In “freefall” or safe in His arms?

Strange timing! I had been planning on writing a six-month update on my job search status and then this COVID-19 pandemic hit. My, oh my.

To briefly catch everyone up, I was employed at Kodak Alaris/Eastman Kodak for 43 years despite almost constant layoffs the last 34 of those years. During that 34-year span, the Kodak workforce in Rochester plunged from 60,000 to less than 2000 employees. Although it tried various strategies, the company just was not able to successfully make the switch from analog to digital technology. Well, Kodak finally did lay me off at the end of September at the age of 63. As part of the separation package, the company provided three months of career transition training and I attended those helpful classes and began applying for jobs in earnest in December. To date, I’ve applied to 71 job postings and have had in-person interviews with 7 companies and phone interviews with another 3 companies. My big drawback is my age. Realistically, scant few hiring managers would be willing to hire a candidate my age and invest in a ton of training just to see the person retire in a few years. Another factor is that with the decline of Kodak, Xerox, and other smaller manufacturers, combined with the sky-high taxes, Rochester, N.Y. is the worst job market in the entire United States (see article* at bottom).

My severance pay ran out at the end of December and I filed for unemployment the start of the year.  Meanwhile, my wife went on disability in the beginning of August because of health issues and received half-pay thereafter. However, her workplace stopped paying her at the end of November because their insurance company claims she is able to return to work. My wife’s MD has not advocated for her as strongly as he should have. She’s now in the process of applying for long-term disability. In the meantime, we live on my weekly unemployment checks, which will run out the end of June. I continue to apply for positions matching my skills and experience, but in a few more weeks, as the end of the unemployment checks comes into view, I’ll visit a temp agency (depending on the pandemic situation) and ask for whatever job they can find for me for a year or two.

My wife and I are close enough to retirement that we can survive this without giving up our home, etc. However, so many people are now losing their jobs either temporarily or permanently because of the COVID-19 pandemic and entering the ranks of the unemployed. Probably 95% of companies have suspended all hiring except for those providing essential services and commodities. Even our local unemployment agency is shut down. It’s somewhat pointless to grind through the daily job search activities in light of the current circumstances, but the unemployment protocols must still be followed.

The entire world is in a bit of a “freefall” as this pandemic runs its course. Society is being turned on its head. People are not only losing their jobs, but to date approximately 700 Americans have died from the virus and many more will surely follow. The “security” of being part of the middle-class and the upper-class in American society was always a mirage as we’re now seeing. The world can offer no firm, lasting foundation. For believers, it’s one thing to “talk about” trusting in the Lord, but it’s another thing to actually need to trust in Him. Our faith is in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No circumstance can separate us from our Shepherd. What a joy and peace it is to know the Lord in this crisis! Let’s be a help to others during these difficult times and a testimony of the Lord’s salvation and goodness.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

*Wall Street Journal ranks Rochester worst metropolitan job market in United States
https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2020/03/01/rochester-ny-ranked-worst-metropolitan-job-market-united-states-wall-street-journal-moodys/4923865002/

Say it ain’t so!

Suspend the New York Knicks’ season? Fine. Cancel the NCAA Division I hockey playoffs and end the season for the RIT Tigers? Okay. Cancel Spring Training for the San Diego Padres? Sure. Stock market plunging like rock? Life goes on. A frenzied run on toilet paper countrywide? We’ll handle it. Shut down the county library system? SAY WHAT?!?!?!

Odds & Ends 2

I’ve accumulated several “second-string” post ideas, so once again it’s time to clear the decks with another Sunday Odds & Ends potpourri:

TBN Heresy

Capture134I was channel surfing the other night and happened to catch televangelist, Robert Morris, on TBN pushing his new book, “Frequency.” I tuned in long enough to find out that Morris claims to be able to teach the reader how they too can learn how to receive direct revelations from God. Ach. TBN is FULL of this type of bogus experientialism heresy. If you desire to hear from God, read His Word.

More Lenten Friday Dispensations

A few weeks ago, I posted about the papal dispensation allowing Venezuelans to eat capybara meat on Fridays during Lent (see here). You might be interested to know there are also dispensations for other regions: beaver in Quebec, muskrat in Michigan, puffin in France, and alligator in Louisiana. See here. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way to get around every man-made rule in works religion. In the old days it was called “jesuitical casuistry.”

Worshiping Crumbs?

