the unknown dream

In October of 2009,Cortney got laid off from one of the only jobs he had ever had. At the time he had a three-month old baby and a wife who was falling apart mentally.

Those were some dark times for us.

The history of his job is long and complicated, and I’m not really going to go into all that here. But I will say that not having to go to that place anymore was a sort of relief for him emotionally.

Just prior to being laid off, Cortney went back to school for Network Administration (shout out to my computer nerd, yo!). When the lay off occurred we talked about it and decided that no matter what, he needed to stay in school. As it was, he didn’t have any sort of degree and he had to have one to find another job.

That was the start of eighteen long months of unemployment.

Being unemployed was both a blessing and an epic challenge for our family. Looking back, having Cortney home full-time with Eddie for the first year-and-a-half of Eddie’s life was awesome. Christmas break meant we were all home together. Summer vacation had all three of us home. We could take family walks at 10am on a Tuesday if we wanted. My mom took us to the zoo as a family. Even though things were tight, we were able to be together.

Of course, we constantly struggled with how to make ends meet on my pay and Cortney’s unemployment checks, and lived with some harsh judgement from some people who didn’t understand that any job was NOT in fact better than no job. Now that we had Eddie, if Cortney got a job, it would have to be able to pay for daycare and still pay out for it to be worth it to our family.

That is when he made looking for work and getting his degree his full-time job.

Every day when Eddie would nap Cort would hit the books and apply for more jobs.

A year and a half.

I’d like to say we stayed positive the entire time, but that would be a lie. There were many times he felt discouraged and frustrated. There were times when my anxiety hit an all time high. In fact, it was six months into the unemployment that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety.

But we marched on together as a team of three.

By the grace of God, Cortney and I were never distressed at the same time. If he was down, I would carry him with words of encouragement. If my anxiety surfaced, Cort would remind me that things would work out; we just needed to have some faith.

And three months before Eddie’s second birthday, Cortney found a job. A job he knew. A job he loved.

For about the first year, he tip-toed around waiting for a non-existent “other shoe” to drop. He waited for this job to not be real. He waited…but it just stayed awesome.

No. That’s not true. After about a year working for them, Cort suggested a Craft Brew Lunch on Fridays to go along with the pizza the bosses bought and it became a hit.  So the job actually got AWESOMER.

Exactly a year after he was hired, Charlie joined the family.

This job has been incredibly understanding and flexible when kids get sick or we run into snags with childcare. Cort’s bosses became more than just the guys who called the shots, but guys who he enjoyed working for and with.

Another year went by and there started to be some talk. Talk of a new job. Talk of new opportunities.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord..."

As of December, Cortney (and I, I suppose) became part-owner in start-up company with the guys who were his bosses for the past two and a half years.

The company he was working for did installs of trusses (those are the things that make the roof on a building…in case you didn’t know).  The company Cortney was laid off from four years ago built the trusses.  The company he and these three other guys are starting is another company that builds the trusses.

Have I confused you yet?

Cortney’s official position is Co-Owner and Vice President of Sales and Estimating for his new company.

I am so proud of him.  In the short month that they have been accepting bid requests they have been slammed. This is a good thing. Jobs are coming in to be bid which means there is a lot of interest. Again, yay!

In the almost ten+ years that Cort and I have been together, I have never seen him happier or more content in his job. He is enjoying what he is doing.

Better yet, it’s in his blood. Both of his grandfathers were small business owners, and so are many of his uncles. And so was his dad.

I know his grandpas and dad are slapping each other on the back in Heaven over Cortney’s bravery and accomplishments.

I’ve been asked if this is scary to me, and I can honestly say “no”.  I completely believe in this company, in Cortney’s partners, and mostly in Cortney.

We feel like our dreams might be coming true…in ways we could never imagine.

Stepping Out Saturday

I know, I know…today is supposed to be McFatty Monday and/or Meal Planning Monday.

But I am just not feeling it.

Last week was ridiculous and my choices were out of survival more than being health-conscious.  I worked full-time as usual and taught Monday and Wednesday nights as usual–which by itself has been a struggle for me with making healthy choices AND with keeping my mental health in tact.  But also this week?  I had parent/teacher conferences Tuesday and Thursday nights.

I hardly saw Cort, and I only saw Eddie maybe 4 hours in 4 days.

So I don’t want to talk about my McFatty-ness.

Instead, I thought I would hook up with Harper’s Happenings for Stepping out Saturday…because guess what…I totally went on a DATE WITH CORT Saturday night!

