“I survived the cancer but was fired from my job”

You might remember Deborah Copaken from the fascinating kerfuffle around the release of her book Shutterbabe. Her name was Deborah Copaken Kogan at the time. Since then, as she recounts in a raw and intense personal essay at Cafe.com, her life flipped over like a speeding car:

Last year, during a ten-month period, the following happened in this exact order: I got separated from my husband of two decades, who, having lost his job to the recession, moved across the country to start a business, leaving me as sole provider and parent to our two children still at home; I abandoned the novel I was working on and found a job with benefits as an Executive Editor at a health and wellness website; I took a boarder into the room newly abandoned by my college freshman to help pay my rent, which the new owners had hiked up an extra $900 a month because they could; I was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer; I watched my company, which was preparing to go public, fire dozens of qualified people within my first month of work, after which I was informed that my job, too, was on the chopping block; I survived the cancer but was fired from my job. Then, unable to afford my rent any longer, I moved my remaining family into smaller digs. 

At that desperate point, this Emmy-winning, New York Times-bestselling author and Harvard grad got an email advertising holiday openings for jobs at the Container Store.

Of course I applied! You would have, too, if you had one kid paying his own way through college, another applying, no health coverage, a bum boob, a broken marriage, and an empty bank account. There is no time for shame in a recession. You do what you have to do. 

Reader, she didn’t even get an interview; she got a form letter rejection.

The Cost of a False Sense of Security: One $95 Earthquake Kit

When a small earthquake passed through New York on a hot afternoon in August 2011, I was home from work, reading a novel in bed. The bookshelf above my feet rattled, and for a few seconds the building went liquid. The rattle I immediately attributed to my roommate’s sex life, but when the walls seemed to slide my annoyance turned to fear. Our landlord was a former building inspector, which we understood to mean our apartment had never been officially evaluated. “Is the building collapsing?” my roommate called out from the living room. “I think so!” I replied. We ran out into the street and stood on the sidewalk barefoot; I looked down to find myself clutching, of all things, an uncharged laptop.