Thursday, April 30, 2020

Colors ...

Once upon a time, when my first nephew was very wee, a Colors book appeared.

I can't recall who bought it or who gifted it but I loved it. It was so much more than colors. It was hues. It was variations. But it was also objects. And words. So much for a wee one to explore in so few pages. Red featured little red rubber boots but also cherries, with their purplish hue. Yellow featured rotini pasta. Green, peas. White, a daisy. Brown, a moth. And so many more. Pink featured a little cake. My niece was in love. So one year, for her birthday, my mom took the book to the bakery and asked the owner if she could recreate it. She could. And she did. She charged my mom three dollars.

My niece's eyes were wide. "The little pink cake!" It is one of our favorite stories about her.

That exact book is no longer in print, it seems, but a relative of it is in some ways better.

Bigger. Cardboard. Tabbed. More pictures. Sturdier.

It has become my little go-to baby gift.

Today, a friend wrote, "I gave that wonderful Colors book as a gift to a friend’s newborn son. Thanks for introducing my family to it."

I gave it to him when his grandson was born. And I am delighted that he finds it worthy to gift to others.

If you'd like to purchase it, may I suggest you opt for an independent bookseller?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Some Songs Of My Life – To Date ...

So. Here I am. 50. I’m not quite sure how I arrived here so quickly but I am grateful beyond measure to be celebrating this milestone. Some dear friends were not as fortunate. I’m thinking of them as I write this.

In years past, when I’d host birthday lunches or gatherings at my home, I’d create CDs as place cards / party favors. (Note: I haven’t hosted a lunch in many years so if you used to be invited and have been wondering if you’ve been dropped from the list: Nope! We’re not gathering without you, we’re just not gathering.)

I still like to compile songs, though, and this birthday seemed like a fine excuse to create a list of 50 tunes – but I sailed past 50 and then I couldn’t bear to trim the list (though I did nix some that I've included in past collections) and then I realized that I didn’t have to. Fifty would be expected and tidy but hey, I’m a sassy old lady now and I can do whatever the hell I want, so 58 it is! (I promise, however, to continue to look behind me before backing up in my car. One of my great-aunts abandoned that principle late in her life and the world was not better for it.)

Also, I had considered creating separate lists of tunes with vocals and instrumentals. I could have easily chosen 50 of each – I own a lot of soundtracks – but once I let go of the need to hit 50 on the dot in either list, I figured I may as well just combine them. And so here we are.

All the songs have some form of meaning or connection for me and while you may not be inclined to know all the reasoning behind their selection, I’m going to write it all anyway. (I won’t know if you stop reading.) They’re presented in no particular order.

My deep and abiding love and thanks to everyone who has contributed to this symphony of a life, to date.

I am rich beyond measure because of you.

Hide And Seek — Howard Jones
In high school, as part of my theater arts class, everyone had to pick a song to sing a cappella. It was an exercise in maintaining our characters’ voices on stage. We sat in the auditorium on risers in front of the stage and Mr. Sweeney had each of us sing a bit of our chosen songs, then he’d point to folks to have them start singing as others sang and we’d do our best not to be influenced by the other songs. This was the song I chose. It seemed to fascinate him. He made me sing a lot of it. Solo. In a big, nearly empty auditorium. Apparently, doing so did not kill me.

Grand Central — Edward Shearmur
As mentioned above, I am a sucker for soundtracks. Composers amaze me. Most of us can write with words and convey some emotion, on the page or in a song. Very few of us can write with only notes and accomplish the same ends. This track, in particular, awes me for the journey it takes.

The Woman In The Moon — Barbra Streisand
The soundtrack for Babs’s “A Star Is Born” was in heavy rotation in our house growing up. This track makes me cry. Every time. The hesitancy at the beginning of her performance, the strength she finds as she sings, and the sheer astonishment of her talent and her voice never fails to capture me.

Daybreak – Barry Manilow
I’ve written about this song before. One of the indelible images I have of me from my childhood is sitting on the couch with this double cover open on my lap like a book, looking at the pictures and listening to this song. Over. And over. And over. And over. (I had to get up and reposition the arm on the turntable each time, kids. There was no such thing as a button labeled Repeat.) The stereo was in the living room. The living room was adjacent to my brothers’ bedroom. As they did not fly out of their room on the umpteenth playing of this to lift the needle and tell me to stop, I can only presume that I listened when they weren’t home.

