Category Archives: Transparency

SAHD Lifestyle

It’s been a year since I worked.  And it hurts in a lot of ways that I didn’t expect when I decided to stay home with Junior.  I have figured out how to protect and care for a two year old better than imagined.  I can cook, clean and garden well enough.  But mentally it is difficult to continually have the company of a human that just doesn’t get me.  But mostly it bugs me because I failed.

Every time I see the little USPS vehicles I am reminded of how hard it was.  How I was miserable.  How I hurt every night.  How my intake of coffee had to be supplemented by Gatorade to not become dehydrationally sick but still be awake.  It is worse when I see someone I worked with still doing it.  How we used to struggle together but now they have made it.  How 7 day 70 hour work weeks were just too much for me but not them.  How they were able to stop long enough to realize they could survive…or just never thought about the future.

I blamed family commitments.  But in honesty it was me.  It was my inability to work in a negative environment that used unions to protect employee’s jobs while they insulted each other.  It was my inability to imagine working within systems that were made by someone(s) who sat in an office on the other side of the country in different weather and demographics and conditions…and the lack of ability to speak my mind.   The inability to intellectually contribute to my work life.  My inability to accept the lack of air conditioning and heating in vehicles and warehouses.  And most of all my lack of desire to invest in something that seemed to be failing horribly and would soon become an Amazon company.

But at least once a week I wake up breathing heavy because I just had to climb a big hill with my full satchel in my dream.  Or because I ran from an old supervisor after I abandoned a vehicle full of “work”.   Because I made a deal to work just one week to pay off the credit card.  Or because I feel like I failed my family by not providing.

The hardest thing about being home all the time is not contributing monetarily.  I know I am not alone in this as I have talked to other stay at home moms and SAHDs.  But generally after I make another purchase at Home Depot to fix the house or urban farm I wonder how I can give.  After I see my handy work on something small, I just hope we can afford a professional to fix major issues and improvements on the house.  After I scour the budget for $10 again…I just want to help.

So I sold my body through a needle for the plasma center for a month until there was no bonus with the basic pay.  I helped a friend reside his house for a few days.  I mowed a neighbor’s lawn while it was being prepared to be sold.   I often scour the internet for part time jobs that allow me still to maintain the urban farm, our marriage and Junior timewise.  No one seems to want to hire someone for just 10 hours a week though.  So I spent last week getting a few hundred dollars of project supplies for free from friends and Craigslist, and jumping on a deal for strawberry plants that should provide buckets for the cost of a pint at the store next spring.  The urban farm continues to be my work outlet.

That is my SAHD life right now.  I hang out with Junior, we garden, play with chickens, and go to the community center a lot. I think I am also ready to restart the blogging routine so will attempt to find time to sit and write once a week.  There is enough happening in my head I should be able to force some out again.

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Da Pressed

NOTE: The following has been written and deleted at least a hundred times in various forms and continues to build.  It is real talk about where I am today that I feel needs to be shared.  One for some people close to me to understand. Two for some people to not feel alone potentially. 

Recently I was talking to new friends and telling stories of my past. Those stories led me to think of more as I laid in bed attempting to sleep that night and they overtook my thinking. Lately my thinking has a lot to do with working and careers and decisions in my past that have led me to being a 36 year old unable to find work.  Someone who can put out 30+ resumes and contact multiple staffing agencies and still have only one (failed) interview in a month.

When I was 19 I was a horrible employee.  Actually for the first few years of working I didn’t want responsibility and didn’t think of any job as a career.  But when I was 19 I was horrible.  Twice in a year I called in sick for a day of work and didn’t respond for weeks after.  Both were manual labor positions and both were not fun
(no excuse).  The first was in Fairbanks at a library on campus and I went six weeks before running into a former coworker and him telling me they needed help.  So I went back for a couple weeks until the semester was over and the project I was hired for finished.  The second was worse.  I worked for a temp agency in Atlanta and was placed at a machine shop.  The owner was a complete racist, as were the employees and in response to my lack of effort (most likely) I never was really trained.  I had a lot of little injuries, damaged multiple machines and often just ended up doing custodial work for minimum wage.  So one day I called out.

I watched TV a lot.  I made a massive batch of pancakes and ate those alone for a few days.  I moved the exercise bike into the living room so I could ride it while I watched TV.  I pulled out the sleeper sofa mattress so I could lay down while watching TV.  I went days without showering.  Using the same cup and plate for days.  I didn’t open the drapes or go outside and could only fall asleep if there was background noise so lost track of day and night.

I often say I was a bad employee for this.  But the other night as I remembered this I realized I wasn’t just a bad employee.

I was horribly depressed.

