Archives for October 2013

Thursday Ten: Hand Over Your Reese’s and No One Gets Hurt edition

1. I don’t love Halloween. I do love Halloween candy. I feel vaguely hypocritical that I want nothing to do with the trick or treating part of things, but I basically want all of the chocolate things when my kids get home. It actually works well that their dad likes Halloween – definitely will never be a holiday that we struggle over.

2. I may just go out and buy some candy so that I can make a leftover Halloween candy cake. I made one for the office last year and because I have a deadline tomorrow, I’ve funked my schedule up a bit this week so I’ll be heading in to the office tomorrow. Who doesn’t like when someone brings in AMAZING CAKE?

3. Note to potential future employers: I make excellent baked goods. I also excel at making things with melty cheese. So if you think some day you’ll want a marketing rockstar AND a superb quesadilla, well, you know…call me.

4. One of my favorite things is to visit the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids and get a cappuccino from Simpatico and a gougere from Field and Fire. Well, I’ve started playing in the kitchen to see if I can make my own gougere. This was from the first batch – tasted good, looked funny. My second batch (unpictured)? MUCH better. Prettier and yummier and with more perfect air pockets. I’m pretty proud of myself.
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5. I registered last night for the 2014 Avon Walk. In New York City. I have no idea yet if I’ll be able to pull it off — clearly with a walk that far away, there’s expenses involved. At the very least, I’ll be able to raise funds to benefit the cause. Worst case scenario, I raise money and don’t end up walking. It’d be a shame for me BUT I could live with that because the organization still benefits. Still, I hope that life settles and that I’ll be walking in New York City next October. We’ll see, eh?

6. The Princess made her own Halloween costume after scoping things out on Pinterest. Pumpkin is some weird store bought spider lady thing. It makes me remember I’ve been blogging for eight years, as I started right around the Halloween when Pumpkin was a baby, and their names here are what their costumes were that year.

7. “What Does the Fox Say” is pretty annoying.

8. Also? That YouTube video of the baby crying at his mom’s voice? I don’t like that either. I may be a little bit dead inside.

9. Oh, I’m tired. Stupid “insomnia catching up with me” tired.

10. Quick: What’s the first word that comes to your mind? (Leave it in the comments. If for no other reason than so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself.)

Yeah, well, at least I don’t live in my mom’s basement and sleep on Star Wars sheets.

I have been talking to myself in the car for the past week. I have been making amazing points and delivering riveting anecdotes and I have been issuing compelling statements.

About the benefits of blogging.

As the web-type-person in my office, I deal with those who blog – by “deal with,” I mean I’m editing content and I’m helping craft catchy headlines and I’m encouraging them and sometimes prompting with post ideas.

Like it’s my mother-fluffing-job.

Because it is.

For 24 hours a week, anyway.

I’ve been a blogger for eight years – I’ve been on Twitter for nearly that long – you’d think talking to a room full of people who are still pretty fresh-faced about the whole endeavor would be a piece of cake.

Yeah, well.

The thing is, sometimes I think the reason why I love blogging and social media so much is because like mannnnnny people who love the internet, I am just a wee bit introverted. I don’t love the spotlight. All eyes on me? NO THANKS.

I have a bit of social ineptitude that does prefer to just quietly crank out amazing work and instead of being in your face with a “look at me! look at me!” attitude, well, I’d rather hang back at the wall. With my iPhone in one hand. Probably tweeting, “look at me! look at me!”

My personality is part of what makes me good at what I do.

I knew that material better than anyone in that room.

I practiced my presentation so many times that I’m sure that if my dog could talk, he could recite the benefits of blogging and having an online presence. I was prepared and even if I hadn’t rehearsed, I know my stuff.

I let someone’s lack of faith in me shake me. I let someone else make me feel like I wasn’t capable of talking about the work that I do, the work that I’ve done. I’m frustrated by that – the way I let it shake me, the way I lost faith in my ability to somehow overcome my inevitable nerves (I may know what I’m talking about but I’d still prefer smaller groups and intimate conversations than presenting to large groups) and give a kick ass presentation.

I gave someone the power to make me feel like I might fail.

I made myself miserable about it for several days, constantly practicing, constantly worrying about what might go wrong.

I got so used to the car practicing that tonight, HOURS after I delivered my presentation, I found myself talking to myself again – what I should have or could have said. Or what I will say if I have a follow up presentation.

