Caring for the Unemployed Family

22helpjobless

E and I are really horrible at asking for help. This has become especially apparent in the last year when we’ve really, really needed help at times but didn’t want to bother our friends and family with our struggles. In doing this, though, the pain of feeing acutely alone and forgotten has been added on to the already tremendous burden of not having a job, and we’ve made the emotional aspect of this whole experience even more difficult for ourselves.

So, in an effort to help others who struggle with trying to build a support system of their own, I’m offering advice to those around them. These are ways you can help the family going through a period of joblessness, especially long-term.

1. Don’t limit your contact to questions about the job search.

Mentioning to them that you’re thinking of them or praying for them to be able to find something soon is a wonderful way to let them know that they’re on your mind and you are very aware of their situation. On the flipside, don’t repeatedly ask how the job search is going, if they have any interviews coming up, whether they ever heard back from “that one place,” or things along those lines. We had one well-meaning relative send a text message every single day asking if we had heard from a specific job until I had to ask them to stop.

These questions are never meant in an unkind way, but when you’re deep in the middle of not being able to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, it’s so discouraging to have to say “no” to any or all of those questions. It’s usually safe to assume, in this case, that no news means there’s no good news and when the time does finally come when they have something good to share, you’ll hear about it without having to ask.

When you do talk to them, introduce other topics as well. Shoot the breeze. Sometimes just talking about mundane things like football or a book you read or something else “normal” people talk about is enough to lift their spirits just by getting their mind off the situation for a while.

2. If you’re able to, offer to spend time with them.

Offer to meet them for coffee or take them to a movie. Doing things with them to help them get their mind off the situation but that also let them know that you really want to spend time with them are some of the best ways to help. Keep doing things with them that you may have done with them before it all happened. Help them to know that you don’t think any less of them and that you haven’t forgotten about them.

I’ve had one amazing friend meet me for lunch once a month for the last year and I have absolutely treasured these meetings. It’s been a time for me to not only get a break from being a mom, but she puts absolutely no pressure on me in terms of what we talk about. So if I want to be Debbie Downer, I feel safe enough with her to do so. If I’d rather talk about anything else in the entire world (which has been the case more often than not lately), she’s okay with that too. She lets me know that she’s thinking of me and we move on from there.

3. Know that while it can be gratefully accepted, money doesn’t fix everything.

Offering them money can be a godsend, something very much needed, and something they are overwhelmingly thankful for (as well as a wonderful way to let them know that you care about them). This can help them be able to focus on finding a good job rather than any job just to pay the bills (which introduces a whole slew of problems of its own). However, this doesn’t automatically fix all of their problems. It can help relieve the stress of paying bills and buying food (no small feat), but does not fill in the emotional gaps nor help them on a personal level.

Thanks to savings, a very generous severance, stock options that we cashed in, and contract work for both of us over the last year, we’ve been in the unique (and very thankful!) position of not having to worry about money. While we’ve definitely lived much, much more frugally than we would have otherwise, we haven’t had to worry about how to pay our bills. I think some people have not known how else to help us and have even assumed we were fine because we’re able to pay our bills. This is not true. It’s been really awful at times even without the stress of money worries.

4. Give them grace.

Know that they’re probably going to be crappy friends/family members/whatever while this is going on and don’t take it personally. That’s just how it is. When they wake up each day wondering how they can make their resume or cover letter better or why they’re not getting any calls, not knowing how long this is going to last, where they’re going to be living in a month, let alone a year, and trying to calculate how long the money will hold out, they aren’t really able to focus on those outside of themselves and their immediate family.

Keep that in mind if any interactions with them seem short or rude or distracted. Remember that if a birthday or anniversary (or several weeks without posting on their blog….ahem) goes by and you didn’t hear from them, they aren’t trying to be mean, they’re just not able to reach outside of themselves during this time.

I’m sure there are more, but these are the main ones I’ve learned in the last year. If you have more to add from your own experience or can relate to any of these (or feel I’m completely wrong :) ), feel free to leave a comment!

System Status: June 2015

system status: June 2015 (ahumbleplace.com)

In our little home, June’s theme was really being outside. As I’ve been diving more and more into the world of Charlotte Mason (seriously….how didn’t I find her a long time ago?!), we’ve been embracing going out-of-doors more and more. Obviously not having a yard has been a huge challenge, so we have to be really intentional about it, but I think that has also been good for us. We dug out the old Kelty and have been visiting a local Audubon Society park for hikes and bird watching and pond observation and just immersing ourselves in nature. Costco had a great deal on a bike trailer and I’ve been working extra lately due to the most recent bundle sale, so we splurged on that and I think the kids enjoy it (as long as they’re in the right mood :) ), not to mention the fact that it allows us some mindless exercise time.

