Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Patriot Act

This week is Banned Books Week. Before you think book censorship happens only in a few parts of the U.S., take a gander at this map.

Now run to your favorite neighborhood indie bookseller (mine is celebrating its 30th year in business) and pick up a banned book to read. Support our freedom to read what we choose.

I'm No Dr. Dolittle

I was on the Huffington Post yesterday and noticed the debut of this little guy. Isn't he adorable (in that only-a-mother-could-love way)? Unfortunately, his mother proved herself as nonmaternal with his previous two siblings so he (nameless as yet) is being bottle-fed and cared for by two zookeepers.

Now there's a profession I considered at a very young age: zookeeper. When I was 5, my father drove our family on a cross-country road trip to the West. And one of the most memorable stops for me was the San Diego Children's Zoo.

Zookeepers there fed tiny lions, carried diapered primates, and played with a variety of nature's youngsters. What a noble and every-minute-filled-with-fun career, my 5-year-old self thought.

I still think about it, and have even perused some job sites for zoo personnel. But I don't have the credentials to be allowed to interact with creatures, and I think I'd be a short-timer in a position like Stall Cleaner.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Avian James Bond Ready for WWI Espionage

I stumbled upon this pic and had to share it with you. It's from the International Spy Museum.

I know, I know. It may seem that I'm obsessed with pigeons. But really, I just notice them differently these days.

Feeling Put-Upon by a Pettifogger

{Don't you love the word pettifogger? I came across this quote from preacher Henry Ward Beecher—did he ever utter anything that wasn't quotable?: "The most miserable pettifogging in the world is that of a man in the court of his own conscience."}

Yesterday morning, I wrote again to the person I thought would be my new lawyer in my eviction case (but from whom I've not heard a peep) and told him that my bank account hadn't been subpoenaed by the landlord's frontmen. I knew this because I'd called my bank's legal department to ask about the subpoena process and was told that by Illinois law the bank had to inform me via mail that it had been tapped for my records. I'd received no such notification.

Until last night, when I retrieved our mail. Turns out, even as I was talking to a bank representative, someone else was working on getting my records. Boy, Life is one Big Seesaw, isn't it?

Here's the kicker: The landlord's henchmen want records going back only until May of this year.

That's such a short time; it hardly shows a pattern of payment. Heck, they didn't have to go through all the subpoena rigmarole! I could have handed those records to them.

And here's the other kicker: They left my husband's bank account alone. (Of course, I could be proved wrong about this on Monday. That Seesaw Effect could kick in again.) Granted, the rent checks have always come from me. But my husband's name is on the lease as prominently as mine is.

Why the discrimination? What are they looking for? Can't help feeling like this is personal.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reading Roundup Update

Well, I finally made it through Eat Pray Love. While it never gave me that can't-bear-to-stop-reading-this-book feeling, it did provide a number of interesting details about Bali culture and Buddhist beliefs. I marked passages that I want to keep—meaning that instead of keeping the whole book in my library, I'll be keeping only certain sentences on my computer for future reference. Once I input those, Eat Pray Love is headed for the Big Sale.

So far I have more than 100 books on the sale shelves my husband set up for me in our dining room. I have hundreds more books awaiting a decision from me, though. It's hard. Because here's the bottom line: I feel deeply connected to my books. Even though the shelves of sale books are an eyesore in our dining room, the very sight of the books as I eat breakfast makes me feel like I'm dining with friends. I feel safe and content and full of possibility. And I feel like I'm betraying our friendship by sacrificing them.

I know. It has to be done and I'll get over it. It just isn't so easy.