I might be a socially awkward, introverted blogger, but I’m competent and smart. I’m capable and I’m personable. I know my stuff. And today, I showed it.

{huge sigh of relief}

Thursday Ten: Gaining Confidence. Maybe. Kinda. Sorta. Edition

1. Well, with all this free time on my hands I have decided to try to spend more time on portraits. It’s a process because despite my business background and marketing degree, none of that helps with the lack of confidence that can creep in when it comes to my photography skills. It’s too bad, really, because I am the one getting in my own way.

2. Kayak is the coolest. Now, you can set a budget and see all the places you still can’t afford to go. {Flights to Spain for under a grand but…alas! Not yet for me.}

3. Fall, how I already miss thee. What the heck, Michigan? It’s already COLD here. Cold weather means comfort food so last night I baked some beer bread. Delish.

4. And in the midst of editing photographs, I lose sight of taking my own pictures just because. Except this one. This one I love.
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5. Halloween is coming and though I strongly dislike Halloween, there’ve been quite a few adorable Halloween books for kids to land in my mailbox. Like Monsters on the Loose!: A Seek and Solve Mystery!, which is very “Where’s Waldo”-esque but without the Waldo. A fun oversized book with brightly colored illustrations to keep your kiddos busy for a bit, looking for the “monsters.” Also Hedgehug’s Halloween – an adorable Hedgehog and awesome collage style illustrations. Finally, Lulu Goes to Witch School (I Can Read Book 2), ideal for your learning to read kiddo. Each of these books retails for under ten bucks each on Amazon right now. Mostly because Halloween is in a few days and I should have told you about these awesome books like two weeks ago.


7. Earlier in the week after a few rough days, I went on a walk after work with one of my dearest friends on the planet. We both kind of needed to vent. The long walk and the accompanying conversation sparked a lot of thoughts and potential blog posts (I always threaten to write deep blog posts but then I never do it, so don’t you worry). My wheels are turning.

8. I am pretty tired this week. Looking forward to a weekend of sleeping in. I hope my brain lets me sleep in!

9. A week past 37, I’m holding up remarkably well for an old lady. And… not really feeling any older. Birthdays are weird, I guess. There’s a lot of emotion tied into my birthdays, mostly because there’s a whole lot of upheaval in my life… but… aside from these gray hairs, I’m doing alright.

10. Every year my mom writes one of those long “this is what we did this year” Christmas letters — I’ve always kind of hated them. When I was a kid, I hated them because our year never could compare with those from people who spent their holidays skiing and traveling and having adventures. As an adult, they’re dreadful for kind of the same reason — how many years in a row do people want to read about us having essentially the same life? This year, I’ve asked if I can write it — it seems like we can’t just be business as usual this year. Every time I’ve tried to imagine what I’ll write, my eyes fill with tears – but I figure that will just have to be okay.

Thursday Ten: So Humbled edition

1. Yesterday, I was blessed with numerous birthday messages, birthday love, gift cards to Starbucks (seriously, y’all, I may not have to pay for my coffee again until December) and just…kindness. So much kindness. Every time I read a sweet message, my eyes would fill up with tears and I would think, “How am I so lucky?” It’s perspective for sure, I guess. I will weather the storms that need to be weathered, and it’ll be easier because I have so much support.

2.My mom put together an amazing gift basket for me with a bottle of wine and gift cards to some of my favorite places – I am so very much looking forward to treating myself to things I wouldn’t normally buy. Having been so money conscious lately, I think it’s gonna feel weird to “shop.” I look forward to making an effort anyway.

3. Post season baseball. You know, I might be the only person in Michigan who has no real strong feelings about this series. I’m sorry everyone. You’ll just have to love baseball a little bit extra to make up for my lack of care.

4. The Michigan/Penn State game last weekend – and it’s multiple overtimes – made me want to pull my hair out. And I wish it had ended differently. Bah.

5. I have a photo shoot scheduled this weekend and I’m excited to be shooting and to be shooting in a different location. I am energized by the work I get to do with my camera. Wish there was more of it.

6. I love how he gave me my own lovely flannel shirt for my birthday as if that means I would stop stealing his. (I won’t stop stealing his. But mine is very very lovely and so soft.)

7. There’s been several moments over the past few weeks where I realize I have a lot of things I need to change. I need to be a little kinder to myself in general. And I need to be a bit more protective of myself, the people I care about, and our time together. I don’t have to accommodate everyone else’s schedule and I’m allowed to be upset and to verbalize it when someone has been cavalier with my time. BOUNDARIES ARE DIFFICULT, but I need to get better at asserting mine because when I don’t, life is a little tougher.

