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.

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