Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<





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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?


"50 First Dates"






Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
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or Search by State

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Contact The Media
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Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)

Quasar
Hyperbole
Amenable
Taciturn
Ennui
Prophetic
Tawdry
Hubris
Ethereal
Syzygy
Umbrageous
Twerp
Sluice
Omnipotent
Sanctuary
Malevolent
Maelstrom
Luddite
Subterfuge
Akimbo
Hoosegow
Dodecahedron
Visceral
Soupçon
Truculent
Vitriol
Mercurial
Kerfuffle
Sangfroid




























 







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Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue

Slanglish

It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations


Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"


















 
Mail Trillian here





Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)

CellStories

Alliance for the Great Lakes


Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras


The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.



Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.

Shag

Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto

Jotto




Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.





Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"







Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


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Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains





























Life(?) of Trillian
Single/Zero

 
Friday, April 02, 2010  
Word for the day is: Twerp.

I know. I know. When was the last time you heard that term? I know.

I met a twerp yesterday. That's what made me think of the word. He's a guy at my mortgage company. I looking for info about mortgage assistant for unemployed people and couldn't find information on my mortgage company's web site and the hold times on their phone lines is 1 - 2 hours. So I just trotted off to a local branch.

Heh heh.

Yeah.

Possibly there will be more info available on Monday. That's the bottom line of my visit.

However I met a twerp. A rude, know-it-all, condescending, stuffy-pants. A twerp. I walked away from the experience thinking, "I just need some information from my mortgage company. You'd think a trip to their branch office would help me get at least a few answers, and maybe even some useful information and instead I'm walking out of here with no answers, no information and feeling like crap about myself because a rude, know-it-all, condescending, stuffy pants made snide comments about me being unemployed and my choice of profession."

"What do you do for a living?"

"I'm on the creative side of advertising. Art/Creative director."

"Oh. I see. Are you re-training? You'll never find a real job again. Creative jobs are a luxury, they're just hobbies. You need a viable career that will pay your mortgage."

"I, um, yeah, well, I didn't come here looking for career advice. I just need some info on the mortgage assistance for the unemployed."

"It'll only be a short term situation. You need to learn real job skills for long term solutions to your financial problems. I suppose you're don't have math skills."

This wasn't a question, it was a presumed statement of fact.

"Erm, well, it's not my strong suit, but I'm great with a calculator and I'm really good at problem solving, like physics and geometry kind of math."

"We have a teller position open. It doesn't require physics or geometry. It requires real math skills."

"Like I said, I'm good with a calculator, I'm friendly and customer service oriented and I'm super trustworthy, very honest, a Girl Scout and everything."

Wait. How did this go from me seeking info about mortgage assistance to me sweating out answers for a job interview as a financial company teller?

What the...???

Oh, right. He's a condescending, know-it-all, stuffy-pants who works at a mortgage company and he harbors a lot of disdain, contempt and judgment for people who are not similarly professionally occupied.

How do I know this? Because he said, "I don't often approve mortgages for creative people. They're unreliable. A risk. But since someone approved you and you've paid your mortgage for three years, you might be able to prolong your foreclosure but we won't have information until after Friday. Good day, madam."

Yes. He actually said, "Good day, madam."

I know, you're thinking, "Ask for the manager! Report him!"

Heh heh heh. Turns out he is the manager.

And a twerp.

I don't like to go around calling people names. But. I thought it was interesting that I encountered an actual twerp. I'm not sure I've honestly ever met one so it was, you know, kind of an experience.

I gave him a Snuggie® of compassion and left.

9:30 AM

Wednesday, March 31, 2010  
Dear Trill,
I have a friend who's been unemployed for over a year. She's depressed and sad and miserable. I'm not sure what I should or can do for her. I don't know if I should try to talk to her about what she's going through or if that would just make her embarrassed and more depressed. But avoiding the topic altogether, when it's obviously consuming her, seems like we're not talking about the elephant in the room. I don't want to upset my friend or do or say the wrong thing, but I don't know how she feels because I've never been unemployed so I don't know how best to handle her. You're unemployed, any suggestions or advice?


Ahhh, yes. I hear this a lot. Just the other day I heard one side of a cell phone conversation. "I don't know what to do for him. His severance will be gone with his next rent check. I don't have a lot of money, I can't help him with his rent. I hope he finds a job right away but that's not realistic...I feel horrible for him, I don't know what to do."

