Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Thrill of Hope

I have never been one of those people that goes crazy over the Holiday season. I didn't see Elf until 3 years ago. There was a 9 year stretch where I didn't even put up a tree in my apartment. I was a self proclaimed Scrooge and rather proud of it. I blamed it on working too many years in retail, but if I am being honest, my distaste for Christmas started long before I filled out my first I-9.

When you are a kid, Thanksgiving to New Year is full of magical expectation. The air seems heavy with excitement and happiness.  Nothing could go wrong because it was Christmas time. Then, you grow up and you realize that those expectations are never fully met (at least for me they weren't). I'm not talking about material expectations. It's more that you realize there is still pain in the world even though the calendar reads December 25. That realization came much earlier for me than most.  My grandfather passed away when I was 8 years old. It was just me and my mom after that. We would exchange a few gifts in the morning and go to a friends house if we were invited.  There were no traditions, no excitement, It seemed like any other day to me for the longest time.  

Then, 18 years later, I married Dean. He reads Charles Dickens's  A Christmas Carol every year. His family has 3 days of Christmas celebrations starting Christmas Eve. Our first Christmas as a married couple he insisted on going to Hobby Lobby and purchasing an exorbitant amount of Christmas decorations. Slowly, my tiny Grinch heart started to grow and I hated Christmas less and less.

Than this Christmas came. Having a baby makes a lot of things different. I knew this Christmas would be different, I just expected a different kind of different. I expected that I would want to be into Christmas for Paisley. I expected I would spoil her with millions of toys and clothes, but that is not what happened. In fact, I didn't even wrap one of her 4 gifts. What was different was my understanding of Christmas. What I didn't understand when I was 8, or 18, or even 26 was all the times I was let down by unmet expectations I was missing the point. Christmas isn't about meeting expectations.  It's about the thrill of hope that allows weary hearts to rejoice over the birth of our savior.  This world may be broken and scary right now.  There may not seem like there is much to rejoice over.  But I believe that is not going to last.  This world is not my home, as the old lady in the wooden church pew used to say.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Don't keep calm for 24 hours, then carry on.

I am not a fan of those "Keep Calm and (insert something funny here)" graphics.  Besides the fact that they are completely over used, they don't offer practical advise.  Every once in a while, you just need to freak the hell out.  It's healthy.  I have this rule about times of crisis.  You have a 24 hour period to freak out, cry, throw a fit, hyperventilate, whatever you need to do.  After those 24 hours have past, it's time to pick yourself up, dust off the pains of yesterday and find a way to fix it.   Yesterday was my 24 hour freak out.

First, let me give you a little background on my life since I last blogged (yes, I am ignoring the fact that it has been over a year).  My sweet Paisley Jeanne was born on March 4, 2015 at 9:46 am.  She was  my 6 pound, 5oz bundle of love I have been waiting for my entire life.  The first few weeks that I was home with her I cried thinking about having to leave her to go to work.  I really wasn't happy about it.  However, two months past, my maternity leave was up, and I didn't have much of a choice.  It took a few weeks of adjustment and one trip to the bathroom to cry, but eventually I did fall back into the groove of things.  I missed her, but I genuinely enjoyed my job and frankly, we needed the income.

Paisley 2 weeks old
Fast-forward to October. Our little family of three has settled into a nice weekly routine. Paisley only needs a sitter twice a week and we just so happened to have family near by that adores her and begs to see her.  My weekends are hectic but over all life is good.   Then my company announces that they have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and closed close to half of their clinics.  It was no surprise to me really.  I worked in the finance department and saw that the company was bleeding money.  There had already been some downsizing.  I thought I was safe.  If anything I would have my hours cut and that just meant more time with Paisley.  Well, the following day a company wide email went out explaining who is responsible for what with all of the changes taking place.  I looked at and saw my responsibilities, but not my name,  Long story short, that is how I found out I was laid off.  

I went home angry that day.  Not because I had lost my job, but because they didn't have the decency to tell me before a company wide email went out.  They offered me two more weeks to tie up loose ends and finish a project I was working on. I took it because I didn't want to burn bridges.  I got a kick ass letter of recommendation from our CEO and left on good terms.  

My plan was to collect unemployment and enjoy Paisley's first holiday season (starting with Halloween) and find a part time job in January that pays me what I'm worth (there were/are receptionists making more money than I was as a project manager).  And that's what I did for the first 3 weeks.
The cutest little monster there was!
 I was happy, I had my days with Paisley.  I was cooking and cleaning and getting projects done.  I thought "hey, I will have time to blog again!".   Then, yesterday happened.  Yesterday I realized I hadn't received my first unemployment payment yet, so I went online to see what the hold up was.  Come to find out I owed a massive fine for over payment of unemployment benefits from 6 years ago.  6 years ago I was laid off from a job and when I found a new one it didn't pay as much ($4 per hour less to be exact). I was under the impression that I could collect partial benefits because of the difference.  Well, I was wrong.  So now, 6 years later, I do not get any payments until my over payments and fines are paid off.   Basically what that means is we now have to live off of Dean's wages alone.  Honestly, that's not a lot.  

So, I completely panicked.  I was hyperventilating and Dean had to find me a paper bag.  I cried, threw a fit and freaked out.  Then I made a plan.  I spent my whole day on the computer yesterday.  I applied for a total of 5 jobs, applied for food stamps (not happy about it but thankful it is there), WIC, and HEAP (to help pay our heating bill).  We have enough in our savings account to cover rent through February which just so happens to be when I can start getting actual payments again.  I also plan on filing taxes as soon as possible so that we get the refund sooner than May.  

And now, here I sit in old dirty Pjs that I have been in for over 24 hours, on a floor covered in toys and dog hair, sporting a 3 day old pony tail that my baby keeps pulling, and just now having coffee for the first time in two days. (why did I do that to myself?)  Is this what I expected life to be like for me right now?  Not at all.  I never thought I would need welfare benefits, or that I would have to skip out on some Christmas presents for my family to make ends meet.  However, I am still blessed. My home is still standing, my city wasn't bombed,  I don't have to travel the world with only the things I can carry to feel just a tiny bit safer than I did before.  Life my be rough right now, but at least it is just first world problem rough and for that I am thankful.