Yesterday was the 1-year mark since E was laid off. In an effort to distract ourselves from this pretty crappy anniversary, we drove up to the mountains and went camping for the first time since C was born. It was good to get away as things have just been feeling pretty bleak lately. I’d venture to say we had a good time (until the birds started their morning wake-up call at 4:30 am and a little girl decided that would be a good time for her to get up as well), and with a few alterations (another double sleeping bag, some better sleeping pads, and more firewood for freezing mornings), we’d like to do it again.

After we got to the campground, an awesomely remote National Forest installation at 10,000 feet that I’ve gone to several times since I was 16 and where we took B for his first camping trip as well, we set up the tent and B just dug in the dirt and explored the area around our site for about a half hour. Then we went on a little hike down to the stream (which is more like a small river now thanks to all the moisture we’ve gotten this year) only about 100 feet from our site. I cooked peppers and onions and bratwurst on our camp stove while we got a little sprinkle of rain, then we went for another hike around the campground. By the time he was ready for bed, B was covered in dirt.

It was awesome.

I think C enjoyed it also as she’d just take off on her own any time we set her down (which was often as she so badly wanted to explore things). She pulled up grass and flowers and brought us tiny pinecones and sticks. Aside from it being a little exhausting constantly having to keep track of her and carry her back to our campsite, it was good to see her experience all the new things.

In Humble family news…

C
C on dada’s shoulders….one of her favorite places to be.

C is still not talking much which has been a bit of a concern for her poor mama. She communicates really well with her hands and body language and various sounds she makes and babbles away to her little heart’s content, but she’s really only saying mama and dada (with an occasional “ba” for ball and “ee” for cheese or “ama” for banana or some other sound that maybe could possibly be a word? but then never says it again). I brought this up at her last pediatrician appointment and they weren’t too concerned as she has more than made up for it in motor skills, but said we’d revisit it at her 18-month appointment. Otherwise, right now she loves being read to, taking mama and dada on “walks” around the living room, bananas, and being tickled. Mama loves little girl dresses and C’s crazy hair (which I’ve been putting in pigtails!). :)

yellow warbler
B getting up close and personal with a yellow warbler at our local bird banding station.

B is amazing, as always. He has been experiencing a lot of new things lately (thanks to his curriculum which we’ll be doing over again for another year until he starts kindergarten next fall), including growing butterflies and releasing them, all of the various birds in our area, and, with the unit we just started last week, all about the weather. He loves to draw (and this) and make up really long “words” (that are just a jumble of letters). He’s been copying a lot as well, asking E or me to write a word out for him so he can copy it, or just copying sentences straight from his books. We’ve been getting Robert McCloskey books for him lately which I really want to add to our permanent collection.

In the end of June I’m into….

Books.

The Light Between Oceans

I didn’t do a System Status last month and C hasn’t been going to sleep very easily (which means I have more time to listen to audiobooks while I nurse her), so I have quite a few to catch up on…

In May and June, I finished Big Little Lies (3 stars – this was for my book club and it was entertaining), Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End (4 stars – so sad this series is done!), 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (4 stars – so sad but incredibly interesting and glad I didn’t abandon this one due to not liking the narrator), The Girl Who Chased the Moon (3 stars – this was really cheesy but I needed some fluff after Henrietta Lacks), The Light Between Oceans (4 stars – so, so, so sad but really well written), Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (4 stars – I was surprised I liked this one, but as it was about old books and computers, it was kind of perfect for me), and A God in Ruins (3 stars – I didn’t like it nearly as much as Life After Life).

I’m currently reading The Night Circus (for my book club), For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School (all about Charlotte Mason – I’m loving it), Home Education, Glimpses of Grace, and Your One-Year-Old.

If you’d like to follow along with my book reading adventures, you can find me on Goodreads or check out my Pinterest book board.

TV.

All of our shows ended in May, so we switched our Hulu subscription over to Netflix and have been partaking in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which SO MANY people recommended) and Broadchurch. The jury is still out on Kimmy, but Broadchurch had us hooked on the first episode.

Movies.

The Wind Rises

Since we’ve run out of shows to watch, we’ve been catching up on movies. We’ve managed to finish off (in two nights or less), Citizenfour (which was incredibly interesting and made me want to move to Antarctica), The Wind Rises (I love Miyazaki’s animation, but the stories of the last few movies have been just kind of….weird), Big Hero 6 (because who doesn’t love giant, kind, squeezable robots?), Interstellar (really good), Captain Phillips (intense but a little cheesy at parts), and The World’s End which was something we threw in there because we needed a laugh (it delivered).

