I am been thinking about this post for a while and it intimidated me. So much. To write down all my tips of 'how we made it' through 9 months of unemployment. Because really its like babies, unemployment is all I want to talk about right now. How can you successfully describe the most influential time of your life in the last decade? And I want to help you. I want to give you a hug and a pep talk and tell you what will help. I've been so worried about what and how to write it that my memory is slipping, so here is what it is before I forget. Might not be perfect, but what happened was real and it changed us and I hope this helps anyone who googles tips for unemployment (albeit this is the Mormon version) because we would not have survived with out the many many hands who were holding us up.
Here is my best try.
Jason's job loss came at a total surprise. He had just gotten a raise a few months earlier and was making more money than he ever had. While not a flattering image, the thought of being caught with our pants down came into my mind a few times even though I thought we lived a frugal lifestyle. I was wrong. There was much room for improvement.
I am a stay at home mom and that was not going to change. If I had a career I could have picked up easily that might have been different. I do have a degree but it has become a bit dusty. Thankfully I had started a small business that summer selling Paparazzi and ended up being timed great and helped me feel like I was contributing to our situation. Plus it let me wear really cute new stuff when all our finances were frozen.
Backing up there. What did we do first?
First we tried not to freak out.
We told our family and children.
We went to the temple. Jason was great about this. I think he went the next day.
We prayed and fasted (this was throughout the entire process)
We went on a date without children so that we could look at our finances (we had help from free babysitters, Thank you!). We also made a wide list of all options and contacts and possible leads.
Jason contacted all work contacts and friends.
We met with our bishop to get council and tell him about our situation.
Here are my tips:
1. Tell people. I contacted immediately a few friends I know who also survived unemployment. This was probably the best for me. Specially Lisa T, Sarah and Sara G were lifesavers with their tips and advice and friendship. Others who were going through similar at the same time really helped me but I won't name them. That would be my first piece of advice. I put it on my blog so Lisa contacted me first through email and her words helped me. Like I bawled reading them. She said it would be hard and they barely survived, but they learned so much and became closer to the Savior. Okay, I can do hard. These ladies gave me details that I needed to hear to get a realistic perspective. Most of my advice is from what they gave to me. Anytime I talked to someone who had 'been through it' or had a freelance type work schedule I paid attention to what they said. Really helps hearing other people have done it even if they all said it sucks.
2. Use all your resources. A tip we received was to use all your options. We got the three kids on free lunches at school (saved us a ton on preparing meals). We signed up for unemployment (which paid about the same as what our health insurance cost through Cobra). We canceled any extras we could (which ended up us keeping our cable because they reduced it for us so that it was practically free bundled with our internet).
3. This talk by President Dieter F. Uchdorft should be listened to again and again. It is called the Good and Grateful Receiver. I had lots of room for improvement and I did. I remember in the beginning thinking, I will just pay it forward. But the depth of how much we were helped became so great in nine months I could never pay it forward and that was point to me. Just like we can never do enough to earn our own Salvation, it is a Gift from our Savior. And also noticed people like to help those that usually giving.
4. Even though this is number 4, this really is the most important. Faith, the Savior, and the Church. Our testimonies became cement. Now that I am out of it, and hearing others perceptions of us, I know that at times it seemed a dark cloud was heavy over us. But there were so many miracles that I have no doubt God was aware of us, even if I couldn't feel or get reassurance sometimes that it would end. Faith is true power. To face the unknown with Faith is a choice and we clung to it.
5. Other things we did was tried to keep a schedule of Jason 'working' on finding a job. I tried to keep the kids out of the house for half the day so he could concentrate and work. It was a challenge having two hens in the henhouse for what ended up being an entire school year but we could feel that this was a unique time and to take advantage of it and let stuff roll off (sometimes we stunk at this)
6. Home projects. Part of this was out of necessity cause things were breaking that we couldn't afford to replace but part is this for. Seriously I think everything broke. Youtube was his best friend. He traded services like fixing sprinklers for a month of piano lessons or fixing a garage door for car service. A couple of Jason's siblings gave us Home Depot cards and Lowes and I know that was great for him.
7. Write your miracles down. We kept a miracle list and it is seriously amazing. So many amazing miracles and acts of service towards our family. Reminding me that we were loved and cared for. You are probably on my list, even you anonymous ones. I plan on showing it to my children when they are older or when they are struggling in their own lives. The Lord provides. And it is usually through another person that He meets our needs.
8. Time. It will take longer than you think. Double the amount. Triple it. There is rarely a quick fix and don't worry because if it taking longer than that means there is something special you will be learning and worth the work. I learned things in the 8 months that I didn't in the 6th. Time is sometimes our best teacher.
