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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seeing Clearly

Unemployment isn’t a surprise anymore. When I wake up in the morning there is no longer a five second breather before a sinking stomach reminds me how life has changed. Now the alarm sounds, reality is intact and my eyes open aware of my current status. Since February, my goal, in addition to figuring out what is next, has been to establish a routine that works. To that end, as anyone reading knows, I’ve been walking and writing and spending time in the library and am fairly adjusted to the ice ball that winter threw at me. Last week however, my new schedule was disrupted when several rainy days curtailed the walking. A trip to visit cousins while our daughter was on school vacation meant no visit to the library; and I appreciate how easy it is to get off track with new routines, because this week hasn’t been much better.

On my second Monday volunteering for the seniors, I returned home to write this blog. Four o’clock found me pacing around the house opening cupboards and peering out windows as if looking for something. Realizing that I hadn’t walked in several days I yanked out my sneakers, hollered to my daughter that I was leaving, and marched out the door to power-walk two miles, tying my shabby fleece around my waist half way through. Tuesday’s calendar entry included a visit to the outplacement office, and I returned home with the idea to write for the day’s blog. When my daughter stepped off the bus we celebrated our short dose of unexpected summer weather by driving to a neighboring beach. Salt wind, wave spray, bare skin and even tattoos were a welcome supplement to the Nantasket boardwalk but again, the day involved no exercise for me. As for yesterday, well, I searched job boards, sent out a resume and went out for my networking lunch having not touched Middle Passages; I pressed “publish” in time to organize dinner; the sun set before I got my sneakers on.

So when sunshine and the screech of a blue-jay through barely cracked windows woke me before the alarm this morning, I flung off the covers grinning with the knowledge that there was nothing penciled in my planner, and a walk before a trip to the library would fill the morning’s agenda. Breakfast served, daughter delivered to school, house picked up, emails checked, a job feeler sent, and I shoved my feet into my sneakers; tramping under the white lace sleeves of flowering Bradford Pears that dress our downtown, past the ducks paddling on the pond at the Common, the patch of daffodils swaying at the Parish House, along side weighted branches of forsythia choked with yellow blooms. Circling back on the sidewalk by the brick library, I marched beside erupting purple rhododendrons, thighs cramping on the slow incline overlooking the massive rock formations that swell like small mountains in the middle of Little Harbor.

I may have missed some walks, but it only takes one to realize that those aching mornings of February when I woke in a panic, unclear as to how to spend my time have faded to memory. The cold winter weeks in which I floated around the frigid house, nose running and a plaid wool scarf wrapped around my neck have been retired like the down jacket I shoved to the back of my closet. When I lost my job during the coldest month of winter, the general sentiment seemed to be that my life would improve in the spring. And it’s true. While I’m not much closer to a career decision, along with warm temperatures and new routines seeps a trickle of optimism and possibility.

The bummer about the good weather though, is that it makes it more difficult to come up with excuses. I love our library, but now that this post is done, I’m on my way home to clean the back windows.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Confidence Boost

No matter how large your ego or how well you can intellectualize and rationalize the reasons behind your layoff, at some point over the course of time, it is virtually impossible not to utter the phrase: “Why me?” I am not exempt from this, although in truth, I’ve forced that thought to the background, as second guessing simply doesn’t help. That said, while I have had relative success pressing negativity to the basement of my psyche, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that from way down below, once in a while, a bit of pessimism leaches up. Today, I am proud to say that confidence and intellect pulled on steel-toed boots and stomped on any nasty tendency toward “Woe is me.”

This noon found me at a table in a cavernous restaurant sharing a networking lunch with someone I haven’t seen in fifteen years. We worked together when he was beginning his career in recruitment advertising; I was a bit further into mine as a recruiter. As our third party advertising agency account coordinator, he talked with us weekly and in my role as majority ad placer, we were on the phone even more. As always happens with phenomenal account coordinators, he received a promotion and by and by, relocated out West, was promoted some more and as our business transactions ended, we exchanged occasional emails. Recently though, he moved back to the area and when I sent out my networking email to those I knew would respond, he was on my list.

So, fast forward to lunch today, when after huge hugs, we spent almost two hours discussing the business of recruitment advertising which is a galaxy and two worm-holes away from when we did business together. Then advertising meant help-wanted via local newspapers, determining circulation rates and reader drive time to our facility. Now it means Internet employment postings and job aggregators and pay-per-click and on-line filters, how to use social media for advertising purposes and where does Twitter fit in? Over lunch, we bantered back and forth on all of these topics, and I recognized that the parts of my job that I use to like the most, the strategy, the ongoing learning, developing action plans, well; mercifully, they are all still alive and living inside my sore little unemployed soul.

Between outplacement meetings and networking out-reach and above all Middle Passages, on the surface I haven’t felt especially lacking in mental stimulation during my time at home. Lunch though reminded me that I was good at what I used to do. The fact that financial difficulties required the to company make a decision that had a detrimental impact on me does not mitigate that I am smart, resourceful, interested, and on occasion fairly astute. That tossed together with dynamic conversation and a delicious BLT salad was enough to send me driving home with a smile.

The two pound piece of chocolate cake topped with ganache? Heck that was merely icing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Temperature: Ninety-two--Focus: Zero

It is gloriously, unseasonably summer today. The thermometer mounted beside the back slider displays ninety-two degrees in the shade and I laughed at my teal leather gloves sitting on the desk in the kitchen where I tossed them several days ago. It is New England though; it’s best if they stay there a bit longer.

As I returned from my outplacement meeting today, the Fore River Bridge was up and the backup of traffic gave me enough warning to take a side route to keep moving, but the alternative takes as much time as waiting for the bridge to go down. So I remained in the line of cars, edging up through the traffic to the driveway of an empty firehouse where I put the car in park and rolled the four Jeep windows down all the way. I was not the only one.

When it is ninety in July, people drive vacuum sealed behind rolled up windows, goose-bumped flesh luxuriating in cool blasting air. Ninety may be ninety, but in April it’s another feeling all together. Way down beneath flesh and muscle and sinew, our bones are still grainy and brittle and ice cold from winter and this first blast of warm air massages like hot stones on the back of the neck. In the summer, beach traffic caught at a raised drawbridge clanks and honks and exhales, wheezing with impatience and temper. This morning though, drivers sat, idly tapping fingers on steering wheels, smiling while pantomiming requests to cut the line for a right hand turn, waving their thanks. Not a horn sounded.

