Monday, March 18, 2019

Water, Interrupted ...

On January 24, I wrote this post about donating my birthday to charity: water and my intent to raise $50,000 to mark what I intend to be my 50th birthday.

On January 25, I gained an even greater appreciation for the water I take for granted.

I won't bore you with the intricacies of my home's plumbing but suffice it to say that I have two sump pumps in my basement. In theory, the secondary sump pump should never kick on. If it does, something's wrong.

Something was wrong.

I had had the plumber out twice that week to rod my sewer line. The clay pipe gets breached by tree roots. Rodding chews 'em up. Every few years, a few hundred bucks and I'm good to go again. So to speak.

But the problem persisted. I called the plumber again. By the end of the day – 5:30 p.m., really, which I presume is overtime in plumberworld – I had two plumbers and an apprentice standing in my living room.

The news was not good.

The gist was that they had to tear up my sewer line and replace a portion of it.

As you may presume, this is not an inexpensive repair.

The polar vortex was due the following week so the work had to happen Monday, in large part so I could leave my water running at a trickle for a couple days so as to not allow my pipes to freeze.

Also, I needed to be able to use my plumbing for all the usual purposes. I could forgo laundry, sure. I could pile up dishes – and did – but there's the little matter of, well, you know.

Monday came. Equipment arrived. Digging commenced. I had shared a thought with the head plumber. He had an alternate theory. His turned out to be correct: a company doing work in the parkways had ... drum roll please ... drilled through my sewer line!

So in the end, I wasn't responsible for the costs.

And I was very excited to have the use of my plumbing again.

I made do for a few days.

Some people have been making do for their entire lifetimes.

That's not OK with me. I hope it's not OK with you.

And so, I want to help. In this year of turning 50, I intend to raise $50,000 to help bring potable water to those most in need.

Be it $5 or $50 or $500 or more or any amount in between, I would be delighted and humbled for you to lend your support.

Lovely friends have contributed already, generously. I'll be reupping the campaign quarterly, per charity: water's requirements. (I'm not able to maintain one campaign until November.)

This is the link to my campaign.

You can find out more about charity: water here.

If a contribution isn't feasible right now, perhaps you can share the link:

Spare a thought for those in need the next time you flip your faucet and clean water appears.

I thank you.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Donating My Birthday! ...

My birthday is in November. This is January. I know.

But for this upcoming birthday, I intend to raise $50,000 for charity: water to bring clean water to those who lack it and, well, this might take a little while.

Or not! Who knows! But I thought I'd get started early.

This is the link to my campaign.

Be it $5 or $50 or $500 or more or any amount in between, I would be delighted and humbled for you to lend your support.

Why charity: water?

Because water is so essential and yet so hard to come by for so many.

Clean water prevents disease.

Access to water frees up time that enables education and work ... and play and rest, for that matter.

Water changes the world.

We take it for granted.

But imagine your life without it.

Now imagine an organization that brought it to you and how that would change every aspect of your life.

You can find out more here.

And if you're able, you can contribute here. Or, if a contribution isn't feasible right now, perhaps you can share the link:

I'll be posting updates throughout the year.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Makes Beth Happy, January 19 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

Last week's word was "cozy," which applies even more today, with the snow blowing around out there but it was delightful to wake up this morning having run errands yesterday, knowing that I don't need to leave the house, that I can spend the day cooking and maybe baking and maybe reading and maybe napping and maybe puttering, all of which makes me squee-y!

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:

The Sauce
I have Italian sausage in the oven, baking it off in advance of putting together a big bowl of pasta (three cheers for gluten-free pasta!) with this sauce and an embarrassment of Parmesan cheese. Mom and I used a bushel's worth of Roma tomatoes to make a zillion containers of this, for which I am glad because in years past, we only made a half-bushel's worth and then we felt the need to ration in throughout the year. We don't just use it on pasta. We cook it down as "pizza" sauce (we make "pizzas" in upside-down portobello mushrooms) or the base for pasta fagioli or as soup itself. It's a really hearty tomato soup. I don't do that Campbell's crap but this? This is a tomato soup worth eating! (With a lot of Parmesan, of course.)

And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Newgate Grey and Black Cubic Alarm Table Clock
I like vintage clocks. Or clocks that look vintage. The clock in my TV room looks like it came from a school. This one reminds me of those nifty travel clocks that fold into a little case that snaps shut. I'd like to be able to go back to the '40s and live in that world for a little while. With none of the war and such. Just the aesthetic of the time: the big, sturdy cars; men in overcoats and fedoras; women dolled up to go ... anywhere.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Spark Joy Indeed ...

I've known about Marie and her very tidy way of folding and storing clothes and her suggestion that we only hold on to things that "spark joy." She's a tiny woman who has made a large impression on the world.

I'll confess that sparking joy always struck me as a bit of a high-minded ideal. Sure, everyone has favorite outfits and favorite objects and such but some stuff is simply utilitarian, right? Does my vegetable peeler spark joy? I don't think so. But then, I have more than one yet I never use the others. It may not spark joy, my chosen vegetable peeler, but I do favor it for some reason. And that's enough. I think there must be a spectrum of joy. My vegetable peeler makes the cut. No pun intended.

Hard over on that spectrum, though, is the comforter that I snuggle under when I watch TV. I love that comforter. Inordinately so. So much so that yesterday, watching her help people tidy their homes and spark their joy, I found myself unexpectedly emotional about my comforter.

It's old. It's really old. Counting from when it came into my possession – as I have no idea when it was manufactured – it's nearly 40 years old. It was in storage for much of that time but it's been used and loved, too. The batting has lost its loft. The stitches are largely pulled out. The feeling I used to get when I'd snuggle in for the first time each season is gone. And that makes me truly sad.

There will be no other comforter like it. I'm sure I'll find another cover to my liking, a quilt or a blanket or a throw. But I'm sad at the thought of bidding my childhood comforter farewell. It's not a security blanket, per se.

But maybe it is.

I've been puttering around my house since finishing her episodes, taking items out of cabinets, setting some things aside to be given away.

I take a vitamin and supplements each morning. Four bottles. I take them out each morning them set them all back on the shelf in the cabinet above my coffee maker as I wait for my coffee to brew. Years ago, I wrapped a box in a pretty paper to hold all my mom's supplements. So today became the day I wrapped a box for me, too. (I had one lone 6-inch shipping box left from a bundle of 25 I bought some years ago. I used a straightedge and an Xacto knife to perforate both sides and managed to separate the halves without Xacto-ing any of my fingers.) And then I visited the bag of wrapping paper remnants in my closet to see if any would work. And then I reminded myself that this little exercise was about sparking joy, not making do, so I chose a green foil paper that I truly love and taped up my little half-box and wrapped it and stashed my supplements inside. It really does make me happy to have it on the shelf, waiting for me for tomorrow morning when it's time to take them with my juice.

And as timing would have it, much of the contents of my bedroom closet are currently hanging out in the closet by my front door – I'll spare you the story – so now is the perfect time to take out the rest of the stuff and decide what I'm ditching and fold the rest, KonMari style.

The new year is off to a really good start that I hadn't expected. Not that I expected a bad start, mind you, but I supposed I was anticipating more of the same.

But this year's energy feels different. Work is busier. My friend Michele talks about planting seeds in terms of work and clients and projects. I have planted many seeds over the past decade. Some had already sprouted. But more are sprouting and the existing sprouts are flourishing. And I love that even as the unevenness of my finances is beginning to calm itself on a slightly higher plateau, I am inclined to have less, not more. To shed, not amass. To be more mindful about what I want to take with me into the next stage of my life. Because why would I want to be surrounded by things that don't spark joy?