9. Quotes, inspiration, and fun. I found that I needed a daily dose of 'good things' to balance the weight I sometimes feeling. I would listen to at least one conference talk a day, read my scriptures and watch church videos on the lds.org website. The missionaries came over alot and felt like they were the light coming in our house. We went to the temple every week or every other week, trading off between us and then together sometimes too. The temple helps. Soak up as much good stuff as you can get. Emily Watson talks about two sides to everything like coin. We can see the good side or the bad side. Tried really hard to see the good side. Like the fact that Jason actually knew what was happening in our house or kids homework.
10. Also I tried not to let the perception of how would that look to other people. If we went somewhere fun I often times felt I had to tell people who saw it, 'we had a gift card for this' or tell the practical reason we able to do things. Try not to do that. Someone gave me that tip from experience. Also makes me slower to judge others.
11. Food. Now is the time to eat your humble pie and it tastes delicious. Don't eat out unless it is free. Buy what is in season. Shop the cheapest places. Costco, Trader Joes, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc is probably not the answer unless it is basic items or you run in for one or two things. I went to middle eastern and hispanic markets, Food 4 Less. I went to cooking everyday and not buying any prepared or package meals...every once in a while I would spring for chicken nuggets. This also meant we couldn't eat as healthy as I wanted to but in reality taking out chips and ice cream and other extras was healthy afterall. I remember one time when my mom came to visit the kids remarked 'oh strawberries, its been so long since we have had strawberries.' Also, we ate up most of our food storage and i realized how much our food storage was lacking (cough cough, oops).
I also used dry milk for all milk besides cereal and drinking. Started making dry beans in my crockpot (like homemade refried beans) and brushed up on my from scratch skills.
If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and if you aren't I can send you a Book of Mormon for free), set up a meeting with your bishop and relief society president to discuss a plan and options. We did that right away and that was a great source for us. We also used and loved the bishops store house which I wrote about in another post (Canned Peaches).
12. Service. Do as much service as you can. Really helps to focus on other people and not yourself. Jason and I said yes to everything we could. There is a reason the Lord wants us to serve our brothers and sisters on the earth and it for them and also for us.
13. Family and Friends. Be open. We felt a closeness with our family. We could feel there prayers for us to sustain us. Jason's parents although in Argentina on their mission sent such sweet messages of times when they had gone through it to and I sure do love my mother in law and father in law for sharing those with us. Out of bad things forced upon us, we are forced to change. We know they fasted with us, and we fasted much. We traded emails and texts and they shared their experiences and support and it helped. The longer it went on and more interviews that had disappointing ends I knew they were rooting for us. Both sides of our family cause we have awesome families. Friends were dear to us too and I got choked up when I would hear they were fasting for us too. Especially when they had trials in their own life. I used to think people were dumb when they said they were grateful for the bad things in their life. But now I understand more. Because the most tender things can happen in those dark times and I never want to forget.
14. Our kids. Okay, so these are not ranked in order of importance. But kids love ya no matter what. Their smile can brighten a frown and really you have to keep it as normal as possible and thats good for everyone. We did have to say no to things they were used to doing, like going to the movies, but if anything it made them appreciate more too. It was neat to see us all praying about the same things and rallying around. We still had lots of fun. Just had free fun :) Library, parks, movie nites. for birthdays, instead of presents and parties they got to make a list of special privileges or requests. The only rule is it had to be free. Like staying up late watching a movie or their favorite dinner or doing something every day that they love the week of their birthday. This was a hit and a tradition we will keep.
The last day of school, Jason was told he got the job. My parents were in town and we saw the new Superman movie and it seemed like our own happy ending. When I first heard that his job was contract work (ie: temp) I was discouraged. I just wanted it finished and clean in a neat and tidy bow. But life is not neat and tidy. And the Lord's plan is greater than our plan and we just hold on and trust in Him.
Jason is totally different person. It was definitely harder on him than it was on me (can you read the understatement between the lines?) He said he had reached the end of his rope a few months before. He is so happy now and things we would have complained about (like him being gone so much) we now are grateful for. Apparently I had lots to learn. So be nice to your husband. Try and limit contention. Forgive yourself if you aren't perfect and be a team.
In the first month or two I cried all the time. Then I cried for all the goodness that came. Then I stopped crying and got used to our new transition and just kinda swam in it. It actually was an adjustment for me when Jason was working again, I loved the extra help around the house!
The last part I will add, but know it is very special to me. Is that when talking to my friend Alisa whose husband ended up getting Jason hired on at the temp position (and it literally took him taking him under his wing to do it). She told me that when she thought about Jason and was talking about it with her husband that she had an impression that it was the prayers of our family and friends who had brought this about, that those prayers had brought his name to their thoughts about who needed it. We still will always for them for their perception and kindness, we needed it and God knew that He could use them for His work in helping our family of seven.
Is it over?
We are still on cobra insurance. It is expensive but just glad we have money to pay it. Although I want Jason to always work and have seen the benefits and his happiness of having a job now, I hope we never forget what we learned this year or how hard it was and that we made it. And there is always a chance this could happen again and next time we will be ready.
I will add to this if I can remember any more. :) Good luck. You can do it too! email me if you need to ask questions. firstname.lastname@example.org