8. “But…they’re both BLUE!” said my mom when I told her what nail color I wanted for my birthday. The one I’ll be polishing my nails with today if I can get a few minutes to myself: Essie After School Boy Blazer. I love blue nails. (The other blue is from OPI’s San Francisco collection.)

9. I have seen a lot of criticisms of the movie “Gravity” from people who would know more than I just what is the reality of being out in space. Since I don’t actually know what it’s like to be out in space (I, uh, barely know what it’s like to be out of my time zone), I actually really enjoyed the movie, though I found it to be extremely tense. White knuckles for sure.

10. Hey person I haven’t talked to since high school. What a coincidence that you’ve friended me two weeks before launching your  business. Probably not a coincidence, huh? I’m all for promoting yourself, selling yourself, for using social media to do it… but it peeves me when people dig way back into their high school years to do this. Also, when did you start looking like Tom Hanks in Forest Gump?

Another Year, Another Letter

Dear Self:

Today you turn 37 and if the days and weeks leading up to today are any indication, this might be a difficult day for you. Turning 35 was hard for you, and last year was a bit of reprieve from that negative birthday emotion. Not sure why it’s back with a vengeance this year, but since it is, you’ll get through it.

Admittedly, it’s been quite a year.

Last night in the car, your iPod shuffle played a song that reminded you of a friend from high school and you started crying. You were driving in the rain, eyes wet with tears and this sad country song playing in the background. Self: You should know to just move on to the next song when it’s raining and country comes on. But this song made you cry and made you reflect and sometimes that’s okay, but sometimes I think it’s time to pause on the reflection and just keep moving one foot in front of the other.

This was 36

This was 36.

Looking back on all of the ways that this year was a difficult one won’t help anything. It was sad to get a birthday card from grandma, and see grandpa’s name on the return address label. Losing him little by little over the course of this year was heartbreaking, awful. And time hasn’t made it any less heartbreaking and any less awful.

The job stress, the job search, the unemployment stuff, yeah… 36 was made to test you somehow, to show you what you’re made of and maybe you didn’t entirely like what you saw: that you’re softer than you thought, that you need help more than you’d ever have been willing to admit, that you are not made of steel. And all of that’s okay. You don’t have to be strong all the time, and maybe when all is said and done, you’ll be stronger because of it.

Maybe not.

That’s not for you to know right now.

And so I know it makes it harder right now. Having this birthday in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in your life, but don’t forget:

You are loved. You are cared about. You have people in your corner who want good things for you.

There is hair dye to cover up those grays.

And when you get a good job again, you can buy expensive lotion to make your eye wrinkles look less wrinkly.

This wasn’t just a year of sadness and stress, and I know that you don’t forget that there was a lot of joy to be found in your year. New beginnings. Love. Glasses of wine (I think you’d appreciate that I typed “whine” first). Copious amounts of tacos. Hugs. Coffee on the porch. Another 39.3. Your kids are beautiful and they’re doing well in all their stuff, and they adore you and your house is a lovely girl house where everything just kind of works now (by “everything” I mean the people. The appliances don’t all work. Let’s not talk about that right now. Oooh, look. Squirrel). Hours of HGTV watched and the knowledge that you don’t have a master bathroom, YOU HAVE AN EN SUITE (and that, as you know is clearly important, right up there with having an open concept). Photographs taken. A roof over your head – a roof that YOU are keeping over your head. You’re doing it. YOU ARE.

You might have realized this year that sometimes you need a little help but you know what? You’re still pretty badass. Sort of.

Last night, you started baking your birthday cake only to be joined by The Princess who didn’t want you to make your own cake. The two of you baked and sang and laughed. She talked about her school musical and you sang her the solo you sang your senior year of high school – singing “Danny Boy” standing next to the KitchenAid as the lemon pound cake batter whirled to perfection.

Your 36th year was filled with countless moments like that. And you can focus on the stresses – those are the huge pink elephants in the room – hard not to see them. But it is these moments that you will look back on. When the stress is a memory that you’ll look back at, it will barely register with you to remember the times you struggled so hard. Let’s hope.