Come Sail Away — Styx
Speaking of my brothers, they’re quite a bit older than me, so while I was a single digit – yet channeling a middle-age woman with my Manilow worship – they were listening to bands like Styx. Dennis DeYoung can belt out a tune.

Sailing — Christopher Cross
Another album that was heavy rotation that I never stopped loving, pink flamingo and all. I’m glad to own it on CD. The Repeat function has been used.

Arc En Ciel — Acoustic Alchemy
I expect that the writer of a film is rarely the music supervisor of a film but as I’ve noodled with my screenplay over the years, I’ve been very clear in my head as to what music should be playing at certain points. This is very much a-dramatic-moment-has-played-out-and-a-montage-of-the-city-at-night-ensues-as-our-heroine-tries-to-cope music.

Gabriel’s Oboe — Ennio Morricone
In addition to creating the soundtrack for my would-be movie, I have also chosen music for my would-be wedding. Now, I don’t expect I’ll ever get married. If I do, I am quite sure it will not be in a church. But from the moment I first heard this, I knew it was the perfect music to which to walk down the aisle, especially if the church is very large, as the track is a couple minutes long. But it’s so lovely and dramatic. If brides aren’t already using it, they may want to consider it.

Nulla In Mundo Pax Sincera – Antonio Vivaldi / David Hirschfelder for the film “Shine”
This would be the recessional of my would-be wedding, not that I’m going to have a recessional. But if I were, this would be it. It hadn’t dawned on me until just a few days ago to look up the translation. I was amused to read that it means "In this world there is no honest peace" or "There is no true peace in this world without bitterness," which struck me as a rather appropriate piece of music to denote the beginning of married life! I hear it ain’t easy.

Feels Like Heaven — Peter Cetera and Chaka Khan
As long as I’m disclosing selections for my would-be wedding, it only seems right to include my selection for the first dance. The lyrics are lovely, the bridge would encourage some dance-floor flourish, and it’s not “The Way You Look Tonight.” Win-win-win!

On The Nature Of Daylight — Max Richter
Yes, this piece will break your heart but it’s so fantastically beautiful, I have to include it. Note: I did not first hear it in “Arrival” but it’s used to very good effect in that film.

Nara — E.S. Posthumus
For as much of a soundtrack fanatic as I am, it’s rare that a piece of music sends me in search of it immediately upon hearing it. But when I heard this in “Unfaithful,” that’s what happened. Note: This was also the theme from “Cold Case” on CBS, though as I watch the opening credits on YouTube, the music doesn’t make sense with the images I see, much like I cannot for the life of me figure out who thought that the recent Robert Mondavi wine commercial should feature “Long Cool Woman” by The Hollies.

Heat Of The Moment — Asia
Ah, my youth.
My far-, far-, far-, far-, far-off youth!
Excellent guitar. Very sing-along-able!

Hello, Goodbye — The Beatles
Now that I’m 50 and I’m supposed to not be caring, more than ever, about what people think, I can confess that I just recently realized that the “Beat” in “Beatles” is “beat” ... as in “tempo” ... as in “music.” Yep, it took me nearly five decades. Imagine the mysteries of the universe that I’ll uncover by the time I turn 100!
P.S. I read that John liked it because it could be considered in the reverse as Les Beat. That seems very John, doesn’t it?

War Crimes — David Huizenga
I met Dave nearly 25 years ago. (Dave, if you happen to see this post, I hope you did not injure yourself if you fell over when you read that; I can’t believe it either.) He was Bill Kurtis’s composer and I always relished that he’d share his compositions with me. This one, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. The first time I heard it, I dropped what I was doing (I was at work; I was doing things), walked over to his studio, and hugged him and told him how proud I was of him. I love Dave’s compositions generally but this one would become my soundtrack for a post-9/11 world. It’s haunting and beautiful and it was recorded with a symphony. In Prague, if memory serves. Imagine traveling to Prague to have a symphony record something you’ve written. So, so cool.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me — George Michael / Elton John
I intended to create a list that contained only one song per artist. George Michael and Elton John appear twice, owing to this duet. Their voices are alchemy squared. That George is no longer here to sing it breaks my heart. But I’ve always loved singing this song, so if Elton ever wants to reprise it, I’ll be happy to stand in.

