Telephone Books


I have a friend who is not unemployed, but is certainly under-employed. Currently she has a temporary job. She got it after a few months of unemployment.  But that job will end in a week or two. Few if any new opportunities seem to be on the horizon. And it is not that she hasn’t been looking for work. She has been busting her buns sending out resumes and calling people and networking. In fact, she got the temporary job by creatively selling herself to the employer and calling them a couple of times a week and actually talked her way into the temp job. Persistence does pay off.

My friend is a hard worker, well educated, talented, reliable and capable. She also is lots of fun and has a great sense of humor. She can always make me laugh. And like me she loves good food. She is generous to a fault.

I really feel for my friend. I would feel for her no matter what. But I feel a special affinity because I have been there. And by that I mean I have R.E.A.L.L.Y been there. It was about a dozen or so years ago. 

I know what it is like to be under employed. I know the panic and primal feral-like fear that settles in the pit of the stomach. Right now I can almost feel again that sick constant trembling feeling in my gut wondering if I would make enough money that week to pay the bills and have enough left over to eat. 

In fact, some of the recipes I have shared with you the last few months had their beginnings in those lean days.

I now also understand why my parents and others who lived through it talk about the Great Depression so much. You. never. ever. forget. This type of experience soaks into every cell of your body, grabs hold, and never ever lets go. It is fear. Visceral. Primal.

Do you know how many telephone books you have to deliver to make $1000?

My friend and I have been having a lot of conversations the last couple of days. Very few people know what I went through when I was in between jobs. In fact, I don’t talk about it at all. I have never shared with most people how close to being homeless I really was. I was literally down to my last $2.25. 

However, I decided to take a risk and share these things with my out of work friend recently. And that is exactly where she is now, at the $2.25 place. I knew it was not good for her, but I did not know how bad it really is. Actually, she is past having  only $2.25; she owes $2.25.

We also talked about the fear of homelessness. We both had similar thoughts. It was amazing. We are both so task oriented that we wonderd how you did it. What steps did you take. Are you supposed to tell someone. Or do you  just silently disappear without a word. I wonder if all people faced with lack of employment have these same thoughts, feelings, and fears. 

During our various conversations I also mentioned something else; something that eventually got me through those days. I was leery about bringing it up. I didn’t want to sound preachy or sentimental. More importantly, she did not ask for my advice. And I believe you should not give advice. Not ever. Even when asked.

In my opinion the key to being a good listener and a good friend is validation: that is simply listening to people; hearing them without  judgment, correction, or advice. But I just so want to help her and be there for her. My heart aches at her predicament. 

So I went with my feelings. I plowed right in. 

During my time between jobs I worked a lot of part time and temporary jobs; some times as many as three of these jobs at the same time. I would run from one to the other from morning till night.

One of these jobs was delivering telephone phone books. It was hard physical work, but I really enjoyed it. I got to be outside and not tied to a desk. I met a lot of nice people. During this time one night while watching TV I saw a promo for the next day’s Ophra show. It said something like, ‘Just do this one thing and it will change your life forever.’ I thought like, ‘Yeah! Sure. Call this toll free number now, and for only $19.95 + tax + shipping and handling, you too can be rich in 24 hours or less!

Now I am not that big an Ophra fan. She has done a lot of good things. But she is just a bit too new agey, apple-pie-in-the-sky, touchy-feely for me. But for some strange reason I made sure I was home to watch Ophra the next day. I mean you never know. Right? When you are desperate you will do almost anything.

But what I learned that day really did change my life. Oh not in the way you might think. But change indeed. Ophra had a guest; I think it was Sarah Ban Breathn. Who is not important though.  She talked about keeping a gratitude journal. Every day, she said, write down five things for which you are grateful, no matter how small.

Now I am not a journal keeping or diary type person. And journals were all the rage in those days. I mean really big. I didn’t think it would do much good. But I didn’t think it would hurt either. So after the show I got a piece of paper and I looked back on my day and tried to find five things I was grateful for that day.

I ate today; I had food. One. I still had a roof over my head. Good. Two. I’m on a roll here. What else? Well, I did have the telephone job. OK. So far three. Moving ahead here. Another twenty minutes went by. Finally I thought, well, I am healthy. Now if only I could find that fifth thing. I was stuck at four. My list remained at four for several hours. And then as night began to fall I had to take my trash to the curb for pick-up the next day. That is when I heard the bird singing. That chirping so cheered my heart. I can’t explain it. But I was truly grateful I heard his song. Number five. I got there!!!! But I thought it was stupid. No one is grateful for a bird. Then I thought, it’s my journal; I will put in it what I want.  Number five!!!!

My list was pretty much the same every day for several weeks. Some changes. Sometimes it was something big or different. But mostly it was just small things. Someone smiled at me. Someone let me ahead in line at the grocery store. Some one liked what I was wearing.

But as the weeks and months passed there was a change. Nothing big. Very subtle. But it was definitely there. Mostly it was just an almost imperceptible shift in me and my thinking. I began to look for, and recognize at the moment it happened, the good in every hour or every day and then appreciating and being grateful for it as it occurred. It wasn’t what was happening to me. It was me. I changed. I was more calm and content. My mind set shifted. I saw that I was rich in wonderful moments each and every day. If only I would take the time to appreciate them. 

And yes, over time I also went on to find the best job I have ever had in my life with wonderful, supportive, competent, and caring  people where it was like family. The company is out of business now. The economy. Some of my former colleagues and I often reminisce. But we all agree. People think and say we are nuts or over stating that it was like a family thing. But there really was a family atmosphere at this company. We have all decided, if you have never experienced that at work you will never believe it could exist. I am so grateful I experienced this type of work situation with the most wonderful people in the universe!!!!.

