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I keep feeling that I’ve hit the end of the line. It gets to a point when you just have no more resources within yourself left to draw on. So many jobs that he’s perfect for, so many interviews that have been nailed. So many weeks checking email and messages waiting for that offer to come and the anticipation that you swore you wouldn’t give in to after so many rejections, only to have it all dashed again. So much time wasted. Hours and hours of work that go into the résumé, the cover letter, the thank-you notes, the phone interviews, the commute into the interview, the gas and train fare, the dry cleaning bills, the networking, the printer ink… and with one terse email, it’s all been for nothing and you dont have anything else to move on to. And they don’t give you an explanation or feedback or anything, and they don’t owe you, and they even now are in a position of power over you so you can’t ask for even that one little thing; where did it go wrong? How do we start this whole process all over again?
And now we are coming into the holiday season, and we know that there is no way he is going to be working before Christmas, and companies are on hold essentially until the New Year, and every résumé you send out is even more likely to languish in some HR hell hole. But my kids are starting to notice that something is dreadfully wrong with mama and dada, and I don’t know what to tell them anymore.
It’s torture. It’s torture. I’m not overstating this. My adrenal glands are frazzled. This is torture.
I don’t really want to say anything to the Universe that might give Her a trail that She could potentially follow back to me. Sometimes She has it out for me and my family. I imagine her bowed over her cauldron saying, “Let’s test this bitch again!” I’ll just say that there could be good news on the horizon (aside from Elizabeth Warrens poll numbers) and we might be close to the end of this torment. At least, closest to the end than we have been in a year and a half. Now we are just in a holding pattern, waiting for the heavy cogs to move. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I have actually started to hold my breath so if you could collectively tell the Universe that something good should come my way, I would super appreciate it. This is the four-week countdown to the end of unemployment insurance, so it’s critical mass. The alarm bells have sounded each day at a higher frequency and at a faster rate. Let’s all hold that witchy broad at bay and keep fingers crossed.
It’s hard to be optimistic for so long. It’s hard to always try to look on the bright side. It can be rather tiring after so long to be the cheerleader. A couple of weeks ago one of our cars started bucking and the engine light went on. Since we can’t afford any big repairs, we just have been driving the other car. The other car can’t pass inspection, so it has been overdue since June. Every time I drive it, I’m scanning for cops who will pull me over and give me a fat ticket and a deadline to get it done. I know that when it happens, I’ll break down crying and I just hope they dont think that I’m being a manipulative jerk. Well, tonight it gave out. It was two hours past the kids bedtime and we were at my parents house 30 miles from home. Both cars gone. Both needing major repairs. Kids crying and whining to go home and go to bed. And we are supposed to be on the road at 7:00 the following morning to get to my nieces birthday party in New Hampshire. Sometimes it feels like every straw is the last straw.
You start to look around your house and see everything falling apart around you; doors falling of hinges, all the dinner plates are cracked, drinking out of mason jars because the glasses are broken, it gets harder to find clothes in the closet that aren’t stained and ripped. The little things keep getting bigger and pile on. There seems to be no end in sight. You wonder if you’re going to be Miss Haversham, or Norma Desmond living in your rotting castle dreaming of the past. Sometimes the pressure makes your eyes burn and when you look at your kids you panic. The future seems less bright every day that goes by, and you feel yourself giving up hope. You just feel it slipping away, and looking at what a studio apartment costs per month. If it wasn’t for the kids, this would be easy. If it wasnt for the birthday parties you are invited to and can’t afford to get presents for and hope no one notices. If it wasn’t for the weddings you have to go to two thousand miles away in 11 months, 9 months, 6 months….
You wish you could afford to be depressed. You start fantasizing about staying in bed all day and sleeping it off, taking so many Benadryl that you can just sleep and sleep until something good falls in your lap. Then, the overwhelming guilt washes through you, reminding you how horrible you are for complaining while you still have a home, and your kids still have food, and youre here complaining about not having a car when there are children in refugee camps in the Congo. How dare you, you self-indulgent jerk. You go to bed, and wake up and the cheerleader face goes right back on in the morning.
If last year was a year of canning, this has been a year of fermenting. It sounds a lot more intimidating than it really is. It’s actually quite easy and really just facilitating a natural process. almost anything can be fermented, but I’m just doing dairy and vegetables now. I think ill save the meat for the folks in Scandinavia and the Sudan. If you think you wouldn’t like fermented food, then I hate to tell you but beer, cheese, wine, coffee, chocolate, crème fresh, yogurt and sauerkraut are all fermented foods. Fermented foods are an amazingly rich and alive source of probiotics. They are so healthy for you and make your belly happy. I try to eat some every day, especially with a very protein-rich meal. They are especially important because they are amazingly cheap to make and I can easily and quickly preserve a lot of our CSA veggies for the winter, which is what this whole thing is all about anyway. Lacto-fermentation is about the most basic and primitive form of food preservation. Fermented foods saved entire cultures that did not have constant access to food year round. We have come to fear bacteria in this day and age, and making friends with and living symbiotically with bacteria is a strangely profound experience.
