Monday, December 28, 2009

How to support an unemployed friend

With the current unemployment rate almost 10% nationwide and MUCH, MUCH higher in certain areas, chances are, you know someone who is unemployed. My experience with unemployment is surprising to me. I thought that I would always be able to find some kind of job. I even gave a very inspiring speech to my coworkers (when I still had coworkers) that no matter what happened with our company, we would be okay, because we were strong women and would land on our feet. Turned out to me true for them- me, I'm still struggling to find my footing. The reality for me right now is that I need to find a job- more accurately I need to find a paycheck and health benefits. And it's NOT easy- said job needs to provide enough income in order to provide child care for my 15 month old and still something to take home at the end of the week. I'm struggling with the idea that I am not "worth" enough to an employer to be able to help support my family. I am so blessed to be able to stay home with my child and spend the time with him, no question, but I am still struggling. And chances are, if you know someone who is unemployed, even if they were laid off from a job they HATED, they are struggling with it too. So here's my advice on how you can help them during this time:
  • Write a letter of recommendation- If you are in a position to write them a letter of recommendation, do it. If you offer and they decline, do it anyway. You never know when your friend might actually need it for a potential employer or maybe they will just need a reminder of their good qualities on a bad day.

  • Recognize that staying home has its challenges too- In talking to one of my former co-workers about our lives post layoff, she commented on my "easy life". She found another position with our old company that required her to work crazy hours and commute more than an hour each way. I realize that her situation was less than ideal and I don't know if I would want to trade places with her, but the idea that I was on easy street since I was home taking care of my then nine month old was offensive to me. Whether you have a child or not, looking for a job is WORK. Taking care of a house and a family is WORK. Don't assume that your unemployed friend sits around sipping fruity drinks or catching up on Oprah and whine about having to go to work all day. I assure you, your unemployed friend would trade places with you.

  • Offer childcare- if your unemployed friend has kids, offer to entertain the kid(s) for a few hours. I cannot job search while my son is awake. I cannot make follow up calls to potential employers with him in the background, screaming. I cannot research prospective companies while he is around. I would *LOVE* if someone offered to entertain him for an hour or two, even for me just to get my thoughts together. Offer more than once if you are turned down. Sometimes people are afraid to admit that they can't do it all. (Hello, my name is Jamie and I can't do it all.)

  • Don't brag about your raise. If you just got a raise at work and maybe also landed a part-time job that you can do on off hours from your house, I as your unemployed friend am maybe not the one to gush to about that. I am happy for you, really, but at the same time, I am here just looking for one little job. The fact that you have TWO just doesn't seem fair at this point in the game. But really, I'm happy for you...

  • Don't badmouth people who accept unemployment benefits- before I became unemployed, I had a friend who blasted her brother-in-law for accepting unemployment benefits. It went something like this: "I would never collect unemployment, I could always go out and at least get a job waiting tables or something that would pay more than unemployment!" This whole experience for me has been incredibly humbling. You don't really know what it's like until you've experienced it for yourself, so be careful about criticizing the choices that other people make, especially in front of your unemployed friend.

  • Understand if your unemployed friend is a little grumpy and be willing to give a little more than you're getting right now. Looking for a job is emotionally draining. There's a lot of rejection and it wears on a person. Your unemployed friend is going to be cranky and needs your understanding and support right now.
Happy Job Hunting!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Recipes that I've made Recently

Because I am so sure that you are just DYING to know what comes out of my kitchen! These have been a pretty big hit at my house lately, so I thought I would share.

Pumpkin Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars

My friend Jessica brought these to a soup party that she orchestrated (everyone brings a different kind of soup, swap leftovers at the end of the night- genius!). The other women there were being all demure, or else were just full from soup, and left half of their bars sitting on their plate. I, on the other hand, ate every last bite of my bar, and would have happily eaten the rest of the pan! The good news is that these are somewhat healthy, but don't taste it at all. My husband said that they taste like Seven Layer Magic Bars, but they're missing the half cup of butter called for in that recipe- he didn't realize it at all!

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg or vegan egg substitute equivalent
1 can
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp
pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded coconut
Mix sugar, applesauce, egg, and
pumpkin until well blended.
Stir in flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and chocolate chips.
Pour into a prepared 13 x 9 inch pan. Spread it out evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle on the c
Bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan completely before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Italian Beef for Sandwiches

In a completely unrelated recipe, I made this for dinner tonight and my husband approved! I served the beef on hard rolls with provolone cheese. I bought sweet peppers to roast and throw in there too, but that just didn't happen today. I have plenty leftover, hopefully to freeze and serve for dinner another night. Here's my version of the recipe:

About 1-1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 small pkg (.7 oz) dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
3 lb chuck roast


Place beef in slow cooker. I used 2 qt size and it was perfect. Pour water in bottom of the slow cooker. Pour spices on top of beef, then turn beef over. Cover, and cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Just before serving, pour off juices into a gravy separator. Allow fat to rise to the top, then pour juices back into the slow cooker. Shred meat with a fork and serve on hard rolls.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Second Chance?

So do you remember the BIG INTERVIEW that I had back in August? The job where I felt like things were just falling into place left and right? My husband was actually supportive of me taking the job. I found a day care center for our son that we were both at least considering. The 4 week training program for the position just happened to be located less than an hour from my in-laws, meaning that instead of leaving my son and not seeing him for close to a month, I would be able to finagle bringing him WITH me and letting them have some serious grandparent bonding time. I would also be able to sneak in some mommy time there too. Of course, I thought that I would actually LIKE the work and even be good at it, but that all just seems secondary to all of the other concerns. And then it just became the job that I didn't get.

I reread the post I wrote about not getting the job, and it's kind of funny that I put on such a brave face. In the real world, there was no brave face. I was desperate for something to work out with the job. I felt like I could not possibly continue as things were for a single second more. I really just felt like I was floundering with the whole stay at home thing and that we were floundering without my income, or more specifically, the income that I would have gotten if I'd gotten the job. There were some seriously dark days in there and some serious feelings of not being good enough. Looking back now, I'm not really sure WHAT changed, but somehow, I got through it.

Fast forward three and a half months, and the same company is posting for the same position in a neighboring city- the city where I actually live. I actually got a call from a recruiter based on my Monster resume listing and when I told her I'd interviewed with them already, she said that she could not represent me with that company. I decided that if she thought I was a possible candidate for the position, then maybe I really am. So I went to the company's website directly, found the position and applied. Then I e-mailed the recruiter I worked with last time and told her that I was interested in the position. And then I heard nothing. So when the baby finally took a decent nap yesterday, I called and left her a message asking about the next step. Apparently, this is the key to getting an interview with this company, because a few hours later, I got a call from the local manager here (different local manager from last time) scheduling me for a phone screen on Monday. WOO HOO!

So now I'm trying to become uber-prepared for the 30 minute phone screen- whatever that is going to be. I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but my little optimistic self wants to believe that I was somehow meant to have these last few months with the baby before going back to work and this was just the way things were meant to work out. If not, it just feels like a cruel trick to get my hopes up again and then just have nothing come of it. We'll see- keep your fingers crossed for me at 8:30 Monday morning. We'll see where it goes from there...