Thursday, April 27, 2017

Faith Precedes the Miracle

OMGosh! Can we talk about Bill Nye and his amazing transformation from a very mediocre comedian/actor/mechanical engineer into an expert on all things science? He totally, like, proved it with that song and dance that Rachel Bloom performed on his new show. No, no, don't look it up. You'll hate it. Well, if you do look it up and watch it, just trust me that it's horrendous. I could only get through a little bit of it. It's called "My Sex Junk." And if you do watch it, don't say I didn't warn you. (shudder)

But I digress. Bill Nye the Psycho Guy is not something I want to discuss right now. I want to discuss miracles.

The Miracle

I could go on and on about faith (and I have already, though I haven't published any of those posts), but it all boils down to this: each of us has to learn that when you lay your burdens at the Lord's feet, leave them there and don't pick them up again. Picking them up again to worry and stew over them entirely defeats the whole purpose of laying them at the Lord's feet in the first place. Picking them up again shows a lack of faith. Laying them at His feet and then leaving them there with a lighter heart, trusting that He knows your needs, is what builds faith.

Not that that's an easy lesson. It's taken me years. A lifetime, really. And I'm generally a laid-back person.

I believe you know that I told my last writing client to take a hike, as I did mention it two posts back. When they recently said, "Hey, after all this time of you doing excellent work for us, how about we cut your rates to less than half?" I responded, "Hey, how about I don't work for you anymore?"

It wasn't just ego, which I did try to suppress in order to look at their offer objectively. I mean, yeah, I was insulted, but I did consider whether or not I could still work for them and not feel overwhelming resentment, because money. Conclusion: nope. I'm human, not a robot. I was already charging them rates on the lower end for my work as a professional writer, so I didn't see any advantage to tying up my time and mental energies writing for them for pennies.

By severing ties with them, I now placed myself into a position of not having an extra source of income. The whole thing had soured me on trying to find new clients and haggling about rates, so I decided to do something that gets me out of the house and allows me to talk to people other than myself. Thus: I am now a fully licensed Class B driver with school bus and passenger endorsements.

But another problem: I can't drive a school bus over the summer, which means I don't earn anything over the summer. Uh oh.

Also: taxes were due and we didn't have enough tax credits to reduce our federal and state taxes to reasonable levels. This year, we owe a lot. More than we can afford. Uh oh.

Proposed solution: get a maintenance job over the summer (or something) to make up the income shortfall. If I squint really hard, I can totally see how fun that will be. I can work with young people and learn lots about changing light bulbs and painting schoolroom walls. Right? And we'll sort of wing it with the taxes and take the penalty fines while we pay them off in chunks (bites nails).

And yet, I felt calm and peaceful. I laid my burdens at the Lord's feet and explained the situation and why I couldn't work for my former client anymore. I also explained how money is an issue. We're trying to pay off debt and increase our self-reliance, but a family still has to eat--at least a little. Then I made a conscious effort to not pick up my burdens again and just trust and have faith. Every time the worry tried to well up inside, I reminded myself that faith and fear are mutually exclusive. I choose faith.

On Sunday, April 16th, we had no way to pay our taxes, which were due on Wednesday, April 18th this year. I was also barely recovering from a raging tooth infection that had brutalized me with pain all Saturday night and Sunday.

On Monday, April 17th, the antibiotics I got from the urgent care doctor were finally starting to have some effect (and being able to pay the urgent care fees in order to get the antibiotics is a another miracle I won't go into at the moment). I also got a text. It was from a colleague from a former writing job who now works for a large nutritional supplements company.

"Hey, I need a good writer," he said, "and I'd like to pay you an insanely good rate--and also pre-pay you, starting today!"

I immediately responded, "Hey, I'm your new writer!"

It's amazing how getting paid what you're worth can resurrect your interest in writing for other people, amiright?

He sent me a list of the articles I need to write, and I sent him an invoice. He paid me within minutes. It was enough to cover the federal taxes, due the next day. The money hit my bank account on April 18th.

Now I'm a freelance content writer with a client again--a client who is also a writer, I might add, which is why he isn't trying to pay me pennies for my mental exertions. I have a way to earn good money over the summer. I get to write about natural health topics, which is one of my favorites.

This is a miracle, folks. It's one of the obvious and mind-blowing ones, the kind that makes you fall to your knees and cry out your gratitude to a God who knows you personally and answers prayers. While I know answers don't always come like this, I'm not going to argue. Even if we hadn't received such a brilliantly unforeseen miracle, I still choose faith. My last two writing jobs have followed this very miraculous pattern, which has allowed me to stay at home and and be there for my kids (though the bus driving gig does take me away for a few hours at a time).

