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:

Oh.

Really?

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.

Captivated.

Awed.

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.

Indeed.

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.

Yup.

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.

Behold:

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."

Indeed.

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?"

See?

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.

Mmmkay.

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."

Indeed.

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.

Behold:

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!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Life Lesson From My Weather App ...

It was supposed to rain. A lot. Thunderstorm icons all week. So. Much. Rain.

I fret about excessive rain. I have a finished basement. It's flooded three times. I now have a hard-wired generator and my plumbing has been rerouted so, short of lightning hitting the generator and it failing, I should have no more concerns about water in my basement. But my brain remembers. My adrenaline still wants to surge.

I have learned, however, to some degree, to calm down. I still fret but not nearly as much as I did in the past.

All the mechanical steps that can be taken have been taken.

I cannot control the weather.

And, I have come to understand, the weather app is often wrong. As I type this, this week's weather icons now predict sun or partial sun. From all thunderstorm icons to no thunderstorm icons at all.

As one of my cousins says, sarcastically, of meteorology: "It's not like it's science."

So, more and more, I'm learning to be. To take things as they come. To deal with them if / when they present themselves and not lose literal sleep over them.

To take a phrase from "What About Bob?": Baby steps.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Low-Key Mothers' Day ...

Yup, we had ribs. The weather was wonky yesterday. Warmer than forecasted! Sunny! Then cloudy. Then sunny again! Then the wind picked up and the temperature began to drop. Eventually, some rain showed up but just for a few minutes. So it would have been cooler by the lake. Because it's always cooler by the lake. Not the day to dine outside. I suggested that perhaps we can execute the lake plan on Fathers' Day, as a little memorial for Dad.

So I threw a couple of slabs of ribs in the oven, really gorgeous slabs of ribs; the butcher Mom goes to "makes" its own ribs when it cuts pork roasts, so they're meatier than what most folks conjure when they think of ribs and this pig must have been pretty big because I joked that these were the brontosaurus ribs that Fred Flintstone gets delivered to his car.

And I made mashed potatoes and a salad. And that was dinner. Simple. Yummy.

My oldest brother joined us and brought over two rather enormous plants for Mom's yard. They're really lovely. And I gave Mom a pound of her favorite dark-chocolate-covered raisins and, as a gag more than a gift, a broom from the dollar store onto which I tied a generous curling-ribbon bow made from our favorite colors. I told her that I think she should leave the bow on it to make sweeping more fun. She loves her dollar-store brooms. She's very (not at all) extravagant.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Thanks, Moms! ...

Mothers' Day has always been a low-key affair in our family. Mom is far from fancy. She doesn't like going out to brunch or dinner on Mothers' Day because she feels like everyone is rushed through meals to accommodate all the diners. She doesn't expect or want extravagant gifts. She doesn't doesn't expect excessive doting.

In somewhat-recent years, her request for dinner has been hamburgers and potato salad (we make kick-ass potato salad) and her day has been spent puttering around the yard, digging in the dirt, planting things here and there.

As I mentioned: low-key.

This year's observance is still TBD. We have a plan in mind but the weather is grey and chilly and doesn't lend itself to spending time outside near the lake. It may be more of a throw-a-couple-slabs-of-ribs-in-the-oven kind of day. She can nap or read or watch a movie.

Whatever she'd like to do will become the plan, as it should be today. And many other days, for that matter. The woman deserves a break. Being in charge of a family is not for sissies.

Thank you, Mom, for all you do and give and are.

And thanks to everyone who nurtures and helps little people become good older people. It really does take a village.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Wait Wait... Woo Hoo!

I had tickets for the December 7 taping of "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!"

Dad was moved into the nursing home on December 6.

We needed laughter then but, clearly, it wasn't the right time to go.

So, last night was the night. A lot has changed in five months. Mom was my date.

It was really fun and slightly surreal. I've listened to the show for a couple of years – I'm very late to the "Wait Wait..." party; I knew of it but I wasn't a listener – but watching it is a little strange. In a very good way. Listening to it tomorrow may be stranger. We shall see.

