Thursday, September 24, 2009

Things I've Recently Learned

It's been a while since I've said anything about how things are going here, we're coming up on the six-week anniversary since Andrew lost his job and when I first mentioned it here many of you commented and said, "Wait and see, there will be good things that will come from this" and while I agreed you'll pardon me if I was ever-so-slightly skeptical at the time.

Panic has a way of doing that you know. But six weeks is six weeks. Andrew mentioned to me that the whole thing reminded him of the other traumatic time he had this summer when his boat capsized and how he felt when he finally popped up after being under water. We agreed that by now we feel that we've popped up and are getting some air and it's time to swim for shore. A good metaphor I think.

But while I've talked about ways we're cutting back and things I'm worrying over I thought I'd like to concentrate today on a few things I've been learning during this time. Maybe there are those who have been here before who have learned other lessons as well but for now this is what we're noticing and I'm coupling it with cute pictures of my kids in the picnic we had last week.

Because I have that kind of power and because it was a really, really nice evening where we could forget stress and just enjoy being outside together (and by the way, that water is just above freezing but they stayed in it for hours).

1. There are a lot of very kind people out there. It's interesting how when you're struggling with something that the slightest thing can be a blessing. A kind word, a plate of cookies, a thoughtful gesture--and there have been quite a few who have said and done such nice things. And while a loaf of homemade bread may not solve all the problems it goes a very long way toward making you feel not so alone and worried because it's proof that the world isn't so bad after all, right? I'm grateful for each gesture.

2. Now I know what to say. Have you ever had it happen where you know someone has had something bad happen to them, say a death in the family or something else tragic, and while you sympathize and want to say something appropriate to comfort them, what can you say? There have been plenty of times when I worry about saying the right thing or I worry that bringing it up might be embarrassing or painful so I make the worst choice of saying nothing at all.

There's nothing like having something unfortunate happen to you to teach you exactly how to react to others in similar circumstances. You don't tell a mother whose just miscarried, "It's okay, you'll have other children" if you've had it happen to you right? Well when I have friends who have lost their jobs I now know that the kindest thing to do is to say, "I'm so sorry to hear what happened, I'd love to be able to help you however I can. How are you holding up?" because things like that have been the most comforting to us.

The hard thing about losing your job is that there's a certain amount of shame associated with the experience. It's not something one is typically proud of no matter how the situation came about and having your friends ignore the issue and pretend it didn't happen makes you feel as if they're embarrassed about it (not a nice thing to feel). Never again will I not say anything because I'm worried about saying the wrong thing, I've learned better.

3. I'm more compassionate. Andrew came home one day this past month and commented that it was funny how that when he now saw homeless people his attitude was so much softer and more compassionate. He thought, "Gosh, that poor guy's down on his luck, what a hard life to have" rather than ignoring him altogether and I agreed with him. When you're down on your own luck you start to notice that others may not have it so rosy either and feelings of sympathy come quicker than feelings of judgment.

A little more compassion is always a good thing.

4. I waste less. I already mentioned Andrew's ramen noodle episode which I thought was funny but really it's indicative of a switch to a less wasteful lifestyle. We save gas, we save electricity, we save leftovers, we save the ends on the loaves of bread for goodness sake. It makes me feel rather ashamed of so many things I have wasted over the years (oh how Mom used to lecture me for not drinking the milk in the bottom of my cereal bowl!) but we've been excellent at recycling and reusing. You'd be so proud of us.

5. I'm rather excited for the future. You'll laugh at me but earlier this summer before all this happened I was outside being lazy and I remember looking up at the blue sky and thinking how smoothly things were all going in our lives followed by, "Gosh it feels like something bad is about to happen to stir things up."

I must have ESP or something. But I secretly admitted to myself that it was all becoming a little boring--cruise control gets tiresome. The same routine every day, the same things, the same patterns. I was right, something did happen to shake things up and now that we're working so hard to keep afloat at least I can say it's really kind of interesting, even exciting. And who knows what might happen? Before things were laid out so stiff and solid in front of us but now it's kind of open to improvisation and sometimes that can be a good thing. I'm pretty sure it's not going to be easy but sometimes the things that aren't easy can be very rewarding in the end. I'm just hoping that "The End" isn't right around the corner, like say in eight months where we're living in a cardboard box off 36th Avenue.

