Job Hunting

I don’t like looking for a job.  I never have.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in this.  My husband has been out of work since the end of August and has applied for 50-60 jobs.  He’s had one interview.  Since he’s in the education field (doctoral candidate), several jobs that are posted are still “sketchy”.  They are on the budget chopping block, or their start time has been pushed back, pending enough financial support.  That’s discouraging also.

I’m looking for a job, too.  My skill set doesn’t pay as well as his does, but he did promise that if I found a full-time gig,  he’d do all the chores.  Exact words:  “If you get a full-time job, I don’t see why you would have to do any chores.”  Huzzah!  Where do I sign?!  I know it would be a big transition and I would miss the kids immensely.  But the good thing about our marriage is that we are partners and we will do whatever to make it through.

How you apply for jobs is different than the last time I actively looked, which was in 2003, practically the dark ages.  The economy then was similar to what it is now. Back then, you found an ad in the paper.  You faxed or mailed (!) your resume, cover letter and references to a P.O. Box.  I signed up with 2 local agencies and they gave me leads as well.  You networked with your old co-workers and friends.  I applied for over 200 positions that time, and in the end, a recommendation from a friend helped get my foot in the door. And, I learned later, that I briefly sold Avon.  Who knew?

Now, it’s all online.  Does anyone put ads in the paper anymore?  Heck, does anyone *read* the paper anymore?  I love books and reading, but I don’t even read the paper.  Mainly because our regional paper never seemed to get delivered to our house, even though I tried multiple times to straighten that out.  Apparently, we were too rural, even though we live in town.

 You start looking at things in your field and it feels kinda like an Easter egg hunt.  Anything under here? You find a promising position on craigslist.com.  So, you apply online. You craft a cover letter of stunning sophistication, attach your resume with relevant experience and pop!  You email it out.  And then…you wait.  And wait.  You may not even know the name of your prospective employer.  You hope to goodness it’s in the right area, and not out of Maine like one of the positions I applied for, or a scam, like another one.  That is the hardest part; there’s no real way to follow-up, except to email the anonymous craigslist-generated email account. If you get a contact name, you have a better chance of hearing back.  They feel accountable somehow.   It’s slightly more accessible. 

I think it’s the waiting that kills me. You wait and wait and knit a sweater. Or not.  I knit about as well as I play tennis, which is rather abysmal.  The good thing about looking for a job is the dreaming aspect of it all.  This time, I’ve looked in all kinds of fields I wouldn’t normally even think twice about.  Now, I don’t look very good on paper. I quit my part-time admin job at the church back in December 2010. Yet I find myself wondering,What’s out there?  What’s possible?  And what is God up to, anyway?  I’ve no idea.  But it’s fun to explore and trust and hope, together.

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Santa Baby

The culprit

A friend and I had coffee today and she brought up the issue of Santa.  To be or not to be?  For those of you who don’t know, a lot of Christian families don’t talk about Santa.  He is persona non grata.  He is moot and evil and bad.  I mean, rearrange the letters of his name and you get “Satan”.  Hello?!  Okay, maybe that’s overstating it a bit.  Let’s say he takes away from the focus of Christmas, which is supposed to be Christ, not all the presents and fluff. And I don’t want to take away from Jesus.  That’s not my desire at all.

I had a friend I worked with long ago who was also a Christian.  She not only rebuffed Santa, but also the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.  Since I had no kids of my own at the time, it seemed a touch extreme.  She also allowed no fairy tales of any kind. Her daughter knew nothing of Cinderella, Snow White and her tiny male cohorts, or even Little Red Riding Hood. That irked me.  Fairy tales are our American lexicon.  It’s a shorthand.  I can say, “I feel like Cinderella’s stepsister”, and you know exactly what I mean. Joke about someone being the Big Bad Wolf, and everyone’s in on that.  Denying someone that knowledge seemed cruel.  Yes, teach that they are just stories and not real.  She wanted to avoid magic as well.  I understand that.  But somehow, I think God knows we crave some things that are mystical, strange and unexplainable, things that are beyond us.  We long to be swept off our feet, catching our breath in wonder.  To me, fairy tales capture that.  Spinning straw into gold?  Righty-ho, coming up!  Pricking your finger on an enchanted spindle so you sleep for a thousand years?  I’m on it. Santa Claus is based on an actual person who lived hundreds of years ago. I think fairy tales probably came out of true stories that became myth, and then legend.  Sorta like fish stories gone bizarre.

