Saturday, November 29, 2008

The New Norm

We have a new norm at our house. 

During the week, my husband wakes up and showers while the kids get ready for school. I make lunches and beds and run around like a crazy woman shouting orders (and the occasional obscenity). Then we all assemble in the kitchen for breakfast before Jim takes the kids to the bus, just as he has done every day for years. 

The difference now is that instead of going to work directly from the bus stop, he comes home. And instead of wearing a pair of pressed khakis and a button down shirt, he is sporting a pair of worn jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. We've settled into this new routine rather nicely. And nobody, except for my dry cleaner, seems to miss the old gig. It's the new norm. (and the dry cleaner will have to get used to it).

One day last week, Jim had an early morning meeting and so instead of dressing like Weekend Warrior Jim, he dressed like the Jim of (not so) long ago in a nice pair of pressed brown slacks and a light blue button-down. I knew where he was going, in fact, I put my stamp of approval on the outfit, (another of my morning duties) but my daughter didn't know that he had a meeting to attend. 

I was in the hall when she approached me with those enormous eyes of hers that can get as big as saucers when she hears or sees something that she shouldn't hear or see. That morning, her eyes were the size of dinner plates. She came very close and leaned up against me with her back turned toward my bedroom door where Jim was putting the finishing touches on his (smashing) outfit and whispered, "Um, Mom, why is Dad getting dressed for work?" I glanced over at Jim and then back to her and knew immediately what she was trying to say: "My father is losing his mind and has forgotten that he is unemployed. Do something." She's seen this type of bizarre behavior in movies and read about it in books, but now she thinks she's living it first hand. 

To be honest, she might have expected something like this from her mother, but certainly not from her father who has always been of sound mind and body. It must have been unnerving to watch her one sane parent, the guy that she can always count on, well, slipping a bit. But maybe I'm being overly dramatic. Maybe she was just being optimistic and thought that he had landed a new job over the weekend. (and we failed to mention it to her?) Either way, somebody had some explaining to do and that somebody was me.

After I stopped laughing hysterically, I assured her that he was not losing his mind, he simply had an early morning meeting and was dressing the part. Period. She took a deep breath and I watched the color come back to her cheeks and her eyes return to their normal size. 

Hopefully, those pressed khakis and button-down oxford shirts will be making their way out of the closet more and more often over the next couple of weeks. And then, we'll have another norm to contend with at our house. I anxiously await that day (as does my dry cleaner.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Move Over Harry Potter...

Apparently a lot of people are asking my husband if I work outside of the home. Or if I have any plans of finding work outside of the home. No and yes, respectively.

Before the layoff, I was a Trophy Wife whose duties included managing domestic operations at the Reid residence. But before I wore that crown, I did work outside of the home and will gladly return if that's what's best for my family. 

So what would I do? Would I return to sales? Or would I go back a little further to my marketing roots? Or perhaps finally put my B.S. in Accountancy to good use and manage somebody's books? To be perfectly honest, none of those things really appeal to me. But, I would love to write a book.

I told my husband that if I put my mind to it, perhaps I could write a NY Times best seller and then he could forget about a job search. He was quick to point out that very few authors are millionaires, but he did say that if I followed in the footsteps of J.K. Rowling, we'd be all set. 

The only problem is, I don't have a very good imagination. I could never come up with a character like Harry Potter. My forte is simply observing my surroundings and then writing about it from my point of view. If I were to write a book, it wouldn't really be about anything in particular. Seinfeld was the "show about nothing"; my book would be the "book about nothing." 

But perhaps I could turn this blog into a book. In a few months, I'll have plenty of good material. And if I can get my husband to put a science fiction spin on his job search, I could easily write about it. If he plays his cards right, he could be the next Harry Potter, and I, the next J.K. Rowling. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Elephant in the Room

There is an elephant in the room. 

Not everybody who learns that we are the latest victims of the economic downturn is comfortable talking about it, much less acknowledging it. Instead, they do this awkward dance to avoid the topic. They concern themselves with relatively small and irrelevant matters instead of addressing the big looming one...the lay off. And in the process, it becomes much bigger than it actually is. 

So I'm doing a public service announcement: don't be afraid to talk about it. Repeat after me...sorry to hear about the job, good luck finding a new one. Done. You don't have to fix the situation, simply acknowledge it. We promise not to drag you into an ugly "life sucks" conversation. Getting laid off is certainly not the worst thing that has happened to us; we are looking at it as a doorway to new opportunities. (How about me getting all Dr Phil-like, huh?). End of public service announcement.

I will add that most people have gone above and beyond the call of friendship duty. Last week a friend showed up at our door with homemade chicken soup. It warmed our hearts and warmed our tummies. That same day my sister (who does not cook) whipped up a batch of muffins and delivered them fresh from the oven. We've received cards and calls and e-mails...suffice it to say, my husband is feeling the love. 

And then there's me who can't seem to walk into the house without shouting up the stairs, "Hey honey, I'm home...any job offers?" And each time I do it, I get a chuckle out of him. Swear. I always tell him he's lucky that I'm so funny, but the truth of the matter is, I'm lucky that he's such an easy audience. 

Sure, there might come a day when he throws a shoe down the stairs or throws me down the stairs, but until that happens, we're going to continue to talk about it and laugh about it (and occasionally cry about it). But please, don't be afraid to join us...we don't bite. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Keeping the Stress in Check

People keep asking me how the kids are doing.

They are doing just fine. I mean, it's not as if we've stopped feeding them 3 meals a day or moved them up to the attic so we can can take in borders. I've seen Kit Kittridge: An American Girl Movie, but I promise we're not making our kids sell eggs to help pay the bills. 

But I realize that this is a tremendous change in our lives and a crisis like this can be very stressful. So far, my husband and I are keeping the stress to ourselves and not sharing it with the kids.

I know the experts would tell me that I can't hide stress from my kids; that they are more perceptive than I'd like to admit. And while my (unbelievably brilliant and very perceptive) kids might not be able to grasp issues surrounding the current economic meltdown (most adults I know can't either), surely they are receiving messages from the media and at school and quite possibly from their killjoy mother that things are bad. Luckily for me (and my kids) I fancy myself an expert on practically everything and so I am not afraid of what the other "experts" are saying because I always know best. My kids are fine. 

Proof: The other day I got an e-mail from a friend whose son is in my son's class. She reported that her son came home from school and told her that Beck's dad lost his job, but he got an iPhone out of the deal. See that? As Bing Crosby used to sing, you've got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Who needs a job when you've got an iPhone, folks? My kids were never remotely interested in what their father did for a living, but now that he's got that iPhone he's king of the castle. 

Another friend reports that her son asked if the Reids were going to have to live on the streets. She assured him that the Reids would not be homeless. (I hope she went a little further and added, "If worst comes to worst, honey, the Reids will move in with us and Mrs. Reid will take over your bedroom.") But she didn't mention that for sure. Hmm.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When Opportunity Knocks

So my husband keeps telling me that I need to look at this layoff as an opportunity; a new lease on life. Not sure where he got his rose colored glasses, but I'm asking for a pair for Christmas. 

I'm trying. Really and truly, I am. I'm trying to see this not so much as an opportunity, because quite frankly, I liked the opportunity that came with him being employed. But I'm trying to see it more like a New Year's resolution or a lifestyle change. We're not down and out (yet) but I'm trying to change some habits while I'm still in the mood to count my blessings. We don't need to go out to see a movie; we have each other. We don't need to exchange Christmas gifts; we have our health. We don't need to eat out; we are happiest at home with our family.

I suppose the most popular resolutions are to lose weight, quit smoking, pay off debts, get a better job. And they all sound great, especially the last one, but I'm going to start small. My goal will be to use all the food in my freezer before putting another item in there. It will keep me focused and it will save us money. 

So while my husband works his butt off trying to find a job, I will challenge myself to come up with new and interesting ways to serve freezer burned chopped meat. Sounds fair, no? Ok, I'll throw in the pantry to even things up. On my honor, I will not buy another canned good at Harris Teeter until I have used up all the cans that currently occupy my cupboards. Now that is more than fair. In fact, it may be easier to find a job in this economy then it is to come up with a recipe that calls for canned pears, artichoke hearts and tomato paste. But I am up for the challenge. And do you know why? Because this is an opportunity and I'm all about an opportunity...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day Three and Counting

Still no job. 

Kidding! I am kidding. Really. And truly. Kidding. (kind of). 

But I'm happy to report that we are still laughing. And I'm not kidding about that. Which is good, because I have a pit in my stomach the size of the Grand Canyon and nothing seems to fill it. Not the cookies or the candy that I've been inhaling, not the wine or the gin we've been consuming...but the laughs do seem to help a bit. Even if they are at our own expense. Ok, mostly his expense. 

But I'm still trying to be very supportive. Yesterday I told my husband that I'm prepared to move anywhere for the right job. A few hours later he mentioned something about Akron, Ohio and I barely lifted my head to respond, "Umm, yeah, no can do, my friend...way too cold in Akron." But you know, it's easy to rule things out on day 3. When Duke Power cuts off our power, I may be singing a different tune. (Perhaps one by Chrissie Hynde about Going back to Ohio...) And, whoa, wait a cotton pickin' minute...did I just type "cuts off" our power? Because that is sooo very southern; nobody in Ohio "cuts off" the power. Yet another reason to stay put.

Confession #1: it's rather odd not having the house to myself during the day. 
(Yes, of course it's all about me. Duh?). 

Now, granted, my sweet husband has spent the vast majority of his time upstairs in the office updating his resume. And it's not as if I begrudge him coming out of the office for an occasional bite to eat or anything, but I'm just saying it's been a long time since I've passed anybody in these halls during the week. And, well, quite frankly it's going to take a little getting used to. I'm used to being alone. 

This morning I had some errands to run and as I walked out of the house, I hit the key pad to alarm the house. Of course I knew he was upstairs, I had just kissed him goodbye, but out of habit, I punched in the code before locking the door behind me. Luckily, I realized what I had done before I got outside or he might have had heart failure as soon as he moved and set off the alarm. Again, I will point out - I've got his back. Very supportive. 

