Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cheap Eats

I have always had some what of an obsession/love affair with food. I would even go as far as to consider myself a foodie, you know those food snob pretentious types you see on Bravo's Top Chef.
I love food.
I love eating it.
I love cooking it.I even like just looking at it, but mostly I love to eat it.

Unemployment puts a wrench in foodie-ism by making you too broke to enjoy the things you once did like dinners out. It also gives you an exorbitant amount of time to watch food television which in turn makes you hungrier. It leaves you with less options to cure this hunger and most of these options can be found on a value menu near you. Not exactly the heights of gourmet. After enduring yet another day of value menu meals I decided that I would not let unemployment take my food joy from me. No, I would fight unemployment and search for the cheapest best eats around Las Vegas and recipes to boot. This is the first of many installments to come of cheap eats.
I began my search online for cheap yet tasty recipes and came across this winner from through because when you are unemployed lets face it, you are pretty much surviving in the world like a starving college student, on your parents' kindness and Ramen.

WARNING: I took some creative license with the recipe but you can find the original through the link provided below.

Ramen Ham Frittata
3 Scallions, sliced ($0.60)
1 Tbsp. Butter or Margarine ($0.05)
1 Ham Steak, medium dice ($3.00)
2 packages Chicken flavored Ramen ($1.20)
(only use 1 of the 2 flavor packets)
4 Cups of water (FREE)
6 eggs ($1.50)
Total cost of deliciousness: $6.35

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil water and add Ramen noodles. Cook three minutes. Strain and set aside. Melt the butter in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the scallions and ham. Cook until ham is browned and fat is rendered. Beat 6 eggs and flavor packet together. Add noodles to ham and scallions. Add eggs to skillet as well. Put skillet in oven. Bake 6-8 minutes or until eggs have set.

I was worried at first that our first cheap eats attempt might not turn out so tasty, but this frittata made a great breakfast and my 3 year old ate it without whining. That makes it a winner in my book.
Check out the original at: Ramen Ham Frittata

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bad Case of Suck-at-life-osis

Sometimes you get into a funk. You know the funk.

I like to refer to it as the Suck-at-life-osis funk.
It's the funk that makes you feel like nothing is going right and you are powerless to change it. The funk that constantly lets you know how not cool you are.Unemployment plays into this funk. It has special funk-inducing powers, if you will.
When you are unemployed you begin to feel as though you are walking through life with a big badge attached to your chest that says "LOSER."
Sometimes you can't shake the funk.
That is how I have been feeling lately. Cursed with the unshakable funk.

I have been questioning every decision I have made since I moved out of my mother's house 6 years ago.
Was it right to get married? Would I have been happier if I hadn't gotten married or waited longer to get married?What about my kids? Did I start too young?Did I waste my time pursuing my B.A? Am I joke? Should I have taken that minimum wage gig at the movie theater 3 years ago?
I've also had loads of questions about my future.
When will I be independent?
Do I keep going to school? For what?
How do I help my family make progress in this game called life?
What's next? How do I get there? When will I stop being a joke?

Suck-at-life-osis can be overwhelming. It causes crankiness, overeating, and excessive sighing.
In all honesty, Suck-at-life-osis has done such a number on me lately that I avoid hanging out with friends because I feel like nothing positive is happening in my life and it embarrasses me. It's tough keeping Suck-at-life-osis at bay.

I have found that the best way to finally shake it loose is to remind myself that we make a choice everyday when it comes to our happiness.

Just like the choices I make to continue working on my marriage or to be the best mother I can be, I have to make a choice to cultivate happiness in not just my life but those around me. Seems like it should be a simple decision, but I can assure you that it is not.
It feels far easier to me to chose Suck-at-life-osis when things are looking less than great than to choose happiness. It just feels much more natural to let yourself feel depressed when the situation in your life is depressing. The cure for Suck-at-life-osis I have found varies from person to person. For some it might be that pint of B&J's, for others it might be a good book or movie, and some may find relief in a good nap. I find my relief in my family. How can you not chose happiness and laughter when your 3 year old daughter lets you know that she is beautiful as well as funny or your 11 month old son walks around the living room for the first time or your husband claims that he sweats like a polar bear (huh?). Life doesn't make perfect sense and because I haven't quite figured it out yet doesn't mean I suck at it.

