Tag Archives: Unemployment

A little light in the darkness

28 Nov

OK, so I have good news for once! A local newspaper is allowing me to do some stringer work for them. The pay isn’t much — at all — but it’s at least a way to start clawing my way back onto my feet. Not to mention this old muckracker gets to go back to racking muck for the first time in more than two years!

Let’s hope this is just the first of what could be a comeback for yours truly.

Current music: Veruca Salt, “All Hail Me”


I walked the (unemployment) line

28 Nov

Standing behind a piece of duck tape on a dirty floor, I anxiously awaited my turn. At any moment, yours truly, then known as “next”, was going to be called forward. No, I wasn’t auditioning for “The Voice”. I was doing the first in what seems to be a hundred thousand steps in the unemployment benefits process. The things I do just to get a few bucks on which to barely survive…

I don’t wish the unemployment line process on anyone. OK, so maybe there’s a few certain people who, in the evil corners of my mind, I would like to live as I did for at least a day. Nevertheless, it’s an experience where people of almost all backgrounds, education levels, current/former social standings, and circumstances are forced together for hours because they all have one struggle in common. They also experience the biggest loads of BS ever imaginable together, too. To say it’s eye-opening is a serious understatement.

My day started at home, trying to find a way to apply for benefits online as I had done in other states before. No, in West Virginia, you have to file in-person. At least the 10 (literally) pages of paperwork you initially have to fill out are available online to save you some time at the unemployment office. You have to arrive at certain times for what are called “group interviews”. I’ll explain that process here in a bit. So, I sat down in the waiting room with a dirty floor, but at least halfway comfortable chairs and listened to quite a few really sad stories. Multiple people were in from one company that had massive layoffs. A few coal miners who were some of the scores of coal miners in this state recently laid off were in there. Some people were anxiously awaiting this process to be over so they could pick up their children, something I fortunately don’t have to worry about at this time. Some had to bring their children with them.

A lot of people get this image in their heads of lowlives and bums when imagining the lines of people who are applying for any type of government assistance. Yeah, there were some people who looked a little rough around the edges. But you know what? They were all very nice people. One man, a recently canned truck driver with a long beard, had been fired because he was in an accident. That accident happened because he swerved to miss a vehicle with children inside. Not all people who get fired deserve it. Also, one woman in our group had her materials in a leather portfolio, and was professionally dressed. Another man was wearing a dress shirt and tie. Not all people applying for assistance are in the blue-collar world, either.

Later on, just less than 20 of us were called into the back of the building and herded like cattle into a room the size of an efficiency apartment — in Tokyo. We had to sit through a video through which most people cursed under their breath or played on cell phones through while the unemployment office lady was out of the room. It was crowded. We were all having to sit on top of one another, practically. It was miserable. A lot of people continued to curse, sometimes out loud, or play on their phones even after the unemployment office lady came back into the room. One woman left because she just couldn’t take anymore.

After the unemployment office lady signed off on our 10 pages of paperwork — plus gave us more to look at and/or sign — we were sent BACK to the dirty waiting room. There, I watched a man play with his young daughter and saw even more people standing in line behind the duck tape. I sat and played on my phone, installing the Word Press app so I can try to keep you updated while I’m on the go, and messaged friends who were gracious enough to keep me company throughout that mess. One in particular stands out in my mind. I love you, lady. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve a friend like you.

Then, the blessed moment arrived in which I was called to the back again to talk with someone individually about my case. She said, “Are you going to file a grievance here?” I told her, and I’ll tell you, that I don’t know if I want to put myself and my family through more drama because of my now-former job. My family and I have been through hell through most of 2012. I don’t want this to be the breaking point for anyone. Still, it would be nice to have some justice served. Served cold and moldy.

If I get approved, I get back pay for whatever time I spent waiting. Meanwhile, I have to look for work at least once a week and report that I did so every two weeks in order to keep my benefits. If I get benefits, I can’t earn more than $60 a week without whatever goes above $60 being deducted from my benefits. So, if I get this freelancing gig or maybe something in retail because of the holiday season, I could be penalized. That’s a nice way to encourage someone who’s trying to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, isn’t it? It gives you a nice incentive to try and find something else, doesn’t it?