My dad and stepmom didn’t allow Santa at all.  Of course, by then, my youngest sister being 9, we all knew he wasn’t real.  So we didn’t miss his fuzzy white presence.  Yet, something still lingered.  In high school, they started putting presents under our chubby Douglas Fir that said “From Santa”.  It was cute.  It made us laugh, and think about gifts that come to us, unbidden.

Zac figured out about Santa when he was 5.  He was on a continual quest for knowledge and understanding. He longed to be grown up.  He caught one of us putting money under his pillow, ginormous tooth fairies that we are.  Then he made the connection.  If the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, the Easter Bunny isn’t real, and Santa, well, he’s fake too.  He was sad – a little – but okay.  It made him appreciate his gifts more since he knew Mom & Dad did all the shopping and wrapping. 

Ruby likes her imaginary world.  She still fervently believes in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, the holy trinity of make-believe entities.  I tried to sneak money under her pillow after she lost her second tooth, but she woke up before I got to do it.  I had to pretend to “find” it on the stairs, citing Tooth Fairy’s exhaustion at toting around a big bag of teeth all night.  She couldn’t make it up the stairs to Ruby’s room and slip it under her pillow.  She sent her apologies, and would pick up the tooth later.

Whew.

Now that Ruby is 6, and she’s in kindergarten, the real world intrudes.  I’m not sure I can keep the ruse up any longer.  She will be spending Christmas with her cousins, all older than her save a year-old baby.  They know Santa is not real.  Heck, my brother’s kids told her already. So has Zac.  So far the fortress of belief has held steady, though rocked a bit by big kids’ certainty.  I would like to find a way to let her down gently.  People have warned me, saying she won’t believe in God once Santa and his posse are revealed as shams.  I hope not. May she not feel like she’s been lied to all her life.  May she understand we wanted to bring a bit of whimsy and fun and joy to her.  I want her to hold onto truth and never let go.

Born This Way?

Lady Gaga has a song about this.  I know because it was in the playlist for my kettlebells class.  It seems to be where I stay in touch with the current Top 40 hits.  “I was born this wa-ay, I was born this wa-ay, I’m on the right track, ba-by, I was born this wa-hey!” The song is about liberation, being who you were born to be.  On the surface, it seems like an American anthem. And the words talk about being a queen, not a drag (har!) It’s sexual liberation, folks, which will not be my topic today.  Be gay or be straight; it’s all okay because that’s how you were made. “Be All That You Can Be” or somesuch. 

We change our appearance all the time.  My hair right now has leftover blonde highlights from the summer, along with newer red streaks for fall.  My hair is naturally a darkish brown, with silver streaks.  I call them moonlight highlights.  I wear makeup. I change, or alter, what I was born like, every day.  Others pursue plastic surgery to correct sagging eyes or thighs, or the more detrimental things like cleft palates and deformed limbs.  I have no beef with these things.

But…

Really?

The logic, the main idea of not changing who you are inside, doesn’t hold up.  Jonathon and I were talking about this the other day and it sparked this post.  What if we take it to its natural ending?  What if I’m born selfish?  Do I get to be selfish forever, never growing beyond thinking only of number one, cutting in line and taking whatever I want?  We want our children to overcome that childish tendency.  Me!  Mine!!  What if I’m a psychopath?  Can I have a get-out-of-jail-free card?  Hey, I was *born* this way!  No hate! And if I am an unrepentant tire-slasher?  What then? We must curb our antisocial tendencies in order to live together in relative harmony.

I don’t think the lines of nature and nurture are very well-defined. Most axe murderers and child molesters have been violated in some way.  They weren’t born that way.  They were mistreated, or not treated at all.  I think we as humans are much more complicated than we know, at least to each other and even ourselves.  We’re not at all complicated to God, who sees all and knows all.  Shouldn’t we strive to be beyond how we were born?  How would anything get accomplished, any dreams get fulfilled?  What if Frederick Douglass had said, “I’m just a slave and my parents were slaves.  No use fighting it.” One of his owners started teaching him the alphabet, which was against the law.  She saw his potential.  What then?  He became one of the greatest anti-slavery orators, astounding his white critics with his incisive arguments.  They found it hard to believe he had ever been a slave. He supported women’s suffrage and was even a vice presidential nominee.  He gave a voice to those who could not speak for themselves.

