Waiting is the hardest part.

Since I lost my teaching job at a small, private school three years ago, I’ve worked as a paraprofessional/personal aide for a wheelchair-bound middle school student. It has kept me from unemployment, but far from any gainfully-employed classification. I’ve been called in to interview for jobs for which I haven’t been qualified (at times due to no one reading my resume beforehand). I’ve been offered abysmally-low salaries for some rather large jobs. Two administrators, in particular, have interviewed me several times apiece, in what became obvious attempts to fulfill human resources-mandated quotas instead of helping me find a decent job.

So, I’ve just told folks I am underemployed, which is a great smokescreen. See, I’ve been jerked around so much in my job search that sometimes I’ve even tired of telling my wife about it.

I don’t want to appear needier than I really am.

Everywhere I turn, it seems like people have figured out all the lessons I should learn. As with other disappointments and tragedies, there are people who believe relying more on sentimentality than the truth will cheer me up. The problem is that no one can peek around the next corner to give any real advice. Worse yet, are the scores of people (including myself) who want me to feel entitled to some position because I’ve worked so hard and earned two degrees. The most valuable are the folks who keep focusing on our relationship and the day at hand because they know they don’t have all the answers for the end of my employment problems.

While the past three years have been wrought with much frustration, most wouldn’t necessarily know it. You see, I have whole-heartedly enjoyed my work. I’ve worked with the coolest kid ever in a class filled with awesome students in their incredibly-awkward middle school years. I’ve also been blessed to have a few great co-workers who focused on student achievement. In addition to all this, a beautiful son was born almost nine months ago and the bills got paid.

I reflect on all this because I just accepted a teaching position at the Gillis Center school for next year. While I’ve taught students with Individualized Education Plans for years, this will be my first special education position. (I just obtained that certification this spring.) The population of students will be similar to many of the kids with which I’ve been working for nine years. The staff I met at the interview seems great, and the pay will be good.

I know things will not necessarily get any easier. This will be a tough job. And even though the pay will be decent, Kate won’t be staying home with Ian for at least another year. Our bills have been paid over the past three years, but we’ve not been able to do home maintenance, etc. We need to paint, trim trees and fix a foundation. There are so many things we’ve had to put off.

Getting a new job just marks the end of a long search, but we are thankful the searching is over, and we have two weeks to celebrate before school starts.

-Jonathon

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Walk on.

Sam’s painting, Birds & Wires

Less than three months ago, my friend, Sam Wagner, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I attended his funeral service this morning. He didn’t smoke, he was married with three children and he was 38.

Obviously, I’m deeply saddened and am sympathetic for his family (especially his children). But for me, I just don’t know quite how to feel because Sam and I had only started getting to know one another. We had a couple robust conversations about faith and theology, especially when, at times, they seemed out of place in the communities of artists to which we were both drawn.

We had just started listening to records together. Both ardent fans of bands like Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, The Church, Slowdive, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The Choir, we plotted out the bands we’d listen to the next time we hung out. He couldn’t wait to return to my place and listen to The Boo Radleys and The Darling Buds.

Sam was like a muse for me, encouraging my work in My Science Fiction Twin. In fact, when he was diagnosed with cancer, I hurried to finish mixing our new EP. He told me he would create the cover art for it. (I’m still not quite done with it.)

Growing up, I used to hear that some people were “so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly good.” While I think I understand that cliche’s sentiment, I still think it’s balderdash. We live this life under God’s loving gaze, and I think it’s only natural that we long to be physically united with our Creator. Sam’s in heaven now, and I’m a little envious.

-Jonathon

Ian plays and talks.

It has worked out well that Katy puts Ian to bed (usually later than I can stay up) and I get him up early. Around 5:00, I prepare him to leave with Katy to spend the day at Grandma’s house. Occasionally he will immediately fall asleep after he eats, but most mornings, he stays awake and plays.

Because some of our family has yet to hear him try to talk, I took a video of him playing on his mat yesterday morning. He is such a fun guy.

And that’s Wire’s album, Pink Flag, playing in the background.

-Jonathon

 

An uneasy empathy.

I spent a little over a year making my newest album, An Uneasy Empathy.  At times, the process was maddening:  repeatedly throwing out entire sessions for songs, re-working arrangements based on feedback from my wife and endlessly tweaking mixes so they sounded good on something besides my studio monitors.

Art can be made in isolation, but I don’t know that isolation always makes good art.  I hope this album reflects where I have been the past two years.  I’ve embraced friends, struggled with identity, ignored my wife, battled misperceptions and tore into the New Order catalog.  I feel like this may be my strongest batch of lyrics, but they certainly don’t make me look good.  When I hear myself sing,  “How quickly I rely on emotions when I forget just who I am,” I am floored and question how I ever got to a place where I would make such an admission.

I probably should not pull back the proverbial curtain too much.  You will understand the album; it’s not so cerebral that it’s not enjoyable.  I hope you enjoy it.  (And hopefully, if you enjoy it, you will buy a copy.  All proceeds go to support our cloth diaper fund.)

-Jonathon

Wasting my time.

Lately, I’ve been reconsidering what it means to waste time. So much of what I do never gets any results (that I desire), whether it’s completing numerous job applications, exhorting friends to love their families or even tweaking guitar tones.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Perhaps I should find more meaning in these seemingly mundane activities. Perhaps I derive too much meaning from results. Perhaps my desire to control has devalued my enjoyment of many experiences.

