Monthly Archives: February 2009

Are you really that happy living life laid off?

by Mariam Williams

I’ve remained unusually positive for the past several months, but this week, I’ve had a few meltdowns.

The first occurred Tuesday morning as I prepared for a meeting scheduled for the following day with a small marketing company.  I’ve been trying to freelance my copywriting and research skills – essentially the same thing I was doing for a full-time job before I was laid off – since October, but so far, none of the leads have panned out.  At my most optimistic moment, I knew I would have a fully-functioning freelance business by now, but I don’t even have a fully-functioning website.  As I talked to my boyfriend about that website, my responses to his questions about the specifics of it grew shorter and shorter until my temper fuse blew and I was screaming at him over the leads that had fizzled out, the approaching six-month cut-off date for receiving unemployment benefits, the design concept that wasn’t clear over the phone, the computer problems that prevented him from seeing the examples I had expected him to look at the previous night, and anything else I could think of that he couldn’t control.  He’s endured a lot with me and really didn’t deserve that.

The second wasn’t a meltdown, just a wave of sadness when I should’ve gone the congratulatory route.  It occurred Tuesday night via text with one of my best friends.  This incident deserves a little bit of background info: Fortune graces this friend of mine in every facet of her life.  She seems to walk around with her own personal little sunbeam above her head. She wanted to attend a graduate school that accepts about 3% of applicants; she got in. She moved to one of the most expensive cities on the planet; she arrived just when a friend of a friend desperately needed to unload his spacious condo, and would rent it out at about 75% off the going rate. She sacrificed potential job opportunities for the sake of a long-term relationship that ended; she relocated to a city with an endless supply of openings in her field. She has chronic health issues; the debt is canceled on most of the medical bills. If someone tripped her, she would fall into a bottomless pit of blessings.

So of course, in this text conversation, she told me about a new job offer.  This was an offer the company had previously extended to someone else, but for whatever reason, that person didn’t work out.  This was in addition to the potential job she had told me about on Saturday. That day, she said she had been redefining her goals and, lo and behold, someone thinking of bringing the same type of organization to her city that she was thinking of starting contacted her and wanted to talk about a paid position. On Saturday, I was happy for her, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Why not me?” Or more like, “When will it happen for me?” On Tuesday, I couldn’t make it to happiness.  I offered a simple “congrats” and changed the subject to the reason I had initiated the text conversation.

The final meltdown was Wednesday, when the “when” question became “what if …”  I ran into someone who had been laid off at the same time that I was.  She had found a new job.  When she described the job she would be doing, it sounded very similar to one I had heard about but didn’t go after.  I can’t be sure; my requests for more information about the job were always met with vague replies, which was the main reason why I didn’t apply.  Another reason was not wanting to stray too far away from the fields of writing, marketing, and communications.  I’m fairly sure the job didn’t involve any of the above.  The salary she revealed was also much higher than I had assumed the vague job would offer, but still, what if I had passed on a good opportunity?  What if I had applied and been interviewed and offered the job and I had accepted?  What if I could have found interesting stories to chronicle in a future stage play or blockbuster?  What if nothing else comes along soon?

My boyfriend had a great answer for me: “You don’t know, and even if you did, you can’t change it.  All you can do is move forward.  … Things will work out; they always do.”

He’s right, of course, although I sometimes think I put myself in too passive a role.  Waiting on the things to happen instead of making them happen implies some sort of cosmic intervention, as though the stars must perfectly align at the moment the gods wake up in a good mood.  While I wouldn’t go to that extreme, I would say that timing is important.  Had my friend moved to the big city one week later, her rent would have been as overpriced as everyone else’s.  Had I been more consistent with and passionate about my current style of writing before the advertising and media industry cut over 65,000 jobs and newspaper subscriptions declined, I would probably still be jobless, but I might have more freelance doors open to me now.

This morning, at the end of my first yoga practice in months, I meditated on some of my pastor’s observations from Wednesday’s bible study.  Moses was passionate enough to kill for a cause.  He had misdirected passion, but his passion made him highly usable.  He fled after the crime and then spent forty years in the wilderness with sheep, learning how to care for them and for himself in such conditions, not knowing that he would spend forty years leading people through the wilderness and caring for them, but being prepared for the experience all the same.

I’m pretty sure I have usable passion.  I just hope I’m a faster learner than Moses.

