Friday, October 31, 2014

The Realities and the Lessons

Taking "Wear it out" to a whole new level
 I had a lot of difficulties and trials as a child and up until my early twenties when I settled into a pretty easy, happy life with my husband and my young children. Knowing how all of the adversity in my early life shaped me and made me into who I am today, about two to three years ago, I found myself worrying that my kids were having too easy of a life. I think I even prayed for them a little. Heavenly Father took me seriously and assuaged those worries We have a lot, and I mean a whole lot that is right and good. For that, I am grateful. But, life has been tough around here. Dealing with poverty and long term unemployment is hard on every member of the family.

When John was unemployed in 2013, we were much more prepared.We had hardly any debt and a lot of credit that we could rely on. The kids knew they could not have certain things or go certain places, but it was not that hard on our family and did not change things that much. When we ran out of food, we qualified for food stamps and all was well.We had plenty of stored up soap, shampoo, diapers, toilet paper and all sorts of things. We did not need to ask for any help until just before John got a job.

This time, we were not at all prepared. We were paying for the birth of the baby and trying to pay down debt from the year before. We had very little soap and toiletries stored and almost no food. I have said, and am still saying that the Lord wants us to feel the full force of American poverty and the humiliation of having to ask for help. We have really had to learn, grow, and stretch in new ways. I am not worried about my kids having it too easy anymore.

The realities start as you either have to seek out and receive welfare assistance or not pay your mortgage. At first this isn't so bad, but as time moves on and you still need help, and even more help, it gets harder for people to take you seriously. Are you really doing all you can to find a job? Maybe you are just a loser who can't do anything right? You should not have had all of those kids just to not take care of them. You should get mental help, and so on. After a little while you sometimes find yourself wondering if those things are true. It's hard to be positive. It's hard not to be critical of your husband, even when you know the real answers to those questions. It's hard on your children when they hear that the dad they adore is just useless and lazy and that is why he does not have a job yet.

The realities continue as things, you would have just bought without much thought in the past wear out and you have to really put the old pioneer adage "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without," into serious use, especially the do without part. A family with a lot of kids naturally uses it up, wears it out, and often makes it do. But the do without becomes a whole new concept. You have to learn a whole new style of patience when your children break it or waste it. You wonder if you had spoiled your kids too much in the past, and should have taught them how to care for things a little better. It's hard to keep it all together and hard not to shame your kids for being the one to break the last item of its kind.

The realities continue as the kids learn to not bother asking for anything because they already know the answer. The realities come for the kids as they have to wear last year's too small clothes, something they don't like, or nothing at all. The kids have to tell their friends no about going places and doing things-- eventually their friends quit asking, just like they have. Every school fee and school event are stressful.

There is just this heavy feeling and a feeling of doom. What if unemployment does run out before that job is found?

For months you plead in prayer for help and change and a huge miracle. Sometimes, you want to stop praying. But you don't, you can't. Pray is your life line. Prayer is where you receive the strength to continue. Prayer is where you receive peace. Prayer is where you are given the knowledge that everything will be okay, even if it is not the okay you are looking for.

And the lessons come. Your kids are strong and resilient. They are not moody. It's actually kid of nice that they get excited about candy and gum for birthday presents or payment for a job well done (because food stamps cover that and you have no other resources). They find ways to make things do and reuse things. They are kind to their father and do not blame him. They have faith and expect things will be fine. They don't complain and worry about it much. Even when they were hungry for the month and a half before they got food stamps, they didn't complain much about the lack of food. They are good and strong and kind. Your kids can do this and so can you.

You learn to not listen to the criticism. You know all of the intimate details. You know that your husband is doing all he can to find a job and when you think he is not, you do what you can too. You work together. After all, when you married you knew that it would be for richer or for poorer and for health and for sickness. After a while, you work together to solve the problem. You do not complain or criticize. Anger and unkind words will not get your husband a job. But like everything else, being loyal and working together probably will fix the problem. You learn to laugh when you would rather cry.

