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28 June 2012

Waiting for Change?

The following is a guest blog from Dr. Christina McCale, an author, a doctor and perhaps most of all... a person.
   -- Sir Bacon
There are many moments that are etched in the memories of most adults.
Birth of a child.
Your wedding day.
Buying your first house.
But unfortunately for more than 12 million Americans, some of whom read this blog and share their stories here, another day that remains etched in our minds is the day our professional lives were upended. The day that part of our very identities were taken from us.
It was the day that our jobs were taken from us.
And unfortunately, for some 5.4 million  of those, one of the largest “segments” of the unemployed population are those who have been living the nightmare of unemployment for more than 6 months.
My own personal descent into the living hell called unemployment started in the Spring of 2009 when I was passed over for not one but three different professorial jobs; jobs that I had spent nearly a decade networking to get, preparing for, and culminating volumes of good teaching evaluations, article publications, text book involvement, and conference presentations. I was recognized as one of the most published researchers in my field. I was recruited to launch a national journal.
But in the end, none of that mattered.
The “why” I didn’t get any of the positions I had so long networked for, and ended up unemployment is less important than the actual fact of the matter: I was now unemployed. And despite any number of attempts to “pull myself up by my bootstraps” I failed.
I wouldn’t fit the model any news organization would report as a “typical” unemployed American. For good and bad, I have an above average education: I have a bachelors and masters from a well-known, private Pacific Northwest university; I had done graduate studies at a top tier state school; and I held a doctorate in a highly desirable profession that I had specifically gone back to school to get a doctorate at the urging of several department chairs. These hiring managers had indicated that my talent for teaching, and my lengthy corporate marketing experience would make me a shoe-in to teach almost anywhere I chose.
All those facts added up to not an inordinate amount of student loan debt, but in return, seemingly having the credentials to join one of our most revered professions: that of professor, academic, teacher.
But then the economy cratered.
Then the housing crisis exploded.
And then the financial markets dissolved into chaos.
State and local governments’ budgets came under fire, laying off previously unimaginable positions that had always been considered sacrosanct: police officers, firemen, and teachers. Professorial openings went unfilled; retirement eligible employees hung on by their fingernails, delaying retirement in order to allow the markets, and ultimately their retirement funds, time to bounce back. When professors did retire, they were not replaced.
And then things got really bad.
In the Fall of 2011, l put my decade’s worth of training to work, and began documenting the plight of the unemployed, pulling together the data, media observations, and interviews to profile the one in two Americans who were now “the new poor:” those who had fallen quickly and harshly into the state of poverty despite previous training, education or work history.
But as I wrote, I found my own story creeping into the narrative because too many people I tried to interview could not bring themselves to bare their souls, their hurts or their “failings” for the book.
This approach isn’t new: Authors like Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch),  Jonathan Kozol, author of Shame of the Nation, Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation, and even documentarian Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me. have long documented situations, to include their own role and impressions of the situation, which indicate a larger, potentially systemic issue at hand.
I was reminded of the stories from our grandparents and the Great Recession that we all probably grew up on. As so in light of these memories, I put myself to work, writing the book “Waiting for Change:  Impacts on life, family, work and the new 99% reality.”  This book, then, centers on five key areas of the human experience – housing, sustenance, employment, children, and our social support systems -- exploring how these areas of one’s life can be so drastically impacted – irrevocably altered – by job loss and the continuing drag of the Great Recession we’ve all experienced in a myriad of different ways.
I’d love to hear how closely these stories ring true for all of you.

Over the course of a decade, Dr. Christina McCale has been a marketing professor at a variety of public and private universities, the author of research studies, proceedings, conference presentations and books, including Waiting For Change, which discusses the economic realities the 99% experience during the Great Recession also found at her blog  Dr. McCale continues to write research and write while actively looking to return to her love of teaching the classroom or virtual environment with college students.

07 March 2012

For My Journey Through Unemployment:

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Thanks for reading.