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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From Living Life Laid Off to Working Artist?

by Mariam Williams

I recently learned that a friend of a friend has joined the self-reinvention effort in the face of the national economic freefall. She’s decided to go back to school to study fashion design. With her engineering career taking a hard hit, the friend of a friend figures that if she’s going to have to go back to school and reinvent herself, she might as well study something for which she has a passion.

I understand her logic, encourage her efforts, and even applaud her zeal, but something concerns me about all of us who have decided to use our country’s present catastrophe as an opportunity to pursue our artistic passions: where will we find jobs in our new respective fields?

As a life-long artist, I’ve confronted this conundrum many times, and it has undoubtedly contributed to why I’m not further along as a dancer, writer, painter, playwright, screenwriter, or actress. (Yes, I’ve dreamed about, thrown money at, and at some point received formal instruction in all of those areas.) I want to follow my passion(s), but I want to get paid for it (them) too. I believe I should do what I’ve been designed to do and use the gifts I’ve been blessed with, but I also want to satiate, or at least periodically feed, that side of my personality that craves the material things that only about 1% or so of those whose only full-time job is to do what I like to do, can afford to buy. I would rather get paid to do what I love than to, as another friend and artist put it, “work full-time to support my theater habit.”

“Making it” as an artist is difficult in large part because art is subjective, and not just in terms of whether it is good or bad, pretty or ugly, or liked or disliked. What constitutes an artist as one who has “made it”? Fame? Money? Mainstream acceptance? Staying true to your art even though it will cost you more than you make for the rest of your life and only your close inner circle knows your name?

Art is even subjective in terms of whether or not it’s a necessity, especially in a society whose economy is eroding. When President Obama was still the President Elect, my mother sent me an online petition to support the formation of a new cabinet post: Secretary of the Arts. Legendary music mogul Quincy Jones, quoted as saying he plans to “beg” President Obama to establish the post, is among major supporters who also include the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts. Over 200,000 people have signed the petition so far.

NPR’s story on the possibility of the cabinet position also included the dissenting voice of David Smith, a professor of American history and the author of Money for Art: The Tangled Web of Art and Politics in American Democracy. His concern, and that of at least one blogger, is that art and government beget censorship and jeopardize artistic freedom. Many who commented on the NPR story had another concern: the cabinet position would be a waste of taxpayers’ money because we just don’t need it.

The latter concern is one reason the major supporters would argue the opposite. From what I gather (see links at the end), their focus seems to be three-fold:

  1. Increase cohesiveness. The Secretary of the Arts or Department of Culture would connect the State Department, Department of Education, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities, the Library of Congress, and the Institute of Museums and Library Services.
  2. Increase the U.S.’s visibility on the world arts stage.
  3. Educate the U.S. masses about the value of art and artists in American society.

The focus is on arts organizations and the public, but the educational aspect may be paramount to individual artists. Supporters of a senior-level culture official are looking for someone to tell the public that “nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity every year; support 5.7 million jobs; and return nearly $30 billion in local, state, and federal government revenue every year” (Americans for the Arts). They want the public to know that the U.S. had arts ambassadors during the Cold War, and to see, as Quincy Jones does, that “the arts have a spiritual benefit that Americans need,” and that our “emotional defense is just as important” as our military defense.

I want someone who can do number three AND create jobs for artists. If you’re not an artist, you may not know this, but art, in all its forms, is a fiercely competitive field. A 2008 report from the NEA found that about 2 million Americans identify themselves as working artists. The total number of active duty and reserve U.S. military personnel at the time of the NEA’s report was 2.2 million. Because I know that our “emotional defense” will never be seen as important as our military defense, I won’t address the difference in federal funding between the two groups.

I will, however, address federal funding of the arts in the recently-signed stimulus bill, AKA the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Here’s the good news for arts organizations, according to a press release from Americans for the Arts: “The National Endowment for the Arts will distribute $50 million of the stimulus funds to arts projects in all 50 states which specifically preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that have been most hurt by the economic downturn. … Additionally … the final version removes the Senate ban on state and local governments from using any of the recovery funds to benefit museums, theaters, and art centers.”

