Monday, September 15, 2008

Shock, Comfort and Sarah Palin

For the last two weeks, I've been scratching my head trying to figure out how a country could be seduced into the circus surrounding Sarah Palin. And I think I've got an answer. Shock and comfort. This is just my gut talking and I'll do the research later, but, my personal experience with trauma and shock is that when I'm feeling that way, I usually reach for something that represents comfort - a warm blanket, a baseball game, old episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, red wine and dark chocolate. So what does a country do when it is suffering from prolonged trauma and shock? Return to what we know, or what we think we should know. Return to rhetoric, to the ideas that make us believe we are all going to be all right in this post-Bush/Cheney syndrome we are coming to the end of. To hell with policy, with truths, with what makes sense and is staring us in the face, that a hanging chad at the end of McCain/Palin will take us past reason, past caring, past any semblance of truth.

When we are made to be afraid of everything, then we cling to the things that will make us feel safe. Home, country, the Almighty. Rarely, when most of us are scared out of our bootstraps, do we ever reach for reason.

The real legacy of the Bush/Cheney octet is this - they have successfully created a country where a significant group of citizens are scared. On a daily basis. And not scared of monsters under the bed scared. Scared of basic things such as jobs, bills, health care, education, our planet's well being, security. I know because I'm one of them.

I recently had a heated conversation with a school mom about McCain/Palin and she launched into a talk about self-sufficiency, not expecting others to take care of you and I asked her a simple question - what is so bad about being a nation of people which cares about one another, which translates that care into conscious action that helps to better all of our lives? When did we become a country who cannot display care?

I look at Sarah Palin and I shake my head. I've waited my whole life to vote for a woman for executive office and this is the best we could do? I listen to her scorn and evasion and call herself a reformer and wonder, is this the best we can do? I watch John McCain fumble over words like 'fundamental,' strong' to describe the debacle our economy has become and I wonder, what happened to that war hero?

Is this John McCain the best John McCain can do?

Is this the best we can do?

Please pass me the chocolate.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lessons Learned and More Balancing Acts

It's all about balance - which I'm desperately seeking at this point in my life. Family, work, life, me - how do we fit it all together into the same puzzle? The pendulum swings and boom, the tentative balance is disrupted. But maybe that's the point, that the balance has to always be upset in order for it to be re-calibrated, re-imagined. Balance seems at its center to be about flexibility and my life seems to require a great deal of it.

How about you? What does balance mean to you?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Boulder County Fair

It has been about four months since I wrote on this blog - my ambivalence about working turned into putting in my best effort and spending my down time catching up with my crew.

But as I drove past the Boulder County Fair yesterday, already three quarters of the way taken down, I was drawn to putting down a few thoughts.

The county fair is a timekeeper, especially for our family. This is our 5th or 6th time, but it has been at least a year since we've gone. The folks at the fair got smart and decided to return the fair to its roots, cut out the parking and admission fees, so we could go every day without having to take out a loan. I remember sipping lattes at Caffe Luna and holding her tight as the huge longhorn bull came down the street. Or of the two years we went when she was toddler and her fear of the ponies. Now she is almost too big to ride them. I looked at the families with babies and laughed in remembering bringing our own when they were in strollers - what were we thinking?

The fair was not about reaching back to some relic of a time, but of the vibrant now that is our town. Of the stunning hispanic dancers, old and young, in their blinding colors and precise footwork, even managing to tie the red bow despite the concrete ground.

This year, it was about the kind of life the fair represents - a life deeply rooted in the earth, raising animals and crops, kids beaming with pride when I asked them about their animal they'd entered into the 4-H contests. My own kids overflowing with excitement, not about rides or toys, but about the goats, sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, geese, turkeys, rabbits and the horses! They shyly entered the corral area after the barrel racing and stroked the horses, they patiently waited after the ballet on horseback to meet the riders.

Kudos to the Boulder County Fair - not only did you bring the fair back to its roots, but you brought the town of Longmont back to our roots as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Six Degrees of Ambivalence? The Mommy Track and the Return to Work

The countdown has begun. Not to the end of the current administration, although personally my own happiness meter will be off the chart when that day arrives. The countdown I'm referring to is my own personal one - in less than 72 hours, give or take a few, I will be a gainfully employed contract employee. The wait is over, the looking is done (for now, or until August, whichever comes first) and now it is time to answer the most important question to ask before starting a new job. What am I going to wear?

Seriously, the countdown is one that takes me toward my career and away from my family. It is so strange, being a child of the 70's and growing up to believe that women could and should do anything, be President of the United States, for example. And here we are in 2008 and for goodness sake, a woman is one of two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. But, and I do mean, but, I feel like I am living in a pre-1970's world where most of the women I know are SAHMs, running along the "mommy track." Most of them have advanced degrees and years in the employment arena, but have made the choice to stay at home and spend these years being a mother. I've been home most of my kids' lives, but always working from home. Working relentlessly from home. In fact, the times I have been fully employed elsewhere have almost qualified as a vacation because when I come home I get to be a mom and attend to the household, instead of trying to fit in work, homelife and mothering in that way too short a time zone known as a day.

Yesterday I caught some of Teri Gross' interview with Meg Wolitzer about her new novel, "The Ten Year Nap," that presents a fictional depiction of women with advanced degrees who choose to stay home with their kids, only to question the decision 10 years later.

