Thursday Ten: And It’s Time to Turn the Page edition

1. It hasn’t really hit me yet, I suppose, because if it had I am sure I’d be a sobbing mess of goo unable to function but: I am now an unemployed person. I jokingly referred to myself as a “lady of leisure” when talking to my mom after I left the office for the last time on Tuesday afternoon, but there has been no leisure thus far, mostly because I feel like if I stop moving, I’ll lose any possible momentum I might have.

2. But I have to believe there is something better waiting for me – if for no other reason than because Chris keeps saying so. What I know is this – now that I’m done, I have a blank slate and who’s to say what is ahead of me. I do feel a bit lighter. Still fearful but instead of anticipatory dread, I can deal with what I know, this moment I’m in. And I hope Chris is right. I am hoping to find an amazing job opportunity. Soon.
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3. So, Valentines Day is tomorrow. Love it or hate it, you can at least know this: Candy will be half off on Saturday and that’s good news, right?

4. Took the pup in for a long overdue grooming and now that I can see his eyes again, he looks perpetually sad. Somewhere between close cropped and Muppet is where I like him best. With 20 pounds of fur gone, he’s lost that playful puppy look. Now he looks so serious.

5. I admit it, even though I know the south is ill equipped to deal with this weather and I don’t wish for them to struggle, there is a part of me that thinks, “At least it’s not us this time.” I’m so over snow. Sorry, Georgia. Have fun.

6. Love the original. Love the JillAndKate cover.

7. I have to get a new job. I just don’t have the patience to drive through the elementary school drop off line every day because WHY DOES IT TAKE YOUR SECOND GRADER FIVE MINUTES TO GET OUT OF THE CAR?

8. The nephew had some jaundice last week and a weirdly timed doctor’s appointment that made our attempt to do portraits a minor fiasco. Today is a do-over! Can’t wait!

9. I’m…not really watching the Olympics. I caught a few minutes of pairs skating while in a bar on Saturday but that was pretty much it and I can totally live with that.

10. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a moment to catch my breath. I feel so busy for this whole “not having a job” thing. I’m scared to sit still. Gotta. Keep. Moving.

Thursday Ten: Cough Cough Wheeze Edition

1. I haven’t written much – at all – lately but I have spent the past week, plus, feeling like I’ve been hit by a train. I had a doctor’s appointment last Thursday. Seeing as how I don’t have health insurance , so I wouldn’t have gone for a cough, but I had a physical planned and I had budgeted for it like you do when you have no health insurance. Since I was there already, I mentioned I was feeling really awful and sure enough, I had a fever and “Your lungs could use some antibiotics.” Well, I’m done with the antibiotics and though I’m fever free, I still feel like garbage, so… I’ve got that going for me.

2. What do you think the grace period for not posting spoilers on the internet is? A day, two days? A week? It’s a funny thing, seeing people get peeved about having things “spoiled” – and sometimes I think they’re well within reason. Other times I think, Jeez so people are all supposed to keep quiet about the outcome of a major sporting event in case you can’t watch it for another few hours? Get over yourself.

3. “Did you get an Under Armour headband in your Birchbox this month?” asked The Princess. Uh…no. Well, she said, her friend did. Why does it annoy me that there are eleven year olds getting Birchbox, the one thing I do for myself, my splurge, my treat? That there are kids who just get this stuff – even if it is only ten bucks a month – annoys me.

4. By the way? I’m very easily annoyed these days. Like…very.

5.  And as long as I’m good and annoyed. Know what else is annoying? JANUARY AND PEOPLE ON DIETS. Facebook is filled with people on ridiculous diets, and while I applaud efforts of health, I know that most of these people are following such rigid regimes that there’s no way they’ll stick to it. And when I see people already talking about returning to their old habits once their diet is “over,” I can’t help but wonder why they’ve bothered in the first place. You drove 20 miles out of your way to buy a $9 loaf of bread made out of bird seed, all the while talking about cheesecake? Why bother, then, with the cycle of deprivation in the first place if you’re already scheming to negate all your efforts? The only thing that truly works when it comes to weight maintenance, best I can tell, is if calories expended are greater than or equal to calories consumed. Yes, math. No meat, no bread, no dairy, bird seed bread, only food eaten while standing on your right foot and listening to an eight-track tape of someone yodeling… it doesn’t matter. If it’s not realistic, if it’s not manageable, it won’t stick. Unless it’s medically necessary, what the hell is it with people and extreme diets? Gah. Glad their enthusiasm dies down by February because if I have to look at another Facebook picture of someone’s diet-stocked refrigerator, I’ll throw my buttered bagel at my laptop.

6. Speaking of bagels (ooh, nice segue…), I took over Chris’s kitchen Saturday and made the homemade onion bagel from the latest issue of Food Network magazine. They were surprisingly easy but there’s a lot of waiting involved, dough rise time, predominantly. It felt like it took ALL FREAKING DAY. But? So good. Next time? Half will be asiago bagels. Half will be everything bagels. All will be delicious.
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7. This week has kicked my butt. I’ve not been in a great place emotionally this week and I’m doing my best to dig out. Job hunting isn’t going well and I’m starting to feel like I might need to change course, and that’s…terrifying. I don’t know where to go from here or what I’ll end up doing, or even if it’s necessary, if somehow the course will right itself without me having to do anything differently. When you are in a career that approximately 590235% of the world is in, well, the odds aren’t exactly tipped in your favor if you’re trying to be impressive. I’m a little worn down right now. Hoping this fog lifts soon.

8. While we’re out of that whole polar vortex mess, it’s still freakin’ cold… and when I woke up to a cold house Monday morning, I was not a happy camper. My furnace has since been repaired – AGAIN – but dang. All of this makes me long for spring. That and my energy bill. Oof.

9. I caught myself the other day considering getting a puppy again someday. Shhh. Don’t tell my kids. By the way? Slap that idea out of my head.

10. This song has been stuck in my head for days. Love love love. So beautiful.

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.)

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.


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.