OK. I’ll try to make sure most of my new blogs aren’t such downers and try to get back to the junk-pile-hunting you all adore. I just believe that it’s important that we all learn a lesson from my experience, and I personally don’t want this to be in vain. Let’s hope and pray this ends VERY soon.

Current music: Veruca Salt, “Earthcrosser”

Hoping to make a comeback — in more ways than one

26 Nov

Hello ladies and gentlemen. The Chancellor of Cheap, the Flat Broke Diva is BACK! This time, it’s with a vengeance.

As I write this, I have earned a Master’s Degree only for the job I got six months after graduation to throw me onto the cheese line. There will be more on that later. Right now, I’m just doing what I have to do to get this puppy going again, with site updates and the like. Please bear with me!

It’s good to be home. I hope my old readers will come back!

Current music: Chevelle, “Clones”

Dear rich people: Have just an OUNCE of respect for us

3 May

I had the right-of-way because I made it to the stop sign first. You, sir, didn’t have the right-of-way because you drive an Acura, and I drive a lowly Ford.


The near-miss that nearly sent my car to the shop AGAIN last Saturday isn’t an isolated incident. Here’s one reality of being flat broke that I’m sure the newly flat broke are now facing: The lords tend to treat the serfs like shit. It’s like the medieval times all over again. Where’s my jousting pole? But here’s the deal: Those sipping their Dom Perignon beside their indoor pools owe more than an ounce of respect to the minimum-wage earners who poured it. Those people probably ensured those aristocrats had good food to eat and a clean place to shit, too, before going home to their studio apartment in a gunshot-riddled neighborhood.

Do you want evidence? Go to your local restaurant — whether it be a fast-food joint or a trendy bistro. Spend about an hour there, and you’ll see wait staff or hosts/hostesses being treated like dirt. The same goes for grocery store cashiers, sales clerks at the mall and school janitors. Even though they make considerably more money than the aforementioned occupations, we certainly can’t forget our often-underpaid teachers and police officers.

I can personally attest to just about all of this. My first job was waiting tables, and that experience really showed me how, as my manager put it, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.” It’s not a world where everyone is singing “We Are the World.” During that time, I dealt with a guy I believe was in his 40s hitting on me and trying to pick me up. Sure, everyone deals with such people. I just didn’t expect it out of a man that age when I was 17. I heard a guy complain about my service to get out of the mandatory gratuity for waiting on his family that seemed to be bigger than the Partridges and the Bradys combined. I was on the floor scrubbing his kid’s puke out the carpet right at that time. I’ll spare you from the details, but let’s just say I also had to deal with two human-made restroom disasters from hell, too. I had to clean the toilets just about every night.

We also can’t forget the Wall Street fat cats who helped drag us into this mess during this discussion. Right when we believe we’ve heard the last of how they pissed on average Americans and led us toward economic meltdown, we find out more that makes us want to vomit. A U.S. Senate hearing last week sounded more like something on HBO or Showtime. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., cited a “fundamental conflict” in Goldman Sachs’ selling clients home-loan securities that its own employees called “junk”, “crap” and one other *cough* choice word. The company bet against the securities and didn’t tell buyers. Levin cited an e-mail between Goldman execs that described one product as “one shitty deal”. Yes, a United States senator said the dreaded “s-word!” Ooooh!

“Your top priority is to sell that shitty deal,” Levin said. “Should Goldman Sachs be trying to sell a shitty deal?”

I don’t believe any other Senate hearing has ever received as many search results on You Tube. Check it out this little excerpt. It’s not exactly an episode of “The Wire”, but…

* * *

Here’s something else a lot of people miss: Low-wage earners help support our economy, too. Taxes are taken from their paychecks just like taxes are taken from the paychecks of Wall Street investment bankers’. We need people do the jobs we consider lowly or aren’t brave enough to do. Otherwise, who is going to prepare our food? Who is going to ring up our groceries? Who will educate our children? Who will literally put their lives on the line while trying to keep our communities safe?

