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Opinion Editorials

How everything can change in a heartbeat – literally

(EDITORIAL) We all know the platitude, but here is one story of the complexities of this life.

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This past December, on a Tuesday afternoon, I left work feeling excited and nervous. I was about to have a first date with somebody that I’d only texted with, and even though I had an inkling that we would be compatible, as a seasoned veteran of the app-dating world, I had experienced enough to know that a right swipe doesn’t really amount to much once you’re sitting across the table from a stranger.

When I got to the coffee shop, my date texted that she was going to be late. I pulled out my computer and did some light work, sipping a beer, trying to calm my nerves. I swear my heartbeat was louder than my fingertips rattling away at the keyboard.

Eventually, my date arrived. Not only did it turn out that we were baseline compatible, but we had a lot in common. We loved biking, dogs, and had strong opinions about breakfast foods. In all honesty, I don’t remember much of the date because I was so nervous and so happy, but when it was over and we’d promised we’d be in touch for a second – my heart felt full of hope and giddiness.

The next day, my sister called me. She and I are best friends despite living on opposite sides of the country, and she’d known that I had a promising date the evening before.

“Hello,” I said, ready to start gushing, “Happy Wednesday.”

“Hey April,” my sister said, her tone flat, “Mom’s in the hospital. She’s had what the doctors are calling a ‘cardiac event.’”

The previous night, while my heart was pounding at the prospect of new love, my mother’s heart had almost stopped.

My sister had been at my brother’s house when they heard a car horn blaring outside. When it didn’t stop, they went outside to investigate and found my mother – grey in the face, struggling to breathe, unable to even stand to get out of her car. My brother’s wife, a nurse, called an ambulance as soon as she saw the state my mother was in.

My brother lives three blocks from the local emergency room; my mom is only two blocks away from the hospital and a short block and a half from my brother’s house. The situation was so critical and scary that they were afraid that Mom wouldn’t make it the five minutes it would take for them to transport her there.

Later, we found out Mom had been pulling up some carpet in the house where she lives alone when she became short of breath and eventually, struggled to breathe.

It was not her first heart “event” – she’d had two minor heart attacks previously, and her heartbeat has become so weak and erratic that a few years ago she had a pacemaker implanted.

At the risk of sounding reductive, when I think about that December Tuesday, at the different ways my mother’s heart and my own were pounding, I think about how each moment, every place in time, there are an unknowable amount of events happening around the world.

Something is always happening; something is always going to happen.

The only constant in life is change. As entrepreneurs, as professionals, as people, we are always at the whim of something larger than ourselves.

Sometimes this is the market, sometimes it’s a technological innovation, sometimes it’s a force as mercurial as the impression we give others as we nervously sip an IPA.

The pacemaker was supposed to stop “events” like the one Mom had in December. But, it is only a machine and machines can break down and fail.

In the face of all these unknowable things and the inevitable changes ahead, we should stop to appreciate the moments that we have.

If they are good, we can take heart – appreciate someone’s smile, the pause after they tell a joke and wait for a laugh. If things are difficult, we can find strength in knowing that the panic will pass, that machines can be reconfigured or replaced, that something else is coming after the pain.

A few months later, Mom is pretty much back to her old self. She’s still a little weak; my brother and sister pulled up the carpet and replaced the floors while she chatted with them. Our family’s love has supported her through crisis and recovery.

I have removed all the dating apps from my phone. My new girlfriend and I are navigating the beginning of a wonderful relationship full of surprises, bike rides, and laughter.

My mother and I, separated by thousands of miles, are moving forward, one heart beat at a time.

AprilJo Murphy is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. She is a writer, editor, and sometimes teacher based in Austin, TX who enjoys getting outdoors with her handsome dog, Roan.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Charity Kountz

    March 14, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I love this article. Not to be punny but it’s full of heart. Thanks so much for sharing something so deeply personal in an impactful way.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note…so let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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Opinion Editorials

COVID-19 acts are unfortunately too short sighted

(BUSINESS NEWS) The biggest flaw in the CARES act is simply that it won’t last. Numerous issues have extended the life of COVID-19 but the act hasn’t matched it.