6. It's going to be great for the kids. For years we have seriously struggled with our children living in a society filled with excess. So many gadgets and toys to have, places to visit and things to own and it just isn't good for anyone let alone an impressionable, growing mind. It is tiring to feel as if we're always having to say, "No, you can't have that," "No, I'm not going to buy that for you," "Yes, you'll be the only child left on the planet without the shoes with rollers on the bottom but you'll live" but now the situation is taken completely out of my hands for a glorious reprieve. I don't have to be the bad guy anymore--at least at this point--because they know the money isn't there so they don't even ask.

In fact it goes farther than that, they can see that things have changed and it's teaching them the same things I've mentioned above and they're handling it fine. Would they rather have their "stuff" back? I'm sure but they're learning that life can be good without a lot of stuff, maybe even better.

I hope they still feel that way in six months.

7. It's kept me blogging. I had fully resolved to shut things down in September and everything I did was leading up to it but once we needed all the extra cash we could collect from the sofa I figured it might be a bad idea.

So I kept going and wouldn't you know it, something about this past month has changed things. It's not as if I'm a brand new person, married to my blog till death do us part but somewhere during the month new things came up, new opportunities and it all fell together where I now kind of realize where I want to go with things and what place blogging has for me and it never would have happened if I'd shut things down. Funny how things like that go. . . .

8. It's kept me exercising. In general principle I really really hate to exercise. In fact the only good thing about exercise (for me) is how good it feels when I stop and when we went through that whole barefoot-running thing this summer I wondered how long it would take for the honeymoon to end. But once all this stress hit I could tell that it would be critical for Andrew to have regular ways to work it out at the track and I thought it would be good if I did it with him so we could spend that extra time together now that time would be at a premium.

So it's been three months now and we're out jogging several times a week. I'm not any marathon star or anything but I'm jogging two miles in about 26 minutes--nice and easy is my motto--and it feels good to be keeping fit and spending time with my friend. So that's been another good thing that wouldn't have probably happened if this all hadn't happened (especially since you know how there are two types of people in this world: those who don't eat when they're stressed and those who eat when they're stressed? I'm the second kind. Sigh. Or losing a few pounds fro the stress would be on the list).

9. I'm more creative with solutions to our needs. If we needed something at the store it was easy to run on down and pick it up but you should see me now. The kids' Halloween costumes have already been thoroughly discussed (they start planning for them around August) and we're not spending a dime, it's all from stuff we already have.

If I have to run an errand I'm a genius at plotting a path that will take the least amount of time and gas and I've been learning new ways to use every scrap of extras we have. In fact, I just harvested a bunch of cabbage from the garden and after using it in the meal for that night David even used some of the extra leaves for food in his worm tub.

Worm tub? I haven't mentioned that? It's another post for another day. Let's just say we've got more worms than you'd normally feel comfortable with living under our roof.

10. I don't have a number ten. It's only six months into this thing and while I'm being extremely positive today you'll forgive me that I could only come up with nine good things. I'm sure there will be more later but for now nine is all I can handle.

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51 comments:

a Tonggu Momma said...

My brother-in-law lost his job several years ago. He, my sister and their three children lived with us for six months. All of the things on your list? Not only did I watch my sister learn them, I also learned them. I'm sorry things are so hard right now. And happy that you can see some good in the situation.

Mom24 said...

What a wonderful, thought-provoking post. I wish you all the best. I'm happy for you for the pleasant surprises you've experienced, and sorry for the pain along the way. I hope Andrew's new venture is successful, financially, but also, emotionally.

Danielle a.k.a Yellie said...