Anyway, here are some of my projects from the last couple of weeks in getting ready for the Slim Winter. I made a bunch of ghee from some Kerrygold butter. I love it, so I’m sure I’ll need to make more soon. I made a couple of quarts of sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented salsa. I have a bunch of turnips that I’m going to shred and ferment, and I’m sure I’ll be getting more beets from our CSA before the year is over, too. I have about five hundred huge squashes someone gave us that I roasted and pureed put up in the freezer. I made ricotta that was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted, but unfortunately after doing the math, It’s really not very cost-effective unless you also need a bunch of whey (which I do, but already have about three quarts frozen) so I don’t think I’ll be doing that one again. We also have the meat of almost an entire school of Atlantic cod, hake and haddock in the freezer from last years Community Supported Fishery which we unfortunately signed up for the months I fell pregnant with Elias and COULD NOT
TOLERATE the smell of fish, let alone the idea of eating it. Into the freezer it went. We bartered for some tasty pastured meat with some farmer/hunter friends, too so we have a bit of wild venison (and I’m looking for recipes!), bacon, sausage, medallions, roast beef and a pork shoulder.
Sometimes I feel like I’m preparing for nuclear winter. I know a lot of bloggers do the food prep thing for fun, or for health, or for experimentation. I used to do it for shits and giggles, too. The “urban homesteading” movement took off some five years ago or so, but I have found that many of the people doing it are just playing house. One can read through the comments sections of some homesteading blogs and see all kinds of gushing about paying $14 a pound for “organic, heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market” and then having a lovely afternoon just canning some purée, taking some pretty pictures on their fancy SLR and blogging about it before heading out to their graphic design job in Brooklyn or San Francisco. I enjoy reading these blogs like I enjoy watching House Hunters International- they are fun and luxurious and totally out of my world. If I didn’t have to be doing all of this, I probably wouldn’t. Because kimchi stinks.
I know people mean well (or, sometimes they don’t) but I’m a little tired of getting this question. It’s always during a lull in the conversation and brought up in a cheery, conversational tone that makes me think that it was deliberate. I know that someone saw “the job numbers” on the TV machine and though, “Gee, I wonder if [token unemployed person] has seen these. I’m going to ask them in a bland and non-offensive tone to communicate my empathy for their situation.” Yeah. It’s not working. I don’t look at “the job numbers”, because they can be interpreted in many ways, and because it doesn’t get us a job. We watched them in the beginning for signs of hope, but they never seemed to correlate with our experiences. So, if you want to help the Long Term Unemployed, don’t condescend to us. Just give some resources to your local food pantry, please. Speaking of food…
I try to do one food project each day. We are getting a glut of vegetables from our CSA now, and I’m working hard to keep as much of it as I can for the winter. In the past I have done a lot of boiling water bath canning, and some pressure canning, too but It’s hard for me to think of anything messier, more time-consuming, or hotter. I find myself dreading every canning project, especially after last summers 110# of tomatoes. Yes, it paid off when I ended up with a bookshelf in the basement full of quart jars with fresh tomatoes in them, and I only just ran out of them a couple of weeks ago. But man, that was a lot of messy work. I don’t want to deal with it again, so this year, I’ll be oven roasting and freezing some tomatoes, and packing others in oil. Much easier. I can get one bushel (which is about 54#) of sauce tomatoes for $20 at a local farm. I’m hoping to get two bushels processed before the end of the season.
Today I got a Groupon for $10 for $20 worth of meat from a local butcher, so I jumped on it and drove over there. For less than $50, I got a pound of duck fat, three pounds of freshly ground lamb that they cryo-vaced into individual packages for me to freeze, 2.5 pounds of lamb shanks, 3 ham hocks, and 2 pounds of chicken feet for stock. So everything went into the freezer except for one pound of the lamb that i made into some lamb meatballs with roasted eggplant sauce. Yum. We had everything on hand from our CSA or in the pantry, so it was almost a free meal. That always feels good.
