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.