What about all the heroes in the Bible?  Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  God had given him dreams of promotion, of being greater even than his parents.  Yet he spent a lot of time in prison, wrongly accused of  harassing his owner’s wife.  What if he’d decided he was worthless, useless, brainless and hopeless, just given up?  He became a model prisoner instead.  He was sort of the right-hand man to the prison guard.  He was faithful to be the best he could be even in rotten circumstances. His promotion to Pharoah’s governor after interpreting Pharoah’s dreams meant he saved at least one nation from starvation during a 7-year famine. 

I could go on and on, but each of these had  a couple of things  in common:  Their lives were tough.  Somebody gave them some hope and kindness, maybe a little bit of vision.  They ran with it.  Shouldn’t we do the same?  In this life, we should be overcomers.  Our testimony should be of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  It shouldn’t be just a “moan-y”.  Our lives count for more than just ourselves.  We may look ordinary on the outside, but we have extraordinary potential.

Willing

I went on a church retreat  the weekend before last. I needed it for a long time.

Resentments had built up, little things and big things that I tried to forgive and just couldn’t get past. My prayer time felt like I was in a glass dome. My prayers seemed to have all the power of bubbles. Worship was difficult, which is hard to admit when you’re a regular on the worship team. I blamed it on being home with Jonathon so much and the weather, but that wasn’t true.

My running had stopped almost entirely. I say this becauase I felt the impetus to do it was gone. I had no races I wanted to run, nothing to prove. My fortieth birthday, and forty-first, came and went. Now what? I quit my part-time job at the church December 2010 and stayed home with the kids, getting Ruby ready for kindergarten. I felt like I’d been chasing my tail for 10 months. Now what? Where was the meaning and purpose? Why the continual holding pattern?

Part of what the Lord wanted to do was s-l-o-w me down. I like to go fast and hard and get things done. Makes me feel like progress is being made and I’m getting somewhere. God’s not interested. His priority is people. I had no time for anyone, especially my kids.

I discovered that I was running from my stuff. Baggage. I could use swear words in other languages to make it more colorful and palatable, but you get the picture. I started to put on weight. Luckily, I gain proportionally. I didn’t suddenly emerge with DDs or a tumorous abdomen. But my clothes are tighter and some plain don’t fit. When I tried to run more, I gained more weight and my leg ached. I ate less and gained more weight. I did more weight workouts and gained still more. I fasted. I changed up my diet. I got nowhere.

This should have clued me in that God was up to something. But I’m stubborn. My dad calls it persistent, but it’s the flip side of the same quality. It can be used for good or evil. I got frustrated. I prayed about it on my own and with Jonathon. What was going on? I started to be more cognizant of eating when physically hungry and stopping when full, something I learned eons ago in Weigh Down  (but keeping the doctrine of the Trinity)and more recently from Thin Within, which is essentially the same program but with the grace attachment. I started to notice that I ate when overwhelmed or frustrated, not when I was angry or lonely. But sometimes when I was bored. And sometimes when other needs weren’t being met.  He got my attention.

Last week was like a honeymoon.  As stuff came up that needed my repentance, I did it.  I forgave old hurts.  I forgave myself. I confessed inner vows I’d made, some big and some small.  The retreat was the catalyst to start moving on the sludge pile in my heart.

It appears I’ve reached a hard patch.  Am I ready to let this come down?  I’m not even totally sure what *this* is. That’s what I’m dealing with now. Am I willing to do and to be the person God wants me to be? I’m short on patience with myself and with others.  Thanks for your kindness and grace towards me.

It’s time.

Thanksgiving

Ben Franklin's choice for our national bird

I really struggled with what to write today.  I didn’t want to put up an obligatory holiday post without thinking it through a bit.

And I came up with…it’s still a good idea.  We as Americans – I can’t speak for any other nationality – don’t often pause and reflect about what’s going on in our lives.  We’re so busy doing and acquiring and reaching for goals that we never take the time to see where we are.  It’s always what’s the next thing.  We can’t lose sight of the good in our lives, some we have helped to create and some that we will never deserve. 

