I Did a Guest Blog and You Can Read It Now

Guest Blog Alert!

As I mentioned in my previous post, while I am taking a bit of a short break from writing full posts right now, I did manage to crank out a guest blog a couple of weeks ago for author, blogger, and teacher of how to write memoir, Marion Roach Smith.

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I was invited by Marion to contribute to her blog on the topic of my choice. Since Marion’s focus is on helping others write memoir (and because she specifically requested I write to that audience), I chose to write about the very first rule I laid down for myself as I began to write my first book–two words I figured no writer of memoir should EVER put together. Which two words are those?

You can find out on Marion’s site, in my post, The Two Words No Memoir Writer Should Ever Use. (You saw that title coming, didn’t you?)

PLUS:

Marion generously offered me some space below the blog to include an excerpt from one of my books. I chose a piece from Raised By a Dad Man, a comedic, self-contained little short story about how I got the better of two high school bullies in a most unconventional way. Those who have read the book often cite it as a highlight. I hope you dig it.

More regular-type blog stuff coming soon!

Hey, Where are the New Blogs?

Hi there.

This is just a quick note to say I haven’t died, found a job or otherwise passed into a state that renders this blog invalid in my life.

It’s been about a week since I’ve posted anything, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in this blog or that you’re not going to see how this current story of unemployment ends. I’ve just been so focused on the latest draft of Worlds Apart that I haven’t had brain space for anything else.

Soon, the draft will be completed and at that time I plan on blitzing this blog and (hopefully) post days at a rapid rate. I’m still making notes, still filing reports, I’m just not fleshing them out into fully formed blogs. For those of you that are still in this with me, that will change. Promise.

See you again soon.

-Brock

P.S. I did craft a guest blog recently and the blogger graciously allowed me to attach an extensive excerpt from Raised By a Dead Man to it. That should land any minute now and I’ll be sure and let you all know when it does. So, y’know, at least there’s that.

 

Day 63 – The Full Picture is Not Painted with Only Happy Colors

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Friday – October 31, 2014

Even this photo, which popped up when I searched "bright colors" has real darkness in it. We can't recognize the bright without the dark.

Even this photo, which popped up when I searched “bright colors” has real darkness in it. We can’t recognize the bright without the dark.

Fair warning: there are highs and lows with this unemployment thing and, sadly, today is another low.

* * *

Erin and I had an early morning meeting with Cami’s teachers to discuss her IEP (Individual Education Plan) goals. Every kid with special needs who goes to school has an IEP that’s refreshed every year. We weren’t due to discuss it until January, but the meeting was called early for the most surprising and pleasant of reasons: Cami hit her goals early. This has never happened before. Usually, Cami doesn’t hit her goals at all and we have to roll them into the next year. The kid grows and develops like she’s running against a much different, slower clock than the rest of us. We’re pretty much floored by this new, overachieving Cami. The mysterious, sets-her-own-pace Cami has trained us too well.

Together, we made new, short term goals with the hope she’ll hit them by the real IEP meeting at the first of next year.

At the end of the meeting, and after two months of picking up and dropping off Cami at school and looking mostly like an unshaven caveman monster while doing it, I finally had to explain to Cami’s teachers that Erin and I are unemployed. We weren’t hiding it (clearly, says my crusty face), but today they asked if we were going back to work now that the meeting was over. This was an odd question, so I’m sure they must have suspected something was up and this was the first real opportunity they had to ask.

It is always, always, always humiliating to admit we’re out of work. I don’t hide it and I will tell anyone who asks, but that openness is something that, at times, I force because I know it’s good for me and I know, intellectually, that there’s no shame attached to it. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t get that and that part shrinks and flushes red.

Cami’s teachers were kind and sympathetic and said they’d keep their ears out for any opportunities. This is the exact right response.

* * *

Halloween tonight. The kids all went out and knocked doors. They got a lot of candy. I’m going to get fat.

* * *

I don’t know if it was because of the way the meeting ended with Cami’s teachers or just because of the reality of our current situation, but I’m feeling utterly hopeless today. The leads have basically dried up and we’re back to square one. Days like this we feel like we’re really, truly in trouble. At least with a lead or interviews being scheduled we can point and say, “See, there’s something that could work out.” But that’s not today.

Today is hard. Today, things look bleak.

I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: we’re going to be fine. I don’t doubt that, but today is tough and my inability to see past today is bothering me more than usual. As I said in a recent blog, “The present does not always shake hands with the future.”

I share these down periods and the hopelessness we feel at times freely in the interest of the full picture. It drives me crazy when people give no thought to the narrative they’re putting out there. And we all have a narrative. As soon as you put more than one thing about yourself out there as public information, you’re creating a narrative about your life. If you’re not careful, you can create a misperception about yourself that leaves others feeling either worried about you (if your narrative weighs toward the negative) or disbelieving you and feeling bad about themselves (if your narrative strays towards the overly rosy and positive). I strive for my narrative to be positive, but honest (or, accurate).

