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This Ain't No Griswold's Vacation

I ‘m over at my other gig today… the kick-ass website Dad Revolution where I blog along side a great group of dads every few weeks.

Today I’m writing about how after starting a new job I’m unable to do a family vacation – Griswold-style - because I haven't earned enough vacation hours yet. Instead, we’re pulling together bits and pieces of weekends to create a memorable summer of mini-vacations we hope the kids will always remember.

So check out my latest post on Dad Revolution: This Ain't No Griswold's Vacation.


First Day Jitters

Yesterday I got the call I’ve waited four months to get. The one that contains the phrase “I have your job offer letter and we’d like you to start work tomorrow.”

I was in the middle of a huge park on a dirt path next to a waterfall when I got the word. I did a cartwheel, tripped on a root, and almost knocked my first-born into the raging river waters. It’s been a long journey—one that I’ve been so very eager to see end.

Then it hit me. She said “you start tomorrow.”

My mind sucked through the back of my head back to a time when I was just a kid getting ready for my first day of fifth grade. Still a bit sunburned from a long summer of bike riding, mowing grass, getting my ass beat by my brother, and trying to peek in on the girl living next door.

I flew home and kicked the door open in a panic. First things first – what the hell am I going to wear on my first day? I haven’t worn business clothes in months.

I remember as a kid going through my drawers and finding the coolest pair of Jams I could find. Digging through my wadded-up t-shirts I found the most bad-ass Ocean Pacific shirt and laid them on top of my red high-top Converse.

Twenty-three years later I’m laying out my suit, ironing my shirt, dusting off my dress shoes, and making sure I don’t forget to wear my lucky underwear.

Eating that night was always hard because I wouldn’t be able to shut my mind off. Will anyone remember me? Who’s class will I be in? Oh shit I hope I don’t get Ms. Jenkins, her breath smells like my dog’s ass. Then before long, I’d end up face first in the toilet vomiting up my first-day-of-school jitters.

I’m sure at some point tonight I’ll be “talking to Ralph on the big white phone.”

Then comes the sleeping. Setting the alarm clock. Then checking it once, twice, three times.

And not being able to sleep because you fear oversleeping. So you cuddle the alarm clock to make sure you don’t miss a single beep when it finally decides to go off. And it seems you’re waking up every 15 minutes to look at it.

Then the day arrives. You’re dressed and ready to go in record time. Back in the day I would have combed my hair 30 times and checked out my “look” from all angles. I’d make sure I knew exactly how to carry my book-bag so my cool factor would be at the optimum level. Double checked make sure my mom gave me my new Transformers lunch box instead of the Garfield one I carried last year when I was a baby.

Now, I just worry about whether my zipper’s open, that I have my wallet, and that I don’t say “fuck” on the first day.

Tomorrow I start a new job. Tomorrow I get a fresh start. This journey of nearly four months of unemployment has taught me so very much about myself, my friends, family, and the hell many people in this country are dealing with on a daily basis.

I’m very fortunate in so many ways.


My New Road

Yesterday I officially became unemployed. My severance ran out, Cobra kicked in, and the wifey and I stood staring at each other holding calculators and shaky, hopeful grins.

Three months ago I was given a choice from my employer – take half the pay immediately and you won’t be guaranteed a job come the end of the fiscal year, or take your full pay and benefits for three months and look for another job. After a weekend of sleepless nights and long discussions, the wifey and I chose the latter.

I’ve had one iron in the fire the whole time—a great job working for an organization that would allow me to rock a newly created position. I’ve worked with, and known, the executive director for a couple years and she is eager to bring me on. The only constraint thus far has been the internal bureaucracy requiring dozens of people to sign off on the job description and another dozen to oversee the posting of the job before it’s awarded to the “qualified candidate.”

Supposedly I’m to start work a week from today.

I’ve changed quite a bit over the past three months. I’ve spent a considerable amount time alone…in my home…on the phone…on the computer….but very little face time with people. I’ve seen my Achilles-heel. I’ve seen it look me dead in the eye with its “sexy come-hither” look. I’ve been angry as shit. I’ve been depressed. I’ve taken it out on my wife, my kids, my friends and family…myself.

