Monday, January 31, 2011

Beware the employment agency (sorry, serious post)

Ok, this one is not about an FUNemployment adventure or even a frustrated missive about Citibank. But I believe it's key information for the unemployed that must be shared: Beware anyone asking you to fill out an I-9 that's not your new employer (company where you'll actually be working).

Typically, you're asked to fill this form out on your first day of your new job along with a W-2 and various other forms. It means you're on the road to being put on the payroll.

As someone who is FUNemployed and in the hunt for a job, I have submitted my resume for various jobs to companies and recruiters.

I got a call today from what I thought was a recruiter about a job that I'd applied to. We made an appointment to discuss the position and she said she'd send me an email with some paperwork to fill out. When I got the email, I saw that there was an I-9 and a W-2 to fill out. Confused, I asked why I was being required to fill these out prior to interviewing. This is confidential information and I'm not in the habit of providing my social security number (and photocopy of my passport) to anyone with whom I don't have a bank account or a job.

This "recruiter" is actually an employment agency. The problem with employment agencies is that once you fill out this paperwork, you're their employee. Which means you'll get sent out on gigs. But once that gig ends, you may have trouble collecting your unemployment.

As their employee, chances are they'll always have another gig and you'll have no choice but to take it since you'll need to get paid. So you may need to drive to another county or take an assignment in an unrelated field. If you refuse, you may find that the employment agency claims that you've "quit," therefore, jeopardizing and canceling your unemployment claim.

I know that the goal is to get back to work. I'm only writing this to provide some information that you can make an informed decision. If the gig is good enough and there is a strong likelihood that it'll go full time then by all means go ahead. Just think it through. Here is a link to more information:

My stance is that I'll never, ever jeopardize my unemployment for a possibility, especially prior to determining if I'm right for any of their current listings. I give out my phone number and email with abandon but never my social security number. Cause the key word in that name is security. And as far as I'm concerned, there is no security with an employment agency.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ranting and Raving

Ok, so I've been preaching positivity. Most days it works. Before freaking out or racing into negativity, I force myself to find some good in a situation.

Today I'm failing.

In sum, I hate Citibank. Really hate them. I have an account that is really insignificant but my payment is late. I called them to tell them that payment would come tomorrow but they were very unsympathetic. I explained my employment situation and explained that I'd never been late. The first customer service rep rudely asked, "So why is it late now? What's changed? Huh?" I asked to speak with someone else.

Customer Service Rep #2 was just as combative and then asked me if I've been looking for work. Then asked if I was only looking for work that would pay me more than unemployment. Well, duh?! Why would I take a job that paid me less? Wouldn't that be a stupid financial decision especially since I'm having trouble paying my bills as it is? I told him that he should stick to advising on situations related to Citi accounts and avoid career or financial counseling. I look forward to the day when I'm financially stable and I can pay off some Citi accounts and then tell them to go f*ck themselves. In fact, I think I'll call multiple times.

On top of it all, I have shooting pains from my shoulder through my elbow to my wrist. Stupid yoga move on a very cold night caused this injury a week ago and it has made me cranky. I'm walking around like Napoleon to avoid moving it too much. And I haven't been able to do much exercising. Exacerbate crankiness.

At speed dating, the majority of the men were intimidated by me. They'd speak to the woman next to me with swagger and control and would cower in front of me. I followed the Patti Stanger rule of dressing up for the mixer but Jesus, this is LA. My skirt was long in comparison to most and I'm very far from being the best looking girl around. I was the most confident though. In a town full of insecurity, that could be it. If they don't have the balls to look me in the eye, then they don't have the balls to ask me out. Much less handle this. Ugh.

Rant over.

As for the raves? I had two growths removed and biopsied and they are benign (it was touch and go for awhile). So I have my health.

I did the best that I could in an interview yesterday, hopefully it materializes in a job.

My eBay sales appear to be going well.

I won a free admission to a networking cocktail party.

I've fine-tuned the first chapter of the book and have nailed the structure for all subsequent chapters. I can see the finish line.

An adorable baby with a faux-hawk just gave me the biggest smile at the coffee shop.

My hair looks pretty today.

Enough with the proverbial stretching. It hurts my shoulder.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Cheerleader Within

Despite being a blue and gold cheerleader at Bedford Middle School, I can't say too many people would classify me as a cheerleader in life. For many years, I was deeply unhappy and extremely negative. But in my FUNemployment journey, I've been fighting like hell to stay positive. I've been cheering myself on, and increasingly others.

Being positive does not come easily. Everyone has their baggage. Everyone has something bad in their life. There isn't a day that goes by without something to complain about. But everyone has the opportunity to change it.

