Monthly Archives: July 2009

Best places for living life laid off?

Forbes recently released its list of America’s Best Cheap Cities.  These are U.S. cities where cost of living is low, but perks like salaries for college graduates and the number of cultural attractions are high.  Surprisingly, something else was high on this list too: the unemployment rate of many of those cities.

While I am thankful for Louisville’s low cost of living, and am willing to admit that other cities’ higher cost of living has deterred me from moving for several years now, I’m having trouble understanding how any city with an unemployment rate higher than the national average could make this list.  And yet …

(Number in parenthesis is Forbes’ rank out of 100.  Percentage is unemployment rate as of May 2009, when the national rate hit 9.1%.  Latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

(11) Warren-Troy-Farmington – 14.9% (Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI is the MSA in the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s)

(15) Cleveland, Elryia, Mentor, OH – 10.0%

(17) Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC – 12.0%

(18) Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA – 9.6%

(19) Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI – 14.9% (Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn isn’t ranked in Bureau of Labor Statistics)

(23) Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN – 9.4%

(25) Akron, OH – 9.8%

(31) Chattanooga, TN-GA – 9.3%

(37) Winston-Salem, NC – 10.5%

(39) Rockford, IL – 13.4%

(40) Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN – 10.2%

(43) Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, SC – 10.3%

(47) Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI – 11.7%

(49) Dayton, OH – 11.2%

And that’s just within the top 50 cities on the list.

Someone should let Forbes know: when you have no income, or it’s been reduced by half or more, no city is cheap enough to be living life laid off.

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Filed under Unemployment

That old feeling of uselessness is back

By Mariam Williams

A few months ago I attended a business networking luncheon sponsored by an organization whose members were determined not to participate in the recession.  Each member even wore a button stating the sentiment.  Although I probably had an unemployment check stub in my purse, and I was neither the employee of a business that gives entrepreneurs loans nor of one that depends on referrals, I participated as actively in the meeting as I did (and still do) in the recession.

At some point, one of the officers of the group invited all members and guests to join him in a game.  He would throw out a scenario, and anyone whose business or skills applied to that scenario was to stand and explain how.  For example, if he said, “A family of four is relocating to this city,” the real estate agents in the room would stand and say they would help the family find a place to live; the contractors would fix or remodel the house; the interior decorators and furniture salespersons would help furnish it; the therapist would help the family adjust to the move; and the divorce attorney would be there if therapy failed.  (Seriously, someone stood up and said that.)

The final example – I don’t remember the second – was of a new restaurant opening.  I stood up among the commercial real estate agents, contractors, material suppliers, event planners, website designers, radio sales associates, and marketing specialists.  I could write, proofread or edit the content on the restaurateur’s website, come up with a slogan if he didn’t already have one, write the scripts for his radio commercials and write the press release about the grand opening event.  See.  Out of three scenarios, I could contribute something to one of them.

I could contribute something.

I’ve written about this before, about this feeling that I’m gifted in such a way that is useless to my present situation and quite possibly to the nation’s future.  The feeling came up again Wednesday morning as I heard CNN’s Roland Martin’s segment on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.  He interviewed Dr. Wayne Watson, Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, about the importance of funding two-year and community colleges.  The Obama Administration recently unveiled a plan to pour $12 million into community colleges.  While four-year colleges still have their place, Watson explained, stimulus money is going to green jobs and to shovel-ready projects, jobs many laid-off workers can be certified to perform within nine months through the abundance of retraining programs offered at community colleges.  Jobs that may start at $16 to $28 per hour, but that can pay $55,000 to $75,000 annually.  Other job-seekers could sharpen their skills for the jobs of the future with an associate’s degree and earn even more.  You graduate from a four-year college, Watson pointed out, and it can be several years before you even get close to a yearly salary of $55,000.

Do I feel cheated?  For all the reasons I gave here, yeah, maybe a little.  But the heavier feeling is that of uselessness, of being one among many thousands of unemployed writers (or unemployed-something-elses-turned-writers) trying to believe there’s something I can write about new construction and solar panels besides website content and press releases.

