Friday, December 7, 2012

Middle Aged Love is Just More Interesting

Or at least it is in the movies.


Before someone goes all "well, all love stories are better in the movies! The producers are pandering to our lovesick hearts! yada yada yada", let me qualify my assertion.

In the traditional 20-something romantic comedy, the grab is the classic star crossed lovers scenario, and just like a Greek chorus, we are sitting in the audience fully aware that the only way life will improve for our characters is if they finally hook up. So, queue the music, bring down the lights, maybe add a horse chase or some great self-deprecating speech, and our characters finally realize they can make it together! Curtain up. Story over.

I should be clear: I do embrace the estrogen in my system, and I do identify with that occasional "yay! they can stop dating the wrong people and live happily together" attitude. At the end of the day, I am a romantic. I want to see the lovers end up together, or a resolution achieved, or--as in 500 Days of Summer--the broken hearted finally heal. Are these films realistic? Probably never. But they fulfill a need to see a happy ending for people in that same stage of life as we are in.

But the middle aged love story is just so much more layered; characters are richer, lives more interesting, the dynamics of desire so much more obvious. In a way, the stakes are higher for the main characters in a middle aged-love story--after all, this is likely the second chance at life and love. And yet, because of that very truth, the games are strangely absent (or at least way less complicated). In that cinematic middle aged love affair, the characters aren't delusional enough to believe that every new man or woman is the ONE. The hunting mentality just isn't there.  We get to watch people spar and love in spades. With intelligent dialogue. All that breeds authenticity. YES.

I could die very happy knowing that I had produced a screenplay like Something's Gotta Give. Will I ever? Very doubtful. But why do I feel that way? The character's love affair is damn funny. This is a story for romantics who appreciate things that are well-written, and have a splash of the ludicrous.  Both characters are stubborn, the actors themselves quite iconic, and the story feels authentic. And, armed with rapier wit, they develop a humorous, slightly combative, and complete honest affection for one another. The causal approach of their romance allows for a bit of frivolity, but the intricacies of their individual lives gloss the whole affair in the unforgettable. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton strike gold. Comedic and romantic gold.

Another sterling example is It's Complicated, with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin.
Let's look at what makes this love triangle very memorable:

  1. Every character is grown up, and successful; I don't envy Meryl's shoes, I envy her kitchen. Her choices are a successful businessman or genius architect. Hmm.
  2. I never see her drunkenly sleeping with some cute guy she met over spring break, but I do see her getting her party on with STEVE MARTIN. You know, the guy from The Jerk? A step up? I think so.
  3. Situational comedy is the bread-and-butter of a film about blended families and multi-lovers. I mean, I buy the idea that hiding your knickers from your grown up kids shoulders more urgency then hiding them from your 20-something chick roommate.
So the moral of this whole post is really a bit vague. But I think I want to be Meryl Streep but date a guy with Jack Nicholson's humor?Yeah, I may have to get back to you on that one. Just put them in your Netflix queue.

Oh, and I should note: I quite like dating without the "benefits" of age, and am in no hurry to advance the timeline. ;)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Working Woman's Soundtrack to Surviving the Rough Day

7 AM - Wake up call


9 AM - Walking into the Board Meeting

1:15 PM - But then the presentation falls flat

4:45 PM - Quittin' time is comin' late but ... I can do it even better in 'broken heels'.

7:15 PM - Lullaby for a Lover

Monday, December 3, 2012

Scratch Scratch

It seems that I have sublet part of my palatial bedroom.

I knowit seems like the sort of thing one would remember doing, no?
Also, I say palatial because I love the look of the word, and because my bedroom has ridiculous turret-like walls at 65 degree angles so-it-kind-of-resembles-a-fortress, and because it takes a really long time to vacuum. There are 14 walls...only three of them reach 8 feet in height.  It is fanciful and fabulous. And I am irrationally possessive of the huge space; I do not want to share.

Now, now. No judgements. If this were a post-apocalyptic world, I would gladly lug a bunch of twin beds up the steps and make a mini refugee camp. I am not heartless after all.

But I do NOT share with scurrying, four legged creatures. Especially when they wake me from a dead sleep with their creepy, echoing, scurrying behaviors. At pre-dawn hours.

I met my new "roommates" after theyas all entitled neighbors doinsisted upon moving around in the rafters directly above my dresser/bathroom, loudly and with no consideration of my REM cycle. The effect was an alternating hollow and high-pitched "scratch scratch" noise, coupled with the occasional sounds of cascading bullets. In hindsight, I recognize that creatures were not having a gang turf war in my ceiling: they were stockpiling acorns, a.k.a. ammo, for future turf wars with me. Or they have set up a bowling alley using acorns in my rafters. Either way, not good. For approximately 10 minutes, while I stared at the red digital alarm clock, I listened intently. I was trying to gauge the exact source of the noise. I was also trying to rationalize that a bat wasn't in my room. Yes, that thought crossed my mind. I mean, fortress like room? Dark? Sleepy delirium? It made sense.

Eventually, as fear turned to irritation that I was loosing precious minutes of sleep before the alarm clock sounded, I got mad. And then went mad. With no other recourse than scare tactics available to me, I grabbed an emptied wrapping paper dowel (tis the season for wrapping gifts) and started WHACKING the ceiling in short furious bursts of energy. I went so far as to adopt a strategy for noisy disruption: "X" and "W" formations with the dowel. Also note, I was freezing, in PJs, still in the dark, and totally channeling a bad martial arts film with cries of, "Hi-yight!" I parried, I sliced, I made dramatic jumping movements designed to stun! Because, they have x-ray vision and could see my intimidation tactics through the ceiling plaster, of course.

It didn't work. Breathless and nervy, and a complete mess, I listened as they ignored me. And my shoulders slumped in disappointment, and I did the only rational thing: I decided to force Sisterita awake to share in my plight. She did not, I believe, appreciate my efforts to include her in my turf war.

The nemesis I imagine.

I feel like Zoe Deschanel's character in Failure to Launch; the pacifist is driven completely mad by a mockingbird and nearly robs a gun counter to find relief. I will not, I assure you, take this tactic. But I have no idea if a) I am dealing with mice, squirrels, mischievous gnomes, or hobgoblins, or b) how to GET RID OF THEM.


Also, remember me describing the room like a fortress? Well, fortresses with weird noises are creepy. And it was pre-dawn, so I woke up to weird noises in the dark. The whole situation kind of made me whimper a little bit. My samurai bravado was a complete farce--but if enough sleepless nights persist, I will pass by terror in favor of rage. I don't like the scurrying. At all. ::GULP::

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If This Moment Had a Soundtrack


This moment tells the tale of a mismatched pair...featuring some tight jeans.


This moment is changing gears and changing attitudes.


This moment of joy-inspired choreography (and Joseph Gordon Levitt) should happen every damn day.


This moment marvels at the audacity of the entitled.


This moment is scandalous and powerful.


This moment is all about a low key rhythm and a surprising sound.


This moment feels like Sunday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Illogical Logic

A logic model (also known as a logical framework, theory of change, or program matrix) is a tool used most often by managers and evaluators of programs to evaluate the effectiveness of a program . Logic models are usually a graphical depiction of the logical relationships between the resources, activities, outputs and outcomes of a program.   

~ McCawley, Paul. "The logic model for program planning and evaluation". University of Idaho.

I like this definition; it is clear, concise considering its subject, and Wikipedia gave it to me. And I love 96% of the things on Wikipedia. Mostly because it is a fun to say..."Wicc*a*pe*de-ah" Melodius.

But, despite the inherent singularity of the word "model", there is no such thing as the standard logic model. Why? Well, for all of my work in this field, I still cannot answer that. 

Perhaps it is because funders and program evaluators want to ensure that a model reflects the unique circumstances of a program's design; perhaps it is because the program has unique funding considerations; perhaps it is due to the subject matter--a plan for implementing an online training is quite different than one outlining a plan to feed the hungry in Kenya; or perhaps, it is because logic itself is fluid and not easily contained by "structures."

All valid considerations. 

But every now and then, I think the variations exist just to spite me. Variations are creative, artistic, phenomenal! I love them! Poetry in table form! (Go with it.) That is, until you have to rewrite an evaluation plan in non-evaluation terms. And then, my dear friends, you begin to lose your hair. Slowly, and with sweet agony. Because at some point, describing your "plan" for evaluation and measurement of a program--whether non profit or profit oriented--requires several formats: there is the "donor" or customer format, which puts things into simple terms; there is the "Board member" or investor format, which requires that you overlay sustainability planning (translation: funding or profit) over the program design (sometimes a logic model is so impossible to decipher, this becomes sheer wizardry); there is the staff format, which includes internal goals such as the number of service recipients, or total products delivered; and then there is the public health format. Otherwise known as the "completely logical, always inconsistent, and ultimately fluid universe".

I live here now.

For those of you not working in program delivery, Non Government Organizations (NGOs), or domestic nonprofits, the logic model is your "guide to action". It doesn't replace a strategic/business plan, nor does it serve as the action plan (or "how to and when"); the logic model allows you a framework to follow around measurement and evaluation. If properly designed and consistently executed, the logic model will tell you exactly where your program's strengths and weaknesses are. And it will set the stage for analyzing your program's impact and determining where you will go next. It is program efficiency in the making.

And it can be convoluted. Examples:

Fairly typical.
Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin.

Typical...except for that triangle Venn Diagram thing. I mean, sheesh.
Courtesy of the Education Model Program Design.

When your program needs "flying geese."
Actually, I really do appreciate The Performance Institute's approach
And then there is the Public Health Model on Obesity for the state of New York.
You see where things get...expansive. I do not work on things such as this daily--
I simply go by it to create the local versions as a "sub program" component (or some such nonsense).

Do share: how would you find a consistent way of describing these visual variations? Two such innocuous words: logic and model. Until you pair them with concepts like measurement. Or evaluation. Or B-Verbose's brain. Like all things that are mind-boggling, this too will make me a better a writer. Maybe?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If This Moment Had a Soundtrack


This moment is infectious. Dance-around-your-living-room-sweet? Oh yes.


"Run the world? Darling, didn't you know that I already am?"


This moment is inexplicably fun.


This moment pays homage to one of the greatest improvisational vocalists of our time.


This moment is for your inner rock star.


 This moment is...unexpected.


This moment transports you to foreign shores (even if the video is less than pleasing).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Working Woman's Woes: A Bit of a Wild Hair

"Can’t someone who can conjugate French verbs, write statistically dense research papers and explicate the poetry of William Blake be trained in computer programming, supply-chain management and other skills valued by hiring managers? An entire generation hopes that C.E.O.’s somewhere believe that giving them an opportunity is the right — and the smart — thing to do."

 Robert W. Goldfarb, Management Consultant, Author
Read the full article HERE

On my recent wanderings on the New York Times Website--a special note of appreciation to RoroBird for turning me on to daily visits--I discovered an Op-Ed targeting the education vs workplace divide. Well, what better fodder for the "Working Woman's Woes" serial?! And from such a recognized source!

I must say, for all the great and relevant points the author makes, and there are many, Mr. Goldfard paints a bleak picture of the job marketplace. I found the entire piece a bit resigned in tone. And that, my good friends, I refuse to accept. The job marketplace has changed, but that doesn't mean the tide hasn't turned in some positive ways. A diploma is less impressive these days than a varied and tiered resume (at an impossibly young professional age). Employers DO want to see discipline, experience, and some level of improving performance before taking a risk on an employee. All points, by the way, that Mr. Goldfard cites. He even appeals (almost without any hope) to CEOs to see beyond the "hard skills" that many Liberal Arts graduates may be lacking initially, and value their learned appreciation for working in dynamic, multi- fields and systems. As a Liberal Arts degree holder, I couldn't agree more.

EVEN the most technologically innovative companies benefit from having a balance of employees — most with technical degrees, others with broader educations. Valuable products and services emerge from the clash of ideas between analytical professionals and managers whose greatest strength is their intuitiveness. ~Goldfarb
But, despite all of the obstacles, there is a shifting tide. A new breed of very interesting professionals has developed: the A La Carte Employee. Please do not immediately interpret this phrase negatively; I use "a la carte" in this context to describe a generation of professionals who have become quite creative in their quest to build a varied resume, and still circumvent the "entry level" employment race.