Here’s the bad news: I didn’t see anything about art or artists on Congressman John Yarmuth’s (D-KY, 3rd District) link showing highlights of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Louisville and the state of Kentucky. (I guess that since Louisville’s Fund for the Arts exceeded its 2008 campaign goals by 13.8%, we’re doing okay without federal money. On the other hand, 26,000 of the Fund’s donors gave from their workplace, and unemployment is up to almost 8% now.) Also, typing “art” in the search box on recovery.gov yielded no results. Neither did “national endowment arts,” which means that if any money for the arts is in there, it’s not highlighted among the details most people want to know, and if it’s not highlighted, it’s not that important to American society right now.*

That’s unfortunate because the NEA’s study also found that there are about 300,000 part time or seasonal artists in the U.S., and they didn’t count adults who love their art, but very rarely get paid for it. Artists who don’t work full-time as artists compete for many of the same federal, state, and local grants as full-time artists do. That money – plus the public’s disposable income and wealthy art lovers’ charitable contributions – is how the Louisville Metro Area supports over 30 community theaters while the producers, directors, performers, and crew members go to work at their “real” jobs each day. A grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women is how I paid my own artist fees to adapt a screenplay into a stage play while I worked two part-time jobs in 2007. And keep in mind that the jobs in the non-profit art sector and at museums, theaters, and art centers that will get funding could just as well be administrative staff positions as they could be artists. A well-known, well-endowed theater here in Louisville has 18 people on its artistic staff roster, 58 crew members, and 49 administrative staff members. That doesn’t count interns who do the work for college credit.

We live in a society in which art is undervalued. Even as I write with new fervor, launch a freelance writing service, and hope that the 65,000+ media and advertising jobs that have disappeared since the beginning of the recession return, I think about how so many new artists will support themselves, and I wonder if a Secretary of the Arts could save me from living life laid off.

Links:

http://yarmuth.house.gov/?sectionid=111&parentid=63&sectiontree=3,63,111&itemid=452

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/entertainment/Does-Nation-Need-Secretary-of-the-Arts.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/storyComments.php?storyId=99450228

http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-healing-arts/200901/secretary-the-arts-q-needs-you

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/13/AR2009011303264_2.html

http://www.florida-arts.org/resources/economicimpactofthearts.htm

http://www.artsusa.org/information_services/recovery/default.asp#stateofarts

http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/27828/study-finds-two-million-artists-in-the-us/

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/12/entertainment/et-nea12

*To see provisions for the arts, go to http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h1enr.pdf and see pages 57-58 of the entire ARRA bill.

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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An Economy of Humility

by Mariam Williams

At the time for prayer requests in my Sunday school class this past Sunday, I shared that I’m seeking God’s will and

applying for jobs with hat in hand ...

applying for jobs with hat in hand ...

direction in what to do with my life now that a new idea for self-employment, or sometimes just self-improvement, leases space in my head each day. The request spurred the following dialogue:

A mother of the church (church-speak for elderly, long-time, well-respected, female member who tends to speak her mind rather unabashedly) said, “You know the Census Bureau’s hiring.”

I shook my head as I replied, “I know. I don’t want it.”

“Oh. You don’t believe in taking something just to have something until what you really want comes along?”

Cringing and bracing myself for a harangue about my spoiled generation I said, “No ma’am, actually I don’t.”

Instead of the harangue, she said, “Well good thing you don’t have babies to feed.”

She’s right: it is good, and I said as much and recognized the same privileged status in a previous post. There’s a chance I won’t have full-time work before April.  Even if I get an extension in my unemployment benefits, I know the compensation will eventually run out, and that it may do so long before writers, copywriters, research directors, other media personnel, and creative types with unusable bachelor’s degrees come back into demand. As the church mother said to me after class, “It may be that you have to get some new training, go into a different field all together.” Others suggest an employment tactic along those same lines but even more extreme: humility.

In Good Morning America’s “Unemployment Rescue” segment last week, workplace contributor Tory Johnson suggested five part-time jobs to get back in the workforce or supplement underemployment: 1) substitute teacher or college prep course instructor; 2) staff member at major league baseball or indoor rodeo stadiums; 3) valet parking attendant or guest services worker for major healthcare facilities; 4) senior care companion; and 5) pet-sitter.  Hmm.

In the comments section of the story, a great debate rages between pride and survival. To some, going from a government “hand-out” to several jobs that pay between minimum wage and twenty dollars an hour is a joke. Others believe beggars can’t be choosers.

