How I Accidentally Became a Stay-at-Home Dad Back in October… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It

Imagine the irony. The very same week I was driving around in a $50,000 car, the 2017 Lexus IS 350 to promote here on my blog, I became unemployed. That fancy car then began serving as my vehicle to begin a new job search.

Yeah, that was a crazy week.

And really, it’s been an interesting month and a half since then. Let me catch you up on what I was hiding from social media this whole time…

It was simply my fate. I was already a vegan daddy blogger and a YouTuber. The demographics were there. So it only made sense that a guy like me would end up as a stay-at-home dad.

On October 18th, after having worked for over a decade at the same company in the Human Resources field (recruiting, onboarding, and retention), the new president of the company basically shut down the whole branch where I worked in Tennessee.

Imagine the psychology: Spending over 10 years of your life at the same company, seeing the same people day after day, appreciating the solitude of the same hour long commute to and from work; simply having a predictable routine which made me feel like I was financially providing for my family.

And then suddenly, it all ends. The plug is pulled. Not just for me, but for an office full of people who suddenly have a new full-time job: to find a new full-time job.

I admit, I was privately struggling with it. Even though it wasn’t my fault, nor the fault of the dozens of other people who were laid off that day as well, it still felt like a death, of sorts.

That job was part of my identity. I was always grateful for it. It was my first real job out of college; and really, my only full-time job.

During the next 30 days, I applied for over 60 jobs online; plus, I signed up with 4 different staffing agencies. It all resulted in one legitimate job interview, but they ended up hiring someone else for the position.

Through all this, it was important to me that no one else knew I had lost my job and that I was in search of a new one. I didn’t want the free world asking me everyday if I was okay, or asking if I got a new job yet.

To put myself in that situation would make me feel like I was some sort of victim- which I am not. I always choose to be victorious; never a victim.

The way I’m wired, I didn’t want anyone to know about any of this, until I had a success story to tell.

Just as I was about to cross the line of “not okay anymore”, right before Thanksgiving my wife presented me with some amazing news which I was quite thankful for.

As she is the one who handles our budget, she joyfully explained to me that since losing my job, we have been continually putting more money into our savings account each week; not less.

When I asked her how, her immediate response was, “I know it has to be a God thing.”

She went on to break down all the ways we were saving money:

We are no longer paying for two kids to be in daycare full-time.

Our daughter, who was growing up in day care, stopped getting sick, so our doctors’ bills ceased.

I am no longer filling up my car with gas each week; only monthly now.

While that may not sound significant, my wife told me that considering the cost of two kids in day care, my job was ultimately only making our household $200 per week. I was being paid appropriately for my position where I worked, but my wife has a Master’s Degree and therefore has been making a bit more money than me for a while now.

So actually, those little things added up to more than cover the $200 per week difference.

Me? A stay-at-home dad?

It would have been too crazy of a plan; for me to leave my steady job of over a decade. But that steady job came to an end; with over 10 years of Human Resources experience as a souvenir.

We wouldn’t have chosen this. It wouldn’t have seemed like a smart position. But it’s working for our family right now.

And obviously, I truly enjoy getting to actually spend time with my awesome kids. Even my wife and I have more quality time as well, including the fact she is able to call me everyday on the drive home from work. We have more time together as a family now.

Granted, I’ll remain on the look-out for a great job in Human Resources, as I never stopped applied for jobs. And while my daughter is taking her nap each day, I work diligently on further building my YouTube channels, which I predict will eventually exceed the $200 weekly difference.

But as for now, I have officially made it part of my identity. Last night, I changed the “work” section on my Facebook profile:

I am now a stay-at-home dad.

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dad from day one: Will We Be Moving Jack Back to Nashville? (Part 2)

Week 18 (4 months).

“So take your lessons hard… and when your car crash comes don‘t be misled.”
Convince yourself that everything is alright, ’cause it already is.” – “For Nancy” by Pete Yorn

In last week’s cliffhanger episode, I closed by saying that I was counting on a miracle in order to remain in Alabama, knowing that our savings we had been living off of since December 4th would be running out in the next few weeks and that every door and window had closed for us  regarding a long term job.  And more importantly, I needed a job with good insurance, since there are 3 of us now.  I avoid drama at all costs, but in order to be true to the reality of “dad from day one”, I couldn’t play down the real life happenings of coming to terms with the fact that our leap of faith may end with us moving back to Nashville, despite all our efforts to move to Alabama.

