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They say (you know, that infamous and anonymous “they”) that “home is where the heart is.” Well, I’ve been traveling so much over the past almost three years just looking for a job that it’s a good thing in my case that my “home” is wherever I physically happen to be. And for me, once my mother died back in Iowa in 1983, it’s not a particular place but rather it’s any place I happen to be. If she hadn’t died back then, my life would have taken a very different turn as I never would have left her alone in Iowa. She was divorced and in poor health, and I loved her very much. But with her death I gained a freedom I didn’t even know was waiting for me and at that time I ended up going back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree (at 31); then I completed a master’s degree (at 39); and then I was awarded a doctoral fellowship at 40 and move to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in June 1992, and the rest, as that infamous and anonymous “they” say, is history . . . .
As you know if you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, I left for Houston, Texas, at the end of September 2014 and was planning to stay there long term. Well, I did stay for 14 weeks (just a little over three months) but I have returned to Florida this past week as it was clearly obvious after that amount of time that no door was going to open up for me any time soon, and by the time the New Year rolled around, the sunshine was starting to disappear, too. Reminds me of a song sung by Joe Cocker (originally sung by Bill Withers) titled, “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone . . .” (see YouTube video below of the song sung by Joe Cocker). Well, as that sunshine was starting to disappear in Houston for the winter (it comes and goes at this time of year, as do the warmer temps), I decided it was time to come back to the Land of Sunshine (Florida) after spending 14 weeks in the Houston area with no door of opportunity opening to me during those three months (and I spent a considerable amount of time looking and asking and seeking and knocking, to no avail). When I left Orlando on September 26, 2014, I told myself I would stay at least until the New Year or longer depending on what did or did not develop while I was there. Well, long story short and after much searching, nothing opened up for me in those three plus months, so I headed back to the warmer climate of Florida on January 2, 2015. And I think I have finally gotten Houston out of my system.
You’d have thought I would have learned that lesson the first time around when I lost that ill-fated job there; but I didn’t blame it on the city and I did like Houston despite the job, but I just guess Houston doesn’t like me, so I’m done for now. On the way back I spent a couple of day in Biloxi, MS, in a hotel right on the Gulf. It is such a beautiful area and I just love stopping there when I’m traveling through Mississippi. And, I arrived back in Orlando late Sunday night, January 4, 2015.
After spending my entire time in Houston living in weekly-rate hotels, I am again living in a weekly-rate hotel here in Orlando as my friend who lent me her spare bedroom this past spring/summer had given it away to someone else while I was gone, and that came as no surprise to me. I appreciated the time I stayed there but I’ve been looking for my own place for a while now ever since I lost my apartment in New Port Richey at the end of March due to new owners buying the house where it was located and hiking my rent higher then I could really afford long term. Now if I can just find someone to give me that extraordinarily elusive job I’ve been looking for for almost six years now, I can find a decent place of my own again. I had no idea how hard it was going to be to find another place to rent after leaving my apartment in New Port Richey, and it’s been impossible to find an apartment to rent on my social security income as it’s too low to be considered at a regular apartment complex and the low-income senior apartment complexes all have long waiting lists of up to a year or longer. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Well, I’ve been there on the unemployment front for almost six years now, so I now get to add housing to that list.
My three plus months in Houston were interesting to say the least but I’ll save that for a later blog post. Suffice it to say I’m writing now just to let you know I’m back in Florida again. And the weather has been outstanding here this past week, too. Bring it on (the sunshine and warm temps, I mean). No wonder folks come here to live in the wintertime.
As you know from an recent post titled, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” published on December 23, 2014, I’m a big Joe Cocker fan, and I was very sad when I read that he had died on December 22, 2o14 at the age of 70 from lung cancer. However, in memory of him and also in celebration of my return to Florida after three plus months in Houston (I was honestly expecting to stay in Houston long term when I left Orlando back in September), here he is to sing, “Ain’t No Sunshine.” So, without further ado . . . . Sing it, Joe . . .
