The Frustrations and Failures of an Unemployed Woman

One of the best yet most frustrating things in my life right now? Being jobless.

See, I have all this free time and energy to run errands, clean the house, unpack boxes (yep, still doing that), do laundry, organize closets, cook our meals, bake homemade bread, tend to the plants, read books, sort through wedding photos, write...but I also have these things called bills that keep showing up each month. Like car payments and junk.

I was pretty smart with my money when I worked as a school nurse, so I still have enough tucked away in savings to pay my bills for a couple more months. But I keep checking the job boards and sending in applications and resumes every time I see something I'm qualified for. I (nervously yet very excitedly) applied for a writing position at a local university that actually required a B.A. in English (which I just earned!). I also applied for a secretarial position in their admissions department that required some office experience, which I have. But sadly, no callbacks.

Then there are the jobs I'm over-qualified for. If I don't meet the minimum qualifications, I exceed them- in a "bad" way. But I apply regardless, because, well, what else are you supposed to do when you can't find work? I applied for a sales associate position at a bookstore. A cashier at the Home Depot. Two different associate positions in two different supermarkets. I actually scored an interview at one of the supermarkets, but apparently, my two degrees made hiring me a risky move on their end. No one else contacted me.

So, after having no luck whatsoever, I'm beginning to get desperate. As much as I detest this option, I submitted my application (and fee, of course) to the Missouri State Board of Nursing and have just been issued a temporary nursing license. To make it permanent, I simply need to get fingerprinted (another $45.00 fee). Then I will be, once again, a licensed practical nurse, with plentiful job opportunities flying at me from all directions.

I really, really, really don't want to go back to nursing. I would prefer retail or restaurant work. The thoughts of practicing skilled nursing at this point, after going to Ashford and reviving my love for writing and literature, makes me shudder and want to cry. It terrifies me. It forces me to revisit those horrible days in clinical rotations I sometimes have nightmares about. And it makes me feel like a hypocrite. Dispensing unnecessary meds I don't feel right about, encouraging association-approved diets that are a joke, and playing a front-and-center role in a corrupt big business that advertises itself as a national savior bothers me deeply. And it all makes me feel like a quitter, someone who gave up on her dreams too soon because writing or editing professionally was too difficult; it's just "easier" to play the victim and fall back on nursing to pay the bills.

But as I examine the job boards and see the kinds of available positions out there, I realize, with a sickening, sinking feeling in my gut, that this really is probably my only option. I need money. That's all it comes down to. And to earn that money, I will most likely have to suck it up and don the scrubs again, like a costume, and cry myself to work every day while praying I don't hurt anyone- either accidentally or intentionally. Undoubtedly, millions of other people start their days the exact same way. Why should I strive to be any different?

I am trying to accept this. I am praying, desperately, for God to change my heart about nursing if it's what I have to do. I try so hard to view it as a ministry, but right now, I cannot get my past my bitterness, resentment, and general negative feelings about both the medical business and my own personal accomplishments and goals.

I mean, I finally went back to school and finished my English degree. Why must I forget that?

Well, last week, trying to smother these feelings and grow up, I loaded up my laptop and headed to McDonald's to use the free Wi-Fi (didn't have Internet yet; JUST got it and I am just now finally updating from home!!!)  With my new temporary license, I searched the Missouri state job board for LPN positions, and I found one opening for which I was qualified. And let me tell you, I took my time, carefully reading over all of the content about requirements and responsibilities, making sure I was indeed qualified. After deciding I was, I began the online application process, which, in its entirety, took about an hour. I grew weary, anxious, and discouraged as I clicked through the questions, some multiple choice, some short answer. When I finally reached the end and clicked "submit" (after a very long period of hovering over the button in breathless hesitation), a summary page filled my screen. That's when I noticed one little detail I'd somehow missed.

The job I'd just applied for was in PENNSYLVANIA. A town in Pennsylvania that shares the same name as the town I now call home. In Missouri.

I don't really want to describe how flustered, embarrassed, and enraged I became in that moment, but I will say that I closed my laptop right then and stormed out of the fast food joint in a huff. Filling out job applications is not easy. They're long and time-consuming, and I'd just wasted a whole hour working on an especially frustrating one for a job in PENNSYLVANIA. I felt like an idiot, but I didn't think to check about it's in-state status considering it was posted on the Missouri state job board. Ugh.

