Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rock Bottom

No, I’m not referring to the SpongeBob Rock Bottom episode (you can see I watch too many cartoons!). I feel like I’ve just hit rock bottom this month in every possible way. My job search. Financially. Stress-wise. Everything.

September 9th will make 5 months that I’ve been out of work. I can’t believe it. I’ve applied for dozens of jobs – nonprofit jobs, corporate jobs, government jobs, jobs requiring a college degree, jobs only requiring a high school diploma, but nothing. Other than the fingerprinting/processing session I went to for the IRS on the 6th, nothing.

Remember I said I’d even take a job at Wal-Mart just to have some income coming in? Well, I applied at Wal-Mart about a month ago. And K-Mart, and Sears, and J.C. Penney, and CVS, and Walgreens. and a bunch of local chain stores. And again, nothing. I don’t understand it. Is it because I appear overqualified to work in a store? Is it because I’m limited to the hours I can work with my kids, and my husband’s work schedule? I don’t know what more to do.

I got totally discouraged after going to the IRS processing sessions and finding out that they have 300 people being considered for 50 jobs. There were about 100 people just at the session I went to, and I sat there for 4 hours while they fingerprinted everyone, went over a mountain of forms we had to complete, and they checked everyone’s forms to make sure they were filled out correctly. They have to do federal, state, and local background checks on all 300 people, run the fingerprints through, and audit everyone’s past 3 years tax returns. They said it’ll take two to three weeks, and after that they’ll contact anyone who passes to take a telephone assessment test (mock customer service phone call). After that, based on the results of the test and scores from the online assessment everyone had to take when they first applied for the job, they’ll make hiring decisions.

I’m just getting discouraged now because it’s been a little over two weeks and I haven’t heard anything back yet. I don’t have any reason not to pass the background check. I’ve never committed any crimes, or cheated on my taxes, but I still can’t help but be anxious. I’m so unbelievably depressed over my job situation.

It’s been a horrible, horrible, month financially. My husband has been working 6 days a week and we still are barely managing financially. After he pays the rent, we have $500-$600 left to cover groceries, utility bills, auto insurance, auto loan, gas for my husband to get to work, and prescriptions. It just doesn’t work. We had to pay our rent out of my husband’s first check of the month in August, and it took his entire check. Every penny of it. We couldn’t even go grocery shopping. I ended up having to swallow my pride and go to hunger center to get food for the kids. We’re fortunate to have in the suburb where we live. As a parent, it was the absolute worst feeling in the world to have my kids hungry and worried about what they were going to eat, and not being able to go to the store just to buy some food. I’m praying we don’t ever have to go through that again.

I told my husband if I didn’t have any education or work experience, I wouldn’t feel so bad, because at least I could go back to school and get some skills to get a job, but what’s wrong with me that I have a college degree, that I have years of work experience, and I can’t even get a job as a secretary or a cashier, so I can feed my kids? The past few weeks were terrible trying to scrape together money to feed the kids. My family tried to help me out when they could, but everyone in my family is struggling financially with different things to, so they couldn’t do much. My husband’s best friend lent him some money, which helped a little. My husband used to DJ parties on the side, so he has some musical equipment. He ended up taking a $500 mixer to the pawn shop to get some money for groceries. They gave him $40. I felt so bad that he had to do that. My husband's birthday was on August 15th, and I couldn't afford to do anything for his birthday. No special dinner at home. No dinner out. No presents. I couldn't even afford a few bucks to buy a cake mix and frosting. I felt so bad about it.

On top of all that, I had no home phone or Internet service for 3 weeks. We just couldn’t afford to keep up with all of our bills, and so the phone and Internet had to go temporarily. We have cell phones (a necessity with my husband working nights – there’s no other way to contact him at work except by cell phone) so at least we had some phone service, but it was awful having no Internet service. I felt so cut off from the world. It’s next to impossible to look for work anymore or apply for jobs without Internet service. Even stores want you to apply online. I listed my cell phone along with my home phone on my resume, cover letters, and any applications I filled out prior to my home phone being off, but now I’m worried if anyone employers tried to call me, found my home phone off, and didn’t bother to call my cell phone.

My husband finally got his second paycheck for August this week, I got some a small refund of excess grant/loan funds from my graduate school program (I’m working on an MPA through an online program with the University of Texas at Arlington – their state university system), and some friends of my niece who are getting married gave my husband $350 to DJ their wedding. It was a huge relief to finally be able to go grocery shopping, and buy the kids their school supplies and uniforms and get their asthma and allergy prescriptions refilled. The kids started back to school on Thursday. My daughter started 5th grade, and my son started kindergarten. I was afraid we wouldn’t have any money in time to get the stuff they needed to school, but fortunately we did.

