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Happy New Year.  I’m hoping that 2012 is going to kick 2011 in its skinny ass.  It seems that we are far from the only people we know who were glad to see the year come to an end; it’s been hard for a lot of our friends, family, and people in our community.  The job search has been on hold though the holidays.  No one seems to check their email and that’s just fine.  We needed a little break to just not think about things for a week.  Starting tomorrow, everything is back to business as usual, so J will be cracking down, following up with a bunch of contacts he made before Christmas.  I’m working on a few new products for Great Marsh Artisan Skincare, and filling orders left and right.  I’m really looking forward to my daughter being back in school so we can get back to our routine around here.

This is a strange time of year for me.  I have always felt New Years Eve is a very bittersweet holiday, moving ever further into history, propelling towards the end of things, leaving behind family and friends who have died, entombed in the past.  I think about them.  This year, one of my best friends is staying back in 2011 without me.  As the first anniversary of his death approaches, on his birthday in early February, I’m finding the inevitable turning inwards.  I think about him, his family, clutch on to those memories I have of us together that fade more and more each day.  I know that soon they will all be vapor, and I’ll only have his name etched into my brain.

I’m not a religious person.  I’m a mediocre atheist who came by it honestly via a childhood of questioning in the Unitarian Universalist church and a degree in religious studies.  I have flirted with other faith traditions outside of Judeo-Christianity, and found something of value in them all but could not ever make that final leap of faith in believing in a theistic god.  I sometimes wish that I could, but despite 36 years of trying, I’ve settled into  the place where I am, still attending a UU church near my home, and trying to answer my daughters increasingly metaphysical questions in a comforting, affirming, but nonspecific way so that she can find her own path of faith.  My heart is full of love, and I know yours is, too.  That’s really all I need at this point in my life.

Nevertheless, after the holidays are over, in the time of the longest nights, the deadest of nature laying in wait, having faith if not in a divine presence then at least a faith that there is a light in the darkness, I use the time to look deep within.  I use the time to cleanse and detox and renew.  I read, I try to eat very clean, simple foods, I move slower and feel myself firmly rooted to home, family, place.  I roast things.  I braise.  I sleep.

Don’t think that the tone of this post means that I’ve gone all woo on you.  I still swear like a truck driver and scream at the kids that I’ll sell them to the Gypsies if I have to break up one more damn fist fight.  Today I started a Whole30 to get back into the swing of things.  I’ve eaten a lot of sugar and even some grains over the holiday season and am up 11 pounds from my lowest weight.  (I felt badly until J told me that he is up 18.)  One of the things I love most about ancestral eating is how simple and streamlined it is.  I never, ever feel that I’m deprived, but rather feel like I’m giving my body exactly what it needs.  I have fallen out of that a bit, so I’m starting the year with a month of clean eating.  After my first Whole30 breakfast of two sunny side up eggs, three strips of (sugar-free, nitrite/nitrate-free, antibiotic-free, uncured blah blah blah) bacon and two sweet potato pecan puffs, I felt amazing.  I never know why I get tempted by non-paleo food; it makes me feel like shit.  It tastes like medium density fiberboard.  It is never, ever worth it.  So, I’m detoxing, resetting, tightening up, cleaning out, thinking about health, nourishment, relationships, life, and nutrition.

Oddly enough, I’m also doing the same with my “beauty” (used loosely) routine.  I was wearing more makeup than usual over the holidays, out of my normal habits, even using shampoo with dimethecone, SLH, fragrance, PARFUM!!  Shame spiral.  I’m now back to using only Dr. Bronners when I have to, Aubrey Organics on the head and cleansing my face with straight olive oil, lavender and tea tree essential oils.  I’m using coconut oil in my hair and to moisturize my skin, as well as my Lavender Honey Hard Lotion and Rosehip Hydrating Serum.  That is it.  I feel softer and cleaner already.

So, meditating on life, health, cleanliness, simplicity, and quiet.  That is 2012 so far.  I hope that I can manifest some goodness our way on the job front.  God (or, as my UU minister calls it, “a universal force of love that always bends towards Justice,”) knows that we need some good news so I’m working on willing it for us all.

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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.

This is what it looks like, in slow motion.  This is the unravelling.  This is the end of a families dreams for the future, for its aspirations and for its plans.  This is the beginning and the end right here.  Don’t let your guard down, don’t ever think you are safe, that your future is all set.  Don’t plan to pay for your kids college, to travel when you retire.  Don’t plan to stay healthy, and don’t expect to take care of yourself when you get sick.  Don’t expect to have a roof over your head.  If you already have one, don’t expect it to stay.  For the love of god, don’t ever expect any sort of security or dignity.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how badly you want to work, how many letters you have after your name.

