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unemployment diaries evening

More time to spend with their loves

Ten residents from around the region kept journals for The Washington Post about how their lives have changed since losing their jobs.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homemade soup. A bedtime story. A new piece of artwork. There are little advantages to not working, to not rushing home on a jammed Beltway, consumed by what didn't get done that day.

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In diaries kept by 10 Washingtonians who have recently lost their jobs, mothers tell of crying in bathtubs and husbands question how long they can hold out before selling the car or the house. But they also describe small moments that have taken on a new significance -- a childhood hobby resurrected, a meal made without rush, a bedtime ritual that no longer feels like a burden. These are moments that require slowing down and, at least in some small ways, make the jobless feel more fortunate than when they were gainfully employed.

Such moments can be seen throughout the diaries, which were written at the request of The Washington Post (the full text of the diaries can be read on the Story Lab blog at voices.washingtonpost.com/story-lab). But they tended to come most often at night.

10 p.m. Anxiety, fear and guilt can and do play a healthy role in our lives as motivators of change, but I've found that revisiting my past loves -- art and music -- has stirred in me a new passion to create.

Sharon Sen writes this. Before her job left her, as she puts it, she had worked as an executive assistant for a national trade association, a Fortune 500 company and a Big Four firm.

11 p.m. I felt a surge of love for myself as I pulled out my "portfolio" of sorts -- a few pieces from childhood. I am now engaged in creating new art such as photography, drawings, watercolor painting . . . And my bass is feeling new vibes. A girlfriend and I are planning to rent acoustic guitars next week so we can learn together.

This sounds like fun, right?? It is. Looking for work is work and not having luck, even when you've applied to so many in so many different ways, is more than disheartening -- especially when you realize they follow up with you at a later date to offer you their services.

Because she has no job, Vanessa Ennouini, a former executive assistant at a shipping company, was able to see her daughter's first steps.

6 p.m. If I was working, I would have missed this all-important milestone. I know, years from now, I will look back at this period of my life and be glad I was home when I was.

9 p.m. Just finished getting the baby ready for bed. It's strange, but when I am working, I arrive home from work too exhausted to enjoy things like bathing and getting her ready for bed. It was just another chore that needed to be done. Now it is more fun, and we get to play and have fun. She really loves it, and I know she is doing better because mommy is home.

Keith Freihofer worked as an environmental consulting project manager before losing his job a few weeks ago. He worries about how long he can remain unemployed before he'll have to accept a lower-paying job and use savings to make ends meet. Mid-January sounds about right. He thinks this as he picks cherry tomatoes by flashlight and reminds himself to collect their seeds for planting in the spring. On another night, he uses his newfound time to cook:


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