Many friends, myself included, have walked circuitous paths toward developing a career.  Some people do still head straight to the top, and I am proud of them. Some professionals still practice the "foot in the door" tradition: hold a full time job in administrative role, and wait to climb your way up in a company. This works sometimes--but often, the wait can be long. Or, these folks use the buffer of being gainfully employed to job hop into another company. The way I see it, that is not indicative of a lack of employee dedication. It frustrates me to hear employers complain about "unmotivated" professionals. Yes, I know some members of my age bracket have confused the instant-gratification expectation of Twitter with the real world. But the majority of us are not that dense. We know we must work hard to achieve something at a young age. Or at all. Talented, young employees are jumping ship because businesses are afraid to resume the old practice of laying out an attractive promotional path. To build talent, you need diverse workers: to keep talent, you need encourage their development (and consequently, their dedication to your company). It doesn't need to be a fast track, but there needs to be a track. Anyone hearing me out there?

Back to my main point--the "a la carte" professional. A few years ago, I worked retail part time in order to bridge an employment gap. During that time, I met graduate students, engineers, and recent graduates all in the same boat. The inspiring thing about that environment (when we weren't singing the "full time pay, where are you!?" song), was the creativity used by young professionals to change their situation. One was working part time retail, while moonlighting his graphic skills to a non profit, building a solid portfolio and networking; another was working on a vocational degree by evenings to pair with his liberal arts education; another launched a low cost enterprise based on cleaning houses, and organizing wealthy ladies' closets (not kidding). Others, myself included, continued honing our previously employed skills with contracted work, spending our evenings researching new markets, and looking for innovative ways to interpret old industry needs. Or fields to which we might need to transition. Others volunteered, or made great contacts with their regular customers, and thus landed them a job. But the entire group had one thing in common--and this is true no matter what "bridge" field a person is working (or volunteering) in--they used innate skill sets in a wide range of activities, relying on their resiliency and intuition to tackle completely foreign problems. I mean, how many engineers are public speakers? Or how many finance educated professionals do you know who can plan a staff event? But, those incidences showed flexibility, and an "a la carte" approach to professional training. Basically, they volunteered to be stressed out just to have an opportunity to learn. Amazing how those old sayings, like "life is the best teacher", always turn back up, isn't it?

This "a la carte" group came away with what exactly? Well, experience in customer service, problem resolution, team environments, a newly sharpened ability to self-motivate, and the oh-so-valuable experience of trail and error. The "a la carte" group could quite effectively demonstrate that "hard skills"--or those particular to one type of employment position--weren't the wheels that kept the cart moving: the individual talent was the key. Many employers are beginning to see the benefits of hiring young professionals with competence over traditional experience. But I never claimed the wave is fast moving. So, take advantage of whatever employment situation you find yourself in. If you are unhappily employed, keep on finding new things to try on the side. If you are unemployed, pair your traditional job hunt with some random experiences that will make you a better person. At the end of the day, investing in your own competency and personal skill sets is the way to a) get noticed by current employers for recognition, b) improve your visibility in the job market, and c) ensure that the job you land, you will have the confidence to carry.

Plus, doesn't "a la carte" give you that little bit of adventure that we all crave? I am still waiting on someone to ask me to write a consumer review of skydiving. So far, no one has called. But I haven't given up hope of dancing on the "edge" with my technical expertise!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

If This Moment Had a Soundtrack


This moment is bluesy and just a little bit ready to fight. Already aware that today's victor might not be you, you are content to wail your way into infamy. And to leave a bloody trail.



This moment is ambitious and tormented. Every decision is an opportunity for second guessing, for regret, for redemption.


This moment is open. The world is merely voyeuristic and you are ready for the tactile.


This moment is brazen.


This moment is heady, euphoric. A moment in "reckless abandon". A stop over in a week full of stop overs.



This moment is conquered. Tame the game, topple the players, and dance across the stage in celebration.


This moment is nostalgic. It is appreciation for every friend that has traveled the road with you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It has never been one of my ambitions to make history by breaking all the rules.

I respect the men and women who have. In their rebellion, they have overhauled systems of law and commerce; these warriors have lived passionate lives, full of heroics, and they carry the torch of the "American Rebel" spirit into every new generation. Our pace of progress rests on their shoulders. Where would we be--in this modern age--without those individuals?

Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan (for better or worse) would never have pushed the envelopes of business and created the trust culture which financed our greatest industrial age. Nor would they have been the giants whose fall ushered in the rise of the middle class.
Carnegie looks cuddly, doesn't he?

Gloria Steinem, and her peers, would never have become the megaphones for feminism; and we might still ignorant of how low the "glass ceiling" could hang.

Sandra Day O'Connor might never have brought her brand of justice to that very important bench. 

Harvey Milk would never had changed the political landscape for the LGBT community.

Kathyrn Bigelow's remarkable cinematic storytelling might never have led to the first Oscar for a female director; more importantly, her storytelling in a male dominated world might never have been heard.

All impressive, all noteworthy...the list could go on, and on, and on. The warriors of our collective national history found rule books and they did what unlikely leaders do best: they broke every rule they did not like.

But there is another sort of individual who makes history: the Guileless Innovator.


The individual whose pioneering efforts created the incredible, the new, and the desperately-in-need-of-regulation category. And maybe, just maybe, they never meant to start a movement. These are the folks that bring a secret smile of admiration to my face. They never went to "war," or overhauled a system. Their mark on history is unquestionable--but their approach so very eloquent: these men and women did what they did first, and so they predated the rules and regulations of their so-called industries.

Mary Kay Ash, the entrepreneur, needed a business model that could grow while she slept. One that would allow her to succeed based on the quality of effort she put forward, rather than the scale set forth by a corporate culture. So, she launched a cosmetics company that has provided millions of women with financial independence over three decades. A model that is now mimicked by hundreds of boutique American businesses.

Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul, tackled daytime television when daytime television was a breeding ground for little more than soap operas and appliance commercials. Sure, she knocked down several racial barriers in her career as a journalist, but her unexpected achivement came later. She built a platform on which the feuding (post feminist divide) Domestic Female could connect to her Career-Culture counterpart. On national television. She probably also inflamed a consumerism problem ("My Favorite Things"), but let's share credit where credit is due.

Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of the Wikipedia Foundation, saw an opportunity to create shared knowledge among nations, peoples, and neighbors. His presence in the modern subconscious is certainly as strong as that of Mark Zuckerburg, and his Facebook creation. The difference? Wales invited the world to share in authorship. And created one of the most visited information resources on the planet, with more information kept on its pages than in the lost library of Alexandria.

And, arguably, my favorite woman of cinema: the seductive, guileless Queen of Metro Goldwyn Meyer, Norma Shearer. The first time that I saw the film The Women, I was transfixed by this beautiful, gregarious starlet. Charming, witty and so very present. And I wondered why I had only a vague memory of her name. Well, one quick look into Tinseltown's history and you will find a woman credited with every (though few) brave cinematic roles in Pre-Code Hollywood. She played a naive little divorcee, a royal adulteress, and in The Women, a housewife who refuses to pretend that her husband's infidelity is not cause for a trip to Reno. In pre-code Hollywood there were no rules. Society may have had them, but no one had yet to say that the theater or cinematic world was a place for censorship. This was art. She was the first talkie super star. And, after all, if Shakespeare's crude comedies were still getting stage time, why not a shattered housewife, desperate to maintain her dignity while struggling with love for her husband? Well, Code Hollywood reacted to the lovely Norma with many restrictions. Script content was monitored, clothing choices were scrutinized. The lovely Queen of MGM? She simply took off her tiara, influenced the producer's chair and steered cinema into new waters by her hubby's side (Mr. MGM himself).

So, in the grand tradition of Navigating the Nuances, I bring you a topic from the far left field to consider. If the legacy were to be yours, which would you rather:

Be a rebel who finds victory in the spotlight,

Or be the guileless innovator who makes history before the spotlight has even caught up?

Monday, October 29, 2012


Hurricane Sandy arrived today. She is currently sweeping her way across the eastern shore, sending millions into the realm of blinking and/or knocked out lights. 

Sandy got her in the end.
Her trail across the northern sky is made up of breached riverbanks (sorry tri-city area), autumn debris (R.I.P my stylish pumpkin) and brilliant curses (please reference @AHurricaneSandy). As stories go, some winners here.

But we are not on the coast. We are not flooded. And the "hurricane party" that Sisterita and I threw ourselves was one step above a normal Monday and one step below the brunch of 2011. And no where near the infamy of 2008's string of Charlie, Irene and that-storm-whose-name-I-still-cannot-be-bothered-to-remember.

On the bright side there is pie. There is wine. There is even a smorgasbord of cooked meats and sides (Sisterita cooks when anxious)! And we have candles that smell like cider and things are lovely!

Aside from the fact that the door is being whipped mercilessly by the wind, there is a nice calm around the place. It is an old house; thus, it creaks. We may end up with some spiderweb cracking in some areas. But, you know. Things happen.

There are a few great lessons to be learned for the observant 20-something in a situation like this! Allow me to share the not-so-obvious (and a few of the truly obvious) lessons with you:
Catholic Candles!
  1. There is no excuse for poorly chosen footwear in Hurricane season. I watched a small child today run around in flip flops. I stared at her mother with complete judgment; ignoring the obvious problem of the maelstrom named Sandy, it is 39 degrees outside. As in SEVEN degrees above freezing.
  2.  Wine is just as important as water. Yes, I said it. We have three global regions and four grapes represented in four separate bottles. Obviously, we will not drink them all, but for true hurricane preparedness, you simply musn't forget the important things.
  3. We live in a society obsessed by sensational images...especially fake ones. Aside from the proud patriotic shot from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I have to say, these images never seemed all that real to me...
  4. Candles are not cheap--unless you go the Catholic route. That's right, Sisterita and I opted for the very, very economical choice of advent candles. Seriously. We saved $3.00 a candle! And they have a Guardian Angel on them! Now, while I am not sure that I am any more protected, we certainly have covered the bases. It has the additional advantage of helping our prayers turn the rain into falling droplets of wine...see Lesson #2.
  5. Hurricane preparedness requires candy. Especially in anticipation of Halloween.
  6. Nothing is sacred. @AHurricaneSandy
  7. Work is a last priority. I am not sure if this is a lesson? Or a simple truth? But something about the natural world all topsy turvy makes a person a little less obsessed with reports and the like. 
Yeah. I just really wanted a post entitled "Smithereens." Sorry that nothing was actually destroyed in the making of this post.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Window Dressing?

This week, I am not fit to mingle with normal people.

Perhaps, in another month, during another week, this would be a false statement. I like people. I enjoy conversation. I accept that any stranger could become a friend—you know, assuming he or she has good hygiene. 

On the whole, I frolic through life with a smile, seemingly competent and at ease with my surroundings.

But this week, I am just off balance enough to be dangerous.

Morning Rituals

Without getting into the weeds, accept my claim that this week has been very busy with work. Early, early (did I mention early?) mornings have met with very late nights; afternoons have been rushed, leaving no time for cooked meals, the gym, or a much-needed oil change. My car and my body continue to make their disapproval known.

It takes an extra 5 seconds to process Sisterita’s question about buying more coffee, and I often find myself approaching the microwave with fresh produce in my hands (which would have ended quite badly). One morning, I put on two different heels...of differing heights. If I was the daring sartorial sort, that could have been forgiven as avant garde. Alas, it was simply sleep deprived delirium. There are several to-do lists floating around in my brain, and they are distracting me.
And, Good Reader, a preoccupied me is a very dangerous me. 

I locked myself, quite consciously, out of my house and car. I actually locked the door and pulled it shut as I was mentally going through the steps, “Grab lunchbox, have my coat, oh yeah, the keys…” Door closes. 

Aftermath: Perspective in the Present

 I stand there—disbelief and astonishment staring back at me from the glass reflection of the door.
Surely to be late to an important data meeting, this requires me to execute a series of humiliating exercises:
  1. Alert my boss and her boss (Chair of the board, anyone?) to my folly. Yes. No. I knew it was locked. No, I don’t have a spare in my mailbox. Yes, I may have to do a B&E.”
  2. Curse loudly as I try to wiggle the doorknob open. Futile effort if there ever was one.
  3. Walk around aimlessly in the yard in search of an open window.
  4. Locate an unlatched window to realize that it is FAR too high to climb into. Use the TRASH CAN to climb high enough to open the window…fail to shimmy into the open space.
  5. Visit every neighbor on the block in search of a step ladder.
  6.  Finally, wake the next door neighbor, who plays Marvin Gaye at all hours of the day, and request assistance.
The 4 inch heels
Well, Marvin-Gaye-the-Neighbor rescued me. He judged me the entire time. I mean, who wouldn’t? I showed up on his doorstep, with lots of unnecessary hand gestures and apologies—while describing my trash can climbing attempts—in a silk dress and 4 inch heels.

Not only did he come over to assess the situation, but he CLIMBED my trash can when his stool was too short, and climbed into the bathroom window. 

…his shorts may have gotten stuck on the brick. 

He may (or may not) have lost his shorts, revealing his preference for “Commando” dress style in the process. 

I may (or may not) have stood below wondering why the hell my parents gave all the common sense to Sisterita.

After the fastest house-crossing trip in history, Marvin-Gaye-the-Neighbor let me into my own door AND wheeled the trash can around front for me.

I am too embarrassed to take him “thank you” cookies, but I feel it is absolutely required.

Resolution ~ I had a spare key made this week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Medicating the Malaise

Malaise is a highly non-specific symptom and causes can range from the slightest ailment, such as an emotion or hunger, to the most serious. Generally speaking, malaise expresses a patient's feeling that "something is not right", like a general warning light, but only a medical examination can determine the cause. ~ Condun

Along the wall of every living room, there should live a bookcase. Whether it is home to four hard cover favorites, or one hundred soon-to-be-read paperbacks, the goal should be the same: give ready access to the words and subjects that define your mental landscape.

Lofty wording, huh? It cannot be helped. I could edit that sentence twenty times, and I would still sound pompous. In reality, I just love superfluous language, and whatever snobbish tone that creates is entirely incidental. But more than that - more than any need to indulge in nuanced definitions and vocabulary - is the healing effect of language that sets my tongue loose. The craft of story telling elevates the spirit, and its creations are a balm when the battle of life directs its arrows at your back.

Ambitious writing, whether in prose or poetry, creates a reaction; for a reader in search of something, the writing is transformative in some way, revealing a new perspective or answer to some grand debate; but, for those readers who stumble upon good writing, quite without intention or conscious thought, the reaction is reaffirming. And the best kinds of reading accidents end with reaffirmation of something once lost like an idea or personal truth and they do so against all logic or design.
And those things that do best please me/
That befal preposterously.
~ Puck (A Misummer Night's Dream, III, ii)
If at any point I feel stressed or discontent with my circumstances, I can cure those symptoms of malaise by seeking out my favorite works. It might surprise you to know that one of those favorites is actually an email from an old professor; another is the a poem I wrote as a unschooled 11 year old; a third is from more "recognized" sources of authorship (as is the rest of the list).  

At this precise point in time, I am wrestling with a feeling of discontent. No, not the job hopping kind. I need to table that instinct for a few years. I just feel...incomplete. For all my successes, and all the positive changes of 2012, there is something that feels simply "not quite right."  But of course, I already know the problem: I have been ignoring all creative outlets in the name of technical achievement. And it has left me feeling the contradictory sensations of career triumph and creative apathy. They are not good bedfellows.

Fortunately, a well written sentence can be the bullet that shatters your isolation.

And it can reset the course of your "creative health."

Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing device in books that brings them to their perfect readers... 
~ Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary & Potatoe Peel Society


One rather mundane morning, I found myself driving to work, with 10 things warring for the front spot in my thoughts, and paying far too little attention to driving. I looked up and realized that in the stressful stupor of the morning, I had found myself parked in front of Barnes & Noble. Quite without intention.

I was there. And my feet seemed to be on a mission through the parking lot.

I walked down the aisles, without a glance to my left or to my right; I passed the suggestion shelves and turned down the third aisle of Fiction, and stopped in front of a normal shelf. I reached out, snagged a book, turned heel and walked straight to the cash register. 

It was 9:15 in the morning, I barely had coffee in my system, I had no intention of going to the book store, and yet there I was, the new owner of a book whose title I did not recognize. 

Well. I suppose I am putting a bid in for eccentric 20-something after all?

Reseated in my Sonata, and once again reunited with my coffee tumbler, I finally opened the page. The first line so surprised and touched me, that I actually remember gasping. I knew, without any proof, that I was brought to that book. I believe that it summoned me, just as surely as I believe that it is 2012 and my mother's name is Patricia.  The writing reminded me of the argument that I have "responsibly" ignored in my head for nearly a year: I crave stories, and the editorialist's witty observations about modern life, and the intentional run on sentence, and all the things that a technical writing career asks you to set aside for success. And a few well placed words brought all of that crashing into me like a bullet, leaving me breathless, sore and in desperate need of a change in course.

Maria Duenas medicated my malaise with a beautiful and violent introduction:

A typewriter shattered my destiny. 
 * From the novel The Time in Between