Life and Paper Towels

The guy from Human Resources blathered on about job reductions and contractual obligations and restructuring. I sat kind of side saddle on the uncomfortable conference room chair, hands folded on the table. I studied his well-manscaped face, wondered why his neck looked so hairy while his cheeks and chin were baby-butt smooth. Is that a new thing, a wooly neck? I wondered, as he shuffled papers and pushed a highlighted seniority list in my direction.

This was the meeting in which I was told my job was going to be given to someone else. It took about 10 minutes and I didn't cry. In fact, I did the opposite. I played the role of jovial clown, like the Carol Burnett of the soon-to-be unemployed. I surveyed the seniority list and made a joke about it being a hit list, which he laughed at although it was a kind of uncomfortable chuckle, now that I think about it.

The woman who hired me, the head of our entire preschool organization, a woman I've known since Charlie and I attended our first Early Childhood Education class 16 years ago, was there too. She didn't say much, just nodded along with Wooly Neck and looked at me with her eyes opened wide like she was watching something suspenseful on t.v.. I think she expected a melodrama from me. My propensity to wear my heart on my sleeve is well known, and my ability to start weeping at the drop of a hat is no secret.
But like I said, there were no tears. I held it together and did the old bootstrap, tough-as-nails act. I swear I heard some Tubthumping in my head as I stood up, shook Wooly Neck's hand and hugged my supervisor. I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down. I went back to my classroom where the kids were still on their cots, most napping but a few holding their stuffed lovies up in the air, mouthing animated conversations in the dark.

I got this job, my first official full-time, benefits and sick days job, in August. Six months ago. The long-awaited past due child support from my ex kicked in exactly six months before that. One year. We've had one year of "normal", the kids and I, one year where we've had enough income to survive. One year of being able to exhale between paychecks, one year of being able to sock a little away into an actual savings account. One year of being able to say yes to the kids when they've needed something not absolutely necessary, of not having to beg for help at Christmas time. One year of being able to feed my family all on my own.

It's been a good year.

I officially lose my job on August 15th. I have six months to figure this out, to try and find something else, some other job that will overlook my lack of education, my traumatic financial past, my age. I keep telling myself that this isn't the worst obstacle I've encountered, that I've always landed on my feet.

I keep telling myself that it will be okay.

The tears finally showed up. In Costco, of all places, that place I both love and loathe. A few days after THE MEETING I was there, picking up a few things. I was in the paper towel aisle and saw that finally, the Kirkland gods had created select-a-size paper towels. This has been a spot of contention for me, you see, especially in this, the year I've been able to afford paper towels. I couldn't understand why Costco paper towels weren't select-a-size! What a waste, I'd think to myself as I used a full sheet of paper towel to clean up a mess that only required half, or less. How much does it matter that they're the best deal in town if you're wasting untold inches of paper towel with every use?

So there I stood, in front of the select-a-size paper towels, and felt the tears welling up. Oh, the irony! I was finally getting my paper towels. And also, losing my job. Joy and pain. (okay so maybe I'm exaggerating the joy part but really, not that much)

Of course I bought them. Because if life and all of its ups and downs can't be select-a-size, at least my paper towels are.

In all seriousness, my little family is going to be okay. I know we will. Life has been too good for us this past year. Charlie is taking 18 credits this semester, working part time and has a girlfriend I absolutely love (she gave me YOGA PANTS for Christmas, along with a note that I saved because it was so beautiful). Molly was just accepted into the same college I attended. She's promised me that she will not drop out to become a flight attendant like I did. I also made her promise to have fun, because that's what you're supposed to do when you go away to school. Henry my social butterfly child keeps our basement jumping with hordes of his friends, leaving Taco Bell wrappers and socks and Mountain Dew cans in their wake (and he sometimes cleans it!). William and I have had more fun with all of his hockey stuff this year than ever before, partly because I've been able to afford hotel rooms at the tournaments for the first time (and hockey moms tend to have a lot of fun at those tournaments, folks).

We are, all of us, healthy and happy. I plan on keeping this happy stuff going, no matter what it takes.

This is not the end of the world. It sucks, it's unfair, and to be honest I did sort of look at that seniority list with an assassin's eye. I don't love these panic attacks in the middle of the night. But it's not the worst thing ever. Mama's all right. The kids are all right. We're warm and have enough to eat.

And I have a dozen rolls of select-a-size paper towels. So for now, all is good.


  1. Wow, this really hit home. I am a divorced doctoral student I have been putting off buying my bulk supply of paper towels and TP at Costco. Something better is around the corner. You have enough ingenuity and sass to create something better.

  2. First, I'm sorry to hear this. But second, it's so beautifully rendered. I can feel it. I have felt it. And this is exactly it.

  3. All I can say is that I'm rooting for you and your family.

  4. Like I've said before, paper towels are a luxury. But when I do buy them? It's Viva, bitches. A woman I nannied for in the early '90's turned me on to them, and I love them.
    Don't hate me, but the select-a-size bug the heck out of me. I can't be bothered to figure out which size I need.
    I think come August, you will be just fine! If it's kids you want to continue working with, then anyone would be a fool not to hire you. You're like the freaking pied piper. I have had the distinct pleasure of strolling around town with you, only to have a child run up with pure delight in their eyes and voices, screaming "Miss Jennnnnny!!!!!".
    Kids adore you. You would be exactly who I'd want looking after mine.
    I can't count the times they've said "I like Jenny, she's awesome!" after you've been over for a visit. That's when you know you've made the right choice in friends.

  5. I totally echo Danielle's words, and she is a fine friend to have. I would place a serious bet or put money down that you'll find something else before your August end date.

    You were meant to work with kids/families.

    Thanks for checking in with your peeps.

  6. Thanks Jenn! You make me believe I can muddle through as well.

  7. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Life has a way of working itself out :)

  8. Apply at costco!!! They pay great and treat their employees really well

  9. I am rooting for you from across the miles ... but start looking now.

    1. Pls feel free to delete one of these - I messed up :-)

  10. I will be rooting for you from across the miles. I hope you are starting your search right now, because it is easier to find something when you are still in your job. Good luck.

  11. My husband lost his company a year ago this month. His new salary is about 60% less than what he made. Monetary decisions that didn't take much thought before (Costco membership renewal; take out; etc) are analyzed now to see if we can juggle the spending. We have many sleepless nights worrying about what is to come and how to dig ourselves out of the financial black hole we are in. Yet we're still here, plugging away. We are OK and have food to eat. I know better days will come. I take comfort in your words; your hope, your positivity, and your resourcefulness. Thank you.

  12. Wow, right before commenting I looked at the date on my phone and see that it is August 15th. I am reading this blog as fast as I possibly can, and am anxious to find out how the job situation has turned out for you. Prayers and positive thoughts that you have an amazing opportunity!


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