It will always be those moments singing in the kitchen. Taking a Friday picture after doughnuts. The way the dog sniffs everyone’s hair after it’s just been washed, like he can’t get enough of the scent, he rubs his face repeatedly in your hair, and it makes everyone laugh so much. Messages with the kissy face emoji. Sunsets in the middle of nowhere because you needed peace and he brought you to peace. Savoring slices of deep dish Chicago pizza after walking a marathon and a half. Gougere on a Sunday morning.

Those are the things that matter. Those moments.

I get it, life is scary. You have no idea where you’re going and what you’re doing.

But… you’re not alone.

It’s your birthday. But you’ve reflected enough.

Stop reflecting.

Enjoy it. Embrace your day. Embrace your life.

AARP isn’t calling you yet. You’re not that old.

As Pumpkin said, “You’re not old! Stop lying! If you’re going to lie, lie about something that’s…true!” {And kids are brutally honest – if she thought you were old, you better believe she’d let you know}

Find the joy in the fact that you are here, you are healthy, and celebrate your day.

Seek joy.

Make 37 amazing.



Five Dollar Happiness Project

Five Dollar Happiness Project

They say money can’t buy happiness. And frankly, I’ve never been a retail therapy type of girl, despite my mom teaching me at an early age: “When the going gets tough, the tough get shopping.”

Though I have always liked to splurge on little things (four dollar coffees, magazines, new books when the spirit moved me), I’ve never been great at spending money on myself, a habit that has served me particularly well now that I don’t have much to spend anyway. I am the one who can window shop to her heart’s delight and then wander around a store finding absolutely nothing when I happen to have a gift card or I’m on a mission to buy something.

I think, however, that just as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (it’s Jack, right?), all paying-the-bills and nothing-fun-at-all-whatsoever makes Sarah a cranky girl.

I absolutely 100% stress that I believe you should be responsible when  it comes to your finances – bills need to be paid, yo – but I also believe that sometimes you need a little bit of a treat. When every dollar you make is going towards expenses you have no control over (property taxes, anyone?), sometimes you just NEED a bit of sunshine.

I decided to try to buy some happiness – and gave myself a five dollar budget to do so.

Five bucks – it’s enough to buy a little treat, but certainly not enough to break the bank. The possibilities were plenty… and so I went to the place where EVERYONE can find something on which to spend five dollars:


Only… I couldn’t.

At one point while standing in line, I picked up an issue of Cooking Light magazine. I love this magazine – gorgeous pictures, somewhat healthy recipes – win! Except… I stood in line so long that I ended up putting the $4.99 magazine back on the rack and buying only the groceries in my cart (Side note: Hooray Target, for having the cheapest cereal).

Pfft. This was gonna be harder than I thought.

In fact, I even thought to myself, Nah. It’s just not happening. I’ve scrimped and saved for too long now and now I can’t even spend my money on stupid stuff anymore.

When you think about it – that’s really not a bad thing – but for the sake of this project, for buying some happy, well… you can see how it might be a deterrent.

Saturday morning, Chris was helping me hang this cool picture thingamabobber I bought at Ikea. By helping, I mean he was doing all the work and I was pointing to where I wanted it hung up. I’d bought it awhile ago with the intent to hang some of my photographs without needing to buy frames for everything.

It occurred to me that I could probably do something similar in the hallway to hang kid art and so later on that day, I went to the hardware store.

A little wandering, a little assistance from the people in the store, and I found just what I needed: a ball of twine and a pack of screw eyes and boom. Ready to roll.

I got home and picked where I wanted the first screw to go and put it into the wall. Super easy, it just twisted right in – no tools necessary. After the first screw was in, I measured from the floor to the screw to determine the height so I could keep it consistent. I also measured from the screw to the outside wall so I could somewhat center the second screw similarly. Once I put the second screw in, I knotted some twine through the first screw then pulled it tight to the second and knotted it there as well. (The twine will slacken a bit once you hang art on it, but I’m okay with that). I brushed a bit of Mod Podge over the knots to make sure they held a little better.

Boom. Done. It was that easy.

I already had clothespins on hand and I was pretty pleased – HAPPY, even – with the results of this project. If you wanted to up your clothespin game (as I might. someday), I can see that you could maybe paint them, toss some glitter on them, or even just cover them with duct tape or washi tape.

Anyway, for just under five dollars I have a cool way to hang up all of the many things my kids bring home and I’m pretty happy about it.

SO… the challenge, if you’re willing to accept it:

If you were going to attempt to see if money (even if only five dollars) can buy happiness, what would you buy?