I was able to pay our home phone and Internet bill on Monday, but it took the phone company (I have Internet service through them) until Wednesday to turn the Internet back on, since they had to put it through as a new order. It seems like one thing goes right for us and two other things go wrong. I swear, not more than 5 minutes after my Internet service came back on, our TV in the living room broke. The circuit board blew, and the whole thing reeked like smoke. Granted it was a cheap TV - a small 19 inch that we paid about $120 for, but still, it was barely a year and half old! Our TV before that, a 32 inch GE, lasted for 12 years before the picture tube died. Our remaining TV (and it's going to be our remaining one until I get another job) is a tiny twenty-year old 14 inch TV in our bedr4oom that my husband found a few years ago. But hey, at least it still works.

I'm convinced, just absolutely convinced that everything is made cheaply anymore, and made with functional obsolescence built right in, so the consumer is forced to replace everything frequently - appliances, cars, houses, everything. As luck would have it, not only did our TV go, but our washing machine is nearly gone too. It's a 6 year old Kenmore up and down washer/dryer set (the kind that are made for apartments and condos). The set wasn't cheap - we paid $975 for it, and it's a pretty basic set, but it was all we could find that would fit in the condo we lived in when we bought it. We've had nothing but problems with it since we bought it. We've gone through multiple belts, a new washtub, on and on, and spent at least $500 in repairs on it over the years. Now it barely agitates, and won't spin at all, so I have to run clothes through 2-3 drying cycles to get them to dry, since they come out of the washer sopping wet. My husband took the washer apart, and found out that the ball bearings are shot. It would cost as much as a new set to get them replaced. So much for that. My youngest sister offered to give me her old washer from her apartment where she lived before getting married (her husband owns a house and already had all the appliances he needed). Thank God for that, or we'd be heading to the laundromat every day (a huge hassle with laundry for a family of 4), not to mention expensive. But, am I right? Is everything made cheaply anymore?

Now that the kids are in school, and I don’t need to pay for daycare for them if I find a job, I feel even more pressure to find a job. I don’t even know where to apply anymore. It feels like I’m either overqualified or underqualified for everything. There are tons of lower-paying secretarial/administrative jobs, but when I apply for those, I don’t even get so much as an interview.

I applied for a job requiring a degree with a local nonprofit organization a few weeks ago. It’s a job requiring a degree, and one very similar to what I was doing at my last job. I saw this particular job open months ago, applied, and never heard back from them. When it came open again, I reapplied, and they called my cell phone over a week ago for a phone interview. The asked me how much I was making at my last job, I told them, they said this job wouldn’t be paying as much (about a $5,000-$8,000 a year pay cut), and asked me if I would still be interested in it. I told them yes (at this point I can’t afford to be choosy about how much a job pays), they sounded surprised, and said they would call people for in-person interviews in a few days. Well, that was over a week ago, and I haven’t heard anything more from them.

I desperately need a job. Sure I’d love to have a job paying at least what I made at my old one, but I’ll take pretty much anything at this point, but it seems like all employers see is “overqualified” and won’t consider me. It seems like the only job growth here in the Cleveland area is lower-paying jobs no one will consider me for, or jobs in the legal or medical fields, that I won’t be considered for (I’ve tried) because I don’t have experience in those fields. It’s a great time to be a legal secretary or paralegal (I see tons of law offices hiring for paralegals with experience in debt collection or foreclosures – no surprise with Cleveland being one of the poorest cities in the country, and having among the highest foreclosure rate in the country), and a great time to have any skills in the medical field (because if we have nothing else, at least we have two major hospital systems here in Cleveland).

I spent 10 years (off and on) working on my bachelor’s degree (between working full-time, having kids, dealing with family health problems, etc) and sometimes I feel like I wasted my time, like I’d have been better off just going through some kind of technical training in the medical field or legal field or something. At least I’d be employed right now. It’s frustrating and depressing. Honestly if I didn’t have kids (because of not wanting to move them away from my family) I’d leave the state tomorrow. It seems like there’s nothing around here for college graduates.

About the only good thing that’s happened lately is my husband finished his welding class. It was a long 6 weeks. Between his work and school schedule, and lack of money, we’ve done nothing fun all summer. I’m not upset about not being able to take a vacation – even when we both were working, we could rarely afford vacations. But, I’m sad that summer is pretty much over and we haven’t been able to even do so much as take the kids to the zoo, or a drive-in movie or an amusement park. We couldn’t even do much of any free stuff, like go to the library, because I couldn’t even afford to scrape together a few dollars for bus fare to get there. My daughter was actually excited to go back to school this week, because she was so bored at home, and that made me feel terrible. I love my kids, but I got burned out being home with them everything single day too, with my husband not around to help, between his work and school schedules, and no time to myself at all.