Yes. Unemployment is depressing. And scary. And sad. And a lot of other difficult emotions.

And it's also very isolating.

First and foremost, don't avoid your unemployed friends and family. It might seem like they're sending "leave me alone, I need some space" signals. And, you know, sometimes that's the honest case. There are very bad days when you're unemployed. Depressed days when you're full of despair and fear. Most of us unemployed people recognize these days for what they are: Bad days. When I have one, I know I'm a miserable, sad, horrible bore and yes, I prefer to be left alone mainly because I'm having a moment, a day consumed with "my situation." I combat those days by turning up the job hunt dial to 11. I force myself to turn over new possible employment stones and dig deeper into job postings and networking possibilities.

But during that day I really do need to a) be alone, b) work out my emotions in my own way, on my own time, c) focus on what I need to do to change the situation, and yes, sometimes d) wallow in it. BUT, that's just that day. Just because I have a day now and then where I'm funky and need/want to be left alone doesn't mean that's the new status quo.

Here's what happens when friends misunderstand that. They seem to think that's it, forever and always, until I find a job, they should avoid me because I'm in a bad mood and I'm sending the "leave me alone" signals.

Don't do that. Don't think that. Your unemployed friend is still your friend, still the same person they were when they were employed. Don't lose sight of that. I often feel that I'm nothing more than a statistic, a casualty of a zeitgeistic malady. And that was before I was unemployed. Add being laid off to my life and that brings the sense that I'm just a number to the fore. There's a lot more to me than unemployment. Yes. Unemployment is all consuming - I have very little money, I'm struggling to keep a roof over my head, and I'm no closer to finding a job than I was when I walked out the door of my former employer the day I was laid off. It sucks and it impacts every aspect of my life. Duh. Of course. But. Under all of that I'm still me.

And.

On those long, sad, petrified nights when I can't sleep and I'm wracked with sobs of despair and I think, "I'm a loser, I'm going to lose everything," even in that horrible moment, I rationalize with myself, "Whoa. Easy there, you will not lose everything. You have your family and your friends." It's a trite platitude that I would never in a million years attempt to console someone with, but, funnily enough I do find comfort in it. When I take a deep breath and remind myself that yes, I have my family and friends, I feel "better," at least slightly less alone, less panicked.

That's why it's very important that you don't avoid your unemployed friends altogether. They're just going through something really awful. Your patience and understanding do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Unemployment catapults people into situations and emotions the scope and depth of which they've probably never encountered. They're going to have bad days. And they might lash out at you either with snarky "Oh please, what do you know about being unemployed?" comments or with more angry and direct attacks. Even if the unemployed friend doesn't come out and say the snarky or angry comments, everyone knows they're just under the surface.

I prefer to be around positive people and do my best to avoid negative people - or at least wrap them in Snuggies of compassion. Yes. I have a natural sarcastic streak. And I try very hard to keep it on a short leash. But, there's a difference between sarcasm and cynicism. And as Conan famously imparted, cynical people are miserable people. I prefer compassion and sympathy for all, but over the past 10 years or so I've learned that a lot of negative, cynical people are not only bitter and angry, they're very, very selfish and self involved. I'm not. So I have worked very hard at distancing myself from negative people. Not that I don't care about them, but, I don't want to be co-dependant in their negativity. I'm no Pollyanna, but, I do try to be positive, roll with the situation and make the best of it. That which doesn't kill us and all that. Right now, in my situation, it's difficult for me to make the best of it because there is no best of it.

And it bothers me that some days I struggle to stay positive. I know the best assets I have, the tools that will help me survive this, are a positive attitude and open mind. But some days...some days are just...difficult. I know I probably come off as very negative and that bothers me. I'm not a negative person and I don't want to become one. And I don't want to burden my friends and family with my negative days. It's not me, it's not who or how I am and I don't want anyone to see me when I'm in that kind of mood. I'm struggling with it; I certainly don't want to make my friends and family struggle with it.

It's scary, okay? Being unemployed is scary. Really scary. The best thing you can do for your unemployed friend is know that. Understand that from the moment you're laid off fear becomes omnipresent in every aspect of life. Your unemployed friends are depressed, confused, frustrated, sad...and scared. Really, really scared.