Last year, I quit three jobs…well four if you include putting Junior back into daycare to find a job.   I quit them for various reasons but none the less I made the choice to leave all of them.  The last made the biggest impact on me though because it was toxic.  I was constantly being told I wasn’t good enough and wasn’t following the rules, but then being told in code to cut corners to make my time.  EVERYONE there was depressed and beaten down.  It was not an okay place for a guy that can easily slide into that mindset.

I look back on the last year or so and have a million what ifs.  What if I didn’t get an implanted tooth but just another root canal?  What if I didn’t lose two months’ salary gambling?  What if I didn’t have to work delivering papers for a dollar an hour take home? What if our car wasn’t stolen allowing us to pay off the debt of one credit card? What if I didn’t quit a job with amazing benefits and pay but mundane work and problematic coworkers?  What if I didn’t quit a high pay hard working toxic job for another 3 months?  What if I didn’t get strep throat? What if we went to a doctor instead of the ER?  What if my counselor didn’t leave our session notes in public for an acquaintance to find and crush my trust in the one person I was willing to share all stories and feelings with?

What if I wasn’t depressed? Again? For another winter? For another year?

The answer to all is of course, WHO KNOWS?

Because the what ifs could go further back to meeting the beautiful Hannah, to moving and staying in Portland, to quitting college multiple times, to being rejected by most kids in high school, to moving to the south…and possibly even further back to the babysitter throwing and breaking my Snoopy hair brush in the bathtub (my first memory?).

All of these things have made me who I am.  And apparently today who I am is a slightly depressed 36 year old who failed to find another real job so is pulling his son from daycare again to stay at home dad with him.  Who is married to an amazing woman who has no concept of my career struggles because she loves her work and loves being able to provide for her family.  Who has time to work on his homestead and maybe get some odd jobs to pay for the luxuries he desires.

And that should be nothing to be depressed about, right?

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Becoming SAHD

When I wake up in the morning I will officially be a SAHD- Stay at Home Dad and Junior will be an official SAHT. It is the 3rd career for me in 3 months (but only his second career in toddlerhood). Which on the down slope of 30 has been a little hard for me to wrap my mind/stomach/ emotions to understand 3 in 3.   This is the life I have always wanted but not necessarily the life I thought I would have.

I have long hated work for the sake of work and money.  I have often thought that given the chance I would rather raise my son than pay someone else to do it.  I often think that being able to be at home rather than hauling my head to an office or cramming my legs into (and out of 100+ times) a mail truck would be better.  Better how?  I am not sure.  Not financially.  Potentially not emotionally. But probably physically and familial-ly, it is the best for this season.

We haven’t even started but Junior is my best friend right now.  Because I quickly left the postal service, we had daycare paid through the end of the month.  But the more I was home and in charge of the then 19 month old Junior, the less he wanted to go to school.  The more books were stacked on the reading chair, or his bed or in front of the door.  The longer he took to find his shoes, finish his breakfast, or to finish dirtying his diaper.  I am hoping it was not just to make up for the time I missed while working 7 day weeks.  But in any case that time is over now.

So now I take care of a 20 month old and the family house.  I cook most dinners.  I shop for food…and probably cut coupons. I do the laundry and vacuum the floors…well Neil the Neato- our robot does, but I push the button and empty him.  Also I watch money flow out while I contribute by clicking videos for pennies as my only financial contribution.  I say this in present tense because I have been training the last couple weeks, as I have been home during the day alone working on random house projects…and forgetting to shower most days.

As I enter this time, I hear a lot of questions about how I think I will handle Junior.  If I have things to do with him.  If I know how to feed, clothe and protect him.  Most of these come from my own head.  They come because I was prepared to deliver mail or build spreadsheets while people crafted and molded my spawn.  Now, I get to do the molding and shaping.  The playing and art making.  The teaching and disciplining.  Well, I get to do this while I am home alone with him, but the beautiful Hannah will be doing a lot too when she isn’t doing a job she loves and that pays for us to be home.

It is a difficult feeling because I never thought I would be voluntarily unemployed with a young child and house I own to take care of.  I didn’t think I would be mature and stable enough to run a house or be left with a child for many years there.  I don’t have issues with being a Mr. Mom or Daddy Daycare or whatever gender role reversal term is used.  I was raised mostly by a father that was home, while my mother made the large income needed to keep our family content.  I am more surprised with the speed that it all happened.  But that is the way things work.  If I didn’t leave my stable job of seven years for what I thought would be a 30 year advancing career, I don’t know if I would have ever left.   If I didn’t leave we would still be living a life we planned to change “one day”.

Instead, we have found the “one day” starts tomorrow.  Junior and I will build a vegetable garden and chicken coop…most likely “built” from Craigslist…and learn to be urban farmers.  We will become regulars at Cafe Au Play and the Oregon Children’s Museum.  We will learn which library tells the best stories and which park has the coolest slide.  We will memorize all of the trails of Powell Butte and Forest Park and <insert other here>.  We will learn how to cook again, and bake for the beautiful Hannah.  We will be friends and family at the same time.