As someone who waited to have kids until my 40s, if I waited 10 years to get back on track, I don't want to even think about just how far out of the job market I would be. I already find myself waking up in the middle of the night with too much anxiety about how young my kids are, how old I am, how many productive working years I have left, retirement funds, college funds -

Before I spin off into another anxiety attack, I'd love to hear from those either following or leaving the 'mommy track' - do you experience regret, relief, remorse, redemption? All of the above?

And what did you wear on your first day back to work???

Friday, March 14, 2008

At The Center of My Own Equation

I had a third interview with a company this week. I met the owner of the company at a coffee shop for a more informal one-on-one conversation. He informed me that it was down to myself and another really talented candidate. When I got to the coffee shop I found out that we would be joined by a third person, a colleague who is in HR and also a writer. I was a little taken aback by the surprise guest, but was willing to go with the flow and the challenge. After a great deal of back and forth and pertinent questions from the third person, the owner leaned in and asked what turned out to be a seminal question, one that will forever change the way I approach job interviews, and quite frankly, my life. This is the best recollection I can create of his question:

"What you've done is very successfully establish why you are the best fit for the position. Obviously, we wouldn't be at this point if you hadn't done that. But what remains unclear is, why are we, why is this company, the best fit for you?"

20 years of therapy resolved in one question. As women, as mothers, as working mothers, we are so used to accomodating workplaces, families, children, spouses, that we forget that we are at the center of our own equation, our own career and life epicenter. I realized in that moment that I had given absolutely no real thought to that question. I have become so engrained in making myself fit whatever situation comes along, that I had left the most important part out of the equation. Me. Going through this job search has made me realize that I am a little like all those women in the kingdom trying to fit their too wide, too small or too big feet into shoes that just don't fit, grimacing and pretending that grimace is a smile.

I took a deep breath and answered the question. Quite honestly, I don't remember what I said. But I was really glad to be asked to answer that question.

Whether or not I end up with the job, I will be forever grateful to the owner of that company who asked this question. And I will never need to be asked that question again.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Flipper and Shamu as Parenting Models

I'm a bit lost in the midst of some new parenting and relationship philosophies I keep reading and hearing about. Last week, while waiting in the car before another job interview which I was again too early for, I listened to Amy Sutherland, author of 'What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage,' talk about how exotic animal trainers had taught her how to have a more peaceful and cooperative-based marriage. How she no longer became embroiled in her husband's fits over lost keys by either escalating the situation with heroic attempts at find the forever lost keys, or getting annoyed at his constantly losing his keys and getting angry about it. I found it interesting that she was able to apply the same method of tossing a mackerel to a dolphin to her husband and that it worked. But when I went back to the transcripts of the interview, the following tripped me up:

"In the end, it was I, "the trainer", who did all the changing, and, as it turned out, for the better."

Yesterday, I opened the business section of the Boulder Daily Camera and read Liz Ryan's column, something I usually do on a Monday morning over my second cup of coffee. I expected to get her usual pithy career advice, which these days I cannot seem to get enough of. Instead, she wrote about how to treat your employees (and children) as if they are dogs, using similar methods of immediate positive responses and a series of rewards, aka treats.

Quite frankly, I am baffled.

While I don't pretend that my parenting method of steam pouring out of my ears and my face turning red when my kids ignore me, or even better, have a full blown conversation while I am trying to talk to them, is the right answer, what I want to know is this? What is our relational responsibility? Are we just turning our children, employees and spouses into well -behaved retrievers (which in the case of spousal units may not be all that bad an idea), or are we encouraging the art of self-regulation which sometimes comes from pointing out behavior, actions and choices that could have been different?

I grew up with very clear consequences. If I, or my brothers, behaved in a way that was out of line, the consequence was my mother's temper. And you know what? It worked. I didn't enjoy her anger, I was afraid of her anger. I wanted to be with the other mother who was fun and loving. So I changed my behavior accordingly. Good behavior, nice mother. Bad behavior, angry mother. Seems pretty simple. My parents didn't have to roll out responsibility charts, good behavior coupons or any of the other magic bullets our generation seems to over-rely on. It was very clear in my childhood house what our responsibilities were, they were appropriate for our age and intelligence and we understood that it was our role as a member of the family to abide by them. Sure we rebelled, sure we talked back, but in the end, my parents ended up raising three really responsible children who have grown up to be responsible adults and parents of our own children.

Maybe I am missing something, and if I am, I'd love someone to fill me in on how I can bring more peace to my family, more respect and responsibility. Just don't tell me to treat my kids like my dog and my dog like my kids. I'm a human mother with human children - and a firm believer in evolution, which most often happens due to negative situations that need to be adapted to. Being cold is a negative thing, at least it is for me. Adapting to being cold by learning to make fire is a positive that results out of a negative. Same thing for raising children. Living in a messy house is a bad thing. Adapting to the mess is to learn to clean up after oneself, a hugely valuable tool to have as one moves through life. According to the current model of thought, I can do any one, or all, of three things when confronted with endless amounts of toys, games and art projects in every corner of my too-small home.
1. Ignore the mess - Wrong answer. As I grow older and closer to my menopausal self, disorder has a detrimental impact on my nervous system. It makes me physically ill. And remarkably pissy because I don't believe I should have to live in other people's mess. I left NYC for that reason.

2. Encourage with rewards. I hate this method because it does nothing to encourage doing something because it is the right thing to do and assumes my children, spouse and employees are not intelligent or conscious enough to do something just for the sake of doing it. I want to teach my kids to be self-responsible people, not just doing things because there is a lollipop dangling in front of their noses.

