How did we get here? Part 1

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I may surprise some people to know that we were NOT sitting so pretty a decade ago.

Our introductory post lists some things that make us wondrously weird; but those things were not just handed to us. We have some built in characteristics that have helped us. We have had some desires and thoughts that have worked for us. We’ve kept a Biblical view of our lives which has helped us a lot. We still had to go through a lot to get here.

Ten years ago we were two years into our marriage and still working out the kinks. We did know that we wanted to follow Biblical principals; and that meant that the responsibility for the family fell to Mr. Wondrously Weird.

The man

Mr. WW is a super handsome man with a beautiful tone deaf voice*, a confident presence, and a crazy amazing work ethic like no other… if I do say so myself. ; )

Bending over

He knows how to work!

*I found out later that as Mr. WW was reading this portion of my post he was singing along to my guitar playing. He got a little self-conscious… and then moved on thank goodness! I love when he sings!

Mr. WW worked second shift at a factory doing boring physical labor. (While I worked at the Credit Union helping others to dig out of debt by providing more debt. *sigh*) We rarely saw each other and, being together two years, we were getting the pressure from all around to have kids.

The situation

We had decided that we would try to have kids three years in. We had it carefully planned. At two years and 11 months my body had its own plan and got pregnant early. I got to tell Mr. WW that I was expecting the very day he had been rehearsing at work what to say to me to convince me that we should wait longer.

Those next nine months were some of the craziest months because it brought a few things to light.

Mr. WW decided that a three bedroom home wasn’t big enough to house three people. He tore apart the front of the house to make for ourselves another bedroom.

Demolishing the porch 6-15-04

This was obviously a testosterone driven desire to adequately house the family; but there was also the manly desire to adequately provide everything else for the family. It’s a good thing, but in our situation it left Mr. WW reeling.

You see, his job was one of the best paid jobs he could ever hope to have—and it was killing his body. The repetition of the job that he was doing wears out the wrists. It had gotten to the point where it hurt for him to drive his stick shift car (in his early twenties!) Whenever he used his hands to work on the house his wrists screamed in pain. A scream that said, “this is not a sustainable way of life.”

And we had a baby on the way.

I begged him to quit and get a job in fast food if that was what it would take. We’d live on love or some such nonsense. Let me tell you again: Mr. WW is one of the most devoted and hard-working men you will ever meet. He does NOT let up. When he is struggling to tie his shoes without crying in pain, you will say anything to make it stop.

So, in the midst of a tumultuous time of life, Mr. WW did the unthinkable. He applied for any job that he could that met two criteria, #1 It didn’t hurt his wrists, #2 It paid at least as much as what he was already making.

Why is this unthinkable? I already told you. He was already making as much as he could ever hope to make.

You see, Mr. WW didn’t even graduate high school. He had a homeschooling diploma but he had never done any schoolwork that surpassed about 7th grade. Also working against him was the fact that he could not spell. He could read adequately enough but if he ever had to put anything on paper it would immediately give away his lack of education. And we could not afford for him to go back to school for however long to get him caught up. We needed an income.

So in this situation it seemed that he was eternally destined to work a job that caused debilitating pain.

But he applied. He applied for jobs that required more seniority (Remember: small town. Most all of the jobs that paid anything decent where tied up in the area factory.) He applied for jobs that required college degrees. He applied for jobs that were way beyond what he was doing. And we prayed.

A job in maintenance, his best shot, was given to someone with less seniority than he had. Another job didn’t even bother calling Mr. WW for an interview. The job in CNC programming that was most unlikely because it required an associate’s degree and more seniority, led to an interview with a guy with one raised eyebrow. Later, we were to find out that that guy conducting the interview said that he put his job on the line in order to hire Mr. WW. But he did hire Mr. WW, with a short leash, and we were ecstatic and terrified at this opportunity.

