jetsetgreen

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Great Recession


Three-and-a-half years ago we were stable and steadily growing. Then the economy tanked, so did my work, and we've been living by the skin of our teeth pretty much ever since. I know that so many of you have been in the same boat: all of us, floating along, furiously bailing out the vessel to keep it from totally sinking--even bailing out when the water is up to our chins and all we're really doing is moving water from the lake on our right side to the lake on our left. Sue recently wrote about the bankruptcy and foreclosure she went through, when it seemed like there wasn't much to be happy about, and the swells threatened to overtake.

I've been there: staring at the rapidly dwindling food storage, making meals out of the freezer, thankful for the wheelbarrow of free produce a neighbor left on her driveway. Spending an unemployment check on bags of flour and rice, confident that I could make bread instead of buying, knowing that rice will stretch and that cheap dried beans are even tastier than canned. We were blessed because my frugal childhood taught me how to cook delicious meals from scratch. Putting the electricity bill on the credit card. Letting the tires on the car go bald. Going without a car for weeks when we couldn't afford to repair it. Negotiating with the hospital. Feeling terrible guilt for taking the money grandma would give to the boys for their birthdays and recklessly blowing it to buy them things like food...and shoes. Taking the scraps of leather that Susan gave me and patching the boys' pants. Patching those pants a lot. Living the old pioneer creed: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Our grandparents were shaped by the Great Depression. Our children will be shaped by the Great Recession.

We're the lucky ones. We'll never starve because we have family that can help, if it gets really bad. We have a church that can help us if we need it. We have health insurance. We are educated. I can always work retail. The baby was a good nurser and we didn't have to buy formula; she was healthy and didn't need the doctor. All the kids were mostly healthy and I could duck the well-child visits with their serious co-pays. I can mend, cook, and let things go. Every time we got down to our last dollar, our last line of credit, some work would come and we'd be OK for a little bit. Each mortgage payment made felt like a victory. We made it on a wing and a prayer and a shoestring and a hundred other cliches. I stopped worrying, because it felt like I would worry myself to death. I learned to take a deep breath and trust that good things would happen.
Joe and I would laugh, "We're broke," I'd say.
"Yeah, but we're broke in this house."
"We're broke with (sometimes) two cars."
"We're broke with kids and a good family."
"We're broke with the lights on."
"We're broke with Internet."
"We're broke with insurance."
"We're broke and you went to Hawaii."

And it's true: I went on a Hawaiian vacation paid for by Disney, and our family had $40 in the bank for the rest of the month. I brought my food to eat on the flight so I wouldn't have to spend money in the airport and make it $30. Hawaii is the kind of miracles that kept happening and left us not feeling bereft, but loved (thanks, Rachael.) Feeling taken care of, knowing that the worst had happened: we'd lost our security, our family members had ill health, but we still had so much.

"We're broke and we have enough."

If there's one thing I learned, more than anything else, is that if you are grateful for the little that you have, if you thank Providence, or the God of your heart, you will find the happiness in the small things. I am grateful the TV I bought in 1995 still works. I am grateful for strangers who drop new furniture by the door. I'm grateful for friends who would pick up my check if we were out, refusing to let me pay. I am grateful for the work and the companies that hired me; they were generous and I have learned so much. I am grateful for Zoloft, for a pregnancy without complications, an easy delivery, and for not being pregnant anymore. I am grateful for mild summers and winters, and for warm sweaters. I am grateful that sometimes we could share with others (I cried when a check came in before Christmas, allowing us to give our children a modest holiday and pay for a few bags of food for the food bank.) I am grateful for friends who make me laugh until it hurts, letting my burdens lie easily on their shoulders. I am grateful for neighbors who understand when we can't fix the mower. I am grateful for a thousand and one mercies I have experienced in these years.

Every night we'd say a prayer to give thanks for our bounty, because even in our lack, it was bountiful.




I have been thinking about the Great Recession recently, since it feels like we may have turned a corner (if the Eurozone doesn't plummet...and let's not go there.) Would you do your grandchildren a favor and write down what the past five years have been like for you and your family?


UPDATE here.

27 comments:

TheOneTrueSue said...

I love you. And yes. Everything you said.

So many things in your second paragraph hit me in the heart, especially the birthday money thing. Yes. That.

Kiar Shaw said...

Amen. That's all I got. Amen.

Delirious said...