With the breeze flicking at my hair, I kicked off my shoes and listened to the couple in the car beside me speak Russian and then turn up music that I couldn’t understand. I mused about the grey fleece pullover that was yesterday's uniform, when a woman, pale legs reaching from her bright green Capri’s and arms that dangled from a bleached white tank top strode past the line of cars, a gallon of water hanging from each hand. Once the bridge made its hesitating descent and we inched forward, the truck behind me squeaked and my brakes squealed in a syncopated rhythm and four baseball capped youths yodeled out the open sunroof of the car ahead. I imagined them playing hooky from school or work on their way to the beach where the water, unlike the air, would be somewhere in the forties.

Just as seventy in February is a gift, a short-lived ninety in April must be treasured, recalled, taken out and rolled around during the next cold spell, or even tomorrow when the weather is predicted to return to spring and the thermometer closer to fifty.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weekend Warrior

You would think that with my “free” time lately, I’d get out of the practice of packing all the yard work into the weekend. To some degree my habits have changed but as for gardening, up until this weekend spring has been cold and damp. Of course with my daughter home on vacation this past week, it rained every day until Thursday and then she and I went out of town—so nothing of consequence was attempted outside until Saturday, when I accomplished a lot. A brief or not so brief synopsis follows:

Tilled and loosened the soil with a mattock, mixed six bags of compost with equal parts of peat moss and spread wheelbarrows full of the stuff across three separate gardens. Fertilized eight rose bushes, sprayed weed killer along the cracks of the “upper” patio, transplanted three hostas that were hidden behind the rhododendrons to the shady corner by the shed. Deadheaded the hydrangeas and split yellow and red daylilies from the garden by the bedrooms and planted them in the garden by the garage. Grabbed the mattock again, and dug out fern roots from among the sprouting daylilies, an annual requirement least they take over the world. Planted a spent tulip display left over from Easter by the front lamp post--not sure whether I’m supposed to wait until autumn to do that or not, but I left the greens on.

Returned to the house and cleaned out the 17 (all right, I'm embellishing, there were only eight) containers of leftovers cluttering the fridge and made herbed spaetzle (chives and sage are already up in the garden, the fresh parsley came from the fridge) to sauté for a side dish to go with grilled boneless pork ribs for dinner. I trashed the kitchen in the process, so I washed dishes and cleaned batter smeared counters.

Next, I joined my daughter who is working off her cost of a school trip to Costa Rica planned for next winter (we call it her “Costa Lotta” trip), and helped her bleach the mildew off of the front porch railing (for you Boston Globe readers, yes, that porch railing). Apparently I sighed so many times while scrubbing that she evicted me, so I returned to the yard; transplanted a wayward foxglove from the woods to the garden and shifted around others that had the audacity to seed themselves where they wanted in back. Cooked dinner and a banana bread for this mornings’ coffee for the seniors.

So here we are Monday morning and of course, with all the bending lifting, walking, squatting, twisting, turning, climbing, digging and hoeing I did all in one day, I am sore to the bone. As my spine cracks from the simple effort of sitting in this chair, I’m wondering whether I’ll be an acceptable volunteer for the seniors, or if I should sign myself in when I arrive and sit right down with them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Week in Review (11)

Things I have Learned:

Comments to online articles are the talk radio of the Internet age. Everyone gets to have their say.

A peaceful moment overlooking the yard trumps a cup of fresh ground coffee, but barely.

With temperatures on the rise this weekend we may drink coffee while sitting in the garden, which trumps all.

Challenging news related to the former company still initiates the same reactions as a kick in the gut. However, the shoe doing the kicking now might be a size or two smaller.

The new, old restaurant that I’ve mentioned here before serves an acceptable breakfast. The sourdough toast, infused with melted butter tastes exceptionally good, even though when you mention the fact, your daughter remarks that you sound like Paula Deen.

It matters a lot more when later in the car she says: "We’re having a bonding moment, Mom.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fall Back Position

I had a stressful sleep last night. Yes, I believe that the full moon impacts sleep cycles and it’s scheduled to rise, round and yellow on Saturday. That aside though, I lay awake wondering how I’d cram everything I need to do this morning into the few hours we have before leaving for a doctor’s appointment an hour away and then going to see my sister, who lives an hour in another direction. It’s all manageable; it’s simply that like the shadows in the bedroom, things grow large and insurmountable after midnight, when in the light of day they shrink to life size. Nonetheless, I’m tired this morning.

Part of the reason for the tossing, turning and pillow-pounding is that my former employer had another layoff at the beginning of the week and I’ve been in touch with one of those affected. While I am more than two months beyond it and see a clear picture of at least part of my next career path (you are reading it), I feel her pain. Or, perhaps it’s that I feel a shadow of my own hurt, and I don’t wish that on anyone. Meanwhile, my “former employer” alumni network on LinkedIn reports ongoing senior level hiring at the old company, and I wonder, cynically it must be stated, how many laid off district managers add up to two new Senior Vice Presidents? Enough said. No need to go down that path, other than to say I’m sure they are doing what they believe must be done in order to save the company--and since I own stock it is in my best interest that they succeed.

So, on the not impossible list of things to accomplish this morning before driving up the highway: a networking letter to a kind person who emailed in response to my Boston Globe article. For the millionth time I’ll say, you never do know when a networking opportunity will come up--but I guess if you broadcast your jobless status across the entire region, you may be more likely to get a bite. Hmmm, does anyone know how one goes about hiring a plane to fly a banner? Seriously though, reaching out in this specific way wasn’t in the plan when I wrote that story five weeks ago, but I’m all about looking on the positive side these days. Fingers crossed that in some regard it pans out.

If not, and worse comes to worse, I have a mainstream publication to add to my novice writer’s resume, which works just fine for me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Five years ago, grieving the loss of my father months earlier, I decided to find my grandfather. My dad’s dad died before I was two, so my knowledge of him growing up stemmed from black and white photos hanging in the dim hallway of my grandmother’s last home, a three bedroom colonial walking distance from our house. My father referred to his dad as a “glad hander,” and perched at his corner stool in our narrow kitchen, painted stories of a man he deemed “a mover and a shaker,” but somehow I never understood the specifics. I own one of the remaining pictures of my grandfather, seated at a round table with my grandmother and then Senators John F. Kennedy and William Saltonstall, but have no idea as to the occasion. We might have learned more, but in a move across town a few years after he died, my grandmother lost her photo albums, so there was little visual left to share.