We just simply learn as we go and what Suck-at-life-osis has taught me is that life can be hopeless if you focus on yourself but if you focus outside the box, things start to look up.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Interview as Improvisational Acting

Job interviews are quite possibly some of the worst times anyone could have in their life. I hate them.

The judging looks, the questions with "no right answers" that really have only one "right" answer, and the improvisational acting.

Yes, Improvisational Acting.

You might not know what I am talking about but I am almost positive you have had at least one interview experience in your lifetime when you were asked to make a fool of yourself pretending to sell a pen to a poster, or imagining what your response would be to a orange who was unhappy with the services it had received.
These types of questions to me are better classified as acting exercises. I understand that employers are trying to figure out if you can think on your feet and are honestly curious to see how your reply would apply in a real life situation, but a small part of me just can't get past the nagging concern that they are internally reveling in your desperate humiliation.

I mean, if I were in their shoes, I would be. Who wouldn't enjoy the poor unemployed specimen's desperate attempt to impress through performance art?

Job interviews can also be like bad dates.
The nerves, the sweaty palms, the search for the perfect outfit and the ultimate rejection after trying so hard to impress. My worst date ever was much like my worst job interview ever.

Allow me to explain.

My worst date ever happened to be with a young man who liked to refer to women as "females" in conversation. Don't ask me how he got past that but he did. We went on a double date with a couple friends of mine and after this guy had made several cell phone calls at dinner I mouthed to my friends "bad...bad."

Big-O Mistake-O.

My date lost it.

He slapped some money down on the table, shook my male friends hand, said, Nothing personal," and left without giving me a second glance.

My worst job interview went down much the same minus the discussion of "females."
This interview played out like an audition. I was asked to come in for the day to show the bosses how good of a receptionist I could be. I ended up not answering a phone that never rang and then like a bad break up was called at home later to be told that my services were no longer needed.

O, the shame! What did I do? What did I say? What went wrong? Sometimes we will just never know. We live to date and interview another day. We practice our best answers and keep our fingers crossed that this will be it.


Much like we date in search of the "one" so that our days of bad dates can be put behind us, I, for one, am eager to put interviewing behind me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Awash in a Sea of Cover Letters

After a long weekend of recovery from my shocking results diagnostic surgery, I sat down Monday with my trusty laptop in search for a job. To the unemployed the job hunt can easily become the frustratingly resultless unending journey to find the Holy Grail, which in this case would be a well paying gig that doesn't require you to forfeit your dignity. I logged into the handiest of internet classifieds, craigslist and began taking down emails for potential job opportunities. I quickly came up with seven and began rewriting...and rewriting... and rewriting.... my cover letter yet again for each individual job posting. Phrases like "eye for details," "creative problem solver, " and "team player" were liberally sprinkled throughout each carefully drafted cover letter. Never has such an awkward piece of correspondence been so painstakingly analyzed by the writer and yet awkward remained. Cover letters surrounded me. Contact numbers and emails swirled above my head. Varying salutations and closings burned themselves into my eyelids so that with eyes closed shut they continued to haunt me. The stress was too much. I pathetically threw my hands up in surrender. If only I could get away with writing a cover letter that simply stated:

Dear Elusive Job,
I want you. I need you bad.
I need to feed my kids and put gas in my car and I will work my hardest for you with those goals in mind.
Please, give me a chance!!! Please!!!

But alas, you can not write such a desperate cover letter though desperate you maybe. Instead you are forced to write a generic and vague letter that is laughingly unconvincing in its attempt to prove that the job needs you more than you need it.

Monday, July 12, 2010


The life of the unemployed is not exactly one that can be described by the word "full." On the contrary, words like "without," "empty," or "devoid" are far more appropriate. As in "without" meaningful employment, "empty" wallet, or "devoid" of activity. However, there is one instance where the word "full" is perfectly used in regards to the unemployed individual's life. That is when it is used to describe how "full' of time for bad television it is.

This past Sunday on VH1, NFL star and Dancing with the Stars alum, Chad Ochocinco's new dating reality show Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch premiered. The show opened with Mr. Ochocinco sorting through an appropriately numbered 85 female contestants by having the women participate in stretching and drills.

Not your everyday ordinary drills.

Oh, no.

There were drills such as the end zone dance drill and the face to face trash talking drill. The former focused on one contestant who claimed to "keep it classy" by calling another contestant fat and telling her to go to the gym.Despite, Ochocinco's new sporty twist on dating reality shows which included a tournament style elimination bracket and ranking system, what struck me the most about the latest incarnation of VH1 dating reality is the lengths women will go in order to "find" love.