Obviously, there are many things that waste time. I probably indulge in many things that are, indeed, a waste. (Staying up late to listen to weird German music or reading interviews with Elton John come to mind.) I know what I should spend my time on; I guess I sometime struggle with feeling good about those choices.

***

I wrote that a few days ago, but I feel compelled to follow up with quoting a few paragraphs from Os Guinness’ Prophetic Untimeliness (which I just finished reading).

If we define all that we are before our great Caller and live our lives before on audience–the Audience of One–then we cannot define or decide our own achievements and our own success…

How do we each react when we find that our noblest dreams and most profound strivings are staring in the face of failure?  Never for one moment must we allow ourselves an excuse to ease up in  pursuing God’s call.  Not for a second can we think of taking the bitter pill of apparent failure and sugarcoating it with rationalizations about the difficult times in which we live.

God knew the times in which he called us to live, and he alone knows the outcome of our times as he knows the outcome of our lives and our work.  Our “failures” may be his success.  Our “settbacks” may prove his turning points.  Our “disasters” may turn out to be his triumphs.  What maters for us is that his gifts are our calling.

So every day our work is like a prayer.  And every day we give back all we can of God’s gifts to him–with love, and trust, and hope.

That is, indeed, encouraging.

-Jonathon

Dude …

As summer gets into full swing, we’re now halfway (21 weeks or so) into the journey that is preparing for the arrival of our baby. Everything has gone well so far. I’ve been tired, but not had a lot of morning sickness. At each doctor visit, the baby has had a good heart beat and we both seem healthy. Jon and I have made a few purchases, and been given some amazing things, and can’t believe the wonderful deals and great gifts we’ve stumbled into recently. We are very, very thankful for all of this.

Jon can now officially use his "dude date" phrase

The reason we are posting this little update today is because we have some pretty exciting news. Today was an ultrasound day. So many people have asked if we would find out the gender, and we were able to do just that this afternoon. I won’t keep anyone in suspense, after all, the title of this post gives it away … we are having a boy! 🙂

Our little guy wasn’t too cooperative for pictures today, but he did let us see right away that we have a boy coming this fall. We’re putting two photos up for all to see. They are the best two we got. He was moving around a lot during the ultrasound, but stayed kind of curled up most of the time, and never gave the tech gave enough of every view she wanted. At least you get to see how we found out he’s a boy, and see his face, which he briefly turned right towards us.

a first look from our son

We’re pretty excited. We’ve tended to think more in terms of a boy than a girl, and so it was fun to find out that maybe we had some intuition about things that was right. But beyond learning that we will have a boy, it was amazing to see how he’s growing and that everything seems to be developing as it should be for the most part. Even with his body not usually being in the best position for the ultrasound, the tech was still able to point out everything she was looking for and tell us that he’s just over one pound in weight. It was an incredible afternoon.

So, now we’re looking forward to picking out a name and more fully planning for life with our son. We’ll keep you all posted once there’s more news. Have a wonderful July 4th holiday weekend!

~ K

2010’s reading list

I don’t really consider myself to be an avid reader of anything but record album liner notes.  I know too many voracious readers to think highly of my own reading lists, but I was a little surprised when I compiled one for a recent job application for a Christian school.  I averaged about one book a month.  (I probably would have read more if I hadn’t recorded two solo albums last year.)

Q:  What books have you read in the past 12 months? Please provide a complete list of titles and authors. Include a brief report on the book that had the greatest impact on you and why.

A:  Alright, in no particular order…

  • Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance by Os Guinness
  • Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures (Thirty Three and a Third Series) by Chris Ott
  • The Foolishness of God by Ferenc Visky
  • While Waiting by George E. Verrilli and Anne Marie Mueser
  • Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden
  • The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in an Age of Self-Obsession by Mark Sayers
  • The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life by Simon Goddard
  • A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller
  • Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter by Michelle Mercer
  • Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige
  • The Church: One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic by Richard D. Phillips, Phillip G. Ryken and Mark E. Dever
  • Psychedelic Furs: Beautiful Chaos by Dave Thompson

Because of the wide variety of books, it is difficult to decide which book packed the biggest punch. (How do you really compare the impact of a books about pregnancy, theology and obscure eighties British rock bands? They’re all important, right?) The book that impacted me the most was probably Paul E. Miller’s A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. At first glance, it seemed like another cheesy, christian-y book about prayer.

What I found, however, was that Miller wasn’t afraid to attack his pride and self-sufficiency that results in cynicism, hampering his dependency on God. Because my wife got pregnant while we read the book she and and I began to see ourselves in his story, as Miller described his dependence on God in parenting.

-Jonathon

Spend an evening with The Jonathon Smith Experience!

I’m playing another set of acoustic, mostly original songs from 7:00-9:00pm on Saturday, July 2, 2011, at Main Street Coffee House.  I’m rather excited about playing a chill set in the middle of a busy holiday weekend.

For the first time ever, I will play a small set of cover songs. So far, I’ve worked up songs by Nick Lowe, Jim Reeves, Porter Wagoner and John Denver. Maybe I’ll dig for some more old country tunes…who knows? Anyway, here are a couple of my original songs I’ll play.

And another…

The show is free, and the coffeeshop is at 107 South Main Street in Independence.  I hope to see you there!

-Jonathon