When nothing is happening in my life, I have time to sit here and tappity tap out details of daily triviata, small comforts, dear-diary.
When suddenly life goes haywire, I don’t write. Sometimes because situations are intense and controversial and you never know who is reading… sometimes because, as I told my friend Tony — “When you’re hanging on with both hands, you can’t always manage to wave”.
After a nerve wracking month, things have settled out to the point where I can share this much:
After 12 years of commendable work at UT’s Lake Erie Center, a place he helped design and build, my Jeff is out of a job.
He negotiated a severance package that will get us through the rest of the year with pay and health insurance, and now we’re both applying in our fields, and working on that big, “Now what?”
There’s an up side, like always… we’ve lived frugally without a lot of debt, and Jeff was increasingly dissatisfied with the narrowing focus of his job. He was less and less part of the research, boat piloting and field sampling, teaching and outreach, aspects well suited to his enthusiasm and gregarious personality.
And though we moved to Toledo 18 years ago because my family is here, it is not the only place to live in this world. My brother and his wife are local but are travelers, and my parents spend more and more of the year in Florida, while we scrape ice off our windshields and sigh over the grey expanse of stoplights, strip malls and payday loan shops. The economy here is in trouble… like everywhere, I guess. Four people standing near us in the voting lines were also out of a job… one from Jeep, one from Chrysler, and one was a secretary for a small business that closed shop when the economy tanked.
So… maybe the adventure we were too comfortable to consider has been thrust upon us, after all. My husband’s boy scout troop, my own girl scout troop, Tyler’s marvelous charter school for the arts, local friends, the potter’s guild, my house and garden and studio all keep us applying locally, but we’re also sending resumes and portfolios everywhere — like those little dandelion seeds with the parachutes — and there’s no guessing where we might take root.
The kids are on board, and have been supportive and marvelous. We are a close family, and any move that includes us all (and the pets, of course) seems “doable”. (Connor informed me that Texas has an on line virtual academy just like the one he uses here)
I am also reconsidering the utility of my MFA, now that we’re no longer tied to the town that provided Jeff’s income and benefits all these years. I would love to find a college small enough to really be able to make a difference. The thing I’ve seen with ceramics programs is that the right person, in the right place — someone resourceful and energetic — can create a thriving program from the ground up. I’d like to give it a try.
For now, I am out in the studio every day, making new work for holiday sales and on line stores. I found I needed to reclaim those few rare uninterrupted moments I used to find every day when Jeff went to work and the kids were still in bed, or busy with schoolwork. A remarkable number of projects are getting done, now, with both of us home; Jeff has the kids on a schedule, helps them with algebra and science experiments, is rewiring my two extra kilns, and we’re talking about what we might need to do to sell the house. The kids each have a night to make dinner, and thus far we are continuing with the music lessons (sax, clarinet and guitar) and the tae kwon do, the swim lessons, aquajogging for the grownups, and other quality-of-life expenses. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. But the family, together, is keeping a record of all our expenses and talking about the optionals and “non-negotiables” in our budget. That’s probably the most important homeschool lesson they’ve had yet.
So. Life got weird.
Every morning for the last few weeks I have awakened to the unsettling realization that we have three kids and no jobs.
Yesterday morning, though, I woke with a smile and thought, “President Obama.”
Hope is good. Change is good. Scary, but good. My goal is to control what I can, have faith about the stuff I can’t control, and keep one notion at the front of my mind, come hell or high water:
“Yes, we can.”