I really believe that the reason worldliness is a sin is that if we are worldly, and lusting after more and more things, we aren't really appreciating what we have. Whenever I walk through a store and see something "cute" that I would like to buy to wear, I tell myself that I already have cute things to wear, and that I need to just appreciate what I already own.

Barb said...

Your gratitude and humility and candor touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing.

Kacy Faulconer said...

Yes. I've been planning to write abut this too. But I keep waiting for it to be over. . .

mrs. r said...

So raw.

When my husband lost his job over a year ago...yes. All the things you said.

LOVES.

Hilary said...

My poor kids, all they'll read about on my blog for much of 2011 is how crappy the great recession was. :)
But, it's turned out nicely. :)

b. said...

I love you.

I've been writing something similar in my head too. Thank you for your perspective. Thank you for your example.

Anne-Marie said...

The past 5 years have felt like a big gut punch. It all started with buying a stupid house in stupid El Paso (no offense to the locals, we just had a really crap year there) & the reprocussions & crappy tenants ever since. I love your honestly though & the reminder to be grateful for all that we do have.

Rynell said...

Yes -- it's a big punch in the gut. So broke, yet blessed.

Vanessa said...

This is a wonderful post. Because like you ask in the end...asking us to right to your children/grandchildren about the past five years...your kids/grandkiddos will NEED these words at some point in their lives.

Heather Johnson-Family Volley said...

Yes and yes to every word. I held off the tears until the kids' birthday money, then I was a goner. Faith and prayers and gratitude.

Christian F said...

Great writing. Thanks.

AzĂșcar said...

No, thank you, Christian. I am grateful for you.

Erica said...

Thanks for this. I feel blessed in my life, but never "ahead." For whatever we feel now, I wonder what our generation will be like in 30 years. I'm guessing not nearly as savings-account rich as our parents' generation of retirement-age retirement.

craftyashley said...

Thank you for this. It was cathartic just reading.

Lindsey Johnson said...

I'm right there with you. I was formulating a post in my head on this very thing today as we drove home from SLC in our faithful old Toyota that keeps holding together while our other car sits in the driveway almost undriveable. (That's a word, right?)

We've been without full-time work for over 2 years. Everyone asks us how we do it. Our answer is simply: We have no other choice.

I had no idea things were so hard for your family. I'm glad you wrote about it.

Kalli said...

Psssshhhht, we're rolling in it over here.


What recession??

Anonymous said...

Haven't every taken a vacation since our honeymoon. Never been "blessed" by people who could provided me with free trips. We've had to scrape by all of our lives and will probably continue to do so.

Geo said...

Love this and you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this!! Life has a way of reminding you when your resources are limited, how wonderful it still is :). It reminds me of Facundo Cabral's minute 02:42 of "No Estas Deprimido, Estas Distraido"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaIIHuOcDWI&feature=plcp where he states that his mother believed that in poverty love is closer as money distracts us with too many things and as a result we are more distrustful.

PS.Love reading your articles and blog!!

amy said...

Yes that was very well said. We don't talk openly about that kind of thing much in society, I realize. I think we should. and by the way - congratulations on your award!! That is awesome!!

Tamsin North said...

I've always wanted to take you out to lunch (you did give me a $300 trip to the spa, after all!), and now I want to more so than ever. I just like you.

Janet said...

Still need a lawn mower? just checking. We may have an extra.

This just hurts to read. Reminds me of several years of my life. Being a single parent for 5 years (I think). Esp. the time that $8k check bounced just before Christmas and took all my money out of my account (including for the mortgage) when my bloggers went to cash the checks I wrote them. My knees started to knock and I felt this desperation that I'd never felt because it was my only income.

It's sweet how you're cared for and how people help out. But my experiences gave me a hate of being poor.

Sometimes my husband thinks we're poor but I tell him we're not even close to it. I'm so thankful. I didn't like the starving artist life. It much more glamorous from a distance than it is to try to live it.

Blog On my friend
Janet

mrs jp chaos said...

I'm really grateful that I read this. We've been there. Especially getting my husband through school.

I finally feel like we're inching forward after a million years of standing still or moving backwards. We are so blessed...and I'm grateful.

Such an excellent post. Thank you for writing this.

~j. said...

Same here

Emily said...

I agree with Amy: it's shameful and harmful that we don't talk about money more in our culture. We all need help figuring it out, and regardless of income, it's a finite resource for all of us. Thanks for writing this.