Thursday, September 30, 2010


You know how you'll be in a place and all of a sudden it'll remind you of another, more memorable time when you were in that place and sometimes it's so strong it makes you feel like you're in that past moment for just a second? That just happened to me in the bathroom. Perhaps I should explain.

I am always the first one to admit I hated my job. I didn't enjoy doing it, I didn't enjoy being there, I didn't enjoy getting to and from there. I will also readily admit to not being a morning person, anyone who's lived with me or spent so much as an overnight with me knows this to be true. But there was this moment, in the morning, that I used to have. The bathroom window is the only one from which I can really see the morning sun well. And as I would stand there and brush my teeth and force my contacts into my sleepy eyes, I would be able to see the morning sun and it would make me feel good. I never really noticed it at the time, I never missed it until it was gone, and I never really connected it with anything until now.

That morning sun, that quiet time alone, that routine are all things that are lost to me now. I don't have to get up or get ready the way I used to. I don't have "normal" days anymore. In fact, even for unemployment, I haven't had a normal day in a while. I was busy and preoccupied with throwing my sister's wedding shower and after that I got incredibly sick and my recovery depended on avoiding anything resembling an early-morning routine. But today I felt good, I got up early and got myself ready, I went out and did a bunch of stuff, and then I came home and made dinner. Normal. And I guess it was that return to my new normal that made me realize what had changed from the old normal.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I miss getting up and going to work. I miss having a purpose and a routine and doing something that matters to anyone. I have been too busy, too lazy, and too scared to actively pursue a new job. True, I have had more pressing matters to attend to. Also true, that I have been doing a lot of research and laying a good foundation for a job search so that I have the best chance at finding the right job for me. But I have also been avoiding it to a certain degree and I think this feeling is a signal that I'm ready to look again. Ready to find a new normal.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How It's Been

So here I am, midway through my first week of unemployment. And it is...weird. It's weird to not have the "work day" to structure the rest of my day around. It's weird to not have any immediate deadline on anything (i.e. you have to go to work at X time or they won't pay you) even though there are things I do "have to do" if I expect to get another job at any point in time. And it's weird to be around the Captain all the time. We work differently when it comes to unemployment. He seems to tend to bank on the most exciting prospects he can find and takes frequent breaks from job hunting to avoid discouragement and preserve his sanity. I, on the other hand, feel guilty if I am not working on my career for a large part of the day. Which doesn't mean I spend the majority of my day working on it, it just means I feel bad if I stop "early."

We basically took Labor Day weekend "off." For me, it was my first few days out of work and for him, well, when no one who has a job is working, no one is there to answer job inquires and look at resumes and cover letters anyway. Plus we just...needed fun. Needed to not think about the grim situation we could find ourselves in. We spent an evening with one of my best friends, went to an outdoor festival, and barbequed with my parents. All the while, I alternated between silently beating myself up for not being proactive on the job front and reminding myself that it was the end of a chapter of my life and I needed to close it before starting a new one.

Look, I know it's a different world than the one I grew up in, where people only worked 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. Now, everyone works all the time, different hours, different schedules, and the earliest bird gets the worm. But the idea that I need to keep up with that pace has given me enough crippling anxiety in the past as to paralyze me and make my job hunt completely ineffective, causing me to clutch in terror at the first job that sounds like it will have me. That is not what I need to do now. That is the kind of mentality that kept me in a career I didn't enjoy for 8 years and now I need to do something different. I need to remind myself that persistence and being responsible enough to put in a good effort is important, and so is not driving myself crazy every minute of every day. That helps no one.

I have learned enough to expand my definition of "working on my career." Am I looking at job listings? Well of course. But I am also taking time to carefully tailor my resume to be attractive to the right kind of employer. I am maintaining my online presence through blogging and twitter and LinkedIn. I am doing a lot of careful research about education as well as employment, taking a careful look at whether the plan I had in place for going to school still works in the situation I find myself in now. Basically every thing I do that has to do with food is something I consider productive, as long as I learn something from it or find a way to share it online with the world at large that may want to hire someone like me.