YouTube Video: “Ain’t No Sunshine” sung by Joe Cocker (1944-2014):
I left Orlando, Florida, on September 26, 2014, after spending six months there and headed for Houston, Texas. I had no idea what might be waiting for me in Houston, but I was determined to find out. I’ve never been able to get Houston out of my mind ever since I lived here six years ago for exactly one year (September 25, 2008 to September 25, 2009), even though the job I relocated to Houston for turned out to be the biggest bust career-wise in my entire life. And, it has also left me unemployed for the past 5 1/2+ years now. But I didn’t blame the city. No, it’s not Houston’s fault. I just landed in a really bad place to work. But I fell in love with the city.
So I came back . . . .
I don’t know what I expected to find as I made the 18-hour drive back to Houston, but I love taking road trips so I was full of anticipation. I’ve been looking for a wide open door for the past 5 1/2 years and so far I haven’t found it no matter how hard I’ve looked and tried. I’ve even tried to wedge it open on my own a few times only to discover I couldn’t do it. Everybody needs a little help at times, but I just wasn’t finding it. But I’m not a quitter, and I don’t give up. So I decided to take my search back to where the bad stuff (long term unemployment) all began when I lost that job in Houston in April 2009.
And Texas is certainly a big enough state to find a wide open door . . .
The first thing I went looking for when I arrived over six weeks ago was inexpensive housing. I checked out all the “room for rent” ads as well as apartments and temporary sublets on Craigslist and in other sources and answered a bunch of them. The response, unfortunately, was practically zilch; and of the few who did respond, the price was too high on the first one and I was also expected to share a bathroom with three other tenants (are you kidding me???) in a house in The Woodlands, and the second person who responded with a cryptic email stating, “Can show on Wednesday,” never wrote back when I responded asking for a time and location so I could look at the room for rent. Another couple of responses directed me go to “Roomster.com” to find them and once I got there, I discovered that after I created an account it is not a free service as one has to pay a fee to contact those folks advertising rooms for rent. And it’s not cheap, either.
I also checked out apartment complexes, especially those that catered to seniors and low income (I qualify for both) and found waiting lists a mile long (well, of up to a year or longer). And all the time I’ve been doing this I’ve been staying at weekly-rate hotels. Weekly-rate hotels are much cheaper than staying at a regular hotel but still very pricey overall when compared to rent on an apartment, but I’m unemployed and living on a very limited income (social security) that isn’t enough income to qualify to rent a regular apartment.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place . . . .
Also, being a “new” senior on social security now that I turned the magic age of 62 of few months ago, I could officially apply for low-income senior housing. Someone I had talked with in the past couple of weeks suggested an “Interfaith” organization as a place where I might find some help, so this past Wednesday I visited that organization and got a two-page list of apartments in the area (including several senior, low-income and “Section 8 subsidized–HUD–housing”) so I started down the list calling a bunch of them. Most had waiting lists or the rent was too high, but I decided to visit three of them in The Woodlands as I really like that particular suburb in the Houston area. The first place I visited was absolutely huge, and the woman I talked with was very friendly. I told her I was new to all this “senior” stuff and she gave me a lot of information including the 30-page HUD application. 30 pages!!! I thanked her for the information and then visited the other two complexes that were nearby and much smaller (I really liked the third complex the best–a small complex with 66 units and a very cozy feeling–but with a waiting list of up to a year). And, I got a copy of the HUD application from them, too. I have to tell you that one look at that application is a bit discouraging. And I don’t like anyone nosing into my business to that extent–talk about an invasion of privacy!
Now before I go any further I want to mention that I am an able bodied U.S. citizen who has been actively seeking work (in and outside of my career field) for the past 5 1/2 years since the day after I was fired in April 2009. Also, I didn’t want to have to take Social Security at 62. I want to WORK!!! And I can earn a whole lot more money working then living off of my small social security check, and that is exactly what I want to do, too!!! There should be no need for me to have to apply for and live in public housing if someone will just give me a break, a break I’ve been actively seeking for over 5 1/2 years now!!!
