Day 27 – The Perks and the Panic of Unemployment

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 – September 24, 2014

I am officially the regular pickup parent at school. Cami’s teachers know to look for me, we have conversations that continue from one day to the next, and they feel free to give me pertinent information. I remember when I would go pick up the kids once in a while and Cami’s teachers would reintroduce themselves every time. I like being more in touch with things, but it also represents a loss of… status? No, that’s not right. Something though. I lost something to gain something there.

* * *

Our friends Pete and Lisa, who live in Europe, came over to hang out for pretty much the whole day. They brought pizza, then later when we were done with that they bought bags and bags of candy. We all blew our diets to smithereens as we played games and laughed and talked. In the middle of the freakin’ day. I felt like I was getting away with something. I know I took a vacation already this year, and yet I didn’t have to ask for time off to do any of it.

There are perks, is all I’m saying. There are perks.



Cami was particularly insistent on her share of candy, even going so far as to say “candy.” I’ve mentioned that Cami is a our middle daughter with special needs, but I don’t know that I’ve ever explained what those needs are. The sad truth is we’ve got no idea what is up with Cami–she does not have a diagnosis. She’s smaller than other kids her age, less coordinated. She doesn’t process information the same way we do and it’s hard to gauge how much she understands because her vocabulary is only in the double digits. Whatever it is that delays her development so very much, it impacts her speech in a big way. Once in a while–once in a great while–she’ll come out with new words out of the blue. Today, it was “candy.”

A couple months ago, when we still had jobs and went on that vacation and could do things like spend money freely (we were so young! so innocent!), we were with family in Oregon when Cami all of the sudden decided she could say “Daddy.” She said it over and over again, particularly when I entered the room. This wasn’t a case of interpreting a sound to make it mean what we wanted–she was really saying my name (well, title).

How do I even explain what that did to me? I have been waiting nine years for Cami to call me “Daddy,” but I’ve never even heard anything close to it coming out of her mouth. Cami is always excited when she sees me, but there was something about her actually saying my name that put a big ol’ rock in my throat. I could not be more connected with Cami, and yet, instantly, we were more connected. She was my little girl and I was her Daddy for what felt like the very first time.

There are two sad codas to this story:

1. She has yet to say it again since we’ve come back from Oregon. (This is Cami’s way–she’ll do a thing and then either never do it again or wait several years before making it a regular part of her behavior.)

2. She has still never said “Mommy.” To be fair, she seems completely unable to make the “m” sound. I think Erin will honestly break down in tears if it ever happens.

* * *

Had a good time this evening drawing for my online comic, The SuperFogeys, after everyone went to bed. I don’t do a whole lot of drawing these days because I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to, but every once in a while, for a change in pace, it hits the spot. This was one of those times.

One of my favorite SuperFogeys strips.

One of my favorite SuperFogeys strips.

Unfortunately, right in the middle of this late night drawing session, I was hit with a wave of panic. Ever since losing my job I’ve been getting these now and again. There’s no real rhyme or reason to when they happen–they just happen. When the wave hits, I feel lost and abandoned and, worst of all, like I’m just not doing enough and am somehow responsible for the current state of my life. Like I’ve broken faith with my family and could have done something that could have avoided all this.

I don’t honestly believe that (the circumstances of my job loss had nothing to do with my performance on the job), but it’s hard sometimes to not play the blame game a little. I look around, I try to find someone to blame, and I land right on me.

I’ve called moments like these George Bailey Moments, and that’s still accurate. I’m getting better at shaking it off though. I’m able to rationalize my way through it as an unproductive line of thought, a lie the weaker part of myself is all too willing to tell.

That part of myself? That guy that brings me down? He’s a tool.