The full picture cannot be painted with only bright, happy colors. Not in this life anyway.

So, yes, today is tough. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

 

Days 61 and 62 – Cami’s Halloween Surprise

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Wednesday and Thursday – October 29-30, 2014

Wednesday

We had our church Halloween Party tonight. Party was fun, kids were cute. Always great to see everyone out of their church clothes and in witch costumes and dressed up as characters from the LEGO Movie. A friend of mine, Nate, dressed up at Lord Business, complete with cape and giant hat. I had the great pleasure of informing him that from the back the character looks like a giant neck tie. I can’t remember where I heard that, but it’s true.

My favorite moment was hanging out with Cami during the Trunk or Treat portion of the party. Cami doesn’t go for large crowds, so by the time it got dark enough and the kids were going from car to car to collect their candy, Cami was done and wanted out and she was going to cry and whine and claw to get out of there all night if she had to. Instead, we opened the back hatch of the van, sat inside, and, on a whim, I asked Cami, decked out in her Wonder Woman costume, to hand out the candy. (I love candy. Too much. And candy corn is best of all. Although, if you eat too much of it, it gets disgusting. But if I’m a dog, that’s my vomit.)

Cami as Wonder Woman, with her sister Violet who went as Merida.

Cami as Wonder Woman, with her sister Violet who went as Merida.

Since she’s nonverbal, I had no idea if Cami even understood what I was asking, but sure enough as the first kid came in, Cami happily reached into the bowl and pulled out the candy and deposited it into the kid’s bag. She did it again and again that night, for each and every kid that came along. She moved a little slower than Iron Man and Princess Anna and Michaelangelo may have liked, but she did it all, and pretty much by herself.

We underestimate, constantly, what Cami is capable of. This was a fantastic surprise.

Thursday

Spent a lot of the day writing, which makes for poor blogging. I did, however, hit a real milestone as I began the last chapter of WORLDS APART. There is nothing quite like the torture of writing the last chapter of a book. I’m gripped with fear and inadequacy. The last chapter is a terrorist.

I feel a great sense of urgency to finish this book. Once I finally have a job again, my spare time to work on projects like this will be once again be drastically reduced. Can I finish the book before that time comes? It would be nice.

Of course, it would be a far nicer thing to just have the job already The book will get done one way or another. The job is a far bigger question mark.

Day 60 – The Two Most Important Things We Can Do in Times of Trial

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Tuesday – October 28, 2014

Our biggest trial. And yet, I look at this picture and I wonder how that's possible.

Our biggest trial. And yet, I look at this picture and I wonder how that’s possible.

I needed today in a big way. Without fail, it is those days I get out of the house to visit and serve others that I am most the most calm and optimistic about my own situation.

Case in point: I went three hours without fidgeting. I am a big time fidgeter. In the fidgeter olympics, I medal every time. I think it’s just because my mind is always working, usually in overdrive. Fidgeting, changing my position in my seat, biting my nails–all of it helps me to focus on the task at hand. Or at least it seems to.

Tonight, while out visiting with families to assess their needs with the Bishop, I just never felt the need to fidget. I sat and listened carefully to the conversation with nary a switch to my crossed legs or a tap of my finger. I was in no hurry to leave at any point and I enjoyed the visits immensely. It was glorious.

Just before our last visit was over, I got a call from Erin in a panic. Two of our friends had just been in a serious car accident. Their truck rolled three times but, miraculously, they were just fine with only a couple of scratches and a completely totaled truck to show for it. Understandably, they were, sure, grateful to be alive, but also freaking out. Their truck was gone.

It was more than fortuitous that the Bishop and I were together. We headed their way quickly to find them frazzled and angry and upset and lost, as any of us would be. They wanted a blessing, which we were pleased to give, but also just to talk. They couldn’t see how their lives could accommodate this disaster. It wasn’t just a truck. It was a vital part of how they conducted their day-to-day lives and a financial obligation they had to meet despite the fact that the actual truck no longer existed. They were facing complication upon complication upon complication.

One of the things I said that either helped or didn’t was that I felt a lot of the same things right after I lost my job. Even as I was being let go, I couldn’t help but have grand, terrible visions of losing our house and not being able to feed the kids and panhandling on the side of road and splitting a chicken nugget between the five of us with a now-useless credit card. I thought of every awful thing the future held for us, and more besides. And the more I thought about it all, the more anxiety I had. All was darkness. I couldn’t see a any way out of our previously unfathomable situation.