The early church used whole rounds/loaves of bread for communal Lord’s Suppers. Each participant would tear off a piece from a round/loaf and crumbs would consequently fly all over. Not a huge deal. However, as the church became increasingly institutionalized, the Lord’s Supper memorial gained prominence and meaning far beyond the Lord’s intention. History records that “host presses” were developed in the sixth century for the manufacture of individual, uniform communion wafers. Problematic crumbs were thereby largely eliminated, affording the transformation of the Lord’s Supper memorial into the ritualized worship of the crumbless, consecrated faux Jesus wafer. Although crumbs were generally not a problem after the onset of “host” manufacturing, faux Jesus wafers accidentally falling to the floor continue to be a disturbing desecration for Catholic wafer worshipers.

Raking Again!

Last December 29th, I wrote a post about the final gasps of the Fall 2019 Leaf Campaign. See here. Well, just eleven weeks later, I’m in the middle of the Spring 2020 lawn raking campaign. The entire lawn needs to be raked following each Winter to break up the snow mold and to remove twigs, acorns, remaining leaves, and dead grass. The back yard is almost done with the front remaining. It’s hard work for an old guy.

Coronavirus and church service

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many churches are either cancelling services today or streaming sermons-sans-congregants online if they have the required technology.

Coronavirus and toilet paper

I did a little shopping at the local grocery back on Wednesday and didn’t notice anything unusual, but when I went to the store yesterday morning, I saw there had been a run on meats, canned goods, and paper goods, especially toilet paper (photos below). Sociologists will be studying the toilet-paper-hoarding reaction for years to come.

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Coronavirus and my sports teams?

Speaking of the COVID-19 virus, it’s put a major damper on my favorite sports teams. The National Basketball Association has suspended the season, with my New York Knicks finishing with a dismal 21-45 record. The Atlantic Hockey Conference (Division I, NCAA) cancelled its playoff tournament, so the third-seed, Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, never got a chance to square off against six-seed, Air Force Academy, and finished the season with a very decent record of 19-13-4. Finally, Major League Baseball has suspended Spring Training with the San Diego Padres’ Cactus League record at 18-11 after the last game was played on Wednesday. It may seem a bit trivial/insensitive to whine about the abrupt suspension/cancellation of sporting events in light of this pandemic, but this IS an “odds and ends” post. If they shut down the library, then I’m in real trouble. Er, I take that back. There’s always e-books.

Selective indignation

This past January 27th, the world marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp with emotional cries of “Never Again!” Approximately one-million Jews and another one-hundred-thousand non-Jews were murdered by the Nazi Germans at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945. In total, about six-million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust genocide.

It’s entirely right to remember the victims of the Holocaust, but why is the world troubled by the memory of one genocide while at the same time it condones the ongoing worldwide genocide of unborn children, which continues at a rate of approximately 60,000,000 abortions annually?

Odds and Ends

I’m a nerdy blogger and part of being a nerdy blogger is scheduling out my posts a couple of weeks ahead of time. I usually have 8-12 drafts in the queue that I’ll occasionally fiddle with and fine-tune before they’re finally published. I use a two-week, revolving “blog plan” sheet to keep it all straight and at the bottom of the sheet, I jot down ideas for new posts. I’ve accumulated a number of frivolous-type ideas that just keep getting pushed aside week after week, so I thought I’d finally publish them as a collection of “odds and ends” in a rare Sunday post:

Hot Sauce

Capture101Buffalo Chicken Wings are THE THING here in Western New York. Many, many years ago, I used to cook up my own wings in a mini-fryer and serve them with the standard Buffalo sauce – Frank’s Red Hot and melted butter – with Blue Cheese dressing on the side as a dip. I eventually created my own sauce concept, mixing Frank’s with Ranch dressing (heartier Ranch dressing actually tastes better than Blue Cheese in this combo) and eliminating the need for dip. I recently discovered something very similar to my old sauce at Tops supermarket; Creamy Ranch Buffalo Wing Sauce made by Moore’s Marinades and Sauces down in Birmingham, Alabama. Good stuff! But chicken wings are definitely not part of a healthy diet plan (just one fried chicken wing has about 100 calories and 7 grams of fat).

Trite sayings

Trite sayings come and go. At one time, EVERYONE was repeating the dismissive, “Whatever,” and the incredulous, “Really?” A decade ago, I sat near a woman at work who regularly used the annoyingly fatalistic phrase, “It is what it is.” She must have said that five or six times a day, every day!!!

New Yorkers – Hurry Up and Wait

We New Yorkers are notorious for being punctual to a fault. Twenty-years ago, our little family went on a 3-day cruise in the Caribbean. On the last day of the cruise, all passengers were told to report to the ship’s auditorium at 9 a.m. sharp for disembarkation instructions. We got there at about 8:45 along with a few other families. The ship’s officer in charge of the disembarkation was standing on stage and knowingly asked if we were all from New York. Here in New York, if a customer gets a little too friendly and chatty with the clerk at the grocery checkout, the rest of the people in line start going crazy. Or what about the older women at the checkout who always insist on meticulously picking out the exact change from their circa-1960, little change purse. It’s 2020! Get a debit card, ladies! Ach. We New Yorkers can be very impatient fools.