26 January 2012

Swift And Decisive

The following is a guest blog from Lillian Swift, a writer from Northern Arizona University.
    -- Sir Bacon
Unemployment Benefits continue to be major issue in 2012
So many different families and individuals across the United States have been stricken with the perils of unemployment over the past few years. Aside from just the bottom line of losing money that provides, families have also been stricken with the perils of losing their benefits. This is when many turn to unemployment benefits to help get them through the tough times. With people facing long stretches of unemployment, many individuals have been forced to take a fight to the courts to battle for their unemployment benefits. 
Capitol Hill will soon be facing a decision regarding a proposed extension of unemployment benefits. An alteration would certainly be welcome to the many who struggle looking for a new position during these tough economic times. However, until the people in Washington can make moves on the item, there will continue to be more battles over unemployment benefits leaking into the court room. 
Just recently, an Illinois woman who was once fired for working through her lunch break was forced to go into a court battle with her former company over unemployment benefits. Sharon Smiley had worked for a realty company and they had decided to challenge her benefits after letting her go from her position. She was awarded the win in a court battle over her former company who challenged those benefits. Although she won the battle and is now employed full time elsewhere, there are many others out there who haven’t experienced the same fortunes. 
In Florida, this has become a major topic of conversation while politicians out of Tallahassee continue to propose cuts and more requirements to unemployment benefits, as well as the state’s Medicaid program. Recent rallies in Central Florida brought together citizens to help build awareness of the potential pitfalls that many unemployed Floridians could face. Their efforts were backed by representatives from Orlando Abogado practices, local fireman chairs and others from local employment agencies. 
As a recent college graduate, the job market has been tough on me as well as my peers. Many have been forced to settle for part time positions in the meantime and some haven’t even been lucky enough find any work. For myself, I am currently taking on the unknown waters of looking for full-time employment. Although daunting, I try and keep a positive mood going into every application and search. Even with a positive mindset for many recent graduates, it can be hard to maintain when things don’t go your way. Unemployment benefits to me are often a necessity. I’ve seen family members who’ve worked their entire life get them out of necessity and not out of a lack of hard work at all. 
Young adults who’ve lost their positions have also faced the tough decision of whether to apply for employment benefits. Of course, this is a tough choice for many of those who have been laid off or let go from their jobs. For people who’ve been working for years, this decision can be highly unwelcomed. 
On one hand, many longtime workers need to provide, possibly not only for themselves, but for a family or others. This certainly can seem like an easy decision, but some just don’t have the mindset to use these benefits, as they’ve been raised to believe that every dollar must be earned. This decision is different for the younger adults who may have been let go, as some of their choices may be based on perception and reputation. 
My father was faced with an interesting quandary in the past few years when let go for the second time within three years. On one hand, he had been in the military for 20 years, retired and worked for over 15 years following that, so he knew nothing different. He took the unemployment benefits, which helped him out for a few months in between jobs, something he is thankful for as he gets settled into a new sales job right now. The point is that, although taking on unemployment benefits remains a tough choice for some, for most it might be a necessity. 
The win for the Chicago woman who was fired for working through her lunch is a major stepping stone for those involved with the importance of unemployment benefits. There have been few times in history when unemployment has been affected as it has in the past few years here in the United States. Unemployment benefits have been and will continue to be an important factor in helping to support the citizens of the country as they look to get back on their feet during tough times. 
Impending action from Washington to extend unemployment benefits nationally could be viewed as both a gift and a curse, but it’s important to remember that help like that cannot be replicated elsewhere. In most cases, extending unemployment benefits would certainly do much more good than harm for the people of the United States. 

Lillian Swift is an aspiring writer who specializes in writing about community issues.
If you would like to write a guest blog, please contact me at

For My Journey Through Unemployment:

10 August 2010

Turning The Page: A New Journey

I was dreamin' when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
  -- Prince, 1999
I’ve been writing A blog since the beginning of the year.
I’ve been waiting to write THIS blog for nearly 23 months.
I could wax poetic and build up the drama for the next 900 words, but instead let me cut to the chase:
I have been offered a job and gladly accepted it.
I will begin working again on Monday.
And I can’t wait.

I’ve been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
  -- Jackson Browne, Lives in the Balance
For nearly two years, I have been part of a growing group that is just looking for a chance.
A group of people who have been dealt a bad hand through no fault of their own.
A group of people who just want to start life all over again.
A group of people who have been kind enough to embrace me as they connect with my story.
Connect with my story from across my street and across the globe.
I am so excited and so humbled to be one of the lucky ones.
One of the lucky ones being given an opportunity to move on.
Moving on to rebuild something that was destroyed.
And I am going to make the most of it.
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
In your heart you must trust
  -- Bruce Springsteen, Leap of Faith
As part of this new job, I will be moving away from my family.
For now.
Several thousand miles away.
And that part of it hasn’t really hit me.
But it will.
And when it does, that will be another chapter in my life’s journey.  
Who knows, maybe even another blog.
We broke the news to the kids last week.
My oldest daughter cried first, then my son.
Then my six-year old when she saw her two siblings cry.
But by the end of the conversation, and several since, they are now as excited as I am.
They are totally on board with where life is taking me.
Taking us.
In the last week, they have seen their father smile.  
A lot.
They have seen optimism replace pessimism.
They have seen hope replace fear.

