Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Address for Stuff

Hello friends! Stuff has moved to the address below:

Please check it out! I'm always looking for feedback and interested in your opinions. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Adventures in Unemployment

Being unemployed has thought me a few things so far. You have to tread carefully in two minefields: Unemployment Benefits and Social Situations. Here are a few pointers I have learned to cope:
1.       Navigation of UI Benefits - Money can magically appear in your checking account!
Be Honest
When you register you have to provide a lot of information that they will use to determine your eligibility and weekly benefit amount. Everything is verified with your former employer so this will require some work on your part to find out what you salary and bonus figures were, in addition to any severance payments. Your previous employer should also pay you for any accrued PTO, which is not the same as severance so it’s important to know these numbers to avoid an "investigation".
Keep Records – “Work-Search Contacts”
As a prerequisite to receiving benefits you’re required to make a certain amount of work search contacts each week. This is not a physical encounter, or even a bilateral encounter. It can be anything from submitting an application to attending an event.  You don’t have to interact with another person, physically, electronically, technically etc… Keep a log of this because you have to re-apply for benefits every 2 weeks and you can be audited. I have a journal of my work search contacts, and I’ve actually enjoyed keeping it. Whenever I feel like I’m not doing enough, I can look through the journal, calm down, and realize that I’m obsessively looking for work.
Waiting Week
Where’s my $$$! You will not receive any cash from Uncle Sam (or Big Tex in my case since my benefits come from the State of Texas) so hopefully you got some severance.  I imagine this week is very stressful for those who are not shacking up with their gainfully employed boyfriend. If you’re approved for benefits, your first week’s pay will be held until you have received 3 weeks of benefits.  The logic isn’t there but it works, on week 3 I got an extra week's pay. Cha CHING!
Milk It
Who doesn’t have sympathy for the recently laid off? In this economy it’s a scary prospect to be out of work and most people are very sensitive to that.  My advice is to milk it.  Let it be known that you were popped and soak up the benefits. I have gotten free parking, reduced bar tabs, and other courtesies.  It sounds bad, but I would and have extended the same kindness to the laid off, chronically laid off, and serial laid off. It’s my turn!
2.       Navigate Friends and Social Situations
Treatment of “Favors”
When you suddenly have a lot of free time on your hands the favor requests start to pour in.  This is counterintuitive because since I've been laid off I've been busier than before trying to find a job, applying for benefits, moving my 401k, researching healthcare plans, etc... But, you will be asked to take care of some favors for friends and family and they can add up if you're not careful.  I’m awful at this. I say do as many favors as possible because when you have the time and ability to help you should take advantage of this opportunity.  It’s a gift to be able to help someone and that shouldn’t be taken for granted. However, some people are lazy and opportunistic.  If you have requests from the later it’s convenient to have “a call”, or “interview”… doesn’t have to be real. But it is really important that you have plenty of time for your job search.  Some applications can take hours and follow-up emails and calls add up. Just say no...
Avoid Fake Sympathy
The overly sympathetic friend or acquaintance can enrage an unemployed person such as myself.  The best way to avoid this is to not make eye contact and smile a lot. When you’re in the presence of a “sympathetic ear” make sure you have plenty of things to talk about and questions for that person that are about them. I find these people are typically also very interested in themselves and/or gossipy.  While looking for the nearest exit, direct the conversation towards them and seem happy so that when they go off gossiping to the next person they will tell them that you seem to be doing well. Run for the exit.
Navigate Social Situations
Socializing can be brutal for the unemployed. Because, who wants to talk about what could have been, what job you’re chasing, the recently returned email/glimmer of hope, the latest job rejection, or how you have been “staying busy”. All of these things make me SICK. One solution is to arrive late. I find that if you’re late, the conversations are already going and you can just join in unnoticed. Also, if you’re a girl, don’t go to the bathroom with other girls. That’s when they will get you in the corner and talk slowly, at a slightly higher interval with tilt their heads tilted just a bit in sympathy. These type of girls are probably not interested in having a career, or have never had a job or responsibilities. Make sure your bathroom visits are alone to avoid the awkwardness.
Socializing, however, is so important for the unemployed because it is the best way to market yourself and make some “work search contacts”.  If there is a professional event, or a social outing (happy hour, birthdays of friends or colleagues), I try to use it as an opportunity to meet new people and let them know that I’m looking for work. It’s really surprising how eager to help strangers and new acquaintances can be.
This short list helps me manage the day-to day with the least amount of angst and frustration. Once you master it you can live off the government and enjoy sweet alone-time! Now back to the job boards.