Hallelujah (Vancouver Winter 2010 Version) — k.d. lang
I know, I know: There should be a moratorium on people covering this song. But k.d.’s version is beyond spectacular. I envy those who were in the stadium that night and who experienced it live.

Love Is Here — Starsailor
This song sounds great as recorded. It sounds even better live. Very atmospheric. The tempo. The plaintive lyrics. The keyboards. Always keyboards.

Your Song — Elton John
It’s all but impossible to select just one Elton John song but this one has always been a favorite and I loved how it was used in “Moulin Rouge” and then having seen “Rocketman,” well ... it just rises to the top, doesn’t it? I’ve always been fascinated to see how things are made, to watch creation in process. I hope this song came into being exactly as it was portrayed in “Rocketman.” If it wasn’t, don’t tell me.

Good Vibrations — The Beach Boys
Speaking of films and creation in process, watching John Cusack’s performance of Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy” and what went into producing this song made me listen to it as I never had before. Cellos? How did that come to him? The song wouldn’t be the same without them. He’s a genius.

The Water Is Wide — James Taylor
My God, his voice. One of my most profound music memories is sitting in Grant Park with my friend Gemma. (Hi, Gems!) The sun was setting, James’s voice was wafting over us, and Gemma described it as a postcard moment and "the temperature where there is no temperature.” Not warm, not cool, just perfect. In every sense, that moment.

Crazy — Icehouse
Oh. Iva. Iva Davies, with his mane of hair and jodhpurs and rolled-up sleeves and mellifluous voice. I fell in love with this song. I fell in love with this video. I fell in love with this album. And many years later, when I had the opportunity to interview him and I told him how his presence in this video made me swoon, he laughed and said, “Yeah, I don’t look like that anymore.” Which doesn’t matter one bit. (Iva, I’m quite sure you’re not the type to do vanity searches but if you happen to read this post someday, can you finish “Bi-Polar Poems” please? Thank you.)

Stormy Weather – Joni Mitchell
This is a live version from a compilation of artists called “Stormy Weather.” Good Lord, listen to it. Epic, epic, epic talent. We’re so lucky to live in a world with Joni Mitchell.

Insurgentes — Steven Wilson
Piano. Atmosphere. Some creations awe me more than others. There are few lyrics here but they fascinate me. I know about this album because of Jim, whom I met on my blog and then knew on Facebook but whom I’ve never met in real life. Jim recommends good, good stuff. (Hi, Jim!)

Graceful Ghost — George Winston
Someday, before I die, I hope to be able to play this. It reminds me of my friend Rob, who was a teacher of mine in high school. We’d be leaving the auditorium after a day of tech for a play and the piano would be sitting there so he’d play it, very much in this vein. I never should have quit music lessons when I was a kid. It is indeed one of my only regrets. You were right, Mom. You knew that at the time. I wish I did, too.

Blue In Green — Miles Davis

Teardrop — José González
This is my way to include L.A. Dave in this list. He left this world far too soon, a decade ago already. He sent this track to me, the source of the theme from “House.” He knew of my almost obsessive love of Hugh Laurie and did what he could to support it. That he was an entertainment journalist and had occasion to be in Hugh’s presence on several occasions helped.

Metamorphosis Two — Philip Glass
Another track that altered me when I heard it. Mom tracked down the CD for me one year for Christmas. We are likewise so lucky to live in a world with Philip Glass.

Invention In C Minor — Billy Joel

I love that on the sheet music, he’s William Joel. Indeed, one would not think that this is a composition by a man named Billy. (It was not my intention to illustrate this post but I had to include an image of the first page of the sheet music with “William Joel” in the corner.)
I often listen to classical music in my car. It’s a nice break from the literal chatter of life. And I admire Billy Joel and I wasn’t sure which of his tracks to include so I decided on this, as a nod to both him and my fondness for classical music. (If I were to include one of his songs, though, it’d be “She’s Got a Way.”)

Cliffs Of Dover — Eric Johnson
Because holy hell! This exists. In the world. And we get to listen to it.

The Golden Valley — George Fenton
A return to my adoration of soundtracks – and quite the shift, following Eric Johnson’s riffs, if you were listening to these songs instead of reading about them. This is from “Shadowlands,” which I once owned on VHS and now own DVD and which I really should watch again.