A crisis does bring out the worst in people, but it also brings out the best. My friends are proof of that. Some are "handling" me really well, they've been surprisingly spectacular. People I never thought I could count on for anything have been incredibly supportive and helpful. People I thought would always be there for me are either avoiding me like the plague or say and do things that are insensitive and, well, just kind of mean. Probably out of ignorance, but still...it is surprising to see how different people react in these kinds of situations.

Okay. So.

You have an unemployed friend.

You don't know what to say to them.

I have a friend who starts sentences with a disclaimer, "I know I have no idea what it's like to be in your situation..." The fact that she acknowledges her ignorance right up front is good. Do that.

But what you say after that acknowledgement should be contained within that fact. No getting up on a high horse or judging or presuming you can fix everything. Avoid the phrases, "You need..." and "you should..." Strike them from your vocabulary. When you say, "You need..." or "You should..." your unemployed friend internally rolls their eyes and thinks, "You're going to tell me what I need/should do? Honey, I need to pay my mortgage and should eat something at least once a day, that's what I need and should do but it's getting tougher just to survive, you have no idea how close I am to being homeless or that I ration food because I can't always afford groceries, and you're going to blow in here and tell me what I should or need to do?"

Appropriate: "I know I have no idea what it's like to be in your situation...and I doubt I have any practical solutions or ideas that you haven't already pursued...but if you want to brainstorm or bounce ideas around, let's give it a try. Drinks are on me."

Inappropriate: "I know I have no idea what it's like to be in your situation...but why don't you try one of those professional networking sites, I saw that on Oprah!, a woman found a great new career just by chatting with some people online, she's super happy and making more money than ever, losing her job was the best thing that happened to her, she found her passion, she had her a-ha moment, that's what you need to do, find your passion. You should do more networking."

Both of those conversations were ripped from a dialogs I had with friends. The inappropriate example was from a friend who quit her job when she got married and hasn't worked in over 10 years. Before that she worked for her father's company. She doesn't know anything about being unemployed, or for that matter, looking for a job. She annoyed the crap out of me and didn't solve anything except to further depress and frustrate me.

The implication of those sort of comments is that the unemployed person isn't really trying very hard, not doing everything they can to find a job. No one wants to assume their friends are lazy, so they assume they're unemployed because of ignorance. A woman on Oprah! was unemployed, she networked online, found her passion and happily ever after commenced. She was smart and resourceful and look what happened! It's just that easy! My friend thought she was imparting grand, life altering information to me when she relayed this story to me. She even emailed me the networking site. "Hi Trill, this is the site I heard about on Oprah!. You should use it! You'll have a job in no time!"

The magic site? LinkedIn. Suffice it to say I've been on LinkedIn for a few years, long before I was unemployed. So this "advice" speaks to a lot of issues. My friend thinks I'm as out of touch as she is, she has no clue about my professional life (before the layoff), and that Oprah! can solve every problem. Which then calls our friendship into question.

Rule of thumb: If it's on the news, a daily chat program or on Yahoo/MSN/etc. it's a darned good bet that your unemployed friend has tried it/uses it/read/saw the same piece. I know, I know, you're just trying to help. I know. But. Don't insult your friend's job hunting skills by comparing them to someone on Oprah!.

If you have truly new and different wisdom to impart, say, insider info on a company that just signed a huge deal with a new client, that's helpful. "Trill, Jim said XYZ corp signed a deal with ABC Inc., you might want to check to see if they have anyone on LinkedIn." See how that works? It gives helpful information about the companies involved and presumes that the job hunter is using LinkedIn. There's the a-ha moment. It's helpful, viable, real. Not condescending and abstract.

Okay. Maybe you're doing okay. You still have a job and you're, you know, doing okay financially. Great. Awesome. You go, you.

You have a lot going on in your life. You're going on vacation, driving a new car, buying a new house, eating three meals a day...

Your unemployed friend is probably happy for you. Your unemployed friend is probably even interested in what's going on in your life.

So don't avoid talking about what's going on with you. Some of my friends are doing this. They don't feel they can talk to me because by talking about what's new with them, they feel they're bragging, flaunting their success and money at me, an unemployed person about to lose her home.

They don't know what to say because they suddenly feel guilty around me. Funny how that never happened before I was unemployed. They'd go on and on and on and on about their vacations and homes and cars and shopping trips, never once taking a minute to consider the fact that I couldn't afford to do any of those things and couldn't relate on any level. But still, you know, at least now they have the decency to take a minute to consider the feelings of those less fortunate.