Also taking a stake in the game are the requirements for unemployment benefits. You can’t exactly supplement your income. In Kentucky, when you report income from any source – temp assignments, odd jobs, self-employment, tips, bonuses, reserve pay, holiday pay, etc. – 80 percent of the gross of that income is subtracted from your unemployment benefit check. So if you earn $100 house sitting one week, instead of getting your usual $415 – the weekly, pre-tax maximum in Kentucky – you get $415 minus $80, or $335. Your house sitting money makes your total for the week $435, raising your usual income by twenty dollars instead of one hundred. Temp assignments that bring in more than your weekly benefit check but that don’t last for very long have been known to make the automated system believe you’re now being selective and refusing full-time work, thereby at best delaying your benefit checks when the assignments stop. At worst, you could be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits all together, and if you make more than the benefit check at any time, you don’t get any benefit money that week at all. Hence, cash under-the-table is highly encouraged and honesty highly debatable.

I get it: unemployment benefits are to help discourage you from staying unemployed and living off the government. But that’s easier when the nation’s unemployment rate looks like this:

us-unemployment-rate-dec-2000-avg-map

Jobless rate: 4.0%

instead of like this:

us-unemployment-rate-dec-2008-map2

Jobless rate: 7.2%

These are different and difficult times. The savings account is depleting faster than you thought it would. You’re ignoring that weird sound the car makes every time you make a right turn. A health emergency will either bankrupt or kill you because your health insurance is gone. The past due notices are arriving in an assortment of colors. You know a foreclosure notice is next.  Even CEOs of The Big Three went to Washington with hats in hands, and they’ve made severe changes to their structure just to maintain their existence.  Why should you or I be any different?

Although I plow through my days without much regard for my own needs and zero regard for those of anyone else, I know the above argument rages in homes throughout the U.S. daily. At least one person who made comments on the Good Morning America segment has done the math and figured that to earn less than your unemployment benefit check just to say you’re employed seems silly. However, a certain amount of pride and dignity comes with having a job. A certain amount of pride and dignity also comes with having a job that’s sufficient to support your needs and the needs of those for whom you are responsible; with finally getting a job that required the degree that engulfed your life for several years; with being rewarded for staying out of jail, not using drugs, not having children before graduating from high school, being a straight arrow, and generally avoiding the trappings that tend to lead to government hand-outs or to working several jobs that pay minimum wage only so that you can make ends not even meet, but wave to each other from across the Grand Canyon from time to time. And a certain amount of pride and dignity is lost when you stand in line at the unemployment office next to former classmates who fell into said trappings. Once that happens, a little bit of pride is all you have left.

Well, I also have my beliefs. I believe that busying myself with things I am not designed to do distracts me from finding opportunities that lead down the right path. I believe I’ve wasted enough time that way and that before I reach the breaking point, I’ll find the right opportunity. It may turn out that the opportunity comes from a temp assignment or from meeting the friend of a friend of an owner whose dog I’m walking. It may even come from one of the good, full-time, self esteem edifying jobs to which I apply each week. Each person will make a decision according to his or her own situation and need. Just as much as I need food, I need to hold my intellect and talents in high esteem and not settle. I don’t think I’m regarding myself more highly than I ought; it’s just that I remember vividly the sense of sadness, defeat, disillusionment, and even hopelessness that settling caused me in the past, and I never want to be in that state again.

So I continue to look. And wait. Even if my strategy prolongs my time for living life laid off.

203518-1 203723 203835-1 203805 204358-11 203902

Hat in hand?  Nah.  I think hats are meant to be worn.

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.


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A Monday Moment: A Few Complaints About Living Life Laid Off