I've always marveled at Bill's talent for reading copy. Dude is Mr. One Take almost 100 percent of the time. Peter, likewise, is no slouch. Before the show started, he told us that they'd have to do some pickups at the end of show, lines that were flubbed that needed another take for the final edit of the broadcast. He said they'd gotten the process down to a science and that it would take about three minutes.

It may have taken less than that. But I love those moments, those reminders that things that appear seamless are rarely so.

Donna, his wife – I love that she and Bill are now husband and wife! – sat with us. I had dropped off cookies at Bill's office on the way to the taping, leaving them on his assistant's desk. Donna mentioned that they had cookies for dinner.

The best moment was Bill's impersonation of Melania Trump – lips pursed, eyes squinted, his version of her Slovenian accent: "Be ... best." Bill has a law degree and a fabled career in broadcasting and he looks very worldly and wise but, truly, the man has a goofy streak that makes him all the more awesome.

After the show, Peter had the crew bring up the house lights. Bill waved at me. I waved back. He's so adorable. I love him to pieces.

After the show, Mom and I followed Donna onstage to say hi to him. He thanked me for the cookies. "I've had one bag already!" he said in that perfect sonorous voice.

"They're not all for you!" I said, chuckling.

His bag contained a dozen oatmeal raisin cookies. He loves my oatmeal raisin cookies and I love that he loves my oatmeal raisin cookies but I'm dubious than anyone can eat 12 in one brief sitting. I packaged them three to a bundle. Perhaps he meant a bundle.

Or perhaps he meant a bag.

I hope his assistant gets the cookies I left for her!

Then again, I can always bake more.

Bill had to get backstage before doing the meet-and-greet after the show. "Go meet your adoring public!" I said.

Donna thanked me again. I told her that I'm always happy to bake for them, to just let me know.

I love baking to make others happy.

So simple. So fulfilling.

If you can get tickets to a taping, go.

We all need more fun in our lives.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Inspiration By Ronan Farrow ...

I'm not in the habit of reading transcripts of commencement speeches but someone on Twitter posted a link to Ronan's speech and mentioned that it was required reading for all journalism students.

I agree. But really, it's required reading for everyone.

I retweeted the link with the comment "Well, this is amazing. It is indeed often difficult to discern, in the midst of a challenge, the correct path forward. But it's easy to remember what values are important and what decisions we'll be proud to have made, outcome aside. Bravo, @RonanFarrow."

And that set me to thinking about the 3-Days I've done, two in particular, examples of perseverance and regret.

The walk I did with Mike and Erin and Shel was rough for me. As Day 3 progressed, so did my pain. They were growing concerned and encouraged me, more than once, to hop on a coach. (Hopping a ride on the 3-Day is called "sweeping" because vans "sweep" the route all day and pick up folks who need to stop walking. Motor coaches transport folks from pit stops to lunch or camp, depending the time of day.) Each time, I'd return the route. "I can't sweep from a stop," I'd say. "I have to at least be trying."

And my trying would be enough to get me to the next stop, the next decision point, and the decision was always to return to the route.

I made it to the end of the route that way. And I was glad. I could barely walk the next day but I knew my body would recover. It did.

Contrast that walk with the last event I did. I didn't know at the time that it was going to be my last event. I signed up to walk the following year but life intervened and I had to cancel my participation. The following year, the Nancy Brinker / Karen Handel / Planned Parenthood debacle unfolded and my days with Komen were done.

But that walk that turned out to be my last? I swept twice. And I regretted it. I wasn't in dire straits. I was just tired. Duh. Walking 60 miles in three days is tiring. I already knew that. And the humidity was really bad. (Why the Chicago events were held in August, I'll never understand.)

It was my seventh event. Maybe the luster had worn off. Whatever the reason, there is no excuse. I had committed to participating. I should have participated as fully as possible.

I regret that I didn't.

I've long since forgotten the pain of the walk with Mike, Erin, and Shel. But I remember the sense of accomplishment of having pushed through.

That's what I need to be doing more of in my life: pressing on, persevering when it would be easy to sweep.

Thank you, Ronan, for the reminder.

The world is a better place for your having realized that the only path forward was through.

This Is Me Remembering To Post ...

If I write nothing else today, at least I posted this!

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

It Happened Again ...

Who knew blogging every day would be so tricky?

