Thursday, September 2, 2010

Making Lemonade? Or, Sometimes Dreams Unfortunately Do Come True

Sometimes life hands out lemons, and the common charge is to go ahead and make lemonade. What about those times when life hands out something altogether tastier, but something one might not currently be craving? Absurd? And yet, disturbingly real.

For 8 years I've toiled at my current job. I've reached the highest point I can attain on my current job track barring the death or retirement of one of my superiors. There have been carrots thrust under my nose on occasion; offers of a transfer and promotion to expand our business. As a company, we're exceptionally good at what we do, and we've often discussed spreading our business model to other markets, possibly even around the country. My name has been attached to these discussions from the start. I find it an honor to be considered for these opportunities, and they have motivated me to work harder and strive for excellence in all aspects of my work life.

Recently, in the past year or so, I've grown to accept that many of these proposed transfer/promotions were merely attempts to push me further. They were just management's idea of a motivator. I accepted this and moved on from my dreams of moving away and starting anew. I kind of grew to like the idea of raising my family in Fort Wayne. After years of restlessness (begun at 8 years old) I settled into a church. I've joined the church softball team, am coaching in a church youth soccer league, and have recently joined the choir. I've made friends with my pastors and with other church leaders, and I've finally, after 22 years, found my church home. It was a long search, but the fruits have been amazing. I love this church and its people. In return, the church has unflinchingly supported me, even as I initially questioned each of their beliefs.

I am happy. Certainly, I could use a little more money. I wouldn't mind a raise or promotion. A new challenge at work would be welcome, but not necessary. I've finally grown comfortable. Of course, if I've learned one thing in my 30 years, it's that comfort leads to complacency, and the world doesn't like complacency. Consequently, I'm starting to think the world places little value on comfort.

There is a new carrot under my nose. My company bought out another company in a different part of the state. My bosses want me to go there and take over. It's the job I've been after for years, the dream I chased for over a decade. I should be thrilled. Should be. I just don't know anymore. My biggest fear is that after searching 22 years for a place where I felt I could be spiritually fulfilled, I'm being given the opportunity to run away from it. This seems like a temptation I should avoid. Maybe I shouldn't chase the dreams and the big money. However, I have a family to support, a wife that would like to go back to college, a daughter I want to enroll in preschool, a house I'd like to buy, and (someday – hopefully not for a while yet) more kids on the way. I would be doing good work in this new place, and I would be able to help and have a positive impact on a great number of lives. My new position would give me the money to accomplish all of my goals for my family. It seems like this should be a no-brainer.

What to do, what to do? I'm sure this is a problem that any number of people would love to have. Jobs are hard enough to come by, and here I am complaining about being offered a raise. But I guess I feel like some things might be more important than money. Friends have advised that I pray over it, and I have. I think I'm being told to go. However, throughout my spiritual journey I've heard of people being led astray by false voices. How do I know that the messages I receive telling me to go aren't those of a false prophet, trying to tempt me away? Perhaps the nagging feeling I have in my gut about leaving my church is the actual voice of God. Or maybe I've got that part reversed. Or maybe it's just cold feet and nerves, that seems like a natural response doesn't it? I just don't know anymore. I hoped documenting it all and reading it would help it make sense. So far, no such luck. I can see reasoned arguments for both sides. I just don't know. Any thoughts out there in cyberland?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guiding Hands? Or How $2,000 Changed My Life

Sometimes, you're just lucky. I don't want to get all “Butterfly Effect” on you, but I was examining my life the other day, and I came to a startling conclusion. Everything that I've become, almost everything that means anything to me can be traced back to one event. A statement by my parents that they probably regret. I'm sure they ended up regretting it at the time, perhaps reading this will help them understand just what it all meant. Allow me now to extrapolate from their simple offer to a fifteen year old, my entire life.

Event 1: April 28th, 1995 – My parents tell me, on my 15th birthday, that they want to help me get a car when I turn 16. They offer to match whatever money I can earn and save between now and my next birthday, and to put all of that money toward a car.

Event 2: April 1995-April 1996 – I work my butt off to maximize their offer. I helped landscape neighbors yards. I mowed, I directed fairground traffic, and I shucked corn. I saved birthday and Christmas money and saved my portion of the proceeds from a family yard sale. I clung to every penny as though existence itself depended upon it. I saved just over $2,000. Not bad for a high school kid too young to get a real job.