It is in part due to the lengths women will go for love, that dating shows have always held a certain amount of allure for me. If I am going to be perfectly honest, I think that besides the obvious train wreck viewing that goes hand in hand with dating shows, a part of their special powers over me lies in my secret desire to participate in one. I often wonder if I had been a contestant on a dating show featuring my husband how things may have turned out differently.
But then again most of us have endured some kind of competition and humiliation for love at least once in our lifetimes.

I definitely had my share of humiliation and competition when I began pursuing him five years ago.You see , when I first met my husband we lived in a world very different from the one we now occupy. A world of late nights and many options, in both company and drink. I spotted my husband a room away while talking to my "friend" at the time. He had visible tattoos, was wearing a tie, which by the way if you were looking for a boyfriend in 2005 was a great marker of coolness in the way skinny jeans might be today, and had a smile that promised me problems.
But I said to my "friend" anyway, "That guy is cute."

With that, away she flew across the room to him and there began our love triangle.
Six months of backstabbing, jealousy inducing date, failed attempts at ignoring one another, failed attempts at reconciling with exes, a hospital stay, a new job, and an engagement ring later we got married in September of 2005, officially crowning me as winner. (Of what,? I am still not quite sure.)
In a way my dream of being on a VH1 reality show was answered by the drama filled competition I fought my way through to end up becoming Mrs. Matty B. I wonder at times if there had been no competition would there have been a marriage. Competition does strange things to people but so does love.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Master of Disguise

It is needless to say that when you are jobless you come into a lot of free time. This is not necessarily a negative side effect of unemployment. Unemployment can mean the opportunity to take some much needed time to relax and enrich your life. More free time means more time to learn how to knit, try new recipes (albeit cheap recipes), learn Korean, go hiking, write a book, or take care of some much needed surgery.
What a girl like me to do with all this free time? I will take option surgery.

That's right, surgery.

The benefits of being unemployed and retaining health insurance (Thank you, Sheet Metal Worker's Union) have allowed me the wonderful and relaxing opportunity to have diagnostic laparoscopic surgery today.


Well, you should be. I checked into the Parkway Surgical Center around 11 pm, where I was lucky enough to don a chic hospital gown and put my feet up in their cozy non-slip blue hospital booties to relax. In 106 degree weather I was able to enjoy the strictly air diet for 8 hours prior to the surgery (does wonders for the skin, if you like that dehydrated look.) A skilled anesthesiologist helped me say night-night for the 45 minute procedure in which the good doctor cut me open and wiggled a little camera into my belly button in hopes of discovering what the source of my many health issues for the past five years have been. No -ectomy, no excision, no treatment. Just pictures.

Why would I chose to undergo such a silly and seemingly pointless surgery you may ask?
Well, you see since about 2005 I have been a pretty unhealthy girl. Stomach pain and fatigue have been harassing me since about then and while I have had several surgeries to "supposedly" address the issues, no diagnosis has left me with much relief. After an appendectomy and ovarian cystectomy, I eventually learned to deal with the pain.

That is until January of this year. This is because since January my abdominal pain reached a point where it could no longer be ignored and I also began to suffer from a week long once a month fever. I sought several doctors' opinions that left me with treatment options such as taking a one-time three-month-long dose of hot flashing, mood swinging, premature osteoporosis causing, pseudo-menopausal inducing medication or forfeiting my reproductive rights by hysterectomy. Eventually we decided that finding out once and for all what was wrong was the most important thing to do , instead of continuing to guess treat. That is what lead me to this fateful day of surgery where I had hoped to learn once and for all what is wrong with me, at least physically before I decided which treatment option is ultimately best.

So imagine my disappointment when the doctor told us that I had a tiny spot of endometriosis (a disease which floods your reproductive organs with painful scar tissue) but not enough to be causing my symptoms and an enlarged left ovary that may or may not be the culprit. Now brace yourselves. What the doctor said next came as one of the biggest shocks of my life. He informed us that I have had my right ovary removed.

WHAT?!?!? News to me!!!

The doctor suggested we collect all my medical records and that we might need to consult with an attorney. Right now, I am drugged up on pain killers and in all honestly, a little overwhelmed.

