You'll find what brings you that moment of relief in the darkest, smallest of corners. A dear friend and one of the most insightful people I know, a Presbyterian Minister, wrote something and sent it to me during the blur I'll call The Holidays. It was the context of her sermon (December 22, 2008, Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia). A poem written by Joseph Enzweiller called Christmas 1963:

Because we wanted much that year
and had little. Because the winter phone
for days stayed silent that would call
our father back to work, and he
kept silent too with our mother,
fearfully proud before us.

Because I was young that morning
in gray light untouched on the rug
and our gifts were so few, propped
along the furniture, for a second
my heart fell, then saw how large
they made the spaces between them

to take the place of less. Because

the curtained sun rose brightly
on our discarded paper and the things
themselves, these forty years,
have grown too small to see, the emptiness
measured out remains the gift,

fills the whole room now, that whole year
out across the snowy lawn. Because
a drop of shame burned quietly
in the province of love. Because
we had little that year
and were given much.

The durge of January has taken us on. The winter winds are swirling into the niches of our house, niches we haven't yet been given the go-ahead to find. When reading Enzweiler's poem, I wonder what will fill our spaces, this winter quiet.

The exercise, do you do this? Do you wake from a night's sleep and take a sip of water, then make your mental or even written note of what you're most thankful for? I know for certain that you can count on 2 hands the people who, in consolation, urge you forth to reflect on the myriad blessings that bestow your shimmery existence, despite what woe betides you. Your health, your fine children, the food in your pantry...

Oh, I've tried the exercise, you have as well. But as "Insiders" we know that before that second blessing crosses our consciousness, the tides of the everyday surge past it and we're left where we started when eyes flickered open - with the dread and consignment, here we are now, with acres of space between. Blessings?

So I'll do this for you (if you promise you'll do it for the next person). I'll offer you a blessing, and it's happening this weekend. Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor are going to strike up the band. The Rev Gene Robinson will say a prayer to keep us clear that none of us, not one, is perfect. We'll all be there, present, shoulder to shoulder heads held up to the wind.

We will unite for this, for there is not one person alive, pro or con, who does not seek balance and closeness and healing for our Country. Our greatest blessing is that January 20th, the Inauguration of Barack Obama will take place. We still do not know what it's all going to look like, but this is the "winter phone" and it's ringing. Closing the spaces between.

Read this, it's all you need to know to show up: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/12/obama-inauguration-lincoln_157215.html



An easy, delicious, healthy dinner idea. Don't think about it, just make it.

What you need: a Rotisserie Chicken, an avocado, a bag of romaine lettuce hearts, parmesan cheese (shavings), an egg, worcestershire sauce, a lemon, olive oil, bar of dark chocolate

What to do: In a bowl or an empty glass jar, shake up the egg’s yolk (please don’t worry about using the yolk, but if you feel better you can boil it for 3 minutes), the juice of the lemon, a few drops of worcestershire, 3-4 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper as you like it.

Chop the lettuce, mix it with picked-apart chicken, avocado pieces and parmesan shavings. Make lots. It’s good, good for you and very satisfying. Follow with a bar of dark chocolate. Today I recommend Trader Joe’s.

* Inspired by the inimitable and fabulous Nigella Lawson.



Front page of the New York Times today, the leading photo was of a bundled up worker waving an American flag at what is presumably the last of a line of SUVs parading out from a closing plant in Wisconsin. The city-sized plant facility off in the background, the image illicits remorse and pity, a little bit of grief even, as the black, 17 ft long Chevy Tahoe mumurs by under the windy banner, the stars and stripes.

Plant closes, people lose their jobs, town loses its identity, its motor. It is tragic, sad, life will not be the same for thousands of people in these kinds of towns. But SUVs, they’re a ranch on wheels, have surely seen their day. 1999: John wanted one, so badly. Two kids, two dogs, more kids predicted - more, more, more. I always scoffed, the shape those cars take on the road to me is just gross, over-consumptive, everything non-European about us reflected in a car. So American. Now, with our new awareness of gas and its tolls, that grossness takes the shape of needless expense even to those who a little bit shamefully still drive them; the car in the category of fleets of roaring snowmobiles and plates so full of food they edge the salt, pepper and white vase of carnations off the table.

Explain my definition of ”gross” to the people who live in Janesville Wisconsin and I’ll wager they’d throw back a few more examples to make me avert my eyes, here in my suburban east coast kitchen. I love a Prius, they laugh at Priuses, no traction in the snow, nowhere to put the garbage barrel when you have to get to the dump. I was in line for a souped-up Highlander hybrid before John lost his job. Now, $600 a month for a car? We put snowtires on my 2000 station wagon for $542 and agree that it navigates the weather just fine. Our economic decisions not only don’t help the environment, they don’t help the folks out in Motor City either. But we’re taking steps that bring us closer to the other. Snow tires resonate for all of us, neither a Prius nor a bevy of snowmobiles ever will.

It’s almost the end of the year and my strange American survival mechanism, the one led by Hope, says that it’ll all be different once we have a 9 at the end of our xx/xx/xxxx. Obama and his dream team are on the way, and just the Hope factor will change everything for the better. I pray it will.