Event 3: April 28, 1996 – I present my earnings to my parents, along with a reminder of their promise (not that they needed reminding, I was kinda obsessed with it.) We purchase my uncle's 1986 Pontiac. It's in great shape, and I love this car.

Event 4: Spring, 1999 – The band I've been in since high school breaks up when the lead guitarist breaks multiple bones tripping on his own ego. Because I'm the only one in the band with his own car, I end up giving the bass player, Ramon rides all the time even after the split. We being fooling around with different tunes and decide to start our own band. The 1947 California Cupcake Company is born.

Event 5: April 14th & 15th, 2002 – The car breaks down. I'm on my way back to Fort Wayne from a visit to my college buddies when the Low Oil Pressure light comes on. It has been shorting out for years, and I know that to make it stop I need simply to pump the gas pedal. Turns out this time, the pressure really is low and I melt my engine into one big block of metal. This happens around 11:30pm, and I spend a few hours by the side of the road trying to figure out what to do. I push the car into a parking lot and walk to a police station, where the cops call a cab for me and have the driver take me home (despite the meager $11 in my pocket.) I get home around 4am and can't sleep.

Event 6: April 15th, 2002 – While student teaching a group of Kindergarteners, I begin stumbling around the room, fall into a computer table, and lay shaking on the floor. The children fetch the teacher from across the hall, and she calls 911. I wake up in the back of an ambulance after my first seizure.

Event 7: April 16th, 2002 – I meet a neurologist who explains to me that my lack of sleep and stress about the car are the most likely causes of my seizure. He also says I won't be able to drive for at least 3 months.

Event 8: April 18th, 2002 – I return to the school, more stressed than ever. I'm terrified that missing three days of my student teaching will affect my grade, and I'm worried that without transportation it will be difficult to go searching for a teaching job over the summer. A real problem due to the fact that I'm scheduled to graduate in less than a month. Our school's special education assistant overhears my concerns about transportation and offers to get me a job at a summer camp. The benefits; I can live there rent free all summer, they provide 3 meals a day, and I don't ever have to drive. It will at least get me through for a while.
 Event 9: June 2nd, 2002 – I begin working for Red Cedar. I'm a summer camp counselor working with persons with disabilities. It's something I never imagined myself doing. I'm completely out of my element.

Event 10: Summer 2002 – I work all summer at Red Cedar and fall in love with it. It turns out, I'm pretty good with this clientele, and my educational background makes me more qualified than most others in the field. I'm offered a job working full-time in a group home. I start that job as soon as camp ends.

Event 11: March 4th, 2003 – I have my second seizure. The company tells me that, as I can't drive for 6 months after the seizure, I'll have to step down from my position in the group home. All group home staff are required to drive and transport clients, and I'm no longer qualified.

Event 12: Spring 2003 – I raise a giant stink about a company that works with persons with disabilities firing me for have a seizure disorder. I bike to the main office every day for a month until they agree to find me a position somewhere within the company. Finally they crack and offer me a position working in their day program, something called the 'workshop'.

Event 13: April 28th 2003 – On my 23rd birthday I begin working at the workshop. I help adults with disabilities work on piece-rated jobs for companies all over northeast Indiana. It's the best job I've ever had, management is respectful, there are opportunities for advancement, and I'm tremendously happy. Between my joy at this new opportunity, and my inability to drive (again) I decide to put the summer teaching position search on hold for another summer.

Event 14: Summer 2005 – I still love my job at the workshop and have begun deciding that my career will never be teaching. I've decided to make my career at the workshop and make my life in Fort Wayne. My guitarist is looking for a teaching job of his own, and I talk to him about the school across the street from the workshop. It's a Spanish-Language magnet school. My guitarist majored in both Elementary Education and Spanish. It seems like a perfect match.

Event 15: August 2005 – My guitarist and best friend, Ramon, decides to take the teaching job at the Spanish speaking school and move up to Fort Wayne. With him now just around the corner from me, we begin playing open mic nights all over the city, including at a Christian coffeehouse known as Seekers, where our originality and charisma earned us immediate acceptance. We become the regular hosts of their Monday open mic nights.

Event 16: January 2006 – On Super Bowl night, my dad and I have always had strange bets. On this night, the Seahawks (and the refs!) cost me my hair. My dad giggles hysterically while shaving my head.

Event 17: February 2006 – As we host open mic night, I notice a new girl in the audience. She looks cute, but probably too young for me. She really seems to enjoy our band and begins showing up at shows.