I've let too many things be too static for too long.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go wake up my books.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Makes Beth Happy, January 12 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

The first full week of the year was b-u-s-y. So I was very happy to send off my last project of the week last night and wake up – insane bombshell news aside – to a day of nothing that needs doing. It's snowing lightly. I'm about to bake. Later, I can take a nap. And I'm still in my PJs. All of which adds up to "cozy."

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:

I'm not in the habit of linking to myself but this is the bread I'll be baking once I'm done with this post and what's cozier than bread baking in the oven on a snowy day? This is a good bread to try if you're daunted by the idea. So long as you don't kill the yeast, you really can't screw it up. The most important thing to know about it is this: it makes fabulous toast. Butter. Apricot jam. Butter and apricot jam. Nutella. Peanut butter. Cream cheese with shaved onion and sliced tomato and salt and freshly ground pepper (yep, just treat it like a bagel). Rubbed with a cut garlic clove and used as the base for bruschetta ... .
You get the idea.

And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Scotch Whiskey Scented Baxter Manor Candle
Scotch will make you warm whether you're cold or not but it's made for chilly evenings and low light. This candle smells exactly like a glass of Scotch. Very cozy. And the aroma works well with the scent of baking bread. The small tin is cute as a bug and just the right size if you're intrigued by the idea of a candle that smells like hooch. It also makes a nice little host/ess gift if you have Scotch-loving friends.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Makes Beth Happy, January 5 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

As in the Instagram account "Boop My Nose." I really do touch the screen and say "Boop!" each time a dog nose appears. Dog noses are the best! (Note: Boop My Nose features other animal noses as well but dogs are favored, as they should be.)

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:

Croque-Monsieur Breakfast Casserole
Because bread and cheese and ham and egg and mustard and cream and delicious melty goodness!

And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Clasp Silver Garland
I'm not in the habit of buying things these days unless they're necessary but this garland is charming and unexpected. This design is reminiscent of my everyday earrings, which are silver. When I saw them at a craft fair, the artist reached for her polishing cloth and I said, "Oh, are they supposed to be shiny? I like the tarnish." So she left them alone and I've never polished them. But for the holidays, a bit of sparkle is nice.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Laughter: It's What's For Christmas ...

It's been a year.

Not 2018 specifically but the past 12 months. Well, 13 months, really. It's been a baker's dozen of a year.

My father had a major health episode on November 3, 2017. He went into hospice on December 6. Christmas last year wasn't really Christmas. It was more of a blur. A stressful blur. We needed laughter. It was not easily found.

Thankfully, I have a secret weapon, a memory I can repeat out loud that never fails – never – to make Mom laugh.

Here's the story:

Many years ago, when one of my nephews was in grade school, most of the family – the kids grew up with all of their extended family nearby – clambered up the bleachers in the school gym to watch a program put on by a goodly number of the kids.

As family is wont to do, I was focused on my nephew. All the kids were doing a good job but, well, I don't know them. I know him. So I was kind of not bothering to stick with the plot of the play.

If memory serves – though it really doesn't – the device on which the whole program was built was a quiz show. Questions and answers. Contestants buzzing in.

Here's the thing: The "buzzers" were kids wearing red pillbox hats. Like bellhops (for those of you reading this who are old enough to know what bellhops are and what attire they used to wear).

I add this detail not to boast but to illuminate the absurdity of my confusion that night: Years ago, I took the Mensa exam. I passed. For a year, I was a member. I am a member no more. But the point is – not to sound like Trump – I'm, like, pretty smart.

Most of the time.

That night, though, I could not for the life of me figure out why the hell the kids answering the questions were pressing on the heads of seated bellhops. What kind of crazy David Lynch-ian shit was that?

I expressed my confusion to Mom, in a whisper.

"They're buzzers," she said.



They were.

That made sense.

In that moment, someone in Mensa was probably headed for the bleachers to revoke my test results.

But the good news is that any time I need to make Mom laugh, I can simply blurt out, "They looked like bellhops!" and she laughs. A lot. Like the kind of laughter that almost makes her double over.

And so, this Christmas, I thought that one of her gifts should be an image from that night, in a frame.

But this Christmas has brought some new challenges to the broader family and I don't want to burden anyone unduly, asking them to look for a picture from so many years ago, if, in fact, such pictures even exist. (I presume they do but I don't remember a lot of flashes going off that night.)

Also, I figured that an actual framed image would lose its oomph. If you see something constantly, its impact wanes.

So I decided that any image of a bellhop hat would do. It's about the hat, not about the exact kids who were wearing said hats in the school program.

So I Googled. And I found an image that emphasized the hat is for sale on Etsy, by GriffinCircle*, from whom I borrowed the image because I decided that it would be kinda funny to create wallpaper for Mom's phone so that each time she brought up her lock screen, she would see this:

She came by this morning. I made soft-boiled eggs for her and pogacha toast. While she ate, I tinkered with her phone to set the image. Then I asked her to swallow before I handed her phone to her and told her to turn it on.

She laughed.

Mission accomplished.

Here's to finding some holiday moments of laughter and love.

* There are many styles available, supported by glowing reviews, if'n you're in the market for a bellhop hat. GriffinCircle, if you happen to see this post, I hope you don't mind that I used your image and I hope that crediting and linking to you suffices as an exchange for said use. It's making my mom really happy!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Quiet Christmas ...

I created this compilation years ago. It's my favorite sitting-by-the-glowy-tree-as-darkness-falls music.

If you need a break from the hubbub – and if you can find all the tracks* – I recommend these pieces in this order and a glass or two of wine.

* I was going to create links to iTunes. I searched for the first track and came up empty-handed. Perhaps Spotify will be more fruitful. I'm not a Spotify user. Let me know. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Update: I'm a stickler for ordering songs. I noticed yesterday that the playlist I posted was not in the same order as the disc I created initially. So here's the proper order. Because details!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Commitment ...

Just shared this with some friends and shared a shortened, edited version on Twitter – "can" became "will," so I'm going with "will" here – so what the hell, let's share it here, too!

I was just writing in a little bound book that I've had forever. I've torn out a lot of the pages over the years. But I have dubbed the pages that remain my manifestation journal. I have completely fallen in love with Samin Nosrat and her Netflix mini-series "Salt Fat Acid Heat," based on her cookbook of the same name.

She's doing a lot of podcasts to promote the series and she talks about her manifestation journal and I love that. I have some stuff written down but I like the idea of capturing it all in this little book.

I'm gonna commit to big-ass audacious goal. In September of last year, my friend Dawn challenged me to get my memoir manuscript done by Christmas. Angelo gave me until the end of the year. And then in early November, Dad had the episode that led to four-and-a-half months of decline until he died in mid-March. Obviously, the manuscript did not get done. Not even close.

So I'm reupping that plan for 2018. I will have a first draft of my memoir manuscript done by the end of the year.

Angelo's friend Jennifer wrote "All The Bright Places" in six weeks. (It's currently being made into a film.) Angelo wrote the first draft of his YA novel in SEVENTEEN DAYS.

I'm not starting from scratch. I will get this done.

And I'm going to share what I've written here with Dawn and Angelo, too, for extra reinforcement! :o )

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I Know Most People Won't Understand This ...