A few years before my dad died, I had begun to attempt to write seriously, so awash in grief and full of the questions I never asked him, yearning for the stories I’d never copied down, I reached I think, for bricks and mortar—a physical manifestation of my bloodlines. I knew that my grandfather wrote for the Boston Herald way back; that he was an executive with Boston Edison and President of the Clover Club (an upscale drinking club for men of Irish descent; picture tuxedos, political commentary and scotch four times a year).

My longing to know more though, gelled into a mission the day my sister called me to tell me that she had discovered a yellowing copy of my grandfather’s obituary while cleaning out my father’s papers. This supplied a few more details.

The next day, I called our local library, asking if they had archives of Boston newspapers on microfiche. To no surprise, an apologetic librarian told me that our library was too small, directing me to Quincy, our next largest city. There another helpful librarian advised me that my best resource would be Boston. So, one spring Saturday, after explaining my mission to my supportive albeit bemused husband, I drove twenty minutes to the subway, clacked my way back and forth for another 25 minutes, and arrived at the doorway of the architectural masterpiece that is Boston Public Library, a stone fortress which could probably cover the entire acreage of our little downtown.

Obtaining a red library card, I climbed the marble staircase to the archive room, tiled in worn white linoleum lined with rows of three-sided booths housing microfiche projectors. Serious looking people attached spools of film to these unwieldy metal boxes, peering intently at the screens. In my mind, these were doctors, researchers and scientists seeking history to corroborate eminent findings. Feeling sheepish, I threaded my way through the aisles to the librarian, expecting a sigh or a smirk when I told him that I was seeking articles by my grandfather appearing in the Boston Herald--I didn’t quite know when. With a smile, he showed me how to fill out a request slip, suggesting that I seek my grandfather’s obituary for a start. Once I supplied the date of his death, he produced a film; and instructed me how to feed the spool to view the material recorded within.

Shortly, I had copies of my grandfather’s obituaries from local newspapers and was abashed to discover that there were something like seventeen ordained celebrants at his funeral Mass; “Honorary Bearers” included two US Senators, a Secretary of State, a former Mayor of Boston, several US Representatives and the Ambassador to Canada. While that was all well and good, what mattered to me was discovering the specific dates in which he was the Washington Correspondent for the Boston Herald.

With that information scribbled on a slip of paper, I returned to the archivist, who offered me additional films. Squinting at the worn type, I found a January 1, 1929 Boston Herald article by my grandfather titled: “System used to Name Baker Successor Hit—Civil Service Commission View Called Backhand Slap at Coolidge.” Turning the crank, I discovered: “Kellogg Pact Foes Hurl Taunts at Borah in Hot Senate Session,” then “Robinson May Join Fight on Kellogg Pact,” and “Hoover Asked to Pick Prince for Cabinet.”

Digging in my pocket for a supply of quarters, I fed them into the machine, printing out copies of his articles. Before long, my change was gone, but I had a stack of pages, evidence of my grandfather in print and ink that I could bend and fold and shuffle in my hands. Returning home, I made copies for my siblings and mailed them off.

Today, the sheaf of articles lays in the drawer of our living room desk along with sympathy cards for my dad that I haven’t been able to part with yet. The sheets containing my grandfather’s work are shadowed and difficult to read and with a lack of context, almost impossible to understand. None of which matters, because I left Boston that day peaceful with the knowledge that in finding this side of my grandfather I had somehow touched my dad, and that this visit to the city had also reaffirmed an intrinsic piece of me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just Breathe

(I got tired of the pink.)

I’m sitting at the laptop today, at the kitchen table looking outside instead of at the paneled walls surrounding my cubby. It’s school vacation; my daughter is sleeping down the hall, and I am contemplating a cup of coffee, which will remain a dream unless I get up and grind some beans. But right now it is quiet, so quiet, that the thought of the grinder’s chatter seems slightly obscene so I’m procrastinating; looking out the sliding glass window of the family room to the damp backyard. If I’m honest about it, there is always noise, a car driving down our busy street, the drone of an airplane circling Logan, the tap of my fingers on the keyboard, the refrigerator cycling on and off, the faint ticking of the family room clock. Winkie the cat’s tags click against her food dish downstairs and outside, just barely, there’s a bird singing “Phoebe! Phoebe!

It’s April in New England--the calendar says spring, but anyone raised this far north knows that the word is optimistic. I’m still dressed in blue jeans and fleece, and wishing that the heat would come on, so I wouldn’t feel guilty sneaking the thermostat up. I’ve given up on planting bulbs; after 23 years of home ownership, the squirrels always win, so out back there are few obvious displays of the warming of the seasons. The buds though, stand straight on the Rhododendrons and the fuzzy leaves of a foxglove that has volunteered itself flop in a crevice of ledge in the back garden. A wash of green is starting to flow through the grass, and if I lean to the left, daylilies leaves push lanky fingers up from the earth by the patio.

It’s 8:09 on a Tuesday morning, and just for a moment I’m taking a breath.

After that though, I’m making the coffee.

Monday, April 20, 2009

With Sugar on Top

It is to laugh. Last night, after plunking into bed exhausted, the phone rang. Following a week of phone tag with a woman in charge of a senior coffee café on Monday mornings for which I hoped to volunteer, she returned from out of state basketball games and called to tell me they could use me. The volunteers each bake something for the gathering…so after agreeing to meet her at 8:30 a.m., I lay back in bed mulling what I could concoct early in the morning. Remembering the blueberries that we picked last summer bagged in the freezer, I decided I’d get up early and bake a coffee cake. And other than the fact that when I did so, we were low on sugar and I had to dig from the dregs of the canister and scout out the sugar bowl to extract the last 2/3 cup, all was good …I thought.

Plating the cake presented a minor challenge; when the pan finally eased its grip, the cake came out with a hole in the top. “That’s cool.” I muttered, “I’ve saved worse before.” Liberating the piece still stuck in the pan and patching it into the hole, I knew a glaze of confectioner’s sugar and orange juice would hide the damage—which would have been a five minute job if I didn’t knock an entire bowl of confectioner’s sugar onto the floor. Ignoring the mess, I starting again but as I attempted to pour two tablespoons of orange juice into another bowl of powdered sugar--my hand slipped, spilling in too much liquid, requiring a major icing adjustment. Finally, way more than five minutes later, panting, I poured glaze over the warm cake, covered it with waxed paper, vacuumed the floor, changed my clothes, and left the house for the carat which time our indoor cat who has ignored the great outdoors for years, determined that it was a day for adventure and slipped out behind me. Now it’s 8:25 and chasing the cat across the front porch, I’m starting to feel like I used to when delivering my then toddler to day care on a morning in which a before-hours meeting was scheduled. Grab a paper bag--hyperventilation is eminent.