Event 18: July 2006 – After having seen her at every open mic and show for months (but never actually having spoken to her) I notice that the cute girl is no longer anywhere to be seen. This saddens me until the next orientation at work. As the orientation group takes a tour of the workshop I notice my cute girl in the back of the group. We smile and wave at each other. Turns out she stopped coming out because she's taken a 2nd shift job with my company.

Event 19: August 2006 – I begin getting reports from her co-workers that the cute girl has a crush on me. I'm intrigued. Given that she works at my company she must be at least 18. I'm too timid to speak to her, but definitely interested. It turns out she is 23.

Event 20: August 11th, 2006 – At a going away party for a co-worker, she positions herself next to me. We talk for 2 hours and exchange phone numbers. I am a bumbling, babbling idiot throughout the conversation, as her intense beauty has intimidated the crap out of me. Before I even leave the parking lot I call her to apologize for my dorkiness. She finds it endearing and agrees to come to my band's charity show the next day.

Event 21: August 12th, 2006 – During a set-break at the charity show we share our first kiss. I'm hooked.

Event 22: July 2nd, 2007 – Our daughter is born.

Event 23: October 27th, 2007 – I get my wife a professional massage for he birthday. When the massage is over, the masseuse exits the room to, “get some more oil.” I enter the room and resume the massage, finishing on one knee, placing the box under the face hole in the massage table and asking her to marry me.

Event 24: August 31, 2008 – I marry the cute girl. She's now the beautiful girl, my wife, the mother of my child, and the love of my life. Nothing will ever be the same

Without that car I never start my current band. Without the band the cute girl never seem me. Without the haircut the cute girl never develops her crush on me (trust me, she has told me this repeatedly). Without the car I never start having seizures. Without the seizures I never find the job I love. Without that job, I lose track of my cute girl forever when she starts working 2nd shift. Without that girl I never have my daughter.

I don't intend to get too spiritual on the blog today, but I can't view each of these events, and their eventual effects on my life without feeling like something or someone was guiding the entire thing. I'm happier today than I've ever been. I have an amazing young family with a wife and daughter I'd gladly lay down my life for. I have all of those things because of a car that probably cost my parents more than they were expecting. I have all of those things because of a seizure disorder I cursed for years before I realized how it has guided each of the major moments in my adulthood. Without those things I wouldn't be anything like the person I am today. I'm a better person because of my seizures. I'm a better person because of that car. I'm a better person because of that silly deal my parents made with me when I was 15. They thought they were teaching me a lesson about hard work and saving money. It turns out they were changing my life, and causing their granddaughter.

Cool huh?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

25 Things? Or, It's The 2nd Post, I Should Probably Introduce Myself

In an attempt to be as unoriginal as possible, and with apologies to those on Facebook whom I am now ripping off, allow me to be the 6 billionth person to tell you 25 Random Things About Me:

1.My name is Josh McDevitt-Spall. It's technically Joshua, but no one calls me that unless I'm in trouble.

2.Don't ask about the middle name. It's unimportant. I wouldn't tell you anyway.

3.I went with the hyphenate because my wife wouldn't accept just calling ourselves the McSpalls.

4.I'm married to an amazing woman, and we have a 3 year old daughter.

5.You don't need to know their names. You may try to find them and ask about my middle name. This would be unacceptable.

6.I've known my wife for 4 years, we've been married for 2 years, and our daughter is 3 years old. You do the math.

7.I sing for a band called The 1947 California Cupcake Company. It's a two man acoustic act. Surprisingly, when chicks see two guys onstage calling themselves the Cupcakes it's not much of an aphrodisiac.

8.My favorite food is Crab Rangoon. I told my best friend that if I ever met a girl who knew how to make crab rangoons, I would marry her. I told him this to explain my fascination with our waitress at the chinese buffet. When my girlfriend (now wife) made crab rangoons for dinner on our 3rd date, I called my friend and asked him to be my best man.

9.My wife was not the waitress from the chinese buffet.

10.I fear and despise needles. I can't watch movies or television shows in which someone is getting a shot, not even if it's animated.

11.There are a surprisingly high number of needles in the animated entertainment industry. Seriously, most people never notice them or think about them. I bet you can't name 2 examples right now, but I promise you they're out there. I cringe at cartoons.

12.Cats make me die. I first discovered this after a party at a friend's house when I woke up with his cat on my chest. I couldn't breathe and my face was swollen to twice it's normal size. Ever since, I'm unable to hang out around cats. (unless they're jazz musicians.)

