This is a song of hope.

The last few months haven't been the rosiest around here for me and mine. Let's see -- we've had hurricanes, a layoff, a subsequent job search through a market with all the fertility of a sidewalk, a breast cancer scare, wifey's job cutback, wallet-draining car problems (which, believe it or not, can be traced back to the hurricanes), massive money problems and a marriage drifting in the shallows, heading for the rocks.

I kept thinking, "I've got to catch a break somewhere. Someone's got to give me a chance."

One morning while the house still slept, I made coffee and toasted some bread, exhausted by fear and tears feebly bracketing thin sleep, and the way out crashed in my mind like a box of glass: I'd give myself my own chance.

For the past five years I have tried to earn some sort of tech job above the status of call center flunky, a sad sack just backing up a glitchy automated phone system. Why not try something new? If I'm going to work hard, why not at something I would do for nothing? So I hatched plans for a bakery.

Nothing fancy at first. Ten items tops -- muffins, pastries, Vix's killer cheesecakes and, of course, breads like no one else makes. Breads that make one shout, "Take me now, Jesus, I can go no higher!!"

We scouted out some places, looked in to financing, looked again at our checking account. Hmmm. Either a second job or a new job was in store. A second job was out -- when would I see my family? (RunningHammer: "Who is that man who keeps taking a shower here?") So I started interviewing again, this time with restaurants. I do not at all want to go that route, but I thought of it as shopping for a refresher course before I started my own place.

My reasoning was this: If five years of recent programming, database and varied technical experience can't get me a job, what have I got to lose by brushing the dust off a 10-year old restaurant management resume? Nothing, as it turns out.

I have had nine interviews in the past six weeks, everything from fast food to delis to fine dining. Three of them want me back for second interviews, and I'm not really trying. Hell, I'm too old to care about impressing anyone but myself.

But wait, there's more.

The call center job that I took in October to keep pasta in the pantry and milk in the fridge, the one that promised I'd earn what I did in my last job but is in fact paying thousands less, the one that said I'd be in development or QA after the holidays, has become a place I can't wait to get to in the morning. Like the set of keys found once you've decided to stop searching, it started looking good once my mind was out the door.

Part of it, I'm sure, was the fact that the temp agency sold my contract to the company. No thrilling goose in pay, but the chance for advancement. Until three weeks ago, I started to have doubts about even that. It was bakery or bust as far as I was concerned. Then my boss called me in to her office.

She and some other managers wanted to start a technical services team within the call center, basically taking on all the troubles the reps were having and solving them in the most efficent and effective way possible. She wanted to know if I wanted to be the technical writer for the group. Before I could think about it, I said yes.

"And by the way, do you know anything about building a web site?" she said, adding that she wanted one about the team on the company's intranet.

Honestly, but proudly, I stated I knew just enough HTML to get in trouble.

"The job is yours," she said.

Now I spend my days writing case studies, training manuals, project overviews and summaries, policies and procedures, oddly enough loving every minute of it. My boss and her boss think everything I do is perfect. They accept my ideas as an equal. They have even presented me with another opportunity in a different department at the risk of losing me from theirs because they believe I'm right for the job.

This is the first time in five years I've enjoyed going to work.

Ripples from this reach far shores. Bright waves of my cheerier outlook and the promise of extra cash have pushed the sturdy but battered S.S. Lovejoy and Vixen away from the shoals and toward deeper steady channels. We lucked in to a new car, and I have approved overtime. I have the happy dilemna of deciding between writing and baking.

I've thought about how all this started with a decision to break the inertia, getting pissed off enough to try something that may not work but I don't really give a shit because anything's better than grinding my teeth to nervous stumps. There's a jewel-encrusted web of interdependence that's blinding to even glance at and of which I am probably the undeserving recipient. I am, however, going to keep dancing on the weave.

Today I turn five away from 50. Things are looking up, and there is so much to do, so much to learn. What a difference a year and a week make.

Sure don't know what I'm goin' for
But I'm gonna go for it for sure