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You may have noticed my absence in the past two weeks. I have been in an agitated state since the week of the 2012 election, partly because of the whole election frenzy but also because that same week my husband was finally offered a job. In the past four years he has been unemployed for two and a half years of those four, not all at once except for the two years just after Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Over the course of this time our faith has been tested as has our patience and our budgeting abilities. Our children, both of whom entered college during these turbulent financial times, had to grow up and help fund their own educations, not a bad lesson to learn, but one which I wish they hadn’t had to endure.

Our faith in employers, in government, in people doing the right thing was shaken at times, but I won’t go into the details about all the nail-biting days we shared. Our shared hardship brought our family closer together, and we became more appreciative of each other and of the little things in life. Although I want to talk about what I’ve learned in this time period, I thought today I might start small with “things” I’m thankful for. The important items in my life, the intangibles also deserve some time on this blog, but not right now. Now I want to revel in the little things, so here is my list of things I am thankful for after unemployment.

  1. Hot water—Our hot water heater ignition is failing. I live in Wisconsin but grew up in the South. Can you imagine getting into the shower after being chilled outdoors on a long run and stepping into tepid water. It’s a shock and not a pleasant one when you are expecting hot water. We couldn’t afford to have it fixed until now. Hooray for the plumber who is coming on Friday to fix our hot water heater ignition!!!
  2. Oatmeal—I know. I know. Not everyone likes oatmeal, but I have learned to appreciate the comforting things in life which don’t cost a fortune. I have even learned to like it without much sugar or syrup (maple is the best). I do cut up a banana in it or add berries or apples to it. I also add chopped pecans. It keeps me full for about four to five hours, and when you are trying to save money, that is a blessing.
  3. Books—I have a book obsession! I read anything and everything, but I love a really good book. I used to buy my books. Just walking into a good bookstore, whether big or small, is a religious experience for me. One here in our small town is a particular favorite, Dragonwings Bookstore, owned by Ellen Davis. I haven’t been able to patronize her store much in the past four years, but to keep from going through withdrawal, I have learned to use our equally welcoming Waupaca Public Library. For such a small town they do wonderful work there. The library has had two book festivals in the time we have been unemployed. Through that venue I have met some wonderful authors. At this last festival I met Erica Bauermeister, Michael Perry, and Judy Bridges. Judy is coming back this weekend to host a writing group at the library here in Waupaca!
  4. Our garden—Gardening is a joy for me. I love learning the Latin names for flowers and shrubs. I love the scents of the herbs and flowers we planted, and I love going out to the garden on a summer evening to pick supper. Only in the past week or so—and it is mid-November—have we finished picking everything in our garden. Two nights ago we harvested the last of the carrots. If you’ve never had a home-grown carrot, you need to clear a small patch in your yard and plant them in the spring. They are fantastic. I still have the rosemary we planted amongst the collard greens. I dug it up and planted it in a large pot which stands in my kitchen near the sliding glass doors to catch as much sun as possible. Tonight I am stewing some apples with rosemary a la the Fabulous Beekman Boys. Yum!
  5. Old clothes—Since we haven’t been able to shop in a while, I have been inventive about putting together new outfits with old clothes. One of the benefits of not having much money is  you don’t waste anything, so I haven’t bought a lot of snacks and have lost some weight as a result, enough to fit into my old clothes. Thank goodness I hung on to some of them. I know what the professional organizers say about not keeping something around if you haven’t worn it in a year or so, but some things were just too nice to toss. Now I’m glad I kept a pair of old Levis and a pair of Eddie Bauer camel corduroys. Although I’m no fashion icon wearing them, they’ve come in handy recently.

I know this list might seem ordinary, but that’s just the point. I am thankful for the ordinary things in my life, things which I appreciate now more than ever because I might have lost some of them if our fortunes hadn’t turned around. Tell me, what ordinary treasures you are thankful for?