Saturday, December 30, 2006

Going on vacation when you don't have a job

Since my job these days is to find a job, I figure I can take a break this Christmas week, so for awhile I refrained (somewhat) from going on the computer and the phone. Instead I'm trying to show up for my family, cooking, reading, and sleeping. I'm also trying not to think about all the things I have to do in the new year. We had Christmas in Connecticut at my sister Cate's and I purposely left my laptop behind, even though their WiFi and CD collection are very tempting. Not on purpose I left my cell phone charger at home, and eventually that battery ran down, so I was really disconnected. But all that helped me to be more present. I think.

It was humbling to realize when we got back on Tuesday afternoon that I had almost no email messages and no phone messages at all. Clearly I am just not that important. So I've been spending the last couple of days online, organizing my bookmarks and getting caught up on my reading. I've being reading Salon, mostly the incomparable Anne Lamott, who makes me feel good about being a mom and being spiritual, and newsy, end-of-year wrap-up kind of stuff.

Anything you want to know about food in New York City, and the coverage of a certain newspaper, and lots of other good stuff, may be found in Regina Schrambling's website, Gastropoda. I worked on a story about the Amish for LIFE with her consort, the extraordinary photographer Bob Sacha, and she is a literary and culinary hero of mine. Thank god she was still on the food desk at the Times after 9/11. Her stories comforted me like pasta or stew.

The Guardian has a really good story about Saddam Hussein. It's possible to tell of the role the United States had in Saddam without blaming his horrors entirely on it. I found it unsurprising that he was beaten regularly and severely beginning as a very young child; I believe that evil is created, not thrust into the world.

One of the great benefits of attending Wellesley College, and maybe women's colleges in general, is its terrific career services for both undergrads and alumnae. Much of it is available online, too. There's an extensive network of Wellesley alums willing to talk to other Wellesleyites, and so far, between them and other introductions, I have had informational interviews with an Amherst town planner, a co-director of a fabulous organization called the Institute for Training and Development, an editor at Smith Alumnae Quarterly magazine, director of a thinktank at UMass, a former PR director from Hampshire College, and a writer/reporter/former Ada Comstock Scholar. Adas are Smith College's version of the Davis Scholars, the program that I participated in at Wellesley. And more to come.

All this is by way of networking for both work and community. I am learning that people don't leave their jobs here, especially if they work at one of the colleges. But while there is little turnover, I am further told that potential employers will be attracted by my coming from New York and the new energy and fresh ideas I presumably bring. Let's hope so. At least they don't seem to expect me to dress like a New Yorker, something I have never done well. A lot of extremely competent people live and work here -- the colleges are big employers, of course, and so are the many non-profits and small businesses, and there are zillions of artists and freelancers of all sorts -- and we were told early on that many people are overqualified and underpaid for what they do. I don't know where I will end up in all this, but what I am taking away is to keep my expectations low -- but as always, not settling -- and just keep reaching out and meeting people and taking it one day at a time.

And through my various connections I do have some beginning friendships now, which helps me feel grounded and less lonely. Lily has two friends whose families have been really friendly to us, including our farmer neighbors next door. Dave is going to chaperone her Wednesday afternoon ski lessons that run all January, four buses full of Amherst elementary and secondary school students and he's also making noises about some other kind of volunteering. He'll look for work eventually, but right now we can actually afford for him to take some time off, and it's a pleasure to let him.

We'll be in Brooklyn for our closing on Friday, Jan. 12, rescheduled yesterday by request of the buyer. Look for us over the long weekend, if you are local. Oh, yes, and a very happy new year to all.

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