That was last Wednesday. It literally felt like my world was collapsing in on me, which I realize is no comparison to the literal collapsing that occurred in Japan last week, but still, it was the most intense thing I have ever lived through.  Maybe a better comparison is that it was like being in a car wreck, where I was in the driver’s seat, running the car through a guard rail, causing my family to be flipped upside down a few times as the car rolled over, not knowing if we were looking up or down.

It helped me to literally understand the phrase, “hell of a week”.  I never so literally felt such a heavy, demonic presence around me.  Not like dark storm clouds and a violent storm; more like a silent, heavy overcast.  It was so subtle, yet terrifying.  I truly felt that my family was caught between two spiritual worlds- with one army that wanted us here and one army that wanted us gone. With that being said, there must be some serious unseen reason why my family should or shouldn’t be living here in Alabama.

But as I had always expected, the scarier that things got in my real life during this move, it would only make it that much more obvious when God miraculously provided for us. In order for this real life story to be more legit, it had to be obvious that it was no coincidence if things worked out in the end.  I, the protagonist, had to be that desperate and completely dependent for God’s intervention.  And I couldn’t just paint God as a genie who grants wishes.  Also, like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, I had to be willing to give it all up.  I had to become humbled more than I ever have before.

As I put it last week, “Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness. The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job.”  I could also compare it to that “bankrupt/million/bankrupt” wedge on Wheel of Fortune.

That was last Wednesday.  Less than 24 hours later, in what felt like a loopy dream, I found myself in a job interview at the place I truly had my heart set on when I moved here.  (Interestingly, this is not the position I referred to last week; this is something completely different.)  It’s a Marketing position for one of the world’s largest playground equipment companies.  I know it’s the perfect fit for me.  Today I took my drug test, so unless there was something extra in the brownies last night, I start this coming Monday (March 28th).

But… the good news isn’t over yet.  God is more creative than that for this story.

Something else happened in the past week that is pretty dang awesome. Something that I didn’t initiate.  Instead, out of nowhere, I was approached. It’s bigger than just simply having one of my articles or “dad from day one” entries being published in a magazine.  I don’t think it would be wise to give away all the details at this point, but just know that it involves me signing a contract, it will take “dad from day one” to a whole new level and audience, it means I will be teaming up with a major publishing company (in a regular paying gig), and it should officially begin within the next month or two…

So, that is what has happened since “Part 1”.  What a week.  Granted, I realize now more than ever, there is no where telling where anyone may end up for the duration of their lives.  I honestly never would have believed that I would ever have moved back to Alabama, or more importantly, that I would ever want to. But as far as my own plans, I want roots again.  I want solid ground.  I want anchorage.  I don’t want to even think about moving again.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if all this dramatic struggle is a necessary part of the story of “dad from day one”.  With rare exceptions like the movie Napoleon Dynamite, a strong plot is vital to build a solid story line- not to mention, it’s absolutely necessary for character development.

So, will we be moving Jack back to Nashville?  With an exciting and fulfilling job starting Monday here in Fort Payne, a big secret “dad from day one” reveal coming up in the next month or so, and a juicy income tax return coming our way soon, I suppose it’s as safe as possible to say that we can keep our anchor down in Alabama.

It’s the ultimate irony that we moved to Alabama to settle down, yet it has been such an unsettling experience until now. And it’s pretty interesting, too, how these doors opened the very week that the winter season ended and the spring season began.  Man, the symbolism.  The dead of winter surrenders to the resurrected life of spring.

Please, God, let this good ending and new beginning be real.

“You got to go through hell before you get to heaven… ‘Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay.” – “Jet Airliner” by The Steve Miller Band

Seeing Your Life Flash Before Your Eyes in a God-Nudged Leap of Faith (Like Being in a Near Death Experience)

I will begin with an excerpt from the final scene of the movie American Beauty, narrated by the protagonist “Lester Burnham”- played by Kevin Spacey:

I’d always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout Camp, watching falling stars. And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will someday.

I would venture to say that every living person is familiar with the idea of your own life flashing before your eyes right before you die- whether you actually die or it’s just a near death experience.  Interestingly, it’s not career titles or material possessions that are included in these flashes. Seeing your life flash before your eyes is a great way to be reminded of what’s truly important to you: People and the important events of our lives that involve them. “Loved ones”, as we tend to call these important family members, friends, and mentors- though sometimes that term is used more often after they have passed on.

Knowing that the living people who I am closest to are the most important and influential thing in my life, they became the inspiration for my leap of faith.  My wife and I decided that bringing our son into this world meant we should move to my hometown to be surrounded by family.  Honestly, it wasn’t that difficult for me to abandon the financial security we had back in Nashville.  Because again, it’s wasn’t financial security that showed up when I allowed my life to flash before my eyes.  On many levels it may seem foolish that we left steady jobs in a very unsteady job market, but we believed that God would honor our trust in Him to provide for us, knowing we deliberately chose family over financial security.