With that being said, I took the three applications back to the weekly-rate hotel where I had been staying for the past three weeks and decided to give it some serious thought as to what I wanted to do over the weekend. My last week’s stay at this particular weekly-rate hotel ended on Friday (two days ago) at noon, and I made the decision to leave there on Friday instead of staying for a fourth week. I planned to get an inexpensive hotel room for a couple of days in order to not be tied into an entire week at a weekly-rate hotel. There is no refund if one leaves before the end of the week (which starts on the day the room is rented). I needed to decide whether or not to stay another week in Houston since most of the housing options that I could afford required the 30-page HUD application and up to a one-year wait to get into an apartment. And, where am I supposed to live while I’m waiting on somebody’s list to be called? Answering “room for rent” ads has gone absolutely nowhere for six weeks now, and I can’t afford the weekly-rate hotels long-term on my social security checks. I never expected for it to take this long to find some type of affordable housing (especially a “room for rent” in a home).
Well, Friday and most of Saturday I spent time trying to decide whether to stay in Houston after six weeks of going nowhere fast or leave, and on Saturday I did some extensive driving around Houston in other areas as up to this point I had primarily been looking in the North Houston, Spring, The Woodlands, and Conroe areas. I had responded to ads in other parts of the city, too, over the weeks I’ve been here and that’s when I got the “Go to Roomster.com” response. I drove over to the west side of Houston including the Cypress and Katy areas and then decided to take at look at the east side of Houston in the Baytown area. So I hopped on I-10 which is the main interstate that cuts right through the heart of Houston as it’s the quickest way to get from the west side to the east side of the city, and just as I was approaching the downtown area in massive traffic (and it wasn’t even rush hour as it was Saturday) every vehicle traveling on I-10 came to a screeching halt and at that point it was an incredibly slow crawl for what seemed like miles on end. Finally, I noticed a big sign off to the left that said, “I-10 closed on Nov 7th and Saturday (8th).” I couldn’t believe it. They closed a main artery through Houston that close to a million vehicles travel on on a daily basis? Whoa . . . The mass of traffic at a standstill or slow crawl stretched as far as the eye could see.
Well, I happened to be in the left lane of traffic and noticed a sign for the exit to I-59 North that was just up ahead on the left. I-59 North goes back to the northeast section of Houston so I decided to take it and get out of the mess on I-10. As I approached FM 1960 (a main road in the North Houston area) I exited on FM 1960 and ended up in Humble which is only a few miles from where I had been staying in that weekly-rate hotel.
By this time I was tired and hungry and sick of all the traffic jams, and I knew I just wanted to find a room for the night and get off the road for a while. I noticed a sign for a hotel sort of hidden off the main road and decided to turn in and check it out. The nightly rate was way out of my price range and I almost left but instead asked if they had a weekly rate. Well, the weekly rate was a much better deal and not all that much more than I was paying at the previous weekly-rate hotel I’d been staying in for the past three weeks. And this particular hotel is brand new and just opened a week ago for business (it’s part of a chain), and the manager asked me if I wanted to look at a room. I said, “Sure!”
Well, when the manager opened the door to the room my jaw almost dropped open. It is huge and beautiful and everything in it is new. It has a sofa and coffee table, king-size bed, a small refrigerator and microwave and 42″ HD TV with a bunch of cable stations on an entertainment center, a desk and chair, and the quality of the furnishings is excellent. And, it has a 12′ high ceiling. And it’s also beautifully designed and very colorful. I asked him again what the weekly rate was as I could hardly believe I was getting all of this for what he quoted me considering I paid only a little less for far less (and a much smaller room) at the weekly-rate hotel I stayed at just a few miles down the same road to the west. Without even blinking an eye I said, “I’ll take it!”
So here I am for this next week . . .