And of course, we can’t forget those who want to dismiss the poor as lazy, lacking motivation and ambition or siphoning wage-earning taxpayers’ money. Sure, there are people who try to cheat the system, believe me. During my brief tenure as a grocery store clerk, I repeatedly rang up people who were buying grocery items you would buy for parties with food stamps — and pay cash for their hard liquor. Meanwhile, I would go home in my 130,000+ mile car I had bought with my old waitress pay, drive to my apartment beside a junk lot, eat macaroni and cheese and pass out on my college textbooks. Other than student grants/loans, I wasn’t getting an ounce of help from the government. One of my middle school teachers told me of numerous students who told him they didn’t need to learn what he was teaching them because, “I’m just going to get on welfare like Mommy and Daddy.”

But those seem to be the only poor people we see — or want to see. How about the high school student who is juggling school and keeping a 4.0 GPA with a job waiting tables, being in the marching band, dealing with stressful family situations and being in the marching band all at the same time. Yes, that was me. I did it all to have a better life and escape from the single-wide trailer I called home for many, many years. Others going home at night covered in grease were doing the same.

I spent some time trying to find the percentage of welfare recipients who also work, but it was nearly impossible to find something halfway current. Many of these articles were written in the early 2000s or late 1990s — long before anyone even knew what we would experience now. But I have been able to find examples of successful people who are now struggling to survive. On one of my inaugural posts, I mentioned the story of Ken Karpman, a trader who went from a $750,000 per year salary to making $7.29 an hour delivering pizza. Then, we have John Jarrell, an unemployed truck driver from Maryland who is pumping port-a-potties to support his two daughters. He is a single father, by the way.

The U.S. Census is attracting a lot of temporary workers who would normally snub such work. For example, this CNN story has an interview with a woman with a Ph.D. who is taking on this job that ends June 1. Nonetheless, all people interviewed for this story is just happy as hell to have a job.

Note that this dosen’t apply to all of the upper class. One of my college roommates, one I met when I moved into that apartment, grew up in a family that had much more than mine. But I found out she had been picked on, too, for the fact that she was MORE fortunate. We were able to swap stories about being on one side or the other, while being teenagers, to boot. People on both sides often have to dodge bullets. There are so many other wealthy benefactors who use their earnings and status for good. Take Bono’s activism, the Elton John AIDS Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

* * *

When you pull into the mall parking lot to buy a new wardrobe for the season at Macy’s, watch for employees’ cars and not just ones like your Acura — or Porsche, Corvette, etc. That Chevette you may hit is possibly all a person has. Sure, that car is probably insured, but insurance only pays so much. If that other person is in debt for his/her car, part of the settlement goes to paying off the debt.

So, say you still want to point your finger at the poor and not bat an eye while treating them like scum? Well, you’re adding to your own tax burden. That car may be the only way a single mother gets to the job she uses to support her children or a college student goes to both work and class during his/her search for a better life. Maybe it’s the work truck that gets a West Virginia man to his job at a coal mine, so he can risk his life just to feed his family. It doesn’t just apply to cars. If you and your rich friends get drunk as hell and slam into a family’s trailer, they’re going to be hurting while trying to get their home inhabitable again. That’s less money they can use to stimulate the economy — and survive.

When you get inside the store, be that person — possibly the only one of the day — who is sweet and polite to your cashier or sales clerk. On some days, you may be the only person who is. You never know if that cashier or clerk is pulling himself or herself up by the bootstraps and will perform surgery on you one day. You want to be nice to someone like that 🙂

That 19-year-old college student who rode a bicycle to his McDonald’s job — the one you cussed out over French fries last week? You could be standing beside him flipping burgers next week. That’s providing you can even get a job at Mickey D’s.

Just remember: It can happen to you!

An open letter to Alice in Chains: Thank you

21 Apr

OK. So I know a snowball has a chance of lasting in Hell before there’s a chance any member of Alice in Chains reads this. But there are just some things you have to get off your chest. Oh yeah, all lyrics used are property of Alice in Chains and properly cited. So don’t sue me.

Dear Jerry, William, Mike and Sean,

More than 10 years ago, there was a girl just days away from turning 15 and wannabe guitar virtuoso watching Alice in Chains on “MTV Unplugged”. She was thinking, “Wow. This guy is beyond amazing. I’m going to be Jerry Cantrell when I grow up! I’m going to play like him!”

