Sunday, March 24, 2019

Rock


Am I the only one that stops picking my nose when oncoming traffic approaches, regardless of the time of day? I’m positive I can’t see what other drivers are doing, and I assume that they are also excavating, but nonetheless, I stop burrowing and pretend I’m focused on driving until traffic ceases. Also, I’m a skeptic on people’s motives on driving behind me when I’m performing the same essential function, so I either speed up, or I slow down enough to let them pass me by.

Also, WHERE THE FUCK ARE ALL OF MY SOCKS!? How did I have so many just a month ago, and now I can’t even get through the work week unless I double-dip on foot fashions. Who the hell is taking them? I remember Amanda asking me in the trial last week about what I had sacrificed in my pursuit of a life with the girls. My real answer should have been socks; just my socks, my lucidity, peace of mind, money, tranquility, and silence. But I said something all loving and emotional. I fucked up.

This post got off to an odd start. I’m currently in my house with five screaming children, running and jumping, and otherwise being children. Just a few days ago we had even more kids in the house for Ella’s birthday, and five or five-hundred of them slept over. My mind is scattered, but I had a few thoughts I wanted to jot down. Remember, I write this for me, not for you. J

There are a lot of good things happening in my life that I just can’t quite write about yet. There are a few negative things, too, but I will process that somewhere else.
 

I started that post a week ago, and I haven’t had a chance to get back to it yet until just now. A lot happens in a week, and I am happy to say I can write about the good things I alluded to in that last paragraph from last week.

I received a promotion at work this week that becomes official on April 1st. My hope is that this is not an intricate April fool’s joke, and that this is not an over-the-top way to fire me. I don’t think it’s that.

They say, when one door closes, another opens up. When I was denied the post office job, I figured I would just go back to normal, and wait for the next opportunity. Little did I know this would happen so quickly. I’m not going to go into details because others had to suffer to open up this door for me, but there are a lot of changes happening at my work, and I am happy to be part of it all. I think my official title is King Sous Chef Extraordinaire. It also might be A.M. Lafayette Room Sous Chef. I like both.

I have fresh responsibilities, different challenges, and new opportunities. And, after 23 months, I get to step away from the line and be more helpful to the clutch. I won’t miss it per se, and I will probably enjoy the times when I get to step back into the fire for a day or week when people go on vacation, but I will spend most of my time behind the line, creating, butchering, preparing, and otherwise orchestrating the daily functions of a professional restaurant kitchen.

This is just another example of what can happen with long-term sobriety. I have never been promoted to anything in my drunken or methed-out self. Nobody gave me more responsibility, or thought of me for it. My bosses knew—and wisely so—that I was an incapable human, and passed over me for those of sound mind. I was a wreck, but now I’m better. Now I’m useful, not just to me, but to others.

To those out there that are in limbo: you haven’t hit bottom. Anytime that phrase is thrown around, it sickens me. It’s cliché. You haven’t hit bottom. Every time you think you have; understand, there’s a basement. That basement has a dirt floor and you can keep digging. It will always get worse until you get better, or until you die.  You will lose everything, over and over. You will lose more than money or things, you will lose yourself.  I haven’t hit bottom yet and I don’t want to. This is why I keep trying to help others by showing them I have found a way out of the pain and madness. I found a solution, and you can have it. You can live without agony, anger, selfishness, and fear. You can build yourself up again, and get back everything you ever had and more—and you can be part of your family again. You just have to be honest. Forever. You can be a good friend, son, and grandson. You can be a good father again. I have faith in you. Don’t let yourself down. They are counting on you.
 
I hit rock bottom, but thank God my bottom wasn't death.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
 
 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

You've Got This


Many of you know that my life took another unexpected twist a year-and-a-half ago when I started dating the woman I live with now. I wrote a series of posts a while back about how the relationship started, and have lived the life I dreamed of living with her ever since and written on it extensively. Many of you know that she is married.

Today, after a long and arduous process, the largest hurdle is over for her; the divorce trial. She filed for dissolution of marriage back in mid-October, and the chain of events after led her through a painful look back on her calamitous life, and a specific event that ultimately sealed the deal on their marriage. She had to obtain police reports, letters of recommendation, bills, collection letters, tax returns, pay stubs, and more over the five months it took to get to the trial. We had to follow a filing order and submit certain documents by certain dates. We had to fill out affidavits and disclosures, and surrender witness lists, a numbered and detailed exhibit list, and copy and send all of these things to the respondent.

