Category Archives: Daily Grind

January Sucks: Admitting Failure & Struggle

The other day I tweeted about how much January sucks:

I think this month is trying to crush me. And then kick me while I’m down. Not nice, January. Not nice.

I was sick for two weeks and it feels like I’ve spent the whole month coughing.

But the bigger issue is the struggle. I haven’t blogged much lately, in part because life seems like such a struggle lately. It’s hard. I feel like I’m flirting with failure and that’s not a popular topic to talk about. It’s not a topic that pulls me to the computer to craft a blog post.

But I think it’s time to fess up and move on.

Life is hard right now. Work has been slow for a while. Bills are stacking up and it’s depleting whatever safety net we had. I’m not saying this for pity. It’s just the way things are. It’s too easy to think everyone else is doing just fine and we’re the ones who are struggling, but I’m sure that’s not the case.

So between work and bills and daddy daycare and a preteen who doesn’t want to be here, it’s hard. I’m struggling.

I keep reminding myself that these are the times that show us what we’re made of. And what am I made of? Do I have what it takes to make it work? Or is this juggling act going to come crashing down? Some days I don’t know.

But we keep on.

My saving grace lately has been a client with a nearly unlimited capacity for low-paying freelance articles. Last week they offered me a section editor position and are putting me on retainer. It’s more work for less money, but it’s steady. It’s not the solution to all my problems (is there such a thing?), but it’s a nice step forward.

I’m also thankful for friends we can lean on. My color-coded Google calendar could trigger a migraine it’s so full. Lots of entries involve friends stepping in to watch kids or loan cars or give us some measure of sanity. We couldn’t do this alone.

I’m also thankful for a smart and strong wife. These are hard times and we need a lot of strength to get through. I’m proud that Abby has both good ideas and insights, but also the strength to buckle down and get through this. Especially since financial stress has to be about the worst kind of stress (otherwise you can throw money at the stress and that at least helps a little bit).

One of the books I’ve been reading lately (Not For Sale) reminds me that no matter how tough life gets, I have it easy. The book tells stories of children ripped from their homes, forced to murder and butcher their friends as they’re turned into child soldiers in Uganda. Or women enslaved in brothels in Southeast Asia and each glimmer of freedom turns out to be more of the same rejection and pain. My struggle would be their cakewalk.

I’m also thankful for babies. A few just born and a few still on the way, lighting up their parents’ lives like electricity. Can’t help but smile at that.

A little perspective always helps. And so we struggle on.

Accidental Unplugging

It’s been a busy week:

  • 90 books showed up on my doorstep last Thursday.
  • A minute later we left to pick up Grandma at the airport.
  • We had adoption classes all day Friday and Saturday.
  • Sunday our Internet died. Not a big deal on Sunday, but crippling for work on Monday and today.
  • Dropped off two huge boxes of pre-order books at the post office on Monday.
  • Monday night we had more adoption class.

We’re still processing the adoption classes. It’s a pretty overwhelming nearly 20 hours of class. What I think is amazing is that we already went through maybe a dozen hours of classes for our first adoption and very little of it was repeated.

And trying to work without the Internet has been crippling the past two days. I certainly don’t require the Internet to write, but it’s amazing how much work requires Internet access in some way or another. I need to access documents or conversations or e-mails or something and it’s all online. Yesterday I was getting ready to leave the coffee shop to head home and I spent at least five minutes paralyzed, trying to figure out if I had done everything I needed to, trying to remember what else I had to check. It’s kind of embarrassing, really. I don’t like being that addicted to or reliant on the web.

Last night I sat in my car outside a closed coffee shop usurping their wifi. At least until the cops rolled by shining their spotlights in my face. I’m not sure if they were actually there for me, but I didn’t stick around to find out.

Today with both kids and no babysitters I had to give up on Internet access. I spent my morning filling out paperwork, writing thank yous, clearing off my desk, cleaning the kitchen and fixing the toilet. I even had to call a client on the phone.

Thankfully Comcast got things fixed this afternoon and I’ve been frantically working since.

Crazy Week

In the Rocking ChairThis has been a pretty crazy week.