But on the other hand, it's going to be awfully nice having him around for the holidays. Maybe we'll bake cookies together and go for long walks. Maybe we'll wrap Christmas presents together. Maybe we'll go to the movies one afternoon. And when I get in a pinch, it will be great to have him run the occasional carpool. And, well, help the kids with their math homework. And I'd love for him to take the car in for service next week (he loves cars). Ok, and maybe grill a steak for dinner every now and again. 

Still, I'd give anything for him to have his old life back. He's ever the optimist and believes there are great opportunities out there. I'll take my cue from him and continue to hope for the best. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


On Sunday, before the layoff, (BTL) when life was good and ignorance was bliss, my Norman Rockwell family and I set out to the park to take our annual Christmas card photo. 

Every year there is glitch (that's putting it mildly) with said photo shoot. In fact, there is really nothing remotely Norman Rockwell about it. You see, my son, who is normally a pretty easy going kid, turns into a crazed lunatic who refuses to cooperate, much less smile. And my husband, who is normally a pretty good photographer, forgets his flash or uses the wrong lens. 

One year, my son bit his sister during the photo shoot and the photographer managed to capture it beautifully on film. It was a gorgeous photo of my son looking all smug and my daughter holding up her bloody finger and crying her eyes out. Of course, as luck would have it, it was one of only two shots that he managed to capture beautifully that year. And I was tempted to use it as the winning photo with the caption, "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Man..." but instead I managed to salvage a halfway decent shot of them where the teeth marks in my daughter's finger weren't visible to the naked eye. 

This year, in keeping with our holiday tradition, the photo shoot was a disaster. After twenty minutes of shooting and me doing cheerleading jumps behind the photographer to get my son to laugh, we didn't have a single, decent shot. Nada. Not one. The empty set. 

And that night after reviewing the photos, I had a melt down and called off the annual Christmas card. Nobody would be getting a card from the Reids this year. That's right, nobody. The hell with The Year Without a Santa Claus, this was going to be The Year Without a Christmas Card. That would show 'em. I'm sick of doing flips and stand up comedy behind the camera man only to come up empty handed. 

And then came the layoff and it put everything in perspective. Maybe I could find it in my heart to try again (especially now that the photographer has a lot of time on his hands). Why not spread a little holiday joy and let the world know that the Reids are going to be fine (especially with all the drinking they do over the holidays). 

I've always wanted to include one of those clever Christmas letters in my card. You know the letter of which I speak. Love it when people take the annual mass mailing of the Christmas card as their opportunity to broadcast their family's many talents and fascinating escapades. Love. That. Stuff. I eat it up.

And so this year, I'm doing it. But instead of waxing poetic about my wonderful kids and our family's extraordinary trips, I'm going to include my husband's resume. How's that for clever?

Be Careful of What You Wish For....

Be careful of what you wish for...

Just the other day I was thinking that I needed a new topic to blog about. Idol starts in 2 months and I need to warm up my blogging fingers. I was thinking that I needed something fresh, new and exciting to focus on before the Idols grace the big stage. And then yesterday my husband came home from work and informed me that it was his last day of work. And so the recession has become a depression around our house and like it or not...I have something new to blog about. 

Not sure I would necessarily put this in the "exciting" category, but it's certainly fresh and new, as in a fresh, new open wound. Ouch. We didn't see this one coming. And yes, to answer your question, I guess I may have been living in a bubble. I know these are hard times and I expected layoffs for my friends and neighbors who worked at Wachovia, but my husband didn't work at Wachovia and so I guess I felt we were safe. 

I'll be trite for a minute: yes, we have our health and we have savings and we have each other and a beautiful family and lots of great friends and for that we are most grateful. But it's never easy having the rug pulled out from underneath you, especially when the economy is going to hell in a hand-basket and Christmas is around the corner. But, I'm not sure there is ever really a good time to get slapped in the face; it always hurts. 

Hopefully it won't be all doom and gloom. While I have a tendency to see the glass half empty, my husband always sees it overflowing. While I'm the voice of doubt, he's the voice of reason. And while I am a bit of a killjoy at times (ok, that might be putting it mildly) I do have a pretty good sense of humor and, really, isn't laughter the best medicine?  

I list trophy wife as my current occupation; now more than ever I will have to step up to the plate and demonstrate to my husband that he has been awarded a prize. Hmm. That might be a bit of a stretch and a challenge. But I vow to be more supportive than ever. And I will try my very hardest to keep my sarcasm in check. And in the process, I'm sure I will have a lot of stories to share and blog about. It won't help pay the bills, but writing it down always seems to make me feel better. And really, folks, isn't it always about me?

It's 4 am and I am in front of my computer and I hear my husband's footsteps upstairs. Not sure what he's doing up there but I can't help but this the new norm at our house? I don't think either of us slept a wink tonight, but at least we can both nap later today, right? See that? I'm already taking lemons and turning them into lemonade!

We'll be fine. We talked a little bit about it with the kids tonight and afterwards I asked my son if he was nervous. He looked at me, scrunched up his little face and said, "What is there to be nervous about?" Love that. He's like my very own Tiny Tim...