I say we because I helped. I wanted to help. I wanted to help her because this is something she has wanted for years, and I wanted her to have it. We spent dozens of hours working on her case, and several hours just yesterday revising, and altering questions for the witnesses and the respondent. And we practiced my part in all of this. I was a witness, of course.

No extent of planning can prepare you for what actually happens at the trial. On the day of, tension is high because these two people at odds are finally in the same room, and bitterness, fear, and resentment fill the room like pungent smoke. This was the third time she had seen him since “that night;” the night of the domestic. On the way into the courthouse, Amanda felt the knots in her stomach, and she was sure she would throw up. I grabbed her, embraced her, and whispered in her ear the phrase I have repeated in many situations, “You’ve got this.”

Amanda came from a relationship where she was not encouraged. She was told she could never be anything; she could not do anything without him. She was castigated, humiliated, and ashamed for wanting anything more than the life she had. She was broken, and she needed to find courage. I knew that she already had it in her to be…everything—she is my everything, so I embolden her to find her voice, face her fears, and conquer he who once held her down. “You’ve got this.”

I helped her fill out some paperwork and word some questions. I showed her how to properly fill out and submit documents to the court, and I helped her with some of what I thought the court trial might look like, and we rehearsed my direct examination. But when she walked through the courtroom door, she was all by herself.

We arrived together with her mom, who would also be a witness. When the judge entered, we rose, and sat. She laid out the plan and said that the witnesses would be sequestered to the hallway until they were called. I didn’t like this because I wanted her to feel my support behind her. But I knew that we would be called relatively early in the case so I left and sat in the hallway for twenty minutes. Then, she came out to get me.

I had never been a witness to any case, although I have witnessed thousands of crimes. This was not a criminal case—I was there to expound on my past, our relationship, the support of the girls, and our lives as they are now, which I did. I spent about ten minutes answering questions from Amanda, and he was given a chance to question me, which he declined. I then got to sit down and watch the rest of the trial unfold. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My love, I have seen you in your darkest, saddest moments. But today I witnessed you triumph over the toxic evil that once oppressed you and your will. You overcame your fears and looked him in the eyes and asked him to be honest. You asked him questions that you knew the answers to, and he knew it. He was trapped. This time it was he who looked weak. Even in his deposition he showed his continued selfishness, but you didn’t waver. You kept at him, and you got all of the responses you came for. And you didn’t throw up. Now, you know you are strong. Now, you know you have power, and you can use it whenever you want. You can have what you want from life, and I’m happy to help you get it. You don’t need my help anymore, but I will always be here to encourage you, to love you, and to reinforce your belief in yourself. You are my love. You are strong. You’ve got this.

 

Now, we don’t know the judge’s decision on the custody or parenting time, finances, or child support. She has 90 days to make a ruling, although it would likely be sooner than that. We do know that no matter what the judge decides, Amanda’s marriage will officially be dissolved when the letter arrives. That means I will no longer be dating a married woman…..for now.

 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Maybe


After much careful consideration and a thorough investigation into my criminal background, the United States Postal Service has rescinded their conditional job offer based on said background. They say it is no reflection on my abilities to perform the duties of the position, and that I am encouraged to apply for future vacancies within the Postal Service. Three minutes after I received that notice, I received another email from H.R. stating that they were now encouraging me to pursue other career options, as I am not suitable or eligible for other positions within the Postal Service.

Maybe not enough time has lapsed since I did the things that made me who I appear to be to the majority of society. Maybe they are afraid that because of my felony theft in 1998, I would rifle through the mail and steal trinkets and money so I could buy the drugs I was convicted of possessing in 2014. Maybe they looked at my lawless career as a whole, and decided that even though I am a good person now, I spent much more of my life breaking the law than fixing myself. Maybe. There are a lot of questions on my end, and just a cold, automated response generated by a system to which I cannot reply on their end.

I guess it’s over. But I’m not down. Truly, I actually feel pretty good that I tried to do something I thought I had no chance at achieving. And as I related in an earlier post, this is the worst case scenario. My current worst case scenario leaves me with a good job, great benefits, and coworkers I already like. I still have a home, a girlfriend, a minivan, and all five of my limbs; six if you count my head. I haven’t lost anything, nor am I not gaining something substantially better than I have. In fact, I think the Post Office is missing out on a hard-working, young, passionate, young, diligent young man and they will be worse off without having given me a chance, but I do not resent them. They have to go off of statistics, their best interest, and the best interest of society.