Round Two. Lock the cat in the basement; drive down the street fast until the warm coffee cake slides over the passenger side floor, leaving trails of orange glaze on the rug. Lighten up on the accelerator and mentally note that these are the things in life that spare us from speeding tickets. Arriving at the venuea few minutes late; I march up the hill gripping my cake, unaware that warm icing is dribbling down my coat and the entire length of my pants. And yes, that would be both legs. “Hi everyone. My name is Liza.  This morning I used a new shower gel, called Eau d’ Orange.” Spending ten minutes smearing glaze off my pants, I then volunteer to go home to pick up a tea kettle, since a helper experiencing the same type of morning as me, forgot hers. After driving back across town, I pull the blue tea kettle off the stove, mop my pants some more with a wet sponge and head back only to encounter flashing red lights and lowered gates as a commuter train approaches the crossing. Deep breaths here. I arrive at the function hall at the same time as the first guest; open the car door and watch as the kettle teeters in slow motion on the edge of the seat and drops to the pavement, breaking off the handle.

Later in the afternoon, while shopping for a tea kettle with my fifteen-year-old daughter, I realized that if I wasn’t humble enough already as a result of my auspicious start as a volunteer, she’d be sure to yank me down to the right level. When I mentioned my intent to write about my crazy morning in Middle Passages today, she rolled her eyes, smirked and responded as only a teenager could, “You better tell the story the right way Mom, so it sounds funny. Otherwise, you’ll just sound pathetic.”

Ah, me. Unless a surprise job offer comes my way, I’m going back again next week. My baking however, will happen on Sunday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Week in Review (10)

Things I have learned:

The newspaper today says that in the next year, the hiring market for 16-year-olds looking for jobs will be the worse it has been since they started recording statistics. Our daughter will turn sixteen this year. How to hit a mom when she’s down.

This blog may be self-indulgent, but it is also my salvation.

I said this last week, but it bears repeating: “Old friends are old friends. There is nothing more to say.”

Perspective is key. Yesterday, while walking with two former colleagues on a 70 degree day, we watched the sun shimmer on a teal ocean and one woman said: “Look at it this way. Other people lost their jobs too, but they aren’t lucky enough to live around here.”

Bagged manure doesn’t stink but spreading wheel barrows full of it over three gardens does.

When our daughter was young, she used to wonder why we couldn’t take a train to visit family in Heaven. Now that I have seen a preview copy of tomorrow’s Boston Globe Magazine, at the very least I wish FedEx delivered there. Email would work too.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I just dialed a number that I should have called yesterday.

For over eight years, each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. my office phone would ring and I’d grab the receiver to hear a voice serenading me by name to the melody of “Waltzing Matilda.” The caller (who swears by the way, that he doesn’t know that song, but I digress), was a vendor with whom, through the many years in which we did or tried to do business together, I came close to stepping over the line dividing business and friendship.

Over time, our once a week phone call became the instrument by which we defined our association. It originated, first and foremost as a sales call, but I’m sorry to say, there wasn’t much business. A less persistent recruiter would have moved on to clients who offered increased opportunity to perform the service for which he earns his income. I came to know though, that behind an assertive and straightforward business demeanor lives a man who cares beyond the next job order. So since he never gave up, our Thursday phone calls grew to be less about business, and more about our personal lives. In light of that added dimension, he sent me snap shots of anniversary vacations in Bermuda, family Christmas parties and his dog Cowens, for those of you not old enough, named for a famous Boston Celtics player. He apprised me of his daughter-the-writer's publications; the success of his other daughter’s catering business, and emailed pictures of two button-eyed grandchildren.

Through out this “relationship” if that is the right word, our conversations became such a intrinsic part of my week that if I didn’t hear from him first thing on Thursday I worried; and if I neglected his phone call on a busy day, by late afternoon there’d be an email checking in on me. So, when I lost my job on a Wednesday afternoon, it was imperative that I contact him first thing Thursday morning so he didn’t call and get no answer, or worse, hear the news from someone other than me. That first post employment communication was an email though; I wasn’t convinced I could compose myself sufficiently to speak.

Since then though, we’re back on the phone. It hasn’t been every Thursday, but it’s no less than every other week; we seem to take turns calling. It was my turn to call though and yesterday marked two weeks since we last spoke. Unemployment however has blessed me with a touch of early senility. I have lost track of my days so it didn’t occur to me yesterday while out sipping coffee and trading updates with a former colleague that it was Thursday. I did remember with a pang however, as I flipped the covers on and off at 1:15 this morning, that a second week had passed with out our customary conversation.

Now that I am no longer employed, this man has nothing to gain of a business nature from taking my calls. But after driving my daughter to school today, I set a timer as a reminder and sat down to the computer to complete the one employment search task scribbled on my planner. When the alarm beeped, I stood up from my chair, grabbed the phone and punched in a sequence of numbers that I know by heart.

I guess this post defines comfort and trust and camaraderie, because if you ask me now, I’d tell you that long ago he and I stepped over that blurred line between business and friendship; but it took my job loss to make that clear to me. So, when I phoned this morning, he picked up on his end and as I knew that he would, offered me the jovial and welcoming greeting that I’ve heard, no kidding, almost every week since the turn of the century.

It’s true that old habits die hard and I’m glad this one hasn’t expired yet. It may have been twenty-four hours late--but call completed--all is right with the world and I am free move about through the day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Caught in the Folds

In my quest to self educate, Bird by Bird—Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, still sits on my bedside table. It is a library copy, and I admit here in print that I have bent down at least five page corners where I found sentences or whole paragraphs I want to reread and remember. Another casualty of the 8:30-5:00 schedule is the lack of an endless supply of yellow sticky notes with which to mark significant pages; but I get some credit for not using a highlighter on them, right? By the way, the book is stunning; for me because I’m trying to write, but for everyone, because the author is funny, self deprecating, brutally honest, and she spells it all out in language that makes you want to holler, “Exactly!” (Sarah, if you are reading this--buy it.)

So anyway, I’m plowing along and marking these inspirational comments because they are real and they teach and they guide, and then I turn to page 193 and read a quote that stops me dead.

The author didn’t write it. She, like everyone who tries to write, once struggled (although she’ll tell you that it’s always a struggle), and before she was published, Lamott submitted a short story to “an important magazine editor.” Loving and kind soul that he must have been, he sent her back a note that said: “You have made the mistake of thinking that everything that has happened to you is interesting.”