This is probably our first date in three months!  It was so fun (thanks to Cody and Liz for babysitting!)!

not the best shot, but it's hard to get a toddler to pose!

Eddie and I posed for a picture before we packed him up to take to his auntie and uncle’s house.

On Eddie:

overalls and onsie: Osh Gosh

shoes: Target

On me:

Jeans and tank: Gap Outlet

jacket: Old Navy

shoes: Target (Mudd brand)

headband: New York and Co

Earrings: a gift for being a bridesmaid; they are real Montana silver

bracelet: I THINK that is a premier bracelet (can’t remember)

After dropping Eddie off at Cody and Liz’s house, Cortney and I hit Old Navy (I needed another pair of pants for the work rotation), Bed, Bath, & Beyond (we needed a new candle for the kitchen), Barnes & Noble (Cort needed something new to read.  He got Hunger Games), and then the Verizon store (we got new phones!  Buy a Droid, get any other phone FREE!!!).

Once our shopping was done, we hit Logan’s for dinner and drinks.  It felt so darn good to be out with my husband on a DATE!  We got to chat and laugh and enjoy our meals and drinks without having to be on Eddie’s eating schedule.

And when we picked Eddie up, he was all cozy in his jammies and ready for bed!

It was a glorious evening!  The kind that I totally took for granted before having Eddie.  I miss the alone time with Cort and I hope we can swing another evening away again sometime soon!

I’m a Survivor!

While we have had lots going on around here and lots to update you all on, instead, I am asking that you go over to We Aren’t Perfect today. Crystal is doing a Postpartum Depression Confessions Awareness Week, and I am her first guest post.

This is a cause that is VERY close to me since I am still in recovery with my PPD and my PPA.  And while I am telling you that, I want to share that since the calendar flipped to August, my anxiety has totally amped up.  I’m hoping to work this out with my therapist, but the thought of leaving Cort and Eddie and working two jobs again this fall has my stomach in knots and I’m starting to get my insomnia back.

We will get through this, but your prayers and thoughts are welcome.  In fact, as I type this Cortney is on a job interview. So maybe things are about to turn around?

I hope so.  Anyway, show some love to Crystal for her awesome project of creating awareness for PPD/PPA! 

Still Growing Up

Wonder Woman.  Barbie.  Belinda Carlise (after she was a Gogo when she had her solo career).  Madonna.  Joan Jett.

What in the world do any of those things have to do with each other?  Well clearly they were all things I pretended to be at some point in my childhood.  They were the answer to my inner question of what kinds of things interested me enough to want to BE that thing/person.

Once school started I answered that question with anything from a telephone operator (because I like to push buttons), to a lawyer (I talk a lot and so do lawyers, right?), or maybe a best-selling author, although I could be an actress too.  By the end of my senior year I just didn’t know WHAT I wanted to do.

One day, during fifth period British Literature senior year we were discussing the novel 1984 by George Orwell.  Right in the middle of a particularly great conversation, I paused, looked at my teacher and said,

“THIS. This right here.”

him: “what?  what are you talking about?”

me: “This is what I want to do.  I want to read, talk about the books I read, and get paid to do it.  What is that?  What job is that?”

him:  “Um, my job.  Apparently you just decided to be an English teacher.  Can we finish talking about Winston, now?”

me:  “oh.  right.  yeah.”

And that was it.  I applied to Western Michigan University, one of the top teacher education schools in the US, and the rest is history.

I’d love to tie a neat little bow on that and call that the end, but it’s really not.  I look back on all those things that made up what I loved to pretend to be and what I thought I wanted to do.  They all have qualities that I value that I think are still shaping what I will be “when I grow up.”

Wonder Woman, Barbie, Belinda Carlise, Madonna, and Joan Jett were all women who were individual who did things that they wanted to do.  And people who didn’t agree with what they did?  Well they got the middle finger.  Even Barbie broke gender barriers and became a doctor back in the 80’s!

The professions I thought I wanted make sense with this too.  Even a telephone operator.  Let’s face it, I spend a LOT of my day pushing buttons.  I mean even right now…tappity tappity!  And to me, lawyers and actresses really aren’t that different.  They need to put on shows that will win something for someone even if it’s just winning someone’s attention for 90 minutes.  I do that now as a teacher, but as a writer here, I have to sing and dance and use my words to make you want to come back for more.

And a best-selling author?  While I might not be making any money (in fact, I SPEND money to do this), I am selling.  I’m selling myself and my story to you.  For comments.  Let’s face it.  If no one responded to this little old blog?  I probably would have quit long ago.