It was then that our eyes were opened to an open but somehow hidden truth: Your life is not dependent on your circumstances. It is dependent on your drive and passion.

The truth

That situation revealed it for us. Suddenly NOTHING was out of reach. Mr. WW had that drive and passion. He struggled and worried the first few weeks. He would come home not knowing if he could ever adequately do the job but he’d go back to work the next day and try some more. Day after day. Push forward after push forward.

Then one day it didn’t seem so hard anymore. But is that the end of the story? NO! Because Mr. WW had learned that truth and he still had more drive and passion. He started learning about the next machine. Not because his boss said to. Not because it got him more money at the end of the week. He just had the drive and passion to do better.

And it didn’t stop with just work things either. There was a man who worked at this shop that was deaf. The people who worked with him naturally kept interactions with him to a minimal because it was difficult to communicate. Not Mr. WW.

I still can’t figure out to this day how that friendship worked. Mr. WW couldn’t sign and this man couldn’t speak or read lips– and neither man could spell!

But they became good friends with their odd form of charades and slips of paper not decipherable by any other human being. Although I knew some sign language and could spell, if this man ever came to the house I was dependent on Mr. WW to translate for me. Odd stuff right there.

This friendship led to Mr. WW as the obvious choice to learn his friend’s machine and be back-up for vacations and sick days. One after the other Mr. WW worked his way around the shop learning anything he could learn in the CNC business.

The next obvious choice should not have been a surprise but it was to us. The plant manager came up to him with a wink and a smile, “Keep an eye on the job posting board and apply for whatever you see there.”

In a few days a posting appeared looking for a floor supervisor. We were excited. This position came with a pay raise and was a perfect fit.

Mr. WW brought a copy of the posting home so I could help him put together a good resume and cover letter. Imagine his surprise when he went back to work to find the posting removed when all job postings were to be up for 7 days.

He went to the plant manager. “Sorry, no job openings right now. I can’t talk about it.”

We waited. No job postings. We waited some more. There was one posting: Mandatory plant-wide meeting.

The change

Mr. WW purposefully positioned himself in the back of the room during that meeting. He looked over the faces of his co-workers. Grown men were crying. This job was more than they could ask for too. But when a plant closes too many people are unemployed to have much hope. Plus, where else was there to go anyway in this small town?

All middle management positions were immediately done. (For example, if someone was the floor supervisor, he would no longer have a job.) The rest of the positions would work for about a year and then the doors would close for good.

There were so many emotions for the WW household. We were scared. We were confused. We were okay. It had been less than 2 years since our lesson. We hadn’t forgotten. Our life was not dependent on these circumstances, no matter how grim. We’d be fine. We had no idea what we’d do, but we’d be fine.

There were options.

  • #1 Go back to original plant that killed the wrists (um, no.)
  • #2 Take another different job in town (most likely would pay much less and I couldn’t stay home with our son.)
  • #3 Be picked by corporate to move downstate and work at the company’s main plant. (It meant moving but was a good job and Mr. WW was told by several people in management that when they were asked who should be taken, Mr. WW was high on the recommendation list.)
  • #4 Find a job elsewhere (also required moving as well as a whole new company.)
  • #5 Use the period of unemployment to go to college (um, have you been following along? How would college work if you’ve never been to high school?)

We prayed hard. Mr. WW prayed that God would shut the doors that He didn’t want us to pursue. That’s when things got even scarier. Opportunities seemed to evaporate before our eyes. Promising interviews called to cancel. No one from the corporate office ever even bothered to take a second look at Mr. WW. No matter the recommendations, they simply took the handful of people with the most seniority.

As the time eked closer and closer to the spigot being turned off for good with were left with one option—college.

A government program allowed those affected by the plant closing to get a two year degree with extended unemployment benefits. If no jobs became available, it appeared that we would be led down this very new and terrifyingly foreign option.

To be continued…

…And continued it was! Find my version of the above story here and the next part of Mr. WW’s story here.

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