On a brighter note, here's what's on the docket for my reading pleasure at the moment:
Bellevue Literary Review
The theme of this issue is "Abilities and Disabilities: The Range of Human Function."
Unaccustomed Earth
The most recent collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize–winner Jhumpa Lahiri.
Salt: A World History
Fascinating details about human progress and follies by Mark Kurlansky.
Stop Smiling
This is an old issue of the magazine and the theme is "The Downfall of American Publishing." Includes a big homage to Hunter S. Thompson.
This issue features curators and new directions for museums.
The White Bone
A fictional tale about elephant society from Barbara Gowdy.
Silent Thunder
A memoir about acoustic biologist Katy Payne's research into elephant communication.
O The Oprah Magazine
I haven't looked at this mag for quite some time and am delighted at how it integrates reading and books into the lifestyle it promotes. Thank you, Oprah!
Mother Tongue: An American Life in Italy
Wallis Wilde-Menozzi's memoir about moving and acclimating to her husband's hometown of Parma.

That's it. With everything that's going on right now (or really NOT going on), I find it hard to concentrate and truly escape in a book.

Uh-oh. Here comes the pooch. She's ready for an outing. Gotta go.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Use Your Mouse to Feed the Masses

In the right margin of Lull is a purple button. Click on it and it will take you to another button. Select this one and you will have set in motion a process to feed and care for animals in shelters.

That's it: Two clicks and somebody gets to eat. Or gets life-saving meds.  

Please click daily. A furball's life depends on it.

Commas and Colons and . . . Oh My!

I’ve spent an unreasonable amount of my morning searching for a bit of advice I came across while reading last week. Usually I try to keep Post-it Notes at hand for ideas I intend to archive or share with someone. But I was not reading in one of my usual spots and left the passage to memory (clearly the wrong course of action), which cleverly catalogued only the visual position of the passage on the page and no other details.

Had I read it in a book? A journal? A magazine? We may never know. 

Fortunately, a friend interrupted my mania with an e-mail reminder that today is a holiday. It’s National Punctuation Day!

Now I realize I don’t mention many popularly recognized dates and events on Lull—mostly because the Web is full of chatter about them. But how can an editor let National Punctuation Day pass without saying something? Without providing a learning/teaching moment?

Before you press “Next Blog” because you think I’m going to go all Miss Thistlebottom* on you, be patient. I don’t care if you can’t tell your commas from your semicolons. But I do care whether misplaced or missing punctuation marks are preventing your writing from being understood.

Consider these two pairs of nearly identical sentences:
     1A) Giselle complained Spencer couldn’t make the project deadline.
     1B) Giselle, complained Spencer, couldn’t make the project deadline.

     2A) Jackson quit suggesting he would sue the company.
     2B) Jackson quit, suggesting he would sue the company.

In Sentence 1A, it’s Giselle who’s complaining; in Sentence 1B, it’s Spencer doing the complaining.

In Sentence 2A, Jackson ceases making suggestions about suing the company. But in Sentence 2B, Jackson resigns and suggests he’ll sue.

In each pair, the addition of a comma or two to Sentence B changes the meaning. This is important—much more important than which style guide you choose to follow. If readers miss your meaning because you didn’t know where to place a comma, you’re at fault. And you need to brush up on your punctuation skills. The National Punctuation Day Web site is a good place to begin.

* A reference to Theodore M. Bernstein’s charming Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Usage. 

Note: After making a couple of upgrades recently, graf spacing (among other things) is looking a little wonky on Lull now. I'll get it fixed sooner or later. Bear with me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Flotsam and Fruits o' the Lake

Morning walks along Lake Michigan reveal stories from the night before (liquor bottles, bras, carry-out leftovers) and treasures the water temporarily leaves on the sand.

We've seen parts of boats and parts of piers; a kayak, which we successfully returned to the club from which it escaped; a conch shell (which, when my husband lifted it from the shallows, created quite a stir amongst the congregation of dog folks—you'd think he was a magician or healer); a turtle, my favorite find yet one that couldn't be salvaged—icy Winter had already made its mark on the lovely creature.

Two weeks ago the water lapped over a variegated watermelon. The photo here merely resembles what I saw. The lake's watermelon sparkled in three saturated hues of green and looked as if it had sprung up right there. I couldn't take my eyes off it. But I left it alone.