I left my house yesterday at 9:45 a.m. and didn't return until 8:30 p.m.

I did not expect to be gone for nearly 11 hours.

I also did not post before I left the house and realized, during the course of the day, that I had not posted and that I should post when I got home, even just a line or two, to live up to my intent to post daily.

And then I put away groceries and plopped on the couch to watch Rachel and ... well, here we are, Wednesday morning.

But yesterday was very productive in a long-lasting way.

Also, I did get the grass cut Monday and it looks very nice.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Trend Toward The Good ...

This blog had become barren. Most of my time was spent clacking away on Facebook. But upon quitting Facebook, I vowed to write here more often. And then I decided I should follow Seth Godin's example and post every day. The words show up, he promises. And he's right. If I can yammer away all day on Twitter, surely I can find things to say in this space that I opened up in 2005.

And I did good! Daily posts! For four days in a row!

Then, this morning, I realized I didn't post yesterday. "Oh, I didn't post yesterday," I said to my computer this morning.

And it struck me: that is the flip side of where I'd been. I'd go for months without thinking about posting and now, I'm aware that I've missed a day.

But yesterday did not unfold as I had planned. It was already decided that we kids and Mom would convene at her house to go through Dad's effects and clean out the garage and his shed – which is a small garage – and tend to things that needed tending to; household projects never end.

I had texted Mom to mention that I could come over whenever, so she called to suggest I come by for breakfast. So I did. Except that I was still drinking my coffee and since I'm not quite yet old enough to drink coffee with meals as my grandmother used to do – I was going to have pasta for breakfast – she and I sat in her living room and I drank my coffee and then moved on to a bottle of water and she had her morning juice and then I heard my cell ringing in the kitchen and got up to see that it was one of my brothers calling, asking me to move my car so he could back up the driveway with his trailer. He was calling from the street in front of her house. Ah, technology.

So I moved my car. And then backed out Mom's car from the garage. And then pulled my car closer to Mom's to make room for my other brother when he arrived. And then we jumped right into emptying cabinets in the garage – that was my job – to sort through everything on a table that he had wisely thought to bring and set up and holy crap, my father had a lot of stuff. Like, a laughable amount of stuff. How many kinds of nails can one person own? Especially a person who didn't do a lot of nailing?

There are many old kitchen cabinets hanging up in the garage. They were all crammed full of stuff. Now, they damn near echo. Mom has oceans of room. I can't imagine she'll fill them up again. Dad was always the saver. Mom likes to go through stuff every so often and winnow each time.

It was a busy day, a productive day, a tiring day. I should have had my phone on me the whole time to know how many steps I took from the garage to the shed to the street back to the garage into the house down to the basement back to the garage up the stepladder down the stepladder to the table repeat repeat repeat 100 times back to the shed back to the garage shed garage shed garage house bathroom (I was downing bottles of water all day) lunch. Sitting. Oh, sitting. So pleasant and yet so dangerous. A body in motion tends to stay in motion but a body that's stopped to have a salad might just want to take a nap.

But we all got back up and headed to the basement to assess what needed to be done down there – not nearly as much as outside – so we headed back to our garage and shed chores and one brother had to take off but the three of us kept going and then the other brother left as the sun was beginning to set and Mom announced that she was going to make a drink and we sat outside for a bit – ah, stillness! – and chatted and then, uh oh, I had to try to get up. (She was in a chair. I was on the stoop.) But I managed. And here I am this morning, mobile – amazed at my mobility – and sipping coffee and clacking away.

I really need to cut the grass today.

More steps.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

'The Serpent King' ...

Damn.

I try to not know about things before I experience them. I don't read reviews in advance. I may read them after, wondering if I agreed with a critic, but I don't want to know too much before.

But my friends know my tastes and make recommendations and they are almost never wrong. Or they don't make recommendations expressly but they make me aware of offerings and I'm intrigued by association.

And so it was with "The Serpent King" by Jeff Zentner. He's one of a coterie of YA authors I've come to know of and know. I'm author-adjacent. Angelo is link. Him I know know. Jennifer and Kerry I know secondarily and electronically. Jeff I know only by reputation – and now, his book.

When I first saw the title, I expected something ... medieval? Something ... in the fantasy genre? A YA fantasy novel?