Whoa. Big swallow. Middle Passages--sixty posts between February 5 and April 15, all about me. I am experiencing, I believe, a minor crisis of faith here, so please bear with me.

You know--I had no conscious plan on February 5th to start writing this blog. It came out of me as a result of the trauma from the previous day, and the first essay made me feel whole and slightly accomplished and in a strange way relieved; like discovering the last portion of a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle stuck under the couch with the dust bunnies during a good spring cleaning--and I’ve just kept on. I do look back at some of my posts and think, “Yuck,” or “Does anyone really care?” To my credit, sometimes I even think, “Wow, I wrote that?” In some regard though, it almost doesn’t matter, because I am so completely in love with the effort, the unexpected words that bubble up out of me day after day. There are mornings that I approach the computer with nothing less than trepidation, because I’m not sure there is anything left in me to write. But so far, something always spills out of my fingers and when I’m done, for the moment anyway, I think; “This is me on the page as best as I can get it, as honestly, and clearly as I know how to write.” I’m not writing what I think my three readers want to hear…I’m just writing, reporting if you will, the things that are apparently swirling down there in my Swiss cheese of a soul.

Of course, I hope in some regard that all this practice is helping to make me become better at a craft in which I want to improve but hear this. I’m simply grateful that I am doing it. In Bird by Bird, there is another page turned down that I had to scramble back to after reading that horrific response from the editor, and I’m storing it in my mental back pocket to remember along the way: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. The thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part.”

In commenting about that note from the editor, Ann Lamott writes: “Now needless to say, I was mortified. But the note ended up only helping me because it didn’t stop me.” Her take, I suppose, on “That which doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger.” Therefore, while I hope that this blog is being received positively (and if it is you’ll be my new best friend if you write a brief comment to that affect), even harsh criticism is OK because there would be nothing to critique at all, if I wasn’t doing the writing.

So it does matter what you think about Middle Passages, and if you don't like it, I'm sorry; but taking a bent page out of Anne Lamott’s book, regardless of how you feel, I’m not stopping either.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blurred Vision

Off topic, but it is Tax Day. When the alarm went off this morning and the radio disc jockey announced the date I panicked, even though our taxes are long complete and returns deposited…

Before the alarm, I was in the middle of a jumbled dream that included my second Vice President of Human Resources at the old company (gone since 1989) quizzing me about my thoughts on the current state of the organization.

Then the third Vice President of Human Resources--there were four, though number three had the longest duration--drove a jet ski onto a tropical beach, engraving a channel into powdered white sand until pausing at the feet of one of his former secretaries, who was reclining on a lounge chair in her bathing suit. She, by the way, hasn’t been employed there in something like 15 years. In the next sequence, I walked into a mammoth lobby tiled in gray slate squares where two sets of industrial-carpeted steps climbed up to a mezzanine, and discovered store managers from this same employer (one who contacted me by LinkedIn this week, so apparently has permission to appear in this dream) arranging visual displays with rows of bright colored pumps and folded blouses. I leaned on the balcony above them as they buttoned pink skirts, compared pastel plaid bottoms and laid each ensemble on just the right step. The LinkedIn manager asked me if I wanted to stay for the show, and I responded, it must be noted with a smile, “Nope, I don’t work here anymore.”

I walked out the door, down a lush pathway in the rain (don’t ask me; it was sunny at the beach) on my way to my college roommate’s home in Montana. (She currently resides on the East Coast.) In my dream, she had recently placed her 10-year-old son on a bus to a photography course (he's almost 18 now, and a professional photographer www.curtis-photo.com/index.php), and while slogging through a downpour, I thought to myself, I can’t wait to get back to her house because my glasses are there. I am so blind, why in heavens name did I leave this morning without them?

Beep. The alarm goes off. It’s not a full moon and last night's dinner wasn’t particularly spicy.

Anyone care to interpret?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dollars and (Common) Sense

I’m pretty sure that whenever I’m in good shape pertaining to my job loss, it’s denial—because when things appear especially positive something sneaks up to remind me that nothing is the way it used to be.

I sat at a maple table in the high school library today with parents of other sophomores, listening to the guidance counselors sketch out the next two years so we could plan for college. Before I could begin to focus on the speaker, I had to digest the fact that sitting across from me was the mother of a curly-haired boy who played with our infant daughter in daycare, the mom behind me belongs to my mother’s group that I joined when our daughter was crawling, and off to the side sat two caring women who each transported our elementary aged girl to CCD in the afternoons because I worked full time. I flipped through a mental shoe box filled with snapshots of our daughter interacting with the offspring of these women over the years, pausing at a particularly adorable memory of her wearing black mouse ears on Halloween. Like every other parent in the room I’m sure, I wondered how we could have arrived at this place so quickly.

Seated in ladder-backed chairs surrounded by floor to ceiling bookshelves, we listened to the counselor juggle queries pertaining to SAT’s, strategic course selections and the early admission process, until one mom posed a question I never considered. Given the current economy she asked, would colleges give precedent to full paying students rather than those who may need financial assistance? Digesting her question, let’s just say my stomach flip flopped.

Before February anyway, my husband and I were on track to take care of our daughter’s tuition with no worries. That comfort came as a result of both of us working full time for her entire childhood and forgoing new cars and family vacations. We also forfeited a dream of an expanded family room as well as the plan for a master bedroom suite with walk in closets penciled on a piece of graph paper that sits folded in my husband’s cupboard.

The thing about this though, is that other than missing her like crazy when I worked, the rest doesn’t matter. We have what we need in life, which is to say, the three of us--together and healthy, a modest but quite acceptable roof over our heads, and plenty of food to eat. Pre layoff, we figured when the time came, we’d fill out financial aid requests as required by schools, and as a result of our frugality we’d be denied any assistance and fork over the dough. Her education, after all, is what the hard work was for. So after February, while it occurred to me that my reduced salary state might qualify her for some financial assistance, never once did I think it could impact her acceptance to college. A friend said to me a while ago that if your income is going to be reduced you want it to happen just before your child goes to college so you’ll qualify for aid. So the timing of my unemployment should be pretty good, right?

Before utter panic set in, an experienced mother in the room clarified that for the most part, decisions to accept students to schools are kept separate from family financial factors, but the parents in the room rumbled and muttered about national economics and the consensus of all that noise seemed to be “For now.” The guidance counselor then stated that in the case of a wait-list acceptance in May, it is possible there could be no financial aid left. Woe to those who don’t get in on the first try.