This really inspired me. While I'm fortunate to not be going through the same financial situation as you are experiencing at this moment, it still makes me think about how I should be so thankful for so many of the things that you have mentioned that are so easy to overlook when things are going well. And, any of us could end up in the same financial situation at any time...completely unexpectedly and without warning, so it's important to remember what we've got that isn't related to finances and remember that those really important things will still be there, no matter what happens with our jobs. God is so good and He provides in ways we aren't even aware of sometimes. It's great that you have seen the "silver lining" and I pray that you will continue to see the blessings, even in the times of frustration and discouragement. ((HUGS))

Jeana said...

Isn't it funny how something you think is going to be so bad turns out to really change things for the better? I feel the same way about our economic challenges over the years.

Jill in MA said...

You are so good at finding the positive in things. You are a great mom and a wonderful person. I'm so glad you decided to continue blogging (whatever the motivation) because yours (as I've said before and will say again) is my favorite mommy blog and the first I read in the morning.

Heart2Heart said...

Michelle,

Oh how I wished we had written about our day to day experience. I know it seemed like there were more lows than high days and just when it seemed like the clouds would part and the sun would shine again, we'd get a freak rain storm that would last for months.

The thing I have learned is that the storms will go away and the sun will shine again. Just predicting how soon that will be, is like the weather man predicting the accurate weather for the day.

We are praying for you and hope that each day brings more sun than clouds.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Susan Berlien (warmchocmilk) said...

I totally get it! My husband has been laid off twice in the past year! Now he's doing contract work that is unpredictable....We have made some adjustmants as a family. We are living greener and simpler and actually are happier. It's stange how it worked out. Sometimes I need to be forced to make changes I guess.

Janelle said...

I'm so glad you decided not to shut down the blog. It will be a sad day for your readers when you do.

fawndear said...

Thank you for this blog. It was comforting. My husband didn't lose his job but we've been going through tough times seeking help for a mentally ill son and so many of your points were exactly spot on. So I think so many people learn these things when facing unexpected and life-altering tramatic experiances, be it a job loss, or death in the family, or some other tragedy.
It is so important and healthy to look for the positive. To notice just how important family is.
Thank you again for sharing.

Amy said...

I love reading your blog, hearing about your family adventures, and am so glad you are not shutting down. I love your response to not knowing what to say when a person comes to you with a loss or hardship. I m going to write it down and bake some cookies for a friend. Thanks for sharing all of the learning you have experienced over the last several months and I look forward to the future of Scribbit.

Scribbit said...

Thank you all so much--I appreciate your words of support!

Wanda said...

I love you attitude. Last year, my husband was unemployed for 4 months. It nearly cost us everything.
You are so right. All perspective changes. Nothing is the same in our lives anymore.
Our Christmas....was nothing like they had been in the past.
We have 3 teens and this is the first time ever that they did'nt have a wish list. We didn't exchange gifts at all.
Everyone felt so much thankfulness this time around. We were overwhelmed with being "ok" and not homeless and hungry.

I will certainly pray for you guys. God can do amazing things and He will. Hopefully SOON! :)

Mommy Cracked said...

Love to hear you sound so hopeful and glad things, although tougher, are going ok.

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I am glad things are working out and I think your positive attitude is helping to fuel all the good things brewing for you and your family. Wishing you all the best...I'm hoping he'sn out of a job for too long.

p.s. I really really really hate to exercise, too. ;)

Neas Nuttiness said...

I'm so sorry. I truly hope that your situation changes for the very best, very very soon.

Chris said...

Nine lessons learned are better than none........

The Texas Bakers said...

First, I just want to say that I love the gorgeous pictures. It looks like Campbell Creek. We played in it this summer while we were up, and it was as cold as I remembered from my childhood. But even my TEXAN kids played for a long time and nobody complained.
Second, I enjoy reading all your posts and am dying to try the latest cake, but I think I like the ones with a personal touch the very best.
Third, I am very sorry for the hard times your family is experiencing. I often have that same feeling you mentioned, waiting for other shoe to drop. It's nice to have an example of weathering that storm with such grace. However, I don't think you need to be concerned with ending up in a cardboard box on 4th, as I know for a fact that you have many many family members and friends who would never allow that to happen.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Your perspective is inspiring. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the different trials the Lord gives to us. He doesn't give them to us to make us unhappy, but to help us grow to be more like Him. Too often I forget this simple doctrine :) !! We are supposed to go through life with dignity and cheerfully, no matter the circumstances. It sounds like you are doing just fine :) !! (Although, I do know that it is still hard to not have what you need financially.)