On Golden Pond — Dave Grusin
It’s coincidence that the two “Golden” tracks appear together in this list. This is the other piece I would play if I had the facility with a piano. Though I’d need an orchestra behind me for the second part of it. A more perfect marriage of soundtrack and scene does not exist, the notes and the play of the light on the water. Perfect.

Ruhe — Schiller
I took four years of German. I have no idea what this man is saying. But it doesn’t matter. It ain’t about the words. It’s about the layers – the many, many layers – and the beats.

She’s A Beauty — The Tubes
This was released in 1983, part of my formative music years. I might love it more now than I did then.

Here’s To Love — Renée Zellweger & Ewan McGregor
This is so adorable and charming, I could not love it more. If you haven’t see “Down With Love,” go find it. Someday, after I sing with Elton, I’ll track down Ewan and sing this, too.

Sing The Changes — The Fireman
Sir Paul McCartney, of course, appears in more than one iteration in this list because he appears in more than one iteration in his world-altering musical life. Also, Brian Ray sings alongside him – you may recall them performing on the marquee of the “The Late Show” in Letterman’s days. Brian appears again in this list, too. (If you’ve found this via Twitter: Hi, Brian!)

You Believe In Me — Jeffrey Gaines
I also should have learned how to play guitar. If I ever do and you ever spy me in a coffee house performing, this will absolutely be part of the set. Though I will not have a violin backing me and I will not truly do it justice. Jeffrey’s performance is perfection.

Promises, Promises — Naked Eyes
Ah, the ’80s. I’m so happy that so many songs that I loved in my youth hold up decades later.

Lush Life – Queen Latifah
This is my brass ring. If I had the vocal chops to sing any song, this would be the one.

I Don’t Know Why — Shawn Colvin
I have Jay to thank for introducing me to Shawn Colvin about a quarter of a century ago. (Hi, Jay!) I can’t sing this without crying. Exquisite lyrics. This track is part of my would-be movie soundtrack, too.

Cry Love — John Hiatt
Bouncy, twangy, John Hiatt-y goodness! I do believe I came to own this album because Cheryl turned me on to “Ethylene.” (Hi, Cheryl!)

Broken Arrow — Robbie Robertson
A not-insignificant amount of deciding went into selecting this over “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” but, really, they’re tied. 1987. A pivotal year. Graduated high school. Started college. Met Jeff Zaslow.
Miss him terribly.

Let Her Know — Estate
Can’t recall how this song came to my attention. I have a vague recollection that a contestant on “Design Star” mentioned it somehow. I could be wrong. But it doesn’t really matter. I love it.

Because It’s There — Michael Hedges
I was fortunate enough to see him perform this. It should be impossible for this to exist but he really could create all of this sound simultaneously.

Lullaby To An Anxious Child — Sting
Oh, how to choose one track from Sting? Impossible. So I didn’t. (Keep reading, if you still have the stamina.) This is such a beautiful example of his artistry. The spare guitar, his signature voice.

The Scientist — Coldplay
If you’re a Coldplay hater, I don’t wanna know about it. I love their big stadium anthems but even more, I love Chris Martin’s voice and his piano here.

World Wide Suicide – Pearl Jam
This song continues to increase in relevance. When all the madness gets to be too much, cranking this helps.

I Was Brought To My Senses — Sting
I could not love his vocals more than in this song. It’s one of my favorites to sing. It’s like two songs in one. If you don’t know it, I highly, highly, highly recommend it.

Song For Someone — The Frames
Glen Hansard has to be a part of this collection. His body of work is an embarrassment of riches and it’s tricky to choose one track but this one holds a particularly special place in my heart.

Forever — Kenny Loggins
This would be the last song in my would-be movie. Not the end credits, the last scene, which would be shot outside by the Shedd Aquarium at night, tight at first and then widening out to include the lights of the city. Not that the screenwriter and music supervisor of the film would also be the director of photography ... but I have thoughts.

Vinyl — Brian Ray
This is one of my favorite songs. Ever. It’s as poignant as it is up-tempo. I try to not gush, as a rule, but I praise this song every chance I get. This is from Brian’s debut album, “Mondo Magneto.” Go buy it. And while you're at it, buy "This Way Up" because you also need "I Found You" and then buy his work with "The Bayonets" and the solo tracks he's released since then. And then go see him on tour. He'll be the handsome blonde guy playing the guitar alongside Paul McCartney.

