January 24, 2014

Livin' La Vida Poor Folks: Adventures Below the Poverty Line

I have struggled to write lately.  I wouldn't call it "Writer's Block," per se.  If I had to call it something, it would be more like "Writer's Depression" or, more accurately, it would be something like "Writer's Life Circumstances are Sure to Cause Reader's Depression, So She is Doing You A Solid By Keeping All This Crap to Herself."  I'm talking that kind of writer's block.

 I love you, and I want to spare you from (what might be contagious) stress, so I have held off writing for a bit, but I can't go on like this any more.  I must  selfishly spill my guts  creatively release my experiences so others can  laugh at my misery  pray for us.

It has officially been 7 months since my husband was laid off.

I sort of hate writing about our Adventures of Unemployment (which you can catch up on here and here) because I have learned a lot about men during this time.  I have learned, for example, that men do not like losing their jobs.  It does something weird to a man.  It makes him doubt himself in ways that are totally unrelated to budget cuts at work.  I have learned that even the most emotionally stable man will try to usurp an otherwise-claimed position in the family as "sensitive, basket case who takes everything personally."  (It has been hard to hold my ground in this particular area, but I have served as resident Crazy Person for ten years in this family, and I was not about to pass the torch over because of a job he didn't even like.)  There is only room for one person  per marriage to be "El Sensitivo" as we call it, and that is - and shall always remain - me.  (Nice try though, babe.  You gave me a run for my money, but ain't nobody got baggage like your unstable wife.  The torch is mine.)

All that to say... I hate to write so publicly about something that makes my husband feel so small, and causes him so much pain.  So, before you read on, I ask you to raise your right hand and solemnly promise to shut up and go away if you are a judgmental b-hole who thinks that this couldn't happen to anyone, even the most strapping, manliest of providers.   And will you swear to understand that I am not dogging on my man, nor feeling sorry for myself (even though I totally do), nor that I am looking for a handout?  And will you also swear to leave me only nice comments, and maybe fine candies on my doorstep?

You do?  Good, then here's the scoop.  The past seven months have been absolutely craptastic.  Don't get me wrong, there were good parts too:

  • We have learned how to live on less.  (But let's be honest, with 5 kids - two of which came with insane adoption expenses - we were already pretty good at living on less.  
  • We were able to get some home projects done, because my manly provider is not only totally employable, he is also handy with... whatever tools one would use to be handy.
  • We discovered that our efforts to raise kids who are neither spoiled nor entitled has paid off.  In fact, Marlie's reaction to us tightening our financial belts?  "It's not like you were buying us stuff when daddy did have a job, we can't even tell!"
  • We have been so blessed and cared for by people during this time, it borders on ridiculous.  People have sent us on an anniversary getaway, given gift cards for gas or groceries, let us borrow a vacuum when ours broke down, offered the use of cars when ours broke down, taped an envelope full of cash to our door and ran away, given us toys to give the kids for Christmas and birthdays (which, according to Marlie's comment, is an entirely new experience for them altogether.)  It has been humbling and humiliating and also a greater relief than I could possibly tell you. 
  • We have grown in our faith, learning to trust God to provide, and learning that He often does that through the people He has surrounded us with. 
  • Despite all the stress and an exorbitant amount of time spent together, we find that we still like each other.
So, it hasn't been 100% craptastic... but enough percent for me to be done with this season.  After 7 months of imagining that moment when Tom got a job offer, an offer finally came.  Now, before I go on, I feel obligated to explain how thankful we are for the opportunity, and that I know that Tom is going to do very well in this new position, and I understand that when one switches professions, one might have to start at the  very bottom of the heap  ground floor and work his way up.  But, here's how it all went down... we get the call with the unofficial offer, and I sob.  And I sob.  And I don't stop sobbing for 24 hours.  I'm like a large babychild just sobbing for a day straight.  It is a miracle that nobody slapped me.  

I just had this vision that, after all this time, God would handsomely reward us with an income that would allow our family of 7 to move to a house with a second bathroom.  Instead, it would be just enough to buy one half-bathroom.  

No, not a house.  JUST the half-bath.  Standing alone.  In a field.

The offer puts us in a slightly worse financial position than we have been in while on unemployment.  Rochester, NY is not exactly a booming metropolis right now (thank you digital age for making Kodak perpetually wet itself for the last 10 years), soooo... ground floor jobs with a great company are actually really hard to come by.  Still, it was not the grand moment I was waiting for, where I pictured an invisible fan blowing literal hundred dollar bills around Tom as he told me the good news.  After admitting that, it is suddenly clear why God ignored that particular wish.  

So, here we are.  Ground floor.  And now that the sobbing has slowed to spontaneous waves, I am finding that this isn't the worst place to be.  Tom has some personality tests to take before the official offer and negotiations take place, but no matter how tight things get, I really do know that we will be fine.  It will take a little time for Tom to work his way up the ladder and get some commission going, but in the meantime, God does provide, sometimes in very humbling and even humiliating ways... but until that fan is blowing Benjamins around Tom's head, we shall live below the poverty line with as much faith and finesse and gratitude as we can fit in a houseless half-bath.


  1. First I would like to say, when I read this I heard a strong woman speaking through this blog. This woman may be struggling with her current circumstances, but her love for God as well as her husband and kids is clearly expressed. And it is evident from Marlie’s comments that she loves her parents no matter what material items she is given.

    Second, I would like to say that although my heart hurts for your family, I am truly excited for what God is going to do. God is and is going to do immeasurably more in your life (Ephesians 3:20). It may not be in worldly things that you can see, but in the molding and shaping of each individual in your family (2 Corinthians 4:18). There are 7 masterpieces in your house, each uniquely created by the living and active God (Ephesians 2:10).

    Third, I would like to encourage you to keep writing. I love reading your blogs. Your funny and real personality is shown through your writing. You are going to get through the trial you faced today! And you are going to get through the trial you face tomorrow and the next day and the next day!! You and your family are going to come out of this season with stronger Godly armor!

    To end, I leave you with this: Find two truths about God that you can quickly bring to mind when the trials get hard. Here are some examples: God is too kind to torture the children He loves. God is too wise to make a mistake. God is with me.

  2. It is through these seasons that the best stories and life lessons come about. it is through these seasons (and let's face it, trials) that the personal growth flourishes, and the tightest family bonds happen. This time is sharpening your family (not just your marriage) for some purpose you may not know yet...

    We used to live in Lewiston. BEAUTIFUL area, but not a lot job wise and when the company my husband was with folded, we had to put our tail between our legs and move. I'm so sorry! That you have the strength to not only give the credit, due and glory where it belongs, but to actually see that God has provided and will continue to- that's something to really take some peace from. Can you imagine how awful you would feel if you didn't have that assurance? I guess it's not that hard, the world is surrounded by people who can't imagine it...

    Lastly, I'm so glad your children have finally learned what a toy is. Yay for the miracles! ha! (I have a 14 year old and she would absolutely say something like that...)