I always remind myself that blessings come in disguise, and this maybe one strange disguise yet. Thank God we have the time to deal with this now. I am thanking God that we have this time without the stress of returning to work or having a time line for recovery. I also want to thank all my friends for keeping me in their prayers. I appreciate you all so much and am incredibly grateful to have been blessed with such great people in my life. Blessings in disguise, theme of my life. Unemployment is not all bad.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Last Supper

History is full of famous last meals. Elvis Presley supposedly had spaghetti and meatballs followed by four scoops of ice cream before his death. Famed chef Julia Child dined simply on French onion soup and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh requested two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream as his last meal before execution in 2001. Perhaps the most famous of last meals is the Passover Seder Jesus Christ shared with the apostles before His crucifixion, known as the Last supper and captured in Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece by the same name.

If I could chose my own last meal I am pretty sure I would chose my Abuela Tamara's ham croquetas and a Coke. For those of you who don't know croquetas are pretty much ham that is pureed, breaded, and fried. One of my best friends, Candice, accurately describes them as delicious ham fried "squishies." My husband, Matt, claims he would chose just about anything smothered in teriyaki sauce and I can claim with just about 100 percent certainty that my father would chose a steak.

Why the morbid obsession with food tonight?

Tomorrow, I will put my life in the hands of a doctor I have met only twice to have diagnostic surgery. Tonight, I may have eaten my last meal (grape salsa chicken tacos for those of you wondering.) While delicious, I still hope to live and eat another day. Life is fragile but my husband reminds me that life is always fragile. Luckily for most of us, we will never know when we are having our last meal. Hopefully, my last meal will be more enjoyable than that of the late King of Pop Michael Jackson's chicken and spinach salad. Here's hoping to living and eating another day. What would your last meal be?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shrine of the Ice Cream Gods

There you have it.

The holy temple of ice cream worship to the sacred gods of Haagen Dazs and our lords Ben and Jerry located conveniently on my nightstand. I converted shortly after my husband was laid off. Before unemployment had beset us, I had been a mere fan of sweets. I had not worshiped with nearly the same intense devotion as I do now. Now, I am committed to caramel, I piously pursue peanut butter cup and I revere rocky road. And what have the ice cream gods blessed me with? Ten extra pounds of chunkiness on my already less than lean figure. Ye cruel Blue Bell!!!!

The sad truth is unemployment and weight gain go hand in hand. There is less to do. So you do less and eat more. Part depression, part laziness, part plain ole’ broke-ness. We sit around eating, watching bad TV on a loop. Ice cream, cookies, pizza, 99 cent tacos and cheeseburgers round out our diet as we lounge in our pajamas memorizing full episodes of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Not a pretty picture. Especially if you imagine my shirtless husband with hot sauce dribbling on to his belly from his taco while he watches Mythbusters at two in the afternoon.

I’m not going to lie, being jobless is depressing and anxiety filled. We wonder what we could have done better, what we should be doing differently. We question who we are and what purpose we have or don’t have. Food comforts us and bad TV helps to keep our minds off of the countless resumes sent out with no reply and the encroaching sense of hopelessness that colors the borders of our unemployed existence. So until Nevada loses its top spot as the most unemployed state in the nation, I will drown my sorrows in a pint of B&J’s.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Princess-Accountant-Olympic Champion-Doctor