Last week the water lapped over a cantaloupe. A pattern was beginning to emerge and naturally I began to wonder if there was meaning to be derived from these sightings. What did melon signify in my life?

Then, of course, I wondered if there wasn't a camera nearby recording my reaction for a reality show or YouTube send-up. If 15 minutes of fame ever come my way, I pray they're not accompanied by a camera.

Interpreting meaning from the mundane portenders of good and evil engages one's intuition. And I habitually ignore my intuition. The Lull seems as good a time as any to start paying attention to my subsconscious. Who knows? If I find a Crenshaw melon in the water this week, I might be able to figure out my purpose in life.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A View from the Beach

I live about 2 blocks from a Great Lake, which means that at any moment of the day, my neighborhood can experience completely different weather patterns than the rest of the city and I get to see a variety of birds as they migrate from one end of the globe to another. You have to keep both your eyes and your ears open, though, or you'll miss the feathered visitors.

Yesterday, perched atop an aging lifeguard watchtower among some gulls were two cormorants. Apparently their feathers are not entirely waterproof, so it's likely they had stopped to thoroughly dry out their wings—maybe grab a bite to eat—before moving on. Their graceful necks and elongated bodies were a welcome visual change from the gulls and pigeons we usually find on the beach. I tried to take a picture for you, but my worse-than-useless cellphone wouldn't cooperate. I stood in one spot for so long that my pooch forgot why we were at the beach and became quite the statue. It took a while to rouse her from her senior stupor.

Earlier this week we heard the clarion call of Winter: geese. We looked up to find their misshapen V formation heading south. For the first time in my life, I wanted to tag along. I've had enough of changing in and out of extreme weather gear for what seems like half the year—boots, snow pants, two pairs of gloves, three sweaters, parka, muffler, hat, plus dressing the dog in her boots and down coat and goggles when it's windy. I'm ready for a milder climate. So is the pooch.

Last week was a great show of both sights and sounds. As we were leaving the beach, the pigeons started to fret. I could hear a hawk, but didn't see one. I figured the hawk was looking for a meal. The pigeons lined the tops of three different buildings in the area and took turns moving from one building ledge to another, 50–100 birds at a time. The hawk had it easy. I kept my head down; I couldn't watch the assassination. But strangely, the pigeons never left the area and the hawk didn't sound persistent about catching one. In fact, I searched the sky around the pigeons but saw no predators. 

When the pooch and I were waiting at a light to cross the street, I finally saw why the pigeons were staying put: The hawk was far above the rooftops and paying no attention to them. Instead, he was playing with another hawk—twirling in midair, bumping into his friend and then performing short freefalls and (it truly sounded like) "giggling" before twirling again.

I couldn't take my eyes off the revelers. To observe nature and bliss intertwined is a miracle of sorts in the inner city. It has healing properties and I didn't want it to stop. In those moments of the hawk-play encounter, the relentless stress of my unemployment and pending eviction and under-par health of both husband and pooch faded from my mind. 

Then the light changed and the pooch and I headed back to Reality.

[Thank you, Mr. Crowley, for your Cormorant pic.]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hats Off to Book Bloggers

I'm a little late in getting the news out, but this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. If you like books, then there's no doubt a blogger out there covering exactly what catches your fancy.

You could spend all day going from one book blog to another. They're written by critics, industry insiders, literary agents, and everyday people who love to read. They're written for collectors, librarians, average readers, and up-and-coming writers. They're written about a single genre (including YA, kids, romance, graphic, memoir, and vampire), all genres, indie presses, publicity, and every topic related to the writing and publishing and reading of a book.

If you've never looked at a book blog, here's a random list to get you started. These aren't the most popular or the best or the worst or the ones I think you'll like. They're just some of them. Explore the links the bloggers give you on each one and pretty soon you'll have your own fave book blogs to follow.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Hip Librarians Book Blog
Paper Cuts
Pimp My Novel
Bermudaonion's Weblog
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?

[Thanks to Liam Quin for the shot of the antique alphabet books.]

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Unemployment Weighs Heavily on My . . .

Well, unemployment has weighed heavily on me both physically and psychologically for some time now.

But lately I've been waking up in the morning in pain: Every part of me aches. I don't even want to get out of bed.

At first I attributed it to skipping my exercise routine; then to excessive physical activity. But last night I finally figured it out: stress.

I wear my stress around my neck and in my shoulders, as many people do. But a few times over the years, it's escalated into an emergency trip to a massage therapist because my jaw locked up. On one such occasion, the massage wasn't enough. So I went to a dentist to see if I had some scary infection or other dental-related problem.

And that was when my teeth told their tale of nightly horrors: I was grinding and clenching them to the point that I had substantially changed my bite.

The dentist fitted me with a custom guard to prevent further damage and to shift my bite back into place. (By the way, my dental insurance plan saw this as a vanity procedure and wouldn't help pay for it.)

I've not worn the guard all the time, but I still have it. So I put it in last night before bedtime and Voila! This morning those aches and pains have vanished!

Of course, this doesn't mean the stress has vanished—only that it can't cause collateral damage.

Waking up with one problem solved is a great way to start a day. Now if I can just write the perfect cover letter to get that job . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Talk is NOT Cheap

Healthcare reform won't be complete unless attention gets paid to communication skills. My father is a case in point.

He's been in and out of hospitals for a number of years, but his latest visit to the ER reveals a number of fault lines in the system.

First, he has problems with numerous organs—kidneys, colon, bladder, lungs. And each of these organs is overseen by a different specialist. But there's no point person for these doctors, no one providing oversight, no one getting this brain trust together to make decisions based on ALL the variables. So if my father goes in for a test ordered by one doctor and finds that it requires contrast, my father has to speak up about it—the contrast is enough to decimate his kidney function. And then my father has to return to the doctor who ordered the test so a new plan can be hatched. This not only wastes the time of all the players involved, but it robs my father of precious time on a clock that ticks too quickly for cancer victims.

Second, he's been with some of his doctors long enough for them to know that he's a man of understatement with a high tolerance for pain and a tendency to let time heal things before asking a doctor to intervene. So when my father calls a doctor's office repeatedly saying he's concerned about the blood in his urine, I would expect the staff to recognize that there may be a problem. I at least expect someone on the staff to return his call and talk to him.

But nothing happened. Had the staff asked the right question, they would have learned that my father was seeing more than a hint of red. And he was scared. Surely this combination deserves a return phone call?

Instead, my father's energy continued to wane until finally, he fainted. At home, thankfully, and a friend took him to the ER—where he learned over the next 24 hours that he had lost half his blood supply!

The next day, when an associate of the doctor-who-doesn't-return-phone-calls stopped in at the request of the hospital doc, he was pleasant enough but never once said, "So sorry to see you in the hospital" or "We're going to do everything we can to figure this out." He didn't need to apologize for anything—just show a little sensitivity and empathy. That would have gone a long way.

Yet this doctor ruffled more feathers than mine. He ticked off the hospital doctor by writing a full page of illegible information on my father's charts . No one could read it. It revealed a lack of respect for the hospital's medical staff and a flagrant show of indifference to my father's health.

These communication lapses happen in all businesses. Before The Lull, I created a newsletter for middle managers on the subject—giving them advice on communicating with employees and upper management, providing scripts for some situations and templates for others, and offering insights about the psychology behind dealing with people. It's not rocket science but it does require you to slow down and THINK before engaging.

Author Malcolm Gladwell mentioned something related to this in Tipping Point. I believe he wrote that many malpractice suits could have been avoided if the doctors had simply conveyed their sympathy or apologies to patients. Such a small effort that goes largely ignored—not just by doctors but by many of us.

Here are some pointers for the preventive care of personal and business relationships:
1. What you say and do doesn't matter nearly as much as how other people perceive your intent and your results. (For instance, that doctor with the bad penmanship was probably just in a hurry and never intended to ignite the ire of the hospital staff or endanger my father's health.)
2. When people make vague statements, don't assume you understand; ask questions that uncover details. (In the case of the blood, questions of hue, frequency, viscosity, etc., should have been raised to gauge how serious the problem was.)
3. Take time to validate how the other person feels—regardless of what side of a dispute you're on, what position of power you're in, what you feel about the situation.
4. Return the call no matter how unimportant you believe it to be. (Again, what's unimportant to you may be extremely urgent to your caller.)
5. Make informed decisions. This means understanding the concerns of all the parties involved before implementing a plan.

Take time to communicate with care. It always makes a difference to someone.

PETA, Paul, and Pigeons

Let me say right upfront that, contrary to the above headline, there is no "Paul" in this post. It was a cheap alliterative trick that brought back fond memories of the singing trio.

Now to the matter: I have been remiss. I've been avoiding reviving the pigeon saga (see Lull's July 5th entry, "What Would PETA Do?") for a number of reasons, not least of which is every time I thought the saga had come to a close, it would magically reopen again.

Working Birds
The day I began researching the birds, a pigeon in South America made headlines. It was caught smuggling a cellphone into a prison for one of the residents. Of course you know pigeons have served for centuries as postal carriers, but did you also know these versatile birds operate in search-and-rescue missions because of their exceptional eyesight? What's more, pigeons can hear sound at lower frequencies than humans—for instance, thunderstorms and volcanoes in the distance, wind blowing across a building—which may account for the sudden and seemingly senseless need for flocks of pigeons to take flight from a telephone wire.

Diverse Family Tree
Pigeons may all look the same to you, but that's only because you probably see just a few types in your part of the world. They range in size from the dimensions of a sparrow to those of a turkey and may be found in nearly every corner of the Earth (except Antarctica, the high Arctic, and the driest part of the Sahara). They've been here for millions of years.
Though scientists have studied the showier breeds, little research has been conducted on the pigeons common to inner cities. (Cornell ornithologists are working on filling this gap. You can help them with Project PigeonWatch.)

It Takes a Family to Raise a Colony
Pigeons mate for life and share in parenting duties. In fact, both genders produce the nutrient-rich "crop milk" for their offspring, and both incubate the eggs. And it was at this point in my research that the messy pigeons on our back stairway were beginning to endear themselves to me.

I learned that it wouldn't take long for the eggs to hatch and not long after that, the fledglings would be ready to take off and we could encourage the families to look for a new residence.

I started noticing banded pigeons and wondered where their homes were. (I'm not good at catching birds so was unable to help them return to their guardians.)

But upon further reading, a harsh reality set in.

Each mated pair could raise multiple families in one year; the extended family would stick around and raise their own broods on the stairs; they posed health risks to our pets.

They had to go.

I read lots of forums about pigeon-removal best practices and for every method that worked at one apartment building, it didn't work at another. There didn't seem to be a solution. Until I started reviewing all the years I've lived here and why we never had this problem before: cats. And not even killer-instinct cats. Even my super-sweet special-needs cat did the trick.

However, before I could appeal to the other tenants to rescue a few shelter cats to guard against pigeon population growth, the feathered critters were gone. I don't know why, and I don't want to know.

But I'm grateful for the motivation to learn more about a remarkable bird typically regarded as a stupid pest.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Cure for Writer's Block?

Spike Milligan was part of a merry band of writers in 1950s Britain who were known as Associated London Scripts. They brought such shows as 'Til Death Do Us Part (became All in the Family in the U.S.), Steptoe & Son (became Sanford & Son across the Atlantic), The Goon Show (which inspired Monty Python), and Dr. Who to the television screen. In Spike & Co., biographer Graham McCann details Milligan's bulldoze approach to producing a first draft and subsequent improvements:

“Once he had started work on a script he disliked ever having to stop; he wrote as he thought, and if he came to a place where the right line failed to emerge, he would just jab a finger at one of the keys, type ‘FUCK IT’ or ‘BOLLOCKS,’ and then carry on regardless. The first draft would feature plenty of such expletives, but then, with each successive version, the expletives grew fewer and fewer, until by about the tenth draft, he had a complete, expletive-free script.”