My husband and I are novices as it pertains to the college application process so I don’t know where this is leading except to a generous mouthful of hindsight on my part—one that comes with a dose of hiccups. Percolating inside me is the taste that had we known we were going to be in this circumstance anyway, perhaps we would have taken a few more family trips.

Second guessing is a bore though and knowing my husband and me, the comments in the meeting today are not about to trigger any grand purse opening. We will continue in our parsimonious ways knowing that we’ll cope with my surprise unemployment better then if our family room possessed more square footage, and we’ll get our girl through college by what ever means necessary.

But here’s something I did figure out after that meeting today. To coin a phrase darn it; life is short. So at the very least, by the end of the week I’m taking myself out to lunch.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thank You Robert E. Brown

If the print version of the Boston Globe folds, the loss of habit while spooning into maple syrup sweetened oatmeal at my stool by the breakfast counter will be devastating; but what I’ll miss the most are the joyful surprises I encounter when reading it. Take last Friday when I opened to an Op Ed piece. Before completing the first paragraph, I dropped my eye to the end to identify the author. Who was this writer with words that felt like coming home, whose story flowed as smoothly as a glass of sweet tea? Turns out he teaches writing at Salem State and Harvard Extension School and he authors a blog which I clicked on a few hours ago. Gathering the Light

If you had asked me this morning while I was pulling the wine glasses from yesterday’s Easter dinner out of the dishwasher, I would have told you that accomplishing any writing on my own blog today would be a stretch. Self doubt; self loathing, self what-ever-you-name-it stacked alongside each dish I placed on the cupboard shelf. How could anyone be interested in another essay related to my oh-so-introspective passage of self discovery? Then I Googled Robert E. Brown, the Op Ed columnist, found his blog and read this:
“It may not be truthiness, but when we write about ourselves we’re making it up. Put another way, we’re making more of something and less of something else…when I write about myself, it’s an act of self-creation.”

He goes on to write about how he portrayed himself through out his 14 Op Ed pieces that have appeared in The Boston Globe over the last 23 years—once as a mugging victim after an encounter in the subway, another time as a patient, having damaged tendons prior to a vacation, in one column he was a dad whose son’s coach is called away to the reserves, and once he was a son himself of an Oldsmobile driving father--

Near the end he says:
And after all, how is it I know myself? And what is the nature of the self — myself – if not that chronological collection of selves I have published for 20-plus years?”

My daughter catches me occasionally, scrolling through my blog, reading my own text as I wonder what others think. Is it self indulgent pap or is it truthful prose? Occasionally there’s a surprise. Did I really write that and do I still feel that way—or is it, as Robert Brown wrote: “a bit of self creation?” I admit that there are essays that I’ve re-read (especially the descriptive pieces) that are terrible, and yet, would it be honest to go back and edit or erase in order to recreate myself as a more talented writer? Hmm, I feel pretty sure that would be a lie.

And so, I sit here at the computer today, sighing a little. It appears that there will be no grand unveiling for me, no aha moment. This guy has been writing formally for years, and he’s still posing questions similar to those with which I have concluded so many Middle Passages entries since February. That said it must have been synchronicity or some kind of karma that pulled me to his column, leading me to read his blog today because Robert E. Brown nailed it, and in doing so jump-started me again. Perhaps over the last 68 days this blog has been self indulgent; and if so, please forgive me. But I'm not sure what else to do because the only thing clear at the moment is that it's helping me to know myself more, and that word by word, day by day and blog post by blog post, the exercise is creating a better me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Week in Review (9)

Things I have learned:

The longer you are home, the harder it is to withhold from guilty pleasures. The height of shame is placing the peanut butter M&M’s in plain view on the dining room table, full well knowing that it will take days before anyone else notices them.

You may be out of school for more years than you can count, but self education is only as far away as the on-line reference section of your local library.

If The Boston Globe doesn’t make it, withdrawal symptoms will follow. And no, reading it on the laptop will not be the same.

Old friends are old friends. There is nothing more to say.

When you are blind as a proverbial bat, it takes a lot to imagine watching a crab walk on the bottom of the ocean from your perch on a surfboard, when in real life squinting as hard as you could, you’d view nothing more than a sloppy blur.

For 23 years, it’s possible to feel like a fraud. When you are doing what you are meant to do, it feels right deep down in your soul.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Lull

The other day, I sent this quote about writers, taken from Bird by Bird, by Ann Lamott, to a writer who is struggling:

“They will have days at the desk of frantic boredom, or angry hopelessness, of wanting to quit forever, and there will be days when it feels like they have caught and are riding a wave.”

So picture this. Ankles grip the sides of a slippery board; the sun bakes warm as cupped hands dig though ocean bathwater. Salt crusted bangs lift on a sighing breeze; grey she crabs side-walk across wrinkled ridges fanning out on the cream sand below. The board slaps as I fall off inconsequential swells. Out beyond the sandbar an ocean orchestra tunes up with thunder and foam, but here, the water inhales and spits its measured rhythm like a pan of hot oil lifted and returned to the flame. There will be no surfing today.

I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to paddle in, wrap myself in a towel and drive off to buy an Easter Ham.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Giving Thanks

I wish I could come up with a phrase other than “silver lining,” but it’s all that I’ve got, and it continues to peek out from inside the coat of unemployment that I currently wear. On day two of this blog, I wrote the following:

“First off, there is the kindness of people to consider. Since my news has become public so to speak, I have received several phone calls, one from as far away as Georgia, many encouraging emails, and three separate invitations: to the gym, one for tea, and to lunch.”

So many times in the last two months I’ve had experiences that have reaffirmed my comment above. As this passage into self discovery or what ever this road is that I happen to be on progresses, the repeated kindness of people continues to buoy me up. In support of that theme, those who have responded to my recent networking correspondence either by calling, emailing or meeting with me, have further supplied me with manifest evidence that people care. By the way, you all know who you are and I’d like to state, rather emphatically, that it is no surprise that you are the ones who reached out to me so quickly and I can’t begin to describe my level of gratitude.

Like fundraising where every penny brings you closer to a goal, with networking, every conversation brings you closer to an answer. Thank you all. I am hording every cent of wisdom I receive.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Lies Beneath

Ugh. The “biography” that I sent out combined with my “accomplishment sheet" in a networking blast contained a publishing error—margins that didn’t match up. My fault--should have proofed the final--again. Then I received two differing comments from recipients of the documents, recommended for me in outplacement meetings instead of a traditional resume. One individual thought that with minor adjustments the two pages could become self marketing tools if I want to go into business for myself. Hmmm. The other asked, “Why are you sending these out instead of a resume? You know what I do when I receive these? I throw them in the trash.” To her defense, when I was recruiting; I rolled my eyes at these documents too. I reminded myself that the pieces are not designed for the traditional recruiter with a box to fill, but to highlight a range of experiences--to jog a reader’s brain for ideas for future opportunities, outside of the recruitment arena.

Earlier that morning, for the second time, an informational interviewer did not read the biography or accomplishment documents that I emailed ahead of our scheduled meeting. After ascertaining she did not know my background, I explained my goal of a career change and handed over a resume, stashed in my portfolio as a backup. After a glance at my experience, she asked: “Why do you want to change careers when your entire background is in recruitment?” It was all I could do not to audibly sigh. I will forge forward, once I drive myself through this mini-relapse into the “chicken or the egg” syndrome. How do you interview for a job when you don’t know what you want to do?

I am closer. My self analysis after the last two months is this: Middle Passages follows years of squeezing my desire to learn to write into late nights, Saturday mornings, and fifteen spare minutes when I could find them. The blog, which began unexpectedly as a means to clear my head after that first sleepless unemployed night, has evolved into my delight. I savor the writing process, each lousy first draft, the reading aloud, the editing, the cutting, the unending challenge to paint an ever clearer picture with words, but it’s a love that is unlikely to pay the bills. On the practical end though, these 54 blog pages serve as proof of my ability to document things clearly, cleanly, sometimes with humor, and, to adhere to deadlines (albeit self imposed). Middle Passages is my evidence in spite of the history recorded on the resume, that I can write.

On paper the hat I wear reads “career recruiter” but for the last 8.5 years, I recruited less and supervised more. My staff knocked on my door with questions, issues, concerns, and I offered ideas, recommendations and solutions, while managing a $2M budget and developing process improvements. I am a professional with skills in problem solving, communicating, training, listening, interviewing, and networking. But guess what else folks? I’m digging a toehold into the side of a mountain, my hand is grasping for the crevice above and I’m hollering down a long valley: “Hey out there! Can anyone hear me? I am a writer too.”

In White Oleander, by Janet Fitch, which I read until my eyes bled the last two nights, the main character looks at different homes and says: “In a single block, there could be fifty separate worlds. Nobody ever really knew what was going on next door.” A resume, like the façade of a house, is a snapshot revealing the surface--a roof for the hair, two windows for eyes, an overhang of a nose and a yawning door for the mouth. Enter though, and the first floor may contain one great area with a floor to ceiling river rock fireplace climbing up the wall and airy plate glass windows framing the trees outside, or the home could be walled off into pastel painted rooms surrounding eyelet canopied four posters, with a narrow hallway connecting to each.

As a recruiter, I too was guilty of digesting only the evidence residing on the surface of the printed page. Fingers crossed that through this networking process, I’ll find a person who takes the time to tunnel below, who has faith that something even better exists just below the surface.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Food for Thought

Here is some advice. When you are unemployed, do not pick up the one pound bag of peanut butter M&M’s that jumps out at you when you purchase a new printer cartridge. Even if you park them out of sight in a bowl on the dining room table where their Easter pastels blend with the spring floral runner, you will still rise from the computer, lean over the ladder-back chairs and snag a few every chance you get—in spite of the fact that you just finished a healthy vegetarian sandwich on whole grain lavash bread.

Another tip: If you are bored out of your mind with vegetarian sandwiches, mix a little catsup with some mayo, add a spoonful of sweet pickle relish for a Thousand Island spread that perks the whole thing up.

Pretending there is roast beef on it helps too.

Final hint: When you are networking, hold on to your positive thoughts. A flush of excitement arises when contacts you haven’t spoken to in years reply to your emails and call you on the phone. It’s right to be grateful that they do. However, remember that it is only the beginning. You will need to schedule meetings and converse with people who may grill you on what you want to do next in your life. Get on with it. If someone says they are going to call and they don’t, call them. It won’t all be fun and a lot of it will be challenging but it is necessary. Yesterday, amidst a flurry of phone calls and emails, a friend from my network list sent the following counsel: “Remember, finding a job is a contact sport.” Nike and I are creating an addendum: Put on your shoulder-pads and just do it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The View from Within

Perceptions are curious things. Waiting for my daughter this morning, I leaned against the counter reading Beverly Beckham’s column in yesterday’s Boston Globe, titled “We are Every Age we’ve Ever Been” in which she tries to convince her grandson that she was once a grandchild too. She says:

“What is inconceivable to me is that I am not a child anymore or a teenager, or a young mother, or 20, or 30, or 40, or 50. Not on the outside, anyway. Not where people see. And that all of our lives are circumscribed by this. Because all of our lives we are more than what we are at a single moment. We are every age and every person we have ever been.”

Sometimes, I catch reflections of myself in store windows and for infinitesimal moments there is an unfamiliar person standing there. It’s me, but it’s the image people hold of me, which is unlike how I view myself. It reminds me that while we all have people in our lives that we think we know, no one can ever perceive the totality of anyone else.

Many years ago, I went to a show featuring coworkers displaying their non-work pursuits. The exhibits included one woman’s life sized oil paintings, another’s hand stitched quilts; vibrant woven blankets hanging from wooden racks and colorful fired-clay pots grouped on long folding tables. Each arrangement reflected an unknown side to our coworkers, but one display in particular stayed with me.

The artist wore her hair bleached white-blonde, complete with dark roots, black eyeliner, and blue eye shadow; she often strolled the company halls in black stilted heels. She wore sweaters cut low; leather skirts that rode high; like her clothing style her reputation was hard and unforgiving. Yet, I was captivated by her intricate and detailed shadow boxes filled with tiny people, furniture, and family scenes. Each miniature was a replica of real life; tables set with minuscule forks and knives, floors with brick facsimiles, a minute fireplace. I walked away astounded by the patience required to create these stunning pieces.

The last time I saw this coworker, she wore a cotton jumper, Birkenstock shoes, simple makeup and her hair was fading to grey. But regardless of her current style, she is neither the woman I viewed way back when, nor the woman as she appears now. Like everyone, she is many selves, including the serene creator of those lovely dioramas.

