Life has been tough lately. OK, so that makes me sound melodramatic and incredibly ungrateful for the fact that I have a job and a healthy family. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but things really have been tough.

No news on the job front for Patrick. We did get an extension on our unemployment benefits, so now instead of having them run out in mid-March, we have until early June. I think we might be eligible for another extension, but we’re hoping Patrick is employed by then.

I continue to be amazed at how extensive the effects of unemployment can be on a family. I am overwhelmed with being the only one bringing home a paycheck. Don’t we all have those days when wejust want to tell our boss we quit? We don’t really do it, but the fact that we could is enough to sustain us for another few weeks. I am swamped at work – too many deadlines and not enough time or energy. The fact that I can’t just up and quit my job (even though I wouldn’t really do that) is suffocating. There is such an enormous amount of pressure on me to stay employed (let’s not even discuss the Illinois budget and the fact that I work for a non-profit that is expecting to see major cuts).

But that’s not the only effect. There’s this constant biting of my tongue that I must engage in so I don’t say something angry or spiteful toward Patrick. I don’t blame him for his situation (although I do go over and over in my head all the ways he could have circumvented this situation), but there are times when I want to say something to him. Something like, “Since you don’t have a job, would it hurt you to run the vacuum/wash some pots and pans/fold the laundry/fix the window in Griffin’s room/etc.?” It’s such a delicate balance of being supportive and not going over the deep end myself because I take on all the responsibility.

I know that being unemployed is having an effect on Patrick. I can see it in his face and in the way he sits and in his voice. I feel for him. I know he feels a sense of responsibility to our family and he’s doing everything in his power to help. It’s hard to watch and it’s even harder to walk on eggshells each and every day.

We have gotten to the point where we are accepting help from places we never imagined. We’re still waiting to hear if Griffin will be covered through the state of Iowa for his health insurance. There was a lot of paperwork that needed to be completed/submitted and I think we might finally know something by next week. For now, we can’t afford his medication, but because I work for a social service agency, I’ve been pointed in the right direction to a couple of places that might be able to help us out with the cost of his epi-pen. We tried to apply for assistance from WIC so we can pay for some groceries for Griffin (milk, bread, juice, peanut butter, etc.), but we make just a bit too much to qualify.

I told Patrick the other day that he and I have both been in denial about our situation. We have been living on one paycheck and unemployment for almost one year. We have drained our savings. We have borrowed from both of our families. We cannot pay for our mortgage, credit card debt (even just the monthly minimums), utilities, groceries, and day care. We owe more than we make each month, but somehow we’ve “gotten by.” Some people get paid, some don’t. But it has caught up with us.

I always felt like we weren’t as bad off as some other people. But I don’t think that’s the case anymore. We are the people who don’t make enough to get by each month, but make just a few too many dollars to get help. I finally told Patrick that we need to get help wherever we can and in whatever form – food pantry for some of the basics, local agencies for Griffin’s medication and help with our utility bill (so that doesn’t get shut-off), the home retention program through our mortgage company (we’re already in a trial period), etc. Whenever I think about this I feel as though I’m taking help away from someone else. Maybe things aren’t as bad as I think. Then I look at my checkbook and the stack of unpaid bills. I see that the mortgage company has sent yet another letter threatening to take our home. I receive another phone call from a debt collector. Add all of those up and we deserve the help as much as the next person.

I don’t think Patrick wants to think we’re at this point. I believe he still thinks we’re going to be OK the way things are. We’re not. He keeps saying that once he gets a job “everything is going to be OK.” Eventually, yes, but not right away. We’re going to have to work our way out of this pit.

So for now, I am the one who calls for help. I will be the one to go to the local church and get some free food. I will be the one to wait and see if we qualify for Medicaid for Griffin. I will be the one who apologizes every time a bill is late. I will be the one who begs for a little bit more time to find money to pay our mortgage. Just another burden added on my shoulders.


Me about 35 years ago.

Yesterday was my 37th birthday, and to quote my mom, “How the hell did I get to be 37?” (although my mom used the number 60 when she said this a handful of years ago). Seriously though, how did I get to be 37? Wasn’t it just last year when I turned 30 and then moved out here to be with Patrick? Wasn’t it only a couple of years ago when I was starting college and mooning over the brooding poet in my literary studies class as he discussed the deeper meaning of The Unbearable Lightness of Being? (true story – he actually said in class, “I don’t see this as a love story, but a story about the absence of love.” I was smitten).