I don't recommend this method for business writing—too much potential for slip-ups. But for personal use, it may be your good-luck charm. It certainly paved the way for Milligan's success.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's 9:09 on 9.9.09

That's it. A lot of 9s at one time. The ninth day of the ninth month in the ninth year of this new millennium. Which ought to make this one of the luckiest moments of my life.

I'm waiting.

Waiting for something lucky to happen. In fact, I've waited all day.

Perhaps it's time to alter my perspective. Perhaps I was lucky not to have had any BAD thing happen to me today.

Hey, I'm lucky after all!

How was your day?

"I believe in bad luck. I believe I will always have it, and I plan accordingly."
—Napoleon Bonaparte

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stop Smiling

Today's headline is actually the name of a magazine published in Chicago. I love it because just reading the name makes me smile. And the subtitle tickles me, too: The Magazine for High-Minded Lowlifes. That's me! And if it's you, too, then you should check it out. It's a well-designed publication with themed issues—Hollywood writers of the past, the demise of American publishing, interviews with cultural icons.

Our guests have departed, our pooch is sick from "people food" treats, and we're exhausted. But we'll get back in a groove soon enough. It's refreshing to share our small universe with outsiders. It greatly expands said universe temporarily and then leaves it ever-so-slightly, permanently reshaped. We're grateful for the change; the dog was grateful for the new adoration.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hey! Hey! Hey! It's Labor Day . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Here's an occasion the unemployed can feel good about.  

Labor Day has been celebrated in this country since 1882 with parades, speeches, and family recreation. It's a holiday we borrowed from Canada and one that we've slowly turned into an outdoor grilling event.

I know someone who's marking today as her last in the ranks of the fully unemployed: Tomorrow, she begins a new job. But it's not the job she hoped for, and it's not even a full-time job. As far as she's concerned, she's still on the lookout for work that makes use of her skills and that maybe even engages and challenges her. As far as the government is concerned, she's no longer UNemployed, and can be dropped from the tally of displaced workers. But who can live on a part-time job at slightly more than a minimum wage? How can we ignore this portion of the workforce when sizing up the gravity of our labor situation?

[Photo: 1920s Del Monte workers, on Foundsf.]

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Caught in a Flurry of Activity

This week (since Thursday) has been a most unusual one.

We've had two visitors, which is something akin to saying "We had snow in the Sahara this week."

One visitor came to bid us farewell before heading west to a new and as yet undetermined life. My husband and I are both a bit envious. We, too, would like to pull up stakes and start over somewhere. But we feel encumbered by decisions and logistics and conflicting advice from others. 

Our other visitor simply came to check up on her former teacher (i.e., my husband). Her adult life and career are just beginning. She's pursuing her Ph.D. and planning a January wedding. And yesterday she flew a kite for the first time in her life. We will take pleasure in watching her journey.

My unemployment pay has been reinstated after a curious three-week hiatus. I think it might have had something to do with moving from the state plan to the federal plan, but I'm not sure. I'm just relieved that cash is going IN to my bank account as well as OUT.

I haven't heard from my lawyer about my eviction case—when the next court date is, what my options look like, whether I should go ahead and rent the apartment we found. Grrr.

Well, well, well. I received a letter (literally, the envelope was addressed only to me) from my current landlord yesterday. He/They/It returned my August and September rent checks and advised me to deliver money to him/them/it by way of my attorney. I know that what I'm about to tell you will sound petty, but that's where I'm at with this matter right now. Before I scanned and e-mailed the letter to my attorney, I made a copy of it to edit it. Yes, you read correctly: I marked up that missive in red ink because it was poorly written and rife with mistakes and insincerity. It's bad enough to be taken advantage of by someone with more power; it's humiliating and unthinkable for that entity/individual to retain said power AND demonstrate its/his/her ignorance of the English language. I was incensed. Still am.

