Thursday, May 15, 2008

A slice of life weekly (weakly?)

And here’s your once-weekly little dollop of information about what’s going on in Sonny’s (and Ashley’s) life:

* We got a new TV set. Rather, the University of Miami got a new TV set, and we’re the caretakers of it. A Sony - BRAVIA 40" 1080p 120Hz Flat-Panel LCD HDTV. And – of course – to go with it, I just HAD to buy a new DVD player (especially since the one I’d had for the better part of a decade was dying quite rapidly – it was not reading discs and the remote was breaking in half), so I got a Sony DVP-NS700H/B 1080p Upscaling DVD Player so that I could watch my DVD’s in beautiful, Hi-Def glory. Yes. I am re-watching every single thing I own on DVD. Why do you ask…? (Daily viewings of Serenity and/or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy can be arranged by contacting the email address at the top of the page.)

* We got a new couch. Again: the University of Miami got a new couch, and we’re the caretakers of it. The one that was in the apartment that was supplied by UM when we moved in here was stuffed with down feathers, and Ashley is allergic to them. So, we go a new couch. A Pottery Barn Pearce 4-Piece Chaise Sectional with Wedge. (Go on and Google it – you know you want to.)

* Of the 3.5 known potential job offers out there, Ash & I sat down and talked about them all late last week, and she helped me to eliminate one for certain and possibly the half job referred to since it’s only half-conceived) as well. We’ve gone over our finances (a fun experience for all married folks, kids!), and we’re not TOO worried right now. I MIGHT be announcing a part-time job in the next few days – but it will depend on if the money for the position comes in.

More than anything else, we both know that the next job/career I take needs to be something that I am happy with. Something that gives me fulfillment, and doesn’t make me angry, continually stressed/frustrated, unfulfilling, and/or something that does bring me a sense of doing something that matters. We talked a lot about how we have changed (individually and collectively) since moving here – and not all for the positive. I’ve felt the me-ness of me slipping away in the last few months, and I need to re-center myself. I think this is the opportunity and opening that God has wanted to provide me with to refocus, re-discover me, and to – dare I say it? – relax.

* Been reading The Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster, and it’s messing with my mind. But in a good way. And it’s been reminding me/convicting me of what all I need to be doing that I don’t do on a regular basis.

* Next year (2009) will be my 20-year high school reunion year. Yes, the Internets be connecting up all us old alumni quite well – check out
http://tupelohighalumni.ning.com/profile/SonnyLemmons or the main page of http://tupelohighalumni.ning.com/ for more information and probably some incriminating photos fairly soon.

* Ashley and I tried to hang a dart board on our outside wall last night. Whatever you’re imagining is not nearly as funny as the actual attempt.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Insert obligatory Robert Frost comment here

Oh, the amazing difference that one small week makes…

For starters, I have been somewhere between humbled and flabbergasted by the outpouring of love, support and outright fist-pumping “YES!” cheers for what HAS to have been me yielding to the Spirit and deciding to peace out of my current position at the University of Miami at the end of this month (more on that in a moment). Also, I’ve been strengthened from the NUMEROUS sympathetic – nay! EMPATHETIC – messages from friends, colleagues, and people whose opinions matter to me who have found themselves in eerily similar situations; namely, that whole “gonna step out on faith and not know where the freak I’m going to end when this is all said and done, and all the mockery, scornful looks and questions of others.”

Turns out there are more of us ragamuffins striving to find our walk in God in spite of the wisdom of the world than I ever gave it a thought to be possible. And it amazes me that so many of them are in my close circle of friends, people whose struggles don’t necessarily mirror my own, but who we all just…are trying to do what’s right. What we feel we’re called to do. Who are tired of trying to make something career-wise fit (because we feel we have to), and instead are pursuing a passion. A dream. A path we’re called to walk on, and not just the first road we see or is the road others tell us makes sense to walk on.

Some of these are students I’ve come to know and love in the course of the past few months – yeah; I’m looking at you Crowley, Erazo, Ewok and Gabe – who I pray never lose that passion. Some of these are people I’ve known and loved for about a decade now (yes, Corrie, we’ve known each other that long). Some of these are people who have been in my life for such an amazingly short amount of time but feel like they’ve been with me my whole life (Tana, Ryan) and some who I have known for over half my life but have only gotten to know really well in the last few years (Pittman).

Thanks. Just thanks. And you’re all owed a cup of coffee or of your favorite beverage next time I see you.

So – as to why I believe that it was in God’s timing that I stated I would not be returning to UM in my current job on the day that I handed in my quasi-letter-of-resignation? As was alluded to in the previous posting, I had been in a holding pattern for months on end of uncertainty about my employment here at UM that only rivals the continual “Wait and See” comments uttered by Geoff Johns over at his eponymous message board. However, unlike HIS resolutions which almost always pay off being well worth the wait, I was insanely tired of waiting for something which ultimately might not pay off – financially or otherwise – and so, at God’s prompting of it being “the time” to do so…I drew the line in the sand and stated I could no longer work in a temporary capacity, and that I was not interested in continuing to do so, and that my final day would in fact be May 31, 2008.

24 hours later, after almost two years of trying to make it so, and after almost one full year of my serving in a capacity of a temporary employee – which means I get NO sick or vacation days, no benefits (such as things like health insurance; don’t ask about the last time I went to a doctor) and that I was and would remain ineligible for a raise or any change in my pay grade – the University of Miami approved for the position I am currently employed in to be made a permanent staff position, with full benefits. The. Day. After. I. Said. I. Was. Not. Returning.