3. Praise the effort. I have the least amount of difficulty with this one because it is free and feels good. But if the effort of getting them to act in a responsible manner makes me insane, then the praise defeats the purpose.
In the course of the interview I listened to in the car before my job intervew (I told you I got there early!), the only person who made any sense was a caller from Colorado who is a horse trainer. She spoke of how she has worked gently with horses and with at risk teens for 25 years and how her approach of a gentle, but firm rein on the horse seems to work well with kids. I kind of liked that. Not too tight, not too loose. And the high sensitivity of horses seems to go along with that same level of sensitivity that runs rampant in our house. And besides, the girls are really into horses these days...
If any parents are out there, and you need to be a parent to respond - no sidelining aunts, uncles, or otherwise well-intentioned by essentially unqualified folks - please let me know if raising your children as if they are a pack of dogs or a school of dolphins works for your household, I'd love to know more.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Brewing up Good Feelings in Fort Collins!

A big THANK you to the ladies who serve up the fabulous Soy Lattes at the Fort Collins Starbucks on the corner of College and E. Horsetooth Road. I went there two days in a row for a job interview and both times, treated myself to a pre-interview jolt. And both times, I was greeted with such warmth and effervescence that I almost put an offer on a house in Fort Collins right then and there!

I especially extend a big virtual hug to the young woman who took my coffee order who told me "You look like you just stepped out of a catalog" and "They'd have to be out of their minds not to hire you!" - and to the young woman who made my latte who proclaimed me gorgeous in my forest green Dr. Zhivago coat. You gave me not only a caffeine lift, but a much needed lift of my spirits that sent this weary job seeker into a second interview feeling like I would break out in "I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty" as an opening to the interview. Seriously, you made me feel great and everyone needs that.

So thanks for the random act of kindness - it made my day that much better.

And the lattes rocked!
If you've ever had someone do something unexpected that just made your day, share your experiences and let's spread a little kindness around!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Will Give the Job, Afterall?

I've decided that job searching is the perfect professional endeavor for a narcissist, of which I am not. In the two months since being laid off my formerly really cool, but non-existent job, I have never talked so much about myself to so many people who seem really interested in my entire life, except in a therapist's office. And in this eye-opening process, I've learned the following things about myself:

- My skills are an evolutionary phenomenom -they've been shaped to fit almost every industry on the planet. My skills feel like a gumby doll, or like Mrs. Incredible with those fantastic arms that stretch to the back floor of any minivan. And you know, I believe this is a truth because if my skills are solid, which they are, then they will translate, adapt, rise up and meet the challenge. How can they not? They've been being honed for 12 years and every project or job takes those skills and makes them grow.
- Being versatile is not an asset. People want specialists, of which I am in the uber-sense of marketing and PR, but I've had the privilege of working with lots of different people from different backgrounds. When I was an actress, an experience not unlike this job interview process, being what was known as a triple threat was the ultimate advantage. Before hybrids became known as funny little cars that don't leave a large carbon footprint, all performers aspired to be hybrids - actress/dancer/singer, singer/dancer/actress, dancer/singer/actress or any combination of those. Today, employers want a single focused employee, despite the fact that the average employee these days switches jobs every six months.

- High energy scares people. I've had to turn down my energetic volume, have chamomile tea instead of that third cup of coffee before the interview, lean back in the chair and talk quietly, thoughtfully.

- Ask a lot of questions. This might seem funny for someone being interviewed, to ask questions of the interviewee. But a list of well-thought out questions scribbled in the car because I am always way too early, has helped to show my intention and intelligence. And it actually helps me to calm that normally turned up volume.

- An interview is not a chance to try out your untested stand-up comedy routine, unless you are actually auditioning for a comedy club. I made the mistake in an interview of making the interviewing group laugh a little bit too much, but I just couldn't help myself. It had been a ridiculously high energy morning, culminating with at least two cups of coffee. When someone asked me, "What is your weakness?", the inevitable follow up to "What is your strength?", I answered, "Having to come up with an answer to that question." Got a great laugh. As did my other great line that didn't get me the job, when asked how I do with interruptions -I responded with a very close Rodney Dangerfield imitation, "My life is all about interruptions. I only come to interviews so I can complete a sentence." In hindsight, I should have saved the comedy for after I got the job.

- Stay positive. Today's job market is tough and the job search seems relentless and endless, despite a fantastic resume and great people skills. Do something nice for myself - I'm doing a trade with a esthetician in exchange for some PR work. I'm having lunch with a friend. I volunteered to help my oldest DD's Brownie troop and basked in their giggles and hilarious silliness. I stopped trolling the job boards and created this post.

I will say that I am actually learning a great deal about myself through this process, as stressful as it is. I'm meeting people who are passionate about their work, good at what they do and want to surround themselves with excellent people. I'm learning to become really comfortable and adept at the interview process, when to talk and when to listen, when to ask questions and when to respond. And most importantly, I've learned to trust that there is a job out there for me - one that is filled with challenge, balance, great people and one that hopefully helps the planet and us squirrely inhabitants.

But enough about me - I'd love to hear how folks cope and get through the job search process, so chime in and share!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Attack of the Sock Police!