I also like what you said here:

There's nothing like having something unfortunate happen to you to teach you exactly how to react to others in similar circumstances. You don't tell a mother whose just miscarried, "It's okay, you'll have other children" if you've had it happen to you right? Well when I have friends who have lost their jobs I now know that the kindest thing to do is to say, "I'm so sorry to hear what happened, I'd love to be able to help you however I can. How are you holding up?"

So very, very true!

imadramamama said...

You're strength and outlook are positively awe inspiring.

You are an amazing woman, Michelle.

Michele said...

That was a very nice post, Michelle. When you mentioned your children not having gadgets and things I sort of laughed because I always restrict what my children get because I think we have too much. But sometimes it's hard because we CAN afford it. It would almost be easier to say, "We don't have the money for that." I hope Andrew's new position is going well.

Chrissy Johnson said...

See, I told you! Your writing has become spot on in past six weeks. Not that it wasn't exceptional before, but seriously! So happy for you guys.

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

What a great post! I am continuing to pray for your family while you all are going through this.

Can't wait to hear about the worm farm!?

Stephanie Frieze said...

Wonderful post! Being able to "make lemonade from lemons" is one of the most useful skills we humans can learn. My husband hasn't lost his job yet, but it's in the wind. Recycling and economy are lessons we learned years ago, but we are ever on the lookout for new ways to better to stretch or money and walk more gently on the earth. I am sure that this experience will be good for your children and they can have fun making holiday gifts for each other, family and friends.

Good luck to you. You are definitely on the right track.

Michemily said...

Those are important lessons. Thank you for sharing and all the best.

Carrie said...

Thank you for sharing - especially what is helpful for people to say in this situation. Praying for you!

tjhirst said...

I can attest to the fact that our downturn at home has been great for our kids, too. I was especially worried about the youngest of mine, who didn't remember the first 2 bedroom house where they all three shared a room and could only see what we have now.

This helps her to understand the value of money and whine less about the material things. She gave up ballet two years ago to save money and I thought it was going to kill us both. But we've grown so much more comfortable at home in the afternoons loving each other and conversing instead of running her to that three hours a week. She's found art and grown in new ways.

I'm happy to hear the account of what you've learned; it helps everyone to know that we all have struggles and we can all learn from them. That's important at this time of difficulty when we could all use a boost to our self confidence.

tara said...

i'm sorry to hear this news -- i haven't stopped by in awhile. (is the design new? looks great.)

your attitude is refreshing and this post was a good one. i especially like #2 -- i never, ever know what to say, until i've been there.

that said, do let me know if there is anything i can do. sincerely.

i might have to follow your lead with a similar post re: deployments, as my husband is on one right now.

Native American Momma said...

It is a good thing to stop and reflect sometimes.
If you stop by my blog there is a Uprinting logo on it and you can sign up to advertise for them. They pretty well.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I wish we had water to play in around here. Oh wait, we do...there are beaches to the bay. Maybe a picnic is in order soon. I hope Maya's not too old for that.

Ted was laid off last June, just a week before my mom passed away. I learned what a blessing it was to have him home with me. If he hadn't been there, I'm not sure if I would have gotten out of bed some days.

I was laid off in February, just days before Ted went back to work. Two things came out of it that are selfish for me. 1. I started taking horseback riding lessons. Not the best timing, as I was unemployed, but it's been something I've wanted to do FOREVER, and I finally had the time. And Ted was working and I had unemployment, so it was at least possible. 2. I started delivering meals for meals-on-wheels. I did that to fill some time, but I didn't expect to love it. And I do. Now that I'm back at work, I am fortunate in that my company supports me staying with it, and I take a two hour lunch one day a week to deliver. I love it.