I find that some negative people think that the world likes to screw them over and so they are owed something because they deserve better. Well, guess what...the world and the universe owe you nothing. You get back what you put out. Because you will always get back what you give. If you're negative, you'll always get negative back. If you complain a lot, you'll get a whole lot more to complain about because the universe thinks you like it. So strive for better. Don't sit around waiting for someone or the universe to give it to you.

I can already hear the objections, "Right. That's easy to say. Clearly you don't understand. I'm different."

Nope. I understand. I've had my bad periods where I feel like things will never get better. I was on antidepressants for years. What's changed for me is that I'm forcing myself to always find the positive in any situation. And it keeps me positive (and medicine free).

I have a job interview on Tuesday for a position that I can honestly say that I really want. In the past, I'd never get anything I really wanted. I always thought I was unlucky. But I've started to think that my own self-doubt and belief that I wasn't worthy did me in. But I have to believe that I not only want this job, but I deserve it. And if I'm the best candidate then I'll get it.

My main message for FUNemployment is to view your layoff as a gift so that you can focus on yourself. The second message is that you have to remain positive. I mean, you can't view it as a gift if you're negative all the time. Like attracts like. So, here's hoping my positivity works for me in my interview tomorrow. I need it desperately. But when I walk in their tomorrow, I'm just going to keep telling myself that I deserve it.

Going back to my cheerleading days, I'm telling myself, "Go, Kerry Go!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Contrary in January

Anything goes when it comes to prose, book writin' ain't easy.

I started writing my book according to the outline in December and in mid-January, I'm hovering at around 42,000 words. The standard length for any book is 75,000 words so I'm more than halfway through.

But I've been faltering. The structure that I created via outline isn't working. I think that subconsciously, I suspected this and this is one of the many reasons why I procrastinated in starting. You see, I hate outlines. It's one thing to plan what you're going to write, but I've ALWAYS deviated from the outline. I find any piece that I'm writing to be a living, breathing entity that change on a dime.

The point of the outline is to determine a structure. Like an architect creating a plan for a building. The problem is, I'm like an architect without training. And as I've gotten into the writing, the strengths of the content don't lend itself to sustaining the original outline.

After speaking to one of my oldest and dearest friends (that's you Amanda), we talked about it a bit and she gave me the opportunity to talk through some of the options. Yesterday, I went to the coffee shop and started restructuring. It'll be more of a narrative, focusing on my story in a chronological format instead of splitting up FUNemployment into sections like "Exercise" or "Activities." At least that's where I stand now.

You see, I'm a decent writer, but I'm a great editor. I'm stronger at shaping work than I am at writing it. So, what I really need right now I'm going to try and turn off "Writer Kerry" and turn on "Editor Kerry" in order to read my own work as if it were someone else's. Let the hacking begin.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Interpretations and Perspectives

"Does that dolphin have a teddy bear in his mouth?"

"No. It's a fireman spraying a lot of water on a fire. But only after he cut his arm off."

Two completely different interpretations of a watercolor painting. I guessed it was a dolphin. The artist corrected me, and explained his more violent vision. Scary, especially considering that the artist is an 8 year old boy. 

The artist is in the hospital and has tubes coming from his nose. I don't know why he's there but I do know that he's been there for a month. 

Over the course of our afternoon, he painted five paintings. Each and every one of them included something violent. There were guns, grenades, fights between men (one stole the other's girlfriend) and blood. As he'd explain each painting to us, it was clear that he has an amazing imagination. The way that he told the stories was so colorful that I couldn't help but smile (although the content at times made me shudder). I'm uncertain as to the origin of his violent vision. Whether it's from home or from being poked and prodded in a hospital, it's definitely more graphic and bloody than it should be.

Yesterday morning, I'd considered canceling my volunteer session. I was stressed out about needing to edit the book and/or study for the interview that I have this morning. There is nothing like spending the afternoon with an ill child to put things into perspective. Worries about getting a job...about being able to write a cohesive book...about finding a decent man before menopause...all fade away when I realize that I have my health and relatively violent-free imagination. 

I'm a lot luckier than my young friend. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Weekend of Firsts

As I sum up the first full weekend of 2011, I'm proud to say I only went to places that were completely new to me (with the exception of the Coffee Bean).

First up, I went to LACMA on Friday evening (it's free for LA County residents after 5pm on M, T, Th & F). I saw the European dress exhibition which was fascinating for someone who loves clothes as much as I do. Then I hit up an art gallery opening sponsored by Funny or Die and showcasing artwork by 100 artists depicting comedians. Located in Hollywood, there were quite a few sitcom stars there...but more importantly, cool art and free drinks.

