Tag Archives: writing

resume


resume, verb, begin to do or pursue (something) again after a pause or interruption

Image result for Bischoffs Teaneck

On Thursday last week, I woke up with the goal in mind of updating and writing my resumé– the shock of being laid off still quite fresh and the need to just keep moving pressing upon me. I went to my favorite coffee shop with my laptop, ordered the biggest cappuccino I could, and got to working. Writing your resumé is somewhat of a boring and mundane task, if not an exercise in ego inflation. A good resumé makes you look like a rock star as much as possible – even though most of us pore over spreadsheets and run unproductive meetings as a main part of our jobs.

Resumé with an accent on the e is a summary – a curriculum vitae. Remove the accent, and you get a much more interesting word – one which is still apropos to being unemployed. The act of writing your resume is done in an effort to resume your working life – either as a fresh start, or because you’ve been laid off. The other way to look at resume in respect to losing a job, is to see it as resuming your actual life again – like the life we have beyond the eight hours that we toil, gossip, move numbers around on spreadsheets, etc.

For the past few days, I have resumed many things that are essential to who I am – and that I had lost without realizing. I have resumed exercising and moving – which so many of us let go because the pressure and strain of our jobs makes it hard to fit in. I have also resumed daydreaming – having ideas. Just having the time to sit, have a thought and take it to the next place.

I’ve resumed cooking and enjoying food – instead of it just being something I have to do to live. I’ve resumed seeing people I love – meeting with friends and laughing. I have also resumed breathing – really breathing – consciously – in through the nose, out through the mouth – intentionally. I’ve resumed listening to and enjoying music all day, and all different kinds. Listening to NPR and This American Life again – letting the stories and news give me ideas, making me think and use my brain.

I have also resumed reminiscing. The only other time in my life that I was let go from a job was when I was 16 years old and the famous town ice cream shop fired me. I remember feeling the same way I do now back then – although working at 16 was mostly so I could buy my clothes and go out with friends – it wasn’t a livelihood like it is now – and I ended up within a week or so working for the kosher burger joint down the block. It was called Fliegels – and although it wasn’t the cool place to work in the way my ice cream scooping and waitressing gig was, I ended up working there until I graduated from high school.

As I remember, the ice cream shop job was brutal. I worked late and had to clean the kitchen…and they made us split our tips with the non-waitressing staff – which I always thought was unfair. I went home filthy every night, covered in dried ice cream and grease from cooking sandwiches on the grille. The customers were often rude and demanding – sometimes sexually harassing as well. My dad came to pick me up at midnight most evenings – and I’d go home and finally get to my homework in the wee hours before school the next day – completely exhausted and working too hard for a 16-year-old.

Despite the not so great situation with ice cream shop, getting the job at Fliegels initially felt like a step down. It was a takeout place – no waitressing or staff of teenagers. I manned the counter next to a giant, revolving wheel of shawarma – which was a foreign food to me. Most of the time, I worked alone, ran the register which spit the orders into the back where a Mexican immigrant prepared them. I had to wear a long skirt that went to my ankles and cover my hair and I learned a few words for things in Hebrew. Once a week, a rabbi came and worked in the basement blessing all of the food – and I began appreciating a totally different world of food and culture. One that was filled with shawarma, hummus, tahini, tabbouleh, falafel…much more interesting than ice cream sundaes and cream cheese sandwiches. The people were nicer – especially my Mexican partner who prepared the food in the back. Working at Fliegels wasn’t as flashy or as cool as my former job, but I was able to resume being a curious and well adjusted 16-year-old. I didn’t work late hours, was treated well and learned about Middle Eastern and Israeli food, some Hebrew and Jewish culture. The day I graduated from high school the owners asked me to come pick up my last paycheck. I had gotten a job as a camp counselor for a Girl Scout Camp in the Catskills for the summer so my stint there was over. When I got there that day, they paid me double what I had earned and sent me off with hugs and thanks.

I think for the past four years, my last job was a lot like working at that ice cream shop. I felt a part of something fun, flashy, iconic and important – but I was going home dejected and worn out for many reasons. As I resume my job search – and the next chapter of my life – I hope to find my Fliegels again. I’m 41 and not 16, but the things that make me tick are not all that much different…and I definitely prefer a good plate of falafel, hummus and tahini over a banana split any day.

 

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numb


numb, adjective, deprived of the power of sensation

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Well I looked my demons in the eyes

Lay bare my chest

Said do your best

To destroy me

See I’ve been to hell and back

So many times

I must admit

You kinda bore me

-Empty, Ray Lamontagne

I remember when I first started writing this blog. It all started with inspiration from the Oxford English Dictionary at a time in my life when I was trying to get back to my English Major roots…and the creative writer that I was once was in college. I was a new mom with an infant desperate to find a way to fill the gap that staying home and not working had created. This blog took me on quite a journey – from gaining the attention of thousands of readers to landing me a great job at an amazing company.

Now – almost 9 years later – I am sitting back down to this very space in a similar position. Although the circumstances of why I am again in that gap between work and non-work is far less as positive and hopeful as a newborn baby – but similarly as difficult and challenging if not much more so.