Take care of all your memories
For you can not relive them
   -- Bob Dylan, Nothing Was Delivered
I will look back on this time I have spent at home as the greatest time of my life.
I love working and I will love returning to work.
But to be a stay-at-home dad for as long as I was, is the job that I will be most proud of.
I don’t know if I was cut out to be a parent, but somehow I have figured out how to make it work.
From road trips to school functions to just watching my kids watch TV, there will never be a time where I will regret my time at home.
The times I shared with my family will forever be etched in my heart and in my head.
And in my blog.
This blog has given me the opportunity to relive the experiences and share them with you.
And with me.
The field trip to the zoo.
The little league baseball season.
The spelling bee.
My mother’s bipolar episode.
Good days.  Bad days.
Good moments.  Bad moments.
With every memory and every moment in time, I always had a place to be me.
I will cherish that forever. 
When the day is long and the night, 
the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, 
well hang on
  -- REM, Everybody Hurts
This blog has given me a way to connect with every possible emotion in the food chain.
Anger to depression.
Freedom to complete satisfaction.
I have spent countless hours sitting at the computer, late into the PM and many times early into the AM.
Sitting all alone in a dimly lit room, connecting with my emotions, while connecting with you.
No matter what I was feeling when I sat down in the chair, writing seemed to cure any aches and any pains.
Sadness is a waste of energy.
Bitterness is a waste of time.
But those are real feelings.
What happened to me didn’t need to happen.
What happened to me wasn’t fair.
What happened to me wasn’t right.
But what has happened to MILLIONS of people in this great country is far worse than anything I ever had to deal with.
I never lost sight of that.
And never will.
Since being told nearly two years ago that my “services were no longer needed”, I have seen sides of me that I didn’t know existed.
The side that learned how to love like I’ve never loved before.
The side that learned how to share like I’ve never shared before.
The side that learned how to hurt like I’ve never hurt before.
The side that used to trust, but couldn’t trust anymore.
The side that used to believe, but couldn’t believe anymore.
The side that accepted all of those sides and still found a way to get up in the morning.
And live that day.
And look forward to the next.
I found out who I am.
And I really like him.
Don't give up, 'cause you have friends
Don't give up, You're not the only one
Don't give up, No reason to be ashamed
Don't give up, You still have us
Don't give up now, We're proud of who you are
Don't give up, You know it's never been easy
Don't give up, 'cause I believe there's the a place
There's a place where we belong
   -- Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, Don’t Give Up
Giving up has never been an option for me.
It has never been a consideration.
But it has been a reality.
I didn’t give up right away.  
And thankfully, I didn’t give up for very long.
We have always been told that hard work wins.
And I worked hard.
VERY hard.
For 25 years.
And all of a sudden because my company was sold and the new company wants to do less with less, I was being punished.
Math major, I am not, but that didn’t add up to me.
It also doesn’t make sense to the so many good, honest, hard-working people who are still being put through this miserable exercise.
The stories you have shared with me have broken my heart and rebuilt my faith at the same time.
So many of you have lost your job, lost your insurance, lost your family, lost your house.
Lost your life, as it was.
I wish I could say that keeping the faith will pay off.
And good things always happen to good people.
And any other cliche from page 94 of the cliche handbook.
But the bottom line is once you have given up, you have nothing.
You are allowed to give up.  
For a moment.  Even for a day.  Even for a week.
I’ve done it.
I just hope if you do give up, you can find something to get you going again.
A goal, a parent, a spouse, a child, a dog, a dream.
It doesn’t matter what keeps you going as long as you are going.
I want to thank you 
for giving me the best day of my life 
Oh just to be with you 
is having the best day of my life 
    -- Dido, Thank You
Thanks to this blog, I have connected with literally thousands of people from around the world.
People I have never met and never will.
But people who have pushed me everyday to tell my story.
Good people from Arkansas to Australia, California to China, Illinois to India, Jersey to Japan, Pittsburgh to Prague.
And of course, Quebec.
Merci Beaucoup.
In just the last week, I have seen new readers from Peru, Barbados, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan and New Zealand.
It is overwhelming and amazing and humbling and any other incredible word that ends in ing.
As Sinead O’Connor once said, Thank You For Healing Me.
Waking up each morning and reading that someone found some inspiration in my story was something I will never forget.
The truth is, you have inspired me.
You have inspired me to keep going.
You have inspired me to not give up.
You have inspired me to go on with each day.
However I’m feeling.
My computer is telling me that this is the 506th page of my blog.
And I have written more than 102,000 words.
Words that have changed my life forever.
I am planning on still writing this blog, a blog, some blog, for as long as I can.
I realize my journey is taking a turn, hopefully a turn for the better, but writing is now a part of who I am.
And who I will be.
But no matter where we go from here, I thank you for every day you have given me.
Who's to say where the wind will take you
Who's to say what it is will break you
I don't know where the wind will blow
Who's to know when the time has come around
I don't wanna see you cry
I know that this is not goodbye
   -- U2, Kite

