying to everyone that asked  “Oh, everything’s fine.”   “Yes, I’m sure you’re right.  Something will turn up.” Or, my favorite “Yes, I know.  Just like you, we will be so much better off because of this.” When really, all I could think of at those moments was how on earth I could ever articulate the immense pressure I was feeling…that no, we were NOT better off.  That no, it is and was not “the same thing”  that happened to you or to your brother-in-law.  That they had lost a JOB…my husband lost most of his life.  The people, the places, the who and the what of his very self…all of it…all gone and all with no warning and little reason.  That he wasn’t “just” looking for a JOB…that he had to come back to me.  To us. That for fifteen months all I had was the hope of him…the prayer that someday, somehow this would work out…that he would return…the him I love and missed desperately.  I lost friends during this…I’m not the type to speak about what is bothering me while it is bothering me…after is fine, but not during.  This made any real connection next to impossible.  I had and have regrets about that…but at the time it was all I could do to handle this issue…others had to be set aside.  Some I may never have a chance to repair.  Casualties of our lost year.   Never had I been so lonely with someone at my side.  My husband.  My children’s father.  My friend.  Not the man who brought home a check…I have and did do that myself.  (It is of course better to have us both working…but that wasn’t the point.)  The point…the need…was and is to have him look at me again.  The man who is sure of himself.  The man with pride.  The man who I married.

God I missed him.  God I hated what they did to him.  God I wanted him back.  Anything.  Please, anything to have him back…I would have given and done anything to see him again…the way he was.  The way I knew he could still be…the him that was buried under all of that pain and rejection; not from a paycheck that no longer arrived but from a life he no longer led.

Two weeks ago Friday, he had two offers.  Two. Great. Offers.  No “Setting lower sights” offers, either…really, really great offers that really were better than what he had had before.  Places he wanted to be and jobs he wanted to do.  Was thrilled the have the opportunity to do.

Last night, at 6:12 PM, He walked through our kitchen door.  He hugged me.  He came home.

And in that moment, as I pressed against him and felt his arms actually holding me…100 pounds lifted from my shoulders.  I’m not on my own.  I never was. I don’t have to do this alone anymore.  No matter what happens or if, God forbid, one of us may ever find ourselves without a job again; we know that we can make it through.  We proved that.  We damn well proved that.  He and we will always know that our worth is found in ourselves and each other…not in where and for whom we work.   He will always know he can survive and he will always be assured that he can come back from any adversity.  As many times as it takes.  He came home.