That girl is just a few days shy of turning 29, and she saw you guys in-person in Huntington, W.Va., Monday night. It’s just that the pre-thirty-something was not just in awe of how you all handled instruments like surgeons or how your harmonies were airtight. Your words and your music made me confront every emotion and every experience from the past and present and just throw them all into the wind.

I wish I could give you more detail, so you’d really, really know how your music has struck me like a sledgehammer. It’s just that so much of it is so deeply personal that I still don’t have the strength to be 100 percent open about it all. Publicly, anyway. But so many songs, particularly “Check My Brain”, “Grind”, “Man in the Box” and so many more that I’d be here all night mentioning are basically my autobiography. It’s like every emotion, every personal experience — everything — was spelled out for me. This applies to words AND music. The bends in “Check My Brain” quite frankly remind me of the constant rollercoaster I’m on. It’s like my personal rollercoaster is operated by someone on a serious crack high and running at 100 mph. It’s this dizzying, up-and-down feeling that leaves you trying to kick and punch your way out of the car, so you can jump off the tracks in desperation!

For me, it’s like someone is saying, “Yeah, I get it.” When you’re at some of the lowest points, you need someone who TRULY gets it — not someone who only provides lip service. It also seems like Alice in Chains’ form of “therapy” hits harder and is easier to swallow simultaneously because it’s set to music. I’m sure just about everyone has seen these “experts” on talk shows and the like try to tell everyone their one-size-fits-all methods of getting shit together. I usually spout off just a little bit of profanity and change the channel. But amazing music is magnetic. It’s almost like it’s hypnotizing, making you forget everything around you but that music. Once you’re drawn in, you can really process a song and see how it tells your “story” — whether it be your past, present or future. Keep in mind that emotions, not just events, are part of people’s stories. That’s how I see it, anyway.

These songs give you the chance to just cast off whatever horrible experiences, negative emotions or worries about the future and just throw them into the wind. See, just the thought of telling someone those things is traumatic for a lot of people. But sometimes, singing along — mentally or out loud — is like you can let it out without the entire world knowing. You get the release you often desperately need, and it’s emotionally safer. It’s a win-win situation at it’s best. Sometimes, it’s safer in other aspects. I’ve often been forced to be around a lot of people I truly despise. I’ve listened to some sort of angry, slamming song and whisper the tune if I’m feeling a little more daring. It was like I stuck a middle finger in their faces and without fear of retribution. Now that was beyond awesome 🙂

Music doesn’t only deal with problems. It presents solutions. I know lots of people, myself included, often roll their eyes in digust when someone tries to give a damn lecture. But once again, that music draws you in. So many of those songs get you pumped up and moving in the right direction. Maybe they’ll show you the error of your ways and make you realize you have to get off your ass and change things. For me, “Grind” became my personal anthem when I basically had to deal with multiple people trying to end a career and life I had worked so hard to build. They should have been “well advised not to plan my funeral for the body dies”.

I have to devote extra space to “Your Decision”. To me, the song is about how fear can consume you and how you can give in to the ones who are trying to take advantage of it. Maybe these opportunistic people are the ones causing the fear in the first place. People often watch their “fears become their Gods” and become “overwhelmed” and “choose to run”. And “Yes, it hurts to know you’re bought.” But here’s the deal: It’s YOUR DECISION as to whether or not YOU let that fear eat you alive. Yes, sometimes circumstances out of your control drag you into horrible situations. But it’s YOUR DECISION as to whether or not you fight to get out of it. The words, “No one plans to take the path that brings you lower. And here you stand before us all and say it’s over,” perfectly illustrate how so many people just choose to wallow after life’s shit hits the fan.

By the way, to say a lot of Alice in Chains’ songs have been inspired by serious heartbreak is beyond understatement. Putting those songs out there and performing them in front of thousands of people takes some serious guts. Just know that what you’ve done has been a serious lifesaver for me and so many others. Given how the economy has gone to hell, I’m sure there were many, many, many people in that arena who are also on sickening rollercoaster rides from Hell. Some are probably scared to death, too. I do believe you gave them the escape they needed, like you did for me. I’m sure you all do that at any place you visit.

