Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ category

Mangled Mentorship, But Merry Christmas Anyway.

December 18, 2008

I find myself with some free time I didn’t entirely want. When last I reported I was getting ready to start teaching two sections of a business communications class for the University of Phoenix Online under the supervision of a faculty mentor. I think two sections turned out to be about one section more than I could handle effectively. Unfortunately, the whole experience went badly and ended abruptly. I fell behind early in the class, in part because of having a colonoscopy during the first week, and I was never really able to catch up. Things went from bad to worse once my old enemies, depression, despair, and panic kicked in. I fell so far behind in grading assignments and providing feedback to students that my mentor and the mentorship team decided to cancel the mentorship in the middle of the course and turn my classes over to someone else.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. I seem to have developed a remarkable talent for self-sabotage and shooting myself in the foot. I have no idea what I’m going to do now to support myself. Plans I made that were contingent on successfully completing the mentorship and getting a part-time gig with U of P will have to be put on hold if not completely scrapped.

As if that weren’t bad enough, it looks as though I won’t be able to spend Christmas with my family as I usually do. My brother Bill, who usually provides the transportation, is working through Christmas this year. He is, however, planning to visit me a few days after Christmas, and we’ll go up to see the rest of the family then.

In spite of all of this, I am doing my best to maintain my good humor and Christmas spirit. I have a few small Christmas decorations up, and I’ve dug out all my Christmas music. Sometimes I worry about the future, but at other times I have a certain inexplicable feeling of peace (perhaps it’s just naive optimism) and an assurance that somehow things will be OK. I’ve been watching more TV than usual, and I notice that most Christmas specials these days are long on twinkly lights, pretty music, Santa Claus, and banal, meaningless phrases such as “the magic of the holiday season,” and short on references to the real reason for all the gaiety: the birth of Jesus Christ. All the pretty lights, artificial snowflakes, and presents in the world won’t make us happy if we don’t realize that God has already given us the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive: the gift of Himself.

Christians believe that two thousand years ago, more or less, God Himself came into the world as a human being in the person of Jesus. I take great comfort in the thought that when he came, Christ didn’t come to the big people, the important people, the successful people–just the opposite. He came to the little people, the people who were insignificant in the way the world measures significance and success. His mother was a humble little teenage Jewish girl who was astonished that she should be chosen for such an honor; his foster father was a carpenter and a stonemason who was concerned about the hint of scandal and gossip surrounding Mary but took her in anyway. They lived in a backwater town in a backwater province of the Roman empire. According to Luke’s gospel, the first people to receive news of this extraordinary birth were shepherds, people at the very bottom of the social and economic ladder, people who were forced to spend the night outside when everyone else was safe and warm indoors.

In his earthly life, Jesus experienced just about all the painful things a human being can experience: hunger, thirst, anger, rejection, loneliness, betrayal, paralyzing fear, an agonizing and public death, and the apparent failure of everything he had worked for. Yet by that death and his incredible, miraculous resurrection from it, Christians believe, Jesus changed the nature of life and death and the relationship between God and humankind. God desires a relationship with each and every human being–so much so that he was willing to become a human being. Death is not the end of the story. The power of God can overcome anything, even death itself. Jesus didn’t come into the world to suffer and die and rise again in order reward us for being perfect little ladies and gentlemen and for always doing everything right. He came to save us because we needed saving. He came to save sinners and screw-ups like me. These are the messages of the two greatest feasts of the Christian year, Christmas and Easter.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I had a profound crisis of faith several years ago when my father died, I developed serious health problems of my own, and a precious personal relationship ended abruptly, all at once. I had to go all the way back to first principles and ask myself why I was a Christian. The answer I kept coming back to was that if there was a God I could believe in, he couldn’t be an airy-fairy, intangible intelligent something-or-other, away off in the ether, so far beyond my understanding that I couldn’t begin to relate to him or even be certain he was there. That seemed only a short step from atheism, which I’ve always found repellent. But a God who lived as I live, suffered as I suffer, died as I will die, and who rose again to show me there is something beyond death–that was a God I could believe in; a God who came to Earth to show me something of what the God in Heaven looks like–that was a God I could love. The Incarnate, Crucified, and Risen Lord Jesus Christ gives me the joy and peace of mind I need to say “Merry Christmas!” and mean it whether or not I have a job, whether or not there are any presents under my tree, and whether or not I am with my family.

