Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I like being home..

Autumn has arrived and I am looking forward to the season of pumpkins/cider/and the first fire of the year. I did discover a new, but carefully hidden truth about myself this morning.

I like being home.

There, I've said it. I have kind of suspected it for a while...but this morning as I was walking on this beautiful fall day, stopping to take pictures of different roads and anything else interesting along the way, it kind of hit me. I had stopped to take a picture of - can you believe this - a miniature horse on a picnic table in someone's back yard. At first I thought it was a statue, but I backed up and looked again. There it was. Just hanging out on a bench. I have passed this house many times and did notice all the horse-related items - from their horse trailer to various lawn signs  and bumper stickers - so it did make sense why they actually had a horse in their backyard. As I snapped the picture, it hit me - I like being home. I like the fact that I can stop and take pictures of horses and waterfalls. I like not having the stress and politics of work. I like having the gift of time. I like being able to sit here on my front porch and write this blog, listening to a great mix on I tunes.


Thanks to New York State Unemployment, I am able to do this for a while longer (and an additional 13 weeks of extended benefits will probably be passed today by the US Senate). As wonderful as it is for me, it is not so wonderful for my husband. He now has to shoulder a much bigger financial burden - my monthly income has been cut in half, our oldest daughter is also unemployed and living at home, and we have one in college and one "out on her own" but with support from us.

As the months pass, my self-confidence ebbs and the desire to keep looking for that elusive job wanes. I know what I have to do - it's just getting harder to do it. When the newest Lord & Taylor catalog came and I flipped through all the fabulous fall shoes, I found myself vicariously picking out different styles - and then I realized with a jolt, that I didn't need - nor could I afford - new shoes. All I need right now are my sneakers...and I realized I am okay with that for a while longer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bocce Beer and Unemployment Wine

Wednesday is recycling day in my town. Today it is glass and bottles. As I walk through my neighborhood, I can't help but peer into the cans and see if I can match up their recycling to their house. Big house, well-manicured lawn - usually Tide, a good Olive Oil, an assortment of wine bottles, an occasional bottle of Absolut or Grey Goose and usually a few beer bottles - for some reason - usually light beer. Smaller house - usually the same assortment - perhaps not Tide but Dynamo - same stuff, perhaps a few pennies cheaper. Some houses have no recycling out - what's with that? Did they forget to bring it to the curb or do they just not bother? I am always impressed when I come across a can with no alcohol in it - just soda and water bottles and the usual assortment of household glass and cans. Why am I impressed? I have to admit, it seems out of the norm for me. I grew up with alcohol in my house (sometimes too much at times) and I have alcohol in my house now. We built a bocce court in our backyard a few years ago (the only bocce court that flies an Irish flag (along with an American, Italian and Scottish to reflect the neighbors on my street) so every Sunday when the weather is nice, we have a standing 3:30 pm game. Beer is brought in and assorted vegetables from our neighborhood garden are grilled and shared. The games can go on for awhile and much beer is consumed. When I drag the garbage can to the curb on Wednesday's, I always wonder what the DPW thinks of us. The other garbage can holds the unemployment wine. These bottles are the castoffs of two unemployed women who like to share a glass - or two - in the evening - as we discuss our days and try to be optimistic about our future. I once read about a book that was just a compilation of grocery lists - the author/editor published grocery lists he had found and tried to draw conclusions about the people who wrote them. Of course, it was all supposition, just like my conclusions on recycling day. Does my refuse reflect my house? At this point in time, yes.   

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Farmer's Daughter

When I was still caught up in the early days/weeks of unemployment, I fantasized about all the wonderful, creative, fulfilling things I would tackle with my new found freedom. Walking was the first thing I put back on my daily schedule and the one thing that I have truly kept up. After walking every day for weeks listening to music on my Ipod, I realized I needed something else to keep me occupied as I trudged along the hills and valleys of my town. I then discovered NPR podcasts - my favorite is "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" and for some inspiration "This American Life". I also listen to audiobooks from my library on my old Sony Walkman. One of the most memorable books I listened to was by Barbara Kingsolver "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".  The story followed a family who moved to Appalachia and lived entirely off their land for a year. It opened my eyes to the way most American families eat - over processed, antibiotic laden food. I knew it was hardly practical to move my family down south, so I chose instead to plant an organic garden in my little part of New Jersey.  After all, at the end of the day, I am the daughter of an Irish farmer who farmed his land in Ireland for almost forty years. This would be my little contribution to the "greening" of my family. Well, the best laid plans can go awry, and boy did they ever. My husband almost passed out from heat stroke planting the garden - the day we chose to plant turned out to be the first 90 degree day of the year. After cooling him off, we planted our seeds in neat little rows and waited. And waited. Watered. Weeded. After a few weeks, we started to see some little green heads popping up. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones who noticed. Before we knew it, some unknown (a least to us) four-legged insects and perhaps a stray bunny or two, found our little plot of land and systematically feasted on it. As the end of summer approaches, our harvest included about six heads of lettuce, five onions, and one green pepper. It is said talent can sometimes skip a generation - I obviously did not inherit the farming gene, nor did I inherit the sewing gene (another story)...perhaps on one of my morning walks, it will come to me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A crowd of two