Monday, October 24, 2011

anne got canned

I'm watching Food Network, cuddled up with Ginger and McGinnis.

Just kidding! I'm looking for jobs. I need a job, until my blog hits it big. I can't wait to push the "monetize" button on the blogspot dashboard and see the cash flood in. Alas, the blog is not ready for prime time! And thanks to generous tax payers and Congress' fortitude I can ride this out for 99 weeks.

When I got canned, 2 days later I went to Cayman, for a fabulous vacation. It was made a little less fabulous by newly introduced budget constraints but it was very nice to get away and decompose. Also, how many times in your adult life can you go on vacation and not have to think about the pile of work that is accumulating for you back at home? 

Before I left town, I wanted to be sure to say goodbye to my former colleagues that I knew I would miss.  This was really important to me and I am so glad I did it. When you get laid off, you are escorted out of the building and there are no goodbyes. You just leave quietly and then people begin to notice that your cube has been empty for a while and all of your things are gone... and there were layoffs today... and... yeah, where's Annie?

Although I had emailed or texted all of my friends at work that were close a few hours after the rif, I decided to have a "retirement party" happy hour at my favorite bar. I invited all of my former colleagues that I knew would be supportive and help me find my next job.  I was worried that it would be difficult to see everyone but I was really happy.  Everyone was very kind and understanding. The guy I sat next to at my first job stopped by. It was an unusual mix but overall I think it worked out and made me feel much better about leaving. 

Since I worked by myself in my former role I didn't have a team, but I had my own little team throughout the organization that I had worked with for different projects. In the days and weeks after the rif, I received calls and emails from colleagues at offices in New York and Chicago.  The amount of support was greater than I could ever have anticipated.  So many people looking to help me.

And I'm not too proud for help. I told the concierge at my apartment building about the layoff and the next evening he had 2 email addresses from people in the building that work in finance and are willing to help.  I don't even know these neighbors but when I emailed them they passed along my resume. Being laid off has also gotten me free parking and reduced bar tabs. It's been 1 month, and I'm very confident that I will be okay because of the help and support from friends, family, colleagues and strangers. 

Back to the job boards! Have a great week everyone.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone)

Do you love fluffy babies??

I mean do you REALLY, LUUUV them?

Do you want to squeeze them? Roll around on the ground and frolic with them?

Do you love their fluffy faces and how their ears can tell stories?

Do you put funny hats on them, and name them after your grandfather??


I love the fluffy babies! All of them. If they’re fluffy, I want to take them home. But sometimes at home, the fluffy baby turns into a fluffy monster that you want to strangle. It’s amazing how the cuteness turns to evil like your life is a big joke.

I’ve been spending lots of time with the 4 legged friends lately because I’m unemployed. Additionally, we just moved into a new apartment, and can you believe it Fluffy Ginger had a hard time adapting!? She was constantly anxious, panting all the time, barking at any noise from the hallway and being unbearably possessive.  Then she started acting out. If M was at home and not paying attention to her then she would pee in the apartment. I had upped the number of walks per day to a minimum of 4, hoping that it would help calm her and reduce the accidents.  She was mean in the dog park, challenging any dog that came near me or McGinnis.

Then we went to the vet, and got the DAP collar. AAAHHH. The DAP collar emits a pheromone that puppies get from their mother when they are young to calm them down.  DAP comes in collar form and diffuser. We got both. But, I cannot recommend the collar enough. It’s a constant damper on Ginger’s shenanigans.  It’s not like she is lethargic or doesn’t play; rather, she no longer has the psyco-edge that makes you leave the dog park early because your golden retriever attacks any dog that comes near you. We use the diffuser at home, but before we got the collar we didn’t get the results because she would go right back to her neuroticness outside of the apartment. Any proud fluffy baby owner wants to take their pooch everywhere so the collar is really the way to go for us. Also, we have to consider McGinnis (who is always laid-back), too much DAP for him and we would have to check his pulse!