I came in contact with the sock police today. Yes, there is an organized group of well-intentioned busy-bodies who take it upon themselves to make you feel like a child abuser if your child or in my case, children don’t have socks and shoes on. Who are these people? Well, the lady I met today must have been the regional director of the Longmont, Colorado Chapter of Sock and Shoe Police, a large group from what I have been told.

One of the great things about living in Colorado is that even though it is still winter, we still get plenty of days filled with sunshine and 40+ degree weather.
I had just emerged from King Soopers with my three girls in tow. Oldest DD was dressed sensibly in a sweater, vest, leggings and her slippers. One of the younger DD were clad in oldest DD's Cinderella dress, an act by oldest DD of ultimate generosity, and too big ballerina slippers. The other younger DD, who had woken up from her nap flushed and warm, was wearing cotton pajamas and no socks.

Taking the three of them to the market is no big deal anymore. Just usually involves knocking down a few other parents to get to the much coveted ‘car cart,’ a germ-laden shopping cart that weighs twice the normal cart weight (without children and groceries). Then we have a screaming match over who gets to drive the cart, and I usually draw the short straw because I have to hold the child who didn’t get her turn while the other two squeal with glee at their victory. That means I am now shopping with one hand and holding a child and pushing a cart that by itself weighs forty pounds, but now plus two children, is closer to 100 pounds, but miraculously, it all gets done. No ‘items in aisle three’ to be cleaned up, no more tussles between the children. I usually can coax the one I am holding to sit in the cart by offering some of the free samples of food. We pay for our food, the girls get their penny horsie rides and we head off after another successful and injury-free trip to the market.

As we were about to pull out of our parking spot, a pleasant enough looking blonde woman came to our window, which was open because it was an unusually warm day for this time of year. She smiled and proceeded to tell me she was the mother of two small children, at which point I thought she was going to commend me for being such a together mom. She smiled an even bigger smile and then said, “I really wish you would put socks and shoes on those children.” You know when someone says something so bizarre to you that you have to take a moment to replay it in your mind before you answer? I got lost in her large white teeth.

“I have at least two pair of socks per child,” I started to say, pointing to the three layers of socks, shoes, and toys on the car floor. But then I caught my oldest daughter’s deep blue eyes.

I looked around for Allen Funt and the "Candid Camera" crew. I listened for the "Your On Candid Camera" theme song, but all I did was get lost in this woman's enormous white and very large teeth.

I looked back at the smiling blonde woman and smiled my brightest smile I could must.

“Thank you for your input.”

And I rolled up the window. The great thing about being a parent is that hopefully golden moments occur when you actually model the behavior you want your kids to aspire to. When my oldest asked me what the lady was saying, I continued to smile and tell her she meant well, but that her sisters' lack of socks were really none of her concern, although it was nice of her to be concerned.

What I didn't say to my oldest was that this well intentioned idiot doesn’t understand that I have spent the larger part of being a mother searching for all the missing socks. It is a personal quest, removing socks from the endangered socks list. I have a plastic container that holds all the single socks I’ve collected, because I believe, with everything that I hold dear, that those missing socks are alive. I’ve even thought about starting a Missing Sock club, perhaps as an offshoot to the Sock and Shoe Police. I actually get what could be mistaken as a rush of ecstasy, or jouissance, when I match socks that had long been going solo. Despite the fact that most of the missing socks are forever merged with the dried raisins and fruit juice that I mistake for floor mats in the van, I continue on my Dona Quixota quest and will continue to do so until I am an old, old lady. Long after I have stopped looking for Polly Pocket shoes in the shag rug and retrieving chewed up toys from the dog's domain, I will still, with arthritic fingers and failing socks, be fulfilling my dream of no sock unmatched.

You see, I don't need any outside sock policing because I am an unofficial member of the sock police, but I keep my sock vigilante-ism to the privacy of my home. Late at night, when the kids are asleep, I sit in front of the blue of the TV and know that I will find just one more sock that matches another. And then I can rest. And then I can rest.

We all have our dreams.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Turning six and kissing frogs

Amazing the difference a year makes. One year ago we were recovering from what I didn't know was to be the last of the Boobies Princess Parties (sound the thundering APPLAUSE).

For the act of turning six, we purchased two tiny tree frogs from one of our two our local big box pet stores. Lots of discussions preceded the purchase, as we have all fallen madly in love with Dandelion, our 9 month old Russian tortoise who thinks he's actually from the Galapagos Islands. At least the volume of romaine lettuce and cauliflower he consumes daily would make us think so.

We went as a family over the weekend and the twins pulled themselves up onto a rolling ladder to peer into the terrarium to choose the frog of their choice. Since there were only two frogs and one anatole lizard, the process went pretty quickly. One frog was long, the other stubby. In they went inside what could have been used as a to-go container for soup, but had little holes poked in the top plastic lid. They held their containers gently with sweet smiles on their faces. The stubby one was to be called 'Yahtzee,' probably more for the tone of it than the idea of our family sitting around on family game night playing the game. I did buy Yahtzee a couple of months ago, thinking we would lapse into my childhood, but the first attempt at playing it ended with lots of screaming about the twins being too young to understand the 'rules' and subsequent door-slamming. But the name of the game stuck in one of the twins heads as the perfect name for a frog and so it was - Yahtzee it was too be. The other twin had a more difficult time deciding on the perfect name for her frog. Froggy, Freddy, Cutie Pie, Leapy, Hoppy - all of them were bandied about, but after 30 seconds, the answer was, "I'm still deciding." So be it.