So when I catch a glimpse of me, that stranger in store windows, I recognize that I am numerous things too. To my husband, I am a partner, a friend, and I suppose an aging version of the teasing, curly haired, 100-pound-girl he asked out 28 years ago. My daughter sees someone different--a scattered mom who repeats herself, an occasional nag, a means to transportation who is also an enthusiastic cook, and a co-conspirator who sometimes sneaks off with her for pastries and coffee after school. To others, I am a former business professional, finding her way after a change in circumstance.

But regardless of what others see, it is sinking in that writing this blog over the last two months has been about acknowledging all this, in an effort to determine what more there might be. As Beverly Beckham attests, I am, in fact, every person I have ever been--the shy teenager, the diary writer, the college poet, the door slammer, the recruiter, the mom, the friend, the manager, the sister, the wife, all combined into this blog writer who is my most recent incarnation.

For many years I’ve felt defined by a single image reflected through the lens of my career. This dimension however, is no longer enough. The shutter burst wide open two months ago, and I’m celebrating what appears in the viewfinder; the assortment of elements that total up to the complexity that’s me.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Week in Review (8)

Things I have learned:

Marriage requires sharing, even if you said your vows prior to the advent of the personal computer.

Walking in the cemetery can be an uplifting experience.

An interview suit would eliminate the need for closet-tornado clean up prior to professional meetings.

People want to help. It’s up to you to tell them how.

There are two ways to look at everything: You could say: “Of course now that I have productive job search meetings scheduled, the car would start belching steam.” Or you could say: “At least it is Saturday, the repair shop is open, and it looks like a hose not the radiator.” I’m going with the second scenario.

Friday, April 3, 2009

You Never do Know

As expected, the interview yesterday was informational but highlighted what “networking” is all about. On my last day at the company, having heeded the good advice of someone who lost her job before me, I remembered to print my Outlook Contacts and snagged a 20-year-old Rol-a-dex, hoping at job search time both tools would cover my network. There was, however, at least one name missing from both which floated in my brain one sleepless night several weeks ago, and then drifted into the fog of oblivion the following morning. However, during my conversation yesterday, the man I was meeting with asked me if I knew the person whose contact information I was missing. Ding dong—a big reminder to track her down, which, thank goodness was as easy as searching her on LinkedIn. My network just expanded by one.

In addition to that reconnection, an update if you please. I’ve scheduled coffee with a college roommate and am in the process of arranging another meeting with someone I’ve known longer then her. After a receptive email in response to mine from a former advertising vender from my earliest days as a recruiter; we will be getting together too. This is all under the guise of figuring out my next stage in life, but while everything is a networking opportunity, in an intriguing way, it feels a bit more like a reunion. Of course the goal is to find employment, but what seems more significant at this moment is communicating with all these old friends.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Prep Work

Now that I am moving forward in some regard related to my next career, I’ve arrived at the place I hate. All right—too strong a word--I’ve been delivered to the place in which a bit of angst develops. (Can’t you hear that sentence in a clipped, British accent?) With one appointment scheduled per week for the last two months, the rest of the time I’ve built my own agenda

Today, though, I have a real appointment at 12:30 and it demands preparation. There are no positions open, so it is informational only but requires up-front planning. The mental prep is complete. I’ve looked on the website, explored what an available position would entail and spoken to a former staff member who is currently in the role. I powered up LinkedIn and investigated the man that I’ll be meeting. The leather portfolio is stacked with a new pad of paper and my questions are scripted on the top sheet. The next step requires a trip to the closet. Ugh.

Here we go. How to outfit the outside so it matches the stellar attributes residing on the inside? That’s never been a talent of mine. To make it worse, it’s April. I have professed here in Middle Passages that I know nothing about fashion but I lied. After 23 years working for an apparel retailer, I know that April is transition month—the time when we slough off the itchy wools of winter and evolve the wardrobe into lighter, more breathable clothing. That’s as much as I can write because it is a progression I never managed to embrace. As I look out my window right now, the thermometer reads ugly, wet and 40. With my cold blooded propensities; anything less than wool, and I’ll be shivering through the interview and I promise you the shaking won’t be from nerves.

So after dropping my daughter at school today, I dragged my feet to the closet and peered in. Boiled wool jacket? Looks too wintry and not structured enough. Black flannel blazer? Nice on the hanger, but out of fashion on me. Pink no-iron blouse underneath a navy suit coat? I can’t move my arms. Long grey sweater over a white cotton top? It’s an interview—tradition dictates a blazer. I don’t profess to know fashion, but the former 40% discount spawned a certain, um, obligatation to keep trying, so it wasn't long before a tsunami of discards littered our bed. Just before a truckload of panic joined the clothes in the pile, I discovered a beige wool-blend blazer shoved in the back of the closet that will marry well with grey flannel pants. Done and done.

I’m ending here though. There is still an iron to heat up and about 20 pairs of shoes to try on.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Talk about head in the sand. An unexpected visitor today, from out of town no less, informed me that my little dream coffee shop/restaurant/bakery or what ever it was going to be is under new management. After my aborted networking attempt there last month, I didn’t step back in, primarily because of the cost anticipated in both calories and dollars. I did look at it out of the corner of my eye yesterday, and from a distance it appeared full and busy. Today up close, it looks newly painted with a big sign on the door that says “Closed for Renovations.” Despite my apparent need to see an eye doctor, this holds minimal trauma. I wasn’t really considering the restaurant business, but it’s been a cheerful little dream for a long time, and now that vision belongs to someone else. On the positive side, it's a lot harder to work in a real restaurant than an imaginary one.

The topic did get me thinking along the lines of pulling a proverbial ”trigger” which I have been reluctant to do as it relates to a career search. The tools are finally there and all I need to do to begin networking is to—well begin. Dreaming about restaurants and looking at schools on line, attending writing workshops, writing blog entries and crafting essays to be published all delay the inevitable. That hit loud and clear yesterday as I left the outplacement office, even before I found out about the restaurant. Eventually, no matter how many things are spinning around in your brain, if you are going to get anywhere, you need to wiggle that little finger and press send.

So, when my out of town restaurant informant departed, I got to work. I now have two informational interviews scheduled and am going back and forth with a dear teacher friend to schedule a time to explore education as a career option. I also have a call out to a woman who used to be on my staff who is researching for an outplacement firm and I sent an email to my sister-in-law, who in my mind is brilliant and well connected. Next on the old agenda, I’ll release a few direct emails to additional folks I’d like to meet with, and a bulk memo to the rest of my network; educating them about my interests and asking them to keep me in mind. Off to the races, I guess.

Last month, I wrote about being brave. Words to live by. Let’s see if I can.