Monday, August 10, 2009

Lost in the Forest

I am in a brooding, frantic, fearful mood - feeling desperate and alone. I feel as though I have lost my bearings and am sinking without a life raft in sight. I spent the last few days considering educational possibilities at the local Community College. Certificate programs that could offer some full-time job potential, stability and growth. So far I am striking out on my considerations. I am looking for a program that will provide me with as much bang for the buck as possible. Both the Medical Coding/Billing and Library Technology Programs take about a year to complete. The 5-week Certified Nursing Assistant Program is full - I'd need to wait until January to enroll.

When I got my Master's in Psychology in 1997 it was never with the intention that I'd be working full-time to support a family on my own. I got it for personal development reasons and the plan was I'd work part-time while continuing to be a very hands on mom, as well as doing my volunteer work in the community. Once I got my Master's I only worked part-time jobs.

I continued with the job I had in my field for one year after my husband died. I was holding on to that suggestion that you make no major changes in your life for a year after a spouse's death. I'd been there five years and loved it! But as with most social service jobs it required that I work evenings and weekends. After a year of juggling babysitters, I quit the job (after tremendous consideration and anguish). In reality, the boys needed me and the job was more of a disruption and hindrance than what it provided back in gain. They were just too young to be on their own and had gone through too much. My plan was to take 6-9 months off cleaning up the estate and financial matters. I also wanted to spend some time on personal healing which had been neglected up to that point. Then, I'd start looking for another job with daytime hours.

But as the story goes, just a few weeks after I left my job, my youngest collapsed unconscious in a movie theater and we were thrust back into the medical world of diagnostic tests and hospitalizations as we figured out his diagnosis. He came out healthy and fine (thank God) but by that time, eight months of my "personal leave" had been taken, although I hadn't accomplished any of the goals I'd set out for myself. I became worried about money and took a part-time job in my field that had daytime hours that fit with the boys' school schedule. That was a blessing but then all the crazy care taking stuff started to come down with my parents. And after eight months I left the new job to devote more time to my folks (as well as being an only parent). Even with not working a job at that time, there were not enough hours in my day to get everything done!

So fast forward to now. I have been out of the working loop for some time. I don't even know how to use or those other job search sites. I was blown away when I found out that today you need to have pretty good computer skills to job search - the last time I really was out there looking was over 10 years ago! I feel old, washed up and in the dark. My age group (mid-life) is currently at the highest level of unemployment in the country right now. But because of my situation it is imperative that I work full-time, hopefully during the day and receive benefits. I have two boys to get through college in a few years and the responsibility of doing that completely on my own is so daunting I'm about ready to collapse.

The part-time hours at my retail job are not consistent and I work evenings and weekends. Now that school is starting I am worried about not being around to provide assistance with homework and studying to the boys. But if I didn't have this job we very well might be on the street. I had so hoped to find some light at the end of this tunnel - a short certificate program I could quickly complete so I can start full-time hours as soon as possible. Working part-time in the evening and on weekends was never a problem when my husband was alive because there was still a parent around for the boys. Now all of us seem to be so shortchanged. And the stress and strain is really taking a toll on me.

If there is anyone out there who has some suggestions they'd like to offer I am all ears. I am still debating taking an online course in the Medical Billing/Coding Program since that wouldn't interfere with working. Then I suppose my only option is to really get out there and start looking for work in my field. I found that there were not that many opportunities when I looked over the winter, which is why I took the retail job. Maybe the situation has improved?

This is just such a burden to bear on one's own. The pressure and worry that just sits with me. No one to offer hope/encouragement. Any suggestions on how to deal with this aspect of my life would also be appreciated. Right now, my only ideas are to drink more and take more Xanax - I'm only kidding (kind of).

I am connected with two job assistance agencies so I can go there after the move from our home for training on the computer. But the real reason I had hoped for a quick fix with a short certificate program was that I don't feel I'm in the position right now to be a good counselor to anyone because the amount of grief/loss on my own plate right now. I just don't feel stable enough emotionally to be able to provide support to others when I have so little to give myself and my boys.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I have a job; menial, boring and depressing as it is (I only get yelled at by the managers - that gets old pretty fast). At least it is something.
2. That it was a beautiful day and I took a short drive on my own just to get out a bit and give myself a break before work tonight. The temperature, although hot is not humid and it is so pretty this time of year with all the blooms in their full glory. I felt much better after my little drive observing nature.
3. That we have made it through all this time and I want to believe that we'll continue to make it (with food, shelter, clothing, etc.).
4. For rye bread.
5. For Vienna Sandwich cream cookies.


  1. i can feel the panic coming off you. it was (and still is) the same for me. my only income at the moment (until the VA does all the red tape stuff on my husband's benefits) is sewing and quilting the Memory Quilts. you have a strong advantage.

    you have a Master's in Psychology. have you ever thought about applying to the schools as a counselor? i'm not sure what their requirements are but i would think a Master's in Psychology is a good start. immediately after my divorce from my first husband i got on staff at the elementary school as a SPED aide for 4 EH 6th grade boys. there were minimal benefits but it helped at that time.

    you could put your name on the Substitute Teacher lists in all the schools - elementary, middle, and high school. they always need subs. there are no benefits but with the next idea you might be able to pay for self-employed insurance.

    i know it may sound odd but have you considered selling Mary Kay? i see the women on the television talking about how they did it for various reasons, one being a widow, and she does it during school hours and now makes a very good living. it's something you could pick up possibly as a secondary job if you get on at a school, then as it builds, well, you get the idea.

    if you could brush up on your typing skills, check out Medical Transcribing. sometimes you can do that from home and the pay is very good.

    i'm scratching my brain but right now that's all i can come up with. i don't have a car so my job options are very limited. i create and my imagination rules the hours i'm awake so the sewing/quilting thing seemed like a good option. i don't have to be cheerful for people while i grieve and i get to do what i do best. create. besides, the schools in the county where i am let 250 teachers and staff go in June so that wasn't an option for me.

    i hope something of what i offered helps or triggers an idea for you. i will keep you in my prayers that something works out very soon so the panic can subside a little bit.

    always, peace.

  2. I'm not sure how well these would fit with your schedule, but what about getting your LPN, or a teaching certificate? I believe that in my area you can get these in about a year.

    What about student loans? Not an ideal situation to be in debt but we do what we have to do.

  3. In my community you need to have a teaching degree in order to substitute teach, but I could look at other nearby towns. I also need to go back to school for certification to be a counselor in schools. Right now I'm not sure I could afford the tuition but I could check out student loans.

    I suppose I was hoping to find some sort of really short certificate program (under a year). The prospect of year-long programs just seems to be overwhelming to me right now. I am so worried about the 12 months in between - not having enough money to survive and support the boys. I could care less about myself - it is having enough for them that matters. A little bit extra for a nice outfit for them, a special meal once in awhile, some spare spending money so they don't have to bring a sack lunch with them when they are out with friends.

    The other reality is that I will probably need to look for work in my field even though I am not in the "spirit" to do so. When you are going through such hardship it seems impossible for me to be attentive to the problems of others.

    Today's day and age is so different from when I was last working and I am scared. I have lost contact with my references from year's past and it seems so challenging to be out there totally starting over when there is already so much change and disruption in my life. I am feeling down and sorry for myself. I know that there are others in my position who also have no choice but to dig their heels in, go out there and do it.

    Thank you for all of your suggestions.