I woke up yesterday feeling like crap. Everything was crap. The grass is yellow and lying flat. The pittosporums are dying. The backyard is bare because we had to remove the wax myrtle. The garage is a wreck because of the dirty snow melt from last week. My head hurt. My throat hurt. Do I have Covid?
It’s Monday and there’s no school. There’s no school on Tuesday, either. Winter Storm Uri had devastated the US. The girls did have school last Monday because of President’s Day. And then the storm hit. Texas was shut down the entire week. Millions lost power and water. Some are still without water.
After losing my job on February 4th, my plan was to take that following week off and do nothing or do whatever bewildered me. I did more of the former. I would start my networking and job search on February 15th. Well, our Winter storm hit, priorities shifted and last week kind of became a wash.
Since many are still without power and internet and others are having to deal with busted pipes and home repairs, schools aren’t opening back up until February 24th. I guess I’m just keeping the same schedule as the schools. And I guess, in a way, I’m capitalizing on the opportunity to spend time with the family.
I think I might’ve wanted some downtime from the winter chaos of last week as well.
I woke up and went about my usual morning business of brushing my teeth, making coffee, reading a couple newsletters, checking in with some friends, and then I plopped down on the couch with the goal to finish reading “How Starbucks Saved My Life.”
I went for a run with a couple friends of mine back on Saturday, February 6th. This was two days after being laid off. A group of us usually go for a 5 mile run on Saturday mornings. We’ll meet at the neighborhood community center at 7 or 8 a.m. and talk about everything and nothing for an hour as we run. On this particular Saturday it was Ana, Chad and I that went for a run. It was kind of cold and gray that morning. I figured going for a run with friends is exactly what I needed.
I pulled into the parking lot first. Our community center has one of those little neighborhood libraries – the kind that looks like a big birdhouse. Take a book. Leave a book. Since it was chilly outside, I walked over to the library to check its inventory and keep my mind from the cold. For whatever reason, “How Starbucks Saved My Life” jumped out at me, so I grabbed it, read the back and decided it was worth a go.
The book is about Michael, a former advertising executive who had it all according to American standards. The pedigree. A high-ranking job. Big salary. Successful family with lots of kids. One day he gets laid off. He didn’t do anything wrong. He was just aged and salaried out. The agency got younger and they laid him off. He spent the next 10 years as a consultant, slowly losing more and more business. He somewhat spiraled. I’m sure fueled by depression, anxiety, low sense of self-worth. He cheated on his wife and his girlfriend became pregnant. That’s what wound up destroying Michael’s family life.
Michael and his wife got divorced. He left her and the kids with the house. She had family money, so she and the kids would be okay financially. He moved out and into a small apartment. He and his girlfriend grew apart. This was mostly because the girlfriend soon realized that the father of her only son wasn’t a bigwig vice president at an agency in New York. He was a laid-off consultant trying to make ends meet. So he does his best to be a father for his new son. He tries his best to maintain a relationship with his four adult children. And he lands a job at a Starbucks store by happenchance.
If you can curb the notion that this book might just be a 260 page ad for Starbucks, it’s actually a nice story. It’s not overly deep. You can get mad at and then root for the protagonist. The moral is find fulfillment in how you spend your days. Do things you enjoy. Be of service. Be empathetic. Try your hardest. You know, all that kind of stuff.
Like I’d set out to do yesterday morning, I finished the book in the early afternoon. It was a good read at the right time.
I think finishing a book can be an accomplishment in and of itself, however, I didn’t feel like I’d done anything productive. So I reached out to our accountant to let him know that we had all of our tax documents and were ready to get to work. He sent me a reply email and told me to upload all of the documents to the usual spot. So, I uploaded everything per his request. I forewarned him that we’d sold a lot of stocks back in September and that he’s probably going to have a lot of questions for me. That didn’t seem to phase him. And maybe, hopefully, I’m wrong. The last time we sold stocks we didn’t have a CPA. We used Jackson Hewitt to help us with our taxes and I remember it being a huge pain in the butt having to drum up the documentation on when and for how much a certain share was acquired.
So now I’d checked the box to “Take care of taxes.” I’d been productive.
Maly had been begging Elise to take her to Home Depot all day. She wanted plants for her room. Elise finally gave in. They were gone for a couple hours. When they returned, Maly had procured a half dozen plants, pots, chains, and mounting hooks. She came into the office and said, “Dad, can you help me with a project?”
She’d bought some ivy and shaded ground cover plants that she wanted to hang in her room from the ceiling in two pots. She needed help drilling holes in the sides of the plastic pots, cutting the chains, and attaching the chains to the pots. We setup shop at the top of the driveway and went to work. It wound up being a gorgeous day. It was a little hot in the afternoon, and a 70+ degree difference in temperature from just a few days prior.
I showed her how to measure the circumference of the pots so she could figure out where the three holes needed to be drilled in each pot. After she was done measuring and started drilling, I sort of took a mental pause and snapshot at that moment. I slowed down. I stopped and took it in. I was very present. I realized that at that moment, that was the best moment of my day. Just her and me. She wanted something done. She needed help and I was the only qualified person to help.
We had maybe an hour together on the driveway, working on pots to be hanged from her ceiling. I told her about the book I’d finished earlier that afternoon and asked her what she’d think if I worked at a Starbucks. Like Michael in the book, she thought I meant working for corporate. I said “no.”
“You mean… like a… barista?”
She just gave me a look. It was a look of not being able to fathom the notion of her dad being a uniformed barista at a coffee chain.
I don’t know what she expects of her father as it relates to a livelihood. I’ve been unemployed and unhappily employed many times in my adult life. I blame myself for that. I’ve never had internal or external guidance for what I should do for money in exchange for my time. I want more for my child. I’ve always told her to find something she enjoys. Find something to be passionate about. And don’t get a job and just make money. Find a way in life to create money. I feel that if you can create money, you don’t really need a lot of it. Just enough for you to get by and keep happy.