The best/worst/most amusing part of the whole thing?

They've already contacted me to set up an interview.

Yep. So very typical.

My husband thought it was hilarious, and he pretty much forced me to laugh along with him. And I did, especially when I read this part of the email I received from the recruiter:

What a fail. 

Soooo. I'm still checking the job boards (more carefully now...), but there have been no new postings since that last one. I check Indeed, Monster, the town newspaper, and Craiglist as well on a regular basis, but so far, it's just the same openings. 

It's a bummer. I want to enjoy the time I have to do things I need and want to do right now while my savings take care of my bills, but I feel an incredible amount of pressure to get back to work. I'm really struggling with it. Obviously, I would like to work and have money again, but after going back to college and finishing my degree, I just really believed I was on the path to a drastic career change for the better. And here I am getting ready to settle again. 

But isn't that what we have to do? Isn't that why work is called work? 

So Domestic: Homemade Bread and the Poor Man's Washing Machine

I'm not sure how many times over the last few days my husband has looked at me and, with amusement, uttered the words, "So domestic."

It's true. I've been entirely embracing my currently unemployed status and trying my hardest to give the stay-at-home wife gig my best effort. Aside from cooking, cleaning, and job-hunting, I've been getting a bit creative to overcome a few obstacles in our home.

The first matter is technically cooking, but I feel the need to discuss it here because it's A) so domestic, and B) #85 on my 101 Things list. This would be the making of homemade bread.

I've made bread a few times before, but it's been a while. Like, a few years. It turned out awesomely, though, and I wanted to give it another try. So, I put it on my 101 Things list. 

I made it this week because, with my unemployment, we're on a very strict budget, and the list of ingredients on store-bought bread within our price range is terrible. It's much cheaper (and tastier) to make your own, so I found a recipe for country-style hearty wheat, and made a couple of loaves.

Oh, goodness. There is nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread. It fills the entire house with its divinity. And there is also nothing like the taste of buttered warm bread straight from the oven. Golly. So wonderful. This recipe made much denser bread than I was expecting, but I was still very pleased with the results.

Okay, Domesticity Part Two: I've been doing laundry in a bucket.

Our house has a washer/dryer hook-up, but we don't have a washer or dryer right now. *sigh* After blowing through all our change at the laundromat (seriously, these places are ridiculously expensive), we decided to forget that and improvise. We found this cheap and easy (and awesome) prototype on a survivalist blog.

Why, yes, that is a toilet plunger. A new, $2.72 one, which we thoroughly cleaned multiple times before using for this purpose. The other items are a five-gallon bucket and a lid. Matt drilled a hole in the lid for the plunger to fit through (think butter churn) and a few holes in the plunger to reduce water resistance. 

To use, you simply fill the bucket with your dirties, add your soap, cover with water, put on the lid, and churn like an Ingalls girl making butter. 

And um, get ready to tire out in the first two minutes. Seriously. I found that I possess no upper body strength and a great deal of respect for butter churners. I have a whole new appreciation for all the ladies before our time who did laundry by hand, all the time. Wet clothes are heavy. Scrubbing them clean is hard work. 

Since we're also dryer-less, Matt strung up several lines of cheap paracord on the back patio, and I've been using it to hang our laundry. While it's sometimes a bit of a pain, I must admit that I find something deliciously satisfying in hanging laundry on the line. Using old-fashioned clothespins to clip damp clothes on the line, inhaling the mild scent of natural detergent as the fabric sways in the breeze... The pioneer woman inside me sort of loves it. 

Though I'll be grateful for a washer and dryer when we get them, it is satisfying to do the work by hand. It's also incredibly budget-friendly and about as "green" as you can get. And I'll definitely be hanging onto it for future use in the zombie apocalypse.

#74- Plant a Tree

You might remember my list of 101 Things. I confess, I'd sort of forgotten about it, what with planning a wedding, finishing my senior year of college, and moving from Alabama to Illinois to Missouri. However, I have been slowly (and often obliviously) performing a few of these 101 tasks, and one of them, #74, turned out to be pretty noteworthy. At least, I think so. 