13.It's probably karmic justice for the time I put that same cat in a microwave. I didn't do it maliciously, I never turned the microwave on, and I let her out after a while. But, she had been leaping up onto the coffee table and knocking over our shot glasses. The microwave kept her out of the way.

14.Cats can sense that I'm allergic and seem to flock to me. They rub all over me, depositing their fur on all of my clothing. It's unpleasant. I should just buy stock in Claritin.

15.I'm an aspiring novelist and I plan on spending most of November writing. You should totally Google the term “NaNoWriMo” it's pretty cool.

16.I am secretly addicted to the show “Big Brother”. Well, I was secretly addicted, I guess now I'm openly addicted. Oops.

17.I really like the color green. It's my favorite color. When I was growing up my room was painted light green with dark green carpeting. It was something akin to living inside a lime.

18.I have no idea why I started a blog. Seemed like something to do at the time. Now I'm forcing my self to write in it at least once a week (I'd like to get to daily.) I guess it's good practice for November when I'll be forcing myself to write at least 2,000 words/day. I've got to learn to rise above the writer's block.

19.Apparently I'm not as interesting as most of my friends. Finding 25 things about myself that I think would actually be funny or interesting to others is actually proving to be difficult.

20.While in high school I got a job bagging groceries at a local supermarket. For some reason, on one of my first days there I began speaking with an English Cockney accent. I don't know why I did it. I worked there for three years and never broke character. I had long-time regular customers convinced I was an exchange student. I developed an entire backstory. It's really kind of sad when you think about it.

21.In college I became a butcher in my college town's local grocery store. At first I was afraid the accent would return, but it didn't. Instead I chose to try being completely silent outside the limited communicative demands of my job. When finally cornered by one of the townie kids and forced to speak I rattled off every spanish word I knew in rapid succession. He left confused, and convinced that I only spoke spanish. When my supervisor asked me about this, I replied (in perfect english) that the townie kid must be crazy.

22.I majored in Elementary Education in college. I was going to be a kindergarten teacher.

23.During my student teaching I suffered a gran mal seizure in which I stumbled, fell, and began shaking violently on the ground.

24.Most of the kids thought I was dancing.

25.I never became a teacher. I had a hard time searching for a teaching job after the seizure because I couldn't drive around town (they took away my license for 6 months). During that time I found work helping people with disabilities.

26.I love it and have never looked back. Oops, that was 26.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lice? Or, Hi! I'm Josh, and Apparently I Need a Shower

Head lice suck.

These creepy little bugs get into and onto everything you own. Apparently they lay indestructible eggs from hell-to-breakfast. (I don't know what that saying means, but my mom uses it all the time, and I love it.)

The information publicly available on head lice all seems to contradict itself. Did you know that they can't survive for any meaningful length of time without a human host. One reputable website I read says that there is no need to go around scouring everything in the house and turning your life upside down because the lice and eggs will die without something to feed on. The same website then instructed me to place all of my daughter's stuffed animals into a plastic garbage bag for two weeks to starve the bugs. I do hope that the authors of this advice realize that my daughter's blue stuffed penguin does not actually contain any nutrients. The kits they sell to get rid of the lice are no better. The shampoo says to use it only once, as it is chemical in nature and could harm your scalp if used to excess. It also says that the itching may continue even after using the shampoo. The itching makes you think the bugs are back, and makes you want to re-use the shampoo!

Then there is the small matter of informing other interested parties of the presence of head lice. When I was in school, about once or twice a year the nurse would have to come into our classroom and check everyone's head for lice. It always seemed to coincide with the couple days that the creepy-smelly kid in the corner (with no friends) was 'sick'. Now I had the pleasure of informing my daughter's Sunday School teacher that my daughter was, in fact, the creepy-smelly kid in the corner who would be out 'sick' while everyone got checked for lice. Few things make you feel like more of a failure as a parent.

Of course, there is the ever-present questioning, “Where did she get it?” Honestly, I have no idea. My wife thinks it may have been at Sunday School, but no one else in the class has reported lice (that I've heard anyway.) Could it have been at the park? These are about the only places my kid spends much time around other children, and both seem unlikely candidates.

I've given up the search for the source. I've shaved my head. I've used my first blog entry to vent the frustrations of head lice infestation. I guess now I should get back to bleaching everything my family owns.

Death to the bugs (like Starship Troopers!)