Thursday, September 11, 2008

We are having our own last supper, of sorts.

I just made dinner for the kids and me. I made some for Michael, too, but he is staying at his office quite late today. He's cleaning out his office, to be exact. After all, tonight is the last night before he goes in for his last day at his current company.

We're hoping this lay-off or whatever it's supposed to be called will lead to an even better opportunity. He had such high hopes for this company, but we see now that some things were not only never going to progress, but were actually changing for the worse.

Does that mythical company where hard work and talent are rewarded by gratitude, increased trust, increased pay, job security, and - dare to dream - possibly a little bit of recognition even exist? He doesn't do what he does for the recognition, by any means. He does what he does because he loves it. From the sound of his evaluations, his business contacts, and his trainees, it sounds like he does it extremely well, too. It's just hard to see him being subject to the whims of the business world. In his heart of hearts, he wants to be with one company for the rest of his career, building a program from nothing and making it the most outstandingly effective, best run program the pharma or mental health field has ever seen. He used to think he wanted to be a vice president or CEO of one of these companies, but he's since decided that he probably isn't heartless enough to do what they do so often.

I don't think I'll post all the details of how this particular loss came about. I'll just write the basics of what's happened. A couple of weeks ago, Michael called me from his office. He sounded absolutely sick; I could just imagine his face looking ashen and his head and shoulders hanging low. He had the feeling he was about to lose his job. His immediate superior at the company had denied that anything was going on, saying that he had no problems with the job Michael was doing. Still, we're sure he was given this prompting for a reason, so we began to prepare for the worst.

The most painful part of this experience for him has been his confusion over the whole situation. How could he get the rave reviews and evaluations he's been getting, but then have his legs cut right out from under him? If he hadn't pressed his supervisor that next Monday and finally told him that he KNEW something was going on, we don't know when the company would have broken all this to Michael. As it turns out, the man was planning to have Michael teach this last group of trainees, then make his last day the same as the last day of the training class. That brings us back to tomorrow.

So tomorrow is his last day. He's not being fired. He didn't do anything wrong. In fact, he's been doing an excellent job and has received excellent feedback from trainees, from employees in the field, from outside contacts he's worked with on behalf of the company, and from other supervisors. The company is just going a different direction and won't be needing the service he provides any more. They want someone else to do the small part of his job that they'll continue to need - someone who can also do another job for which Michael is not qualified.

Still, the whole thing just feels creepy. He only knows of one person in this office of dozens who knows that he'll be leaving at all, much less that tomorrow is the last time he'll be in that office. Can you imagine their confusion when they see him go home tomorrow, leaving an empty office behind? No farewell luncheon, no gold watch, no expressions of concern and good luck for Michael and his family. Conveniently for the company, they won't even have to pay out his end-of-year bonus, most of which he has already earned. Conveniently for his supervisor, the guy isn't even going to be in the office tomorrow. (We suspect that before Michael had pushed for information about is own fate, the supervisor had planned to have the HR woman hand him a severance package agreement just after all these trainees were supposed to leave tomorrow. As it is, they barely got it to him before his last day.) Why is this feeling like such a shameful thing when he didn't do anything wrong? Are they afraid the other employees would revolt, demanding that he be kept on or they'll all walk out? (Not likely, but somewhat of a satisfying fantasy.)

He is pretty sure his semi-replacement is already hired and is just waiting in the wings to occupy his office. In fact, he's completely sure because some dolt at the conference he was supposed to attend next week has recently sent an email with the new guy's name on it to Michael's email address. Duh. It seems the new guy is coming on just in time to get a free trip to San Diego!

So we'll say we're on to bigger and better things. I've been helping rewrite and adjust his resumes and objectives so the things we highlight are geared toward the different jobs for which he's been applying. (Not easy to do when you've got training classes to teach just about every minute of your last 2 weeks.) It's fun to see him getting excited about the possibilities at these new places, seeing how his particular set of qualifications fits so uniquely into some of these job descriptions. It's good to see him have hope that he may find that mythical company one day. Most importantly, we keep praying for the wisdom to know which of these opportunities (and others that may be yet to come) will turn out to be the right one, the strength to make it through whatever we have to go through until he gets a new job, the confidence to proceed with whatever changes we may have to make, and the patience to have it all happen according to the Lord's timetable rather than our own.