Today, I’m bringing this blog up to date and to where I am currently, recently laid off at 41. In the same way that I chose a word a day (or every other day) that struck my mood or fancy, I am going at it again – only this time in light of a much different and less straight forward journey to the next professional and personal manifestation of myself.

So today, the word is numb.

I woke up slightly hungover from too much prosecco which I began drinking at 11:30 am – precisely 15 minutes after I arrived home from being shit canned. I would have chosen shit canned as the word since I’ve quite happily adopted saying it to whomever wants to discuss the details of the recent experience. But I’d rather focus on where I’m going and not where I’ve been – although I really like saying shit canned, loudly and often – especially after too much prosecco.

This morning, I quickly assessed that I needed a lot of de puffing eye cream due to my prevalent ugly crying which occurred throughout yesterday, threw on a sweatshirt, made some eggs, talked to a few people who were recently made aware of my current state and decided that I felt pretty good – and made a plan of attack for what I needed to do today to get moving on with the rest of my life – starting with a Peloton ride.

I didn’t realize until the second to last song of the 30 Minute Low Impact Ride with Jess King that what I was feeling was not pretty good, hanging in there, hopeful – any of those things. What I realized as I started weeping – while still full on pedaling and, to my complete credit, finishing the workout – that I was entirely numb all morning. And even after I finished the work out, showered, went out and bought a laptop, went food shopping, had lunch with my husband – I am still lacking the true sensation physically and emotionally of what has occurred.

I am numb as I see the blank page before me. A completely open road that I am standing at the beginning of – again. I can fill this page with words but filling what comes next in my life is a more difficult task – one I didn’t choose to take on, but have been thrust into, nonetheless.

Everything happens for a reason is everyone’s favorite sage advice to give in a time like this. I know that the saying is true. I’ve said it to others many times before. The problem with digesting it today in my own situation is I don’t know the reason just yet – and it’s going to be awhile before I do – most likely a long while – and I know I am going to stumble, take wrong turns, make mistakes, and screw up before I know the all important reason why this all happened.

So today, I am not focusing on the reason, the emotion or the why. I am not trying to see the road ahead just yet and I am not making any promises to myself or making any hard plans for how I am going to approach what this is. I am staying numb today and focusing on the doing – the writing, the bike riding, the making, the reading, the packing up of my belongings from my old office like a criminal, with security, after hours. It is the doing – not the feeling – that is going to get me through today and onto wherever I am headed next.

As Jess King said during the song that I wept and rode my bike to, we are at our best when we have to pick ourselves up. Today I picked myself up and got through it.

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cloud


cloud, noun, 1. a visible mass of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere, typically high above the ground 2. a state or cause of gloom, suspicion, trouble, or worry.

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Clouds are usually around, in the sky, floating past and shaped like things that exist in our lives that are made of matter, not water vapor. They block our view on airplanes, turn black to signal bad weather, and often, inspire us. Sometimes they disappear entirely letting the blue take over until we feel like we can see “forever.” Often, they hang around for too long, blocking out the sun and bringing us down. Yet nearly every day, when the sun rises there are clouds there changing their colors like a kaleidoscope of pinks and oranges, striping the sky to signal the arrival of day.

“Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all”

It’s amazing how profound and complex humans have made a floating mass of condensed water vapor. We paint them, we watch them float by, we use them to describe our bad moods, we sing about them. We assign them meaning and emotion. It’s the singing about them that has captured me most these days. Especially the song “Both Sides Now.” (I know Jonie Mitchell sang it first, but I like the Judy Collins version better.) I love how the song starts off describing the duality and illusion of clouds and then goes on to make them a metaphor for love and life. I remember listening to this song as a kid and thinking about the words. I didn’t understand all that it meant back then. I think you have to be an adult to really get it. In the final episode of Season 6, Mad Men, the song is used to perfect effect. After Don Draper’s life has fallen apart and his family, everyone,
knows that he isn’t who he says he is, he takes his children to see his childhood home – revealing to them the truth about who he is and where he came from. His entire story is one of duality and illusion and in this final moment, the song captures it. The thing about this song that really hits home is that it doesn’t end on a sad note. It ends on an inspiring, hopeful, “anything is possible” note. I often listen to it on Mondays.

Clouds can also be a place of refuge or happiness. Whether they serve as a calming presence while lying on your back, staring up at them with imagination or feeling like you’re on cloud 9. The etymology of why we say these things and think of clouds this way is interesting. I hadn’t known it before I started thinking about writing this post:

 

From Wicktionary.com:

“The origin of sense 1 (“a state of bliss”) is uncertain; however, the following etymology has been suggested:

The first edition of the International Cloud Atlas (1896),[1] which defined ten types of cloud, described the ninth type as the cumulonimbus which rises to 10 km (6.2 miles), the highest a cloud can be.[2]

Compare cloud seven (“state of complete happiness or euphoria”),[3] which may have originated from confusion of cloud nine with seventh heaven.[2]

Sense 2 (“a state of fantastic or impractical dreaming or thinking”) may be due to a confusion between sense 1 and the phrase head in the clouds.”