Back in the homeschooling days, I clearly remember watching video after video of Auntie Litter teaching environmental responsibility. 

You know, Auntie Litter deserves more cred. With her patriotic apron and catchy jingles, she taught kids to reduce, reuse, and recycle way before it was cool. Her videos taught me early on about the dangers of pollution and completely ingrained in me the desire to plant trees "for all the world to share".

So, for years, I've been purposing to plant one, but I've never gotten around to it. That's why I put it on my 101 Things list. I never guessed that opportunity would arise on my wedding day. 

Since we weren't exchanging rings, Matt and I wanted to do something special at our wedding to symbolize the two of us coming together as one. We quickly ruled out the overdone stuff, like unity candles and sand, and after over-thinking it way too much, we finally opted for a tree-planting ceremony. It felt the most "us", and it fit in perfectly with our nature theme. 

We searched Google for wording ideas and combined bits and pieces of different writings with our own to complete the following piece, which Craig (my youth pastor, who married us) read onstage as we planted a cedar seedling in a glazed ceramic pot:
Matthew and Jennifer have chosen not to exchange rings. Instead, to symbolize the roots of their relationship and the continued growth of their love and faith as they become one, they will now take part in the planting of a tree. 
The planting, nurturing, and growth of a tree provides us with an excellent illustration of a flourishing marriage. Just as the roots keep the tree firmly grounded, love and patience will build a strong foundation for this marriage as it becomes renewed and empowered through the ever-changing seasons that lay ahead. 
Matthew and Jennifer, today you stand before us ready to share the rest of your lives together as a married couple. But long before today, your parents provided you with a foundation of love and faith in Christ that has brought you to this point.

This soil symbolizes your individual families. It has been their years of love, prayers, teaching, and support that have helped shape who you are today- a man and a woman who are ready to be committed to each other in a loving marriage of your own.
And also like this tree, marriage requires constant nurturing and nourishment. The water you now pour upon this soil symbolizes the encouragement, trust, and love that is needed on a daily basis to consciously nurture and nourish your connection to one another.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
It is the prayer of all of us here that you two will keep your trust in the Lord and let your relationship and your love for each other grow like this tree you have planted today. Let it stand strong during the harsh winds, rains, and storms, and let it come through unscathed.

That verse has always been a favorite of mine, and I loved using the image of a strong, aging, weathered tree to represent our future marriage. It was a beautiful part of our wedding, and I'm so thankful we decided to go with that idea; mainly because there was a second half of the ceremony to be completed in private, outdoors, whenever and wherever we wanted. 

After a month and a half of caring for our little cedar (which was quickly outgrowing its pot), we chose to plant it at the house in Illinois before we left for Missouri. After all, our home in Missouri is a rental, and we don't have permission to alter the grounds. The house in Illinois, part of a wildlife preserve, was a perfect option, especially since it was the first dwelling we shared as a married couple.

So, on our last evening in Illinois, at sunset, the two of us selected a spot in the backyard and got to work. 

It was a sweet, perfect moment: the two of us, sweaty and dirt-stained in t-shirts and tennis shoes, quietly finishing our wedding ceremony at the edge of the forest as the sun set. 

We realize we may never see it again, but we hope that, someday, we can come back to southern Illinois to see how tall our little tree has grown.

So. Pretty cool way to check off #74, huh?

The Adventure Begins

One of the most exciting parts of this move has been the opportunity for my husband and I to explore our new town together. Neither of us had ever visited this part of Missouri prior to moving here (we'd both only been to St. Louis, actually), so we've really thrived on adventuring out into an unfamiliar landscape.

We've known from the start that Matt's position in Illinois was only guaranteed through August, so for months now, I've been praying for him to find a more stable job. And with every prayer, I requested that the job would be in an area in which we would feel at home and be able to lead a clean, healthy, active lifestyle. It might sound kinda stupid, but I got quite specific with my requests. I asked for safe, pretty walking tracks or trails close to home, a friendly, growing church that fosters true worship, preaches the Word, and has opportunities to serve, locally owned businesses with fresh, hand-made food (and maybe even fancy coffees), genuine believers who would befriend us, a farmer's market or co-op with local produce, and grocery stores with decent all-natural, organic, and fair trade options.