I reserved it through my local library and received the notice that it was ready for me to pick up and then a lot of life was happening so there it sat. Until the last day of the hold, when I popped in to nab it. That was March 19. (I got the softcover edition. I'm posting both covers so if you look for it – and you should look for it – you won't be confused.)

I read the first couple pages right away and then set it down to tend to more life that was happening.

The library sent me an automatic renewal notice.

And then another.

And then another.

There was a lull in the lot of life that had been happening.

And so I read.

And I fell in love, especially with Lydia, her dialogue.

Bravo for a man who can write a smart teen girl so well!

I made a lot of headway, close to halfway, and then set it down again for a handful of days.

The library sent another notice. It was due back. No more renewals.

So I picked it up again yesterday. And read. A lot. And then picked it up on the way to bed. And read until I was about to fall asleep. And then finished it this morning.

It was not what I thought it might be, not really, but partly. When you read it, you'll understand.

I don't divulge story details because I don't want to spoil experiences for anyone. But I have to applaud "Crackers Barrel"! That made me laugh out loud, a detail for we grammar geeks in the vein of "attorneys general" "culs-de-sac."

Thank you, Jeff, for a story so well told, for taking me to places I didn't expect to go, and, most of all, for being yet another example of the metamorphosis from not-an-author to author, for further defining that path so that others may follow.

[ whispery voice to those reading this post ] You should buy his book.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Bean Sprouts ...

Sometimes, when I'm walking through the grocery store, my mind drifts to what folks from countries in struggling parts of the world would think about where we shop.

People walk for miles every day to get water. We have an entire aisle of it: distilled water, natural spring water, mineral water, carbonated water, flavored carbonated water – a dozen flavors of carbonated water – little eight-ounce bottles, 16-ounce bottles, 20-ounce bottles, gallons, three-gallon jugs with dispensers (I used to buy those when I lived in apartments; I don't remember Brita existing in those days), a station where folks can fill their own containers.

Wine? Here are 300 selections.

Cereal? Hot or cold? Bagged or boxed? How much sugar would you like? Never mind nutrition, have a bowlful of cookies and call it breakfast. There's an entire wall of coolers right over there, filled with almost any kind of milk you could want: skim, 1%, 2%, whole, organic, lactose-free, store brands, name brands, soy, almond, cashew, coconut, oat, banana, chocolate-flavored, strawberry-flavored ... .

Condiments? Here are 10 kinds of mustard, 20 brands of barbecue sauce. Don't tire yourself, Heinz has mixed ketchup and mayonnaise for you.

And yet, reliably, we can't find fresh bean sprouts. (By "we," I mean Mom and me.) We know of only one grocery store that still carries them. And every time we check the shelf, it's empty. Does the produce manager order two bags of bean sprouts each week and once they're gone, they're gone?

I know it's not the most common ingredient in cooking but nor is it exotic. There is some pretty weird-looking fruit for sale in the produce section. I can get my hands on cipollini onions. But bean sprouts elude me.

The other day, I got irked about that fact. Irked that I couldn't buy fresh bean sprouts.

And wow, how's that for privilege?

I walk through a cavernous grocery store – brightly lit, climate-controlled – where I can buy goods from all over the world (thanks, international aisle!) but I harumph that there's one ingredient not in stock?

Has our on-demand culture made me even demand-ier? I'm sure it has.

But my bean sprout lack has also reminded me, yet again, of our excessive bounty. I try to live in a place of appreciation. Every so often, though, I take a detour through a dearth of fresh bean sprouts.

I'll be on the lookout for them and menu plan accordingly.

But, as Mom pointed out, they're also sold in cans.

My needs are met, exceedingly so.

Here's to gratitude.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Speaking Of Freelancing ...

It didn't dawn on me until this morning that I should have linked to Seth's freelancer course on Udemy, appropriately titled Seth Godin's Freelancer Course. The subhed, though, conveys his intent: "Become Remarkable, Find Better Clients, and Do Work That Matters."

This is my five-star review:

"Seth never fails to make me think about things I've never considered as well as state things I already knew in such a way that I consider them from a slightly tweaked angle and refresh them in my mind.