These are things that I didn't feel like I had time for before. When your kids are little, you really don't have much time to call your own. But when they get older, it's easier to make some time for yourself, and I think it's worth it. Kind of like your time exercising with Andrew in the mornings. That's something that's for you and him, and hang onto it tightly.

Losing my mom last year taught me what to say when people lose a loved one. So you're right about that. It does teach more than sympathy. It teaches empathy. I work in high tech, so everyone I know has been laid off at least once or twice, so knowing what to say then, I learned years ago. ;)

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Oh, and I have a cousin who was laid off this year, and could not afford her rent, so is currently homeless, living in a mobile home on her church parking lot, a situation which will not last forever. She wants to stay in that town because of the schools for her kids, and because she loves it, or else she would move in with family. But she's spent some time in a shelter, with her kids, and it's not a fun time at all. So yeah, we do have a lot to be thankful for. There are always those out there who are better off than we are, and those who are going through hard times. Keeping your heart open to them all is important.

branda50 said...

I like this post.....I not only like reading your post Michelle but I like reading the comments from your readers too....Very interesting....
When I want to save money for something out of the ordinary I pretend I don't have any money at all for several months...I know it sounds silly but it works for me..I just don't buy anything extra..

Amber said...

Who says 10 is the perfect number? Nine was perfectly lovely. Just think where you'll be nine months from now. So many more lessons learned!

Summer said...

I'm glad you're focusing on the positive. I don't know much else to say, just that it's good you're pulling through alright.

Heather said...

Your optimism is wonderful. It will (and has!) served you well.

These are excellent ideas for all of us to learn and put into action.

miriama said...

I mentioned in the past that my husband's hours were cut by %25. well, this week he got laid off. The worst part is that all insurance ended the same day. Cobra is over a thousand a month which is not happening.

My car got broke into and fortunately my father helped with the glass and we had friends that fixed the ignition but no new stereo. Like you mentioned you learn to do without some things.

Dealing with my father's illness (we just made another trip down to CA to see him..the girls and I) has been an eye-opener as well. We are trying to come to terms with a lot of things in the time left. And watching him with his granddaughters, 24 and 14..and great-granddaughter, 2, was delightful, stressful, painful and hard all at the same time.

Having to deal with loss of income, insurance, imminent death of a parent and destruction of my car (does anyone realize how precious your space is until it is invaded?) is making me stronger. Right now I feel weak but I have come through far worse and later I will look upon this all as a growing experience.

For now, there is chocolate. :)

Blessed said...

I've been away for awhile so this is news to me... but we went through this earlier this year, right before Christmas we found out that I was 14 weeks pregnant (so my body is weird... what can I say!) and then when Hubby went back to work on December 30th he found out that he was being laid off the next day. It was beyond stressful.

But, we made it, a few months later hubby was working again a few months after that our baby was born and now we're in better shape financially than we've been in a long time. Because we're still practicing a lot of those principles we learned while hubby was out of work!

Good luck to you and Andrew - I'm wishing you the best... now off to read a few older posts (oh and I'm glad you didn't decide to shut down the blog!)

Serena said...

This sounds really cliche, but you are an inspiration. And the way you go about inspiring is enjoyable to read and full of humor. Thank you.

Lori said...

I'm so happy to hear that milk is being finished! It sounds like your family can make it through anything and I am so happy that you are staying with us and continuing to share your thoughts and insights.

I hope you can get ashore soon and that the water isn't too unbearable (though it is Alaska...)

Headless Mom said...

I'm glad you didn't quit. I'm inspired by you all the time, especially now.

Keep on keepin' on, friend!

Jolanthe said...

First of all - I'm so glad that you didn't quit blogging. :) Even though I haven't commented much this last week, I love peeking in at your life and seeing things through your perspective. :)

And I hate exercising, but I know I need to start up again...sigh. Why can't the motivation factor be easier to grasp?

Stephanie Frieze said...