You learn that you must forgive those who do criticize, and not speak ill of them. Life is hard for everyone.

You learn to accept help. You learn that people are mostly good. People mostly care and most people will do what they can to help.

You learn compassion. You view the difficulties that other people are facing in a new light. Knowing just how much your family needs prayer, kindness, love, and physical assistance, you find it easier to offer those things to everyone else.

I didn't know how to really pray 5 months ago. I am learning it now. I am learning to talk to God in a whole new way. I have learned how to pray and plead for others. It's something I can do to help other people. I am learning to be more accepting of our circumstances and make the best of them. The kids are learning to pray and they are learning to be patient and wait upon the Lord as we all are. We are all learning to be on our best behavior during hard times and it is becoming more of a natural response. Everyone knows anger and resentment have never solved anything.

You learn faith is the best choice and you can choose faith. Faith isn't any more magic than getting a job. Both have to be worked for. You learn that you can do hard things even if you don't want to.

Heavenly Father is teaching us. He is using trials to shape us and to make us who He wants us to be. We will continue to work to change things.

We aren't out of this yet. Things may get worse still. The holidays are approaching and John's unemployment runs out in December. We may have to sell the house and move in with my parents. That would be hard on everyone involved. But we have made it this far. We can see this to the end. We know that everything will be okay and it will. It may not be the okay we are looking for right now, but it will be okay. And in the end, we will be grateful for the stronger people we have become.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MAGIC & MIRACLE in the MESS: Finding the Good During Unemployment

1) My brother coming over with a bunch of food and $20. He can be really sweet. 
2) A little bit of birthday money always helps 
3) Lots of members of our ward helping us out by offering our teens baby sitting jobs. thank you
4) Johnny somehow being able to get an A in math without the required graphing calculator.
5) Phone interviews coming in much, much more frequently. I think we had 4 months with no interviews.
6) The library
7) Personal messages from friends who have been there and done that or are doing it.
8) Getting to meet Linda S Reeves.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

This Week at Our House # 43

  1. In the last couple of days, John has been asked to do three phone interviews, and he will have those this coming week. We are really praying that he will get a job in the next couple of weeks before the holidays. He had one that went well this week.  They even asked for a second interview over the phone. But it is a start up company in Chicago. We didn't feel too great about it, so we prayed that the best thing would happen. If he is offered a job, he really needs to take it, or he loses unemployment. Well, he did not hear back from them. So we are thinking the job would not be right. 
  2. On Tuesday, I went to a family conference at BYU and got to hear some great speakers including Ryan Anderson and Mark Regnerus. Though, Utah's very own, Jenet Erickson was my favorite speaker. I got introduced to Sister Linda S Reeves of the Relief Society General Presidency by my UFI friends. On Thursday, I helped during musical practice and then went quickly up to the Capitol to hear Jennifer Morse from the Ruth Institute speak. She was incredible. On Friday, I washed all of the cupboards and cleaned out the fridge and freezer. I need to do that more often so that it does not take as long. And then on Saturday I chauffered, ran some errands, spent 6 hours switching the summer clothes out for the winter clothes and then cleaned all three bathrooms.
  3. Ruth had her first big dance date. She went with a big group of friends all dressed in 50's styles. They did some day time activities, then went home and dressed. Then they went to dinner at a 50's style restaurant, and then to the dance. After the dance, they went to someone's house for ice cream and games and then home by midnight. Ruth's date was her friend and she said it was really nice because they could just hang out and have fun with no "does he/she like me" pressure.
  4. Kate had a debate on Tuesday and maybe just a little bit less homework all week long. She helped a lot on Saturday while I was so busy with chores. She made dinner and made the kids clean up and take care of things, etc.
  5. Johnny's first term ended with all A's. He's doing really well. 
  6. Today was the Primary Program at church. Adam gave a really good talk, but struggled sounding out the word "missionary". It was pretty cute.
  7. I could hear Rachel sing all of the songs, though the primary sang amazingly well, the best I have ever heard. When Rachel's class sang the baptism song together, Rachel had an accidental solo because she was the only one who knew the words at one part. The amazing thing was I could hear her loud and clear from the back of the second overflow.
  8. Anya doesn't have any extra curriculars yet, so she had a pretty quiet week compared to everyone else. Sometimes I think the middle kids get a little lost in the flow, but we are sure glad this sweet girl is around.
  9. Joseph had his first ever birthday party at a friends house. He had a lot of fun. He is sure growing up! I gave him a haircut and he just looks so much older,
  10. Joshua hates it when I switch his clothes over and usually won't stay undressed until he is cold enough to put clothes on. I think he has trouble with change. If we end up moving for John to get a job, I suspect he will have a lot of trouble with that.
  11. Arwen likes to stay up late and hang out with me while all the rest of the little ones are in bed. We put her to bed, and she just quietly keeps popping back up. If she wasn't so good and cute, I'd probably lock her door. As it stands, she seems to know how to behave to keep from being sent back to bed. 
  12. I am so glad I have Susan and get to be her mom. I think I am that much more grateful just because she is number 10. I could have easily chosen to be done, and then I would never have known sweet Susan. 
This Week's Pictures