I have been unemployed since February from a job I truly loved. Due to an unexpected severance package and unemployment benefits I have been okay financially - but all the "extras" are gone. I miss shopping and getting my nails done - trivial yes but I enjoyed it. I have gained a whole lot of free time for the first time since I had my three children. I have worked since I was 16 and being at home without having any little ones to take care of left me a little lost. I am a born list maker, so each morning before I get up, I plan out my day. It can be as simple as what path will I take during my walk today - to should I clean the house today or tomorrow? I also spend at least two hours a day researching and applying for jobs. After six months of unemployment, I have found that two hours a day is the most I can do. I volunteer at my local library, have discovered a wonderful local farmer's market and learned to shop for three adults instead of five. I had a decent, sane routine going until August. Then my 25 year old daughter also was laid off. Two women home all day, unemployed, does not make for a sane routine anymore. The house has gotten very crowded. I grow annoyed when I come back in the morning and she is still asleep. Adding to the stress is that she is in an unstable relationship which really hit the fan yesterday. Tears. Screaming. Slamming doors. This drama I do not need at this stage of my life. Although I feel content at times - no deadlines, no office politics, I know I am stressed. I have put on 15 unwelcome pounds (even with all my walking) and my clothes don't fit. I want to help my daughter and see her through this, but she has never been one to heed my advice so I have given up trying. All I feel I can do at this point, is to be available to her, make sure she is safe, and cautiously try to steer her in a more positive direction. I know I can't change her - she has to initate the change she wants to see. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

I was closing in on the last mile of my walk this morning when I realized the hardest part of the walk weren't the hills or the heat or the barking dogs - or even the occasional fox - but the smallest incline. I stepped off the outside road to get back on the sidewalk and had to adjust my stride to climb a very small incline. Ouch! How could I just have finished walking 4.5 miles and this baby incline delivers a shooting pain to my 54 year old hips? Go figure.

On my way back home I realized I did not have my cell phone. Somehow it had fallen out of my Ipod/waterbottle/cell phone holder. I tried not to panic and went back along the walk and tried to retrace my steps. I did stop to take a picture with my phone of a really unusual bird - so I figured that's where it had to be. No. Maybe by the car? No. I was growing increasingly mad - and frustrated. I couldn't afford to replace the phone - could I possibly live without it? When I got home I had a voice mail from my husband. Thanks to the ICE (In case of Emergency) listing in my cell phone, the kind woman who found the phone skimmed through the numbers, found the ICE listing and called my husband. Who promptly called me - chuckling - saying my phone was found! If you haven't added these 3 little letters to someone you would like to be called in case of an emergency - big or small - do so today! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to School

School Daze
As I was walking through the different streets of my neighborhood this morning I started to notice all the cameras and the parents walking away, empty-handed, from school. Now that my kids are grown, the first week of September doesn't take on the same significance as it had in the past. I started to reflect on all those drop-offs. Even on the first day of pre-school my kids didn't turn around once they were led into the classroom. No tears, no hanging on to my leg, no yells or screaming. Nothing. Complete nonchalance. As I looked around at the other parents - with their kids crying, screaming - I remember feeling embarrassed that my kids seemed to float into the classroom. Nary a wave or a tear. I consoled myself with the thought that I had raised self-sufficient, confident children who who emotionally ready to conquer their next frontier - Pre-K. I was lucky I was able to take a quick photo before they were led away. Climbing back into the car, without having to snap someone into a child's seat, was the hardest part. Driving away, knowing I had 2 1/2 hours of freedom didn't measure up all the time. It usually meant a quick bowl of cereal as I watched Regis and Kathy Lee, cleaned the kitchen, threw in wash and hurried through other mundane household chores. Hey, it's 11am already - where does the time go?