I've paused this course many times to capture thoughts that he's inspired, thoughts that have helped me connect dots and lead me [to] new ideas." (I just noticed a typo in it. Whoops. Editor Beth is not immune.)

I spend a lot of time in my head. If thinking counted as exercise, I'd look like Dara Torres. (I couldn't recall her name so I Googled "female swimmer abs" and sure enough, she's the first hit.)

One of my favorite things in life is hearing someone say something I've never thought of before, by which I don't mean to suggest that I've ever thought that I've thought all the thoughts that can be thought but when someone says something that really resonates, well, what's better than that? An utterance that adds, meaningfully, to a bank of knowledge and path forward in life? Yup, that's worth far more than $49.99.

And I know it's the epitome of salesy but his course comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Click through and watch a couple sample videos. I'm confident that you'll want more.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Renewed Awareness ...

I take a lot for granted.

I'm listening to Seth Godin's podcast, Akimbo, this morning, as I sip my coffee and listen to the birds, which I can hear well because my windows are open, and he just uttered a sentence I've heard him say many times: "You'll pay a lot but you'll get more than you paid for." He's speaking about what freelancers charge. Or what we should charge. Beware billing yourself as the fastest and the cheapest, he says. In a race to the bottom, you just might win. Or worse, you'll come in second.

I don't call myself a freelancer anymore because too many take "freelancer" to mean "temporary." Years ago, a friend of the family asked if I was still freelancing. When I said yes, she said, "Well, I guess that's OK until you get a real job."

"Real jobs," she seems to be saying, are things like teaching and working in an office or being a nurse or any role in which you get up and leave the house and go to a place and collect a paycheck every two weeks.

There are a lot of people who don't have "real jobs." I have friends who make very comfortable livings as writers. All those books in bookstores? They're not written in cubicles in office buildings. All those movies in the multiplexes? Ditto. Dalton Trumbo used to write in his bathtub, drinking scotch and smoking cigarettes.

I tell folks that I work for myself. Because I do. But the longer I'm at this "freelance" game, the more I realize that I don't charge enough for the work I do. I'm getting better about that. There was a lot going on these past months so as December transitioned to January, I never did contact my clients to let them know that I was upping my rates. To date, my increases have been infrequent and small, an extra $5 a hour after some years.

But the freelancer ethos Seth sums up in one sentence – "You'll pay a lot but you'll get more than you paid for" – reminded me of my early days working for a new client onsite years ago. Most folks zipped out of the office right at 5 p.m. But I had the schedule of work for the day and as the day drew to a close, I hadn't seen everything that was on the list. But nor was I sure if I should see everything that was on the list. So, I popped into the doorway of the creative director's office – my desk was right outside – to ask him to take a look at the schedule and let me know if I should expect to see any of the remaining projects.

"I wouldn't want to leave if someone needs me to look at something," I said.

"Of course you wouldn't," he said. He didn't mean that matter-of-factly. His tone suggested that others might just leave because it was time to leave. But I was conscientious enough to make sure everything had been seen or to stick around if there was still work for the day.

Apparently, not everyone does that.

Which kind of blows my mind.

Of course, I was just there for the day. Maybe staffers thought differently because they were going to be at their desks again the next day and so anything that didn't get done that day could get done in the morning. But I was new. I had no sense of whether projects could push to the next day, of whether deadlines were hard or soft.

I come from a newspaper world. Daily. Now. There are some projects that take a while but for the most part, everything happens every day. The presses are going to roll. There best be plates on them.

It's not lost on people that I respond to emails almost immediately. That's a vestige of my newspaper life.

When I transitioned to a corporate gig, I marveled at how long projects would be delayed. Timelines were guidelines. We almost never adhered to them. It was disconcerting, like learning to move in slow motion instead of running sprints.

I'm also really good at spotting errors and inconsistencies. My first task at one of those corporate jobs was to proofread a report. The senior editor handed the printout to me and said something like, "It's ready to go out the door but as long as you're here, a second set of eyes never hurts."

I found 100 mistakes. Some were really minor, like extra spaces, but errors have a cumulative effect. One extra space in a lengthy report may go unnoticed by the client but 100 instances of incorrect?

She was mortified. And to her credit, she owned up to what I found and was glad that she had me look at it.

