Or if you do, learn to roll with the momentum, anyway.
Well, it's been a while since I've updated. I've gone through a lot of changes that came all at once. Before Christmas, I'd finally been assigned to a new guard position, full-time, all nights. Working nights was something I'd done on and off for years, so it wasn't something I was worried about. I was always able to fill up the empty hours with my drawings, poems, musings and movies. I'd also read and watch movies, sometimes catching up on series I'd missed over the years. I was happy about that. I decided to drop the Kraft job, since it was early (for me) to get up, and since it had gone from 15 hours a week to only 8, I saw no need to waste gas. Besides, I'm a new-ish vegetarian, and I wanted to stay away from processed foods as much as possible. (Although I'm still working on that, sadly enough.)
I thought I'd found a place where I could sort of hole up and recuperate. I'd planned on using the place to my advantage as much as I could without compromising my actual job. I was doing just that, even incorporating exercising there. I'd bring both my hand weights and Bob Harper over. (I don't know that he would cotton to me working out in a factory, though…)I'll get into my health lifestyle change another time.
Anyway, I was writing and drawing a ton more than I ever had been, although I was still easing my way back into drawing for a correspondence course I'd started the year before but had to drop due to sheer intimidation and busy-ness. Some of you may know that there are colleges out there that actually teach comic book and graphic novel art courses. Cartooning and comic books have fascinated me for as long I can remember. Actually, it was animation that first caught my eye. I remember seeing it explained using an old-fashioned device, and that just opened my eyes to a new world. After I learned the work involved, I decided drawing comic books was better than drawing cel animation by hand, although every so often I wondered what would have happened had I gone that route. Oh well.
So it was with great surprise that in spite of all of this, I found myself to be quite unhappy. I was restless, irritable, bored, frustrated and just plain miserable. In the empty factory I observed myself slowly going mad, cursing loudly just to vent. I don't normally curse at all, mind you, and I'm ashamed that I did, but it was either that or bash my head against a wall. I couldn't figure it out. I mean, was this the perfect job? Heck, no. But I'd done this sort of thing for years…why in the world was it bothering me so much now? Just last summer I was able to sit in a car for 12 hours in the dead of night in the middle of nowhere. No problem…well, except for lack of a bathroom. Fortunately, there was a gas station nearby.
Yet, there it was. I couldn't stand it. The isolation never bothered me much before, but it sure was now. What to do? I come from a background of "Suck it up and deal with it." Most of the time, that's exactly what we should and must do, but here I was, so very troubled. And GUILT! Oh, did I ever feel it! Here I had prayed and prayed for a full-time job, and had thought I had been given that very thing! Was I just being a brat and throwing a tantrum? How dare I squander what I was given!
Or so I thought. I cannot tell you how glad I am to be so very wrong.
So it was in the middle of my misery, that I began praying about my job at Family Christian Store. Because I was working nights, my availability had all but vanished. I hadn't quit because I genuinely liked it there, but I was starting to have serious doubts. I wasn't earning much, far less than at Kraft, so should I drop that, too? That's what I wanted to know.
Less than two weeks later, I had my answer. My manager, an interesting go-getter dude, asked me whether or not I wanted to take the place of our SSA, who had just quit. I said yes before I realized what I was getting myself into. After I thought about it, I went for it anyway.
For some reason, working at FCS was a really good fit for me. I'd gotten the job after waking to "Born Again" by Newsboys. For some reason I just had to have that album. I hadn't visited the store in years. I recognized it as one of those nudges I get every so often. I didn't question it, or even think about it much. I just went. While I was there at the store, I noticed that they were hiring, so I asked for an application. Less than two months later, I was a keyholder, meaning I was reliable enough to open or close the store. The previous manager, a wonderful lady named Julie, seemed to have faith I would succeed.
An SSA or SFL, is sort of, but not quite, an Assistant Manager. It stands for Senior Sales Associate, or Sales Floor Lead. It means I'll be in charge of the associates under me, being a liaison that they can rely on to communicate to the manager and the manager can communicate through me. Since I've always been a teacher and counselor sort, that's something I know I can do well: listen, convey, and respond. I'll also have to be responsible for making sure I lead by example as far as sales metrics are concerned.
Sales metrics, for those who don't know, are how well we sell in the store. There are certain things we have to focus on, like the free membership, the current sale going on at the moment (Bibles!) and the impulse stuff we have at the counter. After all, we are a retail business, and the goal is to sell. The difference is what we sell and that the proceeds now go to charity.