We also purchased some moss, a fake plastic leavy thing and $2 worth of small live crickets, much to the disgust and dismay of our oldest DD, who sighed with relief that Dandelion is an herbivore. FYI - $2 worth of small live crickets roughly comes out to about 20 of the little chirpers, a bargain by any means.

Once home, we set up the all-in-one terrarium they would share and in they went. And up they went right up to their prospective corners, where they proceeded to stay until they both went underground, burying themselves under two inches of substrate material. At least the crickets were active. And at least the terrarium is sound-proof.

Yesterday I panicked and made DH, a bonafide frog expert from his childhood days spent playing on a golf course as his backyard in Miami Beach, to find out if the frogs were still alive. I had spotted the one to be named, but Yahtzee was no where to be seen. This also coincided with it being the twins' actual birthday and I was beside myself at the thought her newly named frog would no longer be alive. I tenderly dug through the substrate, hoping to prod it out of its hiding, remembering that Dandelion buried himself for about a week before he settled into our family.

So DH did his fatherly duty and dug around and YAHTZEE is alive! I have never been so happy to see a small green being in my entire life. I about burst into tears! We all ran into the room and rejoiced, doing a little Yahtzee dance.

For those of you who are wondering what I mean by fatherly duty - in our house that includes cleaning up the cat litter, which was started for obvious health reasons while I was pregnant and which thankfully continues to date. It also includes taking the dog for a walk at night, going into the crawl space and digging up potentially dead frogs just purchased for DD's birthdays.

When I told my normally open-minded mother about the frogs, she reacted so violently that it almost shook the very nature of my being. "Frogs? Disgusting!" I then remembered her growing up in South Africa and frightening tales of locust storms, and that maybe droves of frogs dropped out of the sky as well, like in the film "Magnolia," but it was early for Passover, so I took a deep breath and said, "Disgusting? They're only little tree frogs. What's so bad about that?"

"Where will they live?" she quipped.
"In a terrarium."
"But won't they get out?"
"We'll have a top on it, like we do with Dandelion."
"But that's inhumane!" She shrieked. "Frogs are born to leap."
I waited a long time to answer her. Was my mother some secret agent for PETA? When did she care so much about frogs?

"They're tree frogs, mom. They live in trees. I don't think we will be harming them by keeping a top on the container."
"Oh, well," she sniffed back at me. "I'm sure you know best."

I couldn't believe it. My mother was advocating for free leaping and I had suddenly turned into some heartless frog colonizer. What was happening here - it was like some 1960s hallucination gone bad.
"They were only $10 a piece. The tortoises would set us back $170 if we got them both their own."

Ah, the wonderful voice of reason. That bit of financial news calmed her down and she congratulated me on making a very sound financial choice and then proceeded to lecture me about spending so much on Dandelion. No winning with this long distance call. She then continued to tell me that when she was in high school that a boyfriend used to call her "froggy." I didn't have the nerve to ask her why.
To end on an upbeat note, I am happy to report that the frog formerly known as question mark is now been given the fine name of "Max," or "Maxi." Yes, it is quite possible that the longer, leaner, larger frog of the two is in fact a female. DH has assured me no little Maxis and Yahtzees will come out of this union because frog eggs need water in which to thrive and the teeny water dish that came with the container will not suffice. Time will tell. In the meantime, I just hope that Max/Maxi finds Yahtzee to be the prince of her dreams.

Looking for work and other energy drains

Wow. It has been more than a month since I last wrote. WOW. That is all I can say. This job and career hunt is one exhausting and outrageously time-consuming venture. Pretty much eating up all my creative energy, all my writing energy for anything other than cover letters.

I feel like Charlton Heston, another Northwestern alum, in Ben Hur. Driving a wild chariot with too many horses.

Horse #1 is the horse of a full-time job, one with an above average salary and benefits for my whole family.

Horse #2 is the horse of One Purpose PR, my message and media relations consulting biz that is just taking off the ground and which is what I REALLY want to put all my energy into. But times being what they are, folks are understandably squeamish about plunking down dough for anything, and since my layoff was so unexpected, we don't have a cushion to sit on for too long with this horse.

Horse #3 is the horse of not wanting to do anything except eat buttered popcorn, bon-bons and fill up my Netflix queue or head to the Rockies Spring training camp. Seriously. I could use a long rest and nothing does it like either baseball, chocolate and salt.

Horse #4 is the horse of living the life of a writer. Getting paid great amounts of money to sit and write whatever comes to my mind.

Back to reality.

The thing about looking for a job is that it is until you get one, it is all you do and it is amazing how long it takes for decisions to be made. Mostly this is because the people hiring already have full-time or more jobs and the process of interiewing once, two or three times, plus checking references, takes up most of their working hours.
I recently signed up with a temp agency and had to fill out a skills form, which included math. I'm a writer, mostly because words make the world make sense, while numbers just confuse me. When I was struggling over averages and square roots, I wished my oldest had a cell phone so I could have texted her for the answers. Not a great moment. I did at least ask for a calculator and the receptionist didn't guffaw at my answers, so I suppose I was able to do pretty well, after all.

My parents may scratch their heads, and I know they have to the point of self-injury, as to why I spent so much time chasing after the dream of being on stage. I can safely tell them that all those years of auditions and rejection are finally paying off. I know that if I don't get a job it is not because I am not good enough, smart enough or talented enough. My resume says otherwise. It is because there are so many of us overqualified folks out there that it is a real buyers market and the employers are the buyers. I feel like the house I live in, a sweet 1950's brick ranch house which could use some work, but which has really great bones. And going on job interviews is like being in an endless open house and you know what that means in this market - the house has to be perfect, clean and look brand-spanking new.