Thursday Ten: NO MORE LINES edition

1. Well, I hope there are no more lines. Thank you for bearing with me over the past week as I’ve blogged my frustration with the process of dealing with (whee!) a government agency. It was an exercise in learning to buck up and realize that though the situation isn’t ideal, it’s also just something I have to deal with because this too shall pass. I kept my ticket from waiting in line the other day, and I plan to keep it so that someday I can look back on this experience and realize that it was just another stepping stone in the journey of getting from where I was to where I need to be (wherever that may be).

2. I don’t even want to argue with people about what way to hang the toilet paper on the roll, let alone argue with them about anything even REMOTELY political but this government shut down is giving people an even bigger case of the stupids and they’re posting it all over Facebook.

3. I sure do love fall weather. My energy bill for September was considerably cheaper than August. No AC, no heat? YES PLEASE. Also? Days like this…
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4. ArtPrize is O-V-E-R again and I have to say… Whoa Grand Rapids, you picked a really lame winner. There’s a method to what resonates with the people of Grand Rapids, and while I’m grateful this year’s winner wasn’t made out of driftwood, I still…wasn’t impressed. As much as I love ArtPrize, I’m glad to have less congestion on the sidewalks and when driving around downtown.

5. Just under a week until I turn 37 and I can’t say that I’m aging very gracefully. I ranted excessively on Twitter this week about a patch of gray hair that seems to be expanding and it makes me crazy because for as much as I joke about being old, how can I possibly be old enough to have so many gray hairs (DON’T ANSWER THAT).

6. I had tacos twice this week (so far) – incidentally, from the same place both times. And one time they were really good and one time they were mediocre. And both times I thought their salsa was meh. It really is all about the salsa.

7. My cousin posted the other day that there’s just over 80 days left of 2013. Cannot believe it. In some ways, I am so ready to see this year go — but a lot of good came from this year, so I can’t give it too much hate. Still, I can’t help but be curious to see what’s in store for 2014.

8. Sometimes when I’m stressed I eat ramen noodles out of the package raw. Without cooking. Without the flavoring. Just crunchy noodles. That’s why sometimes you’ll find random extra ramen flavor packets in my cupboards. My kids think it’s nuts, but, carbs.

9. I want so badly to go on vacation somewhere very far from here, just to get a break from things. It’s not likely to happen so I watch a lot of television instead.

10. I don’t look forward to the cold weather but I’m kind of excited about comfort food. Roasts. Potatoes. More potatoes. Slow cooker meals. Heavenly. What’s your favorite fall meal?



Waiting at the unemployment office

I once saw an episode of Oprah – it was awhile back, of course, because Oprah was still on the air and not just on her ridiculous Oprah channel. Denzel Washington was on her show that day, I think he was probably promoting John Q (a not altogether awful movie, if I’m remembering correctly). ANYWAY, somehow in this segment with Denzel, he shared his philosophy:

You have to do the things you have to do so you can do the things you want to do.

I think about that often, how there are things that just have to come first, priorities that need to shift to get in line with the way life goes.

And then I think to myself, Whoa, self. You give Denzel a LOT of head space.

I went back to the unemployment office today. I didn’t want to, for sure, but I had to. I’ve worked hard since I was 16 years old. I’ve always had a job. I’ve always paid taxes and contributed to society and all that whoosy-whatsit, and now that I’m not working full time, as much as I would love to not need the unemployment check, I kinda do.

It’s taken me awhile to reconcile myself to that – because frankly, not being able to do everything on my own without help is kind of pissing me off.

I didn’t want to go back. Thursday was really difficult for me and I wasn’t the least bit eager to experience that again. I didn’t want to cry in public. I didn’t want to be angry. I didn’t want to spend my whole day in that dismal office.

I gathered my paperwork. Check stubs. A People magazines. Two books. Two granola bars and a plastic sandwich bag of popcorn. It could be a long day, didn’t want to get hangry. A notebook and pen, because my god, if I’m going to sit there I am going to take notes.

I arrived just moments after the office opened. The parking lot was already full and when I entered the doors I was immediately faced with full house.

I was ticket number 537.

A glance at the wall showed that they were on 471. 66 people in front of me today.