Good thing I was bad at delivering mail.

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Ferguson

Seven years ago when I moved to Portland I became an advocate for many things. I was unemployed, living off savings, just off overseas mission work…and fairly passionate compared to today. But I kept getting one response.

As I spoke to people about sex trafficking, labor trafficking, slave-like work conditions in America and where American products and food were made…

As I spoke with church members of my then new church about segregation in the church and about global riches and how we are privileged as Americans…

As I spoke about homeless issues and its overwhelmingness in Portland…

As I spoke about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and how we don’t feel at war…

As I spoke about my causes and passions…

I kept hearing from people they didn’t have the time to care. I mean that is a little blunter but my summary.

They wanted to but needed to get food on the table. Or only had one pair of work jeans and need to look professional to keep their job. They liked church but didn’t think they had time to make it multi-cultural or go to meeting about how to change it.

They didn’t have time.

I questioned how they didn’t have time to engage intellectually with world issues like Ferguson.

 

Dr. Cornel West being arrested during a protest in Ferguson.

Dr. Cornel West being arrested during a protest in Ferguson.

Fast forward to today…well Sunday. This was the call to worship…

http://www.christenacleveland.com/2014/11/adventdarkness/

Go ahead and read it. I’ll be here.

Now that I am married to the beautiful Hannah, and she gave birth our first born junior, and we bought a house. Now that all happened I spend more time wondering how to get food on the table than where all of it came from. I only have one pair of work jeans. And our budget—our globally rich dual income American household—is stretched every month. We have a kid that takes a lot of time to care for. We have a house that takes a lot of time and planning to take care of.

And…

Sadly…

I don’t have time for Ferguson. I don’t have time to tell people that racism is still happening and that power is still manipulated. I don’t have time to research what actually happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. I don’t have the time to engage about the military equipment used against protesters being too much. Or if the protest groups are causing the police to show up in tanks because of what they are bringing.

I don’t have time to contemplate gender or income inequality. Although I believe they are issues.

I have no more emotional space. I have no more intellectual space. I have no more physical time.

I can’t follow blogs or stories because some have become too stuck in their position and I have heard it all before or… I disagree with them.

I barely have time to write this (most of it during the sermon after that call to worship).

I will be back one day. I will be back to advocating and debating and learning one day.

But until then I will fall asleep on the bus instead of reading. I will play with my son instead of writing another blog with the same thoughts as 30% of what you all read. And I will wash some more dishes to prevent ants and critters in our little home, instead of telling people to know where all their food and stuff is made. Although I care about it. I don’t have time.

But I ask, that those who do have time PLEASE advocate. Please write. Please read. And please for all that is right and holy, know and do something about what is happening in this state, country and world because I want it to be there when I am back!

 

 

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16 years

Sixteen years.  It has been 16 years since dad died.  Which is a long time…yet it feels like yesterday my world was flipped over.  This year has been most reflective for me.  Having Junior and the stress of medical issues around his birth and post-partum caused me to think of him a lot and wonder how he did it.  How he supported my mom, how he dealt with infant rejection, how he lived without sleep.  It made me wish I could just ask and be comforted.  Struggling to balance work, church, home life, husbanding, fathering, house maintenance and relaxing (in no particular order) made me wonder his secret.

I don’t suspect he would have told me one thing or made it sound simple or even directly answered my questions, but he would have encouraged me.  Which I think sometimes would be better than most other options have I tried lately for coping.

Never has the loss of my father felt more awkward.

I have spent many sleepless nights—some caused by junior, others by my sicknesses…which were caused by junior’s daycare—pondering Dad’s loss.   How any age is bad to lose a father, but 19 is really bad.  Too late to have another father figure in the home.  Too early to have become a father figure myself.   Or something like that.

I thought about how Georgia was never home again…even though I attempted 3 times to make it such.  How it will never be complete again…and I don’t think it should be.  How sometimes the best end to a story is a tragic one.  And how an ending needs to be allowed to close a story.

So as I reflect on another year, I try not to wonder how it could have been different.  Because if one action is changed in the past it could impact every action in the present.  So if he didn’t die, I could be an alcoholic still living in Fairbanks, Alaska who never left but struggled to keep hold to one dream.  If he didn’t die, I could still be single and lonely.  If those cars hadn’t collided, my life could have still been on the same course I planned when I was 15.

A life without Portland, office work, the beautiful Hannah and our firstborn son and a house and asian travel and a strong, realistic faith, and friends that impact life when they move away, and all of the good things I have.

But even that doesn’t make the tears burn less, or time fly faster.

I miss you Dad. A lot. A lot.

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