by Mariam Williams

In honor of Monday, the day that most full-timers and nine-to-fivers loathe and mark as the end of their merriment in their blissful ignorance of their blessed situation, I briefly digress from my usual positive tone to create this list of things, people, events, organizations, etc. that have puzzled, dismayed, disheartened, or annoyed me, or otherwise pissed me off since I began living life laid off.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. The question, “So what do you do all day?”
  2. The question from total strangers attempting to make small talk with the traditional line of questions, “So what do you do?”
  3. Reminders from those same people that it’s a terrible time to be looking for work.
  4. The question from total strangers attempting to make small talk with the traditional line of questions (and indirectly and unknowingly complimenting me on my skin care regimen and healthy diet), “Are you in school?”
  5. The question from people who have known me for several years now, “Are you still in school?”
  6. The payment to Sallie Mae automatically deducted from my checking account each month to pay for a 7-yr-old degree that a financial aid counselor once told me would ensure placement in a good job that would allow me to pay back my loans.
  7. The framed diploma on my mother’s wall telling the world I have an education level higher than about 66% of my state (at last official count).
  8. Solicitations from my alma mater begging me to donate to the annual fund, as the endowment depletes with the bear market.
  9. Bernie Madoff
  10. People at a party I went to several months ago comparing notes on how much bigger their third house is than their first two and how young they were when they bought each.
  11. People who said they would help me with references and referrals … but didn’t.
  12. Getting laid off on a Monday. I mean seriously, what was the reason for not doing this on Friday? I took work home with me that weekend! And I caught the bus on Monday morning! And everyone in the building knew I normally caught the bus to work! Could they not have considered that in deciding when to tell me?
  13. Getting laid off four days after the company hosted a big outdoor event to showcase how great we all were at our jobs and what a great time it would be to do business with us.
  14. Friends in the healthcare industry. Especially those who have recently been on several job interviews or who have been hired.
  15. All those job openings for nurses and counselors at various hospitals.
  16. Applying for individual health insurance.
  17. The comment from someone I know that seemed to imply that my blog is a glorified pity party. (Until this post, I don’t think that was justified.)
  18. The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training for:
    1. Deciding that everyone laid off with me and under the same terms as I was received severance and didn’t have to report that as income, but that I received wages in lieu of notice and did have to report it.
    2. Having an inefficient system, thereby leading hundreds of unemployed workers to wait in lines around the building, in the cold, for several days in January, just to file for their weekly benefit check. (I should note, this is a complaint on behalf of those hundreds; I happened to time my online filing right and never had to wait in the cold.)
    3. Being incredibly efficient on Friday, the day they close early, but not moving with the same haste any other day of the week.
    4. Telling me I needed to come in to the office due to an error when I didn’t need to do that at all. I was there for almost four hours.
  19. That generic response letter from Actors Theatre of Louisville telling me that they selected someone else for the position, and suggesting that I volunteer for the theatre in ways that I have been for the past three years and in ways that were clearly listed on my resume and highlighted in my cover letter.
  20. Generic rejection letters that appear months after I’ve applied for jobs.
  21. No response at all.
  22. Companies who don’t allow the security guard or other front desk area manager to tell the human resources office that an assertive and qualified candidate not only applied for the job online but also made a trip to the office just to show her sincere interest in the job and stand out among the other candidates.
  23. Job fairs advertised as being for everyone looking for a job right now, but that are really just recruiting for nurses, truck drivers, and adults thinking about going back to school online.
  24. Being busier now than when I was working yet having time for some things I can’t afford, like dance classes and frequent hair appointments.
  25. Not being able to afford tickets to Wicked while it was in town.
  26. My place now looking lived in.
  27. Those conspicuous little pieces of lint from the carpet that show up on the white tile when I walk around my apartment in socks.
  28. E.On and Louisville Gas & Electric’s rate hike.
  29. The bad weather that takes out electricity after I stock the refrigerator.
  30. Bank of America, for not lending money to small business owners who need to make payroll.
  31. Those children in the House and Senate.
  32. Optimistic people.

In the same boat and feel like complaining? Have a Monday moment and sound off in comments!

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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The Greatest Time to be Living Life Laid Off

by Mariam Williams

I’ve seen and heard a few quotes this week that make me feel as though something good is brewing for me. The first is from my pastor, said at bible study yesterday:

“There are few things more exciting than when your life starts to make sense.”

Making sense of why certain events happen, understanding the of the order of things, bathing in the light of the “aha moment” … I’ve had some exciting insights since I began living life laid off.

It was actually several weeks ago that I came to the conclusion that’s also the title of this post. Okay, so there’s never a “great” time to be laid off, but if I had to be drafted to team jobless, I guess now is a pretty good time in my life to get the call.

Apparently, it was time for me to leave my job. It had started out as exactly the job I was looking for: an entry-level position in the field I wanted to go into that also made good use of skills I had already developed and would ready me for greater pursuits. But over time, the job became unchallenging and unsatisfying, and at the time of my layoff, I was already looking for work elsewhere. I’m sure God knew I wasn’t happy there. I’m sure he also knew that the one person in the whole building who really “got” me was going to be leaving for another position in another state, and I would’ve been employed without my confidant and mentor. To be honest, I’m thankful that I was spared that potentially distressing experience.

