Looking for a job? Here’s how one woman turned her job loss into a way to find jobs for many…

By Jane Bokun

A free job group called STM Career Group, which started years ago in Munster, In. has proven to be a saving grace for many in the area who are looking for jobs.

Try job groups or networking with people you already know…

Christine Spencer, who heads the job networking group in the Weis Center at St. Thomas More church, 8435 Calumet Avenue in Munster, started it when she lost her own job and saw it as a vehicle to help on the 3rd Thurs of each month at the Weis Center and the rest is history. “

Spencer, a petite woman who always wears suits to her meetings, has a background in meeting planning and has trained various groups in time management.

“Lots of people come here for jobs,” agreed Susan Strain, who works at St. Thomas More church in Munster. “They can get free help with resumes and hear from human resource professionals.”

Spencer said that may be the ticket to her group’s success.

“We have different presenters at most of the meeting that help with how to land that next opportunity,” she said. “We also have Donna Weidenfeller who is retired from Purdue Calumet Career Services helping people with resumes and cover letters each month and Robert Teets who helps with IT, social media and spends times encouraging participants.  His wife, Helen Marie Harmon, has also been a presenter many times and is certified to give the Myers-Briggs Assessment which we do each spring.”

STM Career Group now has a steady 30 participants each month and as many as 100.  All meetings are free and open to the public.

 In fact, Spencer said she started the networking group, because, “not only once, but four times, I’ve gone through downsizing and merger. “

Now, about 50 participants meet at 7 p.m. monthly on Thursdays  at Weis to network, hear seminars from local companies such as Arcenal Mittal Steel, and basically do what it takes to get a new job. The crowd varies each week from very young right out of college applicants to seniors. Volunteer, Donna Weidenfeller, gives presentations and is a resume reviewer.

 “When I lost a very good job I was traveling as much as 50 miles away to network,” Spencer said.  “I had been thinking of starting a networking group in the area and just prayed about what all this means.  Everything just eventually fell into place. “


My dad turned 89

By Jane Bokun

A few weeks ago my father turned 89 years old and my worry went up a notch – if that’s even possible.

He’s in relatively good health, but he can’t walk and he can’t figure it out and he won’t use any walking devices. Therefore, he’s always falling, which he thinks looks more manly. He also can’t access the time he lays in the street or on the floor because he falls into his bedroom wall every time he gets up in the morning. If you go into his bedroom, you’ll find many head imprints.

Dad on his 89th birthday

“I was only down for about a half hour before someone helped me,” he says.

“OMG, he was down for about two hours by the time I found him,” the neighbor says.

I always tell him, “you’re lucky you’re only hitting your head (because it’s so hard, get it?)”

Partying with grandpa

If that isn’t enough, he also drives a big Cadillac and he won’t stop. I found some laughable ideas on the internet that may help.

They include: disabling their car, selling their car and telling them you can’t find their car keys after you’ve hidden them.

None of these ideas will actually work and I find I need help. How did you stop your elderly parents from driving? Please let me know at janepospybokun@gmail.com.


Nuts & Bolts – A Lesser Sign of Aging

By Kathy Bryson, Banana Peel guest columnist

Aging is a funny thing. It sneaks up on you, small and ignorable. You think you need the gym when you get thicker around the middle, but you don’t worry about it because you’ve finally gotten to a point in life where you can afford a gym! Then suddenly you pull a muscle, and two days of ice packs and Advil remind you that you’re not as young as you used to be.

For me, the eye-opener came after a day’s recovery from painting.  That’s when I started to plan home improvement, starting with buying a mesh garden cart to haul heavy things. I found one online and had it delivered. I’ve built IKEA furniture. How hard could it be?

A model of Kathy putting together IKEA furniture. Time, tide and IKEA wait for no man.

I didn’t make it past the 1st step. Whether it was lack of strength or loss of dexterity, I could not screw the nuts on the bolts. I thought, “Oh man, they sent the wrong size” and fired off an email complaint to the online store. But, since I didn’t really want to send everything back, I also called my brother.

My brother is actually improving with age. He’s gone from being a know-it-all to being an invaluable resource.

“Send me a picture,” he said and then explained, “That’s a locking nut. It’s not too small. It has a rubber gasket inside to keep it from coming off.” Then he explained how to use two wrenches to get the thing on.

Well, that was good to know. The fact that the locking nuts have been around since 1931 was a little harder to take. I mean, I have put together a lot of IKEA furniture and have an impressive collection of Allen wrenches to prove it. It should not take me three hours and two phone calls to put together a little cart. But then it occurred to me that I’d moved pass college-age furniture into the adult leagues and felt better – until I realized I owed the online store an apology!

About Kathy Bryson – As the writing tutor and sometimes professor, Kathy Bryson works regularly with students who reminder her not to be an old fart. She’s also an award-winning author of tongue-in-cheek fantasy who appreciates a good joke. You can learn more about her work – academic and ironic – at www.kathybrysonbooks.com


Tapping out in the over 50 workplace

By Jane Bokun

If you think age is just a number, try being over 50 in the workplace.

In today’s 20-something workforce, out with the old seems to be a watchword — and even many 40-somethings are starting to look over their shoulders and feel the hot breath of youth bearing down on their careers.

In today’s 20-something workforce, out with the old seems to be a watchword —

Everyone in the workforce

Age discrimination is definitely a consideration in the workplace,” said Melissa Cole, an assistant professor of law at Saint Louis University Law School. Cole said as layoffs occur in today’s shaky economy, age discrimination lawsuits do sometimes follow, but not as often as sex or race discrimination cases. She said companies that have large layoffs many times include all age groups so that age discrimination does not affect the larger workforce.