Though I’m not in a near death experience right now, in this God-nudged leap of faith, time is standing still as I see a constant slideshow of what I have lived through as well as what I hope to see once I land.  I struggle daily not to play the “what if?” game, regarding my past.  But at this point, it’s not about the decisions that led me to this difficult place.  It’s what God can do with this situation and how He can be seen by others because of it.  Not to mention, I know that this event will either enhance my faith through discipline and patience, or it will cause me to foolishly put faith in men who may or may not provide a job for me.

Fortunately, it’s not people who provide jobs anyway.  It’s not them who help me provide for my family.  It is completely God.  That’s something I have begun reminding myself daily.  And in the process, I have been directed to one of God’s Hebrew names: Jehovah Jireh.  It means “The Lord will provide”.  I have been getting in the habit of praying to Jehovah Jireh, as His name specifically declares His providence.

I am not hopeless.  I will personally admit that as a man who is designed to care for his family, not having a job though I am fully capable and qualified, is quickly taking away my dignity.  But really, is dignity what I am after?  No.  Seeking after God and only trusting in him, not men or corporations or even myself, is a humiliating process.  The word “humiliating” has such a negative connotation to it.  But being humbled is important.  Pride is to be damned, literally.  It only gets in the way.

So damn my pride to hell.  Damn my dignity too.  So what if every time a new door closes a new one opens, only to be shut just like the others.  More than once now my wife and I have seen the perfect jobs dangled right in front of us in job interviews, being one of two final candidates for the position.  But ultimately, the blessing of a job goes to the other person- a person who statistically predicting, would not jump at the chance to glorify God in the way we will once they get a job.  Or a sudden hiring freeze appears.  Something has always caused to the door to shut, so far.

I don’t even know anymore whether these “almost got the job” situations are a result of spiritual warfare in some lesser modern day story of Job or whether it is God Himself allowing these interceptions to increase our faith in Him.  As I watch our $10,000 in savings that we moved here with dwindle to less than half that now, I wonder if taking this leap of faith with $75,000 would have made any difference.  Because then we would have $65,000 more confidence in ourselves.

It’s not money we need- it’s jobs.  And men can’t provide those- only God can. Whatever the lesson is to be learned here, we will learn it.  God will provide. It’s His name, after all.  Jehovah Jireh, I believe it!

Proverbs 16:18
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 29:23
A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.

Ecclesiastes 7:8
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Effective Immediately: New Facebook Game- I Am Now Deleting Friends Who Complain About Monday’s

The rules:  A) You complain about Monday’s, I delete you.  B) You never complain about Monday’s, we continue to be facebook friends forever.

case of the Monday'sThere are so many tempting games available for facebook users these days. Farmville is the main one that comes to mind.  But after blocking Farmville on my facebook feed, I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.  I’m in the mood to start playing a facebook game now, however.  The thing is, I invented this game. Here’s how it works:

Anytime I see any of my facebook friends complain about Monday’s, I will immediately delete them.  There is a reason behind this.

In a time where not everyone is fortunate enough to have a job, I don’t want to hear anyone even jokingly complain how about having to go to work on Monday. Because when people whine about Monday’s, they are ultimately complaining about having to get out of bed, go to work, and get paid.  Not all of us have that option.

Just to be sure, I will delete anyone who uses any of these phrases or anything close to them:

“I got a case of the Monday’s!”

“Ugh…Monday!”

“Darn you, Monday!”

“Dear Monday, I could sure live without you!”

There are a few exceptions of people who I will not delete for complaining about Monday’s.  I have a collection of guy friends that I cyber-bully regularly.  After reading this notice, they would probably complain about Monday’s just to despite me and to test if I am serious about playing the game.  So if you are one of the following dudes, you are immune to my game.  I will not delete you just to spite you:

Ben Wilder, Jarred Johnson, Kenn Snipes, Brian Winkles, and Dave Stanley

Just so everyone is clear on the rules, I will not delete anyone for celebrating the coming of the weekend. That’s not the same as complaining about Monday, which again, alludes to whining about having a job to go to in the first place.  If you have a job, thank the good Lord for it.  Even your boss is a jerk, you hate your job, and/or your job doesn’t pay enough money.

If I delete you for complaining about Monday’s, the only way you can be welcomed back in the fold is by submitting a 200 word essay explaining why I should accept your friend request.  Bribes are encouraged.

This is an open game.  Anyone is welcome to join.

dad from day one: The Role of Control in Life (and What That Has to Do with “Guest Towels”)

Week 11.