We are remembering when 9-11-01 became just 9/11.

It's one of those era-defining questions. Where were you when United States astronauts landed on the moon? Where were you when JFK was shot? Bobby Kennedy? Where were you when the shuttle blew up? (I remember that one, by the way.) Where were you when September 11, 2001 became just 9/11?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had planned to take my 2 younger boys and take the Metro into DC to pick up some tickets at the MCI Center for an ice show we wanted to go see. I slept in a bit later than I'd planned, though, so I was walking out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my hair when Michael's almost frantic call came in. He told me to turn on the television because something very weird was happening. None of our lives would ever be the same after that.

If I had been in DC when I had planned, the 2 younger boys and I would have been stranded while my oldest (then in 1st grade) was being delivered home as quickly as the bus could get him there. All the schools were closed right away and all the kids were taken home. All Metro trains were stopped. Whether we had been on one of the trains or just planning to use one to get back home before the oldest's customary arrival time, I don't think we would have found our way out of DC very easily that day. You see, we lived in Gaithersburg, MD at that time and our area was within that no-fly zone around Washington, D.C. that became eerily quiet in the days and weeks just after the attacks. We had a friend whose uncle died in the Pentagon crash. We heard the stories of local people who were lost in the blink of an eye.

We are still a blessed nation. Sometimes I miss the flags that waved on every single car that drove by for the next several months. If it's this painful for me to remember the way the whole world seemed to shift that one day 7 years ago, I can only imagine how the immediate families of all those hundreds and thousands of people who died must be hurting. I'll do today what I have done every 9/11 since that day and say a quiet prayer for all those families.

We are deciding why we should blog.

I've considered the idea of blogging on and off for some time now, but obviously didn't decide to do it until today. Why blog? Why today?

It might have something to do with an email I received and to which I responded today. A woman whom I admire incredibly much has a speaking assignment coming up this weekend. She wanted to include some examples of, "How small acts can make a big difference," and asked the ladies in the ward to send her any stories that came to them.

I wrote one example for her. Before I'd finished writing about that one, another came to my mind. As I wrote about that one, another popped up, then another. You can tell where this is going. If we sit and quiet our minds, then let ourselves ponder the things we've experienced, we can recall all kinds of small acts and big differences we've witnessed.

Here are some of the things I listed:

1. A certain leader bore her testimony to the sisters in Relief Society. (A women's class/organization that meets during the 3rd hour of our Sunday church meetings. The worldwide group is one of the largest and oldest women's organizations in the world.) She told us that she was thinking about the sisters in our ward (local church) one night, trying to remember each of our names and listing them in her head. She was somewhat disturbed because there was one sister she knew she was leaving out, but could not remember her name. She prayed for each and every one of these sisters. The next morning, the missing sister came to her mind.

It may sound like a small thing, but it touched my heart deeply to know that someone cared about each and every one us, individually and as a body. It reminded me that our Savior knows us as individuals, as well, and has people here who act in His name, in our service, and on our behalf. When ever I hear the Irving Berlin song that goes, "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings," I think of this sister. I often think of her example when I can't sleep, as well, and I try to use those opportunities to pray for individuals who may need an extra something at that time.

COUNT MY BLESSINGS (Instead of Sheep)
(Irving Berlin) from the 1954 movie "White Christmas"
« © '57 Irving Berlin Music, ASCAP »

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds.

If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

[ ... ]So if you're worried and you can't sleep...

2. When we lived in GA and I was having a very painful and scary miscarriage, Michael called our Bishop's wife to ask for advice. Within a few minutes, her car pulled up in front of our house and I heard her footsteps running up our front entry steps. She held my hand, rubbed my head, and talked me through the pain (I didn't know it, but I was having labor contractions) until the ambulance came to help me down those front steps. (I couldn't make my legs move.) While Michael rushed me to the hospital, she stayed with our kids and kept everything calm at home. At one of the most difficult times of my life, I felt completely surrounded with our Savior's love through the service this sister provided.

3. When I was pregnant with my daughter and we were relatively new to CA, a kid hit me with a bike and broke my ankle. My husband worked out of town a lot and was out of town when this happened. Our Bishop's wife came to the soccer field where it happened, took my kids to her home so her daughter could look after them, stayed at the hospital with me, called a Priesthood holder to give me a blessing, and made sure we all got home safely that night. The relief, support, and assurance she provided were priceless and indescribable.

During my recovery, I was supposed to stay completely off my feet for a period of time, but I kept trying to handle things in the house by myself. A sister in the ward volunteered to make sure my oldest son got to Scouts each week. She lived in our neighborhood and it wasn't much out of her way to take him, but it was hugely important as it showed my son that his Church activities are important and it kept him current with what his class was doing. One night when she was dropping him off after Scouts, she snuck into my kitchen and filled a section of my refrigerator with Lunchables. What a relief she provided me! My youngest son was with me all day while the other two went to school during that time, so her lunches made it possible for the little one to have meals that I would not have to get up to prepare for him.

4. We lived in CA - far away from family - when my daughter was less than a month old and Michael lost his job very unexpectedly and suddenly. We were trying to make it through those months on our own (with lots of prayer), but things were starting to get worrisome. We got a call one afternoon that said, "You need to go get some things that are outside in your driveway." When we got out there, we were shocked, touched, and humbled to find all kinds of food and supplies that had obviously been bought at Costco and were tailored to our family's needs. (Diapers, pancake mix, meats, cereal, oatmeal, bread, on and on.) We never found out who did this amazing thing for us or how many families had participated in some small way.

I can't even describe the feelings our family experienced as we lived off those supplies for a good chunk of the time until Michael got his new job. Our boys were all young, but they were old enough to remember the family home evening lesson we'd had on tithing the very week before Michael lost his job. They were sure we were being extra-blessed because we had been obedient to Heavenly Father's instructions. They felt like everyone in our ward had participated and was looking out for our well-being. Since that time, we have also tried to pay that kindness forward, providing support and service to others whose needs we see as often as we possibly can.

5. When a family in another ward lost their young son last year, several other ladies and I went to the family's house during his funeral so that we could give the house a thorough cleaning. I hope that we made it so the family had one less thing to be worried about during such a difficult time in their lives.

6. Before the funeral of an infant who died, our family spent several hours cleaning and preparing the church building. We've cleaned the building as a family before and since, but this time we talked to the boys particularly about the things the family might be feeling - both uplifting and heartbreaking - and the fact that we were trying to make the building as clean as we could so that nothing would take away from their family's time to say good-bye to her.

We will eventually share about Trek!

This is one of my favorite pictures that I took during our Pioneer Trek this past June/July. Trek is something I definitely need to blog about. I hope our kids gain a new appreciation for the experience they had there every time they think about it again. I know I do.

We will serve the Lord.

I had to finish it. For reference sake, it is a scripture from the Bible, found in the book of Joshua, the 24th chapter, 15th verse.

"... choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

We're trying. We really are. I want to keep a record of the ways that we're trying to teach our kids how important unity and service really are. I want our kids to know how very blessed their lives are. Of course, it will help for me to have that reminder, as well.

I stink at journaling - at least I do until I try to write a short email or online group post about something that has happened in the life of my family. Then, when I'm typing, I seem to blurt out everything I've been holding inside. I'm hoping I will be better at journaling if I do it in this format. Time will tell, right?

My parents have always said I have a very hard time letting go of people. I don't disagree. I am not very good at expressing it all the time, but the people who come into my life are so very important to me that they become a part of who I am. My brain is constantly filled with thoughts of others, wondering about their lives & current situations, prayers for their well-being. I hope this format becomes another way to stay in touch with the people who mean so much to me.