Life Among the Underemployed – Milestone?

(These posts will appear when there is something to report)

I am comfortably in excess of 400 days without full-time employment.

need-a-jobAnd that sucks.

In the course of that time I have been:

  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Depressed
  • Inspired
  • Hopeful
  • Defeated
  • Tired
  • Scared
  • Scared
  • Scared

I hate writing these damn posts.  I hate that I have anything to add to this series.  I hate that I feel like I am not pulling my weight in my family.  Everyone else has steady, full-time jobs.  I’ve applied for over 150 job openings.  In as many different industries as I can think I might qualify.  I’ve gotten two interviews.  I didn’t get the nod at one and did at the other.  I tried the work with Aflac (great company and products) but the work just wasn’t for me.  It made me dread getting up and going to work each day.  Nausea, anxiety, you name it.  So I told them that it just wasn’t working out.

As it turns out, looking for a full-time job is almost a full-time job in and of itself.  Which is hard when you are trying to staunch the bleeding from our financial reserves doing multiple part-time jobs.  There’s never enough time and that adds to the stress.

I don’t know what to do.  I know that I can’t quit.  Quitting sounds really inviting some days.  Roll up into a ball and quit.  Pull the blankets over my head and quit.  Dive to the bottom of a bottle and quit.

Just effing quit.

But that’s not who I am.

Maybe things will change before I hit 500, or 200, or 600, or 300…

So I will keep my head up, my eyes open, my heart strong.

Waiting to see the next chapter in my life.

Whatever it turns out to be.

And I’ll keep you up to date on how that goes.



A Season of Thinking

Been gone for awhile.  Nothing bad has happened but a lot has happened.  It just seemed like a good time to sit back and think about what’s going on and where this blog fits.  So here’s where I found myself when all was said and done.

I still have hopes for this blog that I haven’t achieved.  Part of the problem is that this blog has to juggle several different parts of my personality and life.  I’ve tried to keep them separate with only limited success.  The obvious reason for that is that they are not separate.  All of them are integral pieces of who I am.  So it was necessary to find a better way to put this puzzle together.

Here’s the plan at the moment –

The current “regular” posts will continue but as monthly rather than weekly posts.  Too often I found myself feeling like I had nothing to add and the posts went up because they were scheduled to do so.  That’s a waste of my time to write and your time to read.  So the “Adventures in Urban Cycling” and “Time For A Change” posts will run monthly.  My intent is to make them a little longer so I can explore a little more about what is happening on each of those fronts.

You may note that there is no mention of a regular “Life Among the Unemployed” series.  That’s because I’ve left those ranks.  I am moving into a whole new professional world, health insurance.  It’s exhilarating and terrifying.  I may post about those experiences depending on how it goes.  I’m still pondering that.

Now just those posts would leave this a pretty empty blog.  And that’s never been the goal.  The original purpose, as I mentioned before, was to use this as a creative blog.  So I’ve decided to go all in on that subject.  “From A Craxy, Mized Up World” will become the official blog for my writing website (  That means there will be at least two posts relating to the subject of writing or dealing with my books and stories each month.  I hope to add two other “creative” topics each week.  The plan is that those posts will appear each Thursday.  I am looking at occasionally posting on the subject of faith (which remains an important part of my life), Thankfulness, maybe doing a little more with my explorations of RVA and the surrounding area.  There’s also the possibility of the odd wine/beer post too.  Who knows? Lots of room to explore.  All of this will slowly begin to show up in the next couple months with the final “launch” coming January 1, 2018.

Some of these changes are being made to simplify my life.  I was trying to maintain three different blogs, two Twitter feeds, create radio programs and a podcast.  It was a mess because there had never been a plan.  It had all grown organically.  Just like any weed.

So let’s get our baseline stories caught up.

Weight – 187.5      That’s up just a little bit.  Given how my exercise went in the tank over the last month, I’m very happy with that.

Biking – Mileage YTD – 538.2.  That’s on 24 rides through September 25.  That’s not bad, but still a long way towards my 1,000 mile goal.  September has been a total bomb for the riding.  I hope to take another shot at the Cap2Cap soon.

Active Minutes – Most of the month was fine.  The one week that was so low was also the week I misplaced the Fitbit.  Starting at the beginning of September my weeks went 226, 21, 130 and 138.

Diabetes – I’ll just be honest and acknowledge that I haven’t been testing my blood glucose.  I think I did it twice this month.  Both numbers were fine.  That’s not good enough.

I will probably look at refreshing the look of the blog as well.  So plenty to keep me busy between now and the first of the year.  I hope you will continue to enjoy what I’ve done before, plus what is to come.


The Mid-Year Review

Wherein, I rat myself out.

One of the great things about New Year’s resolutions is that, by this time of year, everyone has forgotten that you ever made any.

But I did make some (HERE), and the idea was to work towards them all.  So with half the year behind me, it’s time to see how I’m doing.