But - What what about me and my dream of a hybrid? What will become of the snowmobile driver in Janesville? What’s in store for that town, that vast and eery facility once vibrating with vast and eery motor cars? We will continue speaking a different language. We want sophisticated, high level answers to this global problem, I’m picturing a Janesvillean will want answers that put parts and pieces back in their hands. How will we take care of eachother, who will get the attention, who will get the jobs? When?



Monday morning is a bear. Always. No matter whether you work or don’t work. Monday morning exists to remind you of exactly who you are today, and you can’t run from it.

Our Monday morning was Charlie, long off his birthday weekend and feeling the worse for wear, giving us hell for breathing. Today’s Monday was realizing that a dear friend and sister of sorts is making a huge life change, leaving our life together in Amsterdam to revisit her own life in the Phillippines. When I remembered that this was her week to go I cried with all the pent up memories of when we lived together and co-loved my children during our 5 years in Amsterdam. After the tearfest I heard a bang and the Christmas tree fell flat on its ornamented face - water, glass, soggy presents everywhere.

I did my usual “JOOOOOOHN” and what do you know, he came down the stairs. He’s home to help me deal with domestic mishaps. Moodily and distractedly we mopped up and I muttered how it’s “our bad luck". John stepped on the jagged glittery point of a hanging star. He refused the Neosporin, then left the house.

Today I’m seeing signs. The tree fell - just a symbol of our bleak and jobless status on Christmas. When OH YEAH the phone rings and it’s the Vet confirming Leo the Lion’s 2nd puppy appointment, not a recruiter or an interested employer looking for exactly what John can do. A desolate sign that the human providers in the household are not on the radar screen of anyone, Leo the Lion is the one getting the phone calls.

My friend Suzanne said to me this morning that when she and Bob were navigating these same waters last year she played the role of Desperation Monitor - vetting each interaction (call, email, interview) with the question: “Are you feeling desperate?” Like when we were single, she recalled, when we really wanted a boyfriend, men would run the other way sensing the desperation a mile away.

Can you enjoy it right now? Can there be any down time? Can you find the joy, the silly moment? If not, can you sit and be quiet? Can you light a fire or make a collage or show your Partner or your children something pretty? Thinking we see the signs is pure and simple BUNK. There are no signs. It’s life as usual. We’re just not people as usual. The more sense we can talk to ourselves, the faster a surprise will come.



It’s been 3 weeks since John came home with no job. We’ve spent 3 weeks ringing every number and knocking on every door. We’ve bypassed the step containing shame and humiliation in favor of getting there before anyone else does. Our top priority, our daily agenda, our meaning of life is to make contact with people who have a job.

Tomorrow is our son’s 10th birthday. Read this post as permission to be a terrible parent while you go after those contacts. It is not Charlie’s fault that his birthday happens now, but oh how easy it is to wish he’d been born in June like the other two! Here’s how we’ve managed to pull off a birthday from the vacuum’s abyss.

Pre-layoff, we’d planned a night in New York City, climbing the wall at Chelsea Piers, renting a limo to take us to dinner at Jekyll & Hyde, 6 kids and the 5 of us. Post-layoff? Not going to happen. John absorbed the disappointment as totally personal (this will be a running theme) - we ran a close risk of allowing Charlie to blame it all on himself. As with many moments needing clarity since this all went down, I took John out for a hike in the woods near our house and I jumped in and brainstormed a bunch of cheaper alternatives. these included the ones Charlie wouldn’t go for - bowling, movies, ice skating…

What flew? We borrowed an air hockey table and are hosting the Charlie Hockey Tournament, complete with prizes (glow-in-the-dark footballs), pizza and SODA! We’ve got “Miracle” and “Mystery Alaska” to watch on TV. NHL ‘09 on the Playstation 3. The key selling point? Mom and the sisters have to clear out for the night. Works for me!

Here’s the thing - under any other circumstance we wouldn’t have hesitated to say “No Stretch Limo - you’re TEN!” But now, when John + I are dealing with our own sense of loss and lack of resource, saying NO feels like another nail in the coffin.

Friends, we cannot forget who we are in this process. Nor can we blame others for where we find ourselves. Especially not the kids, the ones in the passenger seat. My theory for tonight is this: in a pinch, serve ‘em soda!



Here we are. No matter how it happens, when you or your Partner loses a job, the ground disappears from underneath and the one and only thing you know for certain is this: YOU ARE STILL BREATHING.

This blog is a call-out to help come to terms with it. It’ll be one step at a time, and we’ll go all over the process map to cope through it all.

Look for music and food (even though I know songs sound dissonant and food tastes horrible); look for parenting and family coping skills (raise your hand if you’re feeling like the grim reaper in work-out clothes); listen for a little humor in the darkest of moments.

I’m doing this because I’m here with you. I think we can find hope and community in these tough times. During the long nights right after John lost his awesome job I’d lie awake and talk to myself, I’d plead with whoever helps us through endless nights to “meet me where I am”.

Through it all came the idea of this blog. I’m meeting you where you are. You’re not alone, so GO, tell your friends!