Some might say I have never held a real job and who am I to argue? My list of previous jobs doesn't include any I found worthwhile or held for any substantial amount of time as to classify them as "real jobs."
You know, "real jobs."
The kind where you earn promotions , raises, and work at for more than a year. Where maybe you take a briefcase and have a cup of coffee before you finish some big project before a deadline. No, not for me. I have definitely never had a "real job" in this sense. My foray into the world of employment began in 2003 at a little ice cream shop called Cold Stone Creamery. It was here that I earned my first paycheck, wore my first apron, and learned quite a few obnoxious ditties. Ditties, such as the go-to-tip-in-jar-jam...
"Thank you for your dollar. Listen to us holler....da...da...da...da...Thank you."
Then there was Joe's Crab Shack where I was repeatedly told by old creepy men that they had personally "had crabs once, if you know what I mean?" These jobs were followed by short stints as a customer service representative for a video game retailer, a sales associate for a department store as well as a bridal apparel store, and a receptionist gig at a psychologist's office. But since I became pregnant with my daughter in the summer of 2006 I have not held one steady job yet. I have worked sporadically as a substitute teacher but not enough to even come close to being considered a regular job. Despite not having held a real job for the past four years, I have not been sitting on my haunches either.
What have I been doing, you may ask.
Well, I have been getting married, having babies and busting my butt so that in May of 2009, while pregnant with my son I finally graduated with a B.A in history.
Yeah, I know what you are thinking. History?
Yes, history.
Don't ask me what I thought I would do with this pretty piece of paper. Maybe, I would teach. Maybe I would change the world... and I tried to. I enrolled in a professional development program to earn my teaching licensure in the state of Nevada but then my husband lost his job and the program was conveniently cut. The unfortunate cutting of this program has seemingly ended my hopes to fulfill my supposed calling to the classroom and has lead to an identity crisis of sorts.
What do you do when what you thought you were meant to is no longer an option?
First, I looked towards the heavens and asked,
"Hey there, Mr. God, I thought this is where I was supposed to be???" No reply.
Which way was I supposed to go? Was this a fork in the road or was I standing in the middle of some huge super highway spaghetti bowl? Direction. I was and am in desperate need of direction. With my husband indefinitely out of work, a family in need of financial support, and a selfishly impatient desire to contribute something to the world I decided to take a careers test. The kind of test you take your junior year of high school in hopes of discovering the answer to that ultimate question, "what was I put on this earth to do?" Or at least, "what should I major in once I get to college?" What would my results be? Would the test uncover my stealthy crime solving capabilities leading me into a career as a rebellious yet emotionally needy rookie police officer who works undercover to bust illicit drug dealing rings and winds up with a habit of her own. OR even better would the test tell me that I was meant for fame and fortune as business entrepreneur who seizes upon just the right opportunity at the right time by financing the next big infomercial product, OxySnuggieMagicPilates. OR WORSE, would my fears of the mediocre and mundane be confirmed with the test guaranteeing that my life would be best spent behind a desk between the walls of a cubicle staring at a computer screen reassuring some cranky customer that their service problems would be resolved in 2-3 business days.
In the end the test told me none of these things. It told me what ever other person and careers test I have ever taken has told me.
Designer, Teacher, Artist, Writer, Entertainer, take your pick.
In a weird way I know that I am all of those things regardless of what career I choose. I design great birthday parties and Halloween costumes for my kids. I teach my daughter songs to sing. I write to express myself and lighten the load of crazy thoughts I have running around in my head all day. I entertain my kids with silly dances and stories. Ultimately, the test also told me that a test can't give me direction anymore than a Magic 8 Ball can. (Though I am sure there are some people out there who would take the Magic 8 Ball's word.) Something still feels like it is missing, so here I am still praying for direction, asking God for a push in the right way to go.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Incident

About a week ago I experienced such an intense craving for chocolate chip cookies that I decided I had to bake some from scratch at once. My three old daughter and husband decided to join me as sous chefs while we excitedly turned on the stand mixer to begin throwing chocolaty chip cookie goodness into it with not a second thought. As we passed the ingredients from pantry to mixer , my husband turned to me and said :

"This is not normal...What happened to us?"

Now if you knew of our past, you might think my husband was referring to our comfortable domesticity as opposed to the hard partying ways of our youth, and in a way he may have been, or perhaps to our lax attention to the words "in moderation" when it comes to sweets but, at that exact moment in time he was referring to the fact that it was one in the morning and we were baking cookies with our daughter as though it were one in the afternoon.

What had happened to us?

In the weeks building up to the one in the morning cookie baking incident we had really begun to let ourselves go; staying up way past our bedtimes, eating junk, watching excessive amounts of bad television and abusing our Netflix subscription. Though as a young couple we had once spent our days sleeping and our nights out, as a family we had been relatively normal with sleeping children by 8 pm and alarm clocks set for work in the morning. There was only one plausible answer for what was responsible for the change.

"That's the wacky world of unemployment, for you," I said.

Yes, it was true my husband had been unemployed for nearly two and half months and I hadn't had a real job, excluding my sporadic substitute teaching gigs, since I had been pregnant with my daughter four years prior. We sat in the kitchen eating our delicious chocolate chip cookies and wondered in what other ways unemployment had changed our lives and standards. We enjoyed more time together but seemed to be doing less with it. I personally felt stuck in a cycle of sleeping in and watching all six seasons of Lost. Something had to give.

And that's when I decided to be reborn as a blogger. I give to you my friends the wacky misadventures of the unemployed.