One of the workers was talking as I walked in. They had yet to start assisting claimants and were going over basics – computers over here and here to use, if you’re dropping off a form go here, you can use these phones. La la la. The room smelled like stale second hand smoke. Every chair was full but no lawn chairs yet. Nearly all of us seemed to be wearing dark colors. Were we trying to fade into our surroundings or just taking on the grim nature of the occasion with our wardrobe choices.

8:30 a.m.: The first lawn chair made an appearance.

There’s an obnoxious loop of information on the television. One segment had a little boy in a suit singing in this exaggerated falsetto. I glanced around the room for a moment, trying to place the source of this noise, before realizing it was the television. Off an on for hours, that kid. Shrieking into the room. Who the hell thought that was a good idea?

A man holding a paper cup of McDonald’s coffee circled the perimeter of the room, his pointer finger buried into his ear up to its first knuckle, rooting rooting. Ear muffs perched on the top of his head. Root, twist, dig in the ear with the finger.

When I was a kid, I loved the story Harriet the Spy – but as an adult, taking notes in the unemployment office, well… I felt like an oddity. I’d alternate: write, read my books, look at the clock, look what number they were on, but infrequently I’d look at my phone. It was my lifeline, that phone, and who knows how long I’d be there. The thought of sitting in the unemployment office with a dead phone somehow seemed even worse than just being there in the first place.

9 a.m.: 489. Shoot me. Faster than Thursday but still gruesome as hell.

“I’ve had two mochas; my toes are curling up. I’m gonna have to go home to have a beer to calm down.” The guy next to me was only without a job for two weeks and out of nowhere he’s telling me his story. Do I want to know his story? It’s far too easy to shift into my mode of not allowing strangers to just engage in conversation, but it seems rude, and we’re all kind of in the same boat. He was fired and said he shouldn’t have been. He found new work quickly but due to an error, never received his unemployment check. “I’m the sole breadwinner, ” he said. “My wife just started working a few days a week, but I just need the check for two weeks and then I hope to never come back here again.”

9:22 a.m.: 497.

Thirsty and hungry and the walls prominently feature signs that say food is prohibited. I began regretting that I’d said I’d go to work after settling things at unemployment because I was already weary and tired, and fantasizing about a really cold Coke Zero.

I found that I spent a lot of time in the unemployment office looking at the clock. This constant need to know the time is something I also experience on airplanes, and so here on land, it surprised me. I started wondering if anyone behind me was taking notes: Woman with brown hair, repeatedly looking at clock.

9:50 a.m.: 499. Shoot me. Shoot me. Shoot me. I’m not patient. This sucks. I feel resigned to the experience. Today is the day and I’m here until it’s done. Even if inside it’s killing me a little. Fine. A lot.

In two hours they saw 30 people. There were six people assisting claimants. 15 per hour? Darn near a half hour per person? The inefficiency of this office is mind boggling. I thought of busy emergency rooms and how patients are triaged based upon urgency – heart attacks before paper cuts. The Social Security Administration offices assist people based on the nature of their visit. Schedule appointments. Prioritize. SOMETHING. The rampant inefficiency was explained by a worker who stood before us and told us that the slow times we were experiencing were due to their new computer system.

“Didn’t y’all beta test this mess?” is what I want to ask, but don’t.Way to roll out a system that your employees can’t figure out.

That’s the government for ya, I suppose.

It’s 10:52. Nearly three hours gone. Coffee would be so good now.

A man and his daughter. A woman putting on makeup  while her son flipped through a book. A man bouncing a screaming baby. I can’t imagine having to bring my children here. Grateful I had a choice.

At 11, they started handing out Call Back slips. Already, people arriving at 11 or after had no guarantee of being seen today. Claimants could opt to leave, filling out a form detailing their problem and someone from the state would call them back with a solution to their problem. I don’t understand why they don’t do that for everyone. Seems more efficient.

When they called number 527, a man with long dreadlocks called out, “Bingo!” and the entire room erupted in giggles. Grateful for a laugh. Grateful that there were just ten more people ahead of me.

11:55 a.m.: 530

I was assisted by a friendly gentleman who never could tell me what the problem was only that he was fixing it, there now it’s fixed. He was kind and when I said, “I don’t think I’d want your job!” he argued back, “But this job makes so much sense. I love numbers.” I would have been annoyed if I was him and if my day had been go go go go go since the second I walked in the door. Then again, I don’t have a ton of patience. And people who are frustrated or upset would wear on me after awhile, I think.