Patience — George Michael
Oh, George. How can you not be here anymore? This is just George and his perfect voice and a piano. And haunting lyrics. The sparseness creates a mood that matches how much I miss his music.

Born To Run — Bruce Springsteen
Of course I can’t create a list that doesn’t include Bruce! If you’ve never been to one of his shows, you should go to one of his shows. This is always part of the encore. The house lights come up and 25,000 people – give or take, depending on the venue – sing it with him. The world would be a better place if more of us sang “Born To Run” collectively more often.

In The Mood — Robert Plant
You may have noticed a dearth of Led Zeppelin. Not because they’re not worthy – far from it – but because I kept trying to pare this list. I couldn’t not include Robert Plant, though, so he’s here as both brilliant solo artist and as Zeppelin’s representative. Why this track? Because I heard it in the car the other day and was reminded of how much I love it. And every Robert Plant track is worthy of inclusion so why not this one?

Slave To Love — Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music
Well, I can’t not include Bryan Ferry, right? Another legend.

Hole Hearted — Extreme
Yep, that Extreme. “More Than Words” Extreme. This has more than a twinge of country to it and excellent harmonies. In the video for this, they’re performing it on the street. If you happened upon this, you’d chime in, too!

The Joke — Brandi Carlile
From the moment I saw Brandi open for Shawn Colvin, I was blown away by her talent. This song takes my awe for her and launches it into the stratosphere. I am thrilled for all the success that has come to her. Too many artists deserve adoration that they never receive (see: Jeffrey Gaines).

Is This Love? — Whitesnake
For as much as I hate the use of The Hollies in that Robert Mondavi commercial, that’s how much I love that whomever created the blue-chair Amazon Prime spot tapped this track. 1987, again. 1987 was a damn good year.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Keeping My Word – To Myself ...

The day did not go according to plan. That happens a lot of late.

But Bill likes – I daresay loves – my oatmeal raisin cookies and that day would be the last day he would be in the office before his birthday that weekend and so even though my plan to deliver them midday disappeared, I hopped in the car to get to his office in the window in which he returned from rehearsal and then left again for the show.

On the one hand, it felt a bit silly to make the trek to drop off some cookies.

On the other hand, I had said I would. Would anything ill befall me if I didn't? No. Did Bill even know I was coming? I had no idea. I had checked his schedule with his assistant. But I had made the commitment to do it. And I was determined to follow through. (Traffic. Was. Insane. Rush-hour traffic + road closures = I got to his office after he had left for the day. But his assistant was still there and she said she'd put the cookies in the fridge. I got in my car, traversed the city to Lake Shore Drive and took that home instead.) I was glad I did.

My niece earned her bachelor's degree this year and she wrote a thesis, which has been published. Published! My niece is published! She has a citation! That is super, super, super cool! I had asked if I could read her thesis and sometime later, when it was published online, she sent the link.

I started to read it on a Friday. And then things did not go according to plan. (See above.) But I wanted to finish it before the weekend was over because I know the feeling of putting something out into the world and waiting for someone to read it. I have let folks down on that front before – my apologies to those folks – but in this instance, I really, really wanted to read it.

And so I did. And I was glad.

The other day, sitting on my couch and looking at my treadmill and thinking that I really should get on it, it dawned on me that I have recently kept my commitments to myself as they relate to other people but I have spent a lifetime blowing off commitments as they relate to myself.

I should walk every day, I tell myself. Yes, you should, says myself.

But I don't.

I should get back to eating my big-ass salads every day, I tell myself. Yes, you should.

But I don't.

The list could go on. And on. And on.

But here I am, in the run-up to 50 and I am very much looking forward to my 50s and it seems like a very good time to get down to brass tacks and take things seriously, to begin to honor commitments to myself as I honor them to others.

I'm not demanding something Herculean.

Walking, Beth. Eating a salad. This ain't Kilimanjaro.

Yesterday, a link to this blog post popped up in my Twitter feed

Oh, yes, a daily writing practice. I've been meaning to get around to that.

And then, today, a tweet about this course, which I'd forgotten was on deck.

It's six weeks. The calls are on Wednesday evenings. The last call lands exactly one week before my 50th birthday.