 

In the same way Dante describes the circles of hell, the clouds could be said to signify the steps toward heaven or the human happiness / euphoria. We often use clouds to describe hiding or happy detachment – like having our “head in the clouds.” Who doesn’t love a good daydream? Clouds describe our happy place, the place we go to after we’ve fallen in love, succeeded at something, or are on vacation.

Every morning I wake up and watch the sunrise. What I’ve been noting lately is that it’s not actually the sun that’s in control. It’s the clouds that are. Over the years I’ve noticed that each sunrise is a little different based on the color the clouds take on, how many there are and how thick they are. Sometimes they are just whitish amongst the yellow sky, almost like they’re slacking on the job. Sometime they are gray and opaque – and the sun can’t be seen at all. In the summer, it seems like the clouds go on vacation entirely leaving the whole job to the sun. But the best sunrises, in my opinion, are those where the clouds turn into bright pink bands and the sun creates the strongest orange that it knows. On those days, that light just pours in through my kitchen window and makes every surface glow with pink colored life. It wouldn’t be the same without the clouds.

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intangibles


intangibles noun , cliche used by sports media to describe aspects of a player’s game or personality which cannot be tracked by statistics

Graham

This summer has been the year of the big boy summer camp for my seven year old son. Up until this summer, it was all popsicle sticks, Elmer’s Glue, sprinkler running fun. His past summers were nothing but a haze of happiness. As with all things associated with the passing of age, he was in for a rude but important awakening this summer and now that we’re winding down our August and the boxes full of new navy uniform pants and pique polo shirts collect on my porch in preparation for the upcoming school year, I am reflecting on some of the things we both learned this summer.

A true highlight for everyone this year was Graham’s attendance at the Ed Cooley Providence College Basketball Camp for a week. I remember when he decided that he wanted to go. It was in the midst of a blustery, gray Rhode Island typical winter weekend when we braved the gusts of chilly downtown to make our way to the Dunk to watch the Friars play. My college years were good but hard working years for me so it makes me proud to be able to take my son to these games, a bit of a rewarding light at the end of that tunnel I was in so long ago. At this particular game, they were giving out slips of paper advertising for the camp and Graham instantly told me that he wanted to go. The idea of having access to his basketball idols who were playing that day was something I could tell excited him just as much as Pokemon cards…maybe even a little more. So the next day I enrolled him first thing in the morning.

With much anticipation, the week of Ed Cooley camp arrived and I honestly did not know what to expect. Dan usually handles the sports related things in Graham’s life. I don’t get very much involved. I don’t know enough statistics or follow teams. I’m the mom in the stands type. I don’t need to get involved the way some moms do. The week went well as far as we could tell. Seven year olds don’t tend to be good communicators about details. We knew that no one was passing him the ball (what kid hasn’t had that happen) but he wasn’t a mess and had a relatively good time. Dan was away for work on the last day of camp for the awards ceremony, so I went back to school that day to pick up Graham.

The ceremony was pretty much procedure. Parents standing around awkwardly watching their kids running drills in the gym – the same gym I had spent at least one Midnight Madness inebriated at and several stags watching my roommates cry or fawn after boys for one reason or another. It was a surreal experience for me to say the least…but then it was time for trophies and awards and the interesting thing was that not every kid received one. In fact, some kids received 3 and others none at all. My son was a “none at all” kid and as I watched I wondered to myself how the little dude was going to handle this. This hadn’t happened to him before. A few months before he had been a finalist in the Pinewood Derby and got a much prized trophy at the regionals for Most Spirit while he watched several of his friends cry because they didn’t get one. To my surprise, he didn’t cry…at least not then. He kept a brave face, got his coaches’ assessment sheet, said good bye and we headed to the car. It was right before we exited the glass doors to leave that I could tell all was not right. He hadn’t talked or gushed the way he usually does. So we sat down and I looked at him…and he lost it. I think it was the first time I have seen my son realize that not everything is going to come easy and sometimes, often perhaps, you’re not going to be the best at something.

He recovered quickly after some munchkins and a gift from the PC Bookstore. It really only lasted 5 minutes. And since that breakdown, he plays basketball nearly everyday in our driveway – because he wants to go back to camp next summer and bring home a trophy. But later that evening, when the whole event was done, I went back to look at the assessment that his coach had written about him. Graham’s actual skills weren’t that bad – all told he was probably a B level player, but where he excelled were his “intangibles.” His coach-ability, leadership, effort, teamwork, etc…etc… And this meant a lot more to me than his ability to make a basket – mostly because I am a mom and yes, it would be great if he were some amazing athlete, but I want him to be a good person – the best person. That would make me proudest. As a parent, Dan can teach him the physical stuff and he can practice to get better, but the intangibles are harder to teach – and what will make him successful at whatever he chooses to do in his life.

As someone who has worked in NYC and in crazy, demanding environments, I can tell you this is much is true. I think I was well into my thirties before I understood how important “intangibles” are at work and in life. I’ve had to learn them and am still learning. But there are some people in the world who are born with them – like I suspect my son is. I’ve watched him these 7 years and seen the variety of children he is friends with. He manages completely different personalities on a daily basis and they all claim to be his BFF. He has his moments (he IS 7 years old after all) but in general, it’s all no sweat off his back. And I strive for that pretty much everyday. It’s a hard thing to learn and he has it mastered.