I'm trading thoughts with someone about Robert McKee's opus "Story" and just wrote this little blurb, which has me cracking up this morning so I'm putting it here for posterity (or until I delete this blog):

Thanks for the words about McKee’s book. Yes, the structure. When I began reading it, I thought, “I know how to write a story, basically.” Only to discover that McKee’s book says, in effect, “Oh, you have no idea. You think you know but that’s only because your pathetic oversimplified stories have never encountered this rigor! Have you thought about your archetypes? Well, have you?! Do it now! What about your structure? It’s not linear, you ninny! If it’s not 1,000 different M.C. Escher drawings intersecting in 200 dimensions, you’ve failed! Don’t you dare type ‘FADE IN’ until you’ve unraveled every mystery of the cosmos, you hack! You think Einstein was a genius? Yeah, well, he didn’t write ‘Chinatown,’ did he?”

Or maybe that was just my take on it. (I might wanna write a movie that’s just Brian Cox-as-Robert McKee screaming at the audience for 2 hours ... .)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Money Is A Story We Tell Ourselves ...

The title of this post is what I believe is a direct quote from Seth Godin. It may be slightly paraphrased. But the gist is pure.

I believe he uttered it during his appearance on Tim Ferriss's podcast. And his point was that once we have our basic needs met – food and shelter – everything on top of that is a story we're telling ourselves.

I love that. Such a big topic condensed into such a simple phrase.

The older I get, the less stuff I want and the more I question the reasons behind others wanting as much as they do. I've written before about wanting to see a psychology-based version of "House Hunters." When someone says, "I want a house with a big foyer because when people walk in, I want them to be impressed," I want the realtor (who's also a psychologist in my dream spin-off) to ask "Why do you want them to be impressed?"

What's missing in that person's life that they think that the road to happiness and fulfillment runs through a large, impressive foyer?

I see large foyers and I think "Wasted space." And "money to heat and cool a wasted space." I'd rather spend that money on something else. Something fun. Something practical. Or, likely, donate it to charity.

I've also written before about my studio apartment and my one-bedroom and how the perfect space for me would be the halfway point between the two. I left my studio because I wanted enough space for a queen-size bed. (I could have had a queen-size bed in my studio but that wouldn't have left much room for the rest of my things.) But my one-bedroom had a dining area that was way bigger than I needed.

Perhaps one day, I'll live in a right-size space again. My house is small by most every standard but it's still too big for my tastes. For now, though, given goings on in my life and the lives of those close to me, it's where I should be.

But I really would love to talk to someone who owns 300 pairs of $500-a-pair shoes and ask her why she's invested $150,000 in shoes (not including tax). I really would love to talk to someone who wears a $20,000 watch and ask him how that impacts his life.

I'm a fan of quality, sure. There's logic behind buying something well-made that will last, rather than buying cheap goods that require frequent replacement.

But there's an upper limit to quality beyond which there's not a discernible return. It's just about status.

Yes, a $50 bottle of wine may well taste better than a bottle that costs five bucks.

But who can really tell the difference between a bottle that costs $50 and a bottle that costs $500? Or $5,000?

Furniture is the same. I spent $3,000 on my couch. I've had it for 18 years. I use it every day. It could stand some new seat cushions, for sure. And I would like to get it recovered. (The green seemed like a good choice at the time but there's wisdom in buying large pieces of furniture in neutral colors.)

But I once saw an end table in a magazine that retailed for $15,000. Fifteen thousand dollars for an end table? That's insane to me. (Thinking back, perhaps the pair was $15,000. Or maybe the pair was $30,000. Either way: insane.) What story are those people telling themselves?

I was on the phone with a friend/client the other day and was telling him about Seth. While we chatted, the friend Googled him and rattled off Seth's net worth. Whether or not that information is accurate, I have no idea. But it didn't seem implausible. Seth has written a lot of books and has done a lot of interesting, innovative work. He should be rewarded for it. But nothing about what I see or hear from him says, "Hey, everybody, I have a lot of money! Look at how much I'm worth!"

Which is one of the reasons why I really like him.

I know a couple of multimillionaires personally. Neither of them flaunt their wealth. Both of them still work. One of them lives his life in jeans and work shirts. If you saw him in a bar, you'd never think, "Yup, millionaire right there." I have no idea what he'll do with his money someday. I've never asked. It's none of my business. But odds are he's not going to blow it on a yacht.

Mind you, I'm well aware that folks are free to spend their money on whatever they please. But it'd be interesting to know if they're buying things because they truly derive joy out of owning them or if they're buying things in an attempt to fill a void that can't be filled with things or to distract from something that should be served with attention and resolution.

Friday, August 17, 2018

It's The Little Things: English-Major Geek Edition ...

Yesterday, I was onsite for a client, a client who needs me only once a year for a process we've refined to one day.

This year was my ninth year helping with this project.

Where each year goes, I have no idea. The fact that I've been doing this project for nearly a decade blows my mind. The older I get, the more I can't account for time in 10-year chunks. Yikes.

But I digress.

Yesterday, the client informed me that there's a new president for the organization and with that change has come the adoption of the Oxford comma!

I literally clapped!

Because I am an enormous geek.

But seriously, people, everyone should use the Oxford comma (a k a the serial comma). (I'm looking at you, Associated Press.) It should be the default, not the exception.

Because otherwise, we're at risk of this:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Some Songs I'd Sing ...

Twitter may be a brutal hellscape of delusion and outright lies much of the time but every so often, I see a cute picture of a puppy.

Also, from time to time, folks post fun queries that interrupt all the Edvard Munchian screaming, as happened earlier this week with this tweet:

"Peel Me A Grape" is not a difficult song vocally. There are no high notes, no runs, but oy vey, all the lyrics! So many details. Peel me a grape. Crush me some ice. Skin me a peach, save the fuzz for my pillow. Talk to me nice. Yada, yada, yada.

But I like it. It suits me. Well, it suits my voice. Nobody need polar bear rug me – poor bears – but "Send out for Scotch" can be a daily request these days. Not that there's anyone here to fulfill it.

Yesterday, taking a break from editing the longest document in the history of the world* – 41 pages – I plopped down in front of the computer in my office (I work on a laptop at my kitchen counter) and thought about other songs I'd sing in the karaoke challenge.

That I'd even consider a karaoke challenge is a testament to Gwen Pippin, with whom I took voice classes and who is the first person to ever hand me a mic and tell me to turn on an amp. She is the reason I know the phrase "glottal attack." She passed away some years ago, too young. I remember her fondly. She was a good teacher. She pushed me, as good teachers do.

She used to play and sing at Davenport's on Milwaukee Avenue, which is where our class performed in the cabaret in one of her "We Haven't Quit Our Day Jobs Yet" Nights and I stood on a stage with my amazing duet partner, Briggetta, and I sang and I didn't die. So that's nice. (We sang "Moonglow." Or was it "Blue Moon"? Christ, I'm old.)

And then I was there with the aforetweeted Jay one Valentine's Day – as two singlefolk; he's since gotten married – and I flipped through the songbooks until the pages nearly disintegrated from annoyance with me. I wanted to do a song but doing a song requires, you know, singing. In front of, like, people.

I eventually got up there and did Cole Porter's "It's De-lovely." Twice. Because George, the pianist and sadist, brought me in a second time. (Note: George is not a sadist. He, like Gwen, pushed me. And I appreciate that. Thank you, George.)

Anyhoo, the list I created yesterday, during my break, is based on songs I like to sing, as well as the energy most of them bring. Karaoke should be fun. I'm pretty sure.

So, should the opportunity present itself and should any of these tunes be available, I'd consider singing:

— "Goodnight Song" by Tears For Fears: Roland's voice slides around all over the place. I love it.

— "Lovesong" by Adele: Me covering Adele covering The Cure? How could I not?