My goals for 2017 were:

Health Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

UPDATE – I’m actually doing all right on these.  Weight continues down, blood glucose is going down and I’m averaging way above the active minutes.  WIN!

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

UPDATE – Ummm.  On the guitar front, I began the year with “frozen shoulder” which made holding the guitar painful.  I have begun to work my way back on that one.  Working on the writing projects.  The photo goal has been a bust.  NEEDS WORK

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

UPDATE – Some progress made on this one.  So for this point of the year – WIN

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

UPDATE –  No, no and no.  NEEDS WORK

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

UPDATE – Not yet, YES!!!!, and not yet.  Call this one a PUSH


So it’s two wins, two needs works, and a push.  With lots of time to get things turned around.  Not where I had hoped to be, but I’m OK with it for the moment.  Where are you on yours for 2017?

Life Among the Underemployed – Psychic Shock

(These posts will appear when there is something to report)

You may notice a change in the headline.  It should have come up sooner but I’m still wrapping my head around it.


I am no longer technically “unemployed”.

I never appeared in the government’s unemployment statistics for the simple reason that I never qualified for them.  While I have certainly BEEN unemployed since November, I was not among the statistics.

Back in February, my status changed.  I even talked about it here.  After undergoing the necessary background check, health check, and application process, I became a substitute teacher in the local school district.

But I still thought of myself as “unemployed”.  In reality, I was bringing in a regular check.  Well, the check was regular, even if the amount wasn’t.

By definition “underemployment” is – “the condition in which people in a labor force are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs or at jobs inadequate with respect to their training or economic needs”.

That’s me.  Employed at less than full time at a job that is inadequate to our financial needs.

We’re paying our bills, but having to dip into our reserves every month to do it.

I’ve applied for 60 jobs, I’ve gotten one interview.  For a job that would have made our lives and finances worse rather than better.  I never hear back from most of them.  It’s a grind.  One that is beginning to wear me down.

There’s a part of me that is dealing with a change in my fundamental belief in my future.  This isn’t the future I believed was coming.  I’m not sure I’m capable at this point of putting into words the paradigm shift that I’m in.  You work hard, you get an education, you work hard some more.  There will be some dips along the way, but in the end, everything will work out.  Hard times are for people who weren’t blessed with the starting point I had.  It was supposed to be a kind of insurance policy against hard times.

It was always a lie.  But it was a comforting lie and so I believed.  Having that belief taken away carries an enormous psychic shock that I am only just beginning to confront.  It makes everything harder.

There’s a story that I have repeated for years.  I remember it being told to me as “an old Indian tale”, but I have no idea if that’s true.  It’s the story that I cling to at moments like this.  The story goes as follows:

One day Rabbit was out foraging for food and didn’t notice how far he had gotten from his burrow.  Suddenly, Wolf sprang out from the bushes, jaws snapping.  Off went Rabbit as fast as he could go with Wolf just a half step behind.  As he ran, Rabbit passed the burrow of one of his brother rabbits, who watched the chase coming towards him.  He looked at Rabbit, and he looked at the distance to the burrow, and he looked at how close Wolf’s teeth were to his friend.  As Rabbit raced by, the other rabbit called out, “Do you think you’ll make it?”

To which Rabbit responded, “What choice do I have?”

I’m tired.  And scared. And angry.

But what choice do I have?


So I will keep my head up, my eyes open, my heart strong.

Waiting to see the next chapter in my life.

Whatever it turns out to be.

And I’ll keep you up to date on how that goes.


Life Among the Unemployed – Making Hard Decisions

(These posts will appear when there is something to report)

Unemployment is not a straight line experience.  It changes as you go along, and that means decisions have to be made. Often hard ones.


It’s time to acknowledge a decision I’ve made with my family.

For the moment, I am not pursuing youth ministry positions around the country.  If something were to pop up here in the Richmond region, I would certainly consider it.  But we’ve decided that we don’t want to pack up and move again.  Our goal was to move down here and make this our home long term.  The very thought of starting again is like a great stone in our bellies.  For better or worse, we will make our stand here.

It’s not a decision I come to easily.  I still love working with young people.  Those chances to discuss faith and life with young people are deeply missed.  For whatever reason God has put a great love for young people in my heart.  Through those young people, my own faith has been deepened and strengthened in ways I can not even begin to describe to you.

The other side of the coin is complicated.  I have reservations (is that a nice enough word?) about my departure from each of my professional ministry positions.  I’m not going to go into those here and now.  I accept that I bear some responsibility in both cases.  That still leaves me with issues about how the end came to be.  A different topic for a different day.