Merry Christmas!

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Hi! Remember Me?

October 21, 2008

Um, hi. Remember me? The guy who runs the blog? Glasses, kinda geeky looking, annoying opinions, won’t go away? Yeah, that’s the one.

Once again, I must apologize for a lack of postings. My attention has just been diverted in other directions these days. Things are actually going pretty well for me at the moment. Starting November 3rd I’ll be teaching two sections of a business communications class under the supervision of a faculty mentor for the University of Phoenix Online. This will end a long period of unemployment, and, I hope, lead to bigger and better things–such as a paycheck. If the mentor likes my performance in this class, I’ll have the opportunity to become a junior member of the faculty. For their final project in this class, my students will have to put together a Powerpoint presentation. Since I’m a newbie at using Powerpoint myself, I was wondering how in the heck I was supposed to grade my students’ work. While listening to some cool Celtic music, however, I had a flash of inspiration and created a presentation based on one of my fiction projects–a story about a team of superheroes on a Celtic motif. It’s a rare thing when you get to do what feels like goofing off and having fun but can justify it as part of your work! Putting the Powerpoint presentation together got me excited about the story all over again, and I’m going to pick it back up.

I have a new desk at which to work, a new manual wheelchair, and a new electric wheelchair on order. With the assistance of my family, I’m trying to obtain a loan to buy and renovate a condo in Charlotte, NC, which would be a huge improvement over where I’m now living. God is Good!

There are a couple of clouds on the horizon, however. Recently I’ve noticed a couple of odd things about the way my body is behaving which could be fairly innocuous or which could indicate that something more serious is wrong. I have an appointment with my doctor on Wednesday to discuss these problems and see what he recommends I do. I have a disability and other associated health problems already, and given all the medical adventures family, friends, and I have had in recent years, I have to work hard to keep my imagination from running away with me and envisioning all sorts of worst-case, doomsday explanations for these latest medical oddities. Your prayers, gentle readers, would be appreciated. If, God forbid, there is something seriously amiss with my insides, I pray I can face it with courage and faith. If, on the other hand, it’s just a minor glitch or two, then Deo gratias. We shall see.

I do hereby promise also to be a more faithful, frequent, and regular blogger. Until next time friends!

On to Mentorship!

August 19, 2008

I just received an e-mail from my faculty trainer at Axia College of the University of Phoenix that I successfully completed the second round of training as an online facilitator (instructor). The next step is to move on to a mentorship or student-teaching phase where I will be teaching a course under the supervision of a mentor/evaluator and dealing with actual students. I was fairly confident I’d made it because all my previous feedback during this training session was very positive, but I didn’t want to get cocky or say anything until it was official.

I can’t adequately describe how pleased and relieved I am. After recent events in my life, I was beginning to wonder if I could ever find anything at which I’d be truly successful. I may be moving soon into better housing as well, but I’ll hold off on saying anything more until I see how that situation plays out. God is Good!

Taking a Breather

August 4, 2008

In the immortal words of Sam Gamgee at the end of The Lord of the Rings:

“Well, I’m back.”

Sorry for the relative radio silence over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been training as an online “facilitator” (they don’t call them instructors) for Axia College of The University of Phoenix. There were about ten people in our training group to start with, and I suspect everyone was surprised at how intense the training experience turned out to be—I know I was. There were written assignments and “Discussion Questions” due almost every day, and in addition we were expected to contribute regularly and frequently to an online discussion forum where we thought and talked about the theory and practice of teaching online from just about every conceivable angle. We had some no-shows and several dropouts along the way, I suspect because they underestimated the time and effort it would take to complete the training and realized they couldn’t keep it up when they considered what else was going on in their lives.

