Continuing where I left off last week, the burdens I felt physically, mentally and spiritually were becoming too much to bear. And, in time, the load just became too much. Shortly after the New Year rang in, I came to the decision that I couldn't do daycare any longer. Here I was a mother, and I was bailing from motherly duties in taking care of so many children. I had no idea what I was going to do, since I had made a commitment to these children and their parents, and if anything, I was going to be true to my word.
In February, Mike left one evening to attend a meeting for the Aztec Athletic Foundation at San Diego State University. He never made it. As I was doing some serious soul searching, the phone rang. My beloved husband was in the emergency room at the hospital, and he was being admitted!!!! He had doubled over in pain, having gotten himself a milkshake on the way to the meeting, since he hadn't had time for dinner. Now, I felt more alone than ever, but again the strength came from God to get me through. I was more resolved now than ever to be they are for him, for our sons, and for the other children.
Not until the next day, which happened to be a Saturday, did I get to go to the hospital, only to find that Mike had been diagnosed with diverticulitis. I had no idea what this was, and neither did my healthy husband. We found out. For the week he was in the hospital, we discovered that he was then, and would henceforth be, unable to tolerate milk products, and certain other foods. For the first time I saw my own husband shaken and reduced to a shivering mass of pain, and now it was time for Cyndi to rise to the top. I had tremendous support from our Church, and it was through them that, once again, the grace of God prevailed.
Mike was released from the hospital and put on bed rest for another week. He had built up vacation and sick leave, so there didn't seem to be a problem at work. It was very hard for him to recuperate at home, what with having more than a dozen children there. But, we muddled through as best we could, and I found that just having him there, with me, alleviated the panic attacks that had been pretty much on going since September.
What neither of us could be prepared for was this: While away from the office, the new regime took control, and Mike was too conscientious and meticulous for these 'Peter-principle' executives. He was, in effect, a threat to them for they thrived on mediocrity and this is something Mike will never stand for. They knew they couldn't fire him so they phased his position out. Even though he had been responsible for a million dollar print budget and all design, they swallowed it up under the Marketing Department where a hot-shot from the East coast was brought in to "streamline" the Bureau. Mike wasn't given a chance to speak up for himself, to defend his job, to seek the "higher" authority at work. It was politics at its worst, and we became its victim. He had his sick leave and vacation time, and they cut him off after that. Now, my job as childcare giver was the only source of income for us. Compared to Mike's job, that income was mere pocket change. The main breadwinner was sick, and they sabotaged him behind his back; even though a year earlier he had been the creative catalyst in designing and producing print materials that helped land San Diego its first Super Bowl. It was truly a world of "what have you done for us lately?" Indeed, the days just got bleaker.
We made the best of it that we could. We struggled to borrow from the right hand to pay the left, and we even, at one ludicrous moment, considered taking in even more children to care for in order to increase the income. But we didn't have the room, and I finally admitted that as much as I wanted to make up for the salary Mike was now no longer receiving, I couldn't, I wouldn't even consider another child in the home. In fact, I was finally honest with him and with myself, before God, and I told him that being a childcare giver was about the worst decision I had ever lured myself into.
Mike saw that I was right. He had seen the depression, the panic attacks, but he hadn't known how to react, to respond. We both took stock of where we were in practical terms of providing a home for our sons. For the next month or two Mike sent out hundreds of resumes, locally, and nationally. We were that committed to providing for our sons. Whatever it took, we were going to do it, even if it meant moving.
One of the jobs Mike was offered was in with an advertising agency in Van Nuys. It paid much, much more than the one he had just left, but it meant moving to Los Angeles, the last place on earth either one of us thought we'd ever succumb to. Living in San Diego was paradise, moving to Los Angeles seemed like a scene out of Dante's Inferno. But that's just what we did. With both of us having writing talent, we thought we'd make the best of our tenure in Los Angeles, and get into the scriptwriting business to boot.
While Mike began his job at the advertising agency, I went looking for full time work "in the industry" which would at least get our foot in the door. Within two weeks I had three full-time job offers from the "industry". It was, I thought, a tough choice, for all seemed promising. And, the salary, along with Mike's, would put us ahead of the game, get us caught up, and just might, we thought, lead to promising careers as screenwriters. We had co-written a sequel for George Burns that Warner-Brothers was very interested in. It would be the final "Oh, God!" series with a higher spiritual tone that would deal with the end times in an upbeat, hopeful way. It was called "Oh, God! Here and Now!"
I began work at one of the then major filmmaking companies in Hollywood by mid-September. We found an excellent school for Kevin, and we found a woman whom we thought passed muster to care for Kellin, who was about a year and a half. All seemed to have a rosy lining for us.
The rosy lining turned into a two-and-a-half hour commute each morning and evening for us. My job was on one side of town, Mike's in the valley, Kevin's school not far from where we rented an apartment midway between the Hollywood Bowl and the Chinese Graumann Theater, and Kellin's daycare giver was in another section of town.
We gritted our teeth, and set about this "new" life. It quickly turned into the worst nightmare we had yet faced together. The job I had taken, which had offered a lucrative salary, came with the promise of no overtime, etc., because a seven-day a week job with threats that if I cared about God and family first, I would be fired. I got to work at 6 am, took no lunch or coffee break, and worked straight through until Mike picked me up in the evening, which was 6:30ish. We got home about 7:45, and we were both thoroughly exhausted. Mike's own job was paying well, but he didn't care about the product he was being paid to promote.
As the months wore on, the toll really began to tell on each of us. Remember the scenario with Mike's former job in San Diego? The same thing happened at Warner-Brothers and those who were keen on our script were swallowed up by a new group of young "geniuses" and all work the previous group had been working on was shelved. This included our script. Adding to that was the fact Kevin was unhappy at school for the abrupt change for him was just too much. Kellin, at the Thanksgiving break, had fallen and fractured his skull while we were visiting my parents back in San Diego. It required major surgery, and the daycare giver would not take him back, not wanting to be responsible for a 19-month old who'd fractured his skull. We were in a tight place, with nowhere to turn.
It was the beginning of the rest of our lives, but we didn't know it then. By March, I had taken all the threats I was going to take. I was sick of being shouted and screamed at each day by a bunch of people who had sold their souls to the devil. In fact, I began to see clearly just how much "devil" was in front of the camera and behind it, and I wanted no part of that. The sins that went on there were shocking and either I submitted to their threats and prostitute my soul...and body, or I walked away!
Thanks be to God I was given sufficient grace to be able to walk away. I quit! Then and there, with all the others gaping at me, I tendered my resignation. I knew full well what it would mean financially for us, but now I knew that the price was not worth it. Our souls were first, God was first. The whole scenario of the previous year had taken its toll on us spiritually, and we were quickly becoming spiritually bankrupt.
Mike found a home for us to rent that was cheaper than the apartment we'd started out in. So we moved. We found a wonderful preschool for both boys that was within walking distance for me, and while Mike continued on at the ad agency, I entered upon a time of recuperation, and recovery. I was very far away from that recovery, for God was not yet ready to work within my time frame, but only His.
This, for both Mike and I, was a real turning point in our lives, which had been one race to keep up with growing financial responsibilities since our marriage. Our love was tested, and were it not for God, we might not have made it. It was our love, our vows to one another before God that were the platform on which we stood, whether we realized it or not.
In the next installment I will share how God guided our footsteps though at the time we thought we were wandering the desert alone. Until then, may God continue to bless you abundantly through this purifying time of Lent.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Twenty-One: Letting go and let God!
For previous Lessons in this Series, see At One With God