  • On Monday I announced that we’re planning to adopt again. This is still new and we’re figuring it out as we go, but it’s pretty exciting.
  • On Tuesday I announced my new book, Addition by Adoption: Kids, Causes & 140 Characters.
  • The marketing machine went to work to spread the word far and wide about the book. It’s exhausting. And thrilling. And kind of scary. I did my first interview about the book on Wednesday night. On Thursday the first review came out (wow, what a rave!). I spent Friday night doing an e-mail interview. I need to do another one today. All in preparation for the pre-order, which starts on Tuesday (meaning the craziness continues next week). Whew.
  • I also opted to redesign my entire web site this week in order to better accommodate the info about the book. I’m still working out the kinks.
  • Milo is being baptized on Sunday in what’s shaping up to be a multicultural Sunday. In addition to baptizing an Ethiopian, the archbishop of Rangoon, Burma is preaching the sermon at the 8:30 service, during the education hour a chaplain for Karen refugees in Thailand will be sharing as well as a missionary from Argentina, and later that afternoon there will be a baptism and confirmation of a number of Karen parishioners.
  • We’re hosting a little shindig for Milo which means we need to clean the house. Bigtime. Plus Milo’s God parents are coming in to town from the east coast and staying with us. We should maybe clear off the bed in the guest room for them.

I didn’t plan any of this to happen at the same time. I just is. And it’s kind of cool that it’s working out that way.

Today Has Conspired Against Me

Or maybe this entire week has conspired against me. Let’s count the ways…
(In case you can’t tell, this is one of those whiny, poor me posts, so feel free to move on now)

  • I’ve been sick since Wednesday night with a sore throat and persistent cough. Last night I was coughing so hard my chest hurt.
  • Because of all that I couldn’t go to the Social Media Breakfast on Friday morning.
  • I also couldn’t go to a planning meeting for a group of local church communicators I’m helping to organize.
  • That sickness also meant the date night my wife and I have been trying to have for two months that almost happened this weekend didn’t happen.
  • It also means I forgot about the U2 tickets that sold out in two hours on Saturday morning.
  • It also means I never had a chance to enjoy one last taco at Dora’s (OK, it would have been more like six last tacos).
  • This morning I left the kids with a babysitter and took the bus to the doctor. I missed the bus.
  • Which meant I missed my appointment by 20 minutes and the doctor wouldn’t see me.
  • Then I spent three hours at the dealership while they investigated my car’s uneven tread wear problem, only to tell me they have no answers.
  • Then I got a call from the babysitter that Lexi has been throwing up.
  • I dropped $50 at Best Buy tonight to replace items that have been lost or stolen in the last six months.
  • One of those items was a power cord for the portable DVD player Lexi watches in the car. Thanks to disposable electronics, that portable DVD player will now be the main DVD player powering our living room TV. (Our house has two VCRs and four DVD players, and only two of the DVD players work. And one is portable.)
  • We have two couches in our house. Lexi managed to throw up on both of them.
  • While preparing all the puke-stained items for the wash, I realized the dog peed on the carpet.
  • At this point it was supper time and I realized I never had lunch.
  • Being gone all day meant I got next to nothing done for work.
  • We were planning to go to Kansas for Thanksgiving and I was excited about introducing Milo to lots of extended family that hasn’t had the chance to meet him yet. Tonight we decided we can’t go to Kansas with all the sickness and our complete lack of preparation.

Did I forget anything?

However, this week is Thanksgiving. So let’s find some bright spots, shall we?

Continue reading Today Has Conspired Against Me

Summer is Over

School started for teachers today, so my wife is back at work. Just like that, summer is over. I’m back to hanging with the kids full time during the day, relegating the paying work to the evenings and any time the children are sleeping (or completely distracted, like now).

I love that as a teacher my wife has summers off. It allows for amazing things like a 12-day vacation. But it also makes getting back into the swing of full time dad a little difficult (I’m struggling with the wording here—I don’t want to imply that during the summer I’m somehow not dad, or I’m a part time dad, or that what I do is childcare or babysitting—it’s not, it’s parenting. I just need some sort of non-implying-all-that-junk lingo to say that I’m going from having help all day to going solo all day and then working all night). These transitions are always a little weird.

But on the plus side, they do make me value my time. Try getting anything accomplished with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. Not easy. Some days I realize that “accomplishing” anything is a fool’s errand. Stop being productive and start coloring.