Maybe things are starting to look up after six weeks. At least they look pretty darn good right now in this hotel room. While I don’t know what this next week (my seventh week) in Houston holds for me, I’m glad I didn’t leave when I felt so discouraged on Friday or Saturday. There’s a saying that’s been around for a long time now and I’m not sure where it originated, but it goes like this:
Yes, it is . . . “it’s always too soon to quit.” As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’m not a quitter, even when I get discouraged. And despite the obstacles I’ve found in my first six weeks here, there was something deep inside of me that said I wasn’t ready to give up on Houston just yet. But at this point in time I needed a sign to show me what to do as I honestly didn’t know what to do yesterday. I knew as I headed toward the east side of Houston on I-10 that it wouldn’t take much to just keep on going on I-10 back to Florida and throw in the towel. It’s really hard to know how to make the right decision when one is feeling discouraged. And, if it had not been for that huge mess on I-10 yesterday I would have most likely ended up on the east side of Houston and quite possibly just kept on going at that point. Fortunately, I couldn’t leave that way as the interstate was closed, so I hopped on I-59 North to get out of that mess which took me back to the area of Houston I really like, and I found this hotel in the midst of it. And it was the sign I needed to remind me that “it’s always too soon to quit.”
This morning I read a devotion I received via email from “Leading the Way,” titled, “Not Limiting God,” and it was a great reminder to me to never limit God even in the midst of feeling major discouragement while being in the middle of a huge traffic jam. Here is that devotion:
It’s natural to look out for number one. But this focus on self takes us off course in our walk of faith. We may profess devotion and obedience to God, yet we seldom are willing to give up anything for Him. In Genesis 22, we see that Abraham was told to give up not just a little something—he was told to give up his long-awaited and treasured son, Isaac.
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you’” (Genesis 22:1-2).
Can you imagine the pain of hearing those words? After years of waiting for his promised son, Abraham had now been called to sacrifice him. Most of us would claim that we had misheard God. We would try to bargain with Him or to run and hide our beloved treasure from Him. Yet the Bible gives no indication that Abraham put up a fight.
How could he go along with such a plan? Abraham’s faith was bigger than his fear of losing his son forever. After a lifetime of lessons in his walk of faith, Abraham had finally learned to not limit God with human thinking.
Prayer: God, help me to be totally surrendered to You and Your plan for my life. Help me not to put my human limits on who You are and what You can do, for You are far greater than I can even imagine. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?” (Job 36:23).
I don’t know what this next week holds, but I know Who holds it in His hands. I just have to keep my hands off of it and let each day unfold as I leave it with Him to guide me. One thing I keep learning over and over again especially during these past 5 1/2 years of wandering around in the land of the unemployed is that God is always up to something, even when we can’t see it or know what it is He is doing. His ways are, indeed, not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).
If someone in my reading audience is going through a season of discouragement, I hope this post has given you a bit of encouragement. I’ve had my share of discouragement and disappointments during these past six weeks in Houston (as I’ve had during these past 5 1/2 years of unemployment), but I’ve learned over and over again to let go of what I want (my wants are so very few anymore) or think should be happening by now and hold nothing back from God (including those things and/or people that have become my “Isaac”), and let Him guide me. And it’s at that point that He brings the most unexpected surprises (even in really small things and not just in the big things). I had reached that point yesterday when I was just not sure what to do as I drove across I-10 in the middle of Houston and right into that massive traffic jam that took me on a detour I never expected but greatly appreciated. I never would have guessed that another week’s stay in a really cool and beautiful hotel room (much, much cooler than any of the others I’ve stayed at while I’ve been here) was even on the radar screen. And even the name of this hotel has His fingerprints all over it–Palace Inn in Humble, Texas.
God’s leading really is a “moment-by-moment” thing. At just the point I was tempted to quit, He provided the answer in a way I never expected, and He gave me hope when I felt like hope was slipping through my fingers. Proverbs 3:5-6 states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” That’s “moment-by-moment” guidance, and it’s not just in the big decisions in life but in the everyday decisions we make, too; even in the tiniest of decisions. So if you happen to be carrying a load of discouragement right now and are at the point of quitting, remember these three things . . .
Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . .
And do not lean on your own understanding . . .
And let God lead the way “moment-by-moment” . . . .
YouTube Video: “Something in the Water” (2014) by Carrie Underwood: