It’s a hard time for so many neighbors, friends, and family members who have lost jobs, accepted demotions or pay-cuts, watched their homes go into foreclosure, or declared bankruptcy. We empathize because we know how difficult such experiences are. Back in the late 80s, the semi-conductor industry foundered, and very early one January morning, the telephone rang. My husband’s short, abrupt responses sent a surge of anxiety straight to my stomach. I knew the dreaded news we’d been anticipating for several months had finally found us.
I wish I could say we were prepared for that day, but we weren’t. We hadn’t saved money, stored food, or paid off bills. Like ostriches, we just buried our heads and hoped we’d luck out. I HAD started back to college with the goal of completing my degree so that I could teach school and supplement our income. But I had a LONG way to go! In fact, I worried that I’d have to drop out of school a second time to find a job as soon as I could to help support the needs of our four growing boys.
Although we were terribly unprepared for this misfortune, we did have a few things going for us. First of all, my husband HAD and HAS an amazing work ethic. While completing dozens of applications, he didn’t sit back and wait for something to come his way. Of course, he filed for unemployment, but he also looked for any kind of available work. For example, he contacted his brother who operated a small janitorial service, so he and our sons cleaned offices at night. Gary also delivered Yellow Books every time that temporary job opened up. When spring broke, he borrowed a lawn aerator and offered yard services to neighbors, friends, and relatives. With our sons’ help, it didn’t take long for him to build up a decent little business.
We looked at every possible way to bring in money, including selling whatever we could. Our Suburban was the first to go even though we had to sell it at a loss, and then we also held a few garage sales. Our sons withdraw from some of their extra-curricular activities and other opportunities. The sacrifice was not easy for them or for us because we hated to deny to three younger sons what had been given to the oldest.
Hubby and I talked often about whether or not I should quit school. I had very little work experience outside of mothering and running a household, but when my brother-in-law invited me to his accounting firm to interview for a secretarial position, I felt obligated to apply. FORTUNATELY, I failed the typing test – embarrassing as that was! I wanted so much to finish school that I decided to do everything I could to continue my education AND bring in some kind of money. I applied for every student loan, grant, and scholarship for which I qualified. When I learned that I earned the scholarships and would receive the needed financial aid, I decided I better carry as heavy load as I could to hasten graduation. And so, I carried between 15 and 21 credit hours a semester for the final two years.
It took four months for Gary to find another job at First Security Bank. It was good work that didn’t pay very much – 1/2 of what he’d been earning before. At one point, a neighbor approached him about leaving behind manual labor to sell Amway products. When Gar turned him down, our friend couldn’t understand it, wondering how he could “lower” himself to work at such menial jobs when he had the potential to earn 1000s with Amway. Honest labor was/is not an embarrassment to my husband, and KNOWING that he could put food on the table and keep a roof over our head was more important to him than HOPING he could through POSSIBLE sales.
In the meantime, I finished my 2 last years of schooling. I could not have accomplished it without a husband who encouraged me to reach my goals, even though it meant he had to work three jobs. I also credit my boys for assisting their father in providing for our family and putting their mother through school. I’ll never forget how hard they worked and what they gave up. One particularly difficult month, our Joe bought school clothes for his little brother with money he earned from working at Taco Time.
Gary and the boys continued with the yard and janitorial work until I procured a position with Jordan School District as an English teacher in 1991. Because of them, I earn a living doing what I love to do. We’re not rich by any means, but we’re in a situation described in Gary’s patriarchal blessing: We can help those in need, including our children when they and their little families are struggling financially. For that, we are so grateful!