A Real Job

I wrote the following blog on October 1st, less than four months ago.

I just want a real job. A real job. The kind with an actual paycheck on a regular payday from a place that pays payroll taxes and maybe even has an HR department and benefits. But I would be willing to forgo the HR department if I had to. And benefits aren’t really that important. Really, just a regular, steady paycheck would be fine. I’m not even asking for a living wage anymore.

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My partner and I have downsized so many times and have given up so many luxuries that a “living wage” now looks like a lot less money than it used to. We gave up the second car, a second cell phone line, internet service, Netflix, going out and, last year, all birthday and holiday gifts. At this point, we don’t need much to just get by. I’m hoping to do work that is somewhat-stimulating and mildly-meaningful and pays just a little bit of money. I’ve really lowered the bar. I have very low expectations at this point.

I’m asking for just enough to pay the bills and to save a smidgen so I don’t have to keep asking my parents every time we have an emergency.

I’m 34 years old, very bright, very employable, college-educated with a great smile and a can-do attitude. I would be an asset to any company or organization.

I keep hearing reports that the recession is over and that unemployment is going down but I’m just not seeing any evidence of that in my every day life. In other words, I’m calling bullshit.

My partner and I moved to a rural county in small-town Northern California three and a half years ago when my big-city social services job was being cut by new state policies. My partner had a job and was commuting three hours every day. We figured that it would make more financial sense for us to move closer to her work, cut the commute, and that I would find a job before my unemployment benefits ran out. My unemployment benefits ran out more than two years ago.

I don’t know anyone my age who has a job that they love at a wage they deserve. To put it mildly, my generation is struggling to make ends meet.

My mom and many people her age say that the way to get a job in this economy is to start by volunteering. Today, I am technically “working” three jobs: one pays me in vegetables, one pays me in beer, and one pays me in warm feelings. (I’m serious about the beer. I’m the quiz master at our local pub on Wednesdays and I get a free IPA for my time.) I have been regularly volunteering for seven different organizations in the past year. I put in about 60 volunteer hours each week. No one pays me. No one has money. No one is hiring. Vegetables, beer and warm feelings are wonderful things but I want someone to show me the money. Show me the money!!

I don’t know that I have much hope any longer for finding a real job. I don’t know that anyone from Generation X or Y has any hope. Some of us have moved back home. Some of us have found room mates or co-habitation situations to help with bills. Many of us are working two or three minimum wage jobs just to pay rent and afford car insurance.

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If the recession is “over,” it isn’t because the economy is healthy and the American Dream is attainable. It is because most people have really lowered their standards.

I am thankful every day that my partner and I have each other and that we are able to support each other. I’m thankful that she makes a decent living and that she has been supportive through our long-term financial crunch.

But really…I just want a real job.

My Feminist Crossroads

Sometimes we hold it in. Sometimes we bite our tongues. Sometimes we lose our poise and our diplomacy. Sometimes there are things we wish to say but know that we would be better for not saying. Sometimes we say those things anyhow. Sometimes we lose our shit.

I am ready to lose my shit.

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But I know that words like “bitch,” “cunt,” “whore,” and “slut” are words better never said. Even when they are viscerally on the tip of the tongue.

I am at a feminist cross roads.

The last time that I can remember wanting to use the word “bitch” in print was in college, ten years ago, when I was monitoring the website for the UC Davis chapter of the National Organization for Women and was quoting an article from the feminist periodical Bitch Magazine.

These days I’d like to use the word bitch in a traditional and phenomenal way.

My family recently found out that, for the past several months, my brother’s wife has been cheating on him with a mediocre rapper from the San Francisco Bay Area. The only word I want to use these days, with regard to this issue, is “bitch.”

Well “bitch,” “cunt,” “whore,” and “slut”. Those are the particular words I’d like to put into print over and over over and over. (Not on my blog. I’d like to put them into a series of text messages directly to my brother’s wife’s phone number.) I’m trying to be polite by posting them here for every one else to see.

My brother isn’t perfect. (And for complete disclosure, the man whom I’m referring to in this blog is actually my brother-in-law, my wife’s brother, and not my actual blood. But still, he’s my brother.)

My brother is a great man and he is also an imperfect man. First and flawlessly, he is a wonderful father to my nieces, two beautiful young women, whom he has primary custody of. He is sweet and often insecure. He has a hard time dealing with his insecurity and so he tends to act out when he is afraid. Sometimes he raises his voice. Sometimes he argues. Sometimes he is so insecure that he picks fights for reassurance. He is an artist and a beautiful vocalist. He plays the guitar and he paints. He has had a hard time having successful relationships because he hasn’t had a lot of reasonable role models for successful relationships in his life. (I know the issues. I’m married to his older sister.) But, like his older sister, my wife, he is a lover and he tries.

I am not saying these things to validate my desires to use terrible words against a particular woman. Too often, as women, we use a few nice men to invalidate or eliminate the male-dominated indoctrination and misogynistic society that we live in. Just because my brother is a nice and complicated guy doesn’t mean that an entire gender isn’t also marginalized. Please don’t misunderstand me.

My brother is a good man. Women still make $.76 to a man’s dollar and are usually demonized or marginalized when successful, pretty, happy, skinny, married, single, poor, ugly, fat, religious, depressed, childless, motherly, atheist, cheerful, athletic, or basically any incarnation of woman that a woman can be.

I am finding myself in uncharted waters.

I don’t know how to be a feminist woman and concurrently feel biting anger and vehement disapproval of my brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife’s infidelity and sexual indiscretion. I honestly just want to lash out.

