A Reversal of Fortune

Step right up, folks, our ride is about to begin ... again. Unfortunately, shortly after celebrating his one-year anniversary with a new company, my husband was let go. (Cue the screaming.)





There had been some "restructuring" (why is that word often the death knell for so many?) which occurred mid-winter and while it wasn't without its challenges, he was trying to make the best of it.

We knew things weren't great when the much-ballyhooed holiday party was cancelled back in December without much notice. Next, a move to a nicer building was put on hold indefinitely. Then, little by little, colleagues started to slip away and my husband wasn't sure if their departures were voluntary. (Spoiler alert: They weren't.)  The cryptic emails that followed their abrupt disappearances went a little something like this:

"Dan is no longer with the company. Let's wish him well in all his future endeavors!" and were sent out only after Dan's cubicle was stripped of everything but a generic wall calendar and a mug of pens bearing the company's faded logo.

These signs obviously weren't encouraging, but we sort of fell into a "Lightening can't strike twice, right?" denial about it. Surely, he couldn’t have spent nearly a year looking for a job only to get one and lose it again in what felt like the length of an infomercial. Could he?

"No!" We shook our heads like children refusing to even consider trying Brussel sprouts. "No, no, no!!" Nothing like that could happen again — until it did.

During my rarely-taken lunch hour, I was on the phone interviewing a man for one of my multiple freelance assignments. (It would prove fortuitous that I didn't abandon any of the side gigs I'd taken on during our mutual unemployment). As this gentleman, a C-level exec for a major flooring company, described the eco-friendly benefits of building houses for purple martins (migratory birds) who eat mosquitoes that irritatingly found their way into the company’s product, my call-waiting clicked repeatedly. Next, my cell phone beside me began to vibrate, dancing its way across the radiator cover. Glancing at the number, I could see it was my husband. It wasn't seeing his cell number as opposed to his office number that concerned me, it was the urgency with which he was calling.

I wanted to believe that he was out on his lunch hour picking up new baseball cleats for the boys and needed a reminder of their sizes. I wanted to think maybe he’d spotted a succulent rotisserie chicken on sale and wanted to ask if he could bring it home for dinner. I wanted and needed to believe that he was calling to say anything but what he did, which was “Liz, I’ve been let go.”

We knew things hadn’t been going great, still, I felt blindsided ... again. Clients — the ones who were left — were happy with his work. How were we back here again so soon?  I could handle it better, I told myself, maybe five, maybe 10 years from now. But not today, not when I was just feeling confident that I could buy organic produce without a potential visit from a repo man. Yet here I was once again, abandoning plans for the indulgences I coveted: a cleaning lady, a couch that didn't bear the outline of my child's last stomach virus, and possibly some new underwear.

I've wanted to write this post for a while, but much like a homicide, we had to notify the next of kin first -- and, boy, was that unpleasant.

You see, during the 12 months when we were simultaneously employed, we took on a home renovation. This decision was spurred by concerns about our 16-year-old dilapidated deck and half- bathroom which was never properly insulted and was, therefore, like something straight out Frozen. (Our very own igloo in the suburbs of Jersey!) We decided to have a family room and full bathroom (complete with insulation!) built. As reckless as it sounds now, believe me, we didn't rush into this. We had plenty of time to weigh our options during the days we spent trying to warm up frozen pipes to prevent them from bursting behind our basement walls and destroying the small room we'd had finished back in 2013.

In the midst of a storm in early 2014, I spent three hours sitting under the deck in 10 degrees, snow falling gently through the slats of this once-lovely-but-now-crumbling amenity, so I had plenty of time to ponder home improvements. What was I doing under there aside from wondering how my life had ended up like a Tracy Chapman song? I was aiming a supped-up version of a blow-dryer at walls thinner than Pringles potato chips in the hope of averting disaster. It was during those long hours in which I lost feeling in my digits that I decided if we ever both held jobs at the same time again, some renovations needed to be undertaken.

After months of interviewing contractors and applying for permits, the room was underway. And, in case you've never tackled a project like this, those stats about construction taking twice as long and costing 20 percent more than you're quoted are spot-on! So, when I told my mom about this recent reversal of fortune, the first thing she said was, "Oh no, this is such awful timing with the new room being built!!"
(Thank you, Captain Obvious!)

And, don't worry, this isn't the part where I link to a GoFundMe page and ask you to help defray the cost of the area rugs from Target I've had my eye on. With his most recent experience under his belt and plenty of practice networking, my husband has had some solid leads.

Still, the frustration of the job search looms large. And if you walk past my house and the windows are open you may hear me shrieking things like, "Are the LinkedIn people asleep at the wheel because the Jobs page has been showing the same dozen listings for the past three weeks!?!" Or, "Damn you, JournalismJobs.com! When I click on New York, I do not want to see anything in Schenectady!" And, sadly, we're back to running to answer every phone call. (FYI, if you call my house and hang up, I will call you back and I will ask you to hire my husband -- even if it's just to plunge your toilet.)

Not that there’s ever a good time to be laid-off (unless you’re packing the winning Powerball ticket) but the summer is particularly tough. Seeing photos of friends traveling through Europe, lounging alongside the Caribbean, or tucking into Lobsters from the deck of a chartered yacht, well, it’s just too much. If you're going to post pics of your summer what I’d like to see is a snapshot of you in your outdated kitchen crying as you open your $400+Verizon Fios & wireless bill. This summer (my favorite season) has been marred by this new turn of events, and I barely have the strength to toast some S’mores in a terry cloth robe I’ve owned since two popes ago.

Though it's no consolation, we know plenty of others in the same situation. Even the man who scored me an interview with the HR rep who completely forgot about our meeting was let go in a mass downsizing. In a way, it worked out that things didn't progress beyond that lone dismal meeting or I'm sure I'd have been laid off too.

Recognizing that these things take time, we're sure things will work out eventually. In the meantime, we'll be crossing our fingers that we don't end up living with the purple martins.

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