I walked out of the concert practically walking on air. It wasn’t just the fact that I saw Alice in Chains. It wasn’t just the fact that I was in the room with the guitarist I’ve wanted to be for the past 14 years (Geez. I AM getting old!). I left there with all of my fear, hang-ups, bad memories — whatever — gone. I left there with a much stronger belief that I’m the mistress of my own fate. Even if roads I may have to take are miles beyond the beaten path, no situation is escape-proof!

By the way, I just thought I’d let you know that my friends and I are fully and totally supportive of William DuVall. He has stepped into a position most people would be too scared to take and worked like a hellcat — one hell of a singer. He’s also one serious showman, really working crowds into a frenzy and moving all over the stage to make sure no fan is left behind! Oh yeah, and we all really felt the love from you guys. You all really seemed to love us all as much as we loved you! When you all said you loved us in West Virginia, we truly believed you weren’t just saying that to be nice. I know Jerry, and I believe Mike and William, were saying you all had to get back to Huntington soon. We’re going to hold you to that 🙂

I did leave with one negative feeling, though. My guitar playing fell by the wayside years ago. It was just life in general and all the time it seemed to demand got in the way as I got older. I’ve tried picking it up again so many, many times, but I have found myself really discouraged because I now suck or being once again consumed by “life in general”. Jerry was on my side of the stage most of the time. I’d watch him and be in awe 99 percent of that time. The other one percent? It was my feeling like I let him down by not living up to my promise to be just like him. I know. It was my “decision”. But I do have two guitars I could get out of the closet. 😉

I also had my cell phone in my face the one moment when Jerry was looking in my direction!! I really hope I didn’t piss him off! I was fighting with my cell phone camera to take a decent picture because my digital camera’s batteries died in the middle of the show. The one time I forgot spare batteries… For that matter, I always hope I get the chance to possibly make eye contact with someone in the band. That way, I can wave, blow kisses, or do something cute and crazy just to show my love!

I’ll be awake with the chickens and mow grass if that’s what I have to do to get tickets to your next show! Thank you so much for giving me one of the greatest nights of my entire life!

With the utmost respect and all the love in the world,

The Flat Broke Diva

Getting thinner leads to a thinner wallet

8 Feb

It’s easier to point a finger at people who are overweight or obese.

But before you even raise a hand, ask yourself this: How the hell are they going to AFFORD losing weight?

I’ve been working on a second, second project besides writing about being in the poorhouse — trying to drop about 140 pounds. So far, I’ve managed to drop about 20. This has been awesome for me because each pound gone means I’m closer to having the figure, health and — most of all — life I’ve never had. It’s also been a major bright point in a majorly dark time. I need all the bright I can get, believe me!

There’s a yang to every yin, though. Trying to drop this weight has not been cheap, whatsoever. Trying to handle this whole weight loss deal financially has been almost as hard as trying actually lose the weight!

You don’t need a spreadsheet to link states’ obesity rates and per capita incomes. Mississippi has the highest percentage of obese adults, 32.5 percent. Its percentage of obese children is the highest, too — 44 percent. Mississippi also has the nation’s lowest per-capita income of $28,845.

Want more evidence? Then take yourself home on country roads. My state, West Virginia, is just behind Mississippi in both categories. Here, 31.2 percent of adults are considered obese. West Virginia — surprise, surprise — has the SECOND-LOWEST per-capita income of $29,537.

OK. Not every poor person is overweight, and not every rich person is thin. If you want evidence of the latter, pull up pictures online of various members of Congress. But there are ways the economically disadvantaged are more susceptible.

Economic hardship is a source of chronic stress. That stress could hinder people’s abilities to change weight-related behaviors, even when informed and motivated. I’ve tried to get this weight off for years, and I’ve been on track to do it many, many times. I’ve also failed many, many times. It just never failed that I would hit a stress roadblock from hell — college, personal/relationship drama, starting out as a reporter, beginning a new career, re-starting as a reporter, multiple unemployment spells, illness, injury and quitting smoking.

Not all of these are economic, of course, but they were all enough to make Mother Teresa run into the woods screaming and while opening fire with a semiautomatic. Guess what I did? When I was at home biting my nails about something, I’d find something to bite that would give me a better fix. During times I’ve been on-the-go or practically living in my car, I crammed whatever crap I could down my throat and did it quickly. And quitting smoking? Well, I had to increase one fix to make up for losing another.

If you’re feeling like hell, you’re going to eventually look like hell.

Then, there are, overall, lower education levels in impoverished areas. Lower educational levels could lead to an increased obesity risk because of limited economic opportunities (and any other links between obesity and economics I spout off here will likely result, if that’s the case). Less education also means that those affected may not have as much health information as others. How are they supposed to act on what they don’t know?

It’s not that people in impoverished areas don’t want an education. I’d venture to guess they have more motivation. That was certainly the case while I was growing up, anyway. That’s what made me study until I literally fell asleep on top of my books many, many times. But so many of them can’t afford education past high school.

Nineteen percent of Mississippians have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That number in West Virginia is lower with 17 percent. Compare that with Colorado. It has the nation’s lowest adult obesity percentage (18.9), and 35 percent of its residents have bachelor’s degrees or higher. It has the 10th highest per-capita income.

Then, your poorest areas tend have extremely limited recreational opportunities — or safe ones, anyway. People whose incomes force them to live in crime-infested areas aren’t going to go to the local park or basketball court. Sure, they may want to lead healthier lifestyles, but you’re probably better off obese than shot. We have a walking trail where I live now, but I’ve stayed away from it after such incidents like a shooting and a robbery.

In rural areas, a pile of dirt can only provide so much of a workout. There were no sidewalks where I grew up. If you were brave enough to walk to a neighbor’s house on the side of the road, there was a good chance you’d have to jump into a creek or ditch to avoid being slammed by Bobby Lee and his friend Jimmy Dale in their jacked-up 1976 pickup. There was also a good chance you’d wind up being bitten by a snake while walking in the more grassy areas, too. Kids often find themselves spread farther apart, so there are less playmates readily available.

Poorer areas, both urban and rural, have a lower tax base, and their governments barely keep police on the streets or the outdated fire engine running. So are they going to have enough money for parks and playgrounds? With unemployment on the rise and businesses shuttering — leaving local governments with less business and occupation taxes — more governments will probably have even less to spend. So, even if there is a playground or park, poorer areas may only be able to offer a patch of grass with a swing set — with only two intact swings and one’s rusty chains screaming “tetanus shot”.

You could always go a gym, providing you actually have one in your neighborhood or even your town. But have you seen some of these gym membership fees? Yikes! Also, if you’re working odd hours and days, like I do, some gym’s hours are tough to fit into your schedule.

Oh yeah, go to any fast-food restaurant or grocery store to see how much more healthier eating will cost you.

One of my favorite light items is grilled chicken sandwiches. I loved grilled chicken (can’t really stand it fried), and there’s also not much at restaurants that are waistline-friendly, anyway. At a McDonald’s around here, it’s a little more than $3. Double cheeseburgers are on the Dollar Menu. I’m grateful to the fast food chains for offering more healthy menu items (or something more than no choices at all) to their customers. I’m also grateful to my fellow West Virginian, Morgan Spurlock, for pushing them in that direction with “Super Size Me”.

Then, there’s your local grocer. As more consumers have become health conscious, more companies see that demand as profitable. So, thankfully, there are healthier versions of just about everything now. There’s even lighter versions of cheese, pizza and junk food. But a lot of these lighter versions have no generic. There’s often a BIG price difference between generic and brand name products. Generics are catching up. You can find store brand soy milk just about anywhere. But you’re still going to have a hard time finding generics for EVERYTHING.

But I’m managing to soldier on. I have managed to come up with economic fixes to get through this.

So, yes, we have a problem. Tomorrow, I’ll be throwing out some of the ways I’ve managed to dodge some financial bullets during what is going to be a long, long journey.

The Unemployed Battle Plan

26 Sep

Your employer’s business went down the toilet. You were on “the list”. That evil boss finally got his/her chance to send you to the chopping block — whether or not you actually deserved it.

No matter how this happened, you have now joined the 14.9 million people in the United States who are now unemployed. The current employment rate is 9.7 percent, according to federal Bureau of Labor statistics. Yes, you have become a statistic.

I have been in this situation thrice before. Though I’ve managed to survive, I made both wise and outright stupid decisions during those spells. Some made serious impacts on me — for the better and worse — that last today, even though I’ve managed to hold down my current job for more than four years.

The key to surviving unemployment is basically sitting down and mapping out a strategy. It’s a war out there, so it takes seriously hard work and being slick as glass to win it.

1. Chill out.

Losing your income is like being hit in the gut with a sledgehammer, even if you were somewhat expecting it. Suddenly, you don’t know how you’re going to get that next rent check or car payment. Whatever stature you had is gone. It’s sheer terror.

You have to take some time out to process everything. This is especially true if you worked at a high-stress job that was eating you alive and/or with a horrible boss who flat-out screwed you over. Unless you know of an immediate and serious job prospect that you must pursue, spend whatever day of the week U-Day fell through the following weekend on a major chill-out mission.

Preferably, find a place far away from where you used to work. The last thing you need is a reminder of where your life just fell to hell — especially if you live REALLY close to that place. One of my former workplaces was a five-minute drive from my home.

Look up a good, trustworthy, ACCEPTING and NON-JUDGMENTAL friend or relative who lives out-of-town or out-of-state and see if he/she is OK with you crashing on the couch, in the guest room or even on the floor. Make sure your getaway location is not too far away. Yes, an out-of-town trip will cost you, but you can find ways to reduce costs. These include not paying for a hotel, plane tickets or a crazy amount of gas.

Plus, you need to surround yourself with friends and/or family members who love and accept you, even if you have hit rock bottom. You’ll quickly find out you have several “friends” or “close family members” who do the opposite.

I know this will be next to impossible to do, but keep your mind away from the situation as much as you can. Spend quality time outdoors and try to look up free/cheap attractions in the area. Sometimes, a night IN with your friends will be so much more relaxing — and free.

You have to recharge your batteries. You can’t soldier through the unemployment mine field when your emotional energy is non-existent.

2. Treat the day as a work day.

I owe a lot of this section, and quite frankly, a lot of this whole blog, to a dear friend of mine in Florida, one of the few I had left when everything crashed and burned during my time living there. Her expertise was also in human resources 🙂

The following Monday after your sabbatical is time to get to work! Now!

When you’re stuck at home jobless and with no money to do much of anything, it’s oh-so-tempting to sleep until noon, watch daytime TV and pick up a new soap opera addiction. Sure, it’s tempting to dream of a shirtless man with a six-pack saving you from an evil overlord who puts mind-control chips in people’s brains (if that’s the way you swing). But now that your little getaway is over, it’s time to buckle down! Don’t give in!

Every weekday, start out the day as if you were going to work. I’d advise making a “day shift” Monday-Friday schedule, even if you were accustomed to working evenings or nights. You want to work when most businesses are open or when most management — the people who do the hiring — are on duty.

I’d make your shift, something like 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick whatever works for you, but maintain some sort of day shift schedule.

So, get up around 6 or 7 a.m. Take a shower if you didn’t do it the night before. Eat breakfast and drink your coffee — whatever you would do before work. After that shower, dress in something you would not be ashamed to wear in public. You don’t have to dress to the nines or in something that would fit your old employer’s dress code.

But please don’t wear those sweatpants that look like they’ve been eaten by a coyote. Don’t wear that shirt covered in beer and pizza stains. Make sure your drawers aren’t “holier” than the Ark of the Covenant.

Brush your teeth. Fix your hair. Shave. Put on deodorant, for crying out loud. Ladies, put on your makeup.

You want to want to NOT look like warmed over hell for two main reasons. First, looking better gives you a greater feeling of self-esteem, and you need all the confidence you can get. Also, if you make a job-related phone call — and you need to get to an interview right away — you can spend far less time having to primp and stressing about your appearance. You may not even have that time, period!

3. Assemble your arsenal.

The first thing you have to do before you even attempt to look for a job is make sure you have everything within easy grasp. Spend your first unemployment shift doing this.

Make sure you have all of your “paperwork” ready to go. This includes an updated, well-designed resume, cover letters and any needed work samples. Have multiple copies of everything and back up any electronic files on a disk.