So I teach.  I write.  And I am still growing up.  And I still think Joan Jett is totally bad ass.

This post was written in response to the Bloggy Moms July Blog challenge:  Childhood Ambitions.  To read more entries in this challenge, please go here.

I Saw the Sign…and It Opened Up My Eyes…

A storm is rolling in.

I can see the clouds to the west growing darker and darker.  It must be a slow moving storm because it’s been growing darker and muggier for about and hour now.  Small rolls of thunder remind us that soon?  There will be rain.  And wind.  And louder thunder.  It might get scary.

But the weather assures us it will be short-lived.  There will be sun again after.  Even though more storms will come after that.  Those they are not as sure about.  Just that there will be more storms.

Sigh….

Is it a coincidence that as I have been searching ALL DAY to write about paying attention to signs, the signs of a storm have been growing and growing outside?

I read in my O magazine (and heard Oprah say it on her show) millions of times that the universe is full of signs.  That there are no such things as coincidences.  My friend, Missy loves this idea.  My faith (which in my mind is always my mom’s voice) follows this idea too only it is called a Plan.  Those signs? I think I am starting to believe.  Oprah, Missy, my mom?  They might be right.

It starts with little subtle signs–like the storm outside, there was a barely perceptible rise in the dew point (it’s been so damn muggy around here lately, how in the crap could we tell?).

Then, if you don’t act on those signs, they get bigger and a bit more pushy.  The thunder has been increasing around here.  And Cort just had to switch on the lights because it has gotten so dark.  It moved us to DO something about the signs.  Nothing huge, mind you.  We are still going about our normal Sunday, but because of the storm?  We had to move away from what we are doing to turn on the lights.

After that, if the Universe isn’t happy with the “action” that you may or may not have taken, the signs get even more aggressive and all up in your business.  This storm?  It’s coming.  We should probably close the garage door and pick up any toys that are outside since now the wind is blowing pretty hard.  We should probably bring in anything that is out drying that we don’t want to get all wet and blown into the neighbors yard.

And so on and so forth until the Universe MAKES you see the signs and take the path you are supposed to take.

The Sluiters know the signs of a storm.  We have weathered quite a few.  But this one that is rolling in and out of our life right now?  It has different signs–at least for me.

At some point during this current storm of unemployment and job scares, some sort of new wind blew at me.  First it had me question the state of education in my state.  Do I really have what it takes to deal with this broken machine?  Do I even want to?  I love teaching, but I don’t love the machine.  The political broken machine.

Then I started writing.  And you started reading.  And commenting.  It reminded me of my love of the written word.  So I wrote more.  Some of you sent freelance opportunities my way. Some of these opportunities I have pursued. Some have accepted me!  Lots of you have asked me to guest post lately.  I am all sorts of in love with writing.  The Universe seems to be telling me that someone likes my writing.

But I am too humble stupid faithless to believe that this could be true.  I read what I consider great writing.  There are some of you who fill me up with inspiration while at the same time make me feel like small potatoes with my own talent (not because you are jerks, but because you are WONDERFUL).

So I keep writing here.  And wondering.  And dreaming.

I caught myself remembering how authors/writers were rock stars to me as a kid…and really as an adult.  I don’t think I could ever write fiction.  (could I?), but maybe a memoir.  But would anyone want to read that?  What would that be?  Sluiter Nation in a binding?  Who cares about our zoo visits or my cat’s vet appointments?  But I guess there is other stuff…but I just don’t feel that it is book material.  But what is it?  What am I supposed to be doing with this new found love?  Is it just a hobby?

As a kid, writing was a dream.  You couldn’t really DO that as a profession.  That was for talented people like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary (who’d going to see Ramona and Beezus with me, by the way?).  People with mad skills like Jen Lancaster and Anne Lamont get to write about their lives and have people coming back for more.  There are people out in the blogging world even who are way better than me who aren’t even thinking about publishing.  What do I have to offer?

And are you supposed to admit that you want to be a writer?  Or is that just opening yourself up for snarky comments about how you should “stick to your day job.”

I don’t know.

Right now, on this Sunday afternoon, I am dreaming as I watch the storm.  When the sun comes out…will I be in the same exact place, just bracing for another storm?  Hoping this one doesn’t do any more damage?  Will I ignore the signs and stick with what is “safe” (ha!  right!) and very clichely just wait for the other shoe to drop?

Or will I recognize the signs, step out of my crappy storm shelter, and face the rain with hope and desire?