I’m also thankful that I’m in my late twenties, single, I don’t have any children, I don’t have a mortgage, and – I’m embarrassed to say – my mom still takes care of a lot of things for me, like my car. This means I have no major responsibilities sitting in front of me that demand that I take any kind of job that comes along, which is good, because I had any kind of job.

That solely personal responsibility makes this the closest-to-ideal time for me to be living life laid off. This is time that I can use to explore, to research every business idea that comes to mind, to learn new skills, to start blogging! And it’s a time to be excited. Within about a month of my layoff, I changed the quote box on my Facebook page to, “I am pumped about life’s new opportunities!” (No, it doesn’t say that now, but I’m still pumped.)

I hear from different news outlets at least once a week – about the frequency with which I can bare to watch such depressing programming – that this exciting time of exploration and opportunity isn’t just for unmarried, childless, 20-somethings. It’s for anyone willing to learn a new skill, start her own business, or think creatively to either save money or reinvent herself.

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=6730859

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=6644183

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96706838

I have a new idea on how to reinvent myself almost every day. And here’s the quote that’s made me feel I’m not alone in my thoughts:

“[A friend on Facebook] is pensive and taking ideas on what to be up to next in her life.”

Which reminds me, THERE’S A NEXT! That seems obvious, but when you were a dedicated employee, you had become an expert in your industry, you had become accustomed to a certain standard of life, you’re puzzled as to why the axe came down on you, your résumés are getting ignored, no one is hiring anyone with your particular skills and talents, and no one seems to know when we’re going to get out of this crisis, it’s easy to forget the existence of next.

It’s even easier to forget to be “up to” something. I remember in the 18 months before I found the job that I had for 18 months before being laid off, I filled my days with volunteer hours. I also remember that people and organizations that benefited from my skills and talents on a voluntary basis were more grateful than my former employer. I’m volunteering again and feeling helpful and appreciated again, but I know there’s still a next. I’m sure of that because of another quote I was reminded of yesterday:

“[My word] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – God

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Economy, Lifestyles, money, Recession, Unemployment

The promised receipts

fyi - The circled items are the ones I bought for someone else's kitchen.  That someone gave me the cash for those items.

fyi - The circled items are the ones I bought for someone else's kitchen. That someone gave me the cash for those items.

grocery-receipt-2909-22

grocery-receipt-126092

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Filed under Diet & Nutrition, Economy, Food, Health, money, Unemployment

Is living life laid off making you fat?

by Mariam Williams

is that my weight?  you'll never know ...

is that my weight? you'll never know ...

Today I inhaled a regular-sized, chocolate milk shake from Steak-n-Shake, which I purchased for half price during the chain’s weekday “Milk Shake Happy Hour.” And it made me happy indeed.

This was a rare treat for me. Even before I was laid off, 10-dollar lunches with or without coworkers were isolated incidents rather than the norm. I saw more value in group cycling or muscle conditioning classes at noon, followed by anything I could scarf at my desk. That being my habit, cutting off dining out in favor of greater financial stability demands no great sacrifice. The treat, then, is the milkshake itself: real ice cream, measured out with a scoop, mixed with milk I wouldn’t dare delude myself into thinking is fat free, topped with whipped cream and a cherry, and served to me – the Pink-Slipped Girl suddenly craving comfort food as both fulfilling full-time work and her Zumba instructor’s six pack look increasingly unattainable.

I blame my recent diet recklessness on the desire to quickly pacify bouts of doubt and anxiety, but many newly unemployed or underemployed workers could fault the economy for the same behavior. The correlation between poverty and health is well documented; the poorer your zip code, the shorter your life expectancy, and the more likely you are to be overweight, diabetic, or have life-threatening illnesses. Poor people make poor food choices, sometimes because good food isn’t readily available within a reasonable radius accessible by foot or by public transportation, and other times, because the healthy stuff just costs too damn much.

On a recent episode of Oprah in which Dr. Oz and Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko counseled obese teens and their parents on better food choices, the mother of one such teenager voiced concerns that her family couldn’t afford the Swiss cheese over the cheddar. Dr. Oz thought it was a good point. He said something like, “The best way to gain weight? Take about $20,000 off your income.” He went on to note that people who purchase their food with food stamps tend to choose cheap, unhealthy alternatives.