And, she said, when companies layoff, they oftentimes have employees sign an explicit waiver precluding any discrimination lawsuits in order to receive an incentive on a compensation package. Older workers most often take the packages rather than opt for a lengthy lawsuit.

However, baby boomers who are turning 55 this year and are highly paid middle managers might disagree. There are now about 16 million Americans ages 55 and older who are working or seeking work, according to figures compiled by the AARP-Roper Starch survey.

Economic necessity will keep aging boomers working longer largely because of longer life expectancy, more limited private pension benefits and anxiety over potential changes in Social Security. These long-term workers sometimes are the first to be discarded in favor of younger workers with less pay requirements, and they do tend to strike back, Cole said.

Scott Stewart, a labor and employment attorney with Burroughs, Hepler, Broom, MacDonald, Hebrank & True in St. Louis and Edwardsville, handles cases for both sides.

“Age discrimination lawsuits coupled with gender and race discrimination are slightly on the rise in the area,” Stewart said.

There are a lot of factors involved in winning an age discrimination suit, Stewart said, including a lengthy evaluation process to determine whether an employer had unreasonable expectations, such as unnecessarily complicated job directives.

“They can say things like you are not as accomplished in computers,” he said. “But you would have to prove that was only a pretense.”

When making the decision to sue your employer, Stewart said, the first obstacle is making your case to an attorney who will then take it on a contingency basis.

“One of the drawbacks to age discrimination suits is that punitive damages are not available,” he said.

He recommends that if 40-plus workers feel the need for legal back-up, they first file charges with either the Missouri or Illinois Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“They have a human rights commission that can make an attempt to mediate the situation,” Stewart said. Barring that, the claimant also must obtain a right-to-sue letter within 90 days of filing.

There is some good news for plaintiffs. Although only about 20 percent of all complaints filed with the federal EEOC are for age discrimination, people claiming age discrimination were awarded an average of $219,000 compared to $147,799 for race discrimination, $106,728 for sex discrimination and $100,345 for disability discrimination, according to Jury Verdict Research.

“You tend to get lots of age discrimination claims in a business climate coming out of this type of setting,” said Dan O’Toole, an attorney with Armstrong Teasdale. For example, he said, in St. Louis companies like Boeing and others laid off workers and got 40 or 50 age-discrimination lawsuits.

Some St. Louis corporate leaders are realizing they can act to reduce or eliminate age discrimination through effective management and educational programs, O’Toole said.


Tell me what happened the year I was born…

By Jane Bokun

Each year my broker sends me a card that tells me not only how old I am, but how old I am in dog years, or that I’m 1,955,923,200 in bee years.

I cover my eyes because I don’t want to know what my age on Mercury would be (258 years). I think my age now is 258 years. All these time limits give me the idea that I haven’t accomplished my lofty goal of being, say, a hit over-50 blogger who is so popular that people line up around the block for my funeral in whatever city I’m retiring in.

The year I was born

The reality, I fear, is that no one will line up for me because they don’t know me. It’s probably the same problem misanthropic people have when they die at 90. Or, the fear that no one will come because you’ve moved around so much.

Enter a friend of mine who I know will come to my funeral. This man has probably attended about 10,000 funerals in his lifetime. If I’m worried about what city I will end up living in, he will probably travel. I know that if I end up in Baghdad in a war zone, he will attend my funeral. It makes me feel comforted and like I won’t be alone in my first days of spirit form.

In the off chance that he can’t make it, there are always professional mourners that I can hire. Here in the United States, it is not generally popular, but I am thinking about it as another career. There are professional mourners who are people paid to attend funerals and pretend to be friends and family of the deceased. They are popular in places like China and are starting to take off here. These mourners are paid to create fake identities and act like they know the deceased.

Today’s funerals can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Professional mourners can make $30 to $120 per funeral. Funerals typically last 2 to 3 hours – making it possible to attend two funerals per day. I have to tell my friend there is money in this.


Uplifting Lipstick

By Jane Bokun

I’m the kind of person you’ll always find wearing her lipstick. I layer it on all day and it makes me feel like I can fool the world into thinking I look a little better.

Lately, it’s bordering on obsession. I’m looking for minty, creamy lipsticks that will stay on all day and look as fresh as if the lips I’m layering are natural. It isn’t easy pretending your lips are always vibrant red or even pugnacious purple. I keep a tube in my pocket and have been known to secretly scrape some off the top and rub my hand secretly across my lips when I think no one is looking.

This obsession started because I am currently somewhat out of funds. I’ve heard that lipstick is always popular when women are tapped out. Rich? They buy a real Louis Vuitton purse or pair of shoes – and some Botox. Poor? It’s a tube of lipstick.

-Any woman anywhere

My choice of lipstick recently has been Color The World Lipstick at http://www.colortheworld.com. This lipstick feels great, is creamy, and doesn’t feather on your wrinkled lips. Doesn’t feather on your wrinkled lips? That’s a miracle indeed. I always overshoot my lips and look like a deranged doppelganger for Lucille Ball, and I like it that way. The thing I also like is the company gives back 10 % of its profits to causes such as Empowered – helping depression and one called Rose that gives to the save the sea turtles movement. I tried Empowered and the lipstick’s creaminess and long lasting wear won me over. It doesn’t always help my weird, wrinkly lips, but, you can’t have everything. It’s best that I don’t notice the wrinkles when I’m wearing Empowered. I feel kind of empowered.

Lipstick is a great way to do your part for self care. It’s fairly inexpensive, about $10, and a real face changer.

Others agree. Some women say the self-esteem boost of adding color to their faces makes them feel accomplished.

It’s more a great way to be nice to yourself and feel great before a day of fighting ageism, your husband and kids.