Day 19 – The Work/Life Balance of the Unemployed

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, September 16, 2014

I’m a complete jerk when I don’t get sleep. Erin likes to tell the story of the morning soon after we returned from our honeymoon. After a week of sleeping in for as long as we wanted and eating breakfast for lunch, we both had to get up early to go to work. She set the alarm for 6am and we needed to be up at 7am. When it went off, she hit snooze. When the alarm went off again 7 minutes later, she hit snooze again. When the alarm went off again 7 minutes later, she hit snooze again. And so on. After five or six times of this, I got up on all fours and started pounding on the bed like a gorilla, screaming “STOP HITTING THE SNOOZE! STOP HITTING THE SNOOZE! STOP IT!!!”

file0001558998064Erin started crying. Who was this beast she’d married? After calling her a crazy person for hitting snooze so many times, I calmed down and apologized. I explained that what she thought of as little reminders that she was still sleeping were devastating wake up calls for me. It takes me a full half hour to fall back asleep, if I get to at all. I’m an insomniac, what should be and what I’d rather doesn’t always matter.

So, when I say that today I woke up after only four hours of sleep for the second time in 48 hours, you can understand how potentially horrifying that could be to those I love. I’m not rational when I lack sleep. I’m not kind. I’m a gorilla.

Why so little sleep right now, when I have no job? I’m just so dang busy. I can’t sit around and wait and look for the right job. That would be have me busy in and of itself, but it’s not enough. I have to work. Whether on my own stuff or someone else’s, I’ve got to work. The freelance projects are coming in and last night I was up way past midnight working. This new self-determined schedule and extra time I have during the day, it’s so tempting. I can use it all working on things I enjoy! As someone who struggled every night after everyone else went to bed to get all my side projects done with whatever energy I had left over from my 9-to-5, I love being able to do things during the day.

However, there’s a cost.

My lack of sleep is wholly indicative of my struggle to achieve balance in my life right now. My schedule is so thrown out of whack and there are so many things to do. This blog, which I regard as important and accidentally great for networking, is one of those things that I must get to, every day. I have commitments to my online comic, The SuperFogeys. I have my kids. I have my wife. I have a book I’m writing. I have a job I’m looking for. I have a church calling. I have friends and extended family. Books I’ve read halfway. A grandmother I don’t ring up on the phone enough. Freelance.

None of these things are in the right order. Getting them in the right order is a minute-by-minute exercise I seem to always be failing.

Erin noticed this today. She confronted me directly and woke me up to the fact that I can’t do it. I can’t satiate my frenetic need to be constantly working. There’s always going to be more to do and more efforts we could make, but a break is sometimes necessary. Interacting with and taking care of the kids and cleaning the house is sometimes necessary because, newsflash, I’m not the only one with the no job problem. She needs to work on stuff, too. It’s an aspect of us both being out of work I’m ashamed to say I just didn’t consider seriously until now.

Of all the advice we get from those who have been through unemployment (for which I am grateful), no one has much to say about what to do when both spouses lose their jobs right on top of each other. There’s a different emotional component that comes into play, and further considerations that have to be made. I feel like I’m just beginning to understand that.

Day 6 – The Difference Between Being Let Go and Letting Go

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

September 3, 2014

Me at my desk at work on a very different day. (I didn't usually wear such things to work. I think I had gone to a funeral the day this was taken.)

Me at my desk at work on a very different day. (I didn’t usually wear such things to work. I think I had gone to a funeral the day this was taken.)

Erin let me sleep in after a late night of doing everything I could to drive myself to distraction. I woke up so sick to my stomach I thought I was going to puke right there in my bed. Today was the day I went back to work to clear out my desk and talk to my old boss.

Lost another pound and a half overnight. I’ve learned this is how my body responds to stress: I lose all appetite. When I was younger and insecure and completely infatuated with a girl at school, I went about a year and a half sustained by very little. Food was gross. The act of eating was a chore. My stomach was so constantly empty that people around me would make a face at revulsion at the loud grumbling emanating from my mid section, but I couldn’t have cared less.

I haven’t really felt like that again until this week.

Erin accompanied me to help me pack up my workspace while I downloaded twelve years of personal files from off my computer. We went to Home Depot first for boxes. The shipping department later scolded us for that, saying they’d have been glad to provide. We just didn’t want to be a bother.