Overall, I feel fairly positive about how I did. I received an evaluation from the instructor (oops, facilitator) at the end of the first week, and the only specific thing she mentioned that needed improvement was my level of participation in the online forums. I made sure I ramped that up this week. My classmates reacted very positively to what I had to say, and they all struck me as intelligent and highly motivated people. I should get some official feedback on my performance later in the week, including word on whether I can advance to the next, more specialized round of facilitator training. (I told one of my classmates it feels a bit like being a contestant on “American Idol”). Stay tuned. We’ll see what happens next. In the meantime, however, now that I can relax a bit, I’ve got some comic books to read. See you later.

I Almost Have a Job!

July 15, 2008

I didn’t want to say anything until it was official, but this morning I received an e-mail from Axia College, University of Phoenix, informing me that I’ve been chosen to participate in a training session for online instructors that starts next week. I hope to be teaching courses in writing, composition, communication, and maybe even a little literature–what used to be called Freshman English or College English.

I’ve actually been communicating with U of P for several weeks now via phone and e-mail because they have a rather lengthy interview and screening process: an online form, a request for a resume, a series of written questions, a phone interview, and a set of online exercises. I’ve passed all those preliminary stages satisfactorily and about a month of intensive training (actually a pair of two-week seminars) is the next step. If I complete this core training successfully, I’ll then be student-teaching a course under the supervision of a mentor and evaluator. If that goes well, I’ll be offered the position of a junior instructor on the faculty.

It would be only a part-time gig (15-20 hours a week), but part-time is better than no-time. I’m trying to do some writing and develop some stories about original characters I’ve created, and a part-time job like this would still allow me time to write. The job is also an excellent opportunity to network with many professionals, and that networking could lead to something full-time. We’ll see.

The only downside is that after more than 20 years as a dedicated Macintosh user, I’ll have to “go over to the dark side” and start using a Windows PC. My brother Bill, a U of P graduate, and an employee of a major computer manufacturer, strongly recommended a Windows box and a high-speed internet connection. He helped me pick out the system on which this blog entry is being written. It’s nifty having a new state-of-the-art PC, but the Windows Vista operating system (ahem . . . searching for a socially acceptable word) stinks. It’s clumsy and balky and illogical to me. Despite several valiant attempts this weekend, Bill was unable to network the Mac and the PC. Using a flash drive to transfer important files is only partially successful, as many of them are somehow corrupted in transport. I’ve been e-mailing really critical files from the Mac to the PC for several days now, because this seems to be about the only way I’ve found to transfer data error-free. Steve Jobs was right: Microsoft just has no taste. My Mac seems a little forlorn, reduced to a supporting role and sitting on the corner of my desk, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. Honest, little Mac. I still love you!

I have about a million things to do before the online training begins, but it feels great to be busy because you’re working towards an ultimate goal. I’m grateful to God for this opportunity and I pray for the grace and strength to make the most of it.

Searching for Dad, Finding a Career Direction

October 31, 2007


Recently I mentioned wanting to find out more about what my father did during World War II. I’ve submitted requests for Dad’s service records to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (so far I’ve come up empty), and nosed about on the internet trying to see what I could find. Earlier this spring, Ancestry.com, normally a pay-for-access site, announced they were making their military records databases available to search for free for a limited time. I searched and turned up an enlistment record for Dad, but without a serial number. A Google search for Dad’s old unit, “U. S. Ninth Air Force in World War II” turned up the marvelously useful United States Army Air Forces in World War II site, where veterans, children and grandchildren of veterans, researchers, and military history buffs can ask questions and gather and share information. I cannot say enough good things about this site and the people who contribute to it! Within just a few days they had graciously and courteously answered many of my questions, provided information I didn’t have, and pointed me in new directions for research, including a database of Army enlistment records (with serial numbers) administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, and useful Wikipedia pages on the history, organization, and nomenclature of the U. S. Air Force in general and the Ninth Air Force in particular. With the help of these fine people I learned that the predecessor of the present U. S. Air Force was the U. S. Army Air Forces (plural), and that there is a difference between the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Army Air Corps. I was most impressed when veterans answered my queries. Often they would sign their postings with their rank, their unit, and the dates of their service. I am in awe of these men: their courage, their sacrifice, their humility, and their willingness to share what they remember. I know what they tell me is accurate because they were there to see it–and my father was one of them.