I did something I said I would NEVER EVER do: I wrote in to a talk show. I'm feeling a little regretful about it, too. My only explanation is that I'd been wanting to write a short piece about my wedding—to commemorate it on one hand, and on the other to honor and thank the individuals who made it happen. By telling the media a little bit about it, I guess I thought that would motivate me to get the job done. Time will tell. The subject of the show was Cost-Saving Wedding Tips. 

Maybe nothing will come of it and I'll continue standing in this Web corner I've carved for myself. Or maybe something will come of it and I'll find the courage to revisit my Facebook page. 

Yesterday afternoon at the beach, a hawk flew right past me. He seemed a tad distraught as he tried to make his way through the caverns of high-rises. And last night, when I was driving our guest back to her family's home, an opossum caused me to swerve and brake suddenly. He had strips of fur missing, as if someone had purposely shaved  a striped pattern into him. Eww. Fortunately for all of us, he waddled off the road and the car behind me kept its distance from me. Disaster averted.

That's the latest from my little world. It's been exhausting for my husband and I suspect that once his former student leaves, he'll require bedrest for the next week or so. And so it goes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

E-Hugs for the Unemployed

Yesterday I mentioned Unemployment Haiku Weekly as a source for poetry. But it's also a great source for more Web sites that focus on displaced workers. Here are a few others I've run across:

Though this site focuses on ad industry professionals, you'll find relevant and entertaining material here provided by creative and engaging folks. Be sure to check out Erik Proulx's trailer to his documentary on the unemployed, Lemonade.

This is billed as "the definitive unemployment blog." It has a number of contributing writers reporting on unemployment-related news, giving job-hunting and unemployment-enduring advice, and creating a community of displaced workers (especially in California). You'll also find lots of videos on this site. 

This tongue-in-cheek site could make you chuckle—or it could tick you off. 

This site promotes networking events [gleeful pity parties?] for freelance creatives in Minneapolis. But it could be franchised.

You'll find all kinds of challenges people have faced on this site, plus communities divided by topic.

Whatever you're looking for—inspiration, commiseration, insight, community—you may bump into on the Web. But whatever you do, just don't let go.

What Rhymes with "Bee" and Ends with "Tree"?

It's a lame headline, I know, but I'm already a little brain-fried from trying unsuccessfully to add a few SocialVibe gadgets to Lull. (I'll explain later.) The answer to the question is Poetry.

Anyway, I've added poetry to the circle of reading material I have at hand and I'm quite enjoying it. I think I may even protect my poetry books from the library culling I'm still working on. And I recommend that you look into some poetry yourself. Here's why:

1. Most poems are not a huge commitment of time. You can get an entire poem read in less than 5 minutes.
2. A single poem has a beginning, middle, and end and takes you on a journey just as a novel would—but in much less time and with far fewer words.
3. The construction of poetry can be complex. There are a variety of components to it that serious devotees of the art examine while reading, but you don't need to have a scholarly understanding of the artistry and structural intents behind a poem to enjoy it.
4. A really good poem can pull you into its world and uplift or broaden your own.

Author Sarah Vowell (Assassination Vacation) started reading poetry to offset the daily news:

“...I’ve been on this kick where, before I face the morning paper’s apocalypse roundup, I read a poem. I had hoped this would make me start each day in awe of humanity. Sometimes it works, but mostly I just read the news imagining melting polar ice caps drowning all the Emily Dickinson paperbacks in the world.”

Well, poetry won't necessarily change reality for you. But it can give you a perfect moment in anotherwise trying day. 

If you don't have any poems lying around the house, just visit the Poetry Foundation or the Academy of American Poets. And be sure to take a peek at Unemployment Haiku Weekly, where you'll find only the smallest, most rule-laden genre of poetry—the haiku—on only one topic: unemployment. Plus the author accompanies each haiku with a cartoon. What's not to like?

