Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Themes for 2009

One of the folks I follow on Twitter suggested that everyone should have themes for the upcoming year. Thereupon, I decided that my three themes will be: audacity, reinvention, and self-image. Those three words pretty much cover my hopes for 2009. I am looking forward to having 2008 behind me, that's for sure. In retrospect, the theme for 2008 was sadness.


Of course, this is probably a popular theme I would think, based upon our president-elect's use of it in his book. I realize it takes a certain amount of audacity to use audacity--so what a great start to the year. I like the connotations behind it--take no prisoners, surprise!, getting out of a rut, in your face,....the list goes on.


Since I am out of a job, I certainly have to figure out a new way to make a living. And since my last job was at a company that did a product for the automotive business, I sure don't want to keep working in that area. Even with the bailout, I am not interested. I foresee a continually shrinking market as people have come to the conclusion that belt-tightening is healthy and they don't need a new car every two years. That being said, it adds up to a new job, career, career path, or something along those lines. The great news is, it looks like David and I will work on a venture together--and I am really excited! I have always wanted us to do something together, with a creative bent to it. It's a secret right now, but there will be more to come from it in 2009.


Losing a job is always rough on one's self-image. I have fought that during December, but vowed that I am done with it now. Yay! I will work on this aspect of my life every month next year.

So, there you have it. In my last post for 2008, my themes for 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recession hits Martha Stewart

I got my latest Martha Stewart magazine last week. It was immediately obvious that the recession has hit her company. I showed the magazine to David--it was about half the size as normal. In fact, it was about the size it used to be during the time span when Martha was under a cloud of suspicion, convicted, and in prison. The magazine was downright skinny during those days, a ghost of itself in better times.

So the moral is that the advertisers have pulled their ads--or at least some of them. The Martha magazine has been hefty the last couple of years, even up to the latest months. But the economics have caught up and those chicken advertisers are trying to save their dollars for better days. I don't think it will faze Martha though; she is a tough one. She certainly didn't let prison keep her down.

She has done two things that so many people would love to do--brand themselves and do what they love all the time. The rest of us should be so lucky.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


When I was a child, one year at Christmas time, my parents went to Sears and Roebuck (or maybe J.C. Penney's) and bought us a fireplace. It was made out of cardboard; I remember it was red and gray and white and black. They erected it in the living room for Santa to come down the chimney. The whole family was very proud of it, I recall. I have to strain to remember but this is something that I have never forgotten. Putting up the fireplace became part of the Christmas tradition for some years, just as we put up the tree and the ancient electric candle set that my mother placed in a front window--just as we taped all of the Christmas cards we received onto the front door.

The memory of that fireplace came to me just a few years ago, triggered by I don't know what. A long time has passed since I thought of it. Once recalled, I thought how pitiful it was, that fireplace. It felt symbolic of many things--our paltry income, the inadequacy of our little house that barely held two adults and six children, some naivety on the part of my parents. Yet how was the fireplace any different from the belief and ritual around Santa Claus? All the fireplace required was the suspension of disbelief, just as Santa did, and lo and behold, it was just another cheerful way of celebrating the holiday.

Recently I noticed that there was an iPhone application composed of a fireplace that filled the device screen, blazing and crackling away. I chuckled over it, thinking about my childhood fireplace. When I mentioned it to David, he pointed out that there are cable stations that do the same; show a lit fireplace. He remarked that these latest were high def versions of my own low def fireplace.

And so it goes. Evidently a fireplace is important for some folks, whether it is to aid in Santa's work or to provide a symbol of comfort and warmth in the wintertime. I wonder what happened to my parent's cardboard fireplace, which I am sure was thrown out long ago once it lost the magical appeal.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Accommodation: Let's do Both

Last night we went to our friends' place for a little apres-Xmas get-together. As it turns out they are a mixed religion family, the husband is Jewish, the wife is not, and their house wonderfully reflected both aspects of the holiday. The fireplace mantel was decorated with menorahs--gold and silver, all sparkling in the light. Next to the fireplace, the Christmas tree occupied its own place of honor, fully decked out in ornaments and ribbons, with presents underneath. As we wandered through the house, we found more of the same: a tablecloth covered with Jewish symbols showcased a lovely buffet including pork. It felt almost as if there were twins in the room, and one was black and the other white.

In thinking about it later, I imagined that there must be many families with the same approach which is symbolic of much larger accommodation in our lives. Rather than insisting upon or instituting one way or another, one religion or the other, they simply do both and accept both--it's easy. This is an approach in our society that gained momentum in the 80's and rippled onward, and it encompasses religion and politics and race relations and all of the issues that used to be of critical, visceral importance and just aren't anymore.

I think that the accommodation led out from tolerance. Up through the 1950's and 60's families pushed their offspring to marry their own kind--both in terms of religion and race. Over time, as civil rights gained traction, more and more people came to view homogeneity as not nearly as desirable as it once was. There were too many other things more important things to worry about--and there still are.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Giggling Over Blago

My sister called this morning. She lives in Wilmette, Illinois. Previous to the last two weeks, residents of her state were in heaven over Obama's election to the presidency. Now, however, they are deeply embarrased over the situation with their governor, Rod Blagojevich. I have to say, he has pushed Obama's cabinet picks out of the top headlines. It is sad that the news media deems it more important to talk about this sleazy guy, rather than the important and positive news about the future governance of our country.

Leslie started to tell me about the long lineup of corrupt officials her state boasts. I was only a little shocked and pointed out that perhaps her state was the leader. She demurred; said she recently read an article and they were down at number 10! As she regaled me with various cases, we both dissolved into giggles over the situation. Blago speaks this afternoon; Leslie warned not to miss his press conference--said it should be good for some laughs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Interviewing Sam Bush

I just interviewed Sam Bush for a story in Marquee Mag. It's always fun to talk with someone who remembers your name, and says it periodically during the interview--makes you think, "hey, this guy knows me!"

Sam is a guru on the mandolin, part of the Newgrass Revival from the 70's and 80's that led into a lot of the modern bluegrass sounds like Nickel Creek and Bela Fleck. He's played with all the kings and likes to mix in some electric on top of the acoustic whenever he can. He plays an old mandolin that he calls, "Hoss"--a 1937 Gibson F5. He really loves Hoss, but the instrument is becoming too fragile to take around to all the dry and hostile climates (like that of Colorado), so he mostly plays some mandolins that Gibson built for him, called the Sam Bush model, and really copied after Hoss.

Sam was in Florida today and for the holidays. At the end of the month he and his band will fly to Anchorage, Alaska for a NYE bash with the David Grisman Quartet. And Hoss won't be going along. It was a fun interview.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Computer

My personal computer is getting there--to where I want it to be. I ordered it right before I started at my job at SkyWay Systems. When it came, I was already knee-deep in all the problems that the company had--hardware that didn't work, the need to hire any number of skillsets, and a spiffy website and application that had not yet been created. I was so busy at work, that at home I set up my computer on my desk and used it only for the most basic of processes. I didn't even set up its power-save settings. Until now. Now, I have explored all through it; I really like it--(two and a half years later!).

I was so excited when I ordered it, then when it came I ignored it except for email. Now it is my Friend! I instituted a no food or drink rule on the desk after I dreamed that I spilled a diet coke on it. What fun I am having with it....

Snow--and I like it!

It is snowing today. I am ensconced in my sunroom, cat next to me on the floor, and thinking that I like this. I feel safe and warm, yet look out to see the weather and know it is cold and wet and I don't have to go out in it.

I used to hate snow. When I drove for 6 years commuting to various jobs on the other side of Denver, I dreaded snow. I followed the weather neurotically from the first day of fall onward. I obsessed over the weather reports and slept little the nights when a big snow was on the forecast. I left very early to go to work and slipped and slid and maneuvered my way past stuck buses and spun-out cards. And I despised every minute of it. It didn't help me that I had to drive 35 miles one way to get to my place of employment.

As I think back, I haven't had to do that now for six years and I am so grateful. In the time since then, I have either worked out of my home, or not felt pressured to go in to work when the weather was bad, or had a short commute. I think that the commuting in the snow and on icy roads was a very stressful, unhealthy situation. Today I commuted to my desk, to this computer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Remember: Death is not your Constant Companion

I was sad on Thanksgiving. It was hard to be thankful; the first thing that came to my mind in response to all the "be thankful" drivel was that my brother is dead. My family, back in Kentucky was sad, too; it was a very hard day.

When I talked about it to David, his answer was, "Remember, Death is not your constant companion." Yes--that is Death with a capital D. David, of course, is right, just like most of the time. Death only visits me irregularly.

Death is right there beside the people in the Sudan, the Congo, Somalia. He is next to them today and all the time. He strides throughout history, frequenting favorite places like concentration camps and Rwanda. He is greedy some days, and holds back on others--like a vampire.

David's point is well taken. I am grateful to not watch people die around me all the time. This year has been taxing enough. I am still sad.