It seemed like a sign.

Also, a good idea.

Sometimes, classes can feel like stalling. But I have been futzing around with this book for years. YEARS.

I could use some structure, some expertise, some accountability.

No, I need some structure, expertise, and accountability.

And, logically, if I have it in one area of my life, I should be able to extend it into others.

Linda won't make me get on my treadmill or eat a salad every day.

But, as I am ostensibly a grownup, I can do that myself.

While working on a book proposal.

Because what better way to kick off my 50s that with a publishing deal?



Sunday, September 29, 2019

Instability ...

When I was younger – you know, much younger – I asked my mom and question and she didn't know the answer.

I was stunned.

Grownups were supposed to have all the answers. That was their job.

It was probably the most illuminating moment of my childhood. (A close second would be learning that the mere presence of physical checks in a checkbook did not translate into limitless funds in the bank.)

Since November 8, 2016, I've lived on a continuum with unease on one side and dread on the other. Anger is a constant. But so, too, interestingly, has been resignation. Like, if Trump were to launch a nuclear strike and Russia were to retaliate, I'd get myself as close to downtown Chicago as possible. I'd much prefer to be vaporized than linger. I saw "Chernobyl." No one wants the fate of those firefighters.

The other day, though, my brain crystallized its thinking about all this madness by reminding me about my childhood. Adults are supposed to have the answers. Adults are supposed to protect children. The greatest fear of children is the denial of that security. There's an order to the world. Grownups are supposed to have answers and provide.

But what if they don't? Kids are left to fend for themselves.

And such is our politics these days. Trump is a criminal. In the White House.

Republicans are supposed to be a check on that criminality. Instead, they're defending the criminal.

What the hell are we supposed to do when the people who are supposed to confront the bad guy take his side?

Thankfully, we took back the House in 2018. Unequivocally.

I've had my moments of frustration with Nancy Pelosi's reluctance but I held out hope that she was doing the right thing.

This week, I realized that she was. All along.

When she said that Trump would "self-impeach," she knew. President Obama took the long views. He really did game out scenarios as if playing chess: If we do this, then they'll do this, then we'll have to do this ... .

With Trump, there is no strategy. As Bob Cesca says on his podcast regularly, "Trump always makes things worse for Trump."

Why we couldn't have impeached him after he admitted to Lester Holt that he fired James Comey to put an end to the Russia investigation, I don't know.

But here we are. Pelosi is on board. Adam Schiff is doing a masterful job of being both an adult and an elected representative of the people: calm, smart, focused.

Trump's highly flammable hair is thisclose to being on fire, though it won't burn so much as melt.

And all this may be coming to an end. This travesty. This nightmare.

And Pence is implicated, too. Will this truly go down a la Nixon? Will Pence have to be dealt with before Trump because we as a country can't bear impeaching one criminal only to have to impeach the next? Time will tell.

And yes, I know that means Nancy Pelosi would become the president. I don't believe she's vying for the job.

But I'd welcome her as a placeholder until January 20, 2021.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Unintended Consequences ...

You may know about the Shane Gillis kerfuffle. For those who don't devote hours a day to the news, the Reader's Digest version – with a bit of editorializing – is this:

New guy named to the cast of SNL turns out to be an asshole who mistakenly thinks he's an "edgy comic." Audio and video starts making the rounds. A predictable number of people on Twitter defend him – who look a lot like Shane in age and complexion – and a predictable number call him out for being a dick. (I, you may have guessed, fall into the latter category.)

This morning, I noticed these tweets:

Yes, Shane had also been at ... Skankfest. (Further editorializing: SIGH.)

Steve is welcome to whatever comedy he'd like to perform, of course.

But his tweets made me think about Hannah Gadsby's "Nanette" (my take on which was this):

What if we, collectively ... didn't make fun of other people and ourselves? That seems like a good idea.

I haven't seen a moment of Steve's stand-up. Maybe it's brilliant? But maybe making fun of himself and making fun of others doesn't necessarily bring people closer.

Because what one person intends as a joke or an offhand comment may land very differently on another party.

I've written about this before.

And then I quoted myself in this post.

I shall refrain from quoting myself quoting myself.

I looked up the genesis of "Sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me." "Hurt" used to be "harm" but that's really the only difference.

That sentiment has been around since the 1800s.