When he told me the benefit amount, I asked, “Are you sure?” I wanted to be outraged. I wanted to be angry. It was considerably less than the determination they’d sent by mail months ago, months ago when they hadn’t done anything and nothing happened. This lesser amount was a shock. A shock, but still? It will help. Though I’ve never been one to be cavalier where money is concerned, it is still humbling to be so grateful for the mere fact that it lightens my load by that much.

I walked out the door five hours to the minute after I walked in.

I hope to never have to go back.

The state of the state and hours I don’t have

I walked in around 10 a.m. The parking lot was full and there were people milling around outside the doors. A gentleman was in my path, puffing on a cigarette and I was frustrated. You can’t just not smoke for the time it takes in here? I thought. Ridiculous. I veered around him, opened the doors, and was confronted with reality.

The reality of the Unemployment Office.

More accurately, it was (and is) what is called a Problem Resolution Office. Michigan has offices located all over the place for basic things – classes on how to update your resume, job postings, computers for you to look for employment or file your claims. These offices are plenty and located pretty centrally to most places. I have one not too far from me. These offices, however, cannot answer any of your questions. At all. In fact, they’re pretty straight up about it.

When I was told in January that my job was going to eventually be reduced to part time, Human Resources was adamant about letting me know that YES! Your! Part! Time! Status! Qualifies! You! For! Partial! Unemployment!

I’d rather have a full time job, but you know, part time unemployment, that’d help.

And I filed immediately when my job finally made the transition to part time.

It’s a tedious process, and I get the necessity of that. You can open your claim online or on the phone. You can do so in person. They make a determination (Yep! You’re Eligible! or HaHaHa Sucker Too Bad So Sad!).

I did this.

They made their determination.

I jumped through all the hoops – and there are a great many hoops. You have to call or report online every two weeks to answer a series of questions. You have to actively seek employment and report that as well.

I did everything I was supposed to do, and yet…

Nothing. Nothing ever came.

And at first, I thought to myself that even just the mere act of filing would make the cosmos smile upon me and a great job would be sent my way. I’d file and then get a job and be like, “NEVER MIND!”

But that’s not happening. At least not in a time frame that is suitable for real life. And real wallets.

I walked in to the office and it was filled with people. Before walking in, I had been trying to gauge how awful the experience would be: Would it be more or less painful than Secretary of State?

Spoiler alert: SO MUCH WORSE

There were rows and rows of chairs in this plain box of a room. Nearly every chair was occupied. People lined the walls of the room, and people sat at computers spaced on either side of the room. There was a line of several stations were people from the office were assisting customers.

I grabbed a number from the ticket machine.

I was number 613.

I stood on the wall for awhile, just gazing around the room, at the people. I saw new people go up to the desk and realized I had never heard the numbers called. I approached the security guard. “How will I know what number they’re calling?” I asked. “Are they posted somewhere?”

He gestured to the wall behind me. They were on number 452.

There were 161 people ahead of me.

Chew on that, if you will.


I started watching the numbers on the wall, how they wouldn’t move. There had to be at least five workers assisting people at those stations and yet those numbers NEVER. MOVED.

He Who Makes Me So Happy (I should probably just start referring to him by name, right?) had dropped me off at the office to get some coffee while I waited, and so he joined me shortly, as I stood watching the numbers that didn’t move and the people that didn’t leave their seats.

There was a woman behind us who had brought her own lawn chair. And all I could think was, She KNEW she was in for the long haul today.

I knew it’d be busy but I was amazed at how busy. How long it took. How nothing happened.

Women with babies. A man asleep at the computer. People rotating in and out to go stand outside and smoke. The smoke break made sense to me then – that guy had probably been there for hours.

The longer I stood there, the more the experience made me angry. And the angrier I got, the sadder I felt.

I hate this process, I hate this system. I hate the economy. I hate how this office is run. I hate these drab walls and I hate this industrial carpeting. I hate these plastic chairs and I hate the humiliation.

And it’s humiliating.

None of us asked for these circumstances, I’m sure. The last thing I want is to need the unemployment check, but… I’m a single mom raising two kids and yes, I need that check. I want to go to a job every day, and work my ass off and be impressive and do work that I love, that I’m passionate about and that makes a positive contribution. I’m trying to get back to that point.

In the meantime, this is what I need to do.

The longer I stood there, the more I wanted to cry. And the fact that I wanted to cry made me mad, all of those other people bravely sitting there in their plastic chairs, on the floor (ew…), on their lawn chairs, whatever – just standing there, waiting. No one else looked like they were going to cry. What’s my problem?