It doesn’t matter if you went to a good school, come from a good family.  It doesn’t even matter if you’re in good financial shape with no debt and never even got swindled by a crappy mortgage high interest rate cards.  You can be sitting there with all your ducks in a row, heat turned all the way up to 68 and before you know it, one little shift in the universe will send you and the people you love most into a tail spin.  You will slowly start hurtling towards earth, faster.  And faster.  And you will cling to anything you can find, even as you stop being able to feel.  Anything.

Don’t think a handshake means anything to anyone anymore.  Don’t ever think that someones promises hold any weight.  Don’t expect that your hard work will ever pay off.  And don’t think you can run.  You will be pinned down, forced to live through it.  You will be forced every night to lay awake and think about where you can get food, money, security.  You will get really good at doing math in your head on the fly, and you will also learn that people are selfish by nature and largely don’t really care about you or your kids.  You will feel yourself being observed and discussed.  You will find yourself marked as Other, so that people who are just like you used to be don’t have to feel what you’re feeling.  The betrayal, the promises that you stupidly believed in.  The phone will stop ringing soon.  You know people get uncomfortable when you talk about it.  You know people stop caring, lose sympathy.  Your friends will start dropping like flies.

I don’t think about Next Year, or In Ten Years.  I can barely think about next week.  I don’t know anything anymore.  I don’t know how I’m going to stay in my house, how I’m going to feed us, how the hell I’m going to pay for heat this winter, how I’m going to pay for the Halloween costumes I just ordered two nights ago thinking that there was a job that was going to start this week.  Silly me, apparently deciding terms of employment and negotiating a salary and shaking hands is meaningless.

We are good people.  We work hard and save money and invest in the market.  We give to charity and volunteer.  We bring casseroles to people when they are sick, or have a baby.  We are good tippers.  We have never carried debt aside from student loans and mortgage, both of which we watch closely and refinance at low rates.  We overpay our bills to get ahead.  Our cars both have 130K miles and are 8 years old, and we are perfectly ok with that.  We don’t have iPads.  We own one TV.  We haven’t taken a vacation in years.  We wear hand me downs and clip coupons.  I don’t know what we did to deserve this.  I don’t know how many more times I can handle my daughter asking me if I’m crying because I’m mad at her.  All of the clichés about something better around the corner, and windows and doors opening and closing, just sound like cruel, horrid jokes now so please spare me that.  We are the 99%.  We are also the 47% for the first time in our lives.

So, here is your front row ticket.  Now you can observe from a safe distance what it looks like when a family falls apart.  Enjoy the show.

Me, In a Rainbow, So I Won't Be Sad

I read this, and I’m filled with a seething, red hot rage.  It’s nothing new, and there are a million graphs and charts and articles  and commentary out there saying the same thing.  The rich are bending all of us over while they swill champagne.  My husband is willing to take a 50% pay cut just for a job that will keep the lights on, but still his recruiters shrug their shoulders and ask if he wants to relocate to Baton Rouge.  I am desperate to work, but with childcare costing us $2,000.00 per month and me being *gasp* a lowly social worker, it’s not feasible.

Last week while cleaning out the coat closet, I found one of the pay stubs from my last job:  $1,180 for two weeks of work.  You know what I did?  I was a Master’s level clinician with a certificate in the Advanced Treatment of Psychological Trauma providing free psychotherapy and crisis intervention to adolescents and adults who had experienced violent sexual trauma.  I saw grown men who had been raped by their priests, children who were currently being raped by a parent, husbands of women who had been raped by their employer, teenagers who were raped by a teacher.  The work is difficult and heart-wrenching and goddamn it I did good work that is needed, and I happily did it for pennies.  I worked on behalf of people who have no advocate.  I held hands in court rooms, clinics, and emergency rooms.  I loved my work.

And I see my husband struggling to get employment while our life spins down the toilet, and I see these people making millions doing nothing.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G.  They make nothing.  They do nothing.  I’m feeling this on an extremely personal level.  I used to tell myself that my low pay wasn’t a reflection on me, but on my clients value to voters and policymakers.  No one with any power cares about the kinds of people I work with; the poor, the mentally ill, the victims of powerlessness.  This lit a fire in me and kept me going working on their behalf, trying to be the best advocate that I could be.  And here I am, largely unable to practice at the moment and in a state of extraordinary powerlessness myself and the people wielding the power turn a blind eye to our suffering and our struggles.  There is no middle class.  The 1% has achieved their American Dream and the 99% paid for it.

