My dad used to say, whenever I would complain of not sleeping well, “When you get tired enough, you’ll sleep.” Over the past year or so, I had taken that to heart: if I found myself tossing and turning in the wee hours, I would get up, brew a cup of coffee, and write, figuring I’d sleep better the next night.
Generally it worked—but these days I know what Dad really meant.
The good news is that I’m working full-time and making just enough to keep us afloat another month. The bad news is that I’m working two part-time jobs, and one of them starts at 3 a.m., which means the alarm sounds at 2 a.m. and to function, I need to go to bed around 8 whenever possible. (Like tonight.)
The good? My early-morning job involves four hours of steady exercise, loading packages as quickly as I can. I’ve lost 10 to 15 pounds, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in probably 20 years. I’m no longer sore at the end of the day. I rise, stretch, down a cup of coffee and a protein bar, then drain a water bottle and say my morning prayers on the way to the warehouse.
The bad? I joke with Jodi that I get paid to go to the gym each morning—but who in his right mind goes to the gym at 3 a.m., for four hours? I come home tired, filthy, and soaked with sweat, usually after everyone has left for work and school; I see my wife and kids for a little while after school and work, but usually turn in not long after supper.
Most afternoons and evenings I’m too tired to write much. I nod off at the keyboard.
The good? After my morning job, I shower, eat two eggs, spinach, and cheddar on a tortilla, and head to my second job, yawning and praying a rosary. I am now a half-time parish employee doing exactly what I set out to do: communications, evangelization, and outreach for the Church of Saint Andrew and St. Andrew Catholic School in Elk River. It’s basically the job description I wrote for myself this past spring, only not at our home parish. It’s a wonderful job.
The bad? I still don’t have freelance work. Lots of possibilities, but nothing bearing fruit. I need to bridge the gap between what I earn at these two jobs and what we need to earn to cover the bills in October. Ideally, I need to earn enough to leave that early-morning job behind—so I can work out in the garage like a normal person, pray with my wife, and see my kids off to school, read and write a book, and still do my work for the church.
The good? We still have food in the table, gas in the tank, and a roof over our heads. Everything is still covered. God is still and always good to us.
And I continue to learn to trust. To persevere. To push myself out the door before dawn to work hard at a job I don’t love for a family I do.
I have new respect for my father and so many other men I know or have known. I have been so blessed to move from great job to great job. Now I’m learning to work for a living.
It would probably have been easier at 24 than 42.
The bad: I worry more and more, two and half months into being underemployed. I want more work, but cannot make it happen.
The good: Jodi’s confidence has grown as more money comes in, little by little. She is my other half, my complement. When I am weak, she is strong.
As always, life is more good than bad. My employer is paying for me to attend the Catechetical Institute over the next two year, class of Padre Pio, no less! Bren is back at UMary for his sophomore year, along with Olivia; Gabe, Emma, and Trevor are back in school; and Lily has started kindergarten. Everyone is healthy, happy, and doing well in their studies. Trevor is running cross-country this year and enjoying it. I am amazed every day by the blessings we have in our family and in our friends.
I love them. I love you.
And as if that weren’t enough: The only crystal clear message I received on my silent retreat at Demontreville last month was that the money we set aside last spring for an Airedale puppy should be used as intended. Our money anxieties were at their peak at that point (because I wasn’t working at all), but when I thought of saving that money to pay bills down the road and telling the kids we weren’t getting a dog, my heart ached.
I prayed for guidance, and the answer I received was this: a deep sense of joy for our entire family (even Jodi, though I doubt she believes it) at the prospect of a puppy—and the feeling that this was yet another opportunity to do as my confessor advised: to trust God to provide for us day by day. He has brought us this far.
So in a few days, Jodi and I are headed to Alabama to bring home little Bruno. Randy and Pat, the breeders down in Wetumpka whom Emma, Trevor, and I visited on the way back from the Keys last spring, have their two favorite male pups set aside: one for us, and one for them. These puppies are distant cousins of Boomer’s; the lines have been used to hunt everything from squirrels and upland game birds to fur-bearers and wild hogs. I cannot wait to meet him.
You might think this is insanity, adding a puppy to this crazy mix of odd hours, cash shortages, busy-ness, and exhaustion. But isn’t that family life? When I get tired enough, I’ll sleep.
Besides, a puppy can’t possibly eat more than Brendan, can he?