Friday, June 12, 2009

The Hales' Journey, part 15: Setting down...twice!

Tommy tries his hand at making cookies while Becky, a cousin, and Debbie's mom look on. Today, cookies; tomorrow, prosphora!

I had quit my preaching job and accepting a teaching job at a public high school in the Houston area. The only problem was that I had to be in Houston for training, starting in June, but my paychecks weren’t going to start arriving until August. So we had to account for two months of no income.

Well, that isn’t strictly true. I was teaching an online class that summer, so we had a little bit of money coming in – but it wasn’t much. We had saved for several months before we moved, in anticipation of the situation. We certainly couldn’t afford to move to Houston and start paying rent or a mortgage while I was receiving minimal income. At the same time, we still owned our home in Virginia, as it had not sold before we left.

To save money, we moved in with Debbie’s sister and her family in San Antonio. Each week, when I had training (three days per week, if I remember correctly) I would drive to Houston for training and Fr. James was good enough to put me up at night. I did that through the last part of June and most all of July.

In late June we received an offer on our house in Virginia. It took until mid-August to actually close, but it finally did. So we had that weight off of our shoulders. But the high cost of fuel, some unexpected expenses, plus normal living ate away our savings. By the time August arrived, we were pretty much flat broke.

About a week before school started (and I got my first paycheck), we found a house in Houston to rent. We borrowed some money from Debbie’s mom and rented it. We moved in two days before I had to report for work at my high school. Those first few weeks were tight, but we scrimped and made it.

On the church front, on most Saturdays, I attended Vespers at St. Joseph’s with Fr. James and then left from there to return to San Antonio. On Sunday morning, our whole family would get up and attend St. Ephraim’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, where Fr. John Mefrige serves as pastor. Again, we found a warm and welcoming Church family. In fact, a couple of the members had been at the Antiochian mission that we had attended a few years before (when Debbie was still anti-Orthodox) and they remembered us. We were welcomed with open arms. It was our first regular attendance at the Divine Liturgy as a family. It was wonderful.

But we knew that it was still not our final destination. We would be attending St. Joseph’s once we were in Houston. And once we did get moved in late August, we began attending St. Joseph’s. We began to attend Fr. Matthew’s Catechumen class. Debbie took notes like a mad woman. Each week we would talk on the drive home about the things that we had learned.

This went on for the rest of the year, until Christmas time. By then, we were entrenched at St. Joseph’s and had made several friends. Things were going very well regarding our conversion to Orthodoxy.

The job front was a different story. I entered the job with a little trepidation, I admit. I wasn’t excited about teaching in high school. The job was not as bad as I had feared and I enjoyed the people that I worked with. But I really was not enjoying my teaching experience. It was very different from what I had experienced teaching for the community colleges.

So Debbie and I decided that I would start looking for that college job that I had really wanted to begin with. My expectation was that I would apply for jobs for the following school year (meaning that I would start the new job, hopefully, in September of 2009). I saw that several of the community colleges in the Houston area were hiring English teachers, so I applied to them. Most of them were beginning the hiring process for the 2009-10 school year.

Sometimes schools don’t list when the job will open and you have to guess. Since it was normal for schools to start the hiring process in the late fall for the following school year, I just assumed that was the case in the jobs I applied for. Of the three or four jobs I applied to, only one responded. They set up the interview via phone. It was during the Christmas break, so it didn’t interfere with my school responsibilities.

Once I arrived at the interview, I was told that the job would open in January. I was in a quandary. I had a contract with the high school. But I figured that I wouldn’t get offered the job anyway. They were interviewing several people and my experience really wasn’t that much. But, they offered me the job.

Debbie and I prayed about it and decided that I should accept it. So I did. I went in and spoke with my principal at the high school, once the job offer was official. She agreed to release me from my contract and wished me well. I think she knew that I really wanted to teach at the community college level.

So in January of this year, I started another new job at a community college that is about an hour west of Houston. We moved to a town that was about 15 or 20 minutes closer to St. Joseph’s than the college is. So our commute went from being 30 minutes or so across Houston to about an hour. But that wasn’t too far for us.

Casa de Hale (numero dos) in Bellville, TX

I was finally at a job that I enjoyed and we were able to attend an Orthodox Church each week. Our journey TO Orthodoxy was winding to a close. We were scheduled to be baptized and chrismated at Pascha. That was only a couple of months away…

1 comment:

elizabeth said...

The only sad thing I find in this post is that it is getting quite near to the present times. I will miss reading this story!

So wonderful that you found a job you love!