Walking in Winter

One of my fitness goals is to walk 10,000 steps every day, although I’m actually averaging only about 8K/day currently. It’s very difficult and dangerous walking in Rochester during the Winter with all of the snow and ice on the roads and the freezing temperatures. I’ve slipped and slid many times, but haven’t fallen. Yet. I need to seriously think about an alternative on bad days, like driving to the mall and doing my walking inside. My sister’s elderly mother-in-law was hit by a USPS truck and seriously injured while exercise-walking in the street during the Winter.

Sports teams

The last time I wrote about one of my sports teams was October 1st, when I was whining about the end of another terrible season by the San Diego Padres. What’s going on with my other favorite teams? After a very encouraging 12-4 record in 2018, the Los Angeles Chargers (football) sank like a rock in 2019, going 5-11. The Bolts have finally turned the page on 38-year-old QB, Philip Rivers. The New York Knicks (basketball) weren’t able to sign any marquee free agents in the offseason. After an abysmal start, Knicks management fired head coach, David Fizdale, and the team is currently limping along with a 17-38 record at the All-Star break, on its way to another atrocious finish. In contrast, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers (hockey) have put together a very decent 17-11-4 season to this point and seem to be on their way to the conference playoffs in early-March as a top-seed. Meanwhile, the Padres are currently going through the motions in the Cactus League in preparation for what figures to be another sub-.500 season. The first spring training game is slated for this coming Saturday, February 22nd, against Seattle.

New Yorkers Redux

A U.S. Census report published in December showed that New York State is once again leading all other states in net population loss. The exodus is especially manifest here in Western New York. The region was once an economic powerhouse, and taxes spiraled through the roof to keep pace with the growth and development. Fifty-years later, the manufacturing jobs are pretty much gone, but the outrageously high taxes remain. Bureaucracy, once created, will fight tooth and claw to ensure its survival. Besides the economic miasma, we get more snow here than any other region in the country. No company would consider moving here. When students graduate from the local colleges, they must leave the region to find work.

Navigating the job market and being let down by “friends” and colleagues

I was an employee of Eastman Kodak and Kodak Alaris for a combined 43 years. Once an industrial giant, Kodak was battered by foreign competition and the switch to digital technology and has been in a downward spiral for the past 35 years. I was hoping for three more years with the company to reach Medicare eligibility and full Social Security, but was laid off at the end of September. Ouch.

To say I was unprepared for the layoff would be an understatement. I did not have a resume prepared (despite being fully aware of my company’s ongoing decline) and I knew nothing about how one goes about searching for a job in the digital age. As part of the separation package, Kodak Alaris provided three months of assistance from a “career transition” training firm, which was VERY helpful. I’ve learned all of the ins-and-outs of job search including crafting a resume, interviewing skills, and networking. Networking? Yup, statistics show that the majority of job seekers find new employment via contacts and word-of-mouth.

One of the must-have requirements of a job search these days is having a profile at LinkedIn. Recruiters routinely check a job candidate’s LinkedIn profile so it had better be appealing. I did not have a LinkedIn profile prior to being laid off, so it was all Greek to me. The career transition company helped me put a profile together. Whew!

It’s important that a job seeker has a lot of “connections” on their LinkedIn account. That gives the impression to recruiters that the candidate is well-connected, well-liked, a team player, yada yada. There’s also the possibility that a connection can help point a job seeker to an employment opportunity. So I began inviting my former co-workers at Kodak Alaris and Kodak to “connect” with me. Some did connect, but half didn’t. I could see that some of my invitees had even gone to the trouble of viewing my profile (LinkedIn enables members to do that), but still declined to connect. Why not? They knew I was in need of a little help that would have taken very little effort – a click of the mouse – on their part and yet they declined to do so. Yes, I’m aware that some LinkedIn members rarely interact with their account, so that explains some of the non-responses, but others purposely declined to accept the invitation. Ouch.

However, there are several ways to skin a cat. I’ve sent out close to 1000 invitations – mostly to strangers – and 372 have accepted to date and become part of my “network.” Thank you, kind strangers!

I’m inclined to hold a grudge against those old friends and colleagues who wouldn’t help out even in a very tiny way. But then I think about all the times I have deliberately disappointed people. Perhaps some of the non-respondees felt that I had wronged them in some way when I was working with them. I also think about how many times I have disobeyed God – in thought, word, deed, and by omission – so far just this week. Quite a few times and it’s only Wednesday!