I don't mean to sound like a poetry evangelist, but recently, as I've been confronted with more problems and more far-reaching decisions to make, I find it difficult to concentrate properly on a novel and thereby difficult to enjoy. Poetry has proven to be a great temporary substitute—and likely a permanent addition to my reading circle.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reporting on Job-Search Results

If you're on the dole, you have to track your job search for the government. And one of the columns you have to complete is labelled "Results."

Now this is where time matters. At what point do we give up hope and call it "Rejection"? I've left this column blank because I've not heard back from anyone. Not even an automated Thank you for your submission. Now you can forget you ever applied here cuz you're not going to hear from us again.

It's not that difficult to set up an automated response that lets applicants know their applications went through. (Okay. I'm exaggerating somewhat. I've had less than a handful of automated thank-yous. You know who you are.) These are major, recognizable companies I've been applying to so I expect their hiring process to be a bit more polished than small, family-owned operations.

Searching for a job is beginning to look like a numbers game to me: The more jobs I apply for, the better my chances of getting one. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Which is why I applied to a terrorist organization. (I hope this proves to the government how much I want a job rather than my failure at patriotism.)

And I've got to hand it to these guys: They blew away the Fortune 500 in the etiquette-of-hiring department. I know exactly where I stand with them and can now report this in the Results column: REJECTED.


Yes, REJECTED. I can't even get traction with a bunch of terrorists. Which casts the rest of the Results column in a new light. As a new season sets in, I suppose I need to re-examine my hope approach.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's Not a Crime to Cry "Uncle!"

Being unemployed is tragic enough, but here's a newsflash: Life goes on. Even the bumpy and horrific bits of it.

That is to say that unemployment may feel like we've hit bottom, but mark my words: Life will keep swinging at us. We are not immune to the accidents and hardships it has to offer.

The difference is that we may have lost the community from the workplace that kept our chins up, lost the anchor of structure that a job provides. So coping with these additional punches is that much more stressful, more painful, more disappointing, more irritating, more More MORE intense.

My "Aha!" moment may very well be a "Duh" moment for you. I realize that all those articles about unemployment mention the importance of networking and support groups in relation to being unemployed, but I hadn't considered their importance in relation to Life's routine trials.

We have to persist in talking to people, telling them what's going on in our worlds, allowing them to advise and console, allowing ourselves to admit we're lodged between the proverbial rock and hard place. Let people in. Don't feel embarrassed about it or feel guilty over it or feel like we owe them something in return.

Let people in. It helps them grow and helps us heal. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Take Time to Stop and Smell the Moonflower

It's the first day of a new month.

My husband and I used to celebrate our relationship on the first day of every month, with a larger annual celebration on April 1st. But then we got married after 25 years of testing our cohabitability and confused ourselves about which dates to honor. All of them, you say? You're probably right.

For my pooch, the first day of a new month means taking the dreaded heartworm medication.

But today is the first day of a special month: September. For many children, it's the end of freedom and the beginning of school. (When I was a kid, I could hardly wait for summer to end and homework to begin.) Here in the Midwest, today marks the onset of a new and colorful season. (The tree outside my sunporch window already bears swaths of yellow leaves.)

Autumn is the season I can't get enough of. But I fear that this year, more than previous years, the atypical weather we've been having is going to strip the trees of their leaves early and we'll have extra snowless, gray days to stretch out our Winter. 

So I have to make every outing with the pooch count: Make her go to the park instead of walking around the block, try to catch each change of hue as it happens, notice the shifts in sunlight. 

Of course, this is a moot point if she whines and groans me awake at 4 o'clock in the morning as she did today, in which case I keep my eyes peeled for smarmy characters in the shadows. However, if we end up headed west on one block, we pass a large bush of "moonflowers." The intensely fragrant blossoms open only at night—and only once. I'm many decades into my life and this is the first moonflower I've ever seen. I try to savor it whenever I can.

Happy September 1st to you, dear reader! 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...