J talked to his recruiter today who had a great job at a growing company with fantastic people that he would be perfect for……in Baton Rouge. I cried. I just refuse to believe that there isn’t something here that he would be great for. He is willing to commute to DC and NYC on the shuttle. He is more than willing to telecommute with some travel to a home office. We cannot afford to sell our home, uproot our family and move someplace with no job market in this economy when they could fire him in a year. It’s not fair. He has a few more resumes in, but he always does. One company who had expressed some interest in him suddenly decided to go in another direction with the job description. At least he got a reason. That’s incredibly rare these days. Usually you send your résumé through an online form, and then the computer decides whether to put you in to the next step or lock you out. If you move on to the essay portion (yes, the essay portion), then you have the opportunity to answer some questions in under 500 words about why you would be a good fit for this job. Then you hit Submit. At this point, you either send it out into the ether with no further information and just wait for a phone call, or as is more likely to happen, you get a generic message saying that you’re not right for this position at this time. Nothing has been reviewed by a human, no feedback is given, you have no one to contact, no phone number, name or interview. It’s dehumanizing and disrespectful and these online HR systems are losing out on a lot of great job candidates. It’s just humiliating. J read today in an article with tips on how to get around these systems that you shouldn’t even say “summa cum laude” on your résumé, and to change it to “high honors”, or your résumé will get screens out as porn! We are not dealing with geniuses here, but there is seemingly no way though this impenetrable HR firewall. Of porn.
Now, I’m off to watch the presidents jobs speech to congress. Fingers crossed for a miracle.
This is going to be a blog about how I get my family through it. There is a lot of back story here, so bear with me. J and I have been together for ten years, married for eight. In 2006, everything looked great; we bought our dream house in our dream town. He had a great job as an economic consultant with a great paycheck and I had a great job as a social worker with a crappy paycheck, but I loved it and we were happy. We decided to proliferate. It wasn’t as easy as we had hoped, and I had to go through fertility treatments which were emotionally and physically taxing, but they worked and we had our awesome baby girl Hazel in February 2008.
Six months later, my hands went numb. Then my chest. Then my back. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September 2008 and it was a very difficult time for us, as one can imagine. The fear of the unknown is overwhelming, but through it all J and I tried to focus on all our blessings; Hazel, MS is not fatal, my prognosis was good, we were fortunate enough to have good insurance to cover all the imaging, medications and steroid infusions, and above all we were thankful that I was the one who was sick instead of our daughter.
Be careful when you put things like this out into the universe.
Two months after my diagnosis, MS was the least of my concerns. We lived (existed?) in Children’s Hospital for a month with our baby girl as she fought to live. There is no way that we could ever express how grateful we were that we could take her home, that she survived. We continue to endure Hazels periodic choking episodes because of her narrowed esophagus, but we get to keep her. She has had surgeries to repair her esophagus, and might have more but we can’t complain.
How much can one family take? I thought we had paid our dues. Again, be careful.
I had our son Elias in the winter of 2010. It was a difficult pregnancy, but everyone came through it unscathed. We were happy, and looked forward to new beginnings.
J took three weeks off to be at home with us after Elias was born. He had been very slow at work, but everyone had been. I remember him being concerned that no one from his office contacted him to say congratulations after the birth. I brushed him off, but intuition is rarely wrong and three days after he returned to work, they walked into his office and told him that he was being laid off. They read from a script. He was downsized. I would try to describe the crushing fear, the panic, the insincere optimism that one feels. The anger, betrayal, feelings of worthlessness. I would try to describe it but for the fact that so many already know.
And here we are, a year and a half later. J still has not been able to find any work. We have no more savings. What we do have is a mortgage, two cars that aren’t road-worthy, kids growing out of their clothing, student loans, and a looming heating bill that is quite high in an almost 300 year old house on the rugged New England coast. We have 6 weeks left of unemployment benefits, and after that is where this blog starts.
For the millionth time in the past three and a half years, I’m a Mama Tiger. I’m furious. I am in a state of crazed desperation, and I’m trying to hold us all together.
There are thousands of us in this place now. Some call us 99ers, some the “Long Term Unemployed”, some people might call us deadbeats (those are people I have no time for). I have to find a way to make life carry on for my family.
I’m going to blog my way through all of it, and hopefully connect with others in our community. I’ll talk about frustrations with the system, with Human Resources, with perceptions of the Long Term Unemployed. I’ll blog about parenting, entertaining kids for little to no money, clothing them and making them feel as though nothing has changed. I’ll talk about how hard it is to be present in parenting when you’re under so much stress that you feel like your head will burst at any moment.
I’ll blog a lot about food; I love food, and I love to cook and am the recipient of many generations of resourceful, frugal, and hungry women. I think of food as medicine, and I have lost 40 pounds with 35 more to go on a fairly strict low-carb, lacto-Paleo diet. We eat real food that our ancestors (theoretically) ate, and I do not eat any grains, legumes, industrial vegetable oils or sugar (OK, maybe some sugar). This sort of diet is expensive, but it has reduced my systemic inflammation to what I think of as a sub-threshold and therefore kept my MS in an asymptomatic remission without medications so I’m not giving it up. I have to figure out how to feed my family healthy food on a budget of zero.
I’ll blog about frustration and anger and depression and fear. I’ll talk about my favorite deals online, favorite products, and I want to hear yours. I’ll blog about my failures and small successes. We don’t have to be so alone. We can be in this together. I’m figuring this all out as I head into the wild.