My old boss was in a meeting when we got there, but when he found out I was waiting to speak with him he left to come talk to me. He was much more than just a boss to me, and I was a lot more than an employee to him. We had a long talk that ultimately ended with a long hug and expressions of love. That’s one conversation I won’t be having in my head for the rest of my life because I actually got to have it.

There were lots of tears as Erin and I went around to all the offices to say goodbye. Even I teared up, and I’m not terribly prone to do that. The previous two and a half years were the best time I’ve ever had on a job. The people I worked with were largely responsible for that and I will miss them terribly.

Earlier in the morning I thought I might shake apart for all the anxiety I was feeling. Now, as Erin and I walked the parking lot back to our car for the last time, I smiled. I hadn’t been able to see past today since the moment I was let go. But just because they let me go didn’t mean I’d let them go. This was my turn. Now, it was over.

Erin insisted we go to my favorite nearby sandwich place, Sunnyside Deli, for lunch. We spent more money we don’t how to replenish, but at least I ate again. I ate an entire Hot Pastrami sandwich. Tasted so good I might have had another if it weren’t for the instant stomach ache it gave me.

When we got home, we played Mario Kart 8. I read a study recently that said playing Mario Kart relieves stress. I think that’s true.

* * *

Once again friends blessed us by bringing by dinner. Since our emotional exhaustion seemed to be having such a physical impact and the last thing Erin could imagine doing was cooking, we were grateful.

I’ve been getting messages of support and a few donations from loyal readers of my online comic, The SuperFogeys. Many of them are recommending we put the comic up on Patreon to garner some actual, regular monetary support. It’s a different kind of love that suggestion–the love of strangers–but it’s nonetheless a suggestion that keeps this little gratitude train we’re on rolling. Who tells you they want to pay for something you’re giving away for free? People who care, that’s who.

Next steps had to be taken tonight, so Erin and I wasted no time this evening cracking open our brains and working on her resume. This is so very real. I officially separated from old job. Tomorrow is my first real day of unemployment.

* * *

Had three brownies tonight after everyone went to bed. Didn’t throw up.

Making the Rounds on the Web (and Why)

Hey everybody, I’ve been poppin’ up in some spots you may have missed and I wanted to give you all a heads up!

First off, I recorded a podcast last week with my good friends, Tom Racine and artist Marc Lapierre. The ‘cast was mostly about the online comic Marc and I do together, The SuperFogeys, but we also talk a bit about my memoir and, of all things, Star Wars 3D. In any case, it’s a chance for you to make fun of my voice. You can listen to it right now.

Second, just yesterday one of my blogs from a couple weeks back, What is a Memoir? (And Why I Wrote One) has been passed along to many a person, and Wayne Groner just went ahead and reposted it to his site in full (with my permission, of course–Wayne’s an upstanding guy).

Lastly, power blogger Angie Mizzell invited me to do a guest blog for her as she gets ready for the birth of her third child and I was only too happy to oblige. That guest blog, which went live today, is entitled Cami and is a rewrite and update of a piece I wrote up years ago about my special needs daughter and the awkward conversations I sometimes have about her. I’m particularly proud of this one.

Why is this all happening?

One of the purposes of this website is to try to get myself out there a little more and to be more, well, known. When my book comes out I’d like it to see some success (imagine that) and the only way to do that these days isn’t just to have a great book that’s well-written and well represented by a terrific agent (though I have both of those things and they’re very, very important), it’s to have PRESENCE. Or, if you’d prefer I didn’t use my own word to describe a known thing, a platform.

To that end, I’d like to put it out there that I’m available for guest blogging, podcast shows, link exchanges, etc. Hit me up in the comments or contact me directly and we’ll see what’s shakin’.

Failing Towards Success

I based a lot of my early life goals around a misreading of the television show Family Ties. My hero was Alex P. Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox. Alex valued the accumulation of wealth above all, enjoyed making fun of his ex-hippie parents and looked up to Richard Nixon. I didn’t get that he was a conservative caricature. I took everything he said as gospel. I decided that, when I grew up, I’d be a Wall Street trader or a banker or something–anything–to do with money. I was 12.