Case in point. When I first moved to in the winter of NYC, circa 1988, I would go on auditions for hours. Get up at 6am and come back, exhausted and dejected, at about 5pm. When spring began to emerge, I found a stunning yellow dress that I felt great in. Light, effervescent, like a tulip who could sing. I went to an open call for some show I was not right for and proceeded to sing my little heart out for the casting director, a woman who must have been the inspiration for the grunge movement. I have never seen so many variations of faded plaid on one person in my entire life. At the end of my 32 measures, she looked up from her NYTimes crossword puzzle and said, "That was very nice, Lisa, but DON'T EVER WEAR THAT COLOR DRESS AGAIN." You see, sometimes, you just can never tell what will set a person off either in your favor or against you. I guess this person either had some deep psychological response to the color yellow, or who knows? But what I did know was that it had nothing to do with me.

In the past six weeks since I was laid off, I have probably sent out 200 resumes and cover letters. It's pretty much all I do. I use Monster, PRJobslist, CareerBuilder, YahooJobs, Craigslist, CANPO, LinkedIn and more. I've become a networking maniac, turning every encounter into a possible connection for work or consulting. I'm relentless. In six weeks, I've had three job interviews. This is with more than 12 years of experience as a marketing and public relations specialist with a damn good track record. Is it my hair, my wardrobe? My age? The ever-deepening worry lines forming between my eyebrows? Got me.

Today I went to an interview and pulled out my portfolio, to proudly show off my collection of brochures, newsletters, ads and so on that I have designed, overseen and conceived. When I began to open the flap of my chic-ly black portfolio, I spied a small pink sock stuck in one of the plastic sleeves. I clenched my teeth, balled up the sock and shoved it into my satchel. I don't think the interviewers saw the sock, but it's presence gave me a great laugh on the way home. A little humor to keep it all in perspective. I have my health, my family, our house, a car that hopefully won't die anytime soon, pets and children who adore me.

Because in the end, as the wise ones always tell us, that is what all this is about. This endless job search. Being able to provide for my kids, do work that I love, make a positive difference.

And because I don't know any better, I am foolish enough to believe that something is coming. Something big and real and just right for me.

I'll let you know when that happens.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sir, They Call Her Senator Clinton

I don't know about the rest of you HONEYS, MISSIES, DEARS, DARLINGS, SWEETHEARTS, but I was PISSED off that Senator Obama refused to address HC by her title - SENATOR CLINTON. He is 14 years her junior, not to mention 33 years less experience in the US Senate. A bad move on his part, IMHO. Bad form as they say in the Ivies - Bad form. In that moment of unasked for familiarity, after the moderators had already referred to all three candidates (and shame on NBC for blocking Kucinich's presence on the debate) by their rightful titles, and after Senator Clinton used the appropriate form of address for him, he responded with calling her Hillary. I loved that she came back and proceded to take charge and call both of them by their first names, but shame on Senator Obama for not showing the proper respect for her very publicity elected and well-earned title.

There was another moment that baffled me. It was when the candidates were asked to talk about their strengths and weaknesses. The old SWOT test, a basic of performance reviews and job interviews of the last decade. Senator Obama responded that his weakness is that he cannot be given any piece of paper at the last minute because he will lose it. He just can't hang on that kind of thing and has to have someone who can manage those piddly details for him.

WAIT A SECOND. Beyond the obvious, like what if you were the president and given a piece of paper that had an important message on it...would you lose that piece of paper? It's not like he's going to be given a piece of paper from his wife telling him to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home from ending the war in Iraq. Any piece of paper that a president of the United States is going to be given is going to matter and probably end up in some presidential archive or library.
This apparent weakness reeks of believing that someone else has to be there to do the small things, the unimportant tasks like keep track of paper trails, etc. Bad form.

For my money, which since my layoff is not coming in like it once did, Senator Clinton hands down took control of the debate in tone, substance, passion, humanity and Barak and John looked like two really good VP candidates.

Go Hillary Go!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day 3: Falling in love again

Today was a terrific day, so I must be getting my period. Just kidding. This getting laid off is one of the most productive things that has ever happened to me.

The day started off brilliantly, a bright orange sunrise hitting the eastern sky just as we turned onto the music teacher's street. Teacher was fresh, oldest DD were fresh, twins were occupied in a new stage of drawing objects - even I was awake. I love the musical banter between she and the teacher, who is tough and loving and expects excellence and cooperation. All great life skills learned along side music.

We skipped out the door and off to school, amidst frost that was still clinging to grass and pine trees, some fog and steam rising in between the blades. No cross town traffic, so all three were in line and ready to seize the day with five minutes to spare.

For the first time since the layoff, I had the house to myself. I made myself breakfast and did the email. Took out my pad and wrote my three goals for the day:

1. Creativity - write this blog

2. Well being - go for a runwalk.

3. Career - find the domain name I'd lost that I had registered for my consulting business. A true awakening to my self-sabotage. Not only had I not recorded the necessary information to set up the domain, but I recycled the yellow pad with all my brainstorming. A hard truth to look at today, but a necessary one.

