One Year Ago Today

One year ago today my husband was laid off. This was waiting for him when he came home on November 18, 2015.
amarula

Here are the positives of the past year:

  • My husband had worked for this company for over 10 years, so he received a good severance package.
  • We were able to spend 37 days in our RV (a record for us) on vacation.
  • We were more able to be there for others, such as my mother-in-law, who needs assistance at times.
  • Bianca and Laid Off Calgary.
  • For both of us, as often happens when in a period of adversity, there’s been a time of extreme growth. Mostly this growth was all good, as:

You never know what you’re capable of, until you have to be capable of it.

There was much to learn, and much to do.

My Journey

I graduated with honours in 2014 from the University of Calgary with a Certificate in Professional Writing (PR and Marketing concentration). I’d been looking for work since, albeit somewhat languidly, as my husband was working. My love of, and natural affinity for, writing is such I have several passion projects on the go and have volunteered my writing and editing skills. Wanting, and now needing, to get paid for my skills, my husband’s layoff was the kick in the pants I needed to take looking for work seriously. I got my ass in gear.

I had to stop hiding my light under a bushel. Moreover, I had to stop thinking I didn’t even have a light to hide.

I had to learn to put on my big girl panties and suck up all my fears and insecurities.

I am super grateful for those  I’ve met along the way, and so thankful for the part-time writing contract I secured this fall, as well as other possibilities waiting in the wings.

Our Journey

We had to make ourselves climb out of our comfort zones, at times kicking and screaming. In some cases, we went way out of our comfort zone such as the time we were filmed for an appearance on the news, while in the midst of a photo shoot for laidoffalberta.com.

We had to learn how to network, how to develop an *elevator pitch, revamp our resumes countless times, study interview techniques, attend presentations, sell ourselves, get out there, and talk to strangers. I’m a shy extrovert, and my husband is an introvert, so meeting new people is difficult enough for us, never mind talking about ourselves and our accomplishments. Networking is a work-in-progress for both of us. We both had to learn to do what works for us. In the world of networking, one on one is more our style.

We had to learn to ride the emotional rollercoaster of job-hunting.  As our applications for positions were ignored,  we’ve had to remind ourselves, over and over again, of what we have to offer companies.  When interviews were granted for positions we were a strong fit for, yet the jobs went to someone else, the feeling of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” emerged.

As someone mentioned the other day, in this economy, “there’s a lot of sellers, and not many buyers”, which makes it difficult to remain positive. “It’s not me, it’s the economy” soon became our mantra.

We had to be there for each other in countless ways to keep our relationship strong.

And our faith? Oh, our faith, to be honest, it’s been a challenge to trust that God’s got this.  He may have it, but He’s sure taking his time delivering it.

*My elevator pitch:

I am a self-starting, results-driven writing Ninja with a breadth of writing experience.
Put your idea in front of me and I’ll bring it to life.
I’m an excellent story-teller with the skills to creatively communicate
your ideas, product, business or service.

*My husband’s elevator pitch:

I am a Business Intelligence Specialist with 20 years experience in providing advanced problem-solving analysis, specializing in data analytics and data /system integration. I have the ability to break down complex data and/or system related issues by redefining them in ways that are solvable.

I am looking for an opportunity to help the business to improve their ability to manage their business processes.

Bullying: A Success Story

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I wrote this fiction piece, which is based on a true story, for a course I took approximately three years ago.  I present it here, for Bullying Awareness Week 2016.  Tips on dealing with bullying are included within this short story. Full disclosure: As a pre-teen and teen, I was both the victim of bullying as well as one who bullies.

Gasping for breath, I glanced over my shoulder. The Bully Bitches were in hot pursuit. I sped up. I could hear my heart pound in my ears. Even though the day was cool, sweat began to drip into my eyes. I heard the Bitches yelling.
“Luma, you fat cow, where are you running to?” one screamed.
“I’m surprised you can run that fast given how huge you are,” another shouted.
I spun around: “Shut the heck up” I screeched.
“Fat pig,” the Queen Bully Bitch said.
I covered my ears with my hands and kept moving. Saying something back only makes them bug me more, I thought; when will I learn.
I reached the school doors and I raced to my locker, spun the lock, pulled open the door, and grabbed my backpack. I slammed the locker door and raced to the classroom. I sat down at one of the desks and tried to catch my breath. The teacher looked at me.
“Luma, you ok?”
Ratting them out will only make it worse, I thought and answered, “Yes, Mrs. Laughlin, I’m fine. I was just running in the school ground and I’m a bit out of breath.” Safe for now, I thought and opened my Language Arts textbook. I hated being in the same class as the Bitches.
I half-heard Mrs. Laughlin talking about nouns, but my thoughts raced: If only I had a friend, then those Bitches could go suck eggs.
I doodled on my notebook. I drew little hearts with arrows through them. I imagined they were the Bitches hearts.
I jumped when I heard a rap on my desk. My classmates giggled at my reaction. Mrs. Laughlin stood right in front of me.
“Luma,” she said “what is a noun?”
“Um..er,” I stuttered “it is a person, place or thing.”
“That’s very good, Luma, Mrs. Laughlin said. “I thought maybe you weren’t paying attention as I saw you doodling, but I’m pleased that you were.”
“Yes, Mrs. Laughlin,” I said.
“Stupid cow,” I overheard Queen Bitch whisper to one of her subjects.
“That’s quite enough,” Mrs. Laughlin said to the Queen.
The bell rang. I stuffed my binder and textbook into the backpack. This was my last class and I dreaded the walk home. It never changed; day after day the Bitches followed me. “Fatty, fatty two by four, couldn’t get through the bathroom door,” was their favorite insult as they walked behind me. No matter how fast I walked, they always managed to keep up with me.
Today was no different. As usual, the Bitches waited for me. I fantasized as I walked home, their shouts in my ears, about a long, slow death for Queen Bitch. Her followers would disband, and I’d be free. I’m so tired of their crap – the name calling, the hair pulling, the bra snapping – I thought, I’m going to speak to the Parental Units again tonight about changing schools.
I finally reached the block my house was on. The Bitches had stopped following me about half a block ago. I figured that was because they didn’t want to get caught by any Units.
My shoulders sagged as I entered my home. “Hi, Mom,” I said. I didn’t wait for her reply. I trudged up the stairs to my bedroom. My backpack and jacket landed with a thud on the floor. I flopped on the bed and tried not to cry.
I clutched my throbbing stomach as I found the Tums in my backpack. I swallowed a handful and sighed. I had homework but didn’t feel like doing any of it. I crawled under the bedcovers and closed my eyes.
“Luma,” Dad bellowed “supper’s ready.” Startled, I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I glanced at the clock; the red numbers glowed 5:30. I’d been asleep for nearly two hours.
I dressed and joined them at the dining room table. I pulled my chair out, sat down and said, “I’m not that hungry Mom, my stomach is hurting.”
Mom passed the roast beef to me and said: “Just try to eat a little, darling.”
I stabbed a piece of meat and put it on my plate. “Okay, Mom I’ll do my best. Please pass the mashed potatoes and gravy.” In between mouthfuls I said, “Mom, Dad, can I transfer to another school?”
“I don’t know why you keep asking us this – it’s a good school.” Dad said.
“I just don’t like it there.” I said.
“Buck up,” Dad said “this is the only junior high in our community.”
I was afraid to tell my parents the whole truth. The words of Queen Bitch kept ringing in my ears: “Keep your dang mouth shut. You won’t like what happens to you if you tell anyone.”
I feel sad that the Units were no help, I thought. I guess I’ll have to handle this on my own.

*****Two weeks later *******

“Fatty,” Queen Bitch said one morning as I approached.
I scurried past her and her minions, and ignored their taunts. I’m so sick of this, I thought. It’s time to take action.
After school that day, I picked up a community map at the 7-11 across from the school.
“Whatcha need those for, you can’t read,” one of the Bitches had followed me into the store.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I said as I stuffed it into my backpack.
Once home, I spread the map out on the dining room table. I highlighted with a marker all the different routes I could take to and from school.
For the next two days, I changed my route. I studied the Bitches habits. They’re so predictable, I thought. I decided to arrive at school before they did and leave after them.
In the lunchroom one day the following week, I noticed no-one bothered the kids that sat by the adults. Maybe these kids have been bullied too, I thought, as I sidled up to their table with my food tray. I plopped my food tray down, pulled out my chair and sat down. No-one said a word. I picked up my fork and began to eat.
After lunch, I went to my next class and sat down. Oh, no I groaned, seeing another Bitch come into the room.
“Weirdo,” she whispered as she walked past me in class on the way to her seat. I ignored her.
The next day, I ignored all the insults, the taunts, all the crap the Bitches dished out. I noticed they didn’t want to bug me as much. I guess I’ve taken all the fun out of it for them, I thought.
Two days later, I’m reading my book in the lunch room.
“Hi”
I look up and see Megan, a girl I know slightly from science standing by my table.
“Hi” I said.
“Can I sit down?” Megan said.
“Okay,” I said. I wonder where this is going, I thought, she’s never said two words to me before.
Megan said, “So, like, yeah would you like to hang out and stuff”?
“I’m not sure,” I said.
“You see,” Megan said “I’m getting bullied. I want to know your secret.”
“What secret”?
“I need the secret to getting those girls to stop bullying me.”
“What girls”?
“The same girls that bullied you are now bullying me. I used to see them bugging you all the time but I was too scared to help you.”
It sounds like she might want to be friends too, I thought, and felt a smile spread across my face. “Oh, you’re talking about The Bully Bitches! Well, I’ll tell you what happened….”
The principal of the school then came up to our table.
“Luma, he said, “I couldn’t help but overhear. I’ve been hanging out in the school yard more often and I’ve noticed the bullying. I’ve been watching things out there very closely these last two weeks. I hate what I see. Girls yelling insults at each other; I’ve even noticed fighting. It’s unacceptable. I’m going to be instituting an anti-bullying policy. Also, I’ll be punishing those girls who bullied you and Megan. And, yes, I know who they are. I’d like you to tell the whole school how you got the bullies off your back at assembly tomorrow. I think the other kids need to hear that. Would you be willing to do that?”
I gulped nervously and said, “Yes, Mr. Smith.”
“Thank you, Luma,” Mr. Smith said and walked away.
I glanced at Megan. “Maybe the rest of the year won’t be so bad after all.”