It's a load of crap.

Words have extraordinary power. Would that we all wielded them with more care.

I try. I know I can do better.

But I reserve the right to speak out when I see folks doing harm. In those moments, civility can suck it.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Shifting ...

Maybe it's the imminent change of seasons; maybe it's the impending milestone birthday; maybe I'm just fed up.

Or maybe it's combination of the three. But last weekend, my intention was to tend to some little projects around the house, not home improvements in the traditional sense but some small changes to my space. It's stagnant. Static. And, if I'm being honest, dusty. Like dusty. Not on most of the surfaces folks can see but, well, let's just say that I don't make it a point to move my furniture and vacuum very often. So, yeah: cobwebs.

As I was vacuuming my bathroom door – I'll never not find it interesting that dust clings to vertical surfaces and most of the doors in my house have a large inset panel so there are narrow horizontal surfaces on which dust gathers – I said, "Well, it's just me."

Yes, Beth, it's just you. You don't share your home with anyone else. But you deserve to live in a nice, clean house.

Of course, that requires that I clean my house, which is not my favorite to-do. I'll wash dishes all day long but cleaning cleaning? Meh. I should invite folks over more often. I clean for them. But now I'm vowing to clean for myself, too.

The cleaning, though, was prompted by the moving of furniture. I bought a wee shelving unit yesterday (see the post just below this one; that's right, I'm posting twice today!) to go in my office, which meant the nightstand which was serving as storage next to my desk would move to my bedroom, which meant the table that was serving as my nightstand would move to my TV room to serve as a table for a lamp that has been on a table but that table is too wee.

So, that was how I spent the bulk of my day, taking Twitter-and-water breaks in between. (Both are necessary for my existence.)

The shelving unit is perfect and I'm delighted with the purchase and also glad that I didn't buy three. I had thought I'd put them side by side by side underneath the window but it's not a big space so it's the right call to leave a little breathing room in there.

The nightstand is part of the bedroom set my parents bought me an impossible number of years ago when I achieved the age at which I got to "design" my room. I am more than a little giddy that it matches the dresser in there remarkably well. I am far from the matchy-matchy type but in this instance, I thought it would be a "for now" nightstand but no: I really like it there so there it will stay.

And the table is a good addition to the TV room. The legs curve inward and then out again toward the floor, so it feels less weighty next to the couch, which is a very good thing. I had a small trunk – or maybe it's a chest? – on the floor next to the aforementioned wee table. On the trunk/chest, I had a vintage typewriter. That typewriter – refreshed after a thorough vacuuming – is now on the low bookshelf opposite my desk in my office, a writerly prop, a writerly cliché, even, but I like it there so there it will stay.

With my three intended shifts completed, I wrapped the cord around the vacuum as intended – another vow to myself, to take the few seconds to store it properly instead of letting it snake all over the floor – and then sat in my office, looking around, thinking about more changes I want to make, including migrating contents of my older desktop onto this laptop and getting rid of that machine at last. I only use it to manage iTunes and charge my iPod. It's time for it to join all the other Macs in the world that are past their prime.

As of today, I have a green journal on my desk, a gift from years ago that until today I had not yet used.

I spoke some words that made me tear up – I know something is true when I cry – and then opened the journal to write the date and the words, to remember and to make them more real:

"I'm going to write my book in here."

A Wee Post In Tweet Form ...

Since the miraculous advent of threading tweets, I've migrated much of my posting to Twitter and left this blog to accumulate cobwebs and tumbleweeds.

I'm getting back to blogging (my intention was to blog every day and that lasted, oh, four days but instead of harping on myself for not posting daily, I'm patting myself on the back for returning to this medium with some frequency) but, once again, just posted a wee story on Twitter, so I'm embedding those tweets here and voila! Instant blog post!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Lesson From A Filmy Window ...

My mom raised meticulous kids. Not trim-the-grass-with-manicure-scissors meticulous but "good enough is not good enough" meticulous.

Case in point: Yesterday, one of my brothers and I were at her house to clean her windows. The slider leading out to the screened-in porch was clearly in need of some love. It has blinds sandwiched between two panes of glass, the inner of which is removable, so my brother, with his window-washing gear, tackled the outside and I cleaned the insides. The inside of the outer glass really didn't need any cleaning but the removable panel had suffered the realities of living: humidity, cooking film, dust.

