Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Show some gumption, my dad used to say. Just go do it. Just keep at it, he told me, though he wasn't always so good at that last part himself.
I have been feeling a distinct lack of gumption lately. Just getting out of bed in the morning takes a lot of effort, though it's easier to drive myself once I manage to remember all the stuff I need to get done during the day to take care of the boys, fulfill obligations and keep things running. I suppose it's a sign of depression, though I don't think it's really serious. I just lack the gumption to get on with things.
So Paul got laid off the Monday before this past Monday, along with everyone else at the company he was working for. And they are actively trying to get new funding (they're a start-up with some successes, but a still a start-up working off of investment capital). It's also the computer games business, which to be honest, I have very little faith in after all these years of working off and on in such a volatile industry. We're in hard times now, and games are a luxury item for most people. So everyone was laid off after working most of a month without pay. And the layoffs were back-dated about a month "so that everyone could apply for unemployment that much sooner". Though to be honest I wonder about that back-dating part- how convenient if they don't manage to get the funding; surely they wouldn't be required by law to pay the back wages owed since everyone's layoff was back dated to the period when they were still being paid and the non-paid period conveniently falls into the after-layoff period according to the books? I am a cynical woman. Paul remains determinedly, cheerily optimistic and believes in the good intentions of everyone involved, while I have mentally already written them off as bad juju and concluded that those wages owed will never be paid. Cynical. Jaded. Kind of depressed about the whole thing.
Anyway. My various small money-making ventures are not near enough to pay our way, so both of us will be searching for work that can hopefully feed our little family and pay the mortgage and the electricity and all the other bills. And hopefully still pay for Casey's gymnastics, though that's pricey. We managed to keep his gymnastics going the last time when Paul was laid off, and that lasted almost a year. We had just managed to pull ourselves out of debt from the last time.
It's odd, the reactions I get to the whole gymnastics idea. It's a luxury thing, people say. He should quit for the good of the family finances. He should quit for a while at least. He should suck it up and sacrifice for the good of the family. Some people have just been opposed to it from the beginning, warning me about Casey working too hard and getting his body distorted by the intense workouts and so forth, as well as the amazing, immense, wasted expense of paying for a sport that most people have to quit when they are still young. They see no value in the whole endeavor at all. And I've never had good answers for those kinds of statements. They've already made up their minds and trying to convince them otherwise seems like wasted effort, really. We fell into it all by chance, without realizing how important it would become to Casey, and his abilities and enthusiasm took us all by surprise. So I usually just tell the critics that Casey loves doing it and he's really, really good at it and we'd like to give him the chance to take it as far as he wants to and we can afford. That's usually a good enough answer.
The real truth is that he's seriously committed to it, but he is usually really committed to whatever he decides he wants to be good at. He could have taken on a lot of other sports and been exceptional. He has a drive to excel and doesn't handle failure well, though I guess he'll eventually have to learn to face it just like the rest of us. With gymnastics, the bald financial fact is that we will never have the kind of money required for him to take it as far as he can; gymnastics is a sport for wealthier people. He's going to end up being limited by our inability to pay for wider-ranging meets, better coaches and all of that. There will be no Olympics for Casey even if he is good enough. Maybe it's made easier by the fact that he probably won't be good enough, honestly; we're not willing to distort his childhood to the extent that would be required for him to get that good and go that far even if we could afford it. But as he progresses further and keeps improving with no plateau in sight, it's harder to see any clear delineating line of 'enough is enough'. Money will end up being the limiting factor.
We were watching an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation the other night and poor nerdy Barkley was having to face his fears of the transporter and do something that was really scary for him. And Casey just quietly said "I have to do that all the time with gymnastics; I have to learn to do lots of things that are really scary." And of course he's right; a lot of those moves are scary just to watch, let alone perform. He's had to face and overcome his own fears so many times he feels like he can try most anything, I think. Oddly enough it makes him kinder to other people when they admit they're afraid of something, and he can reach out and be gently encouraging. (Unless it's his brother and then he just gets impatient; if he can do it, his twin should be equally able, at least to his thinking.)
Casey had his first meet of the season last Sunday. It was a special meet put on by the judges and they made special efforts to talk to the boys individually and give them feedback on their routines so they could still improve before the start of the formally judged meets. And Casey did exceptionally well.
Casey got intense, excruciatingly painful stomach/intestinal cramps halfway through the meet, but he kept trying, kept going right up to the last routine, high bar, which he scratched out of at the end because holding some of those positions was just too painful. But he persevered through most of it, determined to do a good job. And he did. He showed real gumption.
The thing that I keep coming back to with Casey and his gymnastics is the sheer amount of work and consistent commitment required to get good at it, in addition to any physical gifts one might bring to it. It takes a lot of determined work day after day, and Casey doesn't falter or complain about it. I wish I could feel that way about most any aspect of my life right now. It's been a long time since I've felt that level of commitment to much of anything except trying to do right by the boys. And that is a hazy thing to figure out at best, that 'do right by' part.

