Paul is home. He walked out of the airport, fully bearded, with a scrape across his nose, and thinner, but he looked like an angel to us. We picked him and Sky up about 5:30 a.m., ate a huge breakfast, picked Dagne up from a sleepover at the SJs, and headed straight home. Paul showered, napped, and then, we tossed the paddle board into the van to try it out on the lake. On the way, we deposited the fishing money into the bank, put new tires on the car and checked its alignment, and then picnicked at the lake. The paddle board is a reason to fight. We all want to play on it. The girls, because they are lighter, easily balance on it. Paul fell a few times, trying to get the hang of it. I had tried it once before, fully clad in a wet suit too big for me. The waterlogged wet suit made me feel heavy and out of balance, so I fell in too. After ridding myself of the extra weight, the board was a breeze. I tested out standing like a surfer, but then transferred to a regular stance because it seemed to be easier to paddle and kept the board more on top of the water.

The next morning was all business … I mean what are we going to do? business. Paul shaved his beard. I applied for more jobs for him. He wrote down all the places to where he applied, and now we plan to make trips in those directions, hoping to shake hands with principals, and put a face to the application. That’s how we’ve gotten jobs before. In Umatilla, the superintendent ushered Paul out to the principals who were fishing in the Columbia River. They conducted an interview right on the river bank, the principal smoking his pipe. I’m sure the setting put Paul at his ease and helped him to interview better. It’s those panels where all the interviewers surround you in a U that chokes Paul up. For Mt. Bachelor Academy, it was the same. Paul walked in, shook hands, they interviewed him and hired him right there.

It’s that human contact that seems to help the employer to actually look at the application. The scary thing is that those opportunities happened a long time ago — it seems like in a different world. Now, with the joblessness, people are more desperate and what used to look like initiative may be just bothersome. But, what to do? Paul really needs a job, and how else will he get noticed? He’s got to give it a try.

Also, there’s the stigma working against him. Before, he was a young, idealistic graduate with a little family, trying to get some experience. Now, he’s experienced, expensive, and riffed. Will they be suspicious because he got riffed? It was only because it was his first year in the district, but will they understand? Will they not want to hire him because he’s on a high step on the payscale? Will they look at his experience as being a stuck-in-the-mud, rather than an asset? These are questions that will only be answered with time and effort.

The lawyer called me regarding the hearing. He advised me on how to handle it. His recommendation is to seek more time in the house through mediation. He seemed to think that we are only delaying the inevitable.

With my reason, I understood this and thanked him for his good advice. But my heart bobbed on the surface of hope like a buoy. Isn’t it interesting how the heart and soul is designed for hope? That with all signs of disaster coming at you, we dare to hope that we’ll be an exception, that a last-minute answer will rescue us, that at that cliff-hanger moment, we’ll be snatched from the snare or released from the trap? It’s strange to me how effortlessly my thoughts fly in that direction, how optimistic my being is. I always feel that, just around the corner, an “aha” moment awaits me which will be the missing key to all that has been locked away and out of reach.

So, though all signs say it is over, that I’m only delaying the inevitable end, I still plan to attend that hearing and state our case, with the wild and inexplicable hope that something will save us. I warn myself to not have such expectations. That they are silly and girlish. But my heart won’t listen. It just beats in expectancy, wishing for a rescue, hoping for an escape.

This is the gift. While there is hope, there is life. If the cares of this world threaten to drown us, our souls are built for survival, and instinct tell us to swim up, to break through the surface, to breathe, and look for shore.

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