Clients have told me that I'm one of the best editors they've ever worked with, which is nice because they come from worlds in which they've worked with a lot of editors.

I just don't think of my work that way. My work is my work. It's what I do. Of course I do it well. I used to presume that everyone else did, too.

A lot of people do. But, I've come to realize, there's a segment out there that skates. There are people who take the reigns of a team and there are others who are happy to draft on their effort. (I haven't used "draft" in that context in ages. My NASCAR background – yes, I have one – is showing.)

Though, I'm just realizing, the same was true in school. Team efforts were never balanced or equal. Someone always took the lead.

Now that the Dad chapter has ended, I'm surveying what's next for my work life. I may get a "real job" again. I may also increase my rates before 2019.

Clients, though, know this: You'll pay a lot but you'll get more than you paid for.

Thanks, Seth.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Life Without Facebook ...

It exists!

I scheduled my account for deletion on April 10. Facebook informed me that I had 14 days in which to log back in and cancel my request.

Well, it's April 27. Facebook account has gone bye-bye.

Bye bye, Facebook account!

I'm still plenty engaged with Twitter – I'm a news junkie; I need my fix – but I don't miss Facebook. There are people with whom I hope to keep in touch but that's what email's for. Or – GASP! – mail! Like ... letters. Cards. Envelopes. Stamps. Something in mailboxes other than bills and direct-mail crap.

I've started reading a book that I've had checked out from the library since March.

I've been helping Mom with little chores here and there, some of which I would be doing anyway and some of which are part of the chapter that begins when someone passes away.

Aside: Even stashes of stuff that appear to be small are much bigger than expected. If you have any inclination to sort through your stuff and streamline your life, hoo boy, get crackin'. It makes life simpler and it feels good. Yesterday I learned that folks can donate old furs to animal shelters where they're used to make beds. It's called Coats for Cubs. The Humane Society used to run the program and it's since been taken over by Buffalo Exchange.

Now that the weather's becoming slightly more sane, I'm doing little chores outside. Yesterday evening, I sat on my front stoop and read the aforementioned book. Today, I might even take a walk! I've caught up on some podcasts. I want to make plans with friends to meet up for coffee or lunch or have them come by for coffee or lunch – we can linger here and not feel like we should turn over the table; also, I like to cook for folks – all Face, no -book!

I'm writing again. I may even take a class. Painting could be fun. I have an easel.

So many possibilities ... .

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Really, Really Ready ...

On Sunday, I put my shovel away.

During the wintry months – not just the winter months because those have lost their meaning – it leans up against the house, next to the railing, so when it snows, I can step out my front door, compact as little of the snow as possible with my not-small shoes, grab the shovel, and start clearing the snow.

We had a dusting last week, no shoveling necessary. But on April 22, I put the shovel away. If we get any more snow, even an amount that requires clearing, folks will just have to trudge through it. I'm not shoveling in the last week of April. Nuh uh.

Likewise, I put my snow brush / scraper back in my trunk. It lives in my back seat during the wintry months. (I needed to free my car from an ice cocoon on St. Patrick's Day.) In theory, I shouldn't need it again for six months. At least. I hope.

The silver lining in all of this is that I have not yet cut my grass for the first time this year. The longer I can put off the first mow, the happier I am. I cut it for the last time each year in mid- to late November. Not mowing until it's almost May is okayfine with me.

Flowers are blooming. The grass is greening. The trees are budding. I miss leaves. The other day, Snow was lounging near my neighbors' shed, one of the few spots of shade in our yards. Until the trees leaf, it's rather bright out there.

I'm no fan of summer, mind you. I'm sure you've read that here before. On Sunday, I was sitting on Mom's front stoop, taking a break from raking up twigs, and mentioned that summer could be just like that, thankyouverymuch, mid- to upper 60s, sunny with a breeze.

Maybe a smidgen warmer during the height of summer. I could agree to, oh, 78. But that's my upper limit.

And, of course, no humidity. That feeling of walking out of air conditioning and into a damp rag is my least-favorite part of summer.

This time of year, though, I'm game. It feels to get outside and move and do a bit of yard work. Until the trees are ready, though, I prefer to do that work under clouds.