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The CARES act gives an additional $600 weekly to those on unemployment assistance. The idea being that, combined with the $380 already granted by unemployment, the payments would roughly equal the wage of the average worker prior to the pandemic- about $1,000 weekly.

But on July 31st, the expansion that CARES provides will expire, and benefits will return to pre-pandemic amounts. Those currently receiving the maximum payment will see a 61% decrease in their income. In states that offer lower benefit payments, that percentage goes even higher. All of this comes during a national rental crisis, and moratoriums on evictions across the country are also nearing their ends or being extended last minute.

This isn’t the first or only “yuge” hole in the federal government’s COVID-19 safety net. Many Americans (this writer included) have seen neither hide nor hair of their promised stimulus checks. The HEROES act, which is being billed as a second round of stimulus money, remains under debate- as it has been for several weeks.

And the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires certain businesses to provide two weeks of paid leave to workers who may be sick (or caring for someone who is) has plenty of problems too, namely the laundry list of exceptions to it.

This is just the most recent push to return to the pre-virus economy before effective protective measures have been put in place for workers and consumers alike. After all, with cases of COVID-19 spiking again in the US, it’s apparent that the act is still absolutely necessary. Our lawmakers either lack patience, or compassion – take your pick. Frankly, I say it’s both.

Not only have countless health experts warned that reopening too early will be disastrous, but if a second lockdown is in our future, all of the time, money, and human lives that went into reopening will be wasted.

There is a silver lining among the storm clouds on the horizon. Because ballooning unemployment has created long wait times for benefit applicants, unemployment assistance programs are shelling out retroactive back payments to those deemed eligible.

Good news, at least, for laid off workers who have been waiting months to hear their fate.

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Opinion Editorials

Women-owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses – heck yeah!

(EDITORIAL) Women-owned businesses make a huge impact on the U.S economy. They make up 42% of all businesses, outpace the national growth rate by 50%, and hire billions of workers.

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Women entrepreneurs make history in the U.S as female-owned businesses represent 42% of all businesses, while continuing to increase at DOUBLE the national growth rate!

Women are running the world, and we are here for it! The 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, states 13 million women are now self-employed entrepreneurs. From 2014 to 2019, women-owned businesses grew 21%. Think that’s impressive? Well, businesses owned by women of color grew 43% within the same timeframe, with a growth rate of 50%, and currently account for 50% of all women-owned businesses! Way to go! What this also means is that women employ over 2.4 million workers who together generate $422.5 billion in revenue.

What can we learn from these women that’ll help you achieve success in your businesses?

  1. Get informed: In a male-dominated business industry, women are often at a disadvantage and face multiple biases. So, know your stuff; study, research, and when you think you know it all…dig deeper!
  2. Stay hungry: Remember why you started this journey. Write down notes and reminders, goals, and inspirations, hang them up and keep them close.
  3. Ask for advice: Life is not meant to go through alone, so ask questions. Find a mentor and talk to people who have walked a similar path. Learning from them will only benefit your business.

Many of these women found ways to use their passion to drive their business. It may not be exactly what they thought it would be when they started out, but is it ever? Everyone has to start off small and rejection is part of the process. In fact, stories of rejection often serve as inspiration and encouragement to soon-to-be self starters.

Did you know J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book was turned down TWELVE times? Seven books later with over 400 million copies sold, the Harry Potter brand is currently valued at over 15 billion. While you might not become a wizard-writing fantasy legend like J.K Rowling, you sure as heck can be successful. So go for it, and chase your dreams.

If you want to support women-owned businesses, start by scrolling through Facebook or doing some research to find women-owned businesses in your community. Then, support by buying or helping to promote their products. Small businesses, especially women-owned, black women-owned, and women of color-owned, are disproportionally affected by the current economic crisis ignited by a health pandemic. So if you can, shop small and support local. And remember, there’s a girl (or more) doing a happy dance when you checkout!

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