You might wonder what we have besides Bibles, and how do we, of all different faiths, get along? As far as merchandise, the store (which is a national chain) used to be mostly a bookstore with music. It eventually evolved into what it is now, a store with books, music, gifts, church supplies, apparel, and now even its own tablet (Kobo Arc! Reputed to be even better than the iPad!) What other books do we have? Devotionals, tons of fiction, books specifically for men, women and teens, politics, theology, commentaries, dictionaries, biographies, and even prophecies…but I won't go into that. That might weird you out a bit…it does me.
As far as working with people of different faiths, it really hasn't been an issue. For example, I work with a 7th Day Adventist, and other than not seeing him on Saturdays, he one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. I see a person with strong character and a great sense of humor. We all work to achieve the same goals, and truth be told, FCS is really a safe haven for some of us. Sure, differences exist as they always will, but I know for a fact that I will see people with a faith a bit different than my own in heaven. What concerns Christ more than the rules that divide us is His love that unites us. That is our focus, and using what we have to help others, be it a Bible for a new or struggling Christian, a gift for a baptism, a book for someone who is grieving and doesn't know how to move on, or just a thoughtful card. We work to promote God's love and glory, not our own petty differences. Is it perfect? Heck, no. But that doesn't stop us from trying.
In any case, it's still a retail store with the usual retail issues like being shorthanded, having too much merchandise piled up in the back, and the occasional strange customer. For the most part, it's very busy but mostly pleasant. The holidays are chaotic, but it's nowhere near as bad as other retail stores I've worked at. Most people, both guests and workers strive to be more patient, tolerant, and kind. After all, that's the right way to be.
This is the world I've chosen for now, and at least for now, I'm happy.
In other news, I have to say it's mighty weird for me to look at a photo of a woman I've never met, and be struck by how much I look like her. Say what? Let me explain: my mother's adopted. She was born in the Racine area. We found her birth family, both sides, 4 years ago. While we were unable to meet either of her birth parents, the extended family has been nothing short of fantastic. Just a short while ago, I was asked to sing for two funerals of two relatives who passed away a week apart. One was my Great-Aunt Ruth, plagued by Alzheimer's and the other was my Great –Uncle Karl by a series of strokes, so really, it was a blessing and it was their time to go Home.
Not long ago, I and my parents decided to pay part of the family a visit. We visited my Great-Uncle Karl and Great-Aunt Doris. Mom suggested I sing. Normally I balk at being asked to sing by my parents. Nothing against them, but I have this stupid knee-jerk reaction of feeling like a trained seal, put on display and expected to perform. Maybe that's just the residue of teenage rebellion, I don't know. In any case, I didn't feel it this time, and I knew why.
Great Uncle-Karl, who would soon die after a series of debilitating strokes, was gruff on the surface but wore his heart on his sleeve. At the discovery of my mom, who after the death of her birth mother had become the glue to reunite the clan in a way, Karl was prone to tears every time he saw us, her in particular. He claimed that he had been a witness to her baptism way back in 1954 just prior to her going to the adoption center, which is now called Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Services.
I'd met Great-Uncle Karl previously, and although he couldn't speak well anymore, for some reason I had an instant connection with him. I have a soft spot for gruff guys with hearts made of marshmallows. His German accent reminded me of my own late grandfather I'd lost when I was 9. He and his wife Doris were really a comedy duo. Karl was quieter but sharp. Doris is a lovable chatterbox. She grew up with 5 sisters…which is likely why my mom is such a one herself! My mom and Great-Aunt Doris are those talkative sorts who will talk for an extra half hour after they decided to leave.
At one point my parents told me they heard Karl say, "Doris! Stop talking!"
To which she replied, "I can't! I can't!"
So, although I'd whispered to Karl, "I'm going to sing for you today," it was ages before I began because of all the chattering. My father and Karl looked at each other and just threw up their hands in mock defeat. There was nothing else we could do but wait. Eventually, I did sing, as best I could on short notice, so I mostly sang hymns and funny songs I'd memorized long ago. I had no idea it would be the last time I'd see my Great-Uncle alive. However, I knew, as everyone did, that he didn't have much time left. So I did ask God to make sure I did well. I also asked Him to do the same at Karl's funeral, where I actually sang in German as well as English. Karl's funeral included full military honors, for he had served in Korea. His was a full life well-lived, and I am glad I got to meet him, however brief. I didn't know Great-Aunt Ruth well, but as I said, the family has been wonderful and very generous to us. I hope the next time we get to meet will be for much happier reasons…because we just never know when it could be our time to go Home.