I’ve drank too much, felt too sorry, looked for oblivious forces to blame it on such as…karma. I’ve looked back at my life and picked it apart… “what if I didn’t move to Chicago?” “What if I’d taken that job in North Carolina..?”

What if…

And at the end of the day, after all that wondering, I’m still here, in Chicago with my family and friends, about to start a new job after ONLY three months. I’m still here…in my life…not my life’s past…but my life now.

Where it is…right now.

And I’m so fortunate. I’m so lucky to be where I am. I’ve met more people than I care to have met who’ve been unemployed so much longer than I was.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with my new boss to talk further about the job and to begin signing paper work. Within a week or two I’ll be employed again, making a paycheck, benefits, and picking up the pieces. We’ll struggle to fill the short gap between paychecks, but we’re fortunate it’s only a short gap and confident it’ll work out.

But there’s still one thing that’s keeping me from fully enjoying the knowledge of this good fortune. It’s that I know I’ve changed. I’m not who I was three months ago. I’m not who I was two years ago. In fact, I have no fucking clue who I am right now. I feel like I’ve lost some type of identity, direction, path, or journey. I’ve lost something that I desperately need to recover.

I’ve always felt that our 30s were such a fickle time. The 20s it’s all about starting the career and finding that love. The 30s are all about, “OK, I’m in the career, I’ve got my love, maybe some kids on the way….” and then it all hits home. Like a cannon to the chest. You have no idea who you are…

I am fortunate. I have a phenomenal wife. I look in my kids’ eyes and I undoubtedly know they adore me. I have a job on the horizon. I am fortunate.

And so that will be my focus. Despite this nagging, empty feeling of self-purpose, I’ll funnel my energy and heart into family and my career.

I’ll do that, but not without ignoring the fact that this journey has absolutely ripped my chest open and given me front row seats to my soul and then handed me the keys along with the responsibility to choose my new road.

My new road…


No, You Call the Babysitter

So the wifey’s college roommate visited this past weekend. And we decided to get a babysitter so we could enjoy some kid-free time. A mere four days from the impending visit I realized, holy shit, we don’t have a sitter and I’m going to end up being left in the lurch as these two ladies hit the town leaving me behind.

Kicking into baby-sitter ninja action I decided to take matters into my own hands and have a conversation with the wifey:

Me: “Hey…so we should definitely get a sitter for Saturday night.”

Wifey: “Go for it slugger.”

Me: “But you got the Mecca of babysitter lists months ago. Can’t you just call one or two and make it happen?”

Wifey: “I lost it.”

Me: “You what? Are you serious woman? You lost that shit? That’s like someone giving me the unlock code for constant, unlimited free porn and then losing it…it just doesn’t happen!!!”

Wifey: “Call me ‘woman’ one more time. Seriously…say it…call me ‘woman’!”

Me: “Look, your college roommate’s gonna be here in …shit, what day is it?”

Wifey: “You really need a job! Seriously…you need to get out of the house, look at the sun, enjoy the day…you’re losing your mind in the basement!”

Me: “All right…let’s focus. We need a sitter. Who are we gonna call?”

Wifey: “ ‘We?’ No, you…you are gonna make that happen while I’m at work.”

Me: “Awe come on…that’s fucked. Guys don’t call to ask for babysitters. Seriously…there are rules against that shit.”

Wifey: “Rules…really? And who the hell came up with these rules? You’re just as capable as me to call and ask for a sitter.”

Me: “I know but seriously…what if her dad answers? I’ll be all, ‘hey man…is Tiffany there?’ And he’ll be all, ‘Who the hell is this? You sound like you’re 40 years old. Who the hell is this?’”

Wifey: “How in the hell can he tell if you’re 40 by the sound of your voice?”

Me: “Are you kidding…cause I’m all experienced in life and shit. Listen to me. I totally sound like I’m 40 and involved in 40-year-old life stuff…seriously listen…the stocks rose eight percent today as the Dow didn’t quite respond as well as investors had hoped and…”

Wifey: “Whoa!!! Wait…you’re calling our potential babysitter with stock options? Seriously you dork…seriously!!?”