I know that Thanksgiving has gotten a bad reputation the last few years.  The Native Peoples have made their feelings known about being invaded by white settlers.  We took their land and killed most of them off, either through warring parties or our European diseases.  They think the first Thanksgiving was a farce.  Maybe there’s some truth to that; maybe we’ve mythologized it, part of our own unifying fairy tale. I could plead the intoxicating influence of Manifest Destiny.  I understand and I sympathize with these displaced people, to a point, but I’m part of the problem.  Full disclosure:   my ancestors on both sides came over on the Mayflower and I am a direct descendant of  William Bradford .  Dreamers and Pilgrims, searching for a better life, some of them on a quest for religious freedom, inspire me. I can’t change the past and I’m not sure what kind of reparation can be made to any native population, but I’m humbly grateful to be here, to grow up in this bountiful place, laced with freedom and all sorts of good things.  So, on behalf of us white folks, thank you for sharing this wonderful land with us. 

We can’t throw out the baby with the bath water.  Like so many holidays, take the good parts and make it your own.   But it’s never a bad thing to be thankful. So this year, as we sit down and dine with our family and friends, let’s take a moment and cherish each other and what we’ve survived and even overcome.  Things change all the time and the hands we hold now won’t be around forever.

Superpower

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?  I haven’t thought about that in a long time.  Having a son can sometimes make you reconsider your priorities.  Zac said he’d like telekinesis, the ability to move things with your mind.  “You can do it, Duffy Moon!” He could pick up his bedroom lickety split. Perhaps being a good cook doesn’t really count as a special power.  Laser eyes, now that’s pretty special.  Or maybe shape-shifting like Mystique on X-Men, but without  scaly blue skin.

I don’t think leaping tall buildings in a single bound or even flying would cut it for me. I liked Wonder Woman, but her powers were lame.  Deflecting bullets?  A truth lasso?  No thanks. The boots really made the outfit, at least.  I don’t need extra stretchy arms and legs a la Plastic Man and The Wonder Twins, the twin who can turn into any form of water?  He got the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

I remember thinking about this as a kid.  I always thought it’d be cool to have ESP.  The ability to read minds and know what people were thinking, the ultimate invasion of personal space, would save so much trouble.  I could anticipate people’s actions, be ready for them and not get hurt or surprised.  Or would it?  Do I really want to know that the person I’m pouring my heart out to is trying to remember that last item on their shopping list, and their look of concern is nothing more than deep concentration to that end? When the Psychic Hotline was popular, Jonathon always said, “If they’re psychic, shouldn’t they be calling you?”  Like: “Hi Susan, It’s Pam.  Listen, I know this will come as a shock, but your best friend is about to drop you like a hot rock.  Yeah.  I know, she seems nice. And you’re going to get an interview at 9 West.  Wear the navy blazer.”

Maybe I don’t want to know what people are actually thinking.  It could be incredibly disappointing.  How would you explain you know they’re mentally undressing you?  Or that you know they’re much, much more intelligent or humorous than they allow themselves to be in public? Awkward.

What’s your ultimate superpower, and how would you use it?

Waiting

I’m very American in that I don’t like to wait.  Actually, I think waiting is something that most people despise. When we lived in Creswell,  I remember taking Zac to the pediatrician in Eugene when he was a baby.  If you got a morning appointment with Dr. Verandse, you got in on time.  Once the day ticked away, the odds of getting in at your appointment time went way, way down.  You might wait 45 minutes past your meeting time.  Not fun with a sick or restless child with restless, annoyed adult in tow.

That’s the place I’m in now.  The retreat really helped but I sense that there is more and that the timing is not yet.  I’m resisting the urge to stomp my feet and have a tantrum.  Truly. I wanted to go run this morning, but felt a check in my spirit.  It’s not time for that; maybe later today. Not throwing things, not throwing things…Mommy will be a good example…

The biggest thing I got out of the weekend is that I have a healing in the works. Already, healing from some rejection and abandonment leaves me breathing a bit easier.  My childhood memories will be restored or make sense.  I don’t know exactly what I’m repressing. Something is wrong and I want to deal with it. I’m a bit confrontational when it comes to reclaiming freedom. To quote an old “Out of the Grey” song:  “I want everything He promised me.”

One of the retreat speakers quoted Isaiah 30:18:  ‘Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him’. He knows what’s best for me.

If I’m waiting for the Lord’s timing and for him to mete out justice, I can wait.  My waiting is nothing compared to those who wait for comfort for the death of a loved one, or food for their family.  I know He is well able to care for me.  Will I let Him? I don’t want to turn to old crutches of food or mindless entertainment.  I want the real thing, baby.

So I remember all the times He’s come through before, my Ebenezers, and wait in faith.