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

Better that I should set an example of love and forgiveness than bitterness and feeling offended. Jesus Christ calls us to be that way.

A little advice to EVERYONE who is working: You could be hit by a layoff/downsizing/restructuring/takeover at any time. Prepare now. Buy a good book about “career transition” (there are many), follow the steps and regularly work at it. I wish I had. Build your network – at LinkedIn and elsewhere – now. Be systematic about it. And if someone invites you to join their connections network, be kind, even if they’re not on your “favorite people” list. It won’t cost you anything except a click of your mouse.

Postscript 1: I began applying to job postings in December, admittedly not a good time of year for doing that, and I’ve applied to 33 job postings to date. Now that we’re in the new year, I’m starting to get some serious nibbles from employers. Objectively, my age (63) is a serious disadvantage. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for my job search!

Postscript 2: Many people tend to think of LinkedIn as just another social media outlet where they can connect with their friends. My career transition coach told us to think of LinkedIn rather as a mammoth Rolodex (remember those?), a resource for growing networking opportunities that should not be limited just to friends and personal acquaintances.

Postscript 3: I realize the majority of people under age 50 don’t need to be schooled about LinkedIn.

Happy New Year!

Wishing all of my friends and readers here at the WordPress blogosphere a Happy New Year! May we follow the Lord more closely this year by His grace and be a blessing and encouragement to others.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  – Lamentations 3:22-23

“Hey, dummy. Not for nothing, but you missed the exit AGAIN!”

Meet our dog, Gracie. She’s a twelve-year-old, forty-pound Labradoodle,* but she’s in pretty good shape for an old gal because she and I take a one-mile walk around the neighborhood almost every day.

On our walks, we always did the one-mile loop straight back to our house and Gracie became thoroughly familiar with the route. But one day, I decided to have a little fun with Gracie and I kept going, walking right past our house. Well, Gracie is no dummy! She knew the walk should have been over when we reached the house and she balked and balked and didn’t want to take another step. When we want her to do something, she’s like, “Huh? What?,” but she turns into Einstein when SHE wants something.

So now we continue our little game every day. I continue to walk past the house and she refuses to keep going, each time giving me a look (photo above) as if to say, “Hey, dummy! I can’t believe you missed the exit again!” After we debate on the street for about a half-minute, I relent, Gracie wins, and we turn back to the house, with Gracie joyfully bounding ahead like a labra-gazelle and thinking to herself, “Yes! I got through to the big idiot once again!”

*Labradoodles are a dichotomous mixture of laid back, friendly Labrador Retriever and high-strung, demanding diva, French Poodle. Gracie is therefore in constant internal conflict as she fluctuates between being a contented, grateful lap dog and a demanding prima donna. In the last couple of years, she would frequently have anxiety attacks in the middle of the night (Argh! It was torturous, friends.), but ever since her vet prescribed a daily sedative, she’s a reasonably tranquil girl (for being half-poodle).

Question: What kind of guy washes windows when it’s 30F outside and snowing???

Answer: A husband whose wife is currently not working and needs a hobby.

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The two photos were taken on Monday, November 11th. Check out the gargantuan snow-covered leaf pile in the foreground of the second photo and ALL of those leaves STILL clinging to the oak trees in the background! Sheesh! What kind of short-sighted ignoramus would consent to buying a heart-attack trap like that?

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Billboard makes whimsy of eternity

Every Wednesday, I must drive into downtown Rochester for a “career transition” training class. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along Interstate 490 West into the city when I noticed the new billboard pictured above near the intersection of Winton Road and East Avenue.

Yikes!

I’m sure this advertisement evokes a chuckle from the tens of thousands of unbelieving commuters who pass by every day. But salvation is no joking matter. Your life could end today.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

Before I accepted Christ, I struggled with the idea of all of the things that I would have to “give up” in order to be a Christian. Boy, did I have a misconception. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not the morally self-righteous. Acknowledge your helplessness and inability to live a moral life, turn from your rebellion against God, and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The Lord will then help you to live a life that’s pleasing to Him.

What can compare to eternal salvation in Jesus Christ? Treasuring the temporal pleasures of this world over eternal life in Jesus Christ is irrational insanity. Who would choose a single, discarded, maggot-infested corn husk for their meal over a thirty-day, sumptuous banquet feast? Does not compute.

Friends, I don’t get all flustered and outraged over a billboard such as this. Unbelievers do what unbelievers do. Perhaps this billboard is valuable because at least it will get people thinking about their souls and eternal judgement. However, your salvation is nothing to joke about. Every soul is either going to Heaven or Hell and only those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone are going to Heaven. What’s going to happen to you after you die? Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior!