December 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm (A New Career, back to school, Employment, Finances, Job Satisfaction, Memories, Social Services, Studies) (, , , , )

Last year I said that I was glad to say good-bye to 2011.  Many people agreed with me.  It was a tough year.  As was the year before that…and the year before that…and the year before that…and half of the year before that.  It felt like we were in a game of Whack-A-Mole.  When we were finally able to peek our head above ground  WHACK!  We were bopped back down.

2012 offered a lot of promise.  It started out rough, got a little…well…a LOT rougher, and I think it has ended better than many of the years before.

A few days ago Josh and I took a (very chilly!) walk along Lake Michigan reflecting on the highlights of 2012.


  • Despite being the slow months of winter, Josh saw a lot of success with his program.
  • I started my first semester as a graduate student.
  • Finally out of debt, after 4 years!
  • We picked up our first ever BRAND NEW vehicle (ordered on Black Friday, we had the sales guy so flustered he inverted a couple of numbers giving us a $2,000 savings)!  After 11 years Josh now only has one more broken down vehicle to work on!



  • More success in Josh’s program during the slow months of winter.  I think they saw some of the highest number of hours served in the history of the program during these months.  The program is expanding so much Josh is having a hard time hiring staff to keep up!


  • Day trip to South Bend.  We still don’t have money, but we wanted to get OUT!
  • Josh’s brother calls on a Wednesday to invite us to his wedding…Friday.  This was supposed to be the day Josh got terminated, but because of this call he had to push the appointment back.  Yes, they made an appointment with him to terminate him, but he was told they would be working out some issues with his boss.
  • We enjoy Chris and Katie’s wedding on the steps of the courthouse in Crown Point.
  • On March 9 I post this on FB: For the first time since shortly after our move back from Scotland we have money in the bank! After 4 years of working to get out of debt we did not ask for it feels SO good to have a few bucks that are not already claimed for bills.
  • On March 19 Josh was terminated (Josh’s comment at the beach: I didn’t have to work for my creepy boss anymore!).
  • I have no choice but to continue working at the same agency that chewed Josh up and spit him out.
  • Josh’s amazing staff came together and gave him a great going away party on their own time.  We are humbled by the love and support they show.



  • Classes end.
  • Josh is trying to get out of social services so not applying for those jobs, but he is not being considered for anything else because he does not have specific experience. I want to go up to those haughty HR people and tell them my husband is so ingenuitive he can make a Popsicle stand in the arctic successful and they are missing out!


  • Josh finally starts getting unemployment.  We watch our finances slip back to their previous state of debt.
  • Josh continues the job search, trying to get out of social services.  After countless emails saying he will not be considered for a labor or manufacturing position because he does not have the experience he goes back to applying for social services positions.
  • Camping!
  • I enjoy meeting with high school friends Tiph, Jil, and Steph at Steph’s production of Listen To Your Mother.


  • We celebrated my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary in Michigan.


  • We enjoy our cousin Kristina’s wedding.
  • Josh is offered a job to start mid-June.  Neither of us feel good about it, but it is a job.  Josh tries to negotiate for more time off because of his experience, since they will not budge on the low pay, but they say no.
  • We take a road trip to visit a dear friend in North Carolina.  We love to travel but had not had the money to for the last 5 years.  We love nature and mountains and this was just what we needed.
  • Josh has an interview for another job the day we get back from NC.
  • I take my client on her vacation to Amish Acres where we see “State Fair”, eat out LOTS (I have the best ever root beer float, and I don’t like root beer!), shop at Shipshewana, and go on a horse a buggy ride.
  • I put in my two weeks!
  • Josh starts his new job, but is offered the other and quits after 4 days (He has yet to be paid for that one!).


  • Josh starts his NEW new job.
  • I become advocate for Verda, who was previously my client.
  • Blueberry picking!
  • I enjoy occasionally meeting with Verda and her staff for coffee/lunch/ice cream.
  • We enjoy the LaPorte County Fair.
  • Josh, Stacey, and I organize  help set up for Chris and Katie’s wedding (and party hard afterwards!).


  • We enjoy our summerly get together at our place for our lunch club.
  • We fly (for the first time since we moved back stateside!) to SF to visit Stacey.  We had a wonderful apartment in San Rafael, enjoyed many restaurants (YAY!), and got in lots of nature with hikes along the coast and a visit to Yosemite.
  • Classes begin.
  • Josh is working lots of hours.


  • Camping!
  • We join a great new small group.
  • I start my Thirty-One business!


  • We say good-bye to our Brazilian friends Eduardo and Natalia.  😦
  • I have my first Thirty-One party.
  • Josh is working lots of hours, but he gets his first raise.