I survived the worst and came out better for it. So no matter what happens in the future, now I know I can and will survive again.

I told all this to my friend and amazingly she too had seen that same Ophra show. Which was kind of eerie in and of itself, because we did not even know each other at that time. And now here we were today talking about watching the same show at the same time years before.

Anyway, she had started a journal then too. But had not been doing it much lately. I told her that after a couple of years I stopped the writing too, but not the listing. Instead I turned my journal into my bedtime prayer, my little private ritual. A reflection on the day that has just passed. When I crawl into bed at night I lie with my head on the pillow and I think back on my day and I list in my mind at least five things from that day for which I am grateful and then I thank God for my wonderful life.

Actually I do not wait for bed time. As the day progresses I say to myself, this or that is one of “My Five,” as I call them. And when a day has more than five, I am ecstatic! My friend said maybe that is what she would do now, too, list her five before falling asleep.

I have learned that life is like a roller coaster. There are high points and low points. There are unexpected curves along the way. There is a lot of laughter and sometimes screaming. Sometimes the highs are exhilarating, and sometimes they make you sick. But no low point lasts forever.

Last but not least, there is a growing body of scientific research that indicates that people who live in gratitude and who journal at least four times a week are healthier and happier. See here, here, and here.

My hope and prayer today is that my friend finds peace and joy again in the days ahead. But mostly I hope and pray she finds a job. Soon. 

And, oh. By the way. The answer to the question above:  Almost 25,000.
Featured Recipe:    5 Ingredient Pasta

I thought it appropriate to share one of the recipes that I could afford during my telephone book job days. This recipe is so easy and so inexpensive I had it a couple of times a week.

Back in the day I used plain tomato paste. Today I used tomatoe paste with Italian seasonings. I don’t think seasoned tomato paste was around in those days. If it was the store where I shopped did not carry it. I think these flavored tomato sauces, paste, and canned tomatoes are a recent phenomena.  

In any event I tried it today. It was good. But what I liked about the plain tomato paste was the concentrated tomato flavor. Try it both ways and see whuch way you like best.

This is what you will need for 3 people: 

1 or 2 cans of tomato paste

2-3 tablespoons of butter

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Some pepper

Pasta  [rotini,  spaghetti, even rice, what ever you have; a handful or two for each person.]

About ¼ can of water

Here is what you do:

Heat the water for the pasta; and add the pasta and cook till al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking place the tomato paste in a pan and add the butter. Heat untill the butter is completely melted. if the sauce is too thick add a bit more butter and add the water. Add some pepper to taste. 

Drain the pasta and put on a serving plate. Top the pasta with some of the sauce and sprinkle with the cheese if using.

Serve with a small salad or fresh or canned fruit.


1 or 2 cans of tomato paste            $1.00              

3-4 tablespoons of butter               $0.60

Pasta                                            $0.66*

Parmesan cheese                          $0.30                                     

Some pepper 

Total Cost for 3 people = $2.56
Cost per person = $0.85

*Depends on what kind of pasta you buy. In my example I used  1½ cups rotini.

Bon Appetit!!!!!! 

P.S. One “My Fives” today is this one: I am grateful today and every day for each and everyone of the visitors to MTTD. Thank you for gracing my life!!!!

 Quote of the Day:     Life is what happens to you while you are out making other plans. ~ Roberta, Proprietor of More Thyme Than Dough

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6 comments to Telephone Books

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Roberta. I know exactly how you feel about Oprah and New Agey, touchy/feely things. That can make it difficult for me to benefit from the valuable gems that would be available to me if only I were open to them — as you were about a “gratitude journal.” I have tried it and failed in the past, but you’ve inspired me to give it another go.

    In addition to the sources you cite on the evidence for the benefits of gratitude, it makes basic psychological sense to me. Experimental psychology has known for a long time that human beings find what they’re looking for. The original experiments were done with images flashed on a screen, but the principle applies to all our daily experiences. When you’re on the lookout for beauty and kindness, you’re much more likely to find it. The same is true, unfortunately, about expecting the worst.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Daniel N. Calderon. Daniel N. Calderon said: RT @MoreThymeBlog: Learning to live in gratitude. […]

  • […] when I was in between jobs and first learned about and began to live in gratitude as told in the Telephone Books post,  my dryer died on me and I could not afford a new one. Fortunately I had a washer so I did […]

  • Becca

    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life with us, Roberta. As you know, I have also lived perilously close to living in a box on the banks of the Fox River.
    It amazes and saddens me to see “caring” friends and family members becoming so judgmental when they see an educated, talented person they care about holding down multiple part-time jobs to pull through and pay the bills. It’s like they think there’s a stash of hidden employment waiting for the right person to come along and find it…Are they crazy?! In THIS economy?!

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. We do what we have to do to get through the rough times. Crappy jobs, less than stellar meals… but ALWAYS with a positive attitude and outlook. Anything less means we’ll sit in the pit of despair a moment longer than we need to 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing that.

    I too, even though I am an old, somewhat cynical male, keep a gratitude journal. I have been recording my five things and also ten things that went right today for a few years now. Since I survived a heart attack and realised that despite a lot of things that went wrog, I still had a lot to be grateful for.

    • Roberta

      You are very welcome, Peter. Gratitude Journals, no matter the form of the ‘journal’ are magical and the best medicine for almost all that ails you.