Behold! DAP-ed out calm submissive Fluffy Ginger!

I love DAP, I want to buy it in bulk and hand out collars at the dog park to other desperate fluffy baby lovers.

Yeah, so now that that is taken care of, we think McGinnis may have a UTI… is there a collar for that???

Friday, October 14, 2011


Axed, popped, canned, shit canned, laid…off. It’s the white collar death sentence.  In this economy with unemployment exceeding 9% nationally for 3 years having a job is quite the accomplishment.  I read somewhere that only half of college graduates since 2006 have jobs, and now I have joined the unfortunate half.

Because my blog is a happy place, I haven’t been able to write for some time. While I do express various frustrations here, it’s all part of loving everything, all of the stuff in life.  The frustrations and challenges keep it real and give us inspiration for making or doing something better or different.  When you get laid off , these basic premises of life are more difficult to discern and balance.  For example, the “lay off” or “rif” is carried out in a very meticulous and strategic way.  There is a script, and no matter how much you think you know the person you work for, the HR people, and any of the leadership the ONLY thing they can say to you is: “It was a business decision”.  Here is a little dialogue from when I was canned.

Boss: “We had to make a tough business decision to reduce staff, and your position was selected to be eliminated”.
Me: “Okay, I understand that. What about other positions that are open at the firm, we have a few online that I feel I would be qualified for, and I already know the business well so it would be an easy transition.”
HR Person: “We made an announcement to reduce staff, and we have made a business decision to eliminate your position”
Me: “I understand that, however I’ve been approached by other department leaders that wanted to hire me because I have a good reputation at the firm, I’m licensed, and can work in different areas.  If I would have known that my position would be eliminated, I would have taken any of these jobs, even at a reduced salary.  I really don’t want to be unemployed right now.”
Boss: “Your work was great, but with the recent announcements to sell assets etc… we do not need your department… I’m not good at this HR Person is better at explaining these things.”
HR Person, (who is very nice, but doesn’t know anything about my job, and would have to go back to school to understand it):  “Yes, it’s not a reflection on you, this was a BUSINESS DECISION, we regret to let you go.  We have prepared a severance package that I would like to explain to you now.”
Me: “Okay, let’s take a look.”
HR Person: “Blah blah balh, severance agreement, Blah Blah, Balh COBRA, Blah Blah Blah Blah, move your 401K, blah blha Business Decision, blah blah, outplacement firm…”
Boss:  "I’ll wait to escort you out of the building.,”
Me: Thanks, I’ll be quick.
In the next room, a very kind small guy waits to “counsel” me about what just happened. I enter the room:
Outplacement firm guy: "Hello, my name is “Bill”, I’m here to help you.”
Me: “Thanks Bill, I don’t have much time to talk right now and I have a lot on my mind so can we reschedule?”
Bill: “Sure, I would be glad to talk to you, did you know you were getting laid off?”
Me (not wanting to admit my formerly-irrational fear of getting laid off): “No, but I have been looking since August for a better place to work.”
Bill: “I understand, you need to work for a company that is growing and I have some in mind that we can talk about when you’re ready.  Here is a folder with some information. We would like for you to come in soon to get started.”
Me: “Thanks Bill.”
Outiside HR Person and Boss are waiting.  I go over to my cube and Boss is apologizing again and again, but it’s too late for me. If he really wanted to help his chance was weeks ago. I packed up my things while he waited, and asked him to give various items to other people around the office.

Then we went outside and I stuck around for a bit while he had a cigarette.  He didn’t even offer me one. It would have been the perfect way to finish the layoff in style! Rather, a few other smokers from work came out, and in order not to make this situation any more awkward I decided to leave.

So yeah, it was a “Business Decision”. Boss, did any of your happy hour buddies get rif-ed?

I’m not upset with Boss, I’m upset with myself for getting into this situation. I should have hustled, and gotten into a more secure position. Instead, I was trusting and hoping that since Boss never mentioned anything negative, that I was doing a good job. The truth that I learned is that he was avoiding me because he could never fire a friend. Being nice and popular is important to him. While I consider myself to be nice and popular, it’s not because I try to be nice or popular.  Rather, I try to be kind and honest.  You can be kind while delivering bad news, which is necessary sometimes when you’re honest.  People who don’t tell the truth, don’t like to hear it. Reduction in Force (past tense)

SO, for those of you that know me personally, I was treated very well by my previous employer and I hope that things will get better for them, and trust that they are taking the steps necessary to right the ship!  Ahoy!