Here’s what really weighs on me at this point.  Having to break away from the young people in both of those ministries broke my heart.  It happened twice in a span of fewer than three years.  There can be no doubt that making a clean break is important for them.  It doesn’t make it easy or painless.  I’m a hurting puppy and that alters my ability to step back into another ministry.  To try and pretend otherwise is to be dishonest with myself, with any congregation or diocese, and with the young people.  For the moment, I need to heal.  There may be opportunities for me to support others in youth ministry.  I look forward to that possibility.  At the moment, we have just joined a new congregation.  The standards that I helped to create require a one year “waiting period” before becoming involved with youth ministry.  That strikes me as a very good policy and a personal discipline that I need to follow.

So it’s career change time again.  My resume describes an interesting and fairly unique career path.  It is one that has played strongly to my communication skills, my ability to relate to others, to work both as a team member and a leader, and displays a flexibility to adapt.  I’m hoping that there is a company or organization that is looking for just that kind of person to help them achieve their goals.  Anyone interested can check me out at my LinkedIn profile page.

This has not been an easy decision.  A part of me cries out at the idea of stepping away.  Yet there is no doubt in mind my it is the decision I need to make right now.  Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

So I will keep my head up, my eyes open, my heart strong.

Waiting to see the next chapter in my life.

Whatever it turns out to be.

And I’ll keep you up to date on how that goes.


Life Among the Unemployed – Trying Something New

(These posts will appear when there is something to report)

In my last post in this series a couple weeks back, I mentioned that I had begun the process of becoming a substitute teacher in the local school district.



All that paperwork, fingerprinting, background check and TB testing has been completed.  I have a week of subbing under my belt as well.

It’s harder than you might think.

I sat in for a 4th-grade teacher this past week.  Worked with the kids all day on science and other subjects.  It was a mental challenge because, well, they’re fourth graders.  The closest thing to perpetual motion machines ever created by mankind.  Plus we’re having an early spring hereabouts.  My Fitbit registered 8,000+ steps during school that day.  Roughly four miles.

The job is mentally and physically challenging.  You are pretty much alone.  The school expects that you can handle the class and don’t require much, if any, assistance.  As a brand new sub, I’m walking into buildings where I don’t know where the office, the teacher’s restrooms, or anything else is.  You don’t know the students, and until you hit the classroom you have no idea what you are going to be doing.  Oh, and making sure you park in the right place and come in the proper door is a challenge as well.  If you’re not good at dealing with the unknown, this is probably not the job for you.

So far, I’ve done high schools twice, middle school and elementary school once each.  I sat in the back while a student teacher handled the class, subbed for half of a teaching team (and the regular teacher did all the “heavy lifting”), the fourth graders and tenth grade English.  Four different schools, each with a slightly different way of handling substitute teachers.

For high school I had to be there around 7 AM, elementary school didn’t start till 9.  Twice I’ve had lunch with other teachers, twice in the classroom.

My respect for teachers continues to grow.

In the meantime, it’s putting a little extra money in the bank account.

So I will keep my head up, my eyes open, my heart strong.

Waiting to see the next chapter in my life.

Whatever it turns out to be.

And I’ll keep you up to date on how that goes.


Life Among the Unemployed – Unpleasant Surprise

(These posts will appear when there is something to report)



Unfortunately, today’s report isn’t good news.  With my severance package drawing to an end, it was time to sign up for Unemployment Compensation.  A pain in the butt (filling out governmental forms always is) but no big deal.  I’ve done it before.  In fact, in many ways, Unemployment is infinitely easier than it was the first time I went on it back in 1983 or so.  At that time, you had to show up, in person, every week to make your claim.  There was a small card you had to present, along with your assurances that you were actively searching for work.

Today, it’s all done online.  The rules said I have to apply for a minimum of two jobs per week.  I’m averaging more than twice that.  Easy peasy.

We went away for a long weekend to see some old friends and had a great time.  That ended with a crash when I opened the letter from the Virginia Employment Commission.  Because I worked for the church, and churches are exempt from paying unemployment tax, I am ineligible for unemployment compensation in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Congress included that exemption in the original legislation that set up the system decades ago.  Non-profits are often included as well.  They can choose to pay the tax but most do not.  I want to note that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond has set up a program to make sure that lay employees are eligible for this program.

My feelings about the church, in general, choosing this path of “care” for its employees are waaaaay to complex to take on right here and now.  Perhaps another day and time.  Most folks make a lot of sacrifices to do God’s work on a professional basis.  This just seems like the final insult.  As I said, a topic for another day.

What this means is that in the short run, things are much more urgent than before (and they were urgent then).  We are tapping into savings and lines of credit in ways that I don’t like.  At the moment we have no choice.

On the bright side, I am applying to become a substitute teacher in the local school district.  It fits my experience and skills and can bring in some short term money, while we search for a long-term solution.  There are a few other ideas we are exploring as well.  Not fun.


So I will keep my head up, my eyes open, my heart strong.

Waiting to see the next chapter in my life.

Whatever it turns out to be.

And I’ll keep you up to date on how that goes.