These times also make me reconsider what I’m doing. What’s important with my life? You’ve got to pay the bills, but I’ve also got kids to play with. Do I want to get work done and let lots of Sesame Street happen, or do I want to gird up my sanity and go do something crazy and fun? It’s a difficult balance to strike.

As for right now, I should probably go color.

The Crusades Were a Bad Idea: Let’s Not Do It Again

Update: I’ve been Snoped. Ouch. It appears the stats in this video are of questionable accuracy. They’re not denied outright, but there are significant questions. Despite all the rhetoric (my own included), perhaps the real question this post should raise is how should we respond to news of the growing population of a different faith? I’d contend that the negative overtones of this video aren’t helpful. End update.

I saw what I consider to be a bat-crazy video today. Take a look and tell me what you think:

Continue reading The Crusades Were a Bad Idea: Let’s Not Do It Again

Back to “Normal”

Tomorrow Abby heads back to work and I get to tackle a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old on my own. It’s a return to normal, if you can call that normal. I’m not really ready for being double-teamed, but I guess you never are. Sometimes I wonder how parents manage to stay home with multiple kids, but I guess people do it all the time. I never understand how single parents do it.

Fortunately there are only about five weeks left of school and then Abby’s off for the summer. It’s an early summer vacation this year, and for that we’re thankful.

All this handling of children seems so natural and easy, like a normal rhythm of life that just happens. At least it seems that way until you actually do it and realize there’s nothing easy about it.

There’s a great temptation to just do what’s easy with children. To take the path of least resistance. I’m great at giving in to that temptation.

What? You don’t want to wear pants? Meh, whatever—we’re not leaving the house.

What? You want to watch Sesame Street every day? OK.

What? You’re throwing a fit? Just go to your room because I don’t want to deal with you.

Continue reading Back to “Normal”

A Week of Highs and Lows

If a week could suck, this one would be it:

  • Found out Milo has been sick for a week with gastroenteritis. He’s doing better, but the little guy doesn’t have much weight to lose (Today we visited a two week old baby who’s bigger than 4-month-old Milo).
  • Lexi threw up in her car seat on the way home from visiting said baby.
  • Friends went through another miscarriage.
  • Other friends in Sudan wait to see if they’ll be evacuated.
  • Confronted a family crisis and the related fallout.
  • A week of workplace drama escalated like a bigger/better party.

On the plus side:

  • Distractions abounded, including the flurry of a U2 album release (did you see them do the top 10 list on Letterman?).
  • I found out exactly how much the Federal government owes me (it’s like my own personal bailout!).
  • Mazie didn’t eat anything she wasn’t supposed to (well, except for the feet of a little plastic girl of Lexi’s, but that doesn’t bother me because Lexi didn’t put it away).
  • Ate at Los Cabos for the first time in months. Mmm… tasty.
  • Two friends welcomed healthy, happy babies into the world.
  • And best of all, I get to meet my son in two weeks.

Sometimes life is hard and messy and ugly, but there’s always beauty. In that sense, I’m an insufferable optimist. Life may not always be happy, but it is joyful.

Work is Slow but I’m Upbeat

I don’t talk about it much publicly, but work has been slow lately. Terribly slow. Income dropped in 2008, for the first time since I started working on my own (though honestly, the drop wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be). And 2009 looks to be worse.

But against all that, I’m upbeat about it. Certainly I have my moments of doubt when things get kind of scary, but I also know that God provides. He’s done it before and I know he’ll do it again. I’m not sitting back and waiting for cash to fall from heaven, but part of my faith involves relying on God. In reality I’m always reliant on God, but it’s times like this when it becomes so much more obvious. In the mean time I’ll tighten my belt, perhaps wean myself from Cherry Pepsi, and struggle through.

Maybe I’m a bit naive, but I think times like this can be an opportunity. A time of unemployment launched me on this freelance journey in the first place. And while work has been slow I’ve been working on other projects, such as the Billy Graham blog, Start Seeing Art, and my 2006 novel Turn Left at the Blacktop, among others (By the way, I printed off a 158-page copy of the novel today so my wife could read it and give me her assessment).

I’m confident that hard times like this can refocus us, can present new opportunities, can be good for us. Sometimes, frankly, it does suck. But recession or economic depression are not the end of the world.