You know, something clicked for me when Michael Jackson died, or more accurately, when I saw news coverage of the memorial service and reactions to his death from people in London.  The day he died, a spontaneous dance party broke out in a public square I couldn’t identify.  Brits of all colors sang “Billie Jean” together.  The camera zoomed in on the crowd enough for me to catch a man of Middle Eastern descent, his head covered in a blue turban, dancing and singing in the middle of the party.  When singers at the memorial service performed “Heal the World,” our neighbors across the Pond, who were watching the service on outdoor screens, left their huddles of friends to link arms with strangers watching the service, and sang along.  I thought, “That’s what it’s all about.  That’s what art is supposed to do.”  It really can enrich the human spirit.  It truly can unite us in spite of our differences.  It is inspiring.

My gifts aren’t worthless.  They’re just not worth any stimulus money.  And it’s damn hard to find an employer seeking someone with these skills.

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© 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 Arts and Culture, education, stimulus bill, Unemployment

My love-hate relationship with living life like a housewife

I’ve begun to do something I thought I would never do: let my exercise routine slip.  I haven’t devoted myself to five or six days a week of rigorous 30-minute to one-hour cardio sessions combined with weight training for a little over one month.  As a result, I think my breasts are bigger (they are just hyper-sexualized fat deposits, after all) and my butt looks rounder (always wanted that), but my stomach has forcefully, purposefully, and unapologetically reappeared, much the way I had hoped a job would by now.

I blame my recent apathy on two factors.  The first is my favorite Zumba instructor’s departure to another state.  I’ve raved about Zumba on this very blog, but since my favorite instructor’s final class on May 19th, I have only been to one Zumba class, and I found that one less than thrilling.  Trying to perform my former teacher’s choreography on the carpet in my apartment has proven treacherous to my knees, and I guess I could get certified to teach Zumba myself and do the choreography I remember him doing in front of my own class, but I don’t know that I have the patience to just let people have fun without correcting their movements.  I went back to cardio machines and free weights for about two days before being bored out of my mind, and about as soon as I added jumping rope to semi-daily walks around the neighborhood and park, it got too hot outside to blink without sweating profusely.  I miss Zumba, but I’ve taken the class with all the other instructors at my gym, and no one else has the music or the moves that my former instructor did.

The second factor is living life laid off.  See, my gym membership is attached to my mom’s, and she pays for it.  If I were employed, I would look for another place to work out because I hate my gym, or at least the branch of it that I’m closest to now that I’m at home most of the time.  I had an appointment near my favorite branch of the gym earlier this week, so I packed my gym clothes and stopped in for old times’ sake.  I was suddenly surrounded by professional people running in on their lunch hour for a 45-minute workout and a 30-second shower before running back to their desk responsibilities, and it felt great! As I told another member who remains a part of the downtown lunch-hour workout crew, I come to my favorite branch of the gym, and even though I’m unemployed, I relate to the professionals downtown.  The housewives near my home, not so much.

And yet, I live like a house-wife in training, and there are some elements of my life I actually enjoy.  When I worked out steadily, I liked being able to stay at the gym—even that gym—for two hours at a time, hours that were outside of the normal 9-to-5er’s pre- or post-work rush hours.  I like avoiding those same time constraints at the grocery store or in the park.  I like being able to go to the bank and the post office any time I feel like it, instead of at lunch time or on Saturday.  I like having enough time every morning to make a spinach and mushroom omelet if I want, to have a meaningful private praise and worship session, to fully dissect a bible verse I’ve been studying or thoroughly research something for this blog.  If the unemployment compensation checks were in an amount that allowed me to have as much fun as I want to, or if I had a husband who made about five times that amount, maybe I would be content with my life.

On a local news station the other night, the anchor welcomed the meteorologist back from her four weeks of maternity leave.  Four weeks? I thought.  What kind of maternity leave is that? Isn’t it just a little barbaric to take a one-month-old away from its mother’s breast and leave it at least 10 hours a day with strangers you just assume will take care of it? If I ever have children, I’m not sure I could do that. Eight months ago, I never would’ve considered any of that, not having children, not the hardship of being apart from them, not the savagery of leaving them with strangers.

I must take the time to remind myself here that housewife isn’t my only option.  I also like being able to jump on the rare freelance assignment that comes along and to take a day to go shadow an attorney, or mold my own schedule to a busy professional’s schedule to get the story.  I like having access to a venerable Who’s Who of the city, meeting people I would otherwise never come in contact with as an educated, intelligent, unemployed young woman.  I like when an editor says I’ve done a good job.

Hmmm.  A good job.  If I could just make this freelance writing thing steady …

And stay away from housewives.

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© 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 Health, Lifestyles, money, Unemployment