Afterwards, we went to The Varnish, a hidden speakeasy in Downtown LA. I had the London Fog, a drink made of gin, absinthe and some other ingredients. I can never turn down absinthe. It's a fun little spot...once you find it.

On Saturday, I had my first class at Liberation Yoga for Vinyasa Flow (first class is free!). As I was waiting for the start of class and day dreaming by looking out the window, I saw John Mayer. With a red bandana tied around his head like Axel Rose or Bret Michaels and huge Ray Bans, he looked dirty and sleazy. We made eye contact. I rolled my eyes at him. I did it on behalf of women everywhere.

After returning home, I got ready for a night out at Venice Beach Wines. A really cute little spot, the crowd is great and the choice of food and drink is amazing. We spoke with some gentlemen for some time. The one who liked me most had quite a bit of negative energy. He criticized everything and when I explained my book idea upon his request, he completely slammed it. I remained calm but certainly didn't take any of his words to heart. And I definitely didn't give him my number.

Lastly, I watched the Eagles/Packers game at Goal, a sports bar in W. H'wood. I'd never been. Not sure I can say that I'd go again, but it was good to be surrounded by diehard fans. I'm a Giants fan, so I couldn't root for the Eagles and the Packers are the ones who knocked the Giants out of the wildcard "I didn't have a dog in this fight." Or at least that's what I said when I was asked. Then I remembered that Vick (Eagles' QB) went to prison for dog fighting. A most definite unfortunate choice of phrasing.

Overall, a great, action-packed weekend. I didn't get any writing done but like anyone with a full-time job (mine's book writing for now), I decided to have a fun weekend. Besides, I'm always mining for content. Looking forward to hitting the book full speed tomorrow. Only 35,000 words to go!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011: A Progress Report

Ok, I know it's early in the year to do a progress report. But I'm an overachiever and I like to tally my achievements.

1. Bike riding: I have done nothing with this, but on this week's Modern Family, Gloria (Sofia Vergara) doesn't know how to ride a bike. And a very smart, talented friend also confessed to me that she doesn't know how to ride a bike. So I'm not a lone freak.  I feel even more determined to conquer this two-wheeled demon.

2. Fitness: While this wasn't specifically stated as a goal of 2011, it's always there. I've done yoga 4 out of the 6 days of this year and have run 2 miles the past 2 days in a row (in addition to the yoga.) I feel strong and clear. In fact, taking a less strenuous yoga class stretches me out and warms me up so that I feel better when I soon as I get home. Carb baby around my middle, prepare to be aborted (questionable word choice).

3. The Book: Admittedly, I was struggling. I didn't feel confident or that I even had enough material to write 70,000-75,000 words. As of tonight, I'm at 33,000 words. I wrote 5,000 words today after reading the first five chapters. I actually like what I've done. It's representative of my voice and quirky personality. And it's funny. So I'm going to keep pushing through. I finally feel motivated, instead of dread. Like my yoga strategy, the more I write, the easier it flows.

4. Job: No progress here other than I've been applying like a lunatic. But I feel 100% confident that I will get a job soon. There's no stopping me.

In high school, my gym teacher, Coach Hall, always gave me the same comment on my progress report: "Is a gem; always sparkling." Not exactly ideal for gym class, but I think it's fitting for the way I feel so far in 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Just Do It

Happy 2011! I've been reflecting on my goals for the new year and my number 1 is to get a job. But I've added to my FUNemployment list. Sky diving, world travel, hot air ballooning, finishing my first book and brunch at the Polo Lounge are all new items.

My new mantras will be to Just Do It and to Trust My Gut. Until this year, I've thought too much, overprocessed, analyzed and weighed options way too much. My rationalizations often override my gut and it never really goes well. So, my hopes are to simply just go with my instincts, which brings me to a new addition to the list: Learn to Ride A Bike.

Not fabulous. Actually kind of weird, right? As a kid, I tried to learn how to ride a bike but was never able to master it (without training wheels). It wasn't the bike, my ability or lack of my parents helping me. It was my fear.

As a kid, I was very careful and afraid to fall, skin my knee or get my dress dirty. I was protected but I also never rode a bike.

Granted, not trying means you won't get hurt, you won't fail and you won't get dirty. But you'll also never succeed, feel joy or soar. You'll just stay where you are, petrified of change, slowly sinking into quick sand.

I used to live in stasis before I lost my job. I hated my life but was too afraid (and exhausted) to make any changes. This whole journey has really been about overcoming a lot of my fears. I need to stop being my own obstacle and worst enemy. I've succeeded in many areas, most in my comfort zone (thinking and cognitive related activities). But now it's time to take it back to basics. Old skool. Smash that fear from where it began.

I declare 2011 the year of the bike. Who's with me?