That is my lay-off story.   I will try to write more frequently for my supportive and beautiful audience (Lacey and Chelsea are the best!).  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Operation Twist

Come on baby, let’s do the twist!!… at the Fed.

I’ve nearly stopped listening to the Fed because Ben Bernanke’s beard creeps me out.  It’s bigger than his face, and he is so unanimated when he speaks you find yourself focusing in on the beard, it’s many hues of brown, black grey and white… Eww… it’s just gross.  It reminds me of the Family Guy episode where a bird nests in Peter’s beard and he has to leave it there because it’s endangered.  I feel like if I pay close attention, I will see something come out the beard (other than QE shenanigans and boring nonsense… blah blah blah… OMG there’s a baby kangroo!) Only lumberjacks or Canadians should have beards like that.  AND, it never goes away, it’s not a seasonal beard.  I’m pretty sure he was born with that beard.

Let me break down the Fed announcement process in pictures:

Ominous Fed

Ominous beard

Redbeard (Arrgh me hopes no one missed the official talk like a pirate day on Sept 19!)

Operation Twist
So the latest in monetary policy is the Operation Twist. The Fed has proposed selling short term bonds and using the proceeds to purchase long term bonds (7 to 12 years).  This will bend the yield curve and serve to reduce long term interest rates.  This is different than the quantitative easing over the past 3 years that has focused mostly on keeping short term interest rates low.  No one expects it to have a significant impact, it could make it easier to borrow for longer terms.  I doubt I will even notice if it eventually takes place.  The only “stimulus” that has directly impacted me was Obama’s payroll tax holiday, the 2% off the 6.2% we pay to Social Security (your employer pays 6.2% on your behalf as well).  That will expire at the end of the year.  I didn’t really consider it a “stimulus” as it was basically letting me keep $$ that “theoretically” should come back to me in retirement.   But I live hard and fast so I don’t plan on collecting much social security anyways.  Not to mention in my annual statement from the Social Security Administration they remind me that I should only expect to collect 66% of what I put in.  As such, I’m planning to live 44% less.

Maybe I’m getting old, or didn’t pay attention until recently, but I feel like “back in the day” when the Fed made an announcement some people listened and cared.  Now, it’s almost like the Fed is another political party, and when there is an announcement we just get slathered with another layer of pandering and more beards.  When Ben Bernanke did a press conference back in April (the first in the Fed’s history) it was hyped like a super bowl.  I didn’t see any cheer leaders for the beard.   The best thing the Fed has done recently was when they warned Congress about their approach to the national debt and insinuated (the Fed never actually says anything) that they are responsible for much of the uncertainty that could be holding the economy down. I agree with Beardnanke on that front.   In the future when we look back on the financial crisis and the “great recession” I don’t think anyone will say “we didn’t have enough monetary policy support, that would have been the difference maker!”.  In fact, the Fed is running out of ways to fulfilling its full-employment mandate without violating the other half of its mandate: price stability.

QE1, QE2, now the twist.  Ben, if you really want to make a difference in the economy get rid of your beard!  Investors will not know what to do but the optimism created from not having to look at it on CNBC may spill over into other parts of the economy and people will be more willing to open up their wallets!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Long time, no blog

Producing a high quality blog such as mine is not easy!  Especially when you’re coordinating an apartment move with 2 guys and 2 dogs (my ambiguous living situation).  When I started this blog I was hoping it would generate a snowball effect of creativity and motivation that would build and the blog would grow with awesome content and some of the creativity and motivation would overflow into other parts of my life and everything would get better and better.  The reality is that blogging is a commitment.  It’s fulfilling, but you only get out what you put in!  I have a much greater appreciation for the really awesome blogs that I like to read and the ones my friends have created. 