And I know that miracles are always happening to me; for every miracle that I see, there are probably hundreds that I am completely unaware of. How can I be anything but grateful at all times? How sad is it when I find myself grumbling and groaning about my lot in life?

I'm feeling very blessed.

Monday, April 24, 2017

I Am a Bus Driver

I passed the CDL test, HR has approved me, and I am now an official substitute bus driver.

That's all you need to read unless you want a bunch of details (below).

Tomorrow I go on a ride-along with a driver for whom I will be substituting this week. It's just nice that I get paid for the ride-along at bus driving rates. Cha-ching.

You're probably wondering how difficult the CDL driving test was. In terms of the anticipation factor, it was pretty bad. In terms of actual experience, it wasn't bad at all. My co-trainee was so stressed and worried and turned so white I thought he was going to pass out. He still managed to pass, though.

I spent the entire time my co-trainee was out doing his test (about 90 minutes) studying and studying to keep everything fresh in my mind. I used my own body to memorize the steering components (steering wheel, steering gear box, pitman arm, drag link, steering ring knuckle, spindle, steering arm, and tie rod. Hey! I still remember all of it!), and I visualized myself going through every part of the pre-trip inspection. By the time they all got back, I was confident.

Because it was starting to rain, the tester only made me do part of the pre-trip inspection (I didn't even get to describe the steering components after all that memorizing!). Then I aced the parallel parking skill test, mostly aced the cross-over backing skill test, picked up and dropped off an imaginary load of children, and then headed out onto the road.

My trainer and the tester, who are good friends, chatted the entire time I was driving. I knew they were keeping an eye on how I was doing, so their easy conversation helped me relax and loosen up my shoulders. I didn't hit any curbs, cars, or pedestrians, which is always good. I didn't hit even one construction barrel when we headed into a narrow, one-lane construction zone during rush hour traffic in the pouring rain. I managed not to get hit by any trains at the railroad crossings, as well.

After a good two hours (they asked me stop at the Target so they could grab some stuff for an inservice meeting--and then didn't come out for 30 minutes!), I pulled back into the bus garage and was told that I had done a "lovely job." I don't like to brag, but I'm pretty good at driving large vehicles--even when I'm sitting forward of the front axle. Who knew?

Want to know what it's like to steer a vehicle when you are sitting forward of the front axle?

I thought you'd never ask.

The next time you're grocery shopping, watch your cart. Every time you swing around a corner, notice how you have to push the front end of the cart out into the middle of the aisle before turning the wheels. Now imagine you're sitting at the front of the cart like the figurehead on a ship, steering it. That's what it's like driving a bus: you have to take into account the fact that the front axle is behind you, and then watch carefully to make sure you also account for how big the tail swing is and where your dual tires at the back are going. Without mirrors, the whole thing would be practically impossible.

Also imagine that your cart weighs over 10,000 pounds, and that stopping it takes more time and space than you think.

Now imagine me cheerily waving at you from the driver's seat. I'm waving because I'm thrilled you obeyed the blinking red lights on the stop sign and didn't try to pass me while children are crossing the road. Major thumbs up!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Everything's Gonna be OK

It's been a busy week.
  • Myles the Cat died. He was old, so it wasn't a total surprise, but it was still sad. Some of the kids don't remember life without him around.
  • My youngest daughter turned 16 and has been asked out on her first date.
  • I told my former client to shove it, though not in so many words. After over two years of doing my best work for them, they decided they wanted to pay me less than half what I had been making as a contractor. While that is the best thing for their bottom line, it was the last in a series of straws breaking this camel's back. We parted ways, though I used the opportunity to offer the name of one of my friends who wants to break into the content writing profession and for whom the new rates would be appropriate. They were very interested.
  • My oldest daughter's boyfriend wants to have a little chat with Husband and me in order to ask for Sian's hand in marriage. Gulp.
  • I have mastered parallel parking and backing into a dock with a 40-foot school bus.
  • I agreed to take on two beginning piano students but also asked my driver trainer to set me up with a summer job that runs Monday through Thursday, 10 hours a day. We'll see how it all works out.
While you could interpret the following song as whistling in the dark, I really like it. I always feel encouraged every time I listen to it. Certainly I love the singer's voice. (It's like butter.)