Internets.

  • The Day My Son Gave Up on Me – “My excuses may be valid and sometimes even necessary. Children need to learn patience and that sometimes something other than them must take priority. But it is my words coupled with my attitude, week after week, month after month, year after year: At some point maybe he’ll stop asking again, and it might be about something a lot more important than a glass of water and an extra hug.”
  • Tell your story, then live it. – I hope my obituary sounds like hers.
  • A List Worth Printing, Posting, Remembering, & Living – I keep meaning to print this out and put it on the fridge. I need all of these phrases to become regular parts of my vocabulary.
  • Reading the Bible with a Red Pen – “I lost the red pen with which I used to read the Bible. I lost it somewhere in between my couch cushions, along with my party affiliations and other trappings of identity. I lost myself to my own spiritual hunger. One day I wasn’t sure which character I was supposed to be, and then it all slipped out.”
  • mothers and daughters. “I’m sure there are a lot of things I’m doing wrong when it comes to raising my hazel-eyed little girl and I’m sure there are many mistakes I have yet to make but like my mother often told me in a pleading voice ‘I’m doing my best. My very, very best.'”
  • notes on what we’ve learned about our son [so far] – “Someday he may read this and I want him to see, nine days after the first question, two days after the first confirmation, I love him. I love him. I love him just as he is right this very moment. I’m so proud of him. I always will be. No question marks.”

I post links throughout the month on my Facebook page also if you want to follow along in real time!

Food.

Projects.

weather station

I tend to be a last-minute curriculum planner and I decided at 10 pm last Sunday to put together this weather station for B’s curriculum. It turned out surprisingly well and he loves it, so it was an all-around win situation. It also looks very cute on our pantry door. :)

Favorite Instagram.

love is like a....
It was really neat to be able to observe the butterflies close-up!

This post was inspired by…

Here I Am

caterpillar caterpillar {ahumbleplace.com}

I’ve written at least a dozen blog posts in my head over the last few weeks and not a single one has made it on to my computer. I go back and forth between different topics… what I want to do with this space (it must be time for my quarterly blog identity crisis), various thoughts I’ve had about being a mom to a girl, struggles we’re having with both kids, and, of course, the job thing. But when I start composing the lines in my brain, it all just comes out really sad or really dramatic, sometimes both, and I’m sure people are sick of me being the sad girl all the time. The Debbie Downer.

I have friends ask occasionally how we’re doing…. “any news on the job front?” No. The answer is always no. Not because it really is no. Of course there’s news, but it’s not particularly interesting news. E applied to more jobs. I mentally moved us to Massachusetts/New Hampshire/Minnesota/Wisconsin/Washington/Oregon/Here. He had a screening or an interview. But there’s no news to share because you share one week that there was an application, a screening, or an interview, and then more questions are asked, “well, did you ever hear from *insert job we never heard from here*?” So it feels easier to just say, “no…no news.”

We’ve had a few bones thrown our way in the last few months, including a position we were sure was going to end in an offer (it didn’t) and another position that was introduced with the words, “there will be an offer. You WILL BE getting an offer” (there wasn’t). And life moves on in the same way it has for nearly a year now.

Friends are moving in to new houses. With yards. Or getting good, life-changing news of their own. And I say, “hey, that’s great for you!” while wishing I had some good news of my own to deliver….and trying not to be too jealous.

Debbie Downer.

But this is where we are and as sad as that sounds, it’s also been a good thing.

This is where we are.

For better or worse, this is where we are. In preparation of B’s kindergarten starting next year (just after he turns six), I’ve been researching different homeschooling approaches and the winner right now is Charlotte Mason. Amidst the archaic language and some strange ideas (“Everybody knows that children should not eat pastry, or pork, or fried meats, or cheese, or rich, highly-flavoured food of any description; that pepper, mustard, and vinegar, sauces and spices, should be forbidden…“), I’ve discovered some gems of homeschooling theory, including an enormous emphasis on letting children under the age of six play outside as much as humanly possible.

It’s been so hard to read.

My land envy is ten times greater today than it was when I wrote that post and continues to grow exponentially as B himself grows. We have no yard and no place for our kids to just roam free in the sunshine and I absolutely hate it. I hate the fact that we were in the process of buying a house with a yard when this whole jobless situation happened. And I hate the fact that real estate and rentals in Denver are so ridiculously expensive right now that we couldn’t afford anything even remotely close to what we want even if E had an amazing job.