You are looking at a picture of our “guest towels”.  If you are one of the 7 (maybe less?) males to actually be reading this, you will be just as confused as I once was to learn that despite their name, guest towels, these are not actually towels intended for guests to use.  Granted, we do have extra towels for when guests do actually stay at our home- but those are in our “guest bathroom” on the other end of the house.  As a guy, who is unable to see any logic in having guest towels in the bathroom attached to our bedroom that are actually only there to look nice and for decoration, not actually for guests to use,  I found comfort in watching many male stand up comics who made a routine out of the same topic.

I am becoming more and more aware of how little control I actually have over my own life; much less my own house.  Because another common topic that married male stand up comics talk about is the fact that they don’t know where anything in their own house belongs: like the mixing bowl, the stapler, and of course, the real guest towels that are actually intended for guests for use.  And now it makes so much more sense why it is so common for the man of the house to spend time in his “man cave”, whether it is his garage, his shop, or even the yard.  Why? Because while in his solitude, he has a sense of control over something on the land he owns or rents.

Jack's first taste of a pineapple.

I’m at a point in my life where I am constantly reminded of what little I actually do control right now.  With tomorrow reaching the 2 month mark of unemployment, the dignity of providing for my family has been surrendered. And without that, I also feel like I can’t control my time (because I feel guilty if I’m not constantly doing something constructive to find a job).  Starting on Christmas Day and ending yesterday (Groundhog Day), after my wife and son went to sleep each night, I would spend an hour or so revisiting my video game past.  I took take the time to go through all 3 Super Mario Bros. games on regular Nintendo, Super Mario World for Super NES, and New Super Mario Bros. for WII,  and beat them without using any Game Genies or Warp Zones (which again may only interest the 7 or less men reading this).  And while there is something seemingly pathetic about a jobless, 29 year-old guy cheering out loud because he beat Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time in his life; for me, it was a major sense of accomplishment.

I controled those old-school, 8-bit Nintendo games.  And in some slightly true sense, I had control over my time as well.

I think it’s easy to overlook the importance of control in life.  Why is it that if you drive into certain “bad neighborhoods” that the residents stand in the road or take their sweet time crossing the street, knowing that you need to get by?  It’s gives them a sense of control.  Why are there rapists in the world?  Well, the easy answer is “the depravity of man” or “lust” or “an unfulfilled sex drive”.  But to me it’s pretty obvious that their hideous crime is also largely fueled by a lack of control in their own lives.  For more times than I can remember, it seems any time I watch a story on NBC Dateline about a rapist, he was emotionally, physically, or sexually abused growing up.  Some people will do anything for the sense of control in their own life.

So what can I do right now?  What can I actually control in my life at this moment? I can help with the basic needs of my son.  I can control whether or not he gets fed, held, played with, and nurtured.  And perhaps the best part, I can make him do funny, weird stunts to be featured on YouTube.  Because hey, what else am I going to do until I get a real job?

Falling Downward in a God-Nudged Leap of Faith (Like Wile E. Coyote)

I’m still in it and eagerly looking to land.

When a person leaps from one ledge to another, there is that moment when they soar up into the air, then for a moment they are airborne but not yet falling back down to land.  That has been my leap of faith so far.  Now, I am in the descension of my God-nudged leap of faith.  In the most previous installment, Airborne from a God-Nudged Leap of Faith , I explained that my current inspiration for documenting this series is that my wife and I (along with our infant son) packed up our financially stable life in Nashville and moved to my hometown in Alabama.  Yes, it would either take a fool, or a guy who truly believed it was his calling from God, to do a crazy thing like that.

When I say I am falling, I don’t mean that I am losing faith in God’s providence, nor do I say it to signal that I am in a crisis mode in my life.  Obviously, being in this situation is very stressful, wearing, trying, and intense.  I have begun to question whether this seemingly absurd move was truly what God wanted us to do, or whether it was simply my own artistic attempt to live a simpler life.  Here’s what I know: Either way, at this point, it couldn’t be more clear that only God is in control of this.  And there’s obviously no one else I’d rather be in control. Whether or not I “should have” or “shouldn’t have” made this extreme decision in my life, God is still faithful and I am eager to bring attention to that.

At this exact minute, I’ve just had a visual pop into my head.  This whole time I’ve been picturing this leap of faith as me jumping across to another ledge of the same height.  But I don’t think that’s what this is.  Now I’m starting to see that I am actually jumping to a lower ledge, which requires even more faith and more strength than I realized.  It makes it much more difficult to even see where I am even supposed to land.