The thing is, it brings into sharp focus how every aspect of their lives revolves around money and lots of it and how they spend it. And then what comes into focus next is the fact that since they got married, quit their jobs, moved the suburbs and started spending the money their husbands earn like there's no tomorrow, we have very little (if anything) in common.

They have nothing to say that doesn't involve a conversation about how they spend money - be it a vacation, a charity auction, classes for their children, a new kitchen table, an entire kitchen renovation...everything they do involves spending a lot of money. And they now feel guilty talking about it in front of me. And they certainly cannot relate to what I'm going through, and they don't want to know, they don't want to know how bad it really is. They watch TV and listen to their husbands talk about cutbacks at work, that's all they want to know about unemployment and the job market. So they avoid me. That's not conjecture. That's what one of them told me. "It's not that I don't care, Trill, it's just that I have no idea what you're going through or how to help you and I feel guilty talking to you about what's going on with me because it feels like bragging."

Alrighty, then.

Here's the rundown. If you're going on vacation, tell your unemployed friend. I'm sure they're happy for you and don't begrudge you your vacation. Do tell them about the cute baby sea turtles and the interesting gallery you found. Do NOT send a gazillion photographs and go into exhausting details about the food, the lavish resort, the shopping, the food, shopping, how you sat next to Meryl Streep in first class on the plane, the shopping...There's a line between sharing the highlights of your fun adventure and bragging about expensive travel luxuries. Don't cross it. Your unemployed friend will be happy and even interested in the baby sea turtles and gallery. They'll be bored and kind of annoyed with lengthy details about how much money you spent.

If you're taking advantage of the buyer's housing market, great, good for you. And you have to tell your unemployed friend you're moving. Trust me, they'll find out eventually so you need to be honest and open with them right up front. It's like the vacation thing. Just do not go into lengthy detail about the new house. Tell your unemployed friend the highlights and what you love about it and save the rest of the details for when the Better Homes and Gardens editor visits.

A few words about foreclosure:
If your unemployed friend is facing foreclosure you might feel embarrassed and guilty about your new home. Understandable. But. Your unemployed friend is happy for you. Really. Just don't feel offended or slighted if they don't race over to see the new place the second you lay down the welcome mat. Again, it's not that they don't care, they do care about you and your new home. They don't want you to feel guilty or embarrassed. They want you to be happy in your new home.

But when you're looking at the very real prospect of homelessness the last thing you want to do is go gush over your friend's new house. I know this because it's happened to me three times since October. My friends are snatching up houses like they're playing Monopoly. And it is a great time to buy.

But. It's also a great time to go into foreclosure. I'm truly thrilled for my friends' new homes and success. I wish them well and wowee, those are some nice houses at great prices. I thought I was totally cool with it, totally excited for one friend's new home purchase. She asked me to help choose paint color for two of the rooms, she wanted to have them painted before moving day so the day after closing I went with her to see the new place. It's awesome. And she was over the moon giddy about their new home. Her enthusiasm reminded me of how I felt when I bought my condo and couldn't wait to paint it and move in. Complete and total emotional breakdown in 3-2-1. At first it was just a little mist in one eye, but within seconds it turned into a snot soaked, choke throated, gut heaving crying jag. It's not my friend's fault, of course it's not. And I thought I was okay, thought I was totally cool with the whole thing.

But it's hard enough being unable to find a job that will pay your mortgage and knowing that you are a few months away from losing your home. Watching your friends upgrade to a bigger, nicer house and all the excitement and plans for a new home is a knife in the heart.

I don't blame my friends, I don't hate them for their success, I'm not jealous. But. I am going through something. Something really awful.

Consequently, after that little episode, that friend never calls and rarely emails. I didn't get an invite to the housewarming. I know she thinks it's best to avoid me. That she's doing me a favor by avoiding me. And maybe she is. But it kind of hurts. She's someone I thought would be there for me. And she's not. I think because after that snotty crying jag she feels guilty around me. I understand that. But. Still. I mean, you know, c'mon, snot-filled, choked, gut-heaving crying jags happen. And that's precisely when you need the support of your friends.