Me: “I’m just saying that I know stuff! And I know that if I call the sitter her dad, her boyfriend, or her brother will answer the phone and they’ll be pissed and I’ll probably get killed when all I wanted to do was freakin’ drink beers with you and the college roommate away from the kids.”

Wifey: “Wow. You seriously need help. Look, bottom line is, I’m going out with Stacy whether you get a babysitter or you ARE the babysitter. So, ball’s in your court Mr. Man. Make it happen or don’t.”

Me: “You’re gonna regret it when I get killed and you have to raise these kids by yourself.”

Wifey: “It’ll be rough but I’m pretty sure we’ll pull through.”

Me: “Shit! Fine…I’ll call. Hand me the phone WOMAN.”


Time To Get Off This Spot

It’s been some time since I last updated on my current situation.

The summary…Big-eared, gap-toothed freak gets job in Chicago, lives in empty house on air mattress alone in Chicago while his family tries to sell their house in Virginia, four months later said family moves to Chicago, freak works at new job for exactly18 months before being given a choice to stay at half the salary or leave and get full salary for three full months…gap-toothed freak decides to leave after searching soul and talking with friends, colleagues and family.

December 1, 2009, was the first day of unemployment and the beginning of a pretty incredible internal journey. I woke up and had nowhere to go. The kids went to school, the wifey headed off to her job, and there I was…disheveled, hung-over from feeling sorry for myself the night before, scratching myself, and looking around the house thinking, “OK…now what?”

I had a brief explosion of support from my kick-ass Twitter peeps. I pimped my resume far and wide, and met and talked to some really great, helpful people.

This is a really bad comparison, but I imagine this is kind of what it’s like when you lose someone close to you. You find out who your true friends are and they rally around you. And, for a short time you feel like you can conquer the world. But then they leave because they have their lives to live. They have their families to take care of…

Then I found myself one early morning seven weeks later standing there, disheveled, hung-over from feeling sorry for myself the night before, scratching myself, and looking around the house thinking, “I have absolutely no place in this life.”

What used to be 5 a.m. daily runs have turned into 6:45 a.m. snooze-bar workouts.

I drink more than I should at night because…well because fuck it, I don’t have to work tomorrow.

I didn’t shave or cut my hair for weeks and was introduced by the wifey to the term “beard funk.”

My son was sitting on my lap the other day and reached out and poked my stomach.

I find myself regularly and randomly telling the cat secrets and make him “pinky-swear not to tell!!”

After interviewing for what would be my dream job, I got an email letting me know they’re “pursuing another candidate.”

Last week I spent the day with the executive director of a great organization here in the Chicago suburbs. I’ve worked with her since I’ve been in Chicago and she wanted to discuss a new position being created that she wants me to take. She has to go through the motions associated with advertising it, but when all is said-and-done, she says the job is mine. Of course I won’t consider it mine till the paperwork is signed and I’m on board, but still it’s a huge relief.

And as phenomenal and fortunate as that is, I’m still here in this spot. The spot where I’ve stood since the day I was let go. Watching life pass by each day. A ghost of me interacting with my family and friends. Self pity lurking in every corner ready to be grasped as an excuse when needed.

So why am I not happy with this very fortunate news? And I realized, I’m ecstatic with the news, I’m just not happy with myself and how I’ve handled this situation. And even more so—I think I’ve been waiting for someone to come by and pick me up, fix things, show me the new course to follow, then pat me on my ass and say, “now go get em tiger!”

But life doesn’t happen like that. Life’s going to continue with or without me—that much I have learned. And I’ve got such a great group of family and friends—but they all have their lives to lead too.

All you parents out there who’ve seen Nemo 4,398,219 times remember the scene when Marlin and Dory are with the turtles riding the East Australian Current and little Squirt gets tossed out into the still water. Crush, the father, says, “let us see what little Squirt does flying solo.”

It’s time for me to move off this spot. It’s time for me to cut the hair, trim the beard, get back in my regular routine, and leap back into the wild ride of the current of life I’ve ignored for too damn long. No one’s going to come out there and grab me and pull be back in. I’ve gotta do it on my own.