I have been wondering in these last couple of weeks how much spiritual warfare is involved in this story.  A few weeks ago, the job that I prayed that God would create a job for me here (since it evidently didn’t exist already in this small town) which would utilize my five years of marketing and sales experience along with my writing abilities.  And it happened.  Three weeks ago a local company called me ready for the interview, the position would start immediately, and I virtually had no competition.  And then, “Mr. Budget” flew in from the corporate office and made it clear that position would be postponed (for who knows how long…). I was told I had everything they were looking for and they were all excited to get me, but randomly, I lost out.  Not cancelled, at least.  But still, annoyingly, postponed.

In the likeness of the on/off switch as seen on the finale episode of Lost, I wonder if right now, there honestly is nothing I can do but wait- because the switch is off. Is it spiritual warfare on just simply bad timing?  God is well aware, He is constantly prayed to about the situation, and again, still in control and faithful.  It’s hard to feel completely overwhelmed and helpless when, ultimately, I have this strange, still, quiet peace about it all.  This is currently taped on the fridge door at my house:

“Teach me good judgement and discernment, for I rely on your commands.” -Psalm 119: 66

Airborne from a God-Nudged Leap of Faith (Like a Fish Out of Water)

I’m in it right now.

In my third favorite movie of all time (#1 depending on which day you ask me) Garden State, there is a scene where Sam (played by Natalie Portman) is helping Andrew (played by Zach Braff) sort out bottled up childhood issues which have caused him to live off of a cocktail of anti-depressants since he was a child: “My mom always says that, when she can see I’m, like, working something out in my head. She’s like, ‘You’re in it right now’ and I’m looking at you telling this story, and you’re definitely in it.”  So what is it that I am working out in my head right now?  What is it than I am in?

In the middle of the summer of 2010 (about six months ago), I wrote Taking a God-Nudged Leap of Faith, explaining that in order to mature in the Christian faith, there are points in our lives where we have no option but to either trust that God is faithful and will provide.  During and after that process, we are left with the option of either publicly praising God or keeping it to ourselves.  I also said that I believe it is these times in life that as opposed to just leaving us as fools hanging high and dry, God would rather be glorified by providing us what it takes to get through the problem, not around or over it.  And now, as I am in it, airborne from one of these major God-nudged leaps of faith, I stand by my word and perspective.

On December 4th, 2010 (nearly two months ago), my wife and I moved from Nashville with our then newborn son, where we had good solid jobs because we believed we were supposed to move to my hometown where we would be surrounded by family and a slower pace, which we knew for us, would improve our quality of life.  We didn’t move with expectations of immediately finding a job.  And it’s a good thing we have low (and yet realistic) expectations, because so far, we have made zero income for well over a month now.  Granted, we saved a “nest egg” for the big move, but each week that passes obviously reminds us of the fact that at some point very soon, we will need to be able to make an income again.

But while it was important to have the proper expectations in our move regarding the level of difficulty in finding the right job, it’s also important for us to have the proper expectations of what God will do for our family of three, granted that we pray in all faith that God will provide a job so that we can provide for our family. At first, I would pray that God would provide the right job for me.  But then I got more creative and started praying that God would create the right job- because I believe if that’s what it takes, that’s what He can and will do for us.  It’s also important for me to keep in mind  that my particular situation is not at all unique to me: Surely all of us have ancestors than ended up here in America either by force, by fleeing, or by taking a leap of faith in hopes of a better life.

Really, my situation is completely unoriginal.  I am far from the first to pray to God about this, which to me is so much more of a reason to have faith in His faithfulness.  One of my most favorite verses in the Bible regarding faith is Hebrews 11:1 which says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  That nugget of truth is ironic and a bit of a paradox.  If I truly am assured in what I hoped for and I’m convicted of what I don’t see, my faith is no longer simply faith.  Instead, it’s simply knowing.  And that’s the kind of faith I’m choosing to adopt here.

Right now I am airborne- neither falling or flying.  Just waiting to land this jump. I may be “in it” now, but I know that soon, in God’s time, this moment will simply be a memorable point of reference in my life.

Things God has taught me to pray for because of being in this situation:

1) I pray that God will provide so that I can provide for my family.  I am completely recognizing that the only way I can support my family is if God supports me.

2) I pray God that will allow me to find favor with the right people.  I am completely recognizing that it’s not up to me or any other person; it’s in God’s hands alone.

3) I pray that God will create a path for me.  I am completely recognizing that maybe the way through this doesn’t already exist, but God is easily capable of speaking a path into existence.

4) I pray that when God does provide, that He will also provide multiple and creative ways that I can glorify Him for His faithfulness.