All this exploration and discovery of what happened to my father (what I’ve dubbed “the Dad project”) has made me realize that I might want to become what is variously called an information broker, an independent researcher, or an independent information professional. These are people who will plan and conduct searches for information (often highly specialized) in conventional and electronic sources, distill and package the information, and present the results of their search to the client for a fee. Many have library science degrees, as I do, but some don’t. The largest professional association of information brokers is the Association of Independent information Professionals, which I’ve joined as a prospective (free) member. I’m working my way through a bibliography of articles about the profession and know I want to read more. I’ve ordered three books on the subject that are frequently cited in the literature and are considered essential reading for anyone thinking about the IB business.

This is a new and potentially exciting career direction for me. This is problem solving, investigation, detective work and creativity–the kind of work I wanted to do when I decided to become a librarian in the first place. I want to see where this path leads. I hope Dad would be proud of me for following it.

Unemployment Update

September 19, 2007

Longtime readers of this blog (all three of you) may be aware that I lost my job back in early July, and blogging has been rather sparse since then. You may be asking how things are going. The short answer: not so good.

I’ve sent out some resumés for library jobs principally in the Charlotte, NC area, since I’ve got family there, and that’s where I’d like to wind up. So far, I’ve gotten no invitations for an interview, although I did receive word that two of the positions I’d applied for had already been filled. One respondent said my qualifications appeared to be “stellar,” which gave me some small encouragement.

In recent weeks, however, some health problems have flared up which may make it more difficult for me to work outside the home, especially if they persist. I already have a serious disability and some other health problems that make working more challenging than it would be otherwise. In view of that, after much prayer and deliberation, I’ve decided to apply for government disability benefits, at least as a temporary measure. I’m also mulling over the possibility of starting some type of small home-based business (freelance writing, copy editing, indexing, for example) to supplement what I might receive in benefits. There are provisions under the rules where I could work and earn a certain amount each month and still receive benefits. However, I’ve spoken with friends and family members who’ve run their own businesses, and both have advised me that working for yourself can be very stressful and demanding.

In short, there are no easy ways out of the current mess. Many, if not most, days I feel very depressed and discouraged, and I have to struggle to find the energy to get out of bed and keep going. Prayer helps a lot. I say the Rosary and the Tessera, the set of prayers associated with the Legion of Mary almost every day now, and I always feel better when I do. I am president of our praesidium, or local chapter of the Legion, and I wish I set a better example for our members.

Much has been made of the recent revelations that Mother Teresa suffered from years and even decades of spiritual darkness. She perceived absolutely no sign of God’s presence in her own life and even wondered aloud if God was really there, yet urged those around her to seek and serve God. Some have said that this made her a hypocrite, but to me it just means she was human. Everything I’ve ever read about prayer cautions that there will be “dry times” when God seems to be absent or deaf to our prayers, but the same spiritual authorities (including Jesus himself in Lk. 18:1-7) urge us to keep praying and loving and serving God anyway. Somehow, I find it enormously comforting and encouraging that even someone as obviously holy as Mother Teresa went through such a profound period of spiritual darkness and dryness and yet remained faithful to what she knew God wanted her to do. The kind of darkness I’m going through now is nothing like what she experienced, but if Mother Teresa got through hers, I can get through mine. I’m in pretty good company.