In all honesty, I’m OK with being 37. I once had a boyfriend who told me that while I was chronologically 19, emotionally I was 40.  I always thought that my life would make more sense the closer I got to that age. Now that I think about it, it has. I mean, I’m still struggling with balancing everything – family, work, my own interests and dreams. But I have learned to let things go, to not worry about things I can’t control. I’m trying to live in the present and enjoy what I have instead of think about and obsess over what I want, because chances are, I’m not going to get those things. Besides, what I have is pretty darn good.

I’m not talking about writing today. No writing. No NaNo. I’m not even going to write about Griffin (total shocker, right?).

I ask that anyone who reads this blog please check out the following journal written by my sister’s neighbor. Bill is a 20-year old college student who has been in intensive care for almost two months waiting for a heart and kidney transplant. Donate Life Illinois approached him and asked if he would share his story as he awaits his transplant. He just wrote his first entry.

He and his family have been through a lot, not just during the past two months, but for the past 20 years.

I hope you take the time to read his story.

Just something else to bring out my OCD.

I am in love with words. I write for a living and I hope to continue to write for a living – whether that is writing grants or a novel. I love talking and I love finding the right words. Sometimes I can’t even finish telling a story if I don’t find just the right word to complete my thoughts. And yes, it is just as annoying of a habit as it sounds. Words are what ground me in my crazy world. They are what calm me down. They are what make me feel alive. When I was a little girl and would see a sunset or sunrise, or a full moon high in the sky, I would always say the same thing, “If I could paint, I would paint that.” I am not an artist, but I can paint with words. Beautiful watercolors. I feel like that is slipping away from me and I am scared.

I just want my life back. I just want to be happy again. I just want to find joy in the things I used to find joy in. I just want to feel creative again. But I’m tired and I’ve been worn down. My brain feels slower. I’m sad a lot. I’ve been crying more often. I don’t like this.

When I was 20 years old I had a boyfriend that I was absolutely crazy about. He was sort of that brooding wanna-be writer who had travelled the world and was taking time away from college to “find himself.” It was summertime and when he would leave work late, he would stop by my parents’ house and we’d take these long walks by the lake at the end of our street. We would always stop underneath these tall weeping willows and lay down and talk – those long, philosophical talks you can only have when you’re 20 years old. Do you think we’ll know each other in 20 years? Why do you think we met? Do you believe in fate? Do you think this is fate?

For the majority of my whole young adulthood I never had a curfew, but my mom was not a very big fan of this boyfriend (maybe it was all of those tattoos – thankfully she never knew he smoked a pack of Camels a day…a habit I wasn’t all too fond of myself), so she wanted me home at a certain time. He and I would lay under that tree and talk about life and talk about us and I would dread having to go back home because I loved being with him and at 20 years old, I could have stayed there forever. Eventually, I’d ask him what time it was. He’d check his watch and tell me that we still had another 15 minutes. We would just smile and then giggle and then we’d laugh about how we’d probably just spend the next 15 minutes giggling about how we had 15 minutes left.

That’s exactly how I feel when I wake up and everyone else is still asleep in my house. It happened this morning (Griffin’s home from day care today since it’s Good Friday and I have to go to a meeting at the local United Way office which is right by my house and it’s pointless for me to cross the River to go to my office first so I’m hanging out at home for a couple of hours). The same question runs through my head. What should I do? Laundry? Write? Read? Watch TV? Then I realize that I’ll probably spend the entire time trying to decide what to do that I won’t get a chance to do anything.

Last night I took Griffin for a walk and as he fell asleep I wrote what I thought was a beautiful post in my head and I wanted to write it on paper as soon as I got home, but he woke up and I never did. So this morning, I decided that I would at least get this down on my blog before he woke up. Of course, he woke up as I was typing, but I did it. I still hope to write that other post at some point today before I forget it – I really liked it and it has been something I’ve been wanting to write for a while and this last night’s walk really helped it come full circle.

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