The Year that Was…

One year ago today, just about 2:30 pm, I was out in the garage setting up a garage sale when Michael pulled in the driveway. I thought that was odd. Then he got out and started walking up the driveway without his company laptop. An overwhelming feeling of dread came over me. I knew the answer, but I asked anyway: “Where’s your laptop.” His reply was, “It’s at the office.” He’d been laid off–permanently.

I sunk down in the chair. We had $500 in the bank. Four kids. Me? Stay–at–home–mom.  “Oh, my God! What will we do?” I said it over and over; not in a taking– the –Lord’s –name– in –vain fashion, but truly a cry out to the only One who could see us through this unexpected …tragedy…development…circumstance…blessing?

We worried and fussed together for maybe an hour, I don’t know. Then he got busy. Before the work day was out, he had a meeting scheduled with his former employer and started getting the word out that he was available. I think his first freelance assignment came in by the next week.

Because he conducted his job search and networking from the computer in our living room, I was very aware of what he was doing. I was amazed by his focus, determination and ability when it came to finding work–whether that meant a job or freelance opportunities. He worked tirelessly at  finding a job. We were scared. And we prayed.

Over the next three months, we cut back as much on our expenses as we could. We live pretty simply–one computer, one cell phone that we shared, just the “standard” cable package…no frills really. The up-side of that when faced with a situation like this is that the kids (our only real concern in all of this) didn’t notice a big change in lifestyle other than daddy was home all the time (which is actually a good thing). The downside is that there isn’t a whole lot of fat to trim in the budget.

So we looked at every little thing. We stopped buying toys when we were shopping with the kids. We stopped eating out two or three times a week. We lowered our internet speed (couldn’t cancel as it was necessary for the job search). We stopped buying Diaper Genie refills (we could walk the diaper to the garbage can), I stopped drinking Coke, he stopped drinking beer. We didn’t buy treats at the grocery store. We were frugal. And we prayed.

By the time the first three months were up at the end of November and the severance ran out along with the medical insurance, things got tighter. We canceled cable except for the basic local channels.I started substitute teaching.

The job search was fruitful in terms of interviews, but in almost every case, companies decided not to hire anyone–nearing the end of the year, bad economy, not sure the direction they were thinking of going with the position was the right one. So he wasn’t really being told “No, we don’t want you.” It was more like “Uh, we’re just not ready.” He continued to freelance. We worried. And we prayed.

So we needed help. Unemployment, food stamps, free school lunches for the kids, gifts from friends and people we barely know (ranging from food to clothes to cash). We’re fortunate to have a very generous aunt who simply paid our COBRA insurance for the first few months (and would still be doing it if we needed it). Christmas was fast approaching. Our church helps needy families every year. We were that family last year.

Was it hard to accept that help? Did it hurt our pride? You bet! But we have children to feed and clothe and make sure they feel secure and have a stable environment, so we swallowed our pride, we accepted all of the help. We were grateful. And we prayed.

We had a happy Christmas. Plenty of gifts, family all around. It felt like any other Christmas. We were so much better off than so many people. We were thankful. And we prayed.

January brought the new year, and with it, new hope. He had a week filled with very promising interviews. While he was waiting to hear back, he landed a very steady, very lucrative freelance client. We were at a crossroads. Should one of the interviews turn into a job offer, should he take it or should he start his own business. We were uncertain. And we prayed.

As I look back, I don’t think he ever heard a “yay” or “nay” from any of the companies he interviewed with that January week. We started to see God’s answer to our prayers. Diamond Communications was born and is slowly gaining ground. Money is a little tighter than it was before. But we have so much more time together, we’ve enjoyed our summer together immensely! He still keeps his eyes and ears open in case the right job comes along, but we’re gaining confidence in Diamond Communications. We have two computers, two cell phones, more money in the bank than ever before. We’re cautiously optimistic.

It’s the year that was…

  • scary
  • life-altering
  • faith building
  • marriage strengthening
  • humbling.

So, has Michael’s being unemployed been a tragedy…development…circumstance…blessing? We’re still deciding. And we’re still praying.

For Michael’s take on the past year, check out his blogpost on the same topic. We didn’t tell each other we were each writing a post about the past year, so it’s interesting to see the similarities and differences in our perspectives and recording of the events.

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