The RIGHT job...

There is something about looking for a full time job that can be quite humbling. It can wear on a person's confidence like nothing else, and unless you've actually been through it, it's hard to describe. I'm 42 years old...I've known a lot of people looking for a job. Some have found one quickly; some, not so much. But as sympathetic as I've felt, I've never felt empathy until the past couple of years. How little I truly understood! Although we've rarely been financially stable throughout our marriage, for different reasons, I've never been in the market for a full time job until about two and a half years ago. Then my journey began. Destination: full time employment. It's been a road full of twists and turns, and lots of hills and valleys, even a drop-off or two.

"Any job is better than none." How many of you have heard that or said it more than once? There is some truth to that...and that's how my subbing and other multiple part-time gigs have worked for us. But our family's schedule and needs had to be taken into careful consideration with each new extra job I took on, and with each job I applied for. I know there were some who believed that meant I was waiting for the right job to fall in my lap. Again, unless you've been thru it, it's hard to explain how taking any job doesn't always work, without sounding like you're giving a bunch of excuses.

A silent phone can lead to discouragement either quickly or eventually, and while it was a source of perseverance for me to know that a significant percentage of the people I know have been going through the same thing, there have still been moments/days when I've felt beaten down, worn out, and incredibly alone...especially lately.

Then came the phone call. A job offer...a better-than-I-ever-hoped-to-get type offer. Months after the interview. Better late than never, right? The last time I was this excited about a new job, I was inexplicably let go five weeks after being hired. So...I'm a bit gun-shy and almost afraid to get too excited. I'm waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me...again. But in order to stabilize myself on that figurative carpet, I'm on my knees...and that's not a bad thing. This offer can't be ignored, that's for sure! And as things move forward (background review - check; drug screen - check; offer letter signed - check; first day on the job - not yet; contract signed - not yet), I AM becoming more excited. My thoughts and emotions feel like they've been thrown into our clothes dryer. And I feel like I am holding my breath until I begin my first day.

I've got a new job. I've got a new job! I've got a NEW JOB! This job will not only give us some breathing room, but we might actually see more than three digits in our savings account statements. We won't have to panic with every bump in the road. We can count quarters instead of pennies. We can catch up on bills and begin to pay down debt. These are just a few things I look forward are a few more.

I look forward to:
  • the day "stocking the pantry shelves" means there's more food than empty space.
  • getting regular oil changes in our car without having to figure out what we have to do without.
  • when waiting to get our car repaired means waiting on the mechanic, not waiting for the next paycheck.
  • going away for the weekend with my family without having to pack every meal. Shoot, I look forward to going away for a few weekends each year, period.
  • giving my kids some spending money here and there without their having to spend their hard-earned paper route money.
  • not postponing doctor appointments and buying medications because we can't afford the copay.
  • when someone is sick or hurt, being able to focus on getting him/her better and not worried about what this is going to cost us.
  • replacing most broken items within a few weeks rather than years or doing without.
  • when making $5 gifts look like $20 gifts becomes a fun pastime rather than a continuous necessity.
  • actually saving for a real vacation instead of dipping into the fund every time something "unexpected" comes up. (Although I've learned the only thing predictable for us is to expect the unpredictable!)
  • doing some basic landscaping, especially planting replacement trees for the ones we lost to a blight a few years ago.
  • PAYING IT FORWARD! This is probably what I look forward to the most. We have been so blessed with gifts from family and friends (many anonymously). We could fill pages with that list. I cannot wait to pass on some of those blessings!
In the midst of writing this, God has been helping me with my fears (and I have many...lots that I didn't even talk about here). First of all, He reminded me that a spirit of fear is NOT from Him. He also gave me the following verses from Psalm 112:

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
7 They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.

I pray that I never forget those months/years of searching--never.
I pray that I never take this gift for granted.
I pray that I have learned and understand well the value of a dollar.
I pray that I use this gift responsibly for His glory.
God does not call the equipped...He equips the called. Equip me, Lord, I need it!

When surgery is a gift...

I am fat.

