So now I am doing the ole’ freelance thang: sitting in a café typing and reading, while Lily is in a drama class down the street. My iPod is playing my song mix in my ear–Nanci Griffin right now, singing Woody Gutherie, Do Re Mi; how appropriate he is for these times.Followed by Meat Loaf, Paradise By the Dashboard Light--stop right there! I gotta know right now!
I feel like a statisic. Heck, I am a statistic. I am a number, one of many millions. I think there’s like 5 million getting unemployment, but we all know that’s a fake number, that lots of people beyond that aren’t working, or are working two or three jobs and still not making enough to live on. I guess W could get unemployment, eh? Or does he just get a pension. Obama has a job, at least, thank god (even though I voted for Nader). Not sure what I think about his economists. Well, I know what I think of them: Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner are big parts of the reason we’re here now. And Summers is a misogynistic turkey besides, which makes him a bad economist--imagine cutting out half your potential work force. Oh well. At least it isn’t Paulson and that crowd.
So yes, unemployed, laid off, jobless. I don’t want to lose my severance, so suffice it to say that I’m not mad at Disney. Truly I'm not. I learned at the age of 13 that it's easier to leave a place angry than sad, and I learned at 45 that the anger is usually covering the sadness, at least in my case. And the fear, although as long as I stay in the day I don't have much fear. And yes of course I'm very sad.
What I will say is, I was very proud of Wondertime. I've told this story before, how I didn’t even apply when I saw the first job listing. How I said phooey to the first ad I saw. Forget that, a Disney parenting magazine, yuck! But then I didn’t get another job, one I really wanted, so I applied to the yucky old magazine and I got an interview. And that’s when I bothered to read it. And then I thought, I’ll will be lucky if they even read my resume! It would be an honor to work with the people who put out this fabulous magazine. And I started praying to get hired.
Of course I did get the job, although those couple of months or so waiting and wondering and praying was scary. And wow, what a cool thing, to finally get a job as an assigning editor that I’d finally decided I wanted all those years ago at Time Inc. but then never really had. I was scared; I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I contacted writers and read clips and websites and helped them with proposals and wrote assignment letters and then edited the manuscripts that came in. I picked the brains of the other editors, and the art department, and copy, and fact. And I learned how to be an associate editor at a national magazine.
And I have to say, it was an honor to work with the people who put out the fabulous Wondertime. Every single person I worked with is an incredible professional. The women who started this thing are visionaries, brilliant, empathetic--poetic, even. They created this funny, smart, warm, loving publication that was always respectful of children and never ever laughed at them, only at ourselves as parents. But even that was gentle. Parenting is hard enough without pouring on the guilt, right? So lets teach people what we can, and commiserate and laugh and feel compassion and share what we’ve learned. It was described to me as a group of parents having a coffee after morning drop-off, talking about the latest challenges and joys. And I know that sounds like a press release or cover letter to a potential interviewer but I believe it. Besides, I'm a sap.
So as a response to my unemployment I’ve been watching a lot of West Wing and it makes me realize how lonely that job, the president of the United States, is. No matter how many advisors he has, it all comes down to that one guy, the one making the final decisions. Parenting is lonely too, especially in those very early months and years. I think Wondertime tried hard to bridge that gap, to connect with parents, to listen to each other, share best practices, have a laugh. Plus the writing and photography was extraordinary.
At any rate, we get very generous severance, followed by unemployment, and I have a couple of months to find work in these troublesome times. I go into the office almost every day (not yesterday, with its 8+ inches of wet snow and sleet) and work on my resume. Well, first I called and emailed all my writers and arranged whatever payment they were due. Then I went through all my files and sorted stuff, passed some on to those staying on and tossed the rest. There's quite a loss involved here, one I hadn't quite prepared for when I imagined losing my job for whatever reason. My feature in the April issue was shaping up nicely, plus my departments, and I know my writers were also disappointed that their work is not to appear. I had several things in inventory too, for later issues, and they will not appear in Wondertime, of course. It's painful, and sad.
We had our second annual housewarming last Sunday--mark your calendars for next year; the weekend after Martin Luther King Jr. holiday (and did you know that some parts of the south celebrate Jefferson/Lee Day the Friday before this holiday? Sick). So my little family spent Saturday cleaning and scrubbing the entire house. Dusting, vacuuming, mopping, laundry (lots and lots of laundry), emptying trash, sorting toys, clearing clutter, scraping snow off the walkway. Yes it’s cathartic but there’s still so much more to do, the files both external and computer, the piles of junk mail that have no place to live but seem so essential, the big house-chores, the projects, the projects, the projects.
My dear sister Cate came in Saturday night and was a huge help. She made a rice salad on Saturday night and went shopping with me on Sunday morning. Mum came in and she helped cook too. Here’s the menu: curry rice salad from the old Bread and Circus, pesto pasta salad that wasn’t so great, a ham, a turkey, a so-called Greek frittata (anything with feta is Greek, just like anything with avocado is Californian), several cheeses, including my fave (and Cate’s), manchego, and lots of breads. Oh, and cookies. And I actually got potato chips and onion dip. Haven't done that in 30 years, but I felt like junk food.
The house was warm and full -- lots of folks came, maybe 30 or 40, over the course of the afternoon, kids, adults, retired, unemployed (several former colleagues came), plus my family, of course. It was fun, and affirming—yes, life goes on. It just does.
Something about that. It goes on. Life goes on. Some folks are really scared, and drinking, and eating. I’m scared when I am not in the moment, in the day. I have to stay in the day. Wiggle your toes, my friend Dee says. Where are your feet? Wiggle your toes. Stay in the day. Normally I can get scared, and these are not normal times. But it’s one day at a time, right? Can’t live in tomorrow. Live in the day emotionally. Plan for the future in a practical way, sure but live today and don’t freak out because Dave might lose his job next summer.
So yes, Dave could lose his job. He just started at UMass this October and the state is facing a huge shortfall and they are talking about reorganizing the entire university, which means big cuts. His boss reassured him he’d be safe, but you know, you never know. He’s the only programmer for 300 people, but you never know. These are scary times.
At any rate, you never know. Brooklyn friends have just bought a second home in southern Vermont so we're going to visit them and welcome them to New England life. It'll be lovely to have them local some of the time. I am enjoying FaceBook, even though I'm just a statistic there too, one of 150 million (!).
And the snow is lovely and thewinter light is incredible, especially when I go into Lily's room at 6:45 am and pull up her shades and look out the skylight at the trees, their branches silhouetted against the pre-dawn sky. They look like skeletons with their leaves off, stark and severe but also, you can really see their structure, see how they are standing, how graceful and serene. I want to be like that.