  • We celebrate Josh’s birthday at his favorite place because he can get whatever seafood he wants (Red Lobster).
  • Camping!
  • I have several Thirty-One parties, but everything starts to become a blur because of classes.
  • Josh is working lots of hours.


  • We celebrate my birthday, but we had to squeeze it in quick because I didn’t really have time to celebrate.  We didn’t go out anywhere.  Josh surprised me with a beautiful lemon and raspberry cake he made and decorated.
  • Stevie had some of his artwork in ArtAbility.
  • Thanksgiving!
  • Josh is working lots of hours, but is caseload is changed to be more local.  He is allowed $300/mo for his expense report.  This was not even covering his mileage.


  • I feel like I am about to die as classes wind down.  I pulled 2 all-nighters in a row to complete a project.
  • Classes finally end!  I didn’t think I would make it!
  • Josh’s work finally starts to slow down and he is offered another raise.
  • Christmas!

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When You Think You’ve Seen It All

June 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm (Employment, Social Services) (, , )

We had some pretty strange conditions that we worked in.  I remember going with Josh to a site before I even started working with the agency.  I arranged to do my PCM (Practical Christian Ministry, required every semester at Moody) at one of their sites on the west side.  I don’t remember how we arranged this, but I visited once at a site on the southside, Englewood, the roughest place in the city.

It was a store front church.  Services were provided by our agency in the basement while the church was passing out bags of groceries upstairs.  I don’t remember much of that visit except the damp, dank, dark.  It was a basement that felt very much like a basement.  I could hear scufflings around in the corners.  There were stains on the underside of the floor above us.  Later when I was employed by the agency, I came to know the place well.  But we were moved upstairs in the ‘sanctuary’ with everyone else.  In a room next to us was where they kept the food before it was sorted and distributed.  I laugh now (and cringe and feel a little sick) as I remember one scene as clear as day like it was yesterday.  We had just set up shop at the tables they provided us in front of the stage, waiting for clients to sign up to talk to us.  My coworker next to me slammed her hand down, lowered her head to the table facing me, and said urgently, yet quietly, “I just saw a RAT shuffle across that floor!  It was THIS big!  It was just moseying along!”  And this was not a skiddish woman.

Summers at that site were brutal.  No air.  No circulation.  Sometimes the stench was more than one could bare.  That was when the cockroaches were worst.  We already knew better than to leave our bags on the floor.  One of our collegues had already taken a roach home with him.  This was a year-round problem.  Casually brushing roaches off paperwork without squealing was an art.  But in the summer?  That was when we had the FLYING roaches.  They were smaller, but they were pesky!  And the regular roaches were so bad they would just start dropping from the ceiling.  Once during the summer while we were used to roaches dropping from the ceiling, my collegue thought they were being particularly annoying dropping from one certain spot in the ceiling, only to look up and find that there was a dark stain from which liquid was dropping.

There was another site on the southside at a parachurch organization where we saw clients while lunch was being served.  After all the years we had been going, the workers never quite got a grasp on what we were there to do.  As we came in they announced (EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!) “Doctas is heya!”  This caused us incredible frustration because medical services was indeed something that was greatly needed on the southside, so everyone would quickly sign up thinking they were going to be seen by a nurse.

This site also seemed to be forever under construction.  It was just myself and my female collegue at this site.  The workers would usually forget that we were coming (yep, it’s Tuesday.  yep, we come every week.) and have to empty out a room that was completely filled with clothing and other donation.  This room was right next to the men’s restroom.  This room, as well as the men’s restroom also…did not have a ceiling.  And there were LOTS of homeless men eating lunch right down the hall.  Needless to say, it was a challenge creating a professional atmosphere for our clients.  Another scene I remember like it was yesterday:  my collegue on the cell phone trying to arrange services for her client, probably trying to find a bed in a shelter or treatment center.  She looked bored with her head in her hand, elbow resting on the table.  Probably having a hard time getting the right person on the line.  LOUD grunting begins in the room next to us.  My collegue instantly looks up at me, her eyes bulging, and she covers the mouthpiece on her phone.  We stare at eachother wide-eyed, not sure if we should laugh or be furious.  That must have been our first time there because it became old hat after that.

Our favorite site was at a fransiscan church in a gentrifying part of the west side.  We didn’t have to deal with these issues, we were supported by the church members, and we were able to see the most progress in our clients here.

Updated to say: As Josh and I were talking, I remember that it was not ROACHES that were dropping from the ceiling.  FHEW!  Thank goodness!  It was maggots.

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