Thursday, February 4, 2010

in between

ok, Little Ones,
i have to pause in telling each of your stories because a lot happened between having Peyton & having Charter - even though it was only a 23 month span.
It wasn't long after Peyton was born that that old mill *did* shut it's doors & we were left without an income - & we weren't quite sure what we should do next.
First, let me go way back in time though & fill you in a bit on your daddy. Maybe there are some things you don't know about him yet.
For Dad, school wasn't an easy thing. Maybe he was being lazy, having too much fun, unmotivated - but for whatever reason, he didn't get great grades throughout his public school education. When he graduated, he didn't apply to different colleges & universities - he applied at a construction site & worked hard every single day - rain or shine.
That's when we got married.
He jokes that he went to the "School of Luv".
He wasn't even a full year out of highschool, he didn't really know what he was going to do with his career & now he also had a wife & little baby to support. We were living in Kelowna & the cost of living was high & there wasn't a ton of job security so dad made the call that we would move out to Manitoba where he could get a good job at the mill there.
Seeing my husband, your father, work at his job - (he told me his first job there was basically to sweep the floors - for 12 hour shifts) - i saw a light bulb go on for him. He became interested in how the mill worked, who had the ability to maximise production - how were management decisions made? What managers effectively managed their crews to have the best outcomes?
He worked there for a couple years, working his way up to "paint booth operator" all the while, watching and learning... His supervisors loved his willingness to work hard & his commitment to giving his all to whatever job he was given. They could see that here was a guy who wanted to 'move up'. After a couple years though, he saw that moving up was going to be a slow laborious process, as he had been hired later than most of the long time residents of that small town. The mill was HUGE & promotions were given based on seniority. He decided to find a smaller mill. One where he could get in on the ground floor & work his way up into management. He started phoning around, asking questions & finally sent his resume to a small strawboard mill that was starting up in central Alberta. When he got offered the job as foreman, i knew he was going to take it - even though it meant a substantial pay *decrease* and the cost of moving for us to go. The money meant little to Neil... It was now the career that he was after... he figured if he could get the opportunities and experience, the money could come later.
i think Daddy learned more in the next 2 years than most guys do in University. i watched him try everything and anything to make that mill money - & to no avail. At the end, he could see why things didn't work & the lessons he learned there have been invaluable to him... He has always said, "You can learn as much, if not more from a bad situation as from a good one..."
It was heartbreaking to see him work so hard for something that ultimately failed, but i think that the time spent there showed me even more of the character of the man i married. When the mill finally did shut it's doors - he was out the next day pouring concrete sidewalks, building a barn, doing odd jobs... Anything to keep from collecting EI. i was frustrated with his stubbornness. i had a new baby & going on EI seemed a tempting option to me, at least until he could find something we could live off of - & yet in my heart of hearts i was also very proud. He would come home tired & dirty & discouraged... but he felt strongly that as long as he had a body that could work & someone willing to pay him to do it, it was his responsibility to get out there & provide for his little family. When he would get home, he would make phone calls, work on his resume, follow job leads... It wasn't long till he got offered another job up north. It seemed like a dream job. The money was great (from our youthful perspective), it was a brand new mill & it looked to be a great opportunity. Daddy packed us up and we dropped Cai & Sloanie off at Granny & Grampsie's house & we drove all the way up north with baby Peyton to check it out.
Way up north.
Way, way up north.
He went to interviews all day & i checked out the town.
i tried to find all the positive things i could (did i mention how far north this little town was?), i phoned churches, read up on the community & looked at real estate so i could have something good to say to him when he got back - including the midnight golf tournament they held once a year because the sun only set for minutes...
But when he got back, he surprised me...
"i don't think this is where we're supposed to raise our family, Paige..."
It didn't make any logical sense. We didn't have a lot of options - & he did get a great offer. He would be working with some people he already knew, who liked him & who he liked...
But, i had grown to really trust him in our short marriage, so i didn't say much... & he turned down that offer & kept looking.
It wasn't long till he found what he was looking for... i remember that he phoned & asked if he could come in for an interview. The job was 6 hours away & i heard him ramble on some story about how he would "be in the neighbourhood" & would "love an opportunity to come and see the mill." He knew he was young & that his resume was short. He felt like if he could get in there & meet with them in person, he just might have a shot.
He was right.
He made the drive up there & arrived with his big smile & firm handshake and they hired him the next day.
After a month of living apart - him already moved to a new town & a new job, & me packing up our happy little house & looking after our 3 little girlies - he came to get us & bring us to our new home - a tiny 4-plex in another sweet little small town.
8 months later, we moved into our very own house - & we found out then, that there was another baby on the way...


Carol said...

What a touching story!

Anonymous said...

Credit goes where credit is due... Kudos to Neil for working at whatever he could find to do... unfortunately I know some Dads that don't have that attitude and are happy to sit around collecting a government cheque while not networking to better their situation. It's all in the attitude and it's terrific that your Neil has a good one!

Looking forward to hearing Charter's story...

Saskatchewan Cousin

Mindy said...

I really enjoyed reading this! You must be so proud of Neil for his work ethic. Thanks for sharing the "in between."

Jen said...

I guess this is what you were writing this morning at 5! I'm not looking forward to the coming insomnia...
I like reading about your life when we didn't keep in touch for those few years.

Melissa said...

I am thoroughly enjoying reading these, Paige... you have such a gift...

I remember these years!

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