2 weeks ago Graham failed his deep water swim test at Boy Scout Camp. He cried that night and said it was the worst day of his life. 2 days later he went to camp and begged the counselor to take the test again. He passed and played Marco Polo in the 5 foot pool for the rest of the week. Everyday I learn something from my children. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your children naturally possess abilities and traits that you’ve been trying to learn your whole life and serve as a living example and your best teacher.

There are plenty of trophies I don’t win at work and many of the things I have to accomplish are equivalent to that deep water swim test that my son failed. But next week I’ll show up, without a trophy, splashing in the kiddie pool trying my damned hardest to win them both. And someday, I will.

Thanks Graham. Love Mom.

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calling


calling noun, a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.

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Several weeks ago after a tough few days at work, I started reading The Art of Happiness at Work, by the Dalai Lama. I purchased this book probably close to a decade ago at the Ruben Museum of Art in Manhattan – a regular visit of mine while we lived in Brooklyn. I never read it. It traveled with us from Brooklyn, to Maplewood, and now here, to Cranston – never having been read. The pages yellow but the spine not broken or creased. I started reading without intention or expectation, not much expecting to finish it like so many other books I pick up and leave half read and discarded. However, I did finish it. I read it with a voracity I haven’t felt for reading since I finished the Elena Ferrante series…and I emerged profoundly changed from what I learned.

One of the concepts that the book discusses is calling and how it is important to happiness at work. The book delves into the problem of calling as relates to assembly line workers or people whose work is mainly to earn a pay check – not so much what someone loves or feels an attraction to doing. I am lucky that my job is my professional calling and that I have found it…and ultimately, I really shouldn’t complain or be unhappy. It also forced me to remember the path I took to where I am and the many years I worked at jobs that had no calling.

My very first really job – outside of camp counselor, lifeguard or waitress while in high school – was in a factory soldering circuit boards for 8 hours a day. My father was diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma and underwent brain surgery at Columbia Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan on the day I was supposed to arrive for freshman orientation at Providence College. Neither of my parents attended college. My father enlisted in the navy after graduating from high school and my mother didn’t finish high school. Needless to say, I was stunned, depressed, confused and in need of a job. My father was the sole breadwinner of the household and being somewhat intelligent and 18 years old, it was the only choice.  My aunt was the floor manager at a factory that made Harmonizers – these black boxes that musicians use to distort their guitars to make them sound like Jimmy Hendrix. We went to work every morning together where I reported to my bench and was handed a pile of green Harmonizer motherboards and tiny bags of circuits to solder in the same pattern, over and over again.

Sometimes I would get a different type of board to solder and an engineer would show me the new pattern and the new circuits, but it was mostly the same thing, over and over again. As one can imagine, I quickly grew bored – although a very proficient solderer. I became fast enough that I could get all of my boards soldered in a few hours and would have to go take labels off of RAM chips that came back from aeronautic navigation devices that the company also made. It was in this boredom that I started to appreciate the circuits themselves – their different colors and minuteness. They came in all sorts of attractive striped patterns, almost like glass beads, and I started secretly soldering them together to make bracelets and rings. I will be truthful here. I had no conscious interest in jewelry back then. Even in high school, I had no interest in jewelry, make up or clothes. And I had no passion for jewelry when I was making these odd circuit soldered bracelets. They just sort of happened and I liked making them. Maybe there was something going on subconsciously back then, but I highly doubt it.

I went on to go to college, graduated and worked in finance for years thinking that I was going to take my series classes and become a trader, fulfilling my Melanie Griffith dreams as a Working Girl…but I always knew that wasn’t a calling either. I just wanted to make money and was probably influenced by the thought of a young Harrison Ford in a business suit.

The day I realized my calling was on my first day of work at a small watchband company in Rhode Island. I interviewed for a job as an assistant product manager – not really fully understanding what that was – and got it because I had passed a v lookup and pivot table test when no one else they interviewed could. I spent my entire first day making 80/20 reports for the Director of Marketing and was as happy as a clam. I was surrounded by watches, watchbands and jewelry – and the entire supply chain making it available to customers existed right around my little, fabric paneled cube. It was fascinating and new…and I fell in love with it. I had sent an email to China…CHINA! I was amazed. I went straight home and told my husband that someday this job was going to help me get a job at Tiffany’s (This is not a lie. You can ask him.) …and it ultimately did.

So when it comes to the idea of calling I tend to believe that it’s not such a simple thing. It’s almost a bit like fate or falling in love. You don’t really know when or how it will strike or what the actual calling will be. Now that I think of it, it really is a lot like love. A lot of waiting and searching, patience and perseverance – always with the possibility of ultimate failure. I am very lucky in that I have this career and job that I truly love and have a calling for, but the job itself is not the calling. The calling is that if I lost my job tomorrow, I would still work in jewelry – whether making it myself, reading about it or buying it. It brings me joy – a joy that would not have been found without some tough times, confusion and sorrow along the way. When I remember this, being happy at work is no longer a difficult thing. It is the most natural way to feel that there is.