When I heard Dr. Oz’s observations, then ran into a post about putting on recession pounds on reuters.com, I decided to do a little experiment. How much would I spend if I went to the grocery store and filled my cart with natural whole grains, fish, poultry, and fresh organic produce? How much would I spend if I filled it with high-calorie, low-nutrient items?

Total cost for items in cart full of healthy stuff: $157.60 (See the cart by clicking total cost)

Total cost for items in cart full of not so healthy stuff: $83.26 (See the cart by clicking total cost)

Difference: $74.34

I should note that since I would never fill my grocery cart with the latter, the easiest course of action was to shop for the items online. THIS IS NOT THE WAY I NORMALLY SHOP FOR GROCERIES. I’ve previously noted my coupon obsession, and I try to always use the coupons when the items I have coupons for are also on sale, thereby saving myself even more money. (That’s how I can get a box of Multi-Grain Cheerios for less than one dollar when the regular price for one box ranges between $3.50 and $4.86.) Some of the items I chose were on sale, but most were not, and shopping online prevented the use of coupons. I should also note that I was thinking about a family of four, with at least two heavy eaters, and that I have no idea how long the amount of food I picked out would actually last for such a family. I also couldn’t take Dr. Oz’s suggestion to save money, support the local economy, and buy fresh by shopping at local farmer’s markets, although I remember organic strawberries costing about $4 per pint at the outdoor markets available in St. Matthews (Louisville) from May to September. And no, that’s not cheaper than the grocery or mega-store chains.

In keeping with experts’ findings that energy dense foods are less expensive – and in paying homage to the food from my chunkier childhood – I didn’t just replace “natural” or “organic” items from the healthy cart with non-organic or “regular” items. I made it as unhealthy as possible. I eliminated fresh produce completely, opting for the canned variety. Yogurt was replaced with another popular source of calcium: ice cream. Instead of almonds and organic pretzels for snacks, I chose potato chips, regular pretzels, and cookies. Soda and that gallon-size jug of punch (also known as grape, lemon, or orange drink) with about 10% juice, 50% water, and 40% sugar stepped in for 100% apple or orange juice. There’s no fish in the junk cart, and breakfast items include sugary cereal targeted to children, white bread, and donuts. I forgot the can of pork and beans, but I did add Ramen noodles to the unhealthy cart. I don’t mean the good ramen that my American roommate born to Korean immigrants bought at a specialty store and made for me and our third roommate our freshman year in college. I mean the stuff that has no nutritional value, costs 25 cents per package, and that I swore to myself years ago that I would never eat, no matter how bad things got.

I still refuse to eat Ramen, and I probably do better than most in my situation for food. I’m fortunate enough to not live in an area in which subsisting off of food found solely in and around that area could kill me (here’s the story of one brave soul who did it); I walk less than a mile and run into two chain grocery stores, one natural market, an Asian restaurant with at least 20 vegetarian entrees, and an Indian restaurant with the same option. Yes, I pass at least six fast food restaurants and one popular bakery on my way to the healthier options, but at least I have choices. And for now, the choices I make aren’t bankrupting me. (If I swear off comfort food, I’m sure I’ll be even more frugal.) I’m tempted to try the fast food chains instead of the grocery store for two weeks, just to see what how much money I would spend — or save — by living like the bachelorette that I am instead of a housewife in training.  But I’m too accustomed to healthy living, I’m a little to vain to force that much of a setback on the body I’ve worked so hard to get, and as it is, I just don’t feel like I’m spending that much money.

I’ll be posting real grocery receipts soon. Until then, look for coupons, remember that there’s nothing wrong with the store’s brand as long as the ingredients are healthy, be good to yourself, and try not to get fat while you’re living life laid off.

Related links:

McDonald’s is playing on your weaknesses. http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2009/jan/27/mcdonalds-posts-profit-low-prices-menu-cited/

Food Security in Louisville, KY

http://leoweekly.com/news-features/major-stories/features/eating-ourselves-death

http://leoweekly.com/news/fruit-their-efforts

http://leoweekly.com/arts-entertainment/food-drink/full-it

Will American’s Put on Recession Pounds?

http://www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSTRE50805W20090109?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

Louisville Free Public Library

www.lfpl.org

I searched magazines and academic journals under Research Tools for the “well-documented” facts about obesity and poverty. I can’t give you the links to all the info I found because it’s saved under my account, but you can find and read tons of full-text articles yourself from your own local library.

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Diet & Nutrition, Economy, Food, Health, Lifestyles, Unemployment