And Then The Car Died

I've been careful to veil our current employment situation as a family on this blog because it's not specifically my story to tell, though under-employment is very difficult for a family dynamic and I am definitely affected by our current situation. As a normal person, I've largely filtered our "season" (God, I hope it ends soon) of part-time, multiple-job employment through my personal experience of it. As I was reviewing my husband's resume adjustments today per his request, I got another peek into what he's going through in this process. We're both going through a lot but it's largely different for a lot of reasons. Seeing through his lens of challenges today, I was reminded of just the level of confidence projection required during the process of job hunting. It's too much. And the longer you go without full-time work, the more exhausted and discouraged you are (the notion that poor people are lazy is laughable, unless they really just aren't willing to work. It's so much harder to work several crappy jobs without stability). 
No matter how suited you are for a specific job, just to get in the door, you're jumping through invisible hoops that leave you guessing. You don't know if the job posted is really available or if it's posted per some requirement though they already have someone in mind for the position and this posting is really just for looks. You don't know how many applicants they have. You often don't know even the salary being offered. You don't know what their hiring process is, how many interviews you will go through or if you will get called at all. All you know is, you need a job. Many of the jobs you are applying for are well within your wheelhouse of experience and capability and yet, no job. Sometimes no response, even. Some of these jobs are well below your capacity and still, no job. 
It's a very strange dance you do with personal potential, financial obligations, dreams, strangers unspoken expectations and time, so much time. We would all do well when eliminating people from their jobs to acknowledge that it can take the better part of a very difficult year to replace a job. It may be worse paying. We have consistently made less money per job he's taken since we got married. This is the world we're living in. I know people don't want to talk about politics, but I also think sometimes people aren't aware of what things are really like "out there" if they haven't been in this position for awhile. Once Tim started working, even part-time without receiving his first check, we lost our unemployment money. And that money is only half of your original income, so it's not even paying your bills at that point. 
I don't write these things to complain. We're ok for today and sometimes that has to be enough. We've made some deliberate choices about our lifestyle, what we're willing to give up and what we're not (unless truly forced). We desperately want to make a difference in our community through work and that leads us frequently to low-paying jobs. That is something we're comfortable with. So again, this isn't about "poor me" as much as it is about the low points of an extended job search and how hard it is to wait for something to change. Tim's car died this weekend. Ironic how I was all braggy about our old cars in my last post :) Unfortunately, a lot of our options for him to pick up cash once the school year is over involves having a vehicle. We're weighing our options and unfortunately, that long rope we started with is getting shorter. Sometimes you really need to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Believe me, I'm squinting. I'm looking for it. I really hope it's there.

When Facebook Makes Me Cry

It all started when I made the mistake of posting something political on my Facebook page. I've been known to talk about human rights quite a bit but my political posts have been veiled until now. Politics don't bring out the best in humanity and I have a hard time not getting sucked into it. My emotions get strong. My feelings get hurt. Let's face it: I get mean. I become flabbergasted by both the ignorance and the total lack of compassion that this brings out in people. People whom I know I disagree with fundamentally, but to whom I hope to extend an olive branch and listen to with an open mind.
I was already having a bad day. Penny was having one of those almost 3 year old mornings where she thought it was hilarious to do everything the opposite way from which I was asking her. It was exacerbated by the fact that we were in public the whole morning. I have a particularly hard time not feeling flustered when I feel like people are watching how I react to my child when she's being "persnickety." I felt emotionally exhausted. I felt overwhelmed by my child's inability to go with the flow. I felt isolated because every parent around us was interacting with their child in a way that looked a lot more simple and easy than what I was dealing with all morning. 
Then I logged onto my page and saw the "conversation" that unfolded, and continued to unfold throughout the day. Articles being thrown at me (to which I threw articles I said, I was having a bad day). My work ethic called into question. Then my privilege. Then my greed. I start to get sucked in. The words are rising in my throat. I'm tempted to talk about the 18 year old car I've been driving for 15 years or how my husband I have can live on less than $40,000 a year as a family of 4 because we're so careful with money. I want to talk about our 2 bachelor's degrees that aren't putting us to work. I want to explain how we choose to live small because that's one of our essential values. I almost blurt out about how low our mortgage payment is because we played it very conservative when we got into the market 11 years ago and have never been tempted to "upgrade" from our "starter house." I start to get angry as I think about my husband getting up at 5:30 every morning working 2 jobs and how we still can't provide for ourselves without the government programs we're gratefully using because he's been looking for full-time work for 7 months and counting with no success. I want to talk about my small business that keeps my child out of daycare (fewer expenses!) giving us a 3rd income while doing what we believe is best for our child (this is not a judgment, this is actually what we believe about our specific child). I understand what it means to create something from nothing, to generate income from thin air. I understand the amount of motivation and drive it takes to work alone with a 2 year old in tow. I really, really do. 
I want to scream out that this is about us, yes, but the video I posted was about justice for all, access to quality education for all families, races, and socio-economic levels. How could this message of hope get twisted into laziness, self-interest and greed? I want to weep. In fact, I have. 
I've written about taming this beast, this rising voice of self-defense. This is not a new process for me. I have a strong sense of justice and it can make me a bit of a beast. I choose to call it advocacy :) But maybe I haven't given a full voice to the demons, the moment the words of shame come pouring in, the pain and horror that unkind words do when they come into your home on a bad day. I get it; politics are tough. And maybe this is my cue to bow out. Shit's gettin' ugly, people. 
I know I will require an extra dose of self-care after today's events. And my skin isn't very thick.
But I don't want to silence my voice (though I may need to do some unfriending). I know there's a benefit in putting a face to an ideology (granted, I thought my face would receive more respect than it was given today, but the world isn't as kind as I believe. I already knew that) and I'm not ashamed of my beliefs. I believe people need access to health care. I believe that all the poor kids should be fed and educated and have secure housing. I believe books should be in every home. I believe people should be able to fulfill their potential whether they were born in the country club or the ghetto. I believe people want to work and to find something worthwhile and fulfilling to do with their lives. I believe people who do good work, like teach our children, should also be able to have a comfortable retirement. And God help us, I believe people of all races and religions should be free and embraced in this country, not rounded up like a bunch of fucking terrorists. 
I believe in kindness. I do. If I'm not the best economist, ok. I'm cool with that. Let's let the economists put their beautiful brains to work. But what I do know is I will not be silenced. I will not bow down in worship to the almighty hate. I won't do it. So hate my government program-loving heart if you must. But know that I love my beliefs and those who hold them with integrity and with my own integrity fully intact. You don't have to agree with it. But you damn well better respect it. And I will do my best to respect our differences and above all, to temper my passion with kindness. And now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go log off Facebook for some much needed R & R.

