A Glitter Girl’s Guarantee

“Here Mommy, I want you to have this.” My son handed me a small lump of pyrite better known as Fool’s Gold. The metallic-looking substance brilliantly reflected the room’s light causing countless iridescent rays to dance on its crystalized surface. On an ordinary day, this glistening gold gift would have improved my disposition.

“Thank you. It’s beautiful,” I tried to sound enthusiastic since my little boy was patiently waiting for the praise that should follow such sacrificial generosity. I mean what second grader willingly gives up a glittering mineral? Besides, I was trying to conceal my melancholy mood, but Zach sensed it and wanted to brighten my day.   

Maybe, because I was a single mom, my son learned early on about girls and glitter. Admittedly, all females aren’t fans of glam and bling, although sparkly things do make some of us smile.

Now that he’s a grown man, Zach doesn’t remember that afternoon. Nor would he know about the strange craving for potato chips and hot sauce I had when I was pregnant with him. Those months of pregnancy were the only time I ate this bizarre combination.

Decades ago, greedily munching on greasy chips smothered in smoldering red sauce taught me a valuable lesson. I learned to pay close attention to food cravings, accepting it might be the physical body’s way of saying it has a nutritional need. Our soul and spirit have authentic hunger pangs, too.

This past spring during the Covid-19 lockdown, another strange craving hit me full force. This wasn’t a hankering for an unusual food, rather it was an intense yearning to see something beautiful that glittered. Isn’t this why girls of all ages shop for bedazzled t-shirts, carry ornamented purses, or host costume jewelry parties? Shiny objects don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to glisten in the sunlight.

Bottom line, the pandemic gloom created an emotional hunger for some sparkle. Although, it wasn’t for necklaces, earrings, or sequined shirts. Part of my longing was to bless someone else, because social distancing made me aware of how much I need female friends. Candidly, I must confess I’m not very good at cultivating or nurturing these important relationships.

Yet during the lonely season of sheltering-in-place, I received an inspirational card from a dear friend named Mary. The card’s front cover was sprinkled with decorative gold glitter. It was an encouraging, not-for-any-reason card, reminding me I was “priceless and irreplaceable.”

My friend is in her early eighties. She couldn’t have known how immensely the card would comfort me on some rather dark days while sheltering-in-place. More significantly, I believe Mary has a greeting card ministry. This compassionate retired teacher possesses a spiritual gift to send cards which seem to arrive at the exact moment the receiver desperately needs uplifting. Other women from Mary’s circle can attest to this providential timing.

Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely appreciate receiving a text, email, or personal social media message from a concerned well-wisher. But there’s something special about going to your mailbox and finding an unexpected envelope containing a thoughtful note from a friend.

That’s why, I decided to follow Mary’s example and fill my craving for something sparkly by sending out some greeting cards myself. It wasn’t “essential” to venture out shopping, instead I purchased an assortment of attractive cards on the Internet. Of course, they were decorated with glitter and an uplifting message.  

I ended up mailing a half-dozen greetings out. It was my intent to comfort, encourage, and support a few female family members and friends with some sparkle and heartfelt sentiment. I was blessed back with the incredible sense of reward we receive when we give, expecting nothing in return.

For instance, I had been meaning to send a card to the mother of a former college classmate who died in her twenties. We hadn’t been in touch for decades, but this past year, I couldn’t get my late friend’s mom off my mind, so shutdown gave me time to send her a card.

Her return note turned out to be an unexpected blessing. After all, Covid-19 statistics continue to rise, racial injustice has divided our nation, unemployment is daunting, and we have no idea what tomorrow will hold. Yet this dear lady shared a poignant quote offering hope for the future, “God’s plans are greater than any plans we can imagine.” That’s truly a guarantee a glitter girl can cling to. 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker who has been featured on Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life TV show and on CBN’s 700 Club. Her most recent inspirational book is “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel.” Her amazing life journey includes surviving a near fatal suicide attempt and confinement in a state mental institution as a teen to having a successful life today. Christina has a B.A. from Bluffton University and an M.A. from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

Poverty Simulation and the Banana Nut Bread Christmas

Christmas Tiny TimThat holiday season three decades ago, “…was the best of times, [and] it was the worst of times…” as Charles Dickens once wrote. The best of times, because we were healthy, the worst, because as a single mom I found myself part of the U.S. poverty statistic.

This memory came flooding back on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, when I participated in the C.O.P.E. (Cost of Poverty Experience) hosted by Edison Community College’s Academy for Community Leadership on the Piqua campus. According to the college’s Website, “C.O.P.E. is a powerful simulation that has been used to help many organizations and communities across the nation work more effectively with low-income families and understand the issues of poverty more comprehensively.”

The U.S. Census Bureau now estimates that “over fifteen percent of the American population lives below the poverty line.”  Since I was once part of this statistic, I was unsure that the simulation would result in a greater personal understanding of the tragic plight of millions of Americans. However, it reminded me that poverty can be really tricky, because the destitution and shame it produces silence you. Once your voice is gone, you can give in to apathy and hopelessness.

I was also wrong about not needing a refresher course on what scarcity feels like. Through the years, I have been blessed with financial stability, and had forgotten the frantic tension that not having enough money for monthly bills, rent, food, or even diapers can produce within a family unit. It all came rushing back that icy morning, while engaged in the free event which was funded through the CareSource Foundation and conducted by the Think Tank.