So here I am, looking at our scary financial situation and wondering at my own lack of gumption. All I want to do is hide, honestly, though that's not an option. I wish I could see a clear path that was the obvious right choice and the best thing to do here. I have faced some of the big stuff: death of loved ones, surgeries, cancer. Most of them you simply don't have a choice but to go forward and through, though you're scared shitless.The obvious answer in this current situation is: "go out and get yourself a god-damned job". Though that's made tougher by having been out of the regular work force for the last 10 years, and the mass outsourcing of artists overseas, and my lack of training in current technology, and my various health issues and kids' needs and so forth. I want to be able to work at home so I can be with the boys and be a decent parent to them. I'm an artist and artists are not valued in this society, nor are moms and especially older women. It all combines to make me feel worthless, unwanted, a waste of resources. Of course it sounds silly and melodramatic to say things like that out loud, doesn't it? Excuses, perhaps, all of them, but everything combines to paralyze me in this amorphous fog.
I know we'll get through this; we've gone through worse. I just wish I could dump this resigned, defeated feeling of "Really? Again? So soon?"

Gonna get up the gumption to go get the dishes washed. It's a start, at least.

Somebody yell out my name, would you, just so I can work my way through the fog towards the sound of your voice?


  1. We got your back, sib, and I can shine a gods be damned big ass light whenever you need it.


  2. Hey, Beauty-Maker, sculptor, knitter, Imposer of Order and Reassuring Mom...
    Yeah, kind of a big job there.
    I don't think cutting Casey's gymnastics solves your basic problem. This is just more acute when Paul is out of work. Of course Paul needs to be upbeat and positive because that's the best way to interview and find openings, and people respond to it. Finding out how much and how long his unemployment runs will be the first thing to find out.
    Telling you "Oh, Don't Panic" may not feel terribly helpful...
    In broad general terms, the economy is making people hesitate before investing in new hires and expanding advertising budgets, of course, but people keep piping up with hopeful news. A lot of other states are doing better economically than California is, and the Bay Area is better off than inland CA areas with less industry.
    I'm looking at things like the scrap value of plastics, for instance--as a minor economic indicator, that's doing a lot better than it was two years ago, believe it or not.
    But a lot of big investors, institutions and businesses, are holding place. Right now, we're all waiting to see how well the eurozone debt issues get dealt with, or if the Germans get ticked off enough to let everybody else crash bigtime. When will it be obvious, whether we have a Great Depression, or finally things start picking up more? A month, two, three? That's a lot of generalized anxiety and fog to wade through to get somebody impressed enough to hire you both.
    My impression is that some of your personal fog is lack of information. Where to start on fixing that, when you don't know what else you can do?
    Well, finding out what industries need people at all would help. Searching economic indicators or simple questions, "What industries are expanding?" might get a start on that.
    In more conventional terms, you could do office part-time temp work of various kinds, just sign on with temp agencies and tell them what hours you're available. Won't be much money, but you have all the basic computer skillz. And you have a degree, which makes a difference in whether you're staff or clerical support. You can draft and edit documents, you can compose data into coherent format, you can produce letters. Many people at my work cannot do it so well, trust me... You could, if you had to, work full-time, scooting around the Bay Area from office to office, if you figure out a way to get the boys's after-school hours dealt with.
    Clearly, this would not involve developing music and gymnastics and track skills, and I think it'd also be a big waste of $$, driving around for too little money.
    I do know there's a shortage of pharmacy clerks, who get paid fairly well for lack of a degree, believe it or not, $13/hour at a total raw start and improvements as you train on the job. Part-time's possible too.
    The shortage is strange, given how much competition there is to become a grocery store boxgirl or union-level checker, at what is basically a much more demanding job with similar skills and requirements. Demographics on increasing care of the elderly points toward more demand there, not less. Drawbacks--probably a standing job, miht be flexible but usually more set up for fulltime work than part-time.
    I will add that it's a whole lot easier for me to pipe up with ideas and comments for you, than it would be to think it out like this for myself. I was always muddling through and falling into things, not being analytical about it. But what would it hurt to try some searches and gathering more information on expanding industries?
    Also, on starting off where you're muddling along now, what potential tag-ends are hanging out there which could be rechecked?