Monday, October 20, 2014

MAGIC & MIRACLE in the MESS: Finding the good during unemployment 2

Much help and comfort has been given to us this week.

1) a fifty dollar bill left in an envelope under the windshield wiper of our van, without which we would not have been able to meet our mortgage.

2) a kind relief society president helping me get some needed toiletries from the Bishops storehouse.

3) Relief Society sisters bringing in dinner that lasted for 3 meals(saying it was to give me a break for my birthday) but I know it was just a way to give us comfort.

4) A kind 4th grade teacher helping us find needed winter school uniform items and giving us volunteer opportunities in exchange for bracelets for the kids to participate in their school's fall festival.

5) $50 for selling kittens.

6) Babysitting job for Ruth who plans to use the money to buy the kind of shampoo she likes and to help pay for her date to the school Halloween dance.

7) unemployment and food stamps.

This Week at Our House # 42

  1. It was a pretty quiet and relaxing week. John's gotten into a routine of helping around the house and helping with the kids homework and such. While I'll be relieved and totally and completely happy when he gets a job, I will miss him too.
  2. I had my 39th birthday on Tuesday, got a lot of junk food and gained 2 pounds.We had fall break this week. All of the kids had Thursday and Friday off. We laid around, watched movies, played video games, did homework, and caught up on some much needed sleep. 
  3. Ruth asked a guy out for the Halloween Dance. Instead of doing something big, she just went up to him and asked. She said that she liked that better. Now she has a date and a big group of friends to go with. They are dressing up in 50's styles, and eating out at an old 50's style hamburger place. I think she will have a lot of fun.
  4. Kate had to read more than 200 pages of an anti-Christian book for school over break. She is done now and quite relieved.
  5. Johnny played video games for 2 days straight. And he had no homework. I have no idea how he manages to do that. He even takes some pretty hard and busy classes.
  6. Adam worked real hard, like 4 hours writing his book report. Writing was hard for Johnny at the same age.
  7. On Saturday, we went to Rachel's favorite cousin, Ada's birthday party. Rachel was so excited about it. She will really miss Ada if we have to move.
  8. Anya is addicted to computer games. She spent her vacation on the computer as much as her siblings and I would allow. I think it is good for her that I generally have a pretty strict gaming rule.
  9. Joseph seems to actually like doing his homework. Instead of me reminding him about it, he reminds me. 
  10. Joshua seems to finally be mostly potty trained. He has not pooped his pants since Aug 20-something, and he doesn't pee his pants all the way. He pees and little and then runs to the bathroom. He is also finally telling us when he needs to go or just going.
  11. I brought the potty chair out again and Arwen saw it and went and put on a pair of Joshua's underwear. I haven't started her yet, but I think she is ready to try this out.
  12. Susan is all smiles and coos and just such a sweetie. She likes to lie on the floor on her stomach with a book standing open in front of her. She doesn't seem to care much for toys, but she loves pictures. And until today that was going pretty well. Today she learned to grab the book and put it in her mouth.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

