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.