It isn't easy. I do feel the constant fatigue, even this early in the process, urging me to just take something easy because this search is too hard. But I find myself shouting down that voice with the argument that this is too important not to do right. As I am often fond of telling myself, I am "thirty damn years old" and the time for choosing the wrong-but-easy option is over, if I ever intend to achieve any of the goals I have. I push past the fear that I might get rejected or someone might not help me or I might look stupid, to accept help from places I would have previously been too proud to accept it from. I have a feeling and a hope that this is going to work out well for me. And anyone who's been in my position and has done what I hope to do, your reassuring comments would be much appreciated.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The End/The Beginning

Yesterday was my last day at work and it pretty much went the way any other day would. Joked with some of my coworkers, got some work done, got pretty bored and had to kill a lot of time (thank God for the massive distraction that was all the content surrounding 9.02.10 day). There were tearful goodbyes and cleaning out of computer files. And then, I went home.

I would have thought the night after my last day of work would be my darkest hour. But in a brilliantly-timed move, our wedding photographer had sent a disc of all our pictures that arrived yesterday, so we got to spend a while looking at hundreds of pictures of happier times and being reminded of how much love we are surrounded by. We are truly very lucky people, a thing you never think you'll say on the day you AND your husband are both officially unemployed. The pictures, a couple of beers, and a whole chicken on the grill and I managed to get through the night with only one meltdown.

And now it's today. And I am Unemployed. And I know what to do, obviously, but at the same time, I don't know what to do with myself. I'm taking the weekend to collect myself, process this, and just get used to functioning on this level. Thanks to everyone for all the support and love and Hi to any new readers from facebook. It's gonna be hard. But I'm gonna be OK. And I'm probably gonna keep writing right here, so stick around.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What I Won't Miss

In an effort to comfort myself about my soon-to-be unemployment, I have been trying to keep in mind all the bad things about my current situation, things I will not have to deal with soon enough, some of them possibly not ever again.
  • The commute. It's about an hour each way, it involves a car and two trains. When there's bad weather, I get rained and snowed on. When there are train problems, I get delayed and often have to sit or stand for interminable lengths of time on crowded trains. It costs a FORTUNE. They just raised fares and coincidentally there are more service problems than ever. But the worst part of all about the commute is the people. If you follow me on Twitter, you're aware of how much I hate my fellow commuters. They are RUDE and HORRIBLE people. They are always out for themselves. They often take up more than one seat with their bag or just by spreading themselves out on crowded rush hour trains and get annoyed when you ask them to move so you can sit. They push and shove to get up stairs and escalators ahead by just one person. They obliviously talk loudly to each other or on cell phones even when the entire rest of the train is quiet. They step on the back of your shoes and bump into you and never apologize for it. The lack of humanity astounds me and I can't wait to be rid of it.
  • The boredom. Our business has been slow for months. Even when we have work, it's nothing that interests me and I get no enjoyment out of doing it. I know no one's job is a day at the beach (except lifeguards), but it really work days are dull dragging days and for a while now I have been wondering how much more I can take. And now I wonder no more.
  • The lack of privacy. We have worked in three different spaces at this company, all of them open-plan. Though there is not the feeling that anyone's really looking over your shoulder, people do seem to feel free to look at your screen as your passing by and comment on it if it interests them. The offensive thing about the lack of privacy is more audio than visual though. You can't have a private conversation, on the phone or in person. There's only one phone line shared among the office so if you give out your work number, everyone knows who's calling you and you have the added pressure of tying up the company line. You can have a conversation with one person and everyone else feels invited to participate because there's no way of shutting them out. The bosses often have to take it off site to discuss important matters because there's nowhere private to do so. And worst of all, I have to hear every single rant-y whiny word of everyone's complaints. Everybody seems to be compelled to complain out loud around here and there is one person who is personally offended by EVERYTHING. It makes it hard to concentrate. Headphones go only so far and even at that point, you can miss things you SHOULD be hearing if your music is too loud.
  • The schedule. I don't think I was meant to work a 9-5. I don't think I was meant to be sitting at a desk all day, in an open room, staring at a computer, only a few personal effects reminding me of who I am. I wasn't meant to get up early and go to bed early. I want to be moving and doing things. Surrounded by pleasant sights, sounds, and smells. I want to work hours that suit my lifestyle.
  • PACKING. LUNCHES. When your kitchen consists of a slop sink, a microwave, and a mini fridge, and you have no dishes and hardly any utensils, your options for what you can eat become very limited. In addition, having to plan ahead to have made the food the night before is arduous. I love food and I'm very moved by food cravings. I like to be able to choose what I eat based on what I feel right this second and it's a lot easier to do that when you're somewhere with a kitchen.
  • My coworkers affectations. Don't get me wrong, these are LOVELY people and I will miss them and keep in touch with them. But when you are around the same people 40 hours a week, some of their habits are bound to drive you bonkers and I will be glad to not have to worry about enduring those parts of their personalities anymore.
  • Using a key to get to the bathroom. Nuff said.
  • New York Friggin City. I know, I know, greatest city in the world and actually that's WHY I'm glad I won't be working here. Maybe after a break of having to be here daily for a job I don't love, I will come to appreciate what is good about the city. At the moment it's all overpriced everything, rude people, homeless people, pushy flyer people, noise, traffic, bad smells, and basically a big giant pulsing headache I can't wait to get out of every day.
  • Burning myself daily. I have an all metal desk lamp. After a day's use, flipping the switch to turn it off results in a burn from the heated metal and I always always forget but now I won't have to remember anymore.
  • Wasting paper. This industry is becoming a lot more electronic, but we still use way more paper than we need to and way more paper than we should. Some people still do things the old-fashioned way which requires a lot of unnecessary paper and they refuse to change and make jokes about old dogs and new tricks while I am not amused. In addition, a lot of the products we work on lately are consumable, meaning the students get to keep them and write in them and the schools have to buy them again next year. That may not stop, but at least I don't have to be a part of it.
  • Redundant tasks. "Can you print out the file you just emailed me?" "Can you make a FedEx label for me?" "I lost the ducky on my computer (the icon for a file-sharing program), can you help me find it?" My boss is a WONDERFUL woman, but she is Of A Certain Age and that age does not blend well with technology and she tries hard and has learned a lot but in the end it is often easier for her to have someone else do them because they know how. There are often rewards associated with this, but really I'll just be glad not to have to do them at all. This is why you have grandkids, not why you have employees.
No job is perfect and every job has these or other problems. I'm not saying I expect my next job to be problem free. I'm focusing on the fact that from now on I won't have to deal with this particular set of annoyances.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What You Can Do

Maybe this is selfish of me to write. But every time I tell people, at least people I know, about our situation, along with being sympathetic, everyone says "Let me know if there's anything I can do." So this post is in response to those people, whom we appreciate very much. And if you don't want to do anything, well then never mind. No hard feelings. But if you want to help, you can...
  • understanding when we have to turn down social invitations due to budget. We like you. And it's not that we don't have ANY money, but we don't have a lot and we're not getting a lot and what we are needs to be spent on what we need, not what we want. Trust us, it would suck more if we did go and then couldn't afford to pay PSE&G later that month than if we just didn't go.
  • ...continue to invite us out. We are both looking for jobs, both not working, both don't have a whole hell of a lot else to do. And, chances are, we haven't seen you in far too long because we have been so busy recently. So it's actually kind of perfect. Right now we're particularly partial to the kinds of fun that are free or cheap. House parties, physical activity in the outdoors (the weather should be getting awesome soon), coffee/a drink/ice cream, public places where we can wander and have fun without spending money, watching movies or playing games at somebody's house. And it doesn't have to be both of us either. We love each other, but dude we are going to see a LOT of each other for the next little while. A break might be welcome, by both of us :)
  • understanding if we have to cancel plans on short notice. We might get a call for a job interview or might get hired and have to start working (GOD WILLING) at any moment. It's hard to make plans in advance when you don't know what will happen in the next day, week, or month. We'll do our best and we're sorry in advance, but we know you understand this is more important.
  • ...come over and hang out at our house. We love to entertain and it's FREE. You coming over means I get to cook for more than two people which means I can probably make something I wish I could make more often, but don't get a chance to because Kris and I can't eat it all ourselves. Bonus points for you if you bring booze, but your company is really the main issue.
  • ...go over our resumes. Input is always appreciated, there is always room for improvement and I personally hate to send something out before everyone and their mother has told me it's good.
  • ...give us hot tips, send us job listings, pass on our info to people who might be able to use us. Neither one of us really knows exactly what we want to end up doing. While it's sucky to both be unemployed at the same time, it's a little exciting too. We both get a fresh start, both get to try something new. Kris has a lot of great ideas, but doesn't necessarily know what jobs those ideas translate to. I have a little bit better idea of what I want to do (i.e. something in food) but not many connections to get that job. Also, please give us these ideas no matter what they are, you never know. And please don't be upset if we don't like your ideas. We're just trying to figure this out and it ain't easy.
  • ...send us funny links. Seriously. Videos, pictures, articles, whatever. You never know when your little pick-me-up might arrive just in time to be the difference between a giggle and the strength to keep going and a frown, a sigh, and giving up.
  • ...give me candy. I'm sorry. In times of trouble, treats make everyone feel better. I am big into self-denial so I'm not likely to go out and get myself something to make me feel better but if someone gives it to me, it's already there and then well...I'd hate for it to go to waste. (Note: my husband is crazy and is trying to stick to healthy eating so he may not look as kindly on this gesture. Loony.)
  • ...even better, come bake cookies with me. Then I get to bake, which I love to do, we get to split the cookies, so neither of us has to feel bad about having a whole batch of cookies to eat, and...we get cookies! Win, win, win
  • ...allow me to cook for you. Coming over for dinner already falls in this category. However. I am trying to get into the cooking game professionally. I've done this before, cooked for people, and pretty successfully, so you can trust that I have a record for being kind of good at this even when I don't have a vested personal interest. But if you have an occasion where you want to serve food but don't want to do some or all of the cooking, allow me to cater. If you know someone who's doing something similar and they are willing to work with an amateur who will work for cheap, recommend me. It's great experience for me to add to my resume and build my repetoire (and online media presence), and you and your friends get to enjoy delicious food for no work and just the cost of food! Win, win, win AGAIN.
I want to stress again that this is in response to people who ask what they can do to help. We don't wanna run into the streets begging for this stuff from anyone who will listen. We're just trying to let people know what we need. Sort of a wish list for friends in need, whom we love and are very lucky to have.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Contents of Your Desk

We've all seen it on TV, when a character leaves their job and not by choice, they're seen sadly carting an cardboard box containing "the contents of [your] desk." I've only done this once before, and it doesn't count because my last day came in the middle of an illness that left me bedridden and I had to come claim my stuff later when I was feeling better and happy about not working there any more.

I decided to clean out my desk today, to avoid the awkwardness of carrying all my crap home on my last day. There wasn't much, since we just moved into a new office* and I hadn't had time to accumulate the crap you accumulate. But, for what it's worth, here it is.

*The wisdom of moving to new offices 6 weeks before you find it necessary to lay off half the staff escapes me, but that's another story for another blog.

  • a framed snapshot of my husband and I from when we first started dating
  • another of our niece, a year out of date, which happens now that people don't get pictures printed very often anymore
  • A "The Office" page-a-day calendar, I somehow got addicted to these. Even though they're not that funny, there's something comforting about marking the time by tearing off a page.
  • Splenda, chai tea, popcorn, peanut butter, boxes of raisins, and a few stray teabags
  • plastic cup and plastic bowl for my own personal highbrow lunch-at-my-desk tastes
  • gum, lotion, contact solution, and a nail file, every girl's essentials
It's not much, just a few things to make me smile, a few things to keep me comfortable, and, in the end, a lot of things so I can have just the food I want the way I want it.

I thought I would be sad about this, but I just feel numb. That and the fact that most of what I cared about at work was what and how I was eating are good indications that this will be a positive move for me.

So what about you. If, God forbid, you had to empty out your desk today, what would it look like? What do your personal effects at work say about who you are?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

American Nightmare

This is gonna be a tough one for me to write. But it's part of my life and the story needs to be told. Last week, I was told my company was laying off three of our seven employees, including myself. You may or may not be aware that, a month ago, I got married. My husband is also currently unemployed, having lost his job about 2 weeks before the wedding. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, we are the American Nightmare.

I could go on about the circumstances, how it happened, why it happened, how I feel about it, but the point is it happened. Essentially, the company has been in trouble, business has been slow for a while. Publishing in general and educational publishing specifically has been changing rapidly, but it seems to me that no one really has a handle on what will become of how our kids are taught in the future and a lot of people who help create textbooks are suffering job loss as a result. I was one.

What happened isn't as important, to me, as what I went through. That's the story I want to tell. The day we were told, I felt like a train hit me. My entire body was in shock. I thought, "I haven't felt like this since they told me Dad was sick." (My father had a brief battle with terminal cancer 13 years ago.) Then I thought that thought was silly. But the more I thought about it, the less silly it seemed. Blood rushing, heart pounding, whooshing in my ears, hyperventilating, feeling nauseous and generally experiencing all the physical feelings you might feel if the floor opened up underneath you without warning and you were suddenly falling, which, metaphorically, is exactly what happened. So I looked up Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's 5 Stages of Grief, which I found out was not only remarkably similar to what I've been going through, but is commonly applied to job loss as well as death. Not so silly after all, I suppose. Let's have a look.

Denial - They sent us home early that Thursday and gave us the option of taking the next day off too. I spent the intervening time from then until about Monday night carrying on with my life as normal. Sometimes the reality of the situation crept in and set me crying but for the most part I tried not to think about it, didn't do anything to help the situation, and just went about my business. I did errands, I kept social engagements, I did a lot of things for other people as I usually tend to do. When I had a bedtime breakdown on Monday night, I felt I had been stupid for doing all those things, that I should have stopped what I was doing, cancelled my life and focused on processing and moving on with the situation. In retrospect, if Denial is part of the process, I guess it wasn't so stupid after all.

Anger - Oh man was I mad. So mad. I bitched to everyone I told about it. There were times when I seemed more mad that it happened than upset about it. I had long ranty screamy conversations with people until I realized I was just tilting at windmills at my poor loved ones' expenses and had the good sense to open up a blank document and pour all my rage into it. I went off on tirades against the world, the economy, the industry, my company, the former president, and just about anyone else I could think to blame for this. Including myself. I was mad at myself for not seeing it coming and acting accordingly. I knew business was bad, I should have started looking, I should have been saving. But the reality is no one knew it was this bad, that layoffs were a real possibility and without knowing that and being in the midst of throwing a wedding, I had no reason not to do what I did and use my money as I did.

Bargaining - After the announcement, a noble counter-proposal was made by one of my co-workers that, if accepted might have saved some of the jobs, mine included. I was told I would hear when the fate of the proposal was decided and I banked HARD on that. I knew the company was in trouble and that even if I could keep my job, there's a good chance it would be gone soon anyway, along with the rest of the company, but at least that would give me a chance to look for something while keeping my salary and benefits under me. When I received my "termination letter" on Tuesday, that stage ended...

Depression - ...and the next one began. It was unfortunate that the timing of the letter coincided with a couple of phone calls that pretty much confirmed some other plans I'd had in place that were disrupted by these events, would in fact be put on hold, and for longer than I'd hoped and might be harder to restart at that later date. I had intended to go home that night and get to work on my plan, get some things done, job-search-wise, since it was the first free night I'd had without plans since it happened. But I found myself unable to even do any work for the rest of the day. I grabbed a cinnamon sugar pretzel on the way home (I rarely actually give in to the urge to feed my emotions) and when I arrived, crashed on the couch and announced I was not up for anything. Depression looks different for different people. For me, it looks like me spending hours on the couch watching tv without doing anything else. To some people that is a normal night, but to me, if I am watching tv, I am usually doing something else at the same time, or at least I am not doing it for the whole night. But that night, it was all I could do.

Acceptance - Wednesday, things seemed OK. I didn't have any major crying jags, I didn't lose it at any point. I managed to smile at a few things I saw or read. And I started to think positively about things I might do with myself without a job. Opportunities I could take advantage of. Jobs I might do that make me happier at work than I've ever been. I started to get excited and that's where I've been since. At the beginning of "getting excited." At the point of "OK, this sucks, now what are we gonna do about it."

I'm not saying I won't be upset anymore. I probably will. But I think that will come from a place of "this is hard" not a place of "I am upset about losing my job." A week seems pretty quick to me to get over something like this, but in reality it's probably healthy. I'm a lot more mentally healthy these days than I used to be and the thought of staying depressed or angry about this because it seems like I got over it too fast just seems dumb to me. Staying depressed and angry is not going to help anything. Doing something is.

To close, let me assuage some of the worries you might have. I know you might have them because I have them. But listen. I got what I am informed is a generous severance package. I will get unemployment and that will help. I've already spoken to a career counselor who gave me some advice on what the most useful job for me to get would be. And if I need to get crappy, fill-in, part-time work, well I've done that before. But the biggest reason not to worry is that this is a good thing. I have never really been satisfied by my job. I guess without realizing it, I became one of those people who thinks "work is for work, it's not to make you happy, you find other things outside of work that make you happy." But I don't think that or at least I don't think it has to be that way. I think you can be happy at work, you can find a job you at least like to do and that's what I intend to do. I've never really had one of those before, but I've talked to those who have and from what I hear, it's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Real Housewife

Hi, I'm back! For reasons that will soon become clear, you might expect to hear a bit more from me than you have in the past. Anyway, back to what inspired me to pop open a blog window and start typing.

I used to refuse to watch reality TV. Back in the day when I still thought I wanted to work in scripted entertainment, be it theatre, film, or TV, reality programming was an affront to everything I believed in. I thought it would put hard-working actors and writers, many of whom have it rough in getting any work at all in such a tough industry, entirely out of work. That is what we call Youthful Naivete. Years later, we can all see that reality programming has found its place in our hearts and video has not killed the radio star, so to speak.

I still don't watch MUCH reality TV, but today that's not because it Goes Against Everything I Stand For. It's just that most of it is crap. OK, some of it is crap and I don't have time for ALL the ones that aren't crap. I have a select few I enjoy among my scripted shows, mostly competitive ones or behind the scenes of businesses I find interesting. Shows about people who do something, whose lives are worth watching. For this reason, I have never seen a single episode of any of the Real Housewives shows.

You may say how can I know without watching? Commercials are meant to highlight the most interesting parts of a program and if that's the case, the commercials for these shows tell me they have nothing to offer me. These women are boring, useless, and selfish and from what I can tell there is nothing real about them. Real housewives have real problems and real lives. They are running a household, supporting a husband, often raising children, sometimes contributing to the community by volunteering. They are not shopping for thousand-dollar outfits, releasing pop singles, and getting in fights in restaurants that end in table-flipping. It bothers the HELL out of me that any of these women are called "Real" or "Housewives." It gives real housewives a bad name. Strangely, I think I'd be fine letting them exist and not watching if they just changed the name. FCC standards are a lot lower than they used to be, so you tell me why we can't just call the show "Famewhores of [insert city]" and be done with it.

"But they're so awful it's entertaining." No. Stop right there. You are part of the problem. You are giving them what they want. And if you keep doing that, they'll keep doing what they do. What's wrong with that? Well, nothing, I suppose. They keep behaving selfishly and getting paid ridiculously for it and you keep watching them do it and being entertained by it and pretty soon the type of behavior they exhibit isn't just on TV, it's commonplace in everyday life. Everyone becomes self-centered and entitled, but hey, if that's what we want on TV, maybe that's what we all really want to be like. Yeah, I thought so.

I myself am about to become a real housewife (lowercase intended). And I can guarantee you I'm not going to be out there seeking attention at all costs and thinking of my own needs first. I am going to be taking care of our household, supporting my husband, and most importantly, looking for a job so I can return to being a contributing member of society and not a whiny, vapid, selfish, waste of space.

(Apologies if any of the Real Housewives if it turns out they are decent people. As I say, I haven't seen the shows and I entertain the possibility that some of you might be quite lovely. If that's the case, please get yourself the hell off whatever installment of the series you are on. Bravo is making you look REALLY bad.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Short Play About Why We Are Getting Married

SCENE: Bedroom, morning, Karen is getting dressed in lightweight olive-colored shorts and a brown t-shirt. Kris enters. Kika the cat sits awaiting attention and/or food.

Karen: I feel like these are my army fatigues. I wear this outfit whenever I have to battle the heat.
Kris: (pauses, then scoops up Kika in his arms) This is my weapon against the heat.

Karen makes a confused face. Kris comes over and uses one of Kika's paws to poke her.

Karen: I'm not the heat.
Kris: Yeah, but you're hot.
Karen: *eyeroll*


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blues in My Bones

I am into the blues. This is rarely true of people my age, at least in this area. Most people under 30 that I hear this from are hipster wannabes who say it because it sounds cool, but in my case it's a bred-from-birth genuine love. I was raised on the blues by my father, a blues singer, and mother, an avid blues fan. As kids, my sister and I were taken to blues festivals where we danced on hillsides to performances by the legend of those we'd only later realize we were lucky to get a glimpse of. I've seen Buddy Guy and BB King and a whole lot of other people you've never even heard of.

My stepfather is a guitar player for a local blues outfit called Big Mike and the Perpetrators. Last night, they played at a local benefit concert and, having nothing better to do and having been a delinquent fan of late, I went. It was so great see so many locals greats in one place, many of whom have known me since tweendom and were shocked to see I'm a real-live, grown-up, almost-married lady. I discovered that, if it's possible, I think I love the blues more now than I ever have. I'm a better dancer now, so it's more fun to get out on the floor and shake a tailfeather during the faster numbers. I had forgotten what a comfortable place the dance floor at a blues show is. Unlike the rock fans I'm used to seeing at Brooklyn clubs where my fiance's band plays, blues fans are unabashed about dancing; they don't care how they look, they have got to move, they don't have a choice. These are my people and on the dance floor with them is where I belong.

I realized I have taken the blues for granted. Maybe that's appropriate. It's the blues, it's used it, it will be there for you when you come running back after a long time away. In my life, it's always been around, but in the real world, all the local bands have trouble getting gigs and finding places to let them play such great music. Anyone who is fortunate enough to see a local live blues band play should appreciate what a great show they are getting for the small price of a cover charge. These guys don't play for the money (what a joke!), they play for the love of it and that's what makes them great.

So the next time you see live local blues advertised and think "That sounds cool. I should go to that," and then forget about it, don't. Make a note. Put it on your calendar. Invite some friends to come out and do something different for a change. Tell your favorite local haunts you want to see a blues night fit into their calendar. You and they will be amazed at the crowd it draws. These guys deserve to play great music and you deserve to enjoy it.

Some great local North NJ blues bands:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Is-Shoe

(Bad puns are my life. Deal with it.)

It all started with a picture in a magazine. All girls, when they get engaged, are "supposed to" start looking through endless pages of wedding magazines to draw inspiration for their own wedding, so I did. One of the few ideas I found to steal was a unique spin on "Something Blue." The picture showed a model pulling up the hem of her poufy white gown to reveal electric blue shoes. How cool. It was one of the first things I decided about the wedding.

I didn't really think about it for a while after that. As I went gown shopping, I brought along a trusty pair of black slingbacks with 3" heels that are about as high as I'm comfortable going. I'm normally a flats-and-sneakers girl. I love pretty high heels, but my lifestyle doesn't demand them and I tend to catch a lot of flak from people who think they're unnecessarily uncomfortable when I wear them without occasion, so I own few and I mostly leave them in the closet. Flats and sneakers are more comfortable anyway and can be just as cute. A side effect, however, is that I am not a High Heels Girl.

Which would be fine, providing I hadn't found the deal of a CENTURY on a pair of shoes I never thought would ever find their way into my closet: Manolo Blahniks.

I'm a Sex and the City fan and I ascribe a certain reverence and awe for the designers that were constantly mentioned on that show. So imagine my surprise when I absent-mindedly clicked on a banner ad on a fashion site I frequent and discovered the shoes Carrie wore in her wedding to Mr. Big. In my size. At HALF PRICE. I *agonized* over these shoes. Such a deal! So pretty! Nicer than anything I've ever owned! But so much higher than I'm used to! And still a lot of money for shoes I'm unsure about! And I never spend that kind of money on some silly thing I just want!

In the end it came down to this: Fuck it. You only get one wedding.

I clicked through the order process, apprehensive the whole time, since the site seemed like it could be a little fly-by-night. It had all the right secure transaction logos and I REALLY wanted these shoes. I never got a shipping notice and spent about 6 nervous weeks fearing I'd been scammed and not only was I not getting the shoes but I was also going to have my identity stolen. But then! Victory! One day I came home from work to find a battered shipping box from China* and, inside, the most beautiful shoes ever created by man.

*I realize the shipping origin and the price probably means they are knockoffs, but I live in blissful ignorance. Don't spoil it.

And then the test: trying them on. I had tried in vain to try on a pair in a department store to make sure to order the correct size, but alas, ritzy department stores that carry designer shoes don't carry them in sizes to fit my giant clodhoppers. Natch. (Thanks, Dad.) I slipped them on very carefully in my living room and...OUCH. Determined to give it a go, I took a few tentative steps around the living room. Ow. Ow. OW. Defeated, I slipped them off and carefully repacked them until I could decide what to do: stick it out in beautiful, painful shoes or give up, sell them on eBay and replace them with something more practical.

I modeled them for my sister, who knows more about shoes than almost anyone I know. She declared that they did fit, that the pain was from my feet not being used to shoes of this caliber. No kidding. These things give me Barbie Foot. But, with practice, I could learn. I had recently bought a similarly high but much cheaper pair of pumps. I could wear them around the house and build up a resistance. And if it didn't work I still have the option to resell the beloved MBs and go to a backup shoe.

Except that when I announced that I wasn't sure I would wear them to the wedding, there was an outcry of opposition, none louder than from those who had seemed to think that this plan was a silly one at the outset. They all want me to wear these shoes. I Had To wear these shoes for all womankind, for every girl who dreams of designer shoes but never had the chance to wear them.

The Home Practice Shoes weren't getting very much use. I'm not on my feet much at home, unless I'm cooking, in which case it seems somewhat dangerous to be wearing unstable, mostly open, 4" stiletto death traps on my feet. I decided I needed Training Heels. A morning spent avoiding work yielded a great deal on a pair of red patent wedge slingbacks, which arrived this weekend and are on my feet as I type. I'm a little wary. The wedge/platform combination means that my heel-toe height difference is not as great as I'd hoped and as I stomp around, I find I walk like a Clydesdale in heels. My hope is that any extended time spent in Not Flats will train my feet to feel that this is the norm and, from there, a leap from 2" to 4" won't seem so great.

Who ever thought so much trouble could come from just a few inches?

That's what she said.

(See above re: bad puns.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whither Blog?

Maybe, considering I haven't updated this in almost 6 months, I should call this "Withered Blog." (or "Withering Blog" for all the sarcasm. Rimshot please!)

I've been a fan of blogs since they existed. In college, I wrote a piece about blogging for the campus paper before 'blog' was thought of as a verb, or even before more than half the people in the country had even heard the word. I still read some of those blogs today.

I've also had several of my own blogs. There was a long-lived LiveJournal, a short-lived blogspot page devoted solely to whiny self-pitying posts that my LJ readers were tired of. I created this blog in...I think 2007 and it's been good, but obviously I've been out of touch for a while. And even before that, it was more of a personal blog, a "what I've been up to" blog, for busy people to keep up on my life. But the older I get, the less of my personal life I'm willing to share online. I even started a cooking blog recently, but that's lain dormant for the last three months as I cannot seem to make myself produce writing on one topic consistently (plus I was having trouble putting pictures into the entries, got frustrated, and gave up).

Still, I feel like I need a place online for my voice. Somewhere where I can post things that are longer than a tweet and more lasting than a status update. I want to be like my blogging hero, Sarah, who's site is always interesting, frequently updated, on a range of topics and has a wide appeal. I'm not sure what that's going to end up being. I may just continue to write here and change the format, I may create an entirely new page.

I have stuff to say and I need a place to say it, is what I'm sayin'.