— "When I First Kissed You" by Extreme: Remember the "More Than Words" and "Holehearted" guys? I love this tune and the unexpected jazz-ballad vibe from guys in black leather jackets.

— "Hide And Seek" by Howard Jones: A lifetime ago, in high school, my theater arts teacher told each of us to pick a song that we would sing a capella while others sang their songs in an exercise meant to teach us about maintaining our character's voice on stage. Tim was intrigued by my choice. He had me keep singing longer than the other kids. The song really does tell a story.

— "Great Southern Land (2000)" by Iva Davies: Iva reimagined Icehouse's "Great Southern Land" as part of a performance in Sydney when the world rang in the new millennium. It is similarly vocally slide-y, like "Goodnight Song."

– "Patience" and/or "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" by George Michael: "Patience" is gorgeous and haunting and spare. "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" is from his "Songs From The Last Century" and is a really good vocal exercise for me.

— "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall: It's too catchy to not want to sing! And watching her create it in real time, all those layers, is amazing.

— "Secret Garden" and/or "I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen: It seems odd to pick "Secret Garden" of all the Bruce songs I could choose but I love it. "I'm On Fire" is deliciously subtle.

And then I thought of a song that I love but that I'd need to do as a duet because my voice is pretty low but even I can't hit the lowest notes in:

— "Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing" by Chris Isaak: For as much as I can't hit the low notes, surprisingly, I can hit the high notes.

Which led me down a path of possible duets:

— "Here's To Love" by Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor from "Down With Love": It's so fun and campy!

— "Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered" by Rod Stewart and Cher: I'd sing the Cher part, in case that wasn't clear.

And lastly, because I would fall over at the chance to sing with him but I couldn't ever, ever, ever sing a Beatles tune because they're sacred:

— "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter" by Sir Paul McCartney: Because it's so damn sweet and he is the cutest living legend ever.

* I know it's not the longest, it just feels that way. It took me five hours to edit 41 pages. I edit a similar file every month. Some months, the page count creeps into the 70s. I transform into Miss Havisham in the time it takes to edit those suckers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sethcentricity And Expanded Awareness ...

This blog has become very Seth Godin-centric – Sethcentric, so to speak – but I connect with what the man has to say.

And his blog post today reminded me that I've been meaning to revisit a topic and blog about it but if I don't write down things I want to do, they disappear and may or may not surface again. This thing has resurfaced. Let's proceed.

His blog post today is titled “You’ll pay a lot but you’ll get more than you paid for," which he's discussed in a recent episode of Akimbo, which inspired a post by me.

Toward the top of today's post, he writes, "[I just discovered that I riffed on this three months ago. So, in the spirit of making sure we don’t waste a day, here’s some more on this topic…]" and while I'm glad to read his further thoughts, I'm more glad for the reminder that there was more I wanted to say on the topic, too.

I wrapped up a project with a client last week, an attorney, and it made sense for us to hop on the phone to walk through his résumé together so I could answer questions and make a few tweaks for him in real time and then send a revised version as soon as we ended our call.

He was happy with the finished product, as was I. My résumé template doesn't vary much from client to client – the content is what changes a lot; I ask really good questions that lead to even better details – but for him, I really did think through a different way to present his information and it works well for his purposes.

He also very generously offered a few words about his experience, the gist of which was that it wasn't an inexpensive endeavor but he appreciates that I value my work and that I should. (The range of fees for résumé revisions is wide: I've seen as little as $125 and as much as $2,500. Mine range from $495 to $795, so even someone who pays my top rate is paying less than a third of what some joints charge, though I've seen samples of the $2,500 product and I can't see how they justify that rate. Apparently, though, some people pay it. Maybe they equate "expensive" with "good." Or maybe $2,500 isn't expensive in their world.)

What he touched on, though, is really important to me. It's taken me a long time to arrive at a mental place of "Yes, my work is very good and yes, it's worth what I charge." To Seth's point, really, it's worth more than what I charge. In "You'll pay a lot but you'll get more than you paid for," the "a lot" is relative. I don't think I charge "a lot." I see it as charging a fair rate for the work I do.

But we womenfolk question our work in ways men don't. Listening to a podcast this morning, I was reminded of the stat that if a prospective job lists 10 requirements, women feel unqualified if they only meet eight while men are sure they can do they job if they meet three.

So to arrive at a place of "Yes, my work is good and yes, it's worth what I charge" is to live in a new paradigm that finally feels like home.

Which is good. Because I'll probably up my rates a bit in 2019.

I asked said client if he'd write a recommendation for me on LinkedIn, which he was kind enough to do. He wrote:

"Mick Jagger once said, 'We all need someone we can lean on.' I came to Beth for help with my resume—a document I hadn't touched in nearly two decades. I've never like my own resume because it never told the right story about my career arc and certainly didn't set me apart as someone who should be hired immediately and with great pay. Working with Beth was a joy. I found her easy to talk to and easy to understand. Her suggestions and thoughts produced a clean resume and I am proud of it. I am grateful for her work and glad we met!"

As am I.

Here's to being hired immediately and with great pay, whatever the role. Because we're worth it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

In The Name Of Science [ And Coffee ] ...

Mom and I were out to breakfast yesterday, talking about coffee.

We don't drink coffee when we go out to breakfast because A) at that point, we've each had our daily allotment of coffee and 2) coffee in most joints sucks, being watery and weak. Blech.

But we were talking about how her mother-in-law – and my crotchety grandmother – would brew a second pot of coffee from the spent grounds from the first.

Which may have been borne out of her frugality, having lived through the Depression, but also may have been borne out of the fact that she was Polish and, therefore, cheap. It's a trait. Thankfully, it's a recessive gene for me.

I wondered, though, if we've been victims of marketing all this time.

Toothpaste commercials depict a brush with a full flourish of bright blue or striped gel and for I don't even know how many years, I presumed that was the proper allocation of toothpaste per brushing.

Nope. A pea-sized amount is recommended. A pea-sized amount is what I use. Now. But how much toothpaste had I wasted over the years? (Note: I am not about to lose any sleep about the extra few tubes I've wasted.)

What if a similar reality was true for coffee?

We realized that it would take next to nothing to find out. I brew the same amount of coffee each morning, so this morning, I let the carafe cool and then poured most of what was left into a glass and then I added my daily amount of water into the reservoir and brewed another cycle.

And later, I did the same thing again, to get first-, second-, and third-brew coffee. Behold:

I purposely photographed the glasses back-lit to play up the differences in the strength but the third glass, as it sits on my counter, looks like really strong iced tea – or slightly weak coffee.

That glassful will end up in a plant but the second glassful is going into an ice-cube tray to make coffee ice cubes for the next time I have iced coffee. I always use regular cubes but diluted iced coffee is sad. The second-brew coffee will spare me from that regret.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Moved Unexpectedly ...

October will be 10 years ago that I spent a day taking fun tests at the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation and then returned the next day for the results.

I had been on a long quest – it's not concluded – to figure out what I should be doing with my life. And my friend George had told me about JOCRF and it intrigued me.

So there I was, across from Abbi, who was interpreting my results for me, two pages of bar graphs depicting my scores and then a summary page that suggested this:



If genetics do indeed play a part in our aptitudes, electrical engineering amuses me because I'm allegedly a first cousin of Nikola Tesla and another first cousin – one whom I know – is an architect.

And I've always admired buildings aesthetically but I was surprised as anyone that I managed to do well in trig. Math is not my thing. Math is not even close to my thing. I'm here and Math is in, say, New Zealand.

But I've always liked spaces. One of my brothers bought the coffee-table book "High-Tech" when I was a kid and I loved that book. The pictures fascinated me. The unexpected use of materials. The living spaces that looked so unlike the green-Monopoly-house-type bungalow I called home. There was such sameness to our street, the only details that set our house apart from all the others were the green glass blocks that informed what little color scheme our house added to the row and the two extra courses of brick my mom had the builder add to the basement level because my dad was tall. Some years ago, I bought a copy of "High-Tech", which sits on the ottoman in my TV room, right under Sarah Susanka's "The Not So Big House," another fave. (That title should contain hyphens but it doesn't.)

I miss the HGTV that was, when programming was about interior design, not 100 variations on buying, renovating, and selling. But it led me to my friendship with Angelo and that's more than enough.

Still, I have yens. I was excited a few weeks back to see that my DVR was set to capture "Sarah Off The Grid," as I like Sarah Richardson's designs. Alas, the "design" portion of each half-hour episode – which is really only 22 minutes, give or take – amounted to about five minutes, a bit of "Here are some fabric samples and I like this tile and let's get these wall sconces rewired and chrome-plated" and then voila! Reveal. Very little "how," a maximum of "to."

So yesterday, poking around Netflix, avoiding the heat, I tried out "House Doctor," a show about staging featuring a very curly haired American helping out Brits who just can't understand why their homes won't sell. I loathe most shows like that because they're so reliant on the "before" to prop up the after, but really, British husband and French wife, is it really a mystery that you have a bunch of crap dumped in the middle of a room with chipped paint and peeling wallpaper and you just can't begin to understand why buyers aren't charmed?

I watched one episode through. I zipped through two more, the set-ups and the reveals. Thanks but no. Bye.

And then I rediscovered that I had previously saved to My List “The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes."

OK, then. Let's give it a go, I thought. It's better than dying outside.

At the moment, there's only one season. Four episodes. Each episode is themed – Mountain, Forest, Coast, Underground – and each episode features four homes.

I. Was. Rapt.



I emailed Angelo: "Have you watched 'The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes' on Netflix? *So fascinating!"

I began dozing off last night so I turned it off to return to it today.

And I sat on the couch with tears rolling down my face, unable to explain what I was feeling. (Literally. I tried to verbalize it to myself and I couldn't.)

Piers, who's an architect, and Caroline, who is not, are the hosts and when Piers makes his way into the main living space of the underground house in Switzerland, I was indescribably happy for him. He was so thrilled with what he was experiencing.

I finished the season and checked the web to find out when Netflix will offer Season 2 – yet to be determined but it's currently airing in the UK so hurry up, Netflix! – and I recalled the subject line of an email I received this morning from my gorgeous friend Nona: Honor the Longing.


Folks tell me that I should open a bakery and that's very nice of them but the thing that excites me most about the idea of opening a bakery is being able to design the space. Cookies, brownies, yeah, yeah, I can bake. But creating the space excites me.

And not just because it's new or different.

Watching this show and marveling at the homes for their beauty and their feats of engineering and how they relate to their environments really stirred something in me.

I have no idea what any of it means. I have no intention of going back to school to become an architect. Math is still my nemesis.

But what a joy to be moved to tears by something I connect with so profoundly, something that I haven't given its due.

More of those moments, please.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

As Seth Writes: Don't Put Clinkers On The Bottom ...

Yes! The last sentence here – "If the farmer is the sort of person who won’t put the clinkers on the bottom, she’s earned our trust" – called to mind the annual purchase of Roma tomatoes that Mom and I make.

For many years, we went to a particular farm stand, not nearby, to buy half-bushels of Roma tomatoes for the pasta sauce we make each year.

The quest was always a bit of a crap shoot. Depending on the season, there may have been either a dearth or surfeit of tomatoes. Timing really was everything. Sometimes, we were shut out. We had to pay a deposit for the bushel basket and then either forfeit it or make a return trek to claim it. And we weren't allowed to sort the tomatoes. Now, granted, the last person to buy a bushel shouldn't get a bushelful of tomatoes that are either under-ripe or past their prime but here's a crazy thought, farm-stand people: Don't include those in the bushels in first place, as Seth suggests.

One year, having been shut out, we made our way down the street, stopping at every farm-stand-looking place in our quest to find our 'maters.

We ended up about a mile away at a farm stand with several half-bushels of Romas. They were lovely. A helpful guy asked us which basket we wanted, fetched a cardboard box, and upended the basket into the box. (No need to pay a deposit here.) Logically, the tomatoes at the bottom of the basket are most likely to be a bit unwell, what with all that tomato weight resting on top of them.

He proceeded to pick out the yucky tomatoes and then replace them with nice tomatoes from another bushel.

And then he carried the box to Mom's car and put it in the trunk.

I tipped the guy a couple bucks, which he appreciated.

And we made kick-ass sauce.

Guess where we buy our tomatoes now? Guess where we don't even bother to stop anymore?

One business lost a customer forever. One business gained a customer for as long as it or we are around.

All for a handful of tomatoes. But really, for what the handful of tomatoes represent.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Intention ...

Upon finishing Seth's latest episode of Akimbo, "It's Not About The Chocolate," I continued sipping my coffee and pondering what it means to care about our work and, for that matter, whatever it is we do.

I do things as I do them because that's what I do. Yesterday, I was at Mom's and one of my brothers came by to zip around on the lawn mower and cut the grass. Afterward, he weed whacked spots that he couldn't reach with the mower – he weed whacks in advance of mowing, which makes sense, but he weed whacked after, too – and then he grabbed the leaf blower to clean up the stray grass on the sidewalk and driveway. Mom looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you kids aren't afraid to work."

I mentioned that I'm prone to my share of lazy days but she clarified that when we do something, we do it well. Correctly. Completely. We're not "It's good enough"-ers.


So this morning, upon listening to Seth, my mind drifted back to Christmas many years ago when I was dating a guy who lived in a high-rise and everyone on the floor left gifts for every other tenant. It was charming. He'd arrive home to find little somethings hanging from his doorknob or tucked into the nook of the door frame and door. Some folks bought things – I remember a box containing glass swizzle sticks from Pottery Barn – but one person baked. (At least one person; I may have missed some of the offerings.)

Now, being my mother's daughter, I don't eat anything made by anyone I don't know but the gesture was sweet.

And I judged it against my standard.

The person had made chocolate chip cookies, which by their nature are not "neat" cookies. They don't tend to spread evenly so the end result is often amoeba-like and can be, well, homely. The cookies had been placed into a zip-top sandwich bag and then that bag was placed into a little handle bag and hung on the doorknob.

As I sit here this morning, I'm pondering the story behind that offering. Maybe the giver didn't have the resources to buy a gift for everyone at Pottery Barn. Maybe he or she really wanted to share something homemade. The packaging was logical: zip-top bags keep cookies fresh. And most folks always have it on hand. Maybe the person wasn't able to easily get to the store. Maybe it wasn't a slapdash attempt to participate. Maybe it wasn't about getting off cheaply. It takes time to bake cookies. More time than it takes to pop into Pottery Barn and buy seven of the same thing, assuming an assistant wasn't sent to complete the task. Maybe it was the purest expression possible, a seemingly humble offering given with great love.

I am not given to materialism. My car is a 2003. (I have a great mechanic.) Every year when Christmas rolls around, if folks ask what I'd like, I tell them: nothing. Truly. I have so much. And they do nice things for me all year long, be they helpful tasks or picking up the tab for dinner and a movie. But we exchange at least token things and they want ideas. So, OK, this is a DVD I'd like to own.

But I'm delighted to receive handmade gifts. My cousins sent scarves for everyone one year. One bought the yarn, the other did the knitting. Some of my most treasured possessions were made for me by my niece and nephews when they were wee. Time and effort are worth more to me than the largest sums of cash. When my eldest nephew was six, I believe, he wrapped a shoebox for my mom. There's nothing in it. He just covered the box with scraps of paper and ribbon and each year, she places it under the tree. It is one of her most prized possessions. One of my brothers gave me "coupons" for help around the house, one work day each season. He'd help me regardless but that was my favorite gift from him this year. (He also bought the DVD. And other things.) There's a lot I can do and I could probably learn to do other things but he can change the oil in my lawnmower, thanks.

I do what I do the way I do it. Others don't. Because they do things that they do the way they do them, they way they learned how. The intention is the key. And when it stems from a place of love, it's perfect.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just the Funny Parts ...

As I've written before, I don't write reviews. I don't want to divulge. That privilege belongs to the author. They've put in the work. They've earned the right.

But I am happy to let folks know, "You should read this!"

So: You should read this!

As my smartphone addiction has grown, my ability to focus has waned. I'm trying mightily to reverse that trend and read more books again.

I heard about Nell's book through Linda Sivertsen's the "Beautiful Writers Podcast." As a rule, I don't like to know about things in advance: I don't reading movie reviews. I try to avoid trailers. But my podcast addiction gets the better of me so I listen to Linda and her guests, then read, then listen again.

Just shy of the halfway mark last night, I tweeted about Nell's book and mentioned that I was breaking for dinner. She replied that I should skip dinner and keep reading. Alas, I had already eaten, so I replied to her that I'd forego sleep instead.

I did eventually sleep but I picked up reading first thing this morning and delayed doing anything else until I finished.

I have always loved learning about process and going behind the scenes. Nell has so may tales to tell. And as I continue to noodle around with a memoir, I'm happy to read really fine examples of the form.

It is encouragement of both creativity and empowerment. In this bright environment of #MeToo and #ERANow, I value brave voices more than ever.

That some are funny helps, too.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Well, This Is Just One Of The Most Awesome Things Ever ...

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Brief Twitter Thread As Blog Post ...

I saw this story ...

... and had a few things to say:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Now You Can Binge-Listen! ...

This morning, I listened to the finale of the inaugural season of Seth Godin's podcast, Akimbo.

Whether from his podcast or his blog, he regularly conveys perspective that tweak my thinking, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

Today, for the final episode of this 16-show run, he answered questions. One in particular, which he deemed "audacious" (in a good way), was about education. Seth has spoken before about how we need to re-imagine education for the age in which we're living. The current method is woefully outdated. You should listen to the podcast and hear how he discusses it.

After listening, I tweeted a link to the episode with this comment:

"Seth’s dissection of education is paradigm-shifting. We need to get away from our outdated model and begin to teach kids — and adults — to think more critically and creatively."

Which led me to talking to myself, as I do, when I'm noodling on an idea. And that let me to make a connection that kind of blew my mind, which led me to think of other examples, which led me to think that the memoir I've been trying to write for some time that hasn't gelled in my head needed me to have today's thoughts because that's what I should really explore.

And, happily, an email arrived the other day from Marion Roach Smith that read, in part, "I am about to launch a new class. It's one you've been asking for. This time, as you have requested, you can work at your own pace, on your own, getting all the knowledge you need to structure a piece of memoir. I'd love to tell you more about it, and I will, in two upcoming free webinars on June 5, 2018."

YES. Structure. That's what I've been trying to figure out. A framework. Writing a memoir without one, for me, feels like trying to build a house without a blueprint. Yes, I know a house needs a foundation and walls and a roof and flooring and plumbing and electrical but I have absolutely no idea how many rooms it will have or where it will be or how I want it to function, other than being a house.

So, today feels very gel-y, puzzle pieces coming together.

I texted my lovely friend Dawn, who's one of my biggest writing cheerleaders, and we hopped on the phone so I could share my glee with someone who really understands from whence I'm coming.

And all this has flowed from one answer to one question, even though I've heard Seth discuss the topic before. Sometimes, we need to hear things more than once.

If you're not already hip to Akimbo, now you can listen to the whole first season. I'd pace myself if I were you. There's a lot to take in. But you can also go back and listen to episodes again. The whole first season is available on Apple Podcasts (or, I presume, wherever you get your podcasts).

I hope you glean interesting insights, too.

I'm looking forward to building on this memoir momentum!

Dawn, I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Post-Facebook Reality ...

In an email exchange this weekend, Doreen asked: "So ... it's been a while - do you find yourself missing FB?"

I replied: "Nope, don't miss Facebook. I miss some of the people.* But I don't miss it as a time suck and distraction. I still log plenty of time on Twitter but aside from the first couple days when I reached for my phone to look up information on FB – restaurant hours and such – nope, I'm good. It's kind of like changing a dietary habit: sure, something tastes good but if long-lasting change is gonna take effect, it's gotta go. Actually, it's more like being an alcoholic, come to think of it. I can't do 'just a little Facebook.'"

This morning, I listened to the latest episode of "Why Is This Happening?" Chris Hayes's conversation with Tim Wu is insightful and nuanced. (All the episodes are great. I recommend subscribing.)

I appreciated the commiseration – I'm always glad to know others are feeling what I'm feeling and thinking what I'm thinking – and I came away from the episode all the more glad that I left Facebook behind.

*Note: By "I miss some of the people," I do not mean that I only miss some of my Facebook friends. My Facebook cohort became self-selecting. If I irked some people, they unfriended me. Also, I was friends with folks who didn't much use the platform so we didn't really interact. The folks who engaged in my feed are lovely. But some of the folks I'd encounter when engaging on friends' feeds? I don't miss them. The rise of Trump has unleashed a lot of ugliness. I'm glad to know it's there but I learned that it's fruitless to engage with it. They want to believe the crap they're pumped full of every day.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Hot ...

Annoyingly hot.

Piss-me-off-it's-so-hot hot.

The "feels like" temp was thisclose to triple digits.

On May 27.

Meteorologically, there's almost a month of spring left on the calendar.

Where the hell's my spring?!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

I Miss Having Four Seasons ...

About a week ago, it was chilly enough that I would have been justified in turning on the furnace but I refused because I shouldn't have to turn on my furnace in the second half of May.

Yesterday, I turned on the air conditioning. It's going to be in the mid-90s Sunday and Monday. The mid-90s. In May. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Connections, Reminders, And Fuel ...

I do not like confrontation. I have spent a lot of my life appeasing people, going along to get along, and, to be blunt, putting up with a lot of crap, partly out of a desire to maintain civility, partly out of a sense of "should."

As the years wear on and my perspectives mature, I understand some instances are best addressed by setting my ego aside. The impulse to defend myself is human nature, I suppose, but some folks do not want to hear my side of the story. They want to be angry, never mind that their anger is based on an incomplete picture. They only have some of the pieces but to them, it's the whole puzzle. My contribution is unwelcome. I've learned to shrug and move on.

The 40s are good that way. I look forward to my 50s.

Still, I can use some reminders that I've taken stances before, stood up for myself, asked for what I wanted and/or needed, put myself first, which feels uncomfortable to write, I'm just realizing. I don't mean "put myself first" in a selfish way. But that's another can of worms. I'll put the lid on that one and leave it for another day. I'll poke some air holes in the top.

This mental scrapbook, though, I forget that it's there, that I've pasted these moments into my memory, so I'm grateful for the reminders when they show up and I love it even more when they connect.


A couple of weeks ago, I went to a taping of "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" Before the show, I had swung by Bill's office with cookies for him (oatmeal raisin), his wife, Donna (peanut butter), and his assistant, Rebecca (Russian teacakes). Logistically, it made the most sense. I didn't want to tote them with me nor would I have expected Bill to deliver Rebecca's cookies the next day.

My earlier plan, though, had been to take cookies to the taping to give to Bill afterward, as there's a post-show meet-and-greet. As the dutiful sort who internalized the grade-school lesson of bringing enough for everyone, though, I also planned to bring cookies for Peter and the panelists.

Baking for new-to-me folks in this day and age can be tricky. Some folks don't like or can't eat nuts. Some folks don't like or can't eat chocolate. Some folks are off wheat.

My go-to offering has become sablés. They're made with wheat, yes, but they do not contain nuts nor chocolate. They're simple cookies but lovely: buttery, sugary, crumbly, sandy.

But I like to bake someone's favorite and where Peter was concerned, I had an opportunity to find out.

My friend Charlie was going to be sitting down with him for a conversation at Dominican University and was fielding questions to ask as part of the interview, so I asked Charlie to ask Peter: "What's your favorite cookie?" and the follow-up "Nuts or no nuts?"

And my questions made the cut. I thought "What's your favorite cookie?" was straightforward enough as to not be open to interpretation. Peter interpreted the question as to be asking about name brand more than variety.

He did mention half-and-half cookies – a k a black-and-white cookies, I assume – as well as the creme wafers he gets on some airplanes. So I guess black-and-white cookies can be considered a favorite. I don't make black-and-white cookies but it all became moot because I didn't end up taking cookies to the show.

Basking in the afterglow of the taping, however, I listened to Charlie's conversation with Peter again. I had forgotten that Peter talks about Kurt Vonnegut. If I ever meet Peter, I could tell him my Vonnegut story. As moments of chutzpah go, I doubt I'll ever top asking one of the preeminent authors of the 20th Century for an interview for a paper I was writing in college.

Later in the evening, an email arrived from Patti Digh, not a personal email but one of her Notes From My Orange Desk: A Dose of Soul Help missives that I hadn't seen in some time.

The subject line: "Forgiveness + Boundaries 101."

This sentence spoke to me: "Free yourself by forgiving; respect yourself by creating clear boundaries. Not everyone deserves to be in your life."


Here's the fuller passage:

"But at one time, I would have felt forgiveness was prelude to 'patching things up' or reinvesting in a relationship. Now I know that's not necessarily true. Boundaries are a form of self-love, self-care, clarity about what it means to be in relationship. Now, I can forgive and let go instead of forgiving and reengaging.

What freedom there is in this. Free yourself by forgiving; respect yourself by creating clear boundaries. Not everyone deserves to be in your life."

Years ago, not too long after I had moved into this house, I received a card from a former friend. He looked forward to rekindling our relationship, he wrote.

I didn't.

And I told him so. Politely but clearly, stating that it was best if we just left that friendship in the past.

When I told a mutual acquaintance what I'd conveyed, he looked a bit stunned.

But yep, my response to the erstwhile friend was in bounds. And I've never regretted my decision.

Likewise, after some rather bullshit treatment by an ex who purported to still care about me, I asked him to remove me from his address book. That was the right decision, too.

There are people in my life whom I don't see often but I'm always delighted when we have the chance to reconnect.

And there are people who have a place in my life for a time but not forever.

It's important to know the difference.

And there are some things that can only manifest themselves in my life if I ask for them.

I'm getting better about that, too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Right? ...

I listen to quite a few podcasts. I'm a bit of a podcast snob.

If the production values suck, I can't continue to listen. Life is too short and the podcast options are too many for me to spend time wincing at bad audio. Please, people, if you're calling in to a podcast, find a landline. They still exist in the world. I have one. I know I'm a dinosaur that way but recorded audio from a cell phone s--u--c--k--s.

For those 'casts that make the cut, though, the next hurdle for them to clear is the use of “... right?”

Oh, for the love of God, stop. S--t--o--p with with “... right?” as an utterance in every sentence. It's so nails-on-a-chalkboard.

It sounds like this:

"So, I went to the store, right? But there are problems with going to the store, right? Because you have to leave your house and maybe put on pants, right? But if you don't put on pants, you're probably going to be cold, right? And you may or may not get arrested for indecent exposure, right? I mean, hopefully you're wearing underwear, right? But even then, if you're not Walter White in the middle of the New Mexico desert, you probably can't pull off being in your underwear in public, right? But I went to the store, in pants, right? And I wanted to buy a package of Skittles, right? But I couldn't find the regular ones, just the tropical-fruit ones, right? Which are gross, right?"


Stop. Please. I beg you. Slow down your speech. Do your best to sync your mind and your mouth. “... right?” has become the new "um."

I'd rather hear "um," right?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Baffled ...

Is it a guy thing?

These stories, these mounting stories, about corruption and malfeasance, money laundering and bribery and so much head-spinning shit. I can't wrap my brain around operating in the world that way.

I know that there are corrupt women, too – Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos CEO comes to mind, though I couldn't remember her name so I Googled "blood test woman scam" and yup, she's the top hit – and I understand that men, white men in particular, hold most of the power in the world and so it follows that they'd be guilty of most of the white-collar crimes.

But how do they arrive at that place? Is there a gateway crime? Some relatively small-potatoes offense that they get away with and that emboldens them to do worse the next time? And the next? And the next?

Is it a high? Is it the getting away with something that gets them off? Do they think they're so clever that they'll never get caught, flaunting the law?

Until they do. Get caught, that is.

But in the meantime, their consciences, they're clear? Paul Manafort can enjoy his expensive suits knowing that he affords them because he propped up a Ukrainian dictator? I understand him lying to banks to secure millions of dollars to try and pay off a Russian oligarch whom he thought would be satisfied with having a hand inside the Trump campaign but before that "OH SHIT" phase of his life, he was content?

Bernie Madoff was really OK taking people for everything they owned? Did he tell himself that their greed justified his grift?

Trump, clearly, was just fine with perpetuating the fraud of Trump "University." He seems to be fine with all the crap he's pulled his entire life.

He does not, however, seem to be fine with it catching up with him.

Do people like him really never think their time will come? Did Manafort think he'd get away with it forever? Or did he decide that he'd live what passed for a posh life in his mind until the jig was up and then he'd accept whatever he had coming?

He faces 305 years in prison. He's seen as a traitor to his country.

Really, Paul? Were the millions worth it?

Millions. Just millions. Not even billions.

Millions seems kinda pathetic, considering how much money real criminals pursue. That Russian oligarch you owe? He doesn't need the millions you owe him. Your indebtedness to him is far more valuable.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates has used his fortune to effect true change in the world. For the better. He elevates others because how much money does one man need?

Trump, on the other hand, elevates money above all else. And his pursuit of it is taking him right over the cliff. All he had left to peddle was his name and he's destroyed that.

For all of history – assuming that he doesn't blow up the planet and that there will be such a thing as history to record this period in American life – he will be known as worse than Nixon. Far worse. Nixon's crimes were domestic. Trump has sold out his country. In service of his ego?

It's pathetic.

That much I understand.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Sleep Is A Strange Bedfellow ...

I made pasta for lunch yesterday. Maybe that was the problem.

My brain was uncooperative in the afternoon. Focus? What's that?

I threw in the towel at 4 p.m. and headed for the couch.

I'm not sure what time I fell asleep but I awoke in darkness with the sense that it must be very late, the middle of the night. 2 a.m.? 3?