I have to live forever with the mistakes that made me who I am today, and I am particularly pleased with who I am because of these faults. No expungement, quantity of time, or measure of work I do with others in the program can ever erase the history of me on the internet, so I cannot and will not ever try to hide my felonies from potential employers. I can only hope that someday, somewhere, somebody overlooks my list of blunders and gives me a shot at something that I can do until I retire.

I know I can’t be a line cook forever, and I know I don’t want to move up the line from cook, to sous, to chef. I’m not qualified and I don’t want to work those kinds of hours. I love being creative with food, working with people from different countries, and I like the sense of humor that can be used in that environment (see Waiting). But I also like helping people get through what I have been through, and would like to find a way into something like that. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I have no qualifications other than living it and surviving it. I have no shot at going back to school, and few options this far out in the middle of nowhere.

So, for now, I wait to make a move, and hope something comes to me when the time is right. Maybe I get old and crippled on the line and have stories to tell until I die, or maybe something or somebody finds me and knows where I can be of more use to society. Maybe I find a place where I can write on a more….paid basis. Maybe.

I’m grateful for what I have. If I keep taking chances, my life can only improve as long as I understand that failure is part of the process. I’m good. I’m humble. I’m alive.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Leader


For the first time in my lifetime—I think—I made the newspaper for a good cause. I’ve been in the paper several times, usually in the court dispositions section, or arrest records of the day, but never with a picture.

In November, my mother and I published a book that we had spent a lifespan living, and a few years writing. We humbly accepted help from family and friends throughout the process to get it into its current formats, and we published it and used social media to promote it. It didn’t take off, and it still hasn’t. It’s okay, we kept our day jobs just in case so we won’t end up homeless, unless we want to.

Over the span of time since publication, I have submitted a press release, made several attempts of getting an interview with M.P.R, and sent inquiries to several local and large newspapers in hopes of spreading the word of the book, and the message within. And finally… success.

On Thursday while at work I received a call from the Hutchinson Leader asking if I could talk a little about the book, the blog, and so forth. “Fuuuck Yeah!” I said inside my head. I accommodated his request for an over-the-phone interview due to inclement weather after work, and I pondered for the remainder of my shift what I would say. This was a chance to share my story of recovery with a large audience, and I didn’t want to screw it up, so I took a Gas-X pill and came up with an idea of what I wanted to say.

Several hours later, when he actually called, none of the conversations I had in my head earlier in the day were relevant as he simply asked me a few questions and I gave long-winded answers on the spot. I hadn’t considered that he may have an agenda, and probably wanted to hit on a few of the finer points of the book/blog/life.

I was delighted to find that he had done some homework on me by reading part of the book, and some of my blog, which threw me off just a bit because I had to remember what he was referring to and give answers based on what I had written in the past. I think I did well, and we actually continued our conversation the next day at which point he took several pictures of me for the article he would write later on. Fortunately, I had stopped at home after work to freshen up for the photos, so I don’t look like a vagrant urchin in the paper.

I wrote a while back that the feeling I got when I first held the book in my hand was indescribable. I would like to update that feeling to grateful, and the same appreciative emotion overcame me when I saw the article in print today on the front page of the Leader. I had seen the article online already, and read it over and over—not because it was about me, but because I wanted to see if I had done right by my program in the interview, and shown that recovery is an approachable, possible, object.  The writing literally speaks for itself. Click the link just above, and give it a read, then come back.

The blog posts are not unlike waves. They crest with grief, and they fall away to expose a silt of resolution. The blog in its early life was a way for the two to correspond and to process,” Writes Jack Hammett, the author of the article. I love that paragraph, but it made me realize that I’ve missed out on writing about something so important: the relationship between my mother and me.

I’ve spent so much time writing about how to do A.A. good, and what to do in an emergency (find an adult), that I never paused to say, even briefly, that my mother and I are no longer processing my former life. We are healed, regarding my choices. I will speak only for myself for the rest of this post, but I hope she would agree that we have the closest bond we’ve ever had, aside perhaps, from my infancy and early dependence on breast milk. I never stopped to note that the calls once fraught with tension are now filled with laughter and confidence. Our visits now are comfortable, untimed, and we don’t have to greet at a “hug rug.”

We don’t see each other every day, or even talk on the phone frequently, but I would bet if you asked her, she isn’t worried about where I am, if I have food, or if I’m going to be part of a terrible overdose statistic. No, I try pretty damned hard to make her feel at ease with my lifestyle, and this time, Mom, I’m in the newspaper for doing something good (something we survived together!) for people who are still out there, looking for the ones they love, not quite ready to throw in the towel.