 

 

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aurora


aurora noun, the dawn (literary)

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“But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

-The Beatles

Oh the sleep I used to get. There were some Sundays when I wouldn’t get out of bed until 1 pm. I would just lay in those crisp sheets letting their cool wrinkles enfold my rapturous laziness until my body and mind felt it was just the right time to rise, shower and go out for a mimosa filled brunch on Smith Street. And I had the nerve to complain during those days – of how hard I was working and how stressed I was – all while getting 20 hours of sleep every weekend. I was a seasoned, professional sleeper. I slept so deeply I couldn’t hear the garbage trucks driving down the street at 4 am picking up all of the garbage from the restaurants around us. I used to not go out on a Friday night just so I could sleep.

This past week, I was up at 4 am because I couldn’t sleep. There must have been some sort of sound that woke me up or dream I can’t remember that bothered me. Since it was 4 am, I just got up, went downstairs, did some cleaning, answered some emails and began my day. There just was no point in rolling around in the bed, thinking too much, wide awake. The sheets that once were such heaven are often heavy and bothersome. Sometimes it’s the kids randomly waking up or utility work being done in the street, but it is most often my mind which won’t stop racing that wakes me up and keeps me from dreaming about those brunch filled days of my Brooklyn youth.

So the other morning my restlessness inspired me to go for a walk in the neighborhood. We are blessed to live on a cove off of Narragansett Bay and the sunrise is almost always divine. The other morning, it didn’t disappoint, with the bands of dawn reflecting off of the calm water and turning the bay a soft pink color. The sails from the boats at the yacht club casting a perfect reflection in the waters ripples while cranes and cormorants gracefully glided past casting their own shadows in the water. If I could sleep, I would have missed all of it. I found myself very thankful for not being able to sleep and to have seen the sun rise another day.

How life changes in ways you can never predict.

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convenience


convenience noun, the state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty

record player

I’ve been turning over a blog post in my brain for several weeks now and am finally writing these few words down after such a long hiatus from this site. I toyed with the word “analog” after using my old typewriter a few weeks ago for an unrelated project…and then the other morning I was rather peeved on the drive into work so I wanted to write a post about wanting to be Kanye West. Then this morning I was in the shower using a bar of lavender soap and thinking to myself about the pros and cons of shower gel versus bar soap. My brain jumped back to my thoughts about analog and I realized that I didn’t want to write about analog at all. The word I was searching for was convenience…and so here we are. (I still want to write about being Kanye though.)

I’m an odd bird, which you will know if you really get to know me – or just talk to me for an hour over a bottle of wine. I collect antiques and watch a lot of PBS. I paint and sketch. I like, and work, in jewelry but not because I like the glamour but rather because I crave the tradition, process of fabricating and long history of jewelry. I’m addicted to the making of things in general. Sometimes I wonder if I watched the crayon factory video on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood too many times and it created too much of an impression. I appreciate the process, the history and the story behind physical objects – to the point where I can’t sleep some nights because I think about the details of things too much. I haven’t discovered what I am meant to create in this world or what the culmination of my obsessions might be. I’ve been a part of the back story for many things that people purchase and enjoy, but cannot take credit for their entire creation. In a lot of ways, I am a mother to the products I have worked on much in the way I am the mother of my children. I have ushered them through their troubles and tough spots until they have grown into adulthood and landed on Amazon or a store shelf somewhere.  I haven’t decided if that is enough of an accomplishment yet. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Anyway – I like the time and attention it takes to make a physical thing.

So when I think about the world today and the things we use the theme I most often happen upon is convenience. We use shower gel instead of soap because it’s easier to lather and friendlier than a hard rectangle of lard that you glaze your body with and then rinse off. We type on keyboards now and rarely write in handwriting so much so that schools have ceased to teach cursive or penmanship. Baby food comes in easy to squeeze pouches instead of jars and you can buy entire meals chopped to arrive at your home to make an authentic home cooked dinner easily and fast. We are creatures of convenience. Even as a working mom, I often wonder why we feel the need to save so much time. For more stalking time on Facebook and Instagram, judging by the world’s obsession with social media. We don’t seem to be connecting with people more with all of this time we have gained. Sometimes I think that it’s the greatest marketing ploy of all time – to get us all to think we are too, too busy and that we need all of these things to save us time when what we actually need is to use our time actually doing something. Using our senses or hands or brains instead of focusing on efficiency and convenience.

Some things are greatly lost in this quest for convenience. The process, the details, the work – all of those things that make great things great – are lost in making some things easier. Take oil painting for an example. There is acrylic paint now that dries faster and blends easier than what the great masters used, but there is something lost in that medium when you compare it to traditional oil painting. The color is not as rich and the texture is like plastic – because that is what it is – plastic. Painting in oil requires patience. You can only load so much paint onto a canvas until everything blends and turns brown. You have to thin it with Gamsol – but not too much or you lose the thickness for building it up and creating that impressionistic texture. You have to wait for the first layer to dry to add the second, more accurate and refined attempt. And there is the key – the waiting. In that waiting – in which if you were to try and continue hard headedly to fix the layer you’ve put down you would only make things worse – you learn what you must do that will make the painting good. Because you are forced for days to look at your errors in the shadows and light, in tones, you figure it out. You reach a different perspective and in reaching it are able to approach things in a better more enlightened way. The convenience of the paint drying quickly eliminates the most important element of oil painting – the standing and looking back. The reflection on what you’ve done. The reassessing and having another go at it. That is what makes the painting better.

The record player is another example. I have had one since we purchased our first home in Pawtucket over a decade ago. My husband thought I was crazy when I brought it home from the Homegoods for $50 with an old record of traditional Italian music from the Salvation Army. But once he heard the crackles and pops, the imperfections, the way it sounded bouncing off the walls of our new house, he was hooked as well – more so than me at this point. Now, streaming music is a beautiful thing that I enjoy, especially when listening to very loud Notorious B.I.G. on the way to work on a Monday morning. However, it never makes you listen to an entire album the way a record does. You gain the convenience of hearing any song you want to at any moment, but you don’t get to know that artist in the same way that a record forces you to. For example, Radiohead –the bends. Radiohead is pure genius listened to on any format, but when you listen to it on vinyl and it’s not convenient to skip past your least favorite track, the music becomes a statement that the artist is making rather than a few songs that are great. In the case of the bends, Radiohead creates a mood that is only captured when listened to as an inclusive album.  It changes your perspective on what it was you thought you were liking and captures a rainy day with a beauty that cannot be described with words. It also makes you appreciate how amazing their music really is.

My last example is probably my favorite – the Moleskine notebook. I have for many years, and always will, take my work notes in a Moleskine notebook. I have all of my old ones from my many jobs piled up in the furnace room of our home. Sometimes, when I am struggling to remember why I do what I do or I see something that was a project I worked on at a store or online, I will go down to my stacks and pull an old Moleskine. I almost always remember which one it is in. They are a history of my career. I’ve never been able to journal in a book but can and will only take work notes in one of these durable, black leather books. This blog is the closest I have come to chronicling anything digitally, but my Moleskines record the winding and odd journey of my career from my very first job here in Rhode Island. I find it magical to flip through the pages and remember where I was when I was writing those notes and how my handwriting changes from page to page, year to year. Sometimes there are sketches or other peoples writing – you know those times where your coworker wants to tell you something but has to write it on your page? Sometimes I remember what those comments were about. Other times I can’t remember who wrote them or what they were about, but they are always amusing nevertheless.  All of those moments, thoughts and places are in these black leather books in a way that typing something on a computer will never be. More convenient to type? Of course. But not nearly as important or as special in my life.

I saw that our local bookstore is selling records and the record stores we visit are all bustling with customers where not too long ago I was the only one there. I also saw a Moleskine store at the Short Hills mall during a recent visit. (I’m not so sure about bar soap vs. shower gel as I am still on the fence about that one.) I think that people like convenience and the ease it adds to their life and I do as well.  But I also think that people secretly crave and need something else. They need the experience, time, perspective and manual work that only analog, old things and tradition can offer to fill in the details of life.

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scaramouch


scaramouch noun, a boastful but cowardly person

scaramouch

“I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me”

– Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Today I opened up the old OED the way I used to when I started this silly blog and flipped around looking for a word. I landed on scaramouch and am pretty happy with it. I have heard, like everyone else in the world, the song Bohemian Rhapsody a few hundred times throughout my life, I am sure. I always glazed over this word and didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t even really sure it was a word until I found it today. I thought maybe Freddy Mercury just made it up. Naturally I went to Google and looked up the lyrics because now I was intrigued. I may be wrong but I took the singer, the subject of the song, to be the scaramouch and I ended up reading the lyrics as if they were poetry…and my mind opened up for me this beautiful morning.

I am not a huge Queen fan. I enjoy Queen here and there but am not an aficionado in any way. They are part of a large collection of music I enjoy. Until today I did not appreciate this song for what it was, which is a mini opera in 6 minutes. It is a work of genius. I have always known that it was because everyone told me it was. Forgive my naiveté. I am not musical in a way that musicians are and I have never studied music. I am merely someone who enjoys listening. I have never approached music the way I would a book or a poem but now I see that I should have. I suppose it’s harder for me to do that with music because the enjoyment is two fold. The lyrics may be amazing, but if the music or voice is not quite right, well then I have no patience. With a book, if it is written well and the story is compelling, I will happily read along. With music, I have no patience if it doesn’t hit my sweet spot.

I also find that I am more willing to forgive a song if it is catchy. I’ve listened to “Call Me Maybe” a few thousand times and it’s a horrible, gibberish song…but it makes me energetic and empty brained for a few minutes, and sometimes that just feels good. The problem that I am seeing now is that because I don’t have the patience sometimes to give some music a chance to develop or to listen more closely to the lyrics and forgive the less than perfect instrumental, I am contributing to the rise of Justin Beiber and his ilk. It scares me to think that my children will be listening to the music that I have listened to my whole life and not their own generation of musicians . Or even worse, listening to Justin Beiber and Selena Gomes vocally gyrating and thinking it’s good music.

I’ve watched David Bowie and Prince die so far this year. Along with many other things declining in the world right now, I feel like music is also in a bad state. The radio is dismal and filled with manufactured pop stars. One really has to dig deep into Google Play or Spotify to find something inspiring. I don’t mean good, or catchy or enjoyable. There are plenty of songs like that. I mean something different. Music that can change your life, mix genres and blur the lines between instrumental and art. There are only a few people like that born every hundred years or so. I just hope we find out who they are soon so as to take the sting out of watching the ones we know and love die without replacement.

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anopisthographic


anopisthographic  adj. having writing or printing on one side only

desk

“The only thing that makes one an artist is making art. And that requires the precise opposite of hanging out; a deeply lonely and unglamorous task of tolerating oneself long enough to push something out.”
― David Rackoff, Half Empty

I have to admit that lately I haven’t been scouring the OED as much to find words. I cheat a bit here and there and look at sites on the web that list strange or rarely used words. Anopisthographic is one such word that was found in this manner.  When I found this word, it made me recall what it was like to physically write on paper with a pen…for pages and pages…and how I rarely, if ever, do that any longer. It is in the physical “pen in hand” practice of writing that I feel I am working the hardest at creating something. Typing just doesn’t match up. If you are writing with a pen and you make a mistake, you have to work to remove it. You really have to think about what you are going to put down on the paper as it isn’t very easy to remove or rearrange it. In a way, you physically live your story. If you want to move a paragraph, you have to cut the paper and move it. If you misspell a word, you have to scratch it out or erase it. It leaves a mark as a reminder of your mistake.  If your pencil breaks or your pen runs out you have to sharpen or find a new one. I often think about the fact that I rarely physically write and if I did that it might strengthen my words that same way exercise strengthens my muscles, gives me stamina.

The act of writing on paper is also quite therapeutic. About a year ago I started “The Artist’s Way” because I was suffering from a creative block and just general malaise caused by being a stay at home suburban mom. The first thing you do when you start the Artist’s Way is wake up and write. You basically rise from a dead sleep, open a notebook and just write whatever it is that comes to mind. They are called “morning pages.”  At first it starts out as gibberish and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you keep thinking of the same word over and over again, then you just write it. You’re not supposed to judge it.  It’s supposed to be a sort of cleansing of your “artist soul.” Sometimes it felt like a continuation of my dream and I would start in one place and end up in another. Other times, it was a struggle and made me angry. Rarely, a phrase or sentence would happen and start the creative journey. I haven’t gone back to read what I wrote in some time and I probably should. I didn’t get through the entire process of the Artists Way. I never created a masterpiece.

When I wrote my morning pages I filled up both sides of the page. Not writing on the other side felt wasteful and this has always been my feeling about writing on paper in general. I suppose it comes from a desire to fill up a page or pages the same way I do so many things in my life – my fridge, my closet, my brain. Having all of the pages embossed with lines of penmanship makes me feel accomplished, like I reached my creative quota, tangible proof that I made something.  I love pressing hard enough on the page so that the lines create a relief map on the other side and crinkle the paper, making it look worked over.

This word also makes me think about the old wooden school desks we used to write on when I was in elementary school. Every student was assigned their own, permanent desk each year and they were quite old. Each was like a time capsule from all of the other students who had sat at that desk before. Despite the constant warnings from teachers not to vandalize them, we still did. We had to leave our own mark. Random carvings on the wooden tops, crusty dried up bubble gum caked along the underside that looked like little upside down mountain ranges when you stuck your head under and looked up. Secret messages and love notes scribbled in permanent marker, sometimes in hidden places. We’d always have to write on top of workbooks or stacks of loose leaf to avoid inadvertent impressions on our vocabulary exercises. The surface of the desk was almost like the other side of the page coming through the one we were writing on. Like secret messages the desk was sending us about its history, its life story.

It makes me sad to think that my son won’t know a desk in the same way. That a white screen with buttons will be his most familiar definition of a page. It is up to me to ensure he  experiences the physical act of writing on paper despite the fact that the world we live in is making it obsolete. I want him to know and understand the meaning of “page” outside of an LCD screen. I want him to know how to create them in his own hand and have his own style of handwriting the way I have mine. I want him to have both sides to write on.

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imbroglio


imbroglio n. an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation

Image

I am a champion eavesdropper and general observer of people. I do it often, especially on the morning train. It is a bit of a game for me, to overhear conversations, on the phone or actively between two people. If I was a novelist I think I might ride the train just to gather ideas for character sketches. It’s more than just a few moments of a conversation. It’s the way that particular person talks. Their speech pattern and intonation, the overall cadence of their speech, what they are talking about and the emotion they are audibly emitting. Piece it together with what they’re wearing, the bag they’re carrying, their ID badge hanging off of their zipper. It all creates an invented persona and I am a detective trying to solve who they are to place them in my own story. When I am lucky enough to catch someone lamenting on an imbroglio, it ties it all together – but I am rarely so lucky. Instead I watch and create my version of them in my head.

I picture myself as a hack impersonation of Ernest Hemingway in “A Moveable Feast:”

…A girl came into the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair black as crow’s wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.

I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited. I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone. So I went on writing.

The thought of Ernest Hemingway writing in a café, observing people and turning them into his characters inspires me. I don’t know if I’ll ever write a novel, or anything deemed publishable for that matter, but I can still create the story to pass the time. Here are some of my favorite, frequent characters.

The Fun, Fearless Female

She is one of my favorites and I hate when she sits in a car farther down the line and I don’t have the chance to observe her. She works for Cosmopolitan Magazine, or at least I think she does because she is always carrying tote bags that have bedazzled sayings like “Fun, Fearless Female” with fake kissy marks- the kind they give away at workplace events. She surely looks fun with her honey highlighted bob, a hint of cleavage showing through her light, acrylic Forever 21 sweater in the Spring and Summer. 100% fun. The most notable thing about her, though, is that she is always telling some long, drawn out, exquisitely animated imbroglio to at least 3 or 4 men – most of them bald and overweight, but nonetheless gathered around like a moth to a flame. She comes across as young, peppy and seductive in a very suburban way, but if you look close you see the tiny creases of crows feet, her foundation and powder caked there signaling a clue to her age. She must be mid 40’s going on 17. I wonder if she’s writes those sordidly famous Cosmo sexual advice columns. Or if she’s just a functionary, a cog in the wheel of the smut publishing universe.  

Kate Spade

The girl that all of the men stare at on the platform. The perfect hair, the clear complexion. She always carries a Kate Spade bag and has work friends that she sometimes talks to on the train. She has an immature taste in clothing…like this morning when she wore espadrilles and a tailored jean blazer on this rainy, 40 degree day. She smiles with her mouth closed because her teeth are crooked. It seems like a source of embarrassment for her. At first glance, you would think she has it all together, but if you look closer you see that the strap on one of her handbags is torn and taped discreetly back together. That her iPhone screen is so marred with cracks that I wonder how she uses it without slicing her fingertips. The day she sat next to me on the train she stabbed me with her bony elbow at least three times because of her feverish texting. She was whispering on the phone, gossiping about work and about her upcoming trip to LA. She is married, the standard large, flawed diamond solitaire and channel set wedding band combo. I wonder what her other half is like. If he’s like her, clean looking and popular or if he’s a nerd.  I always pair her with “Tom Brady”, the good looking tall guy who carries the Coach diaper bag as a man purse who always stands near her on the platform. They would go so well together – Kate Spade and Tom, walking side by side, she in suede ankle boots, he in grey loafers (no socks). But she is uninteresting, not because she has to be, though. I feel like she’s just looking the part, playing the role. Maybe she doesn’t have the courage to be anything else or maybe she just wants to be the pretty girl on the platform, and that is enough for her.

Bob

Sometimes I take the train from a different town, with different people crowding the platform. Sometimes I see Bob, and he doesn’t know it, but I listen to his music. Sometimes it’s Jay Z or Kanye. Other times it’s something I can’t place but wish I could. Usually when I hear a song I like, I try to remember a line or two to Google later and then download it. But I can’t hear the words through Bob’s ear buds, tucked behind his long dread locks. It makes me sad to catch a beat and not know what the song is. He drinks Dunkin Donuts coffee – not flavored, medium – and wears a suit under his overcoat.  Sometimes he stands next to me and we wait, I with my purple Beats, he with his white ear buds, and we share the platform in our own individual, music laced bubbles. I wonder what the probability is that we have ever listened to the same song at the same time, our headphones secretly communicating our comradely in static code.

The Twin Beaks

They both look amazing from behind. Him in a brown tweed overcoat, her in a smart red trench. They hold hands, they talk with their heads close together and you think to yourself – wow – what a great looking, loving couple. You expect them to turn around and blow you away, like in some cheesy rom com movie where the music queues up and the wind blows their hair just so. Instead you notice that they both have strangely large noses. Everything else about them is perfection – except for their twin beaks. I suppose it’s not very nice to say that perhaps it is their facial protuberance that brought them together, but I would bet it was, even if it was only subconsciously. I wonder if they ever think about how big their noses are, perhaps even laugh about it together over glasses of wine and pate. What would happen if one day one of them decided to fix their nose, or would they do it together? Would they argue about it? It’s funny how something so small like a nose can change your perception of an entire face that might otherwise be quite beautiful. If in focusing so much on a large nose can cause you to miss the perfect mouth and hazel blue eyes. Maybe that is why they belong together, because they share their noses and can see beyond it when a regular nosed person may not be able to. I suppose it might be rather liberating, to find a counterpart that doesn’t accentuate your flaw, but shares it and intimately understands it. In a way, I envy the twin beaks.

I am, indeed, no Hemingway, but he was possessed of many vices the same as I. I too have the girl in the café who looks away for another and is unaware of me, staring clandestinely, making up a story about her. There is always the temptation to want to break that line, to reach out across and meet these characters, these personas that I have invented. To know if what I am making up is in any way accurate. But that would ruin the magic of it all. I know that it is better to never know so that I can fill my mornings with these people and to pretend I am Hemingway, waiting for the train with my music and coffee.

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