I did several hours of driving yesterday and mused on your post. It made me wonder if you're familiar with Amy Dacyczyn's collection of newsletters titled Tightwad Gazette. I have had all three volumns for years and give them as gifts to young people. They are filled with information that took me years of experience to figure out on my own about making a penny scream and some things I hadn't thought of. One of my married sons and his wife laughed and laughed at the things that were in there (and some of them are pretty funny)and dismissed the whole thing. The other son and daughter-in-law LOVED it. That was several years ago and oldest son is singing a different tune since his business has been impacted by the recession and they now have two little girls. Frankly, I think the recession has been a good experience for them and I hope the lessons they are learning will serve them the rest of their lives.

One way that we are coping and probably will for the forseeable future is by living in an extended family situation. Middle son and his wife originally moved in when he was in graduate school, she was pregnant and their apartment burned. They have stayed because she's from Brazil and likes the extended family situation. We've not retired because my husband still has work and now that my son is a teacher they can afford to pay rent which helps us make the mortgage payments. This just goes to show you that there are creative ways to get by. Instead of raising children we are dealing with aging parents. It's always something.

If you haven't seen the Tightwad Gazette check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Tightwad-Gazette-Amy-Dacyczyn/dp/0375752250

Inkling said...

It's kept you blogging. That is something for which we can all be grateful. I don't know what I'd do if my favorite Alaskan blogger suddenly retired from blogging. I'm not even sure the world would keep spinning. Well, okay, I know that life as we know it doesn't really depend upon whether you decide to write tomorrow morning or not, but it sure is nice to have a favorite spot to visit online each day. So I'm glad you are keeping the blog.

Terresa said...

Your #4 & #7 are especially meaningful to me. I almost shut my blog down too, these last weeks. But I hang in there and realized, too, that my blog has a place in my life and is a Good Thing.

We also try & waste less/save more. My daughter asked me the other day how we recycle. I (proudly) told her that I rewash every baggie that goes into my kids lunches. That's about 20 baggies a night. I, too, feel bad for the wasting I've done in my life, but we all try and do a little to stretch what we have and be grateful.

Great-Granny Grandma said...

Have been away from Blogland for a while and am only just catching up once again. I'm so sorry you are going through this hard time right now, but I'm so glad you didn't shut down your blog. I would have really missed you.

This is such a great post, and believe me it speaks to my heart because I've been there, done that.

I can't believe how wasteful I once used to be. Now not only am I careful not to buy more food than I'm sure to use before it gets spoiled, but I'm also careful to use all of it, including leftovers. And I've even learned to be careful with my water usage, which I never thought twice about before. Now I do things like turn it off while I'm shampooing my hair or brushing my teeth. I've also learned to enjoy shopping for clothes at the thrift shops, something I would never ever have considered in my earlier life.

It's amazing how circumstances can change your perspective--and often for the better. No matter how afluent I may be going forward, I don't think I would ever be comfortable wasting things again. I've come to really enjoy the creativeness that was birthed through necessity.

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

There is always positive to find, gad it's happening for you and hope the worry & panic are ebbing away.

planetnomad said...

Great pics, and you were thinking of quitting? AUGH. So glad you didn't :)
Great post, btw.

Amanda P. said...

I loved your post. I'm glad you're doing OK.

Kirby3131 said...

I'm still sort of stunned that you were going to shut down the blog. I'm so glad that you have found a second wind when it comes to it because I would miss everything about your blog.

Life changes on a dime sometimes and it is truly amazing what we can do with it :) I'm glad you all are working together and finding a way. Thanks for taking us with you on your journey. Seriously, THank you.

Kristin - The Goat

Anjali said...

You, and your family beautiful.

I wish you much peace, love, and excitement on this journey.

CountessLaurie said...

I remember sitting with two moms when our first was just born. They were chatting back and forth about how they simple would not survive if they didn't have at least $5,000 in their Savings. I sat there thinking, I wish I had $5in my checking, let alone my savings. I often wonder how they would survive hardship. I survive by the grace of God.

I am sorry it's hard for you right now. Sending long distance hugs to you and yours.

perilloparodies said...

congrats, Michele... I am so proud of you. each of these are such important lessons. I know that they have not been easy to learn, but... You are doing it. hugs...