Next, have your interview clothes picked out and ready to go. If you pick an outfit you haven’t worn in a while, make sure it still fits. Wash the clothes and keep them clean! Get any shoes, socks, panty hose (for the ladies), even underwear ready!

Here’s the real kicker: Make sure you have more than one outfit ready! You may have to go to an interview one day to be called for another. You don’t want to get THAT call — and find your nicest outfit in the hamper and reeking.

If this isn’t possible because of finances, then make sure to just wash your single interview outfit as soon as you get home with it.

4. Attack!

Immediately begin hitting the online job boards. You may already know of one for your particular profession that is considered “the go-to place”. Most newspaper’s classified ads are also online. Start blanketing anyone and everyone with resumes. You’ll quickly learn e-mail is often your best friend in this case.

You’ll want to check the usual sites like http://www.monster.com/ , but you’ll need to branch out a bit, especially if numerous people in your occupation have been slammed with layoffs. You have to think, “OK, so what else could I do with the degree/training/skills/etc. I have?”

Also, look toward public service. The federal government has a job site available, as do most state governments.

Keep in mind that you should also find temporary employment. A mall is a good one-stop shop for that. Hit all stores up for applications, take them all to the food court, fill them out and drop them off. Because this is only temporary employment, where earnings will be meager, try not to find a workplace that’s too far away from your home.

5. Lunch break!

Sometime in the middle of your day, take a one-hour breather if you can. Fix yourself a cheap lunch, and just chill out. Maybe you can schedule your lunch break around that soap opera with Heroic Shirtless Man 🙂

The workforce gets a lunch break (most of the time). Your new unemployment job should offer the same.

6. Quitting time!

Once the clock strikes 4 p.m., 5 p.m. — whatever… STOP! Yes, stop. Once again, you have to have breathers. Be a relentless pit bull when it’s time to work, but chill out when the “work day” is done. Most of the time, your “brass types” are home by this point. Only break this rule when you know you can pounce on a serious and immediate job prospect at this time.

7. Work it out. Work it off.

As soon as your work day is done, find some way to work out. You don’t have to run three miles or pay for an expensive gym membership. Just do something that involves physical activity. Walking is easy and effective, and it requires no expensive equipment. I’d also recommend doing this outside if the weather permits.

When I was down and out in Florida, I made it a regular point to go the beach when my unemployed work day was done. It was super-relaxing, and the sand provides great resistance.

I highly recommend recommend working out during your unemployment stint for two reasons. First, it’s a great way to decompress and process when you’re stressed to pieces. Second, you’ll get a self-esteem boost when you inevitably drop a few pounds and have an energy boost.

You’ll notice you look and feel better. Your next potential employer will, too.

8. Rest and repeat.

After your workout, come back to home base and do all you would normally do after work. Cook dinner. Tidy up the house. Watch your favorite prime-time show…

Then get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour. You need all the energy you can get to go at it again. Yes, unless the next day is Saturday or Sunday (Give yourself a weekend like the rest of the working world gets.), you should and MUST hit the pavement again.

* * *

Just like unemployment tempts you to watch Shirtless Man and dysfunctional families break chairs over people’s heads during the day, you get tempted to stay up all night watching bad infomercials and the weather forecast in Nova Scotia.

Unemployment’s inevitable “The world can go to hell” feelings you will experience often sometimes gives you a holier-than-thou attitude. You want to do all the things you could never do when you worked like a slave for your employer that dropped you into a seemingly bottomless pit in the end.

But keep in mind that the pit is only bottomless if you let it become that. You must take control of your destiny. You are going to fight the bloodiest battle of your life. There are going to be days when you want to throw in the towel. You will become frustrated and even plain old “mad as hell”. You will cry — a lot.

Despite how many times you find yourself figuratively shot in the face, you have to pull yourself out of the nasty ditch. Get your guns, reload and fight back. Tie that quick, temporary cloth bandage on your wounds and don’t waste time cleaning mud off yourself. Come back determined and with superhuman strength, like those horror movie villains who never die.

Otherwise, those responsible for your horrible situation win. Don’t give them the white flag they want.

Godspeed, soldier.