There's one subject area that's taboo. Do not, I repeat, do not allude to or speak directly to the issues of weight, appearance or grooming. Unemployment means you cannot afford the gym membership. It means you can't afford organic or even the healthiest food. (Mac and cheese = cheap. Spring greens salad with balsamic and fresh pear and walnuts = expensive.) So diet and exercise take serious hits. Some of us try really hard to maintain some semblance of nutritional food and exercise, but it's not easy. And. Depression, stress and fear tend to do drastic, horrible things to your body. I'm eating less, way, way, way less, and I walk a couple miles every night and I even do some of the YouTube tone and weight sessions. Nonetheless, I've gained weight in weird places. How is this possible? (Cookie dough? No. I've been off the stuff since November.) Stress, depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue. All will ravage the body in a very short amount of time. I'm shocked by it. But. There it is. I know someone who gained 30 pounds in two months, her sister lost 20 in the same time frame. Neither changed their diet or exercise. Both lost their jobs.

Unemployment also means a lot, and I mean a lot of sleepless nights. That, too, will wreak havoc on the metabolism. And also make your friend look 10 years older with sunken eyes underlined with dark circles and what my mother affectionately calls: A sickly pallor. Chronic fatigue is a huge factor of unemployment. I go for nights upon nights of a couple hours of fitful sleeping, to the point I look and feel and sound and act like a heroin addicted zombie. Then, I'll sleep like the dead for a couple nights, then back to the fitful sleepless nights. It's a horrible, vicious pattern and if I knew how to break the cycle I would. Obviously I don't. And other unemployed people tell me they have the exact issue.

Unemployment means conserving everything. You're not going to like this, you don't wanna know, but, here it is: If I don't have anywhere to go, no interviews or outings, I don't always, you know, shower. Am I lazy? Gross? Sick? No. I'm cheap. I'm saving shampoo and soap. Ditto laundry detergent. If no one is going to see me, if I'm not leaving my cave and no one's entering the cave, well, I figure that's a day of shampoo and soap saved for when I really need it. If anyone happened to drop in unannounced I'd be mortified. So. Don't drop in on unemployed friends. You might be disturbed by what you find and your friend will be mortified.

And for the female unemployed friends? Yeah. Forget makeup. It's way too expensive to waste on anything other than a job interview or outing with friends. I've started to break the carnal sin of womanhood: I've ventured to the grocery sans makeup. I know. I know. But it's a financial issue. I have to save the stuff for the days that matter. Makeup is expensive. Ditto hair cuts/color.

Your unemployed friend knows how bad they look. And as bad as they look? Trust me, they feel at least three times worse. They don't need anyone pointing out how tired/sick/fat/scrawny/old/un made up they suddenly look.

If things are, you know, really bad, like, they're visibly dirty and smell awful, aren't brushing their teeth, if they go out in public that way and then yes, I mean, yes, you need to intervene. There's something serious going on there.

But if it's just what you would expect from someone who's been sick or slacking for a few days, say nothing. Think of your unemployed friend as an elderly aunt or sick cat. They know they've let their grooming, uh, lapse but they're doing the best they can under the circumstances. Cut 'em a little slack and give them compassion, respect and dignity.

Okay. So.

You have an unemployed friend.

You don't know what to do for them.

We already covered holiday gifts. The same guidelines apply to birthday or other holiday gifts. You got it, right? No gift cards to Neiman Marcus, Restoration Hardware or posh salons.

Some of my friends think they're being nice, helping me, by "treating" me to expensive luxuries. They invite me to get pedicures or go for meals at nice restaurants or "nice" treats like name brand shampoo and soap from a luxury store or salon.

Let be very clear: I'm not ungrateful. It's really nice of them to think of me and offer me these nice luxuries. But here's the thing. It makes me feel...embarrassed. It's not a pride thing, it's a practical thing. A $50 pedicure...a $25 lunch...a $17 bottle of shampoo...that's $92. $92 is a lot of money to an unemployed person. $92 keeps the phone and internet working another month. $92 buys two weeks, or more, of groceries.

When you're unemployed the priorities are: Mortgage/rent. Phone/internet. Food. Water, heat, electricity. Bus/train fare/gas money. In that order. Everything else is frivolous. If, by some freak stroke of luck, after the mortgage/rent, phone/internet, food, water, heat, electricity, bus/train fare are paid there's money left over, it goes in the kitty for next month's expenses, or, maybe a matinee or cheap bottle of wine. Yes. A matinee or cheap bottle of wine, $10 each, are crazy wild extravagances when you're unemployed. A $50 pedicure? A $25 lunch? $17 shampoo? Are you kidding?