This has messed with my mind, my emotions, my sense of worth, my sense of value, and I’ve been more than a little cheesed off at the timing (on the part of the administration) and the manner in which I found out (which was yesterday, and it was a classic, case study in How To Not Be Professional 101). It probably doesn’t help matters much that I’ve had XTC’s “Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” running on my iPod for the last two days…The only thing I’ve been able to fall back on is the peace in my heart and mind about my decision, and the fact that Ashley and so many others support it.

I’m still trying to weigh out three-and-a-half (one’s kinda…odd…) potential offers on the table right now (for the first time in my life, I actually wrote out a PRO/CON list of the three), or if I should even take ANY of them.

Tonight – Ashley and I talk about the offers, and we see where we go from here…

Thursday, May 01, 2008

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES…(the April/May 2008 Edition)

My, my, my…what a difference a month makes…there have been some rather radical changes in the life o’ Sonny in the last 30-odd days. Read on for the highlights, and for the blurb about how and why this website will – after June 1, 2008 – begin to be updated with alarming regularity…

JUST ANOTHER VICTIM: The University of Miami – through a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression – hosted the Tunnel of Oppression April 21-23, 2008, with tours nightly from 4:00 pm – 9:00. This was one of the Two Big Projects™ I was responsible for this past semester. The first was not nearly as cool nor was it as inspiring.




AND HERE IS WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD:
“Instead of asking young people, ‘What are you going to so when you grow up?’ ask them ‘Who are you becoming?’ The question is not whether you will be a doctor or a lawyer but what kind of doctor or lawyer you will be.” – Shane Claiborne
Okay. Little bit of back-story: As most of you know, Ashley and I moved to Coral Gables in June of 2007 because she was offered a job at the University of Miami as a Residence Coordinator here at the "U" (Hunh...I've gone from a "W" to a "U," totally bypassing any school with a "V." But I digress...). I, on the other hand, did not have a job offered to me, so the school "found one" for me, working in the Center for Service and Leadership, as the staff advisor to several of the "hippie" groups (Students Together Ending Poverty, Kids and Culture, CANES Against AIDS, Hands for the Homeless, etc.), co-advisor/general guru to others (Amnesty International, Students Towards A New Democracy, Random Acts of Kindness, National Gandhi Day of Service, etc.), and as the person who would arrange all community and volunteer outreach programs, working with homeless shelters, HIV/AIDS outreach, etc. They had originally tried to make this position a full-time professional job in Spring 2007, and were told “no,” but then the upper administration thought different of it and said they could test-pilot the position with a temporary employee. The job was initially promised to me for a full year, then back-pedaled to a semester in length.

Fast forward to late November/early December of 2007. After going back and forth about IF they could re-hire me for an additional semester, the University finally told me they could extend my job by one extra semester (for January-May 2008). After that, they were uncertain if they could extend it any further. The Asst VP for Student Life has been telling me all semester long that "they're working on" getting the position approved as full-time, and that all paperwork has been submitted, and they're fully certain that the position will be approved. I would know for sure by mid-February...sorry, we meant March 1...make that March 22...nope, April 1...okay, April 15 for sure...

In simpler language, they strung it out as far as they could.

On Wednesday, April 30, 2008, I informed the VP for Student Life that I could no longer wait for them, and that I was making the decision for them: I will not return in the Fall. My last day will be May 31, 2008.

Now.

I do not at this time have another full-time job lined up (there's the chance for one at a part-time level, but…I’m still debating the merits of it). There’s the possibility – with nothing assured – of me taking on a role part-time with one of the campus ministries here at UM. There’s the possibility (and I’m looking at YOU, Beth) of me taking on a role as a writer. I am not aware of anywhere or of anything about a full-time job in the Coral Gables area, neither in nor out of Student Affairs. I truthfully do not have one bloody clue what the crap I'm going to do in 30 days, besides start selling a lotta crap on eBay.

What I do know is - shockingly - I feel an odd peace about my decision. In spite of the fact that this is Great Big Leap of Faith #2 (in a series) that Ashley and I are making together (moving here was #1; getting married was not #1 - in spite of the snickers and giggle noises that I know some of you are making right now...), and in spite of the fact that our income has the potential to plummet in 30-odd days...this feels right. I know that many of you won't get that, that many of you won't understand making a decision based on instinct, faith and feeling and not on what is practical and logical...but then again, almost every time logic and practicality has trumped my decision making process - it's been a freaking disaster.

On the plus side, this does mean that come June 1, I will be able to begin to regularly update/blog about the deep thoughts that have been in my mind – but more importantly, I will have the TIME to do so, something I have been grossly negligent in doing as of late. In all candor, many aspects of this job have wreaked havoc on my personal life: people…I have been snippy and angry, and not in my usual Sonny-is-sarcastically-gruff-but-a-loveable-teddy-bear-underneath way, but full-on anger and frustration have been in my mannerisms and attitude; my marriage has suffered because Ashley and I have not seen nearly enough of each other nor have we spent nearly enough time together as a couple OR as friends; my spiritual life has shrunk to something that I barely have time to think about every so often let alone do anything about; and I’ve not been me. I’ve lost myself to this job, and that’s not something I ever wanted to do.


So.

For those of you who pray - pray. For those of you who don't - wish for guidance for me as Ashley and I walk this path together and that we try and determine what the dickens we are to do next. And try and remind me that in many, many, many ways...this was the right decision.


Oh and my *&^%$#@! phone number will change again since UM pays for this thing. When I get a new # in May/June, I'll let'cha all know.