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We just got our final unemployment check.  $600 that is going to have to last for………ever.  We also just had to turn on our heat.  J had an interview, but he has had a lot of interviews.  It went really well, but they all go really well.  We are sitting around, waiting but we are always waiting.  I applied for a job answering the phone and taking orders at a local pizza place.  They needed someone who speaks English.  I didn’t get the job.  Seasonal help at a local department store chain restocking at night is the next step.  I hope they will consider someone with a Master’s degree.

Baby, it’s cold outside.  It’s also depressing outside, so sometimes one just needs to self-medicate*.  I think this calls for my favorite winter drink, a hot toddy.

Get a huge and well insulated mug that will stay nice and hot for long enough to sip the whole thing down.  Put about a tablespoon of honey in the bottom, toss in a slice of lemon and about an ounce of dark rum (or, whiskey if you’re so inclined).  Brew a cuppa tea.  I particularly love the Ginger Tea made by Yogi, though I think it may have been dumbed down lately.  It used to be much stronger.  Sometimes I will add an additional slice of fresh ginger to the water to strong it up.  When your tea is ready, top off your big giant mug.  Enjoy it, because it will make you warm and happy, something I cherish a lot more these days then I used to.

 

*No, I’m not advocating that you drink your worries away.  Your worries will still be there after your toddy is long gone.  And, please don’t drink and drive.  Really.  This is something you should enjoy in the relative comfort of your own home.  Driving drunk is about one of the most selfish and irresponsible acts, so don’t fucking do it.

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.

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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