I got dressed for my runwalk and took one look at the dog.
"Milo, wanna go for a w---"
What is it about dogs and the word 'walk'? I get no further than the letter 'w' and they are jumping and leaping with joy. I grabbed the leash and we headed off in the van. DH called and we decided to meet at the lake and go for a walk together.
For the first time in probably 12 years, we walked and talked and talked and walked without interruption. Talked about each other, ourselves, our goals and dreams. It was better than any date in any restaurant and we have made a promise to do this at three days a week. Drop the kids off at school, get the dog and head outside. Cheaper than marriage counseling and we'll both lose weight.
The twins were beyond ecstatic to see the dog at school, a real status symbol - as you can see by the photo above.
The rest of the day was spent being a mom and catching up with my kids. Falling in love all over again with my husband and my children. Glad to be out of the drab gray world I was stuck in for two months and into the fresh air.
Two consulting leads look promising, but in the meantime, I'm getting on an airplane at a way too early time in the morning and heading to LA.
It's only been three days since I was laid off. But something is a foot here, something is transforming itself in how I feel I deserve to spend my time, my days, my work -my life.
The big word being bandied about these days is "change." All the candidates are heavily peppering their speeches with it, as if just saying the word will have the impact of the word. Change, at least for this pre-flight, PLS blogging mama, is facing the unknown with a plan that is different than the one that got me into the gray cube to begin with. It's having the courage to take a walk everyday and let my mind expand as much as the Rockies that stretch out in front of me. To shape that expansion into a joy-driven, creative endeavor that shouts out - YAAWWP!
Till then -

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

PLS: Post layoff syndrome

It doesn't seem fair to get laid off at the height of one's PMS. I woke up today in a more than slight panic, a general panic about where and when another paycheck was going to arrive in my bank account. I've decided to call this form of panic PLS: Post Layoff Syndrome.

But despite this, I rallied and kept to a schedule and so, for what it is worth, here is my promised posting for today, day #2 of my PLS + PMS...

1. Woke up at 6:00 am sandwiched between the twins and at least one animal. I spent the next hour checking the mattress to see if there is a crease that causes their little bodies to roll into mine, essentially turning my king sized bed into a toothpick.
2. Undetermined amount of coffee. The combination of PMS and PLS means there is not enough coffee in the world today.
3. Made lunch and expressed silent gratitude to the packaging gods for yogurt in tubes, juice boxes and other edibles that didn't have me trying to figure out which container to put things in
4. 6:10am - oldest DH wakes up with wonderfully tussled curly hair and flushed cheeks. Scrumptious. She immediately slumps down at the kitchen table and tears apart two newspapers in search of the comics.
5. 6:20am - first attempt at waking the twins, who have magically found all that room that they robbed from my precious PLS sleep.
6. Accompany oldest to get dressed and check email.
7. 6:30am - next attempt at waking the twins. This goes on until blankets are pulled off and screaming ensues, around 7 am. They spend the next 30 minutes arguing over a striped turtleneck sweater and who will be the first to wet their hair. It is going to be one of those days.
8. Somehow a shower happens (for me) and we get out the door by 8:07 am with plenty of time for my 1 millionth lecture on making it too hard to get out the door. They feign interest, but I know they are laughing at me. Can't wait until adolescence.
9. 9am - coffee with a friend in Boulder. A key to surviving PLS is meeting friends from other jobs you have left and realizing that it was the right thing to do.
10. 9:05am - friend is late, so I jot down something I told DH we should do every single day - make a list of three things I will do for my career, my creativity and my well-being. It isn't real until it is written down, so here is my list for today:
a. Call hotels and caterers to set up meetings for DH's photography business. Since I've spent most of my professional career as a marketing and pr genius, albeit underpaid, I have to do something with the ridiculous amount of energy I have until something else is figured out.
b. Apply for position saw posted at former graduate school.
c. Create a PLS budget - put this off until tomorrow - too depressed to look at numbers right now.
d. Start attending a class that could change my life.
I recently came across an article about an organization dedicated to women supporting women launch businesses, ideas, projects, etc. I knew the faciliator, Ricki Booker as the creator of an amazing collection of books for children on helping them with change, as well as a Boulder JCC preshool mom. Our kids had played together at summer camp last year. I called her and we talked about the class and I thought that it would be an excellent group to join to help jump start my goal of creating a live performance of "Boobies and Other Bodily Functions" in honor of an imporant landmark birthday, aka turning 50.
11. 11am - pick up the twins and take them to music. We all get an education with this process, including a mini-lecture on the importance of my children expressing gratitude not only to the teacher, but to the parent. I like this idea. Another mini-lecture on not putting on one of the twins shoes, which results in lots of tears on the way to the car. I think this teacher thinks I am just the softest parent who exists. If she only knew the truth. Meanest mama on the planet.
12. Home for the first stretch of time to eat and check email. No job offers, but some of my PLS feelers are coming back at me with messages of concern and a few job leads.
13. Answer emails and then realize I really just want to be with the twins, helping them with their homework and reading to them. They are starting to recognize two and three letter words on their own and the whole thing is thrilling. We cuddle on the couch and read book after book and DH understands to not interrupt and slides out the front door to pick up our oldest.
14. Oldest arrives home and we do music. She plays the violin, has since before she turned 4. I'm awed by her playing and feeling of Bach's Minuet III and when I tell her how lucky she is to play such a beautiful piece of music. She nods her head and says, "It's really hard work."
15. Dinner is an inspiration of roasted chicken with onions, garlic and just the right amount of dill, homemade gravy and real sweet potatoes. Oldest sets the table like the artist she is and we all sit down to a relatively relaxed dinner with only one rejection of the inspired dinner in exchange for cold turkey slices.
16. 6:30 pm - I kiss the girls and DH and head off to class.

The class is an eye opener for what it informs me on day 2 of my PLS. I realize that I want to run my own ship and I want the ship to be one that runs for a really long time. I articulated to 11 women I have never seen before my desire to reach beyond the scope of freelancer to expert media relations/marketing consultant and trainer for companies, people and organizations dedicated to a better world. I sat in that room with 11 women I would be proud to work for and with and I think I have the beginnings of my PLS plan:

1. Creativity begets creativity. I don't like working in isolation. I love to write and then come out and collaborate, brainstorm and percolate with other creatives.
2. I want to work with women doing creative things that have purpose, passion and that give something back.
3. I need to create better business practices. At least two women in the group can help me do this. This is essential to my bridging the gap between freelancer (aka free-faller) and consultant.
4. I want to create a business that supports my family and my having a family.
5. I want DH and I to make enough money for both of us retire at 70 and still be healthy enough to write, travel and grow old enough to enjoy being a bubbe and zayde, also known as grandparents.

For now, I'm pretty tired and a 7:30am violin lessons will come too soon. Off to bed for this PMS/PLS mama.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hillary's Got Voice and I Am Ready To Hear What She Has to Say

Hand's down the one of the best line I have heard in a long time:

“Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice.”

Holy moley, the chills just came down my arms and I've got goosebumps all over again.

Thank you for saying to the country what so many women hold in their hearts and never get to say. What they, meaning the guys, don't understand is that you just don't get what happens when a powerful woman's back is against the wall. We are built for the long run, so step aside and let us through.

What I love about Hillary, what emerged this last week and is something I never thought I would come to say about her is this - She is very openly a human being whose team has kept bottled up too long. I love her humanness that isn't couched over in oratory skills that overwork to 'create history.' Don't be so focused on making history, just help me get my bills paid and reasonable health insurance for my family. Help us to become a humane place to live, work, do business and enjoy our lives. Set the example of responsibility, public service and human rights that HC has done her entire career. What I saw tonight in Hillary's eyes were these three things: intention, action and experience. I don't care if it doesn't sound like it is coming from a pulpit or a bima. I don't go to my voting booth for that sound, if I want that, I go to my shul.

I also love that she is a hard and tireless worker. Her work ethic inspires me and has me looking forward to getting up tomorrow to start creating my new life.

What I would tell Hillary, if I was able to sit and share a cup of tea is this. Treat your speeches like foreplay. Make every moment count. Keep the pronouns to 'I' and 'we.' Start off with a big BANG like you did tonight, an honest and heartfelt BANG and then spend the next however many minutes reaching for the next one and the next one. The great thing about us women is that we have so much that unfolds and it all unfolds all at once. Let it unfold and take your time. And then give it with all the lustiness and heart you have.

Bravo, Hillary for you shedding the shackles of your script and stepping into your voice. A voice that is loud and clear and well thought out and intelligent and angry and funny and kind and motherly and a voice that is singularly yours.

And while I'm at it, check out Gloria Steinem's fantastic
OpEd piece in today's New York Times. Think she will consider being HC's running mate?

Hillary, thanks for finding your voice in New Hampshire. You just made it much easier to hear you all over the country.

My Pretend Job Just Got Eliminated

Today I did the following for my newest and what I hope is my last career venture. I am stepping into: "My Real Life after Being Laid Off from My Pretend Job"

I was laid off yesterday from a job that didn't really exist, but existed enough to be laid off from. It's a bit of a tale how I came to have a pretend job, and hopefully you will be reading about it one of the fabulous magazines I trust will pick it up. But as part of my unemployment insurance agreement (see #9), I'm supposed to keep track of my daily activities that will hopefully lead to future and sustained employment. So here goes:

Day 1
1. Woke up @ 6:15am - gotta keep those job habits going.
2. Drank two cups of coffee.
3. Wet the girls hair before school.
4. Made lunch for oldest DH.
5. Changed out of my pjs - essential to wear real clothes when working from home. That was one of the most depressing things about freelancing from a home office - the wardrobe which mostly consisted of paint-spotted sweats, non-descript long sleeve or short sleeve t-shirts, fleece jacket and slippers. I swear most of take jobs we don't want because we just like to have the money for some new clothes and people to see us in them.
6. Dropped off kids at school. Stayed to chat with other parents for the first time in two months.
7. Drove home.
8. Made myself breakfast.
9. Applied online for Unemployment Insurance.
10. Wrote my first piece about my pretend job and getting laid off.
11. Took a shower.
12. Picked up the twins from school.
13. Spent $177 at Vitamin Cottage. Healthy snacks that should last us for the next century. Or until Friday.
14. Deposit vacation pay into the bank and resisted buying a ticket to Mexico.
15. Wrote some more.
16. Did two music lessons, one with lots of fuss, but we got it done.
17. Did two loads of laundry.
18. Picked up oldest DH, playdate friend with twins, DH and dog Milo.
19. Did music lesson with oldest DH.
20. Wrote a query for pretend job piece and submitted it to the Life section of
21. Didn't miss my pretend job one single bit.

And it's only 6pm! I plan on keeping this list going until I am gainfully employed with a real job in a real company, or get paid incredibly well for my writing, whichever comes first.