prayer

Why Going on Vacation is Necessary

My wife I just got back from Italy.

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Needless to say, it’s a bit windy in a bell tower.

Now that is, of course, insane. While I’ve settled on how I’m going to make money for the forseeable future, it’s not exactly like I’m making a ton of it at the moment. So, a jaunt across the pond for 10 days in the historical, beautiful country of Italy seems like a terrible idea.

I know it seems like a terrible idea because pretty much everyone who we told about our trip beforehand reacted pretty much the same way: total silence followed by… “Oh.”

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Looking out over Florence

Recognizing their discomfort, I’d try to explain why we were going despite everything else going on. At that point they’d usually back off and say something like “Hey, you don’t have to explain yourselves to ANYBODY. You guys have had a rough year. You deserve it. Bring me back a gelato.”

After explaining that an ice chest is not my carry-on of choice, I had to admit that–you know what?–we have had a rough year. But I still didn’t think that would be reason enough to take a vacation to Italy. It just seemed so indulgent. “Deserve” is not a word I ever find easy to associate with what fortunes and good blessings I may have.

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Florence again. We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day.

Once we got there, Erin and I didn’t hide what we were doing at all. We posted on Facebook at the end of each day, sharing with our friends and family the trips we took to Verona, Vicenza, Vinci, Luca, Florence, Pisa, Venice,Rome, and more. When Erin and I danced in the streets of Venice, we showed off our moves in video form. We were public about it all. We just never shared why we were there.

So, naturally, the question we got when we got back from this amazing European vacation was “So, how’d you swing that?”

Now, only a few people dared ask this, but I take those people as representative of a rather large population who were privately screaming “HOW’D THEY SWING THAT?!??!?”

It’s a great question, and one most of you have probably figured out by now: it turns out my wife is a previously unknown descendant of William Randolph Hearst and she just this year received her time-released inheritance on the occasion of her 34th birthday.

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Rome. What was incredible–and oh so foreign to us–was the way the centuries just stacked themselves next to each other in the buildings and ruins.

No, in fact we paid for the vacation before we lost our jobs. In further fact, it was just two weeks before we lost our jobs that we bought the tickets. How’s that for an extra sticky stab in our fragile, unemployed hearts?

Like most big decisions we make (and we consider leaving the country to be a VERY big decision), Erin and I bought the tickets after prayerfully considering the matter. Nine months is a long time between purchase and use. Anything could happen in nine months and a little plea to He for whom the past, present and future are all one doesn’t hurt.

And, of course, it did. Happen. Something happened two weeks later that left Erin and I looking askance up at God and saying, “Really?”

The timing seemed horrible. And the timing was crucial as we knew Pete and Lisa were moving to Belgium the following Summer. No offense, Belguim, but I don’t really know much about you. But Italy? I’ve wanted to go to the Colosseum since I was in the sixth grade and built a replica out of cardboard as part of a school project. Setting my feet on that previously quite bloody ground was never going to be so cheap again. Ever.

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I’m not going to pretend we didn’t buy trip insurance because we did. We could have gotten refunds for the tickets due to our job loss, but we simply didn’t do that. We kept the tickets and the jar of extra cash we’d saved for spending money while abroad (though we did dip into that now and again when things got rough).  We kept it because, after all, we prayed about this trip. We got the green light. It wasn’t like God didn’t know we were going to lose our jobs.

So, at the end of March, we left for foreign shores and spent 10 days galavanting through Italy.

So, how did we swing that? Well, first of all and most obviously, it helps to have paid for tickets months and months in advance–and you have no idea how cheap a trip to Italy can be when you fly a Russian airline with an 8-hour layover in Moscow.

Second of all–and this was always the plan anyway–we stayed and traveled with our friends Pete and Lisa who have been living in Pisa, Italy for the past three years. The expenses that little jar of cash was supposed to cover were less than half what they would have been otherwise. You eliminate hotels almost entirely and most of the food budget (Lisa was kind enough to cook for us every day) and things get easier.

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Erin was a particular fan of the lighting in the one hotel we stayed in.

So, there were some real, practical, spiritual, and timing reasons to go to Italy right now. Great reasons. But the real reason we went?

We friggin’ needed a vacation.

Lisa and Erin in Florence. This guy made like a statue and wouldn't let Erin's hand go.

Lisa and Erin in Florence. This guy made like a statue and wouldn’t let Erin’s hand go.

Our friends were right to some extent–we needed to take a break because of everything that’s happened. Yes, things are looking up for us now, but the stress of unemployment and not knowing where the next paycheck will come from ever looms and are not set aside so easily. Selfishly, Erin and I wanted a recharge. We felt like we kind of needed one.

Ah... Venice.

Ah… Venice.

And we got one. When we set foot back on American soil we got just a huge rush. We were excited to take on the new life ahead of us and get to work. That is, duh, why we go on vacation. But I don’t think I’ve ever really seen the necessity in fun like I do now. The necessity of relaxation. The need to step away, see anew, and experience a perspective shift that can only come with removing yourself entirely to another place and then coming back.

You see things differently. You see how small even the biggest concerns can be when viewed from far away. It’s nice to know they can shrink like that. And that Italian pizza is the best pizza.

Because, duh.

Lisa, Erin, Myself and Pete eating in Florence.

Lisa, Erin, Myself and Pete eating in Florence.

* * *

In other news… I know I don’t update too often anymore. I hope that trend can stop, but I have to tell you… I been busy. Doing projects. Settin’ meetings for those projects, etc. This is a period of great creativity for me and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

More on that in another update coming soon.

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My Wife and I Lost Our Jobs. Six Months Later, We Discover the Next Step.

Towards the lightI couldn’t figure out how to title this post, so I decided to go with the stupidest one possible.

But, yes, it’s true, after six months and many, many more blog posts, my wife and I finally know what to do next. And, for us, it’s kind of insane.

First, a little background:

The day I was let go from my job just 24 hours after Erin lost hers has got to be one of worst–and best–days of my life. “Worst” for the obvious reasons, and “best” because even in the midst of being completely, utterly freaked out, I couldn’t help but be at least a little excited about whatever potential new opportunities lie ahead. It’s rare an epoch of our lives ends so definitively that we can recognize it in the moment. Usually, it’s only by looking back we see accurately just when one phase ended and the next one began.

And yet, looking back, there is more that I can see clearly now that I couldn’t even then. I believe life, if we are in tune with the curve of it, is always preparing us for the next thing. God is in the machine.

One of the difficult things about blogging every day during the first half of our unemployment was that sometimes I would have thoughts and feelings that I didn’t know what to do with, and, consequently, didn’t know how or if I should express them to the public. How could I express to you what I could barely understand myself?

The one consistent thought and emotion I’ve had since this all began is this: everything is going to be okay. The one constant inconsistency has been this: the how. For a long while we both assumed we were to walk the paths we and so many others had before: apply for jobs, then interview, then get a job.

Only that last part never happened. Time and again we’d both have these amazing interviews and then, for one reason or another, the job would not materialize. Worse, often the potential employers would just vanish (once, literally).

The longer it all went on, the more a thought kept coming back to me that I dared not express. If I did, then how could anyone do anything but conclude that I was a lazy bum? This thought was not a reasonable thought, and it would make what was an already tense situation even worse because behind the thought was nothing. It was a vaporous idea, signifying much and meaning nothing because it begged all sorts of questions for which I had no answers.

But the thought was there. And it was this: That the 9-to-5 is no longer for me.

For a time, I imagined the thought might mean that the book I was working on was the beginning of a new career for me. But I knew that was stupid. Unless you’re writing trilogies about starving kids killing each other* or the weird sex escapades of a woman who bites her lip a lot, it’s tough to make a living as a writer. I believe in both of the books I’ve written and I know one day they’ll find their audience, but it will likely be a niche audience.

Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not a living.

Alongside this thought was this nagging idea–a feeling, really–that I needed to patient. I felt like the answers would present themselves and that I need not worry. This is a great, comforting feeling to have unless you have a wife and kids who are used to things like money to pay for food and housing. But I trust such feelings to put me in tune with the curve, and I couldn’t just ignore it. I could only not share it.

So, I didn’t.

Which brings us to the decision. When Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing at Tremendum Pictures first asked to meet with me back in December, they told me straight up they were interested in me coming on board as a creative talent to help them with their various endeavors: feature films, marketing videos, viral videos, commercials, etc. Their first movie, The Gallows, comes out July 10 from New Line Cinema. Worldwide release, and it was made right here in Fresno. That’s a big deal. And they see Tremendum Pictures being an even bigger deal in the future, but for that they need talented people at their side. It was a flattering offer.

Two months later, and after much prayer and fasting and deliberation and barraging Travis and Chris with a million questions, Erin and I have decided to go all in with Tremendum. All in. This will be my every day.

But what does that mean?

Well, for right now, that means our financial situation doesn’t change very much. The entertainment business is a very different thing from what we’re used to and, for now, the money we receive is going to depend on what jobs come in and what deals can be made. We’re taking a true leap of faith here, confident that the money will come because that’s the promise we’ve received. Not from Travis and Chris, but from Someone a little higher up.

Make no mistake, for us, this is insane.

When we first got married, Erin and I had the mutual philosophy of not caring about making big money so long as we had stability. We valued that above all. As such, we’ve never had credit card debt and each time we’ve bought a home we’ve purposely gotten something that was way, way under what we could afford.  This is just who we are.We’re not big spenders. We’re not risk-takers.

But even more than being frugal people, we are people who consult the Lord on our decisions and don’t make big moves until we know it’s right. Signing on with Tremendum reminds me a lot of the decision we made to have our first child. At the time, we were in college, had no health insurance, and jobs that paid barely above minimum wage. And no prospects. After not being able to get rid of the idea that it was time to start our family and praying incessantly about it, it became clear to us that we were being asked to make a leap of faith. Only then would reap the blessing of being able to actually afford the child we were being prompted to bring into the world.

We found out Erin was pregnant the day before I started the job from which I was let go six months ago.

So, here we are again, on the precipice of something new and great. How great, we don’t yet know. For me, it’s going to mean working on lots of local projects and developing a TV Show that has already sparked some serious interest. I feel uniquely prepared for this. All my talents and skills will be poured into this job, and, though I have a lot to learn, I know I can do it. I simply, unequivocally, know it.

For Erin, this means going back to school. If she works now as well then I won’t have the flexibility in my schedule to pull this off, so she’s applied to get a Masters in Communication. She wants to teach at the college level and anyone who knows her knows exactly how flat out incredible she’ll bet at it. I’m thrilled for her.

How are we going to pull all this off? I don’t honestly know yet. I only know that we will. And that’s crazy.

Thank you, everyone, for following along with us through this journey. Thank you for your encouragement and words of wisdom. Thank you to those who supported us with gifts and babysitting and other assistance. We’re not quite out of the woods yet, but we’ve gotten this far in large part thanks to you.

This blog isn’t going away, but the focus will be shifting a bit. I’ll try to let you in as much as I can on the frankly awesome things I’ll be doing in the future. I’ll also be continuing my work on my books, and I might even serialize a few chapters or so in this space. I’d love to share more of what I’ve been doing the past few years.

Thanks again. See you soon.

*Yes, I know that’s not what the Hunger Games books are about. I’ve read them. They’re about vampires in love in a world where everyone is put into one of five factions based on their talents and forced to run in a maze to get to Hogwarts, the space school orbiting the Earth.

Can’t I Just Get a Win?

Jar Jar knows what I'm talking about.

Jar Jar knows what I’m talking about.

In the interest of providing balance (like it or not, we brand ourselves to others with what we choose to share), may I just say the past day has been a little rough? Nothing big has happened, just the usual pressures of life getting me down a little.

I know failure is valuable and without it no one ever truly succeeds, but I realized yesterday that I’ve accepted the important place failure has in my life and in my learning so fully that I haven’t been noticing that it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a measurable success. I would really like to have a success, just one I can point to and say “See? That worked.” At the moment, I feel quite done with potential and promise and talent. I would like a win. Something achieved. A gain.

A success.

This is whining. This is what whining looks like, I know. I don’t share any of this in denial of my great blessings–my family, the roof that keeps the rain off our heads, my wife’s excellent cooking, etc.–but once in a while even the happiest of us gets low and I think it’s important to acknowledge those times to others and ourselves in the interest of balance and growth. I’ve got to process the bad feelings to understand them. Pretending they aren’t there or that I shouldn’t have them is stupid.

So, yes, it would be nice if success didn’t feel like a constantly moving target. When that happens so consistently, you become fearful. You can’t just lose, lose, lose all the time. Eventually, you’ll run out of the ability to even experience loss because you won’t have anything. So I would like a win. Just one to prove it’s still possible.

This is kind of like a prayer. Don’t think you’re the first person I’ve said this to (you, the collective internet) because Heavenly Father and I have been going at it on this for a little while. Oddly, for all the sadness I feel right now, I also feel peace. I assume that’s by comforting design.

I don’t share any of this as a plea for assurances. Please don’t do that. As I said, I’m done with promise and potential and talent. Or at least I’m done with pointing to those things as proof that there is an end to my personal losing streak. If effort, ability and sheer force of will had the power to correct this situation, I’m sure it would have happened a long time ago.

My suspicion is that this is simply going to take some time and that I’ll feel much better for having said these things. Success is also a matter of timing. I’ve experienced too many losses that lead to great gains in my life to be too overly depressed by all this. Still, it’s frustrating to find that the older I get the more elongated these lessons become–and the more patient I need to be.

Maybe that’s the point.