Somebody out there is going through what we went through. Somebody will read this article, and understand more than just the words on the page. They will feel it, because they are us. This is why we wrote the book, this is why we continue to try to get it out there. We have come so far. We have arrived, and we are no longer broken.

 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

My Felonious Antiquity


I still haven’t heard anything from the post office. It’s been over a week since I disclosed my criminal background over the web, and six days since I gave up a sample of my urine—and a fine specimen it was—at a clinic nearby. Waiting patiently, I would say, isn’t one of my best attributes. I’m not stirring in my sleep or letting it dominate my thoughts at work, but it is certainly on my mind as I go throughout my days, wondering when my last liquid cent will be spent, and it’s time to plow further into debt.

To be honest, I think it’s a good sign that it is taking this long. I figured that as soon as I pressed the submit button and they uploaded my record, I would get an email stating that although they appreciate my time in applying for a job with the U.S.P.S., they are going to consider other candidates who aren’t so risky, and have never tried crack-cocaine, and perhaps have never been to prison. But they didn’t, and I sit here waiting.

I’ve been a little bummed recently because I have found that my options for a career move are severely restricted due to two main factors: 1. My felonious antiquity. 2. My premature departure from high school.

Now, I’ve been to college. I went from sometime in the early 2000’s to somewhere later in the same century. I have no idea how many college credits I obtained over the years, but it wasn’t many, and I recently used the internet to discover that I have just over $40k in defaulted student loan debt, some of which was used for school, some maybe not. It’s amazing that they will let you take so much money without a purpose. But they do, and I did. For whatever reason, they haven't come after me for their money in years. They do take my federal tax refunds, but other than that, they have left me alone.

I have no shot at getting student loans, and no chance of paying for school out of pocket. And even if I ever did have a chance to obtain and use a degree of some kind, I still have multiple felonies. So, my only option is to try to do something about the latter, and that option is expungement. I don’t know much about it other than it is a possibility. The case must be made that the benefit of sealing a record outweighs the value of society knowing about it. So, it’s me vs. 300,000,000 or so people in the country that could benefit by denying me a job, and apartment, or credit because of my past.

Hang on, let me check something.

Okay, in Minnesota, I am eligible to file for criminal expungement five years after the disposition of my sentence, which happens to be my sobriety date, 6/26/2014. As is the case with all court cases, it looks like the most complicated process in the world, so I might need some help when the time comes. So, that is a short term goal that I can start working on at some point, but it doesn’t do much for me in the next couple months—the time it will take in the worst scenario where I don’t get a new job and I have to wait until summer to make money again.

And that’s really all I have to vent about.

Wait, there is one more thing. This year for Valentine ’s Day I took Amanda out for Tepanyaki at Saji-Ya in St. Paul, which was fabulous.  I then took her to Can Can Wonderland for mini-golf, which was a terrible idea. Apparently several million people also had same idea that night and we were told there was a two-hour wait to golf. So, we played some arcade games and drove home. I suppose that overall; it was a nice night, and our first date night in a while. I think next time we will do something a little closer by, and a little less crowded. Also, I hate traffic.

This wasn’t much of a post, I just wanted to write.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Disclosed


The waiting has begun. After receiving a contingent offer of employment from the USPS, I have taken the next steps required to keep the flow moving.
Yesterday, I took a drug test, that was the easy part.

Two nights ago, I spent the better part of three hours detailing my criminal background to a website hired by the postal service to do their background checks. This was not ideal. I had two hopes for the process: 1. That they would only ask for information relevant to criminal activity in the past seven years. 2. That I would get to talk with an actual person about my past, that would have compassion and empathy, and would be impressed by all of my hard work since, and would surely grant me a chance at a career with the feds. Neither of my hopes happened, and I am patiently awaiting a decision—possibly from a robot—about the rest of my life.

I don’t usually get negative on my posts, but this winter has been very harsh on me financially, and I am counting on a career move to keep me afloat. I cannot survive on part time alone, but as I was filling in all necessary explanations for my criminal life, I thought about them—being in their shoes. Why would I hire somebody with such a checkered past when there are literally thousands of applicants who simply check the “no” box, and move on? Arson, meth, drinking and driving? No thanks.