The Week My Husband Lost His Job & I Called Security on My Kid

It's been quite a week. I don't really intend to talk about Tim's job loss today, but I put it in the title to give context to the whole calling security thing. A lot of my thoughts have come back to, "I don't need this right now." This is not a typical thought for me, but it has applied several times in the last few days.
I never stole anything as a child (typical) but Tim did and he paid dearly for it. When Macy took something from Dollar Tree last year, I gasped so loud I scared her. She had to march right back in and return it. But today, my mommy radar was up when we were in a consignment shop. She had her eye on these hair clips and when I went back to get the one we'd picked, it wasn't there. I suspected that she had stashed it somewhere, but didn't want to show her that I doubted her integrity. I really do believe the best in people and was hoping I was wrong. When we got home from the mall, I found the clip when I started to clean out the car. 
So, back to the mall we went (exhausted) where she had to return both the clip we bought and the one she stole. Tim had called the shop on the way and explained the situation so the security guard was ready and waiting. Macy and I had discussed the possibility that he would be there and the walk to the shop was nerve-wracking. She was scared she was going to get yelled at or punished. She was worried she wouldn't get any Christmas presents from Santa because she had been bad. I reminded her that she has made a lot of good choices this year, that she can't change what she did but she can try to make things right and do better next time. I assured her that I loved her but that she had done something wrong and needed to face the consequences of her actions. When she had to explain what she'd done to the shop owner, her voice broke and her eyes welled up with tears. The security guard explained that if she was older, she would have been banned from the mall for one year. 
After we were done in the store, we left the mall. Macy was over-acting like she was happy and I was kind of annoyed by it. I was tired and had made a second trip to the mall in rainboots of all things. Shouldn't she still be crying? Why wasn't her tail between her legs? And then she said, "I just want to feel happy again." And so hand-in-hand, we danced through the parking lot.
The desire to feel happy when you've had a shitty day really resonates with me. It's part of being human. When you overdraw your checking account, you're just wanting to escape the realities of your tight budget for a little while. And so you have some fun, and then your stomach drops when you see the negative balance. Reality comes crashing down and you have to figure out what to do. And when you make a plan and figure it out, you feel relief. You feel hope. It doesn't make the consequences go away, but in taking responsibilitiy, the shame evaporates and you feel free to face another moment, another day, another month. 
Macy reminded me of this tonight. That it's okay to dance through the rain after having a stern talk with the mall security guard. Life is hard sometimes. She wanted to feel good. She wanted to be in control. She wanted to get away with something for once. I totally get it. I'm learning to have grace for myself as a human being (shedding the baggage of trying to be perfect, better, a leader, a light, an example...hello, ministry baggage!) This, of course, has to inform my parenting. I can't be trying to practice self-love and then not extend that to my child. Her human moment was my human moment. And I am so proud of her. Grace is accepting the consequences and then releasing them to the wind. And if that means making a fool of yourself in a crowded mall parking lot, so be it.