Summarized on Yahoo! Finance from the article at  thinkprogress.org:

#1) The Top 1% Owns 40% of the Nation’s Wealth:

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out the richest 1% of Americans now own 40% of the nation’s wealth. This disparity is much worse than it was in the past, as just 25 years ago the top 1% owned 33%of national wealth.

How much does the bottom 80% own? Only 7%.

#2) The Top 1% Take Home 24% of National Income:

While the richest 1% of Americans take home almost a quarter of national income today, in 1976 they took home just 9% — meaning their share of the national income pool has nearly tripled in roughly three decades.

#3) The Top 1% Own Half of the Country’s Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds: The Institute for Policy Studies illustrates this massive disparity in financial investment ownership, noting that the bottom 50% of Americans own only 0.5% of these investments.

#4) The Top 1% of Americans Have Only 5% of the Nation’s Personal Debt:

Using 2007 figures, sociologist William Domhoff points out that the top 1% have 5% of the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90% have 73% of total debt.

#5) The Top 1% Are Taking In More off the Nation’s Income Than at Any Other Time Since the 1920s: Not only are the wealthiest 1% of Americans taking home a tremendous portion of the national income, but their share of this income is greater than at any other time since the Great Depression, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates in this chart, using 2007 data.

I’ve been in the first row as a spectator, watching Occupy Wall Street and our local occupations develop.  I so want to be a part of it, but I’m needed at home with the babies right now.  I’m inspired and angry, comforted and reassured.  I feel a deep sense of solidarity with the other 99% down there yelling on my behalf, and on behalf of us all.  The criticism of the protests confounds me; don’t they know that we are all in the 99%?  That this is for your benefit, too?  I met with my financial advisor last week, and he told me that he wanted to get up from his desk and go join them in the loby!  Shocking and a bit scary, considering he has all my money which is still only a fraction of what a CEO would make in a month, but it’s all I have.

I read this amazing article that someone posted on facebook today.  Lindsay talks about how to Occupy Wall Street from home.  She discusses the act of making soup as a revolutionary act, of removing oneself from the industrial food system as one thing that women and mothers can do to free ourselves from the slavery of the corporatocracy.  I also read this article in the New York Times the other day, profiling a woman who found herself in Deep Trouble, and went back to the land in Brooklyn to feed her family.  I feel so inspired when I read these.  I feel that I am reading this today as a woman who has control over nothing, who has been crying all day at the news that another job we thought was ours has fallen though, at the idea of my family on food stamps and wondering what happened to my good karma points?  I have been thinking of my grandmother a lot, a woman who came of age in the Depression in a one room cabin in the Rockies, no electricity or running water.  I think that if women like her could get their families through it, then I can too.  Then I remember the world I live in, which is so different than hers.  How my generation has been cursed with debt beyond even my parents wildest imagination.  What are we going to do?  Who is going to help us?  Will there ever be an end to all of this?  Will we ever be OK?  Lately, I think not.

The Census Bureau released new poverty numbers today and it’s looking pretty grim, even for a person skeptical of the Bureaus methods.  The New York Times has some nice commentary here.  Someone said on my facebook page,

“I feel like I am reading about myself. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one going through this. It is reassuring to know that I am not, and I am also not the cause of the situation that me and my kids are in, contrary to what others choose to believe.”

It’s hard seeing that one in six people in this country are living in poverty, one in five among children.  It’s interesting that the numbers might have been higher if not for a more prosperous relative that the family can temporarily move in with.  Something that I find particularly interesting is that the poverty numbers, while climbing for adults and children, have stayed totally stable for the elderly.  Another 2.6 MILLION people slipped into poverty just last year, the highest number since the Bureau began keeping track, 52 years ago.

Economists seized on a telling statistic: It was the first time since the Great Depression that the median American household had a lower income, adjusted for inflation, than 13 years earlier, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard University.

This is a depression disproportionately affecting the young, single mothers, minorities, and working families.  Social Security has been able to offer a buffer to the elderly.  What role is there for a social safety net for the people most vulnerable to downturns in our economy?  This cannot become a country of only the very rich and the very poor.   What ever happened to shared sacrifice?

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