08 August 2010

Boulevard of a Broken Hand

There are certain moments that only a parent can appreciate.
The first step.
The first day of school.
The first time your child talks back to you.
There are other moments that only a parent can enjoy.
Like being on a packed airplane and watching the panic that mom and dad go through trying to quiet a screaming child.
As someone who has been there, done that, I hate to say it, but I love watching other parents scramble to diffuse that situation.
And they try everything.
Apple juice.
Grey Goose.
Whatever it takes.
But the entire time, the show you get watching the crumbling parents is better than any $8 movie on the plane.
There are about 37 million moments I would like to have back in my 13+ years of being a parent.
I wish I was more attentive.
I wish I was more loving.
But most of all I wish I was most patient.
I still do.
A few days ago I was at my 11-year old son’s football practice.
It was being held at a GIANT complex, where at least ten other teams were practicing at the same time.
During the practice, I took a stroll around the track to burn off some steam (and calories).
At one point, I noticed a man talking to a boy who was in full football gear and had been pulled aside from his team.
The boy couldn’t have been more than seven years old.
The man was right in his grill, holding the boy by his face mask, which should’ve been a penalty.
As I got closer, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation.
Actually, it wasn’t much of a conversation, it was a one-way street.
It went something like:
MAN-F*&^ F&*# F*#& F(#*
If grabbing the face mask was a penalty, this should’ve been an ejection.
I have no idea if this was his son, not that it really mattered, but the first thing that came to my mind was...
...OMG, is that what I look like when I lose my temper?   
Is that what I sound like when I lose my temper? 
Whether it was shock or a short attention span, I kept walking around the track.
By the time I came back around, they were gone. 
You may find this hard to believe, but I have never won the Father of the Year Award.
I’ve had plenty of moments where I could’ve been nominated and plenty of moments where I should’ve been disqualified.
I’m proud to say in the last year I have done the best job I’ve ever done as a dad.
But perfect, I am not.
And probably never will be.
My son is back to playing tackle football this year after taking a year off.
And let me tell you, if you think this Bernie Madoff was a ripoff, you should check out all the gear you need to buy for an 11-year old tackle football team.
Chin straps, practice pants, heat gear, shoulder pads...
With all the money we spent, we could’ve rented a hotel room at DisneyWorld for half a night. 
I’ve been to all four of his practices this year, including the most recent one on Saturday morning.
The kids who have played for several years definitely have a clear advantage.
They are the ones yelling and screaming and believing that somehow the two hours between 8 and 10 AM are going to lead to the Super Bowl.
Nothing wrong with believing.
My son is still trying to find his way, but after each practice we have done a breakdown of what’s good and what he needs to work on.
The good news is he has showed signs of getting better each time.
The bad news is he needs a forest fire lit under his $40 practice pants for it to happen.
I have tried all of the cliches to keep him motivated.
Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.
And when it doesn’t work, there are two very frustrated people.
He and me.
When we got home after practice on Saturday, we tried a different approach.
This time my wife spoke to him about finding that extra gear.  
Figuring out a way to be your best.
Even if you are last in the sprints, run all the way.
Don’t let anything get in the way of giving 100%.
The conversation went on for about 20 minutes.
It was painful.  For all of us.
But little did we know, it was most painful for him.
When the conversation ended, he showed us the palm of his left hand.
Between the black and blue color and the extreme swelling, there was no doubt that x-rays were needed.
Two hours later, he came home with hard splint.
The cast goes on Monday.
He’s out for the season.
At some point during the morning practice, he had fractured the first metacarpal and never said a word about it.
Not one word.
Not one word on the field.  
Not one word in the car going home.  
Not one word while being told for 20 minutes that he needs to try harder.
Now who feels bad?