Monday, April 20, 2009


In Which I Ask YOU For A Favor...

I had an interesting week last week.

Was it a good week? Well, I guess, insofar as I finally felt like I got going on my Work. I've been pecking away at a big piece of writing for a while, trying to find my way back to the headspace for this material. It's been a bit of a slog, finding my groove on this material, which was, let me tell you, pretty goddamn dismaying at first.

And then, Friday morning, I got up, went downstairs to my computer in my pathetic little office/Harry Potter space under the stairs. I started typing...and the next thing I knew, the kids were home from school. But I wasn't nearly done, not nearly ready to abandon this magic. So I kept on. I ate dinner downstairs. I finally called it a night--for so it suddenly was. I had worked from about 8:45 in the morning til about 7:45 that night. I wrote 10,500 words in one sitting. I haven't done that since I was in my 20s (and believe me, my aching ass was reminding me of the fact the moment I stood up). Walking Blaze that night, I realized I was exhausted, but man! It felt good, the way it feels after a long day of doing something hot and dusty and supremely satisfying. There is nothing that compares to that feeling of contentment.

I was planning to dive right in this morning and see if I had another 10,000 words in me (although, really, I'm thrilled to get 3,000 of a day), when the phone rang and I realized I was about to have another interesting week. Good or bad, well, we'll see.

Because my life is nothing if not ironic, the call I got was from an editor, asking me if I had time to do a quickie piece of freelance. Are you kidding me? I already have work. I have The Work. I'm writing Magic Words now! Where were you two weeks ago when I realized I wasn't going to get a teaching job this year and started freaking out about money?!? I screamed back. Fortunately, I screamed it in my head.

And because my life is nothing if not richly ironic, the quickie writing assignment is--you will SO love this--a family story about how to help kids cope when Mommy or Daddy has lost a job.

And just to add a little topspin of unmitigated gall to the whole affair, guess what magazine it's for?

I'll give you a hint.

Its initials are RBM.

I shit you not.

So you guessed it, sports fan, the very magazine that cut me loose three months ago is now assigning me freelance. And not just any freelance story, but a freelance story about how to help your kids cope when you have lost your job.

I know, I know, can you believe the nerve?

I was so utterly disarmed by this stunning display of thoughtless corporate cheek that, of course, I accepted the assignment immediately. Hey, between this and our tax refund, it'll cover the mortgage for almost the rest of the year.

And anyway, I'm sure they see it as a kind of combination olive branch and helping hand (although, really, did they have to give me this particular story topic?). So, I'm going to plow on this story. If I can line up the right sources, I ought to be able to hand it in before the week is out.

But I need a little help, which is why I'm turning to you, kind readers.

I know from the comments in my first post about being laid off that many of you have suffered the same fate, and those of you who haven't know someone--probably several someones--who are in the same pickle. I really don't want this story to be just a list of tips from experts. I'd like to get real, on-the-ground, this-is-what worked for me advice from real folks.

So, here's the part where you can help. If you or a spouse/partner have recently lost a job and have kids (anywhere from about 8 to teenage), I would love to know what you told them, or what little rituals or traditions you came up with to help them feel safe and secure in what is, let's be honest, a pretty scary situation (and I speak not only from current experience, but as a 6-year-old kid whose Dad had to explain what "laid off" meant.)

Actually, I suppose it doesn't have to be a recent lay-off (although that would be my preference). If you lost your job at some time in the past and had a REALLY good strategy that put your kids at ease, I'd be willing to hear you out.

And if you haven't lost your job, or you don't have kids, but are reading this and thinking, "Hey, I bet my sibling/friend/neighbor/parole officer would be perfect for this," then I ask you--pretty please, with sugar on top--to check with that person first, then contact me and let me know.

Sometime this week, please.

So bottom line. If you'd like to help and you have a lead--or you have advice of your very own to offer--e-mail me. My e-mail should be somewhere on this blog (I just checked: click on my profile and you'll find it), but just to make it easier--and also because I've never once written out my address in that weird, let's-all-prevent-spam way, it's: magazine dot man at gmail dot com.

One last thing: Whoever gives me tips or tells their story has to be willing to have their name appear in print. If you're a married woman and you changed your name, I'd agree to quote you under your maiden name, I guess, but otherwise, I don't do anonymous sources or name-withheld deals.

Said the blogger who calls himself the Magazine Man. I told you the irony was rich here.

Actually, I promise: Anyone I connect with for this story will know my real name and where this story will run. It's not like my secret identity is so secret these days, you know?

Anyway, that's the gig. Please don't feel obligated to help--we all have things to do. But if you could spare the time and had some nuggets of wisdom or a good source to pass along, you would earn my undying gratitude. Also, I would owe you A Favor. And I do not forget about favors.

And now, I have to make a call: I have an interview lined up with a social worker who specializes in counseling unemployed families.

After that, I'm going to go back downstairs and see if the magic is still there.