I know, I know. The genuine intention behind giving an unemployed person a fancy treat, a luxury to boost their spirits is appreciated. Truly. But. Turn up your empathy intuition dial a few notches and try to imagine yourself in your unemployed friend's situation. Causes a shudder, doesn't it? It's uncomfortable. Scary.

The situation forces practical living. Everything except the most crucial expenses are cut. For people like me who weren't exactly living la vida luxury before being laid off, it comes down to basic necessities. I cringe when I hear or read about people surviving layoffs by "cutting back" on Starbucks, salon trips, not eating out as often and trading in their car for a cheaper one. I never went to Starbucks, I always stretch the time between my hair appointments waaaaay too long, I rarely go out to eat and haven't owned a car, any car for over 10 years. For people like me who were already managing on a meager income and cutting every corner possible, cutting back means, quite literally, not eating. Everything, everything is reduced to its basic requirements. It's practicality on steroids.

So.

When a friend suggests a pedicure or fancy lunch or gives me an expensive luxury like salon shampoo, it's, well, complicated.

It's nice. I am grateful. Really. I am. But. It's difficult to enjoy those things when you have serious problems. Unemployment is all consuming. I realize friends hope to lift my spirits for a few hours, take me away from my problems and give me a treat. I know that. But there is no escape from the stress and anxiety of unemployment. It doesn't take a break and let you forget about it while you enjoy a pedicure. And do I really need a pedicure? No. I do not. No one really needs a pedicure except professionally employed foot models. And no one needs a $25 lunch. Or a $17 bottle of wine. They're extravagances. Nice treats, sure, but for an unemployed person they're silly and, well, kind of insulting.

I mean, what other people do with their money is their business. I'm not judging. But. When a friend "imposes" their extravagance on someone else, especially an unemployed friend, it's kind of, well, insulting. It's nice to share the wealth, yes. And if the intentions are in the right spirit, you know, it's a very kind gesture. But try to take a step back for a minute and think about how frivolous and absurd it is to give someone who's unemployed and facing foreclosure a pedicure. I mean, it's just, well, offensive.

I know, I know, but not as offensive as giving them $50 cash. I know. And I am very anti-money-between-friends.

I would never let a friend go without food or medicine or heat, I'd help a friend as much as I could if they needed money for vital necessities. Of course. We all would. But. Just be really, really careful with cash between friends. S'all I'm saying about that.

What you can do is offer to help in practical ways. Here's what some friends have done for me.

Got a warehouse club membership? Invite your friend to go with you and offer them some of your bulk quantity items. "We'll never use 12 quarts of rice milk, but it's a great deal, do you want a couple quarts?" "Seriously, where would I store 24 rolls of paper towel? Do you want a few rolls?"

Belong to a gym that has no hassle visitor passes? Invite your unemployed friend to go to the gym with you, or take a spinning or yoga class. "I want to try the belly dance class at the gym but I'm too intimidated to go by myself, want to come with me?" Gym memberships are expensive and unemployed people spend a lot of time sitting in front of their computers trolling company and career websites. A little physical activity is good on a lot of levels. Do NOT, under any circumstance, imply that your friend is getting soft and doughy since losing their job. They probably are and they probably know it, so they don't need you to call attention to it. Keep the offer for gym time light and fun. Avoid phrases like, "The physical activity would be good for you."

Pay for a few months of Netflix. Not that your unemployed friend is just sitting around watching movies all day, but, just like employed people, evenings and weekends can be long and boring, especially when you have no money to go out. Netflix is inexpensive and it's super easy to give a friend a few months of membership. It's a little thing that will be hugely appreciated by your unemployed friend.

Ask your unemployed friend if they would like to do something you normally pay someone else to do - not chores, not laundry or lawn mowing - things that benefit your unemployed friend without insulting them. Babysit your kids, house sit while you're on vacation, make your husband's birthday party invitations...something your unemployed friend would actually enjoy. In return, you can offer them a gift card - someplace practical like Target - or offer them something in return. They babysit your kids, you let them borrow your car for a job interview. They make your husband's birthday party invites, you help them schlepp stuff to the charity donation center. It's basically just trading favors, but think about the things you pay other people to do if your unemployed friend might actually enjoy doing it. It's a little tricky. A) Don't assume your unemployed friend has nothing but time on their hands (we're actually very busy, job hunting takes a lot of time and effort), B) don't get offended or incensed if your unemployed friend says no, and C) be very careful about "paying" your friend in trade. I love spending time with my friends' kids, and it's something I couldn't do very often when I was working - the schlepp out the suburbs was time prohibitive during the week and on weekends I was busy doing the stuff I couldn't do during the week because I was working. Now I can make the time to spend a few hours with my friends' kids and it's a win-win. It gives me a purpose, something to do that I enjoy, and my friends get a babysitter who doesn't spend the whole time texting and ignoring the kids.

This is another tricky one, tread cautiously. If you help on a charity invite your unemployed friend to help, too. But. Only, only if your friend has expressed some sort of interest in said charity. Offering an invite to a super fancy fundraiser is probably not the best way to involve your unemployed friend, but asking for their help with some part of planning it, especially an area of their expertise, can be a nice way for your friend to feel involved and viable. And never discount the networking possibilities of charitable activities. Again, do not just assume your unemployed friend has oodles of time to volunteer or that they want to use it on your charity. But. Politely ask, "Hey! I had a committee meeting last night and we need a banner for the podium at the auction. Don't you know a printer who does those? Do you want to help us with that? We can't pay you but we'll give you a ticket to the event..." If you sense even a flicker of hesitation drop it. Just drop it and move on. If your friend agrees, great, but don't hound them. See above, job hunting takes a lot of time and effort.

Offer to bring a pizza, a bottle of wine and uninterrupted couple of hours to them one evening. Cheap pizza, cheap wine. And no cell phone. Send the strong message that you value your friend and want to spend time with them. This should go without saying, but it's the whole avoidance thing - some people tend to treat their unemployed friends like social pariahs. I don't think it's intentional, I think they just think their unemployed friends don't have money to do anything and that they're depressed and don't want company. And, more to the point, they don't know what to say to their unemployed friend. The uninterrupted time thing is crucial.

What I "need" more than anything is moral support. I know most of my friends have never been unemployed, or, if they have, it's been years ago. I know they don't really "understand" what I'm dealing with. I don't expect them to understand and honestly, I don't want them to understand, if really understanding means that they, too, would go through what I'm going through. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I feel sorry for anyone who does understand because that means they've been where I am and that's a really horrible place. I don't need that level of understanding.

But it's reassuring to know my friends and family still care about me and still like me for me - and that they remember there's more to me than the unemployed label. Most of my friends are married and have kids. Their time is limited and precious. I understand that. When I was working they couldn't make a lot of time for me. And I couldn't make a lot of time for them. I worked 10 - 12 hours a day and a lot of weekends. But now that I'm unemployed I can make time for them, work around their kids' and husbands' schedules and spend time with them.

One of my friends and I had drifted, I mean really drifted. I hadn't even seen her in over a year. Well over a year. We were email and Facebook friends, at best. And yet, two weeks into my unemployment she called and said she was on her way with pizza and booze. I was shocked and kind of dreaded it because she's one of those cell phone crazed people who interrupt face-to-face conversations when their cell phone rings. I foresaw her spending an hour holding up her "just a minute" finger at me while she talked on her cell phone. Shockingly, she set it to vibrate and never took it out of her purse while we talked. I mean, that's huge for her and meant a lot to me. She's done this a few times since. She can't help me find a job, she can't pay my mortgage, she can't really do anything for me. But, she's been a huge help. She gives me her time and support and doesn't treat me like I have a contagious and terminal disease. See what I mean about peoples' behavior? She's the last, and I do mean the very last person I ever would have thought would be "there" for me, and there she is, behaving cooler and more there for me than the people who, well, I thought I could count on.

My brother (I know, roll of eyes), my brother has recently turned pretty decent. He's been calling me a lot more lately, just to talk. Siblings. Pfft. It's complicated. But lately he's been really cool, the brother I like. The brother I thought was cooler than Jesus after the actual Jesus stopped being my imaginary best friend. The brother I can reduce to tear splurting fits of guffaws in 5 seconds flat just by saying a few choice words about our family or something from our youth. Again, it's the gift of time thing. The uninterrupted 15 or 20 minutes just to talk. And with my brother, there's an added bonus, if I feel a need to go off on a rant, it's okay. He has to love me anyway. I've certainly listened to plenty of his rants and seen his angry outbursts. We know just how bad it can really get because we've seen each other at our worst. No surprises there. And, yes, he's my big brother. Deep, deep, deep within him there's that "don't mess with my little sister" thing. It doesn't surface very often, but, he's quick to defend me. Will he pay my mortgage? No. Can he help me find a job? Probably not. But. He recognizes that I need a friendly voice and an open ear now and then.