MAGIC & MIRACLE in the MESS: Finding the good during unemployment

Each week for the past month I have been putting up a Facebook post highlighting the good and the miracles in our life while having to deal with long term unemployment. Since my blog is my journal, I decided to copy these same posts here. When we are not dealing with this anymore, I want to be able to go back and really remember that while things were hard, good things happen too.

First post:

My friend Ganel-Lyn's husband lost his job and every week since then she has written about he miracles they have experienced while they are going through this difficult time. Her little miracles have really helped me to see the positive in our life as we are dealing with the similar difficulties. With permission, I am going to follow her lead. So here it is:
1) We ran out of trash bags and printer paper. Both are pretty important (especially with school in). I went to Costco planning to buy then with money we did not have. Both items happened to be on sale for $3 off!
2) While checking out at Costco, I remembered that I had my executive membership reimbursement check to renew my membership with and that it was more money than the total cost of the membership. I was able to renew my membership, buy the trash bags and paper, and come home with $40 cash.
One request: John is looking for a senior software position. We are willing to move out of state. So if you know of anything please message me and I can send you John's resume. Thanks (By the way. Many people responded and we have been able to get some real networking going.)

Second Post:

MAGIC & MIRACLES in the MESS-- trying to find the good during unemployment.
1) Good friends: I have some really good friends and when things are tough they are there to talk and that is just so, so, so helpful.
2) A brother in law tossing money at me when I refused to take it even though I know every little bit helps.
3) The music teacher allowing us to swap service for the money for the musical or to just pay slowly.
4) The fact that Adam and Rachel get to be in the musical even though it was very competitive and we are not exactly a musical family. I think Rachel has found her calling in life. I got to see her end her first day of practice and I think that is the happiest she has ever been just singing her little heart out.
5) All of the wonderful people who have taken John's resume and turned it in with a recommendation. Thank you, thank you so very, very much.
6) A phone interview that may mean nothing, but at least he got that far.

Third Post:

MAGIC & MIRACLES in the MESS-- trying to find the good during unemployment.
1) A big bag of delicious apples and a very nice note arriving on our doorstep.
2) A second phone interview for one place and another phone interview for another place to be scheduled for next week.
3)The nurse that was required to visit in order for us to keep the kids on medicaid had raised 8 kids and was very, very kind.
4) Sister coming to visit next week and the kids are super excited. (Amber)
5) Sister in law taking Ruth driving for an hour every week. ( Thank you so much Marie)
6)Sitting with John on the couch every morning discussing the scriptures.
7) A couple of awesome opportunities for me-- getting to see a special showing of "Meet the Mormons" and Getting sit in the media room for Sunday General Conference Sessions in a week.

Fourth Post:

MAGIC & MIRACLE in the MESS: Finding the good during unemployment.
1) A job falling through, making us sad, but helping us remember the the Lord knows best and is very likely protecting us from a job that would not be the best place for our family.
2) Blessing our sweet little baby daughter.
3) My sister visiting and my little boys in Aunt Amber heaven.
4) Lots of opportunities to volunteer and give back.
5) Parent/teacher conferences and all of my children are succeeding. And most especially all of my children are very well behaved.
6) Being able to attend the temple each week. It sure helps with hope and faith.