Yeah. I know. But Jesus did say to ask in order to receive. So, as silly as I may sound to some people (and probably even to the Lord), I feel little embarrassment in making my honest requests before Him. And, as you'll see below, it seems that He doesn't simply write me off as a foolish petitioner. Though I definitely had my doubts about this when Matt took a job in Middle of Nowhere, Missouri, where the average town's population is less than 5,000 and the closest Target is 2+ hours away.

Our first day here, we drove downtown and went to city hall to get the water turned on. When we parked the car and climbed out, we glanced around to size up the area then turned immediately to one another in excitement. Directly across the street, we found a locally-owned bookstore, an antique shop, the county fine arts center, and a natural health store. And a few blocks down, we spotted a local coffeehouse and a sign for Saturday farmer's markets on the square.

We couldn't stop smiling.

We didn't have time to explore that day, but when our first Saturday in town rolled around, you can bet we hit the town and started with the outdoor farmer's market.

Honestly, we were impressed. We'd considered ourselves spoiled in Illinois, with trips to the co-op and the good-sized farmer's market in Carbondale every Saturday. But the farmer's market here certainly rivals the one in Carbondale. There were a dozen or so vendors with everything from small batch goat milk soaps to garden herb starters, from local grass-fed meat to homemade pasta. And of course, bountiful organic produce. 

And I shouldn't even mention the multiple booths of Amish baked goods.

We headed next to the health store, where we were pleased to find familiar brands of all-natural products we've grown accustomed to using. The shop owner turned out to be a super nice guy. He came out and talked to us for a good fifteen minutes, welcoming us to the area and telling us about a few other places nearby. He told us the antique store next door, the Princess Emporium, was a "must-see if you like older architecture". My ears perked up at that, so we strolled in there next.

Holy. Poo.

Turns out the Princess Emporium was the Princess Theatre in the 1920's. And not an ordinary movie theater; a classic theatre, with chandeliers, a balcony, and a stage. 

Though I was ecstatic about pilfering through the plenteous antiques that surrounded us, I couldn't stop looking up. The ceiling was absolutely breathtaking. 

The elderly woman who owns the shop was also remarkably friendly and helpful, and we were more than happy to buy this cute little $22.00 cabinet from her for our coffee and tea station (I know, I already shared this photo in my last post. I'm just really excited about it.).

The bookstore wasn't open yet, so we decided to check out the coffee house. Like the Princess Emporium, it, too, is in an old, renovated building on the square. A renovated building with distressed wood floors, exposed brick walls, and raised ceilings with antique tiles. Right up my alley.

They even use antique keys in their wall decor. What are the odds?

The coffee was great, the service was fantastic, and their musical selections alternated between Christian rock and Sinatra-era classics. Definitely a new favorite place.

A few days later, Matt told me about a walking trail operated by the Department of Conservation he'd noticed on his way to work. When I finally took a morning to give it a try, my heart swelled with happiness.

The trail winds through forest, tall-grass prairie, and wetlands.

The constantly changing landscape fascinated and entertained me as I jogged. I loved spotting new plants and wildlife I'd never seen before. And I saw so many bunnies. They scampered away before I could snap a decent photo, but I saw dozens of rabbits during my run.

Oh, and I got a selfie with Smokey the Bear.

So, yes. We're thrilled about finding places like these, and we're beginning to feel at home here. The only thing that's looking grim right now is, unfortunately, a church. We haven't had time to locate or visit any churches yet, but hopefully, we can begin that search soon. 

The church situation is one thing that is notably different from back home. In Alabama, it seems there's a church every twenty feet. That's not the case here in Missouri. Just from driving through town, we can already see that our options are limited. Most of the churches here are denominations we wouldn't try, so I'm a little concerned about how that's going to turn out, especially since, as I already said, the closest cities are 2+ hours away. But I feel confident that God will lead us to the right place. 

And on that note, I'm seeking work, too. With two degrees now yet no experience in my new field, I feel both over-qualified and under-qualified at the same time. I've already put in seven different applications at various places (from big girl jobs that use my new B.A. to part-time openings at the local grocery store), but so far, no luck. My ultimate goal is to find work that uses my bachelor's, but right now, I just need some income, so I'll take the grocery store job if it's offered. In the meantime, I'm checking job boards, visiting new places in town, and trying to connect with the people here. 