I told my friends I did two things to help myself make it through:

1. I stopped projecting past the present.

This is a trick we learned with Cami, our middle daughter with special needs. After six years of testing and worrying and struggling and no more answers about who Cami is and what is wrong with her little body and mind than when she was first born, Erin and I finally just decided to stop thinking about the future and to let go of the past. We couldn’t reverse all the hundreds of hours spent with doctors and the expensive tests and the heartache of coming to terms with having a daughter with special needs, and we couldn’t contemplate what her future would look like–whether it be in a home with other people like her or at our side as we cared for her for the rest of our lives, or even if she would ever be able to talk to us or have a relationship with a man or live into adulthood or any of that–so we decided to ignore all of that in favor of the present. The present, which is far more singular in nature, can be dealt with much more easily than the disappointments of the past or the endless, difficult-to-comprehend possibilities of the future. In the present we found so much joy that we hadn’t known was there all along. As it turned out, Cami was a deliriously happy kid, and we had been missing that. And the things we had to do to help her through her life? They didn’t seem so bad when we just took them one at a time and ignored the rest. We found Cami, the real one, by doing this, and we actually got to know her. Likewise, when I lost my job, the magnitude of the responsibilities that now lay ahead for me seemed too impossible to handle. But when I broke it down into “today, I will apply for unemployment, follow up on some job leads, and spend some extra time with my kids,” the task of finding a new way to support my family and surviving the time it took to do so didn’t seem so bad at all. It actually seemed quite nice.

The present is always a more pleasant place than we give it credit for. The problem is we weigh the present down so much with the future and the past. It’s not built to really bear those burdens. When you don’t let it, the present starts working for you, not against you.

2. I reminded myself of all the times I was down so low I  thought I might never get up again and yet I did anyway.

Experience doesn’t do us any good if we don’t learn from it. How many times in our lives have things seemed hopeless only to turn out quite differently from the negative outcomes we imagined and believe in wholeheartedly? Obviously, not every bad thing turns out well in the end, but enough do–I would argue the majority do–that we should give positive outcomes more of the benefit of the doubt. All those impossible ordeals I’ve been through? They’re just a memory now, something for me to reflect on and grow from. I never thought I would, for instance, find someone to marry. I was terrible at dating and insecure and had never even kissed a girl for a long, long time. I thought I was hopeless. I truly, genuinely did. I thought relationships with the fairer sex was one of those things that I just didn’t–and would never–get. And yet here I am, all of that past me. It’s just gone. It’s better than gone, it’s actually reversed. I didn’t just find a girl, I found the most beautiful girl in the world and trick her into marrying me and having kids. The proof is in my wedding ring: we make it out of bad situations all the time.

I encouraged my friends to believe on their past and look forward to that future where all these matters were settled and they were taken care of. That’s a difficult perspective to have especially in the middle of a trial, but it’s important to have it.

Day 59 – Fate, Ruined

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Monday – October 27, 2014

No_fate_but_whatever

Let’s face it, at this point I’m willing to attach any picture that’s even tangentially related to the point.

I heard back definitively on the Salt Lake job. This big time, multi-million dollar company was kind enough to call personally to say I didn’t actually have the job. It was down to me and one other guy for the Creative Director position. I got close… but no. I wasn’t their guy. This is a big “coulda’ been.”

I experienced a brief second of disappointment and feeling a bit like I’d been faked out (don’t they typically only call back if you have the job?), but it really was a classy way of taking care of what could be some messy business, depending on how I reacted. To go just a step further, they’re sending me some free product in the mail. That’s a pretty solid thing to do for someone they ostensibly will never deal with or see again.

Credit where it’s due: that company was Perfectly Posh.

The tricky thing this afternoon was that this latest rejection sent mine and Erin’s emotions flying off in two different directions. She was sad and upset because our unemployment ordeal is not yet at an end and she was actually kind of excited about moving to Utah. I was just relieved. As completely pumped as I was for the job, it was also a very big job in a high pressure situation. That’s awesome and exciting, but also a situation I now don’t have to adjust to.

In other words: I, the drowning man, just found a silver lining after being thrown an inner tube attached to a too short rope.

I think sometimes I err in putting too positive a spin on things. My attitude frustrated Erin. Do I not have ambition? Am I not concerned? Or am I content to watch the ship go down with a fiery burning? (It’s possible I’m crushing this blog under the weight of too many metaphors.)

The truth is I was just taking my time getting around to being really, truly bummed. Working at Perfectly Posh would have been absolutely amazing. I hear they ride scooters around the office and I OWN A SCOOTER. Fate has been ruined. It’s possible I don’t even believe in it anymore (okay, I never did).

Salt Lake probably would have been an incredible journey for our family. Instead, we’re still here, doing our best to make our money go as far as we can for as long as we can. There are still other irons in the fire–the San Francisco job, for one–but this hurts. Right now, it just hurts.

* * *

Tried to get to writing all day today, but what I wanted just wasn’t in the cards. Should have taken that as a sign.

Instead, in the one bright spot of the day, I went to the park with Erin and Violet. Lately, Violet is fascinated with all things Mario and she insisted we act out her every video game fantasy. Mommy was Mario and she was a very modern day Princess Peach/Elsa hybrid who fought off Bowser (me) with her ice powers. I died a lot this morning.