Pretty much all the kids have done all summer is play with other kids on the street. Most of the bratty kids stopped coming around my house after I told them they’re not welcome here if they’re going to be rude to my kids and start fights with them, but that little brat “M” has really gotten on my nerves. Last weekend she rode her bike down to my house, and started harassing Bethany right in our backyard. When Bethany came in to tell me, she left before I could say anything to her. Bethany left to walk down to her a different friend’s house down the street. She has to pass M’s house on the way, and M and a bunch of other girls stood on the sidewalk, blocked Bethany’s way, and started threatening her, saying they were going to beat her up. Bethany came home crying and told me, and I walked back down there with her. Some of the kids had gone home, but a few, including M were standing in front of her house, and had the nerve to tell me and Bethany we couldn’t’ walk past. The hell with that. I told them it’s a public sidewalk, and we most certainly are allowed to walk past. I walked with Bethany to her friend’s house, and was talking to her friend’s mom for a while.

When we went home, M’s mom and dad were outside, and the mom told me I’m not allowed to speak to her daughter! Excuse me?! I told her your daughter has no right to tell me where I can and can’t walk. The mom had a nasty attitude and told I still can’t talk to her daughter, and to come to her if my daughter has a problem with hers! No, it’s not Bethany causing the problems; it’s her little brat of a kid who won’t leave Bethany alone. Maybe if the mother actually kept an eye on her daughter, she’d see how she actually acts. I told my husband if that kid comes back in our yard again harassing Bethany, I sure will have something to say to her, and if she or any of the other girls lays a hand on Bethany, I’m calling the police. I’ve had enough of these kids thinking they own the neighborhood and have to listen to any adults. My husband said M is lucky this isn’t the 1970’s, because back then, some old lady down the street would take her aside and spank her, and drag her back home to her mom. I think he’s right. When I was growing up back in the 70’s, adults didn’t hesitate to call kids out if they were doing something wrong.

Well, I guess that’s about it. I don’t really have any crochet projects to show. Between worrying about finding a job, being broke, and dealing with the food situation, I couldn’t concentrate on crocheting anything. I might have something to post soon though.


Christina said...

Oh Laura, I'm so sorry things have been so tough this month. I'd been wondering where you'd been at. This economy really stinks and its hurting the heck out of alot of people.

You mentioned there are alot of paralegal jobs. If you can, I would suggest looking for an employment agency or headhunter. They don't charge you for their services and they really bust butt to find something for you, since its profitable for them. I'm mentioning this because I went to an employment agency and they got me a paralegal job right out of college and I'd never done paralegal work in my life. It wasn't even my major in college. Some places are willing to train unexperienced employees because they can hire you at a smaller starting salary. Also, employment agencies usually have job lsitings that aren't listed publicly.

You're in my thoughts and prayers. Please, please, please, if you need anything, let me know. Friends help friends.

Laura said...

Thanks, Christina, I appreciate it. I registered with two temp agencies a few months ago, and haven't gotten a single job through either of them, even though I've followed up repeatedly with them about job openings. I don't get it. I did also try a legal recruiting firm, and all I got was a generic email saying they'll keep me in mind if any positions open I'd be qualified for. Sigh...

Christina said...

That's awful! It sounds like the Cleveland job market is hurting right now. I have your old e-mail addy from a few months ago...can you send me your new email addy? mine is

Sorka said...

Don't wait for them to call you back. Call them and ask when would be a good time for you to come in and have that face to face appointment.

I wanna just come oup and give you a huge hug!!!
anyway.. have you tried online grant writing stuff?You might just be able to telecommute!

Sorka said...

Here is one site!

Also check out you could answer questions online and make a few extra $$
If you did that for a few hours a day you might do pretty well!

Bezzie said...

Hm, are you listing your higher education on your apps for Wally's, etc? I think that's one of the cases where some white lies by omission aren't a bad thing.

I second what Christina said--if you can get your foot in the paralegal/legal assistant door, you're golden. I was lucky enough to find a firm that didn't want someone with a lot of experience (so they could mold me to what THEY wanted) and so I got the 5 years of experience there that a lot of places look for when hiring paralegals/legal assistants when they advertise for jobs.

Your part of the country is really bearing the worst of this recession. I'm trying to convince a friend of mine in Lansing she needs to get the hell out of there. Do you guys have family anywhere else in the country?? It's not so bad living away from family. As long as they're all in the contiguous US it's really not that far. Trust me! :-)

Carmell said...

i know all to well what you are going through. all i have to say is keep your head up!! {{{HUGS}}}

i'm trying to get outta here too. i live in MO and its just horrible here too. we're thinking of TX. hubby is trippin but i'm ready to go. i think he doesn't want to leave his fam... but i say peace... see you on the holiday's! i know if i go my fam will most likely follow... at least some will.

Carmell said...

hey i just ran across this as i was looking into that Cha Cha place, Sorka was talking about.

i'm sure you can find something on that list. and this is a non phone list. they have other list. brows around.

Carmell said...

ok that didn't work. the forum is called

i looked under work from home.

naida said...

sorry to hear this laura.
I know its hard, and you want a job badly. I hope you find something real soon.

Katrina said...

Hi Laura. I'm so sorry that everything has been pretty rough for you and your family lately. I can imagine how you feel about being able to provide for your kids and family. My heart reaches out to you. Hang in there. I know it's got to be way past frustrating for you. I'm praying for you and your family.