We left, making sure my 613 ticket was tucked in my pocket so we could come back later.

In the thirty to forty minutes I was there, they only got through FIVE claimants. FIVE.

There were still over 150 people to be seen before it’d be my turn.

He took me for a drive in the country. Quiet roads lined with trees with changing leaves. A fox darting along the road racing ahead and then slipping into a cornfield. A lake and a park that was closed. A battered house with a wooden swing hanging from rope from a tall strong tree in the yard. A bright shining sun on a beautiful day.

I could catch my breath and see beauty and feel those feelings – the fear, the anger, the frustration – settle for a moment.

Here’s the thing.

The system is screwed. That there are THIS MANY PEOPLE needing problem resolution is a problem. This was just one day of one week of one month of one year. And if I were to walk in the doors tomorrow, I’m sure I’d find the same scene with different players.

That’s a problem.

Offices all over the state, but only a select few that can answer your questions? THAT is a problem. Why is it that I can’t visit the office near my home and get answers to my questions? Why is it I can’t just EMAIL someone?

We returned an hour later, and I got out to see what number they were on. The group of men standing by the door looked me up and down so I walked faster to peek inside the building to find that they were only on number 479. There were still over 100 people ahead of me. I gave my number ticket to someone else on the way out and left, resigned to having to come back another day, armed with books, more patience and snacks.

I feel helpless. I feel helpless and angry and frustrated. This is an ugly and difficult thing to need to do, and yet… they make it harder. Everything from the inconvenience of the office, the drab and depressing decor, the long and impossible wait times – all of it makes this time even more demoralizing, more trying.

I don’t know anyone else’s stories. I don’t know their situations. I am sure we are all different in a lot of ways, but in this way we are similar. All of us just waiting.


Thursday Ten: Okay That’s Enough Now edition

1. I mean, that title probably could apply to a lot of things right now: Congress, stress levels, Grand Rapids traffic (both auto and pedestrian) due to ArtPrize. Okay, I’m mostly referring to ArtPrize. I LOVE ARTPRIZE, but now that they’ve announced the Top Ten and the Top Ten consists mostly of underwhelming pieces that I don’t love, I’m over it. Okay people, if you’re not going to learn to walk faster just PACK IT UP AND GO HOME. Get outta my way. I have places to be (no I don’t).

2. This piece was made out of CRAYOLA CRAYONS? How does it not make the Top Ten?
Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me | Michael Peoples

3. I’ve started reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and so far, I’m enjoying it – mostly because I’ve been in the work force for over a dozen years and find a lot of what she’s saying to be true. It’s an easy read so far, so I’ll keep on keeping on.

4. Every now and again I buy a totally junky thing at the grocery store thinking, “Oh this will make a fun treat” because Cocoa Krispies are on sale for $2.50 a box and who doesn’t love that bowl of chocolate milk you have when all the cereal is gone? And then… the kids find it and it turns out that they love the bowl of chocolate milk when the cereal is gone as much as I do. I think that box didn’t even make it 48 hours. That could be a record.

5. OMG THE FINALE OF BREAKING BAD. Initially I wasn’t sure what I thought of the way it ended – but days later, I think they went the right route.

6. Look at me not spoiling it for y’all (Honestly, it’s been days, though, if it gets spoiled for you now, you only have yourself to blame).

7. It’s October which means it’s officially my birthday month! I am not sure how I’m feeling about my birthday this year. It’s been a year – full of great things and not so great things. Even when life is throwing drama at me like a poo-flinging monkey, I’m still glad to be on this earth (and also glad that life is not actually throwing poo). So, now that I’ve ruined mention of my birthday… it IS my month. And we’ll see how 37 goes. When I get there. And not a second before that.

8. October and temps near 80, by the way. I like fall! Mother Nature better not take away my favorite season! If we go from 80 to snowstorms, I’m gonna be sad.

9. I spent all day yesterday craving a sandwich from Potbelly. Sometimes I am glad that the places I love aren’t convenient otherwise I’d need to buy stretchier pants.

10. I always tell myself I’m going to go to bed earlier. And then every night I stay up too late. That will be my goal for the next week: To try to be in bed by ten. Not sleeping, necessarily – hell, maybe I’ll get some more reading done – but I have got to work towards not staying up so late. (My second goal will be to not miss that spot on my left knee when I shave my legs. Okay fine. My right knee also.)