Years later, as a confused young adult still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I remembered that old goal and decided to give banking a shot. I applied and got a job working at a call center for Bank of America.

That job sucked.

Not because B of A was a horrible employer, but because my mind was ill-equipped for the task. I had a mental block towards all things banking and couldn’t retain anything I learned about it. I flamed out after three weeks. Never even made it out of training.

I thought I was a loser. A chump. Destined to fail at everything.

It was the slap in the face I needed to finally understand something very basic about myself. Something everyone who knew me was already well aware of, but that my inner Alex P. Keaton had long refused to admit: I was a creative person.

I hadn’t just failed at banking, I learned I was never going to be successful at anything that required repetition, facts, memorization, protocols or math. That’s just not how I’m put together, however badly I may wish otherwise.

I understood, finally, that I needed to invent, explore, paraphrase, create and dream.

Within a couple of years I landed on my major in college: Graphic Design. Amazingly, at a time when most of my peers were biting their nails over the possibility that there might not be any opportunities for them after college, I was blessed to get a job in my chosen field a year and half before graduation. Been there ten years now.

The job pays well, good benefits. It’s a 9-to-5’er and I’m an insomniac, so I started using my nights to create even more. I collaborated on a (fully written, but since abandoned) graphic novel with a friend. I started blogging. I created The SuperFogeys and then Monsterplex. I wrote a book. I’m not a rich man, but I’ve done things worth doing and I think greater success is ahead of me.

My fake internet friend Angie Mizzell writes a blog that’s all about redefining success, which I suppose is what got me thinking about this. She was going to be a big time news reporter. Now, she’s a mom. Big change, and one she argues is for the better. I can’t disagree.

Alex P. Keaton would probably make fun of me for being “artsy” (if he were, y’know, real and hadn’t lost everything about four years ago when the real estate bubble burst) and shame me for not caring so much about money. But screw that guy.

I never would have figured out what really mattered to me without without that one, simple, absolutely miserable three week failure. Smart as I thought I was, I had my limits. But knowing those limits? It set me free towards more possibilities than I never would have imagined otherwise.

What about you? Do you have any failures that were key to later success?

Welcome to the new Brock Heasley, World’s Best Author Website!

The title of this post may be a little misleading. But go with it. I’m trying to build a brand here. (Ich. “Brand.” Let’s not use that word again. Ever.)

Fact is, I’ve come to a place in my creative life that necessitates the creation of a site like this. Up until now, my internet presence has mostly centered on my webcomic, The SuperFogeys. (If you click on that link there’s a chance you’ll win a million dollars. There’s also a chance you won’t win a million dollars. I’m not saying which is greater.) But now, I’m an author. Full blown, true blue. An author these days? He needs a site.

That’s right, I wrote a book. And not one of those boring ones you stick on your shelf to prove to yourself that your nose goes just as high as your friends in the black turtlenecks and berets. It’s one of those really good books–the kind that gets dog-eared and splashed with coffee and jam because you can’t put it down long enough to eat a proper meal. (At least, that’s the hope. Really up to you. Some go with bookmarks instead of dog ears. Who am I to judge?)

The best part? It’s a memoir. All friggin’ true.

As of this writing my book, RAISED BY A DEAD MAN, is very near going out to publishers. It’s represented by my wonderful, creative agent Bonnie Solow of Solow Literary. I’ll be using this blog to talk about writing and pop culture and life’s events and challenges (cuz that’s the bread and butter of a memoir writer), but also to keep everyone up-to-date as much as possible on the process I’m going through to get my book into your local Barnes & Noble. Or your Kindle. Or wherever. Point is, it’s coming. And I want it to be a party when it gets here.

You’ll notice that though this blog is brand spankin’ new, there’s already a good bank of posts for you to peruse. As I said, I’ve been a presence on the web for a while. You’ll find some great stuff in the two dozen handpicked blogs I brought over here, including my big announcement about signing with my literary agent.

Big things ahead! Please feel free to leave comments and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m looking forward to what’s next, how about you?