Thank you, one and all, and know that I am, as ever,

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Wow. That is amazing. It makes the conspiracy theorist in me wonder if they laid you off because they knew they needed that article written and they wanted you to have firsthand experience! :P

I am really glad to hear that the zone found its way to you. I can't wait to read whatever it is you're working on. :)
I've sent an email to my brother to see if he's interested in contributing his methods of walking the fine line between truth and shelter for your kids when you lose a job.
Keep up the word count.
I hope you interviewed the counsellor for the very information you're soliciting.
What assholes, and, well, hooray for paying work. But still, assholes!
I can't help with the article, but I hope you get everything you need so that you can get back to work on the magic.
Aw crap, does that mean I have to renew my subscription to RBM after I carefully dropped them. Don't want to miss your article, but don't want to support them either. Let us know what issue so I only have to buy that one copy.
No stories here about lay off and kids. Old and retired here with kids fortunatly still working. Maybe next month, nothing is certain.

Longtime reader, first comment, my wife lost her job when she was pregnant with our second child, and I work for a company that is probably the most hated in all the land - (it's initals are AIG) - Let's just say the past few months have been a balancing act on a tightrope above a pit of sulfuric acid that has sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads sort of time for us. So I have some ideas on this topic. If you need any other input after the flood I am sure you will get, I am happy to help. chrisbags AT gmail DOT com.
Good luck on the article, MM. Wish I could help. I have been laid off...actually the whole company ceased to exist, that time...but no kids afoot. If I can think of anyone who could help, I'll forward your blog addy to them.
Sent you something via e-mail, concerning a friend who may be able to help.
That is truly MM karma.

Were they the least bit ashamed to be asking you?
How ironic (and heartless of your former employer) that you got this job!

I just e-mailed a former coworker who was laid off (single mom of a teen girl). I'm not sure if she'll be interested, but the lure of being in a national magazine can't hurt.
Really Big Magazine?
Holy crap, that was ballsy of them to offer you this gig. But I feeling is, of course you take the assignment. You take them for all it's worth! I went through 8 months of unemployment after the Great Axe Murder Accusation of Aught Five, but I have no children/spouse/family, so my ways of surviving, alas, would not be relevant for your freelancing needs. :(
Jeezus. "I feeling is..."?!? Who am I? Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer? This is why I'm *not* an editor.

anyway, my ex who has been fired/let go/quit a job EVERY SINGLE YEAR and has now moved to WA to live with family because he was homeless/broke/etc, well we just told my kids (3 girls, 13, 13 & 8), "you're daddy is a big loser!".

kidding. I kept those words silent.

I don't remember what was said. Excuses probably. I was fuming so I'm drawing a blank.

I don't think he "counts" though as a good employee that was let go because of the economy.

Cindy in CO
You know what they say...irony can be pretty ironic sometimes. Ya know, as galling and frustrating as that type of situation can be, at least you're taking it from the correct angle. Good luck
seriously? bastards.

i'm always willing to babble, but i'm single and employed so i probably wouldn't be much help.


anywho, show 'em what they're missing, mm!

huh. word verification is "hypezing" - which sounds like something you should do to the rbm.
My brother says he's unable to offer anything useful. His oldest child is about 9-10. They are unaware of the magnitude of his job loss other than they can't eat free at a certain restaurant anymore. Daddy received a certain month's severance package so that has buffered the reality of it. They've scaled back some. His wife seems to be the major breadwinner.

So, some folks deal with the kids by sparing them the details until they can't hide it any longer.

You don't want to force kids to be fearful. You can't demand they be scared because you are. I think you are the best parent possible if you turn every challenge into an adventure.
I had a feeling as I was reading, and when I saw "RBM", I hate to tell you that I was ROTFL.

It is *exactly* your luck, isn't it?

Good luck with this (not that I'm worried - you, of all people, should know *exactly* what they want) and you need to let us know when the issue is published, so we can all go over to the website, and make admiring remarks regarding your exceptional and insightful skills as a writer. :)

Congrats on the gig - I know that your Mama raised you right, and you will always provide for your family - but I also bet you feel a whole bunch more relieved, knowing that check is on the way!
A few years ago I lost my job - heck, my career - and was out of work for six months. My wife and I were worried. The biggest thing we did was to not let it be big. Yeah, Dad was out of work and collecting unemployment. But life went on. We still had each other. We had savings and a 401k that could be tapped for the mortgage. We had a small amount of food storage to help stretch the groceries. Somehow, everything would be alright. Family prayers and a refocusing on our faith helped as well.

When I wasn't looking for work, or at interviews, we were together. We still had fun, albeit the "stay at home" kind. In a way, it was liberating. I had the time to spend with my kids that I didn't have working a regular "day job."

In some ways, money feels tighter now that I have a new job - we've still not recovered our savings. We got through it, and we are a closer family because of it.
Sorry I can't offer the kind of help you need. Our layoffs came before our son did, or when he was just a baby and not aware of what was going on.

But I am sending good vibes that you keep up that incredible writing pace. What an awesome feeling to be in that zone.
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