Fifth Post:

MAGIC & MIRACLE in the MESS: Finding the good during unemployment.
1)Some days I just have a hard time. I am glad that it is not everyday and that I can still be positive.
2) I went to open the car door after doing some grocery shopping and there was a $20 under the handle. The person who put it there was a stranger and could not have possibly known how much it would mean to us. Thank you, kind stranger.
3)Attending the Temple and General Conference.
4)Things may not be how we want them right now, but a good marriage and a crowd of loving, supportive, forgiving, smart, good children make everything a whole lot better.

This Week at Our House #41

  1. John had his 43rd birthday on Tuesday. Anya and Rachel told me that "Dad is turning into a grandpa. His hair is turning white." 
  2. I am going to turn 39 in 2 more days. I think that earns its own post. I did a lot of volunteering at the school this week. I am tired. I wrote a post for Mormon Women Stand, just on my impressions form L Tom Perry's conference talk. In the start of my article I wrote about sending my kids out into the world with the tares each day, because Elder Perry talked about that. A lot of people came onto the facebook page to say how awful my attitude was and how I should allow my children to play with nonmembers, that I should not raise my kids in a bubble, that I am the reason people don't join the church, that I have a "them verses us" mentality, and how I should never refer to anyone as tares (though I had listed things and people were not on that list.) It was a weird experience to be so bashed by saying the same thing that an apostle said. It was also weird to have people make up in their own minds what my family is like from one paragraph. So just in case you are wondering, my children play with nonmembers and have nonmember friends. My children probably know too much about politics and morality because we talk openly about it in our home. Sometimes I feel guilty for being so open with my kids, but since they hear it on the radio and get it at school, I just figure they ought to learn about it from my husband and I first.
  3. Ruth had several big exams and papers, as well as a lot of reading to do. So she spent most of the week in her bedroom studying. Despite all of that, Ruth has had a lot of fun at school this year.
  4. Kate had her second big debate team tournament. She has some pretty interesting stories from both of them. This week a girl told her and the other kids that instead of solving disputes with fighting and war, people who disagree need to solve their problems by having sex together. Kate at first stood up to her with words, but when she continued telling the other students that the only reason they disagreed with her was because they were brain washed, Kate became the first to stand up and walk away. Three other kids followed her after that. I am proud of my good Kate.
  5. Johnny was invited to a movie party on Saturday. He went and out of 15 kids invited, he was the only one who came. I am so glad that I had him go.
  6. Adam read his first 200+ page book for his book report in about 2 days. He still needs to write his report, though. I think it was a painful, but necessary experience for him. Maybe next time, he will listen to me and read a lot more ahead of time.
  7. On John's birthday, Rachel went to the fridge to find some food to give to John for a birthday breakfast in bed. I saw her heading upstairs with a container of broccoli that was cooked, left over and hid in the back of the fridge for at least a week. I saw her and told her that she was not to serve her father rotten broccoli for breakfast. She went and got him some ice cream instead.
  8. We had trunk or treat at the church on Saturday. I had not done anything for costumes since it came up so early in the month. Anya did not have a costume she wanted, so she got an apron and Ruth used a youtube video to make Anya a pretty awesome chef's hat. Then we put Susan in our old infant hot dog costume. Anya was happy about it and I was very pleased with her creativity. I was also very pleased that none of the kids complained that we were not buying costumes this year.
  9. Joseph's teacher started him on the 14th book in the series of early reader books. I am annoyed about it because I was looking forward to starting him off with "See Sam" and hardly any other words. Now I have to start him off having to sound out lots of words. The first read through was painful. The next two he did much better. I think he memorizes well.
  10. When my sister Amber left, Josh said, "Amber is still coming back." I told him no, Amber is gone back to Grandma and she will not come back for a very long time. Then Josh cried.
  11.  Little Arwen is a cutie. I love having her talk to me, and it still surprises me. 
  12. Susan is such a strong baby! She is not even 4 months old and she is rolling around and playing on the floor. When she is on her stomach she holds her head and chest up high. She is reaching and grabbing for things and even trying to scoot.
This Week's Pictures