I also remembered the daunting challenge of finding sufficient employment, which countless Americans continue to face. Unemployment statistics can be misleading, because there are individuals of all ages who have fallen off the unemployment rolls and are no longer accounted for. In addition, the underemployed are another marginalized group trying to make ends meet on a less than livable income.

Besides, the daily struggle, Christmas is coming for this economically endangered population. Thankfully, many communities take note of the needs of those less fortunate during this season believing the Biblical viewpoint that, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” especially where children are concerned.Christmas Single Mom

Yet even when your financial situation is rocky, Christmas comes with the human expectation that one should celebrate by giving to others. That’s when my mind recalled my own plight as a young single mother on welfare living in a government-subsidized apartment, despite a newly acquired college degree. I was ashamed of betraying my hard-fought dream of becoming a middle-class citizen through higher education. After months of sending out resume after resume during the recession of the early eighties, there was still no career prospect on the horizon.

Wanting to give presents to my loved ones is how the banana nut bread Christmas came to be. Not blessed with much domestic talent, I surprised myself that winter by mastering a recipe for banana nut bread.

I got a couple boxes of Bisquick, nuts, some reduced over-ripe bananas perfect for baking, and a dented box of foil from a food salvage store. Loaf after loaf of golden brown bread baked in my little apartment oven in borrowed loaf pans. Then once the delicious smelling bread cooled, I wrapped it in seasonally appropriate, silver (aluminum) foil and tied a festive red bow around it. Admittedly, the nuts in the nut bread were quite sparse, due to my budget.

Since, “It [really] is more blessed to give than to receive,” giving homemade banana nut bread as presents to family and friends gave me special joy. I had beaten the recession Grinch who had tried to steal Christmas.

When one is able to give something – anything – hope arises in the midst of lack. Hope for a brighter future and better life!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com . This column was originally published in the Sidney Daily News and the Piqua Daily Call.

 

Unemployment and the over 50 worker

 

Younger workers can be more desirable for full-time positions than those over 50.

Younger workers can be more desirable for full-time positions than those over 50.

Recent unemployment statistics look like things are getting better. Yet they don’t adequately count those seeking jobs who have fallen off the rolls or just given up. Nor do they reflect the underemployed who deserve better.

For me, this unemployment lesson began innocently one night in a busy Ohio coffee shop. The brightly lit coffeehouse seemed particularly inviting with the smell of freshly brewed beans filling the air.

The 20-something employee was a professional young lady destined for greater things. While she was preparing my skinny caramel latte, I absentmindedly asked, “Are you in school?”

Unfortunately, I had hit an obvious nerve. The brunette barista began pouring out her tragic tale of finishing college, landing her dream job then just as quickly being downsized. In the midst of this tirade, she mentioned something about owing a fortune in school loans.

With mounting agitation, the café server finally revealed the real culprit responsible. It turned out to be me because she blamed all the folks over 50 who refuse to retire as the reason young people can’t find a decent job. Instantly, my delicious java tasted as bitter as her unlined face looked.

Since I’m a journalist, I thought that explaining my side of the story might enable her to better understand life through bifocals.

For example, bitter barista probably doesn’t realize that our erratic retirement accounts aren’t what they once were. A volatile stock market, lack of savings, reduced home equity and longer life spans force folks into staying on the job. This probably won’t improve for future generations, since according to the U.S. Social Security Administration’s website, ssa.gov, 50 percent of the current 158 million American workers have no private pension plan, and 31 percent have no savings earmarked for retirement.

Besides economic need, there’s the ingrained work ethic that many boomers share. Admittedly, countless wage earners look forward to retirement to enjoy spending time with grandchildren and playing golf. But for others, our life purpose centers on the societal contribution that we make through our profession.

How about a word picture representing the heart cry of the over-50 displaced worker? Remember being a child sprawled out on your living room floor with a coloring book and crayons. While you were carefully coloring, staying in the lines, meticulously choosing each color, suddenly you heard your mother’s voice informing you that it was bedtime. If you were like me, you frantically wailed, “But I’m not done yet.”

But some baby boomers are done, even though they don’t want to be. According to recent AARP statistics, individuals over 55 have unemployment levels that have more than doubled since 2007.

In addition, a Reuters’ Money article by Mark Miller headlined “Older unemployed workers half as likely to get hired” outlines the challenge for aging Americans. Miller cites research from the Urban Institute displaying that seasoned employees are less likely to lose their jobs due to seniority. But if they do with the exception of successful C-level executives, it’s probably going to be an uphill battle for them to find new full-time employment.

This subtle, unspoken discrimination against mature workers was birthed in the dark days of recession. Employers can’t afford to hand over a coveted vacancy to an aging candidate who they fear might not be tech savvy or could increase their health insurance premiums and claims.

In fairness to skinny latte lady, her own path was never supposed to include being a barista with a college degree or moving back in with her parents to save money. Even though it might seem like a young-eat-old-worker world out there, coffee girl is desperately looking for a real job to call her own.

Older unemployed individuals aren’t giving up either. Experience can still open a door for part-time or consulting opportunities. You may be making less per hour than you could get for babysitting the neighbor’s kids. Nevertheless, you take it, proud to be part of the workforce again.

Others are opening small businesses to put themselves back to work. Information reported by Dane Stangler for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation shows boomers aged 55 to 64 account for the “highest rate of entrepreneurial activity” this past decade.

Bottom line, if you can’t find a job, you can create one. As a past small business owner, I know that being an entrepreneur is risky, especially in this economy. But if you are like me, I’ll bet you always told your mother, “Please, give me a little more time. I’m not done yet.”

 

 

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website atchristinaryanclaypool.com.