There is no other way to put it. I suppose you want me to be kinder. But the "kinder" words just don't cut it. "Heavy" doesn't cover it. "Pudgy" or "Chubby" is an insult to those who truly are chubby. When I look at pictures or look in the mirror -- honestly look -- I could not only pass for being pregnant (which I have been mistaken for), I could be heavy and pregnant...with twins. I have little strength anymore. My muscles are working overtime to hold me upright. It's an ugly situation -- not just outwardly but with my health and, of course, self esteem. A lot of people then think, "Then do something about it." Don't deny it. You've probably thought that at one point or another. I have! Well, I finally did.

Two days ago, I received a gift. For me, it's almost like a second chance at life. Bariatric surgery is often controversial; it definitely has a stigma. But until you've walked in my size 11w shoes for a week, hold your judgment. Look around. You might be surprised at who all has had the surgery. It is not the easy way out. It is not a magic pill. It is not reserved only for those who are too big to get out of their chair and out of the house. It is a tool for those who cannot do it on their own. I think of it like giving a top-of-the-line chain saw to a logger who's been using a small rusty handsaw to cut through a 200-year-old oak.

I've been using the rusty saw for almost 15 years now. It hasn't been fun. I've tossed it in self-defeat, only to retrieve it and try again. I've sunk down on the ground in exhaustion and risen to try again. I admit my efforts have become fewer and farther between. That old rusty saw is getting the best of me.

There are so many layers to this, and my feelings are often in a jumble. In high school and college, I was an athlete. I was proud of that, but I was a walking paradox of sorts. I didn't exercise unless forced to through the sport I was involved with (practices, requirements of the coach, etc.). I have never been a fan of exercise. I love playing sports, but practices, especially working out or running was pure hell for me. I have always liked to eat. I don't think I have any emotional issues with food. I simply like the taste of food, so I eat a lot. Once I graduated and quit playing regularly, the struggle with weight began. And let me tell you, it's been one heck of a roller coaster ride. When I talk about my years of playing and coaching sports, I am so aware of how I look now. I'm sure people don't know the extent that I know the sport and how well I once played. I feel almost ashamed to represent the athletes of my sport today.

It seems that most everyone I know from my high school and college days all look fantastic and similar to how they looked way back when...especially in the weight department. I love meeting with people from my past...catching up and getting to know someone better than ever, but now if I run into someone I haven't seen in a long time, I feel my face heat up, and my smile turns wooden when I think how bad I must look. I know most of that is my own insecurity as I have not had many people at all respond with disdain or judgment.

My health is a bit of a mess. I hurt all the time (fibromayalgia), am exhausted most of the time, and don't usually sleep well (sleep apnea); I have restless legs, high blood pressure, and high sugar. Every single one of my health issues either started or grew significantly worse after my obesity.

So about three years ago, knowing some who have had the surgery quite successfully (remember I said you'd probably be surprised at those who have had it...), I began my research. Turns out Dave's insurance wouldn't cover anything to do with weight loss, surgical or other. So it's been a long wait, searching for a job with benefits, waiting and/or hoping for a solution. Dave's work changed insurance companies last year, so I officially began the journey again last February.

Two days ago, I received this gift. And it was most definitely a gift as financial reasons almost threw me off-track yet again. A generous benefactor (i.e. my parents) allowed the surgery to happen as scheduled. I am grateful beyond words. I can't wait to look better, yes, but even more than that, I can't wait to feel better. My life has been on hold for far too long.

I have had incredibly supportive family and friends. My kids are almost as excited as I am to see the changes. My friends have given hugs, support, and all kinds of encouragement. The journey has just begun...and the best is most definitely yet to come.


D ifferent
I ndividuals
V aluing
E ach other
R egardless of
S kin
I ntellect
T alent or
Y ears

As I headed down the steps of the country club pool, I noticed my husband looking pensive. I had a pretty good idea what was bothering him, but it got me to thinking. Thinking for me usually means I start writing in my head. It doesn't always make it to my blog, but sometimes, like now, it does. First of all, anyone who knows me even a little, has probably already realized two interesting, if not amazing, remarks in that first sentence. I don't swim much, let alone in a public place...and I am SO not country club material! I feel a little like Cousin Eddie in the move "Christmas Vacation" in those types of settings. It's not quite that bad, but it's definitely not my style. We were visiting my sister-in-law (Dave's sister), and this was part of our vacation. Dave and his sister are so different that sometimes it's hard to imagine that they came from the same set of parents. They love each other; they even get along well, but they are definitely different. The country club is his sister and her husband's scene, not ours. But if we wanted to go swimming together, this is where we had to be.

Feeling out of place is never fun, and usually it would bother me, at least a little, but this time it didn't bother me at all. I'm not sure why, but I think perhaps it's because we had recently got together with a group of friends for an evening of dinner and conversation -- and what a blessing that night was! Three other couples, most we hadn't seen in almost 20 years (Yikes! How time flies!), but we all love each other and love the Lord. So we are family. Sometimes more than flesh and blood as I was seeing firsthand.

It was the differences at the moment and feeling out of place that was bothering my husband. (I was right.) So I shared some of my thoughts with him, and I hope it helped. I'd like to say I saw his face relax and smile, and the rest of the day went smoothly with lots of fun and laughter, but it didn't quite work that way. I did see his face grow thoughtful, though, as he probably tried to take in what I said. He and his sister are different, for sure. That doesn't mean that one is better than the other. It does mean that, most of the time, we are not going to feel comfortable around their social circles, and vice-versa. And that's okay! At that time, I knew that. I have too many blessings -- way too much good stuff -- in my life to be caught up in the whole keeping up with the neighbors (or in this case, little sisters) thing. I MUST've been okay, 'cuz I squeezed my sausage-like bod into a swim suit to float around a country club pool! God is good.


I am waiting.

Ever notice that so much of God's Word and His people in it are about waiting.

It took Noah many years to build the ark, then he spent months (over six of them to be exact) floating around in that wooden box. I don't even want to think about their life inside...dark and dingy with the smell of sweat and feces. I can't imagine the food tasted very good, and all that work to take care of the animals: animals that bit, kicked, and spit....or maybe they scratched or squeezed (literally) their way into Noah's heart. And his sons' wives had to love living in such close proximity with their in-laws. "I know she's the daughter we never had, and Shem loves her, but, Noah, their room is a pig sty!" (HA!) There had to be times that Noah thought, and maybe even prayed, "You know, God, you said I did right. You were saving my family because You loved me and found me righteous. And THIS is how I'm rewarded?? There had to be an easier way to destroy the rest of the earth...certainly one less time consuming!"

Jacob spent seven years working for years! Can you imagine? He worked for his future father-in-law, diligently and consistently. And then...the unbelievable happened. After a night of honeymoon bliss, he reaches to snuggle his favorite girl, only to find the wrong girl in his arms. Rachel's sister, Leah. Are you KIDDING me? ANOTHER seven years later, he finally weds the love of his life. Fourteen years for love that wouldn't die. (And I thought we were doing pretty good being married almost 18 years...but to have waited 14 years before that? Yikes.) Jacob did right...he worked, he waited, and then he married...and THIS is how God answered??

Joseph works his way up the corporate ladder the right way -- without stepping on others on the way up. Once he reaches the top, he is presented with some serious temptation. The boss's wife puts the moves on him. He's a man, only human...he can practically feel the heat physically, and one can only imagine the job perks this would come with. BUT, he doesn't give in...he runs. He runs hard and fast, and gets his tail out of there! How is he repaid? He's thrown in jail...where he sits and waits on God for over two years. He had to wonder at times where God was.

David spent years ducking in and out of caves avoiding a psychopath king who seemed to have nothing better to do with his jealous self than chase God's anointed. Running the country never was at the top of Saul's priorities. Although presented with the opportunity numerous times, David refused to kill King Saul knowing that that was not God's will. All that got him was more time running and waiting until it was his turn. The Psalms are full of questions, pain, and longing through this waiting period. "Come on, God, I'm doing the right thing here...where ARE you? When is it gonna be my turn??"

I could go on and on....Abraham was over 100 when Isaac was born. The Israelites were in dire, desperate circumstances for several generations before God raised up Moses. Joshua and Caleb had to wander the wilderness for 40 years with their whining kinsmen before entering the promised land. And that's just skimming the first two books of the Old Testament!

These stories resonate with me right now...because these people of God did nothing wrong to bring on these agonizing periods of waiting. Don't get me wrong...although deeply loved by God, these men and women -- God's chosen -- were not perfect. In fact, if you keep reading their stories, most of them fell from God's will. They fell far, and they fell hard. But that's not what brought on those times of waiting, listening, and building character--often under less-than-pleasant circumstances. No, in fact it seems like when God's people did right, it brought on trials and periods of needed patience just as much, if not more so, than when they did wrong.

Two years ago, out of more than 20 applicants and a dozen interviewees, I was hired for a job I liked and did well. Each day brought improvement and compliments from coworkers and supervisors. I worked hard and enjoyed going to work. I thanked God almost daily for that job, and I tried to give Him all the credit. Twenty-plus applicants and twelve or more interviewees, and I was chosen? Had to be a God thing!

Five weeks later, I was fired. Reasons given were either not true, not fair, or just plain lame. That day and the weeks following marked a painful period in my life that is still hard to think back on.

Where are you, God?

Two years later, I'm still wondering.

As you may have read in my previous post, I am a substitute teacher, and I enjoy my work. But it's not's not consistent, and we're still barely making ends meet. I am constantly looking for extra work to fill the gaps...summer work, reffing, etc. I have sent out many MANY resumes for permanent work, hundreds probably, and I've had only a handful of calls, and you could count on one hand the interviews I've had. Perhaps God wanted to call me back into teaching or something similar. I'm good at it, and I like it...God gave me that gift. Okay, I can handle that. But why am I still in limbo two years later. Why did He get me through the screening of so many applications and interviews into what seemed to be the perfect job only to yank it all away and throw me into....nothing? For two years? (So far.) How much longer will I be waiting?

I don't want you to think that I am comparing myself (my character) to the men (and women) of the Bible I mentioned above. We get to read their entire stories, and it is clear how God was at work during those waiting periods...shaping, molding, refining them into men of God. I'd like to be able to say I see God so clearly at work in my own life right now, but I still make bad choices. I still struggle. My faith seems weak, and my complaining seems to outweigh my praise.

Perhaps "Where are you, God?" is the wrong question. I know He's right here with me, at work in the situation, and when I yield to that, I find contentment. The right question, I think, is, "What is Your plan in this, Lord??" (Cause, I gotta tell ya, I'm not seein' it right now!)

It took me a while to finally step up and realize that I needed to find a full time job and do my part for our family. Shortly following this light-bulb moment, everything fell into place only to immediately fall apart. And I'm trying to let God put it back together, but it feels like He's just looking over the mess and not doing much.

I love the movie, "Evan Almighty." It's so much fun, but also poignant in places. I like it when Morgan Freeman says to Evan's wife, "When we pray for patience, does God give us patience, or does He give us opportunities to practice patience. When we pray for our family to be closer, does God make us closer, or does He give us opportunities to draw closer to each other?" Opportunity. Hmmm. Is that what God is doing?

It's especially hard when you see the "perfect" job slip through your hands...again and again...and again. A job fits my skills and abilities along with my family's schedule (a tough match to find sometimes). An interview goes well (or I think it goes well) only to have no follow-up phone call. (What is it with that?? If you take the time to come in for an interview, shouldn't it be common courtesy to call either way?) So many resumes don't even get acknowledged. It feels like trying to catch fog...very real but impossible to hold.

So here I am...waiting. Watching. Hoping. Trying not to let it get to me. Trying to send in just one more resume. Trying to be proactive yet content at the same time. A hard place to be. A hard place to be, indeed.

Reflections on Work

I am a substitute teacher. A good one.

Today's society tends to respect the white collar worker. They have clean hands, pressed clothes, college degrees, and better pay. Parents and students spend thousands (and thousands) of dollars on an education to attain the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Not going to college is almost unheard of, and when parents talk about wanting better for their kids, it usually means as an engineer, doctor, lawyer, or professor. The ever-elusive American dream is still gained through hard work and perseverance, but most have forgotten that, and today's version of the California gold rush continues on in too-many-to-count get-rich schemes advertised almost hourly.

When watching a live show at the theater, not many of us think about what's going on behind the scenes. It may be a tranquil scene on stage, but, trust me, backstage is busier than a beehive at any given moment. It can be downright frantic at times. The actors receive the accolades and recognition, but the show could not exist without the crew manning the lights, pulling the curtain ropes, and doing some heavy lifting in the back. If they do their job right, you don't even know they're there.

The blue collar worker. I tend to think of him like one of the backstage crew. And, honestly, he has MY respect so much more than most white collar people out there. Blue collar workers are the ones with permanent grease stains on their hands and under their fingernails. They are the ones who clean up someone else's dust, mildew, and mud, only to come home and do it again for their family. They get water sprayed in their face, dodge insulation, and feel the cold to their bones when crawling around under your house. They clean up after your kids in the classroom and wipe off graffiti that they try not to understand. And many do it with grace and a smile on their face, not caring what the rest of the world thinks.

My dad was the bluest of all blue collar workers. Early on in his marriage he worked at the steel mill for eight hours then put in eight or more hours at his landscaping business to get it going. He eventually quit the steel mill job, but he didn't cut back much on his hours. I have a college degree, but his common sense knowledge of how to run a business makes my head spin. I would never want to take over his business because I know I would run it into the ground. In his personal as well as professional practices, he has been honest and fair, almost to a fault. I can hear you wondering, "How does that happen?" Trust me...he has given up many of his own rights in favor of keeping his word or just doing what was right, with the idea that "what goes around, comes around." His reward was and still is an awesome reputation and well-deserved respect from people from every station in life -- old to young, rich to poor, business men to cleaning ladies. And God has taken care of him. He's gone through some scary times and rough moments, but he lands on his feet. He credits it all to our Lord -- rightfully so -- but it's because he was always open and humble before the Lord. He understood better than most about how he was the clay with God as his potter.

He has a successful business and a beautiful wife and family (thanks a great deal to the choices he made); he is a township commissioner and a board member for the local sewer authority. He always fights for "every man" with common sense, never political correctness. He is now enjoying partial retirement and snowbirding in Florida. But to this day, when asked what he does for a living, he always answers quite saucily, "I'm a ditch-digger." My mom wants to slap him when he says that, thinking he's putting himself down...but I've recently started speculating that I think he's saying it with a sense of pride. Like me, he knows the importance of the blue collar workers in our society, even if no one else does. Plus, he hates the administrative side of owning a business -- the paperwork, the politics, the red tape, etc. Put him in a backhoe for the day, digging a hole, and he's happier than a tornado in a trailer park! So, he's a ditch-digger and loves it.

Substitute teachers. That's how I started this post. We're pretty low on the ladder in the education community. Barely considered worthy to be called teachers, we are respected little and paid even less. If we do our jobs right, we are barely noticed, but make a mistake, and we might as well have a flashing "LOSER" sign on our forehead. I've experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly with subbing, but overall I love it. I've grown more as a teacher in the last two years as a sub than I think I ever have in my educational career. I've made mistakes, but I've learned so much from them. I've also done well and received compliments from both teachers and students. I've had teachers request me, and students are happy to see me. Teachers can usually step back into their classroom without missing a beat. Even without that outward evidence, I have an instinctual sense of self-knowledge to know that I'm good at what I do.

Most school districts are desperate for good subs...especially the bigger districts. So we are slowly gaining a bit more respect and gratitude, mostly from teachers (administrators are a whole other animal!). We are a necessity behind the scenes of education. We keep classrooms going and curriculum on schedule, while the kids are often trying to see how many subs they can send into early retirement.

So, when I check into the office, and they give me that substitute badge, I clip it on and walk down the hall with my head held high. I like my job, I'm good at it and I want everyone to know that. What more could I ask for? Well, higher pay and more phone calls would work! But in the meantime, as long as I'm able, I'll answer the call and do it well.