The Small Stuff

The Small Stuff

It is not just the small stuff; it is every single little tiny thing.

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I love the New Year. Even though it is just another day, the perception that it is a “new year” makes the event pregnant with possibility. Just because, in reality, we only went from a Wednesday to a Thursday doesn’t mean we can’t make assessments and set goals. I like reflection. If we need an excuse for it, fine.

For 2015, I have given myself one word. My word for the year is “verve”.

Having a New Year’s “word” is fairly new to me. Poet and author, Molly Fisk, turned me on to the idea. She is one of my very favorite people and definitely one of my favorite Facebook friends. At the end of the calendar year, she asks people what their word for the next year will be. When she asked in 2012, I set my word for 2013 as “friendship.”

It took me a long time to decide on my word for 2015 and I’m taking my word very seriously.

Verve: noun 1. enthusiasm or vigor, as in literary or artistic work; spirit. 2. vivaciousness; liveliness; animation. 3. talent

I think that I came to my word because, for the past several weeks, I have been doing something fun, artistic and new to me. I have been working with miniatures. Or, more specifically, I have been working with the most famous 1:6 scale doll in the world: Barbie. (It has honestly been for professional reasons, but I will get to that.)

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Even as a little girl, I never really liked Barbies. I certainly never expected to find myself playing with Barbies at the age of 34. I have always liked make-believe but I never really took myself for someone who would enjoy miniatures.

A couple months ago, in November of 2014 I was hired for a big job, a real job. I was hired as the Executive Director of Sierra Commons, a non-profit business education center and coworking facility in Nevada City. As a part of my new job, I started to amp up my involvement in the community. I started reading every word of every Chamber of Commerce newsletter. I faithfully checked all the community calendars. I researched every non-profit resource that I could find.

As a part of my efforts, I came across an announcement put out by our local library. The main branch of the library (called the Madelyn Helling Branch, after a wonderful local lady) was taking applications from local non-profits who wanted to utilize a display case for a month. I immediately put in an application and, on a whim, decided to list our “preferential month” as January. The library wrote back about a week later to say that we were accepted and that we could have January. January 2015.

At that time, January 2015 was about six weeks away. I was super excited. I thought that we would just place a poster and post some information and call it a day. No biggie.

Then the library sent me the list of rules and the dimensions for the display case. “Each case measures 46” wide, 52” high and is approximately 15” deep. Both have adjustable wooden shelves that are about 10” deep.”

WTF?

I blinked a few times and then reread the email. I was never very good at math but, by my calculations, our display case was about four feet wide, nearly five feet tall and more than a foot deep. That’s huge. Like trophy case huge.

I’m not entirely sure why my panic subsided into the not-so-logical conclusion that I would just make a diorama representing Sierra Commons. It probably had something to do with the recent family trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco’s Presidio. I hadn’t made a diorama since my 3rd Grade book report on The Cat in The Hat. Still, it seemed like a logical conclusion. I would just make a diorama.

I learned at the museum that Walt Disney once said of his artistic specifications for Disneyland, “While some of the detail may go unnoticed, the lack of detail would have been apparent.”

I kept that in mind while I prepared to make a diorama, a diorama that was supposed to represent my friends, coworkers and our work space.

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I used Barbie and Ken dolls because they are the most easily accessible and readily available little humanish representations that I could find. I found my dolls at the local Cancer Aid Thrift Store. Some had pen on their faces which I removed with rubbing alcohol. Some of them badly needed their hair brushed. One Barbie has hair so frizzy that I separated it and turned it into dreadlocks and added beads. All of the dolls were naked.

I searched eBay for clothing and started to find “accessories.” The world of the 1:6 doll is vast. (It also has a interesting fetishist side, which surprised me. If you want a strange and weird experience, try googling “1:6 doll” in images. NSFW.) It is basically a rabbit hole. I narrowed my searches and started to find little potted plants and teeny tiny iPhones. I found itty bitty board games and notebooks and pencils. I found little laptop computers. I found tiny cups of coffee. I found to-scale bags of M&Ms. Everything that I could want to recreate our office was basically available.

I bought all of it. (Well not all of it. I bought almost anything under $10. I stopped at the $300 little Persian rugs and the $600 tiny Tiffany lamps.)

I started to think about the floor and the walls and the windows and the desks. I started to visualize an entire floor plan. I ordered window frames and baseboards from a dollhouse maker in Michigan. I printed up pictures of the Sierra Commons campus to paste on the inside of the windows so that it would look like looking out the window from our actual office.

I started to think about the small stuff. I started to notice the small stuff. I started to take the small stuff seriously.

I worked through December and into the holidays on my diorama. I started to think about the new year. I started to see things differently. I started to reflect.

As I paid attention to every minute detail of my diorama, I started to pay attention to the smaller things in my life. I started to think about the whole as the sum of its parts. I started to think about my life as the sum of my years and my days and my moments.

Late in the evening on December 31st, 2014, the word “verve” popped into my. It came out of no where and I had to pick up my iPad and research the meaning because I wasn’t sure what it meant. I thought that it was something artistic but I wasn’t sure. When I read the definition, I liked the word right away. I especially liked the idea of animation. I like the idea of animation because it has movement but also because animation is just a series of single pictures that create the illusion of liveliness and movement.

Life is an animation. It has verve. Sometimes we may not notice it or feel it but that’s exactly what it is. It’s the small stuff. The wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary small stuff.