  3. I'm totally croggled that they can just back date a layoff and declare that oh hey, that last month you were all VOLUNTEERS. You didn't need to eat, did you? But I guess it's the same industry where massive unpaid overtime and extra days anytime they say it's "crunch time" is considered normal. Heavy sigh.

    Don't know if you guys are considering relocating, but the game company my husband works for - which is the least awful to their employees that I've seen in this industry :) - has some openings posted. If that's of interest, poke me and I can get Joe to talk to Paul about what the company's like.

    And big big hugs.

  4. I followed you over here from Facebook...someone posted a comment with a link to your blog. I am in a similar husband has been unemployed for close to two years. It sucks, especially when you have to tell the kids that you can't afford to let them do the things that they used to be able to do.

    I got a job with FUSD last year as a substitute para-educator. The pay isn't bad (better than retail) and the hours are school hours so I can be home with the kids in the morning and after school. Most of the jobs are with the moderately-severely disabled, so there's some feeding and diaper changing involved, but it's pretty much just all common-sense mom stuff. I believe they are hiring again, and if they aren't, they will start again soon because they just hired a bunch of the substitutes as full time employees. It might be worth it to go put in an application at the school district. I was able to work pretty much full time before I got hired on permanently. If you can get a long-term gig with regular hours it's easier, but there are plenty of day to day assignments, which is nice because you can take days off when you need them and work the days you want to.

  5. HEY BECKETT! I'm over here! (huge tight hug)

  6. Beckett: I call your name.

    I call it in hope that you can find me and the love I feel for you when it's darkest.

    I call it in gratitude for all the help and support and oceans of love you've sent out to me when I couldn't put one foot in front of the other.

    I call it in celebration that this big, crazy internet world has delivered such special people into my life.

    I call it in supplication to any Divine that listens, that the world could get just a bit easier for all of us.

    Love you.

  7. Beckett - hey BECKETT - yes you! I've nothing useful to say, dear girl, but you're a Good Person and I'd like to send you some loving support.

  8. Beckett! Over here!

    Love and hugs for all of you. I hope this new tough time passes quickly.

  9. Ouch! Sorry to hear that Paul's company apparently went belly-up. That happened to me once, and even though the economy was in better shape then, it was no fun.

    If you can relocate, I would look into Brooke's suggestion. Canada has handled the worldwide recession much better than the U.S.

    Hugs and good luck!

  10. Hey Beck,
    I'm sorry to hear about the new troubles. I wish I could say something to make it better.
    Best, Jan

  11. Beckett, did you hear me yelling, "Beckett!" Now I know why you were looking so lost...scared...when I saw you last week. Tough times indeed! What you were writing about Casey was wonderful; it reminds me of David (elder son) who always found what he wanted to focus on and then followed through. Casey is doing that and that bodes well for all his endeavors in life. Riley's interests are less easily measured and seem to be more diverse with a great deal of curiosity fueling the focus. Life is all wide open for him. You (and Paul)foster both your sons' styles of 'performing' in life in so many beautiful and creative ways. You're great parents -- the emotional health of your sons show that! So the financial stuff you will get through somehow. It's hardest when you don't know yet HOW that will happen -- but it will! When it is this bad, be prepared for GOOD SURPRISES! ! ! (what else is left?)