Community tables.  I grew up with tons of people pretty much everywhere.  Privacy was a joke, and closed doors and locks were not allowed.  As such, I’m no stranger to communal tables.  They’re quite unusual in Dallas, but since I go to all the trendy restaurants we are encountering them more frequently.  Communal tables are more common in Europe because they don’t have the space and freedom we enjoy in Texas.  I used to go to the cafeteria at Manor (a Swiss department store and grocer) and sit at the communal tables during lunch or for a snack after getting some groceries and try to eavesdrop on the people talking around me to improve my language skills.  The conversations were always very interesting because my understanding was a synthesis of amateur Italian skills and a huge imagination.

Bolsa. Last weekend we went to Bolsa, actually it probably wasn’t the weekend, I think it was Thursday.  The weather has been so beautiful lately that we wanted to eat local organic food on a patio with some wine: Bolsa’s specialty.  When we arrived the hostess told us we would have to wait 20 minutes for a spot on the patio or we could be seated now at a communal table.  I was intrigued. I wanted to shout out Yes! that is the table for us.  We will gladly break bread with strangers!  However, my main man M is not the communal table type unless it’s with a bunch of dogs or computers. Small talk with strangers is painfully brutal for M; conversations are a practicality in his world. It was best to leave this decision to him.  
Meanwhile, I’m quietly wondering, “who will it be?”, ”what will they be eating?”, “will they be older or younger than me”, “what if it’s a special occasion”, “am I dressed appropriately to meet what could be our new BFFs?” “will they like me!?”

And then M responded to the hostess “We’ll take the communal table”. 

I was shocked! But M is a smart guy so he probably knew I was excited by the prospect of a communal table.

When we sat down both M and I were delighted to find out that we would dine with a group of 5 ladies having a girl’s night out and celebrating a birthday! FUN.  Order the wine.

Okay I was the only one excited by this.  M was disquieted by the two kids at the table, adorable girls between the ages of 5 and 7?? (I’m horrible at guessing the age of children). 

We enjoyed a delicious dinner starting with a cheese plate.  Always get the cheese plate at Bolsa.  They use local artisan cheese and usually feature at least one cheese that is made in-house by the chef.  That evening, the in-house cheese was my favorite.  It was blue cheese with vegetable mash.  Also, at Bolsa they don’t skimp on the fruit and nut selection on the cheese plate.  What is more frustrating than running out of accompaniments on your cheese plate?? Our communal table birthday partiers had the flatbread.  Not a bad choice either but I prefer the cheese plate.

For our entrees I had the redfish with bok choy and M had a double size order of the skirt steak (it only comes with 4 ounces for a regular order).  We agreed that the redfish was the right choice because it had a Louisiana-style spicy sauce that was different and tasty. Caveat, it was a little too salty for my taste.  Our neighbors shared some small plates and got the roasted chicken to share, which was a contender for my selection but I was satisfied with my choice (no food envy).

Then came the b-day celebration at the other end of the table! I sang along and M tried to act like he didn’t notice.

The b-day celebration inspired me to get some desserts – take out.  Bolsa has awesome desserts and 2 that feature bananas, a welcome addition to any dessert in my opinion.  We got the banana cake to-go and the white chocolate rum tile.  The banana cake was like a very moist banana flavored spice cake with cream cheese icing that seemed whipped.  It was light and delicious.  Our neighbors had it for the b-day cake.  The tile is one of our favs, I gotta have it!.  The crust is crushed vanilla wafers, the middle is some delicious miracle of white chocolate cheesecake type stuff, and it’s topped with bruleed bananas and toffee sauce. YUum! I love dessert with bananas. soo good.  I’ve included a pic below to enhance my blog.  This pic came from the internet because I got my tile to-go that evening and devoured it before I could snap a pic.

At the end of the night I had to tell the ladies how lovely their 2 daughters are and that we were glad to have chosen the communal table.  They laughed and responded that their decision to take the communal table was based on the idea that no one would want to sit with a bunch of ladies and kids, so they thought they would have the place to themselves.  Dallas is a city that is spread out.  Despite all the southern hospitality and friendliness it can feel lonely here.  We all have cars and it’s very easy to go about your life without any interaction with strangers (which is probably why M moved here).  However, sharing an evening with 5 strangers was an enriching experience that made Thursday (or whatever day it was) a little different and a lot of fun.

Here is a picture of our community table (I tried to be discreet with the camera, so I couldn’t get all of the ladies in the shot, but doesn't that cheese plate look divine!):