But here we are. We’re stuck in Denver. We’re in a townhouse with no yard. And that’s what we have to work with.

So I read Charlotte Mason and I do the best I can with what I have. We go on walks and hikes. I take them to the bird park. We obsess over the birds at our feeder. We watch chrysalids form in a cup in our kitchen. We plant tomatillos in a pot on our patio. And we look at a lot of books about nature. I know it’s not as good as simply sliding the patio door open in the morning for them to spend hours in the sunshine, but it’s something.

It’s something.

And strangely enough, I’ve found some peace in this. That maybe we’re teaching B a valuable lesson in finding contentment with where you are in any given situation. That things can’t always be ideal or look as you want them to, and that’s okay. That good can be found in any situation, not just the “perfect” ones.

It’s a good lesson for me, too. I can’t give him a yard right now, but I can show him what it looks like to hold on to the hope of a yard some day and make the best of where we are right now. That he can see his mama smiling even though she’s sad he doesn’t have any idea what a mud pie is and doesn’t like getting dirt in his sandals.

I just really have to hold on to that hope of some day and know that today, this moment, right now, even though at times it all just feels so awful when all the thoughts start piling up on each other, that I truly, truly have so much to be thankful for. And I can just be in the here and now. Not where I should be. Not even where I want to be.

Just where I am.

Almost Oatmeal Cookies & a Review of “Everyday Grain-Free Baking”

Almost Oatmeal Cookes (GF, DF) - ahumbleplace.com

I have a small addiction to cookbooks.

While the collection I have of physical books sitting in my cupboard is nothing to brag about, this is more due to lack of funds and lack of space rather than some herculean willpower I possess. I think if I could have an entire bookcase full of cookbooks, I would. I simply love food and if you saw my ecookbook collection as well as my library card history, you’d know this was a fact.

When my friend, Kelly, offered to send me a copy of her cookbook, Everyday Grain-Free Baking, I had no problem saying, “YES!!” Not only is she one of the kindest bloggers I know, but several of her recipes have also become favorites in our house, so I knew I’d love this book.

We’re not completely grain-free, though I consider us “grain-few.” :) When we were both told we have a gluten sensitivity six years ago, we started by using the gluten-free flours and paying extra for the breads, cereals, snacks, etc. that advertise their glutenless virtue. But our wallets didn’t like the added cost and we didn’t find the food itself to be all that appetizing. So we started to cut back on grains completely and have reaped the benefits ever since, which have included a completely normal, functioning thyroid and a whole lot less digestive complaints. We do occasionally have rice pasta or pick up a loaf of gluten-free bread for sandwiches, but we don’t make a habit of having grains at every meal and neither of our kids have ever had any grains.

With that said, you can imagine why I was excited about this cookbook. B’s curriculum offers a lot of recipes to make with your kids, but the majority of them have wheat flour and/or refined sugars. Kelly’s cookbook not only offers grain-free recipes (including a breakdown of nut-free recipes and SCD-friendly recipes), but also uses honey as a sweetener, which is a wonderful, nutrient-dense alternative to refined, white sugar. It’s so nice to be able to pull it off the shelf, hand it over to B, and tell him he can choose just about any recipe in the book for us to make together. This includes all kinds of different cookies, pies, cakes, biscuits, ice creams, etc. I love it!

Today I’m sharing one of our favorite recipes from Everyday Grain-Free Baking. B absolutely LOVES these cookies and I definitely have to stop myself from eating an entire pan in one sitting as well. They’re easy to make and if you already have a grain-free kitchen, these are most likely ingredients you have on hand right now. And even if you aren’t grain-free, these are a great way to give it a try!

Almost Oatmeal Cookies (ahumbleplace.com)

I have included affiliate links to the individual ingredients that I use in the recipe below. If you’d like to give Vitacost a try, click on this link to get $10 off your first order!

Almost Oatmeal Cookies
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/4 cup blanched almond flour
  2. 1 teaspoon coconut flour
  3. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  5. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (or palm shortening)
  6. 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  7. 1/4 cup honey
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  10. 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  11. 1/3 cup organic raisins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, mix together the butter (or palm shortening), coconut oil, honey, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well to combine. Then add the shredded coconut; continuing to mix until well blended.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the raisins. Then drop the dough by rounded spoonfuls at least two inches apart onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Use your fingers to slightly flatten the cookies into rounds.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown along edges. Allow the cookies to completely cool on the cookie sheet, as they will be very soft and crumbly when hot.
  7. Once cooled, they transform into the ultimate deliciously chewy treat!
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