Now, cleaning a large heavy window is not really a one-person job. But I persevered. When I was done, I sat on a stool at the counter to gulp a bottle of water and looked over at the first window and wow. I had missed a lot. Mom told me to not worry about it. But I kept looking at it. So I set my water aside and took out the window and cleaned the offending part and reinstalled it.

It looked better. I felt better. And now, the only thinking I'm doing about it is to write this short post, glad to have silenced the nagging "You should have cleaned that window again" voice.

Here's to doing jobs well, even if it takes more than one try.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Deer Mom ...

This is Snow, so named by my neighbor.

Snow White, officially. Snow for short.

She first appeared in my yard July 2, 2017. She's been hanging around a lot ever since.

I make oatmeal for her. We've settled into a system. I make oatmeal and stir in raisins and let it sit in the bowl until it congeals. Then I scoop it out with a rubber scraper, a half-round oatmeal patty, and put it in a plastic container and keep it in the fridge.

When she comes around and I feed her, I make a new batch of oatmeal – I've recently dubbed it Snowtmeal – so there's no chance that I'll not be ready to feed her.

As the days shorten, she seems to be hungrier. I presume she's fattening up for winter. Today, she had three oat meals and a snack of grapes.

Monday morning's oatmeal is cooling on the counter.

You can see her most days on my Instagram, #DeerStory.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Makes Beth Happy, August 24

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

What a delight to wake up to temperatures that register as a bit chilly – in August. Our poor planet is suffering in so many ways but today, here, it's lovely.

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

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato
Each weekend, a Leite's Culinaria newsletter pops up in my inbox. Today's features 28 Labor Day Recipes. I clicked through and began advancing the slideshow. My eyes got wide when this image appeared. Yes, yes, and more yes!

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

angelo:HOME TV Console/Buffet Cabinet - Luxe (walnut)
L-O-O-K at this stunner! When I first saw it, I thought it had a big black knob in the middle but no! The circle is cut out. It's not a knob, it's the absence of a knob! Also, I love the vertical texture of the ribbing. It quiets the "Who wants to dust all that?" voice in my head. It's my mom's voice but she has a point. Whenever I see crazy-intricate design, it's the first thing that comes to mind. This, though, it lovely and easier to keep clean!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Gettin' Back On The Blog Horse ...

I need to get back to writing every day, beyond the tweets I spew all day long.

And more than one person has mentioned that I don't blog anymore. And that maybe I should start blogging again.

So Needing To Write + Don't Blog Anymore = HELLO!

I certainly don't want for topics. Oy. My brain is too full.

But music makes me happy and new-music days are like Christmas and my Twitter and Insta pal Brian Ray has new tunes out today.

So Needing To Write + Don't Blog Anymore + New-Music Days Are Like Christmas + Brian Has New Tunes Out Today = POST!

Brian writes, "When I was 7 years old, I was given a transistor radio for Christmas and escaped into a world of Rhythm and Blues, R&R and Doo Wop blasting out of Tijuana on a pirate radio station which, by day, was a Mexican evangelist channel, but by night played pure soul music with a new DJ we came to love, named Wolfman Jack.

My new single 'Pirate Radio' is a tribute to these early memories ... ."

You can sample the single and the B-side here.

(And if you like reading lyrics, those are here.)

I love Brian's music. (I've written about him before. My words about his second album, "This Way Up," appear as a review on his Amazon page for the album, which I love. I'm listed as "Beth Kujawski, Writer" so I best live up to my title, eh?) I ran an errand last night. The world my be burning and melting simultaneously but in my little corner of the world, last night was lovely: cool, breezy. The car windows were already down. I opened the moonroof and turned on "Vinyl," hands down my favorite track of Brian's, from his first album, "Mondo Magneto." It's the perfect blend of music and lyrics. It tells a story that dovetails with "Pirate Radio." (And you should check that out, too.)

"Trashman" is the B-side of "Pirate Radio" – and yes, it will be available as a 7"! – and I must confess, I love "Trashman" even more. But I am a sucker for keyboards and "Trashman" is, well, go listen. You'll see.

Happy Friday, kids! Happy New Music Day! Thanks, Brian, I heart you and your work.

Glad to be back at the clickety-clacking.

Charlie, stay tuned.

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.