We can pretend that's why I've become a regular at the coffeehouse.


So....Matt got the job in Missouri! 

A lot has happened since my last post, and I haven't had the time or Internet access to write about it. Apparently, that's how this blog is going to go. The lonely, timid, frustrated hermit I used to be decided to create a blog about getting out and living life, then when I actually started living, I became too busy to document it. Figures.

Anyway, since we won't have Internet at home (yay, we have a home!) for a couple more weeks, I'm publishing this from a cute little coffee shop in the downtown district of our new town.

Goodness. New home. New town. New favorite hang-out spot. I don't know where to begin.

Matt received the job offer while we were in Illinois, some time around June 15. His start date: June 29. He accepted the offer, of course, but that meant that we had to, in less than two weeks, find a place to live in a town 6 hours away from southern Illinois, pack the stuff we had there in Illinois (which turned out to be way more than we could have ever thought possible), drive home to Alabama, pack up all our stuff at my parents' house, his parents' house, and the storage building, then find some way to get it all to Missouri so we could move in and start setting up in time for his first day of work.

So, naturally, those two weeks flew by in a stressful, anxiety-ridden blur. We were exhausted by the end of them, thanks to driving across multiple states multiple times. We drove from Illinois to Missouri to look at rental properties (we only had one day to drive there, visit houses, make a decision, sign a lease, and drive back to Illinois), then home to Alabama to pack, then back to Illinois to spend the night and break up the trip, then to Missouri to drop off the load from Alabama, then back to Illinois for the rest of our junk at the house there, then finally, back to Missouri to get settled. 

Despite all this, we still didn't get all of our stuff. We couldn't afford the big U-Haul truck, so we crammed as much as we could into the cheapest trailer available. Several more boxes and the furniture (like our bed) remain in Alabama until Matt's parents can drive it up to us. 

But we have enough with us now to be comfortable. We at least fit the mattress and the dining room table in the trailer, so we're not sleeping on the inflatable bed or eating dinner in the floor. 

Okay, now for some house pictures. This is what it looked like the day we got the keys and started moving in the trailer load of stuff from Alabama.

Living room
Living room
Our huge, glorious kitchen!!!
The view of the back (covered!) patio from the dining area, which I did not photograph...
Mr. and Mrs. Oliver's bed chamber
The bathroom, obvs.
Bedroom #2, which has fondly become The Study
A view from inside the single-car garage!
The slightly creepy unfinished basement (panic-room-to-be)
Then it looked like this for a couple of days...

We set up our folding table in the living room for pizza our first night in the house
The inside was a mess, but within two days of living there, we had added a few awesome touches to the outside to make it our own. 

Before: a shabby-looking flower bed off the front porch

After: our own little herb garden complete with lemon thyme, peppermint, sage, basil, cilantro, and rosemary!
I finally got to hang my lavender wreath and put out the nice doormat from Matt's cousin Kate
Back patio: I got hanging flower baskets and Matt immediately put up a hummingbird feeder
Patio tomatoes, cajun peppers, and jalapenos!
The house is definitely a work in progress, but here's what it's looking like now:

Living room

We have a coffee table in Alabama, and we're saving up to buy a couch and some armchairs. For now, we're making do with these fancy La-Z-Boys. 


Coffee and tea station! Got this little gem at an amazing local antique store.

Yes, the completeness of our kitchen and dining area as shown in these pictures reveal where our priorities lie. We love using that kitchen!



The Study

Looks pretty empty for now, but this is where my desk and the Tardis will go when Matt's parents arrive.


Like I said, we're waiting on our mirror dresser and the bed frame. Our mattress is just resting on the carpet for now, but at least it's covered by this GORGEOUS handmade quilt from my cousin Charlene and her husband Jerry. One of our favorite wedding gifts, for sure!

Well, I hope you've enjoyed the tour. You can expect more house pics to follow as we continue to get settled. I can't wait to share more about life in Missouri. We're having ourselves a good ol' time exploring our new town, and I plan to post more about this very soon.