In my current job, there is no room for advancement. Even if there were, it would require an amount of work that would kill me. I’m running out of steam, and I don’t know what I’m going to do if I am turned down, I will still have to get through another two+ months of four-days-per-week, which is enough to pay most of my part of the bills. Amanda has recently paid off her car loan and is able to assist more than usual, but still we will be in a credit card mess when the time comes.

I have sacrificed so much to be where I am today, and it seems that the reward is debt and struggle. I know that my daily life is actually full of life, love, and laughter, but when everybody goes to sleep, when I am all alone with my thoughts, this is what I think about.

I hate the debt I created for myself when I was released from prison with nothing. When I moved out on my own again, I created more debt for which I am still paying, and when we moved into a house, well, the debt seemed to multiply. It’s been going down for a few months now because I make a lot more in the summer, but things started to turn around, and my next check will be enough to get by until the next. That check will be the one where I will have to break out the credit card to survive.

But we will survive. We will not be foreclosed upon, and we will still have everything we need. We will likely be forever indebted to many, but we will be safe, comfortable, and fed. It’s not ideal; it is what it is.

If they do accept me at the Post Office, well, it will come with a new set of challenges, but it will be steady work year-round. After a year the benefits will kick in and things will feel a little more comfortable—stable. But I have to count on the fact that for now, my criminal history will continue to be a burden, and I have to do whatever I have in front of me to continue to live the good life I have. And I need to remember that no matter how down I get, however terrible this mountain of debt seems, nothing could make it worse than that first sip of alcohol.

That’s the big difference between now and then:  I know what I have, and I know I can keep it where I used to have nothing, but constantly lost everything. I look at that sentence, and I see what I have, and I know… I know I am successful. I know I am a good man. And no matter what happens in the next few days, weeks, or months, I have people everywhere that love me, and I love what I have become.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Contingent


Winter is tough on a lot of people for a plethora of causes. It’s been harder on me than most years (in sobriety) because of a few different things that just sort of combined to put me in a position where I needed to look for more work. I went down to four days per week in January, and I’ve been using my vacation to get my checks up to 40 hours but I can’t go over, and I am desperately missing my overtime. Also, I’m running out of vacation, and soon my checks won’t be enough to cover my bills.

I saw this coming from a ways back and I was proactive enough to have had a few offers of employment in my main field of interest: foodservice. The offers were not close to luring me away from my current pay and benefits, so I looked around at other opportunities in the area and one kept popping up, so I applied.

The United States Postal Service is hiring for hundreds of positions in Minnesota right now, and I applied for a few of them. One of them—close-by—is quite appealing so I was excited when I applied and was offered an opportunity to take a few tests, all of which I passed. It’s a long process, getting a federal job like this, and it’s been a month since I submitted my application. On Tuesday of this week I received an email from the postmaster in Hutchinson (10 miles from home) that I was on the top of the hiring list of eligible hires ranked by test score, so she said I would receive a formal conditional offer of employment sometime this week, which I received today. I accepted it.

It’s a huge leap. Maybe even a jump, but not just a step. It’s a change, and I think it will be a good one for me. The offer is contingent on me passing a drug test and a background screening, which I will fail. Not the drug test--obviously my background is sketchy at best, but I disclosed that in my interview and she told me that as long as I’m honest about it from the start, it’s normally not an issue.

I feel as if I’ve written all of this before, but it’s been so long since I’ve written a post, I have no idea where I left off.

Now, I haven’t done anything foolish like quit my day job, but I have informed them of the process, and they are aware that my time may be limited.

 
This is a career move. This could be the last job I ever have. Or it could be the biggest mistake I’ve ever made (other than smoking crack.) I have pondered heavily the latter, and decided that the former had far more pros than cons, some of which I will list right now.

1.       Only a ten minute drive from home.

2.       I’m outside in the summer, in a vehicle in the winter.

3.       Postal worker retirement age is 56.

4.       Federal benefits after one year.

5.       Many opportunities for advancement.

6.       I can look through people’s mail for money and gold.

7.       Full-time year-round.

 

Now, there are more pros, and just a few cons, but I think that numbers one and seven are what I’m really looking for in life, and why I accepted the offer the minute I saw it. And it’s just an offer; I still have to have some serious talks about my felonious background, which they may not like. Either way, I tried and I keep trying to push the envelope. Get it?

 

I will keep you all posted. Get it?

Stamps.

Rock

Am I the only one that stops picking my nose when oncoming traffic approaches, regardless of the time of day? I’m positive I can’t see w...