I got up to go to bed. Even if I only sleep a few hours in my bed, it's better than sleeping on the couch.

I came into the kitchen to get my phone, which had charged, and resolved to not look at the clock on the stove.

I looked anyway.

It was 10:54 p.m.

I laughed at myself. Hey, Beth, you crazy single gal! Remember those days when you'd be going out at 11 p.m.? Those days were a long time ago.

I got ready for bed, turned back the covers, slid in, and ... was wide awake.

Yup. I'm familiar with this rodeo.

I recounted the dream I had before waking up on the couch. It was particularly odd: nighttime, my car in the middle of an almost-empty parking lot, everything slicked by a thin coat of ice, a guy I knew appearing beside me sporting a mane of hair and wearing a tank top, ’70s vintage, a washed-out navy blue with red contrasting trim. We got into my car and I turned on the heat for him – I presumed he was cold – and he proceeded to pop the keyboard panel off of the laptop he was demonstrating to me.


I threw in the towel on sleep and headed to the couch again. I had fallen asleep well before Rachel so I figured I'd watch her show.

I was hungry, so I heated up some leftover pasta and had dinner about 1 a.m.

Early coverage of the royal wedding was due to begin at 3 a.m.

I headed to bed slightly before that.

And managed to sleep until 7:13.

There was a time when I could sleep through the night. That talent has eluded me for months now. I wonder if it will ever return.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hello, Defroster Metaphor ...

Good morning, dawning realizations and connecting dots.

I'm sitting at the kitchen counter, my travel mug of coffee directly in front of me (the mug dictates my allotment for the day as well as keeping my coffee warmer longer), thinking. What to write about? I am committed to writing every day. Something. Something silly. Something ... well, let's not kid ourselves: most of what I write will never qualify as "profound" but at least I'm writing, clickety clacking, translating thoughts, getting back into a habit, showing up.

I have an idea for a post but it doesn't feel like "enough" and I have phrases jotted on sticky notes nearby and I'm staring at my defunct coffee maker on the floor next to my recycle basket and the word "opaque" springs to mind, and opacity giving way to clarity, and I think of a foggy shower mirror but no, a windshield makes more sense. A frosty windshield and a defroster, and clarity emerging and spreading from the bottom up.

Good job, brain.

Have another swig.

I have the great good fortune to know a lot of really exceptional people. One of those people is Charlie Meyerson, whom Chicagofolk may know from his days reading the news on WXRT or his days reading the news on WNUA or his guest appearances on radio stations about town or his work compiling Daywatch for the Chicago Tribune back in the day or Rivet Radio or his series of conversations at Dominican University or Chicago Public Square.

Charlie and I met an impossible number of years ago when I worked at the Trib and he worked at WNUA across the street and I did radio and TV stuff for the paper and he was one of the few folks who availed his station of the space we set aside in Tempo for radio listings. Only the width of Michigan Avenue separated us but we interacted by phone and fax. (Fax. See? We're ancient.)

Until the day I asked if we could meet up for coffee. I made the trek all the way across the street. He descended in an elevator and met me in the Starbucks in the lobby of his building.

And we're still in touch. We don't see each other very often – that's my fault – but I am a lucky gal because, as I did a couple weeks ago, I can ping him and hop on the phone with him and have an interesting chat that leads me to realizing things and jotting notes, which, as I mentioned, I have nearby.

One of my jottings: "Radio speaking, DUH!" When I was in high school, radio speaking was my main speech event. Charlie and I were talking about Chicago Public Square and how he compiles the digest that he shares with folks every day – seriously, you should subscribe; the daily digest email is free – and he mentioned that it's not dissimilar from what newsreaders on the radio do. They don't report out the news they deliver. They gather it from whatever sources they use and then read it on the air. Yup. Duh. In my radio-speaking days, we received packets of wire copy that we used to create our scripts. I literally cut apart the pages and then taped the stories onto my legal pad. Huh. It had never occurred to me that folks now do the same thing digitally, via links.

Our conversation continued. I recalled how I used to work on five sections of the Trib because I had the time and I had to be there are I wasn't much interested in being bored and Facebook wouldn't exist for many more years and hey, that turned out to be a double-edged sword as platforms go. But until that moment, I had never realized that my working on five sections of the paper then was a microcosm of my life now, working with various clients on various projects because I am, as Charlie put it so perfectly, "creatively restless."


Charlie is good about pursuing new ideas and endeavors – Rivet was winning awards right out of the gate – and living on the leading edge of where culture is heading. He recently set up subscription tiers to support CPS and I finally got around to subscribing. I don't support a lot of efforts with monthly subscriptions but I always see at least one story I wouldn't have seen otherwise when I read Charlie's emails (he produces two editions a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, like newspapers used to do) and I want to support folks who are doing good work and informing people and adding to the discourse in fun and interesting ways.

As J-D, my erstwhile hair architect, said years ago when I told him I was thinking of going red: "Let's just do it!"

It's a good ethos, a perfect partner to an encouragement Angelo once offered as I was coming up with excuses to not pursue an idea: "Just do it because it's fun."

Which is similar to what Charlie wrote in a follow-on email to our conversation a while back: "Go have fun." And, to reinforce his point, which wrote this week: "Hope you're having fun."

I'm getting there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Life-Changing Magic Of Dealing With The Crap On The Floor Of The Back Seat Of My Car ...

Marie Kondo's shorthand is "tidying up," and I do indeed like tidying up in my house but I don't think of tidying up my car even though that what I'm doing.

Generally, folks who are hopping into my car for the first time marvel that it's not filled with crap. No, the passenger seat and the floor in front of the passenger seat are not piled with Starbucks cups, newspapers, fast-food bags, plastic bags from the grocery store, the detritus of a busy life. And that would be because I do not have a busy life. I work from home. Getting in my car is not a foregone conclusion every day.

I used to be a bit better about keeping it vacuumed, too, and so, in that way, it looked extra nice. Maybe some dust on the dashboard – OK, maybe a lot of dust on the dashboard – but tidy. Ish. Tidy-ish.

The floor of the back seat, however, can be another story.

I have a menagerie of pals in the back seat behind me. It started with an Uglydoll my brother's family gave me for my birthday one year. Ox began riding around in the little cubby where the arm rest would fold up. And then my other brother gave me a big Gumby one year as a gag at Christmas. I wasn't sure what to do with him so I put him in the back seat when I left my parents' house that day and it was kinda funny, having Gumby as a passenger. So I kept him in the back seat. And other friends have been added around him.


Given that ain't no one gonna be sitting in Gumby's seat, the floor in front of Gumby and pals became the spot where I'd stash stuff: an umbrella, a tote bag with "car stuff" – a flashlight, a roll of duct tape, a hand scraper, etc. – and where I'd tuck garbage to get it out of the front seat until I could throw it away.

The passenger seat and the floor in front of it was nice and clear. Like the front seat. When Mom and Dad and I would go somewhere, I'd drive. Dad would sit in the back seat.

But Dad hadn't been in my car in a long time and so when I had things that I needed to drop off somewhere, someday, I'd toss 'em on the floor back there: batteries to recycle, plastic caps that I save for someone who takes them to a magical place where they get collected and recycled into plastic park benches, plastic bags full of plastic bags to drop off at the grocery store.

And yesterday was the day! I toted three large Ziploc bags full of caps to the magical cap-collecting place that I finally discovered. I took the batteries to the library because it's a designated drop-off spot. The plastic bags had already been stuffed into a rather full bin.

And I sauntered back to my car feeling lighter.

Here's to taking a few minutes to do things I've been meaning to do for months!