Which is true whether you're unemployed or not. But. Being unemployed can be very isolating. I spend days trolling job board and company web sites and networking sites and sending emails and making phone calls...but...I feel very, very alone. Ultimately it's my life, my job, my income, my mortgage, my groceries. It's just me. Single/zero. Without the daily forced social interaction at work I feel very apart and alone - isolated - not part of anything. Me against the world and all that. Add the huge amount of fear and anxiety that are part of my life, now, and it's a disturbing existence.

So the best advice I can give about what to do or say to your unemployed friends is this: Just be there for them. Listen to them, console them, and never, ever forget there's more to them than unemployment. Treat them like viable, respectable, intelligent, interesting people and respect their dignity.

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2:40 PM

Monday, March 29, 2010  
Woo hoo!! We have our first contender for understatement of the year:

"It started out as a Christian thing," said Donna Stone, 44. "You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far."

Donna Stone is the mother of "Captain Hutaree," David Brian Stone Jr., who is among those indicted in Detroit for plotting to fight the Antichrist by making bogus 911 calls luring police to an address, the killing the officer(s) THEN setting off bombs at the funeral.

Your son is stockpiling munitions to fight the Antichrist and plotting to kill police officers in an effort to overthrow the US government and you "think" he started to take it a "little too far?"

I know, I know, I know. I try really hard to not go all ranty about news, especially sad, disturbing news. But once again Detroit's the center of attention for the religious zealots with an axe to grind (literally) against law enforcement and the government. So I feel obligated to say: Not everyone in Detroit (or Michigan) is a religious zealot gone-wrong or a conspiracy theorist with a cache of weaponry.

This is disturbing on levels I cannot articulate:
"We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. ... Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."

Oh, so this is Jesus' fault? Jesus? Jesus the peace-loving supreme Lord of forgiveness and compassion? That Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and "equipment?"

I'm no Biblical scholar, but even, even if Jesus alluded to swords and "equipment," given that he was alive, and died, 2010 years ago, 500 -1000 years before, you know, gunpowder, bombs and the like, I'm guessing by "equipment" He wasn't thinking bombs, AK47s, M82s, and Howitzers. Just conjecture on my part.

WWJD? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing plotting mass homicidal schemes against police and governments wouldn't top His list of ideas for battling an Antichrist.

(Sidebar: Religious question that got me put in detention in confirmation class: If Christ and the Anti-Christ stand next to each other wouldn't they just cancel each other out? Both ceasing to exist? Like matter and anti-matter? Poof! Gone into nothingness like an amazing technicolor Gamma Ray? And if that's the case (and I suspect it would be) why wouldn't Christ, who's used to making supreme sacrifices, just, you know, do it? Anti-Christ shows up, mortals get all scared, Christ sees his scared flock bleating and running around like, well, scared little lambs, and steps in, right next to the Anti-Christ, and poof. Problem solved. Oh. Except. If Christ no longer exists then, heh heh, a few religious-based businesses are going to fall on hard times. Lot of people looking for a new line of work. (Insert Catholic priest joke of your choice here) And without Christ or the Anti-Christ apparently we won't be able to discern between right and wrong. Because we're stupid, scared, bleating lambs running around like paranoid idiots with a herd mentality.)

And here we go. Trillian gets all up in a snit about religion. How is it humanly possible for people to get so enthralled with their religion that they skewer and twist and mangle it to suit their insane, violent needs and then do things, say things, that are in direct opposition to the religion they're "defending" and worse, not see the hypocrisy of their words and actions? And far worse, justify horrific behaviors with their deity?

I'll tell you how: Fear. Abject paranoia. And more fear.

Kingdom: Religion
Phylum: Ignorance
Class: Fear
Order: Self-righteousness
Family: Defensiveness
Genus: Anger
Species: Hostility

And all in the name of a supreme deity.

Someone please, for the love of God (literally), please explain this to me.

2:35 PM

 
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