I don’t know.  I really don’t.  Oh…here comes the sun.  That storm is over.  For now.

Plans To Prosper

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11
Some days it’s so very hard to trust those words.  Especially when it seems like we are just being pummeled with disheartening news.
Recently we got some bittersweet job news for both me and Cort.
The end of the school year has been stressful for me now for about four years.  Every year they cut more and more positions which puts me lower and lower on the seniority list.  This year I found out that our school would be cutting one English position.  The good news is that they decided to change my current position from full-time English to full-time Spanish in order to save me from being on the pink slip list.  This will however have a domino effect.  The Spanish teacher whose position I am being “given” will be reassigned an ELL (English as a Learning Language) position, and so on and so forth until someone gets the ax.

It’s hard to describe how I feel about this without sounding ungrateful.  So let me put it out there right now that I am SOOO thankful that I am 99% sure I will be off the pink slip list and be in a job next year.
However, I just finished up my seventh year of teaching English 11 (juniors) and to think that the curriculum I have dedicated myself to will be given to other people is hard.  I’ve also spent 10 years getting a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s degree in English.  I love the subject.  It’s my passion.  Don’t get me wrong, teaching Spanish is fun, but to NOT teach English is heartbreaking to me.
The plus side will be a LOT less department stress and grading stress.  Hopefully this opens up some of my time for some other possibilities.  I may blog about those as a I get a clearer grasp on their likelihood of happening.
Yesterday Sluiter Nation was dealt another couple sucker punches in the job arena.  Cort got an email from the company he has been waiting WEEKS for an answer from.  He interviewed THREE times with them and waited almost two weeks from the last interview.  Yesterday they let him know they went with someone else.  He also received a phone call from another place he had had an interview with.  No job there either.
So he is back to square one.
Like I said, it’s so hard to think that maybe we are just doomed for bad luck.  Both of us want so badly to pursue what we love so we can show Eddie that it’s important not to settle in life, but it’s hard!
We have to just keep in mind that God has plans to “give us hope and a future”.  Every time we have gotten disheartened, he has brought us joy.  He will come through this time too.  We are trying to look at all of this as just an opportunity for both of us to have the chance to pursue dreams and do what we love.
We trust that we will have a great future.  And we know we just have to be patient and listen for the way to go.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

Where Are All the Articles?

Many of you have been patiently waiting for my next article. Trust me, so have I! The problem is, I am under the impression that there will be no more articles.

Just before Christmas, my editor, Cheri sent me a story idea that she said could wait until after the holidays. So once I was back to my regular schedule at the beginning of January, I started to call around and attemp to look into the story. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone, so I emailed Cheri back to let her know that and to request a new story idea.

I waited a week. No response. I noticed then that her weekly Monday food column had not run, so I assumed that perhaps she was on vacation. So I shot her another email and waited…another week. Her column didn’t run again. This is when I noticed that at the top of the front page of the Life & Style section it now lists a Lori Timmer as the editor. Huh.

Now my interest is piqued so I go to the Holland Sentinel website for a look at the staff page and to check out Cheri’s blog to see if there are any new posts. To my surprise, Cheri is no longer on the staff page and her blog is gone too!

At this point, I get a little frustrated. My editor is gone and no one had the decency to tell me! So I sent Lori and email inquiring what had happened and if there was anything for me to work on.

Again, I get no response for a week, so I email the publisher of the paper and copy Lori. It has been three days since that email, and I have still heard nothing. It’s hard for me to make phone calls during business hours (since I have a full time job that requires me to be entertaining…er, I mean teaching students all day), so I have not been able to get into contact with anyone at the paper.

Soooo….for a measley $50 an article (and only doing one article per month), I am probably not going to raise any more of a stink about this, but I do feel bad having to tell my faithful readers that it looks as if my days as a newswoman are over.

I hope you enjoyed the brief 16-month run I had as a journalist…I know I did!

Today’s Article

Today’s article is a little inspiration for those of us who fight the holiday bulge every year! Read on!

http://www.hollandsentinel.com/lifestyle/x776466269/RE-Barber-Ford-employees-shed-pounds-for-weight-loss-contest

Latest Article…on my BFF!

This time around I got to write about something I suggested…good times! Read on!
http://www.hollandsentinel.com/lifestyle/x541366239/Zeeland-native-runs-Chicago-Marathon

Sunday Article

Here is the link to today’s article:

http://www.hollandsentinel.com/lifestyle/x1776790623/Masterpieces-in-miniature-Zeeland-man-creates-art-from-shells

Happy reading, readers!

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