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If you have been following this blog at all, you know that I am not exactly where I want to be in my life. Not that things are all bad- I am in reasonably good health, my marriage and The Kid are in good shape, I really can see some progress around the house, and I’m expanding my involvement in my community. The missing piece of my life’s puzzle is a “real” job. Actually, not just a job, but an outlet for the considerable (unfocused) energy and ambition I seem to have been accumulating over the last year or so.

My logic-based efforts at finding full-time employment have not yet been successful, so I am enlisting another piece of myself. It’s time to go with my gut. I hope it won’t be too mad at the way I’ve so often ignored it.

Many years ago, when I worked in my worst job ever, I mysteriously found myself in extreme gastric distress every Monday morning. It took  weeks to make the connection; it wasn’t Sunday supper, but  the job that was making me ill.

I’m much more sensitive to negative notes now, but still working on recognizing the positive messages my gut is trying to send.

My gut hasn’t been considerate enough to dictate specifically what I should be doing, job-wise, but I have been receiving hints and signals:

When logic instructed me that I had to get over my absurd levels of self-consciousness, my gut sent me to Toastmasters. It also sent me to a two-day blogging conference, and a workshop for people looking to make changes and/or find direction in their lives and careers.

My gut got all giddy at the prospect of working as an Employee Relations Consultant, which would employ a full range of my existing skills in a new context. Logic hopped on board, and I’ve joined a professional group which will allow me to meet people in the field of Human Resources, and study to become a better candidate.

My gut jumped up and down, waving its arms and yelling “Yes” when I sat in on trials of the Moral Monday protesters with Dr. T, and again when we attended a banquet honoring the 120 volunteer lawyers representing them.

My gut was apparently attending to other matters when the prospect of extending my little job to full-time status first arose, but has recently started giving me funny looks when I consider it. It recently joined forces with logic to remind me that there was no reason to miss meetings of any of my new, career-boosting groups in order to work a shift at a job that does not sustain me. I will be changing my availability accordingly.

Logic tells me that I am a smart person with some skills, a desire to serve, and a sense of justice. My gut seems to be telling me that if I trust myself to do the right thing, I will find the right thing to do.

February, or as I have taken to calling it, “Mulligan Month” or “This Time I Really Mean It Month” may be my new favorite.  January may be the official start of the new year, but I think we can make a case for February.

In January, the stores are still cluttered with worse for wear holiday markdowns, we’re still getting back to our “normal” routines, and it gets dark too early to feel much ambition. (OK, maybe that last one is just me.)

By the time February rolls around, the sun is staying up a little later, which always helps. The year is still fresh, and there is room for optimism. Conference play has begun in NCAA basketball, but it’s early enough to hope your team will get it together in time for the tournament. (Again, that might be just me- Come on, ‘Heels!)

In February, you get a sense of which of your resolutions and aspirations may have a chance of sticking, and can tweak or add to them before it’s too late. You can also do a fairly good job of catching up with the goals you intended to reach during  the first month of the year. (I tend to spend too much time in January thinking about what I want to accomplish. By February, I am itching to do it.)

Four compact weeks with no messy left-over days:  adhering to an all month regime is easier  in February. And, don’t forget- right in the middle, you are encouraged, if not obliged, to eat chocolate. And be loving.

It’s a short sweet month, and it’s over before you know it, like so many other things. Enjoy, get something done, be loving, and have a little chocolate.

(and Go ‘Heels!)





So the three times weekly (M,W, Sat) publishing experiment has been unsuccessful, to put it kindly. And I am on a mission to be kinder to myself. So rather than berate myself for failing, I will consider the last two weeks a bit of a break, and start again today.

The new year has been interesting so far, in a good way: I’ve been to Raleigh with Dr. T to observe parts of a Moral Monday trial (he is representing some of the protesters pro bono) resumed lessons with BR, attended a meeting of a new group, attended my first Toastmasters meeting as an official member, and socialized more than usual too.

As to my self-photo a day resolution, I will say this: I am rapidly losing interest in myself as a subject. I expect this will result in me “getting over myself” and having a photo I can stand to use on LInkedIn soon so I can move on. Making sure to take a picture and post an entry daily has been a challenge. I dropped the ball on January 7, but I am giving myself a pass because although I didn’t take my own photo, I did cause photos of myself to be taken. (Publicly, even!) I am enjoying the app I am using for the project though: Day One, a nifty journaling tool. Check it out.

Not living a highly scheduled life since I’ve come back home has not really agreed with me. I intend to build more routine and structure into my life this year. I can hardly wait to see how.

Happy New Year. I wish you luck with whatever goals and intentions you have for 2014. Please feel free to share them as a comment.

We love to talk about whether a year has been “good” or “bad.” (Or is it just me?) The real answer is usually “both.” For purposes of this post, I am only addressing my own progress, or lack thereof.

For the first time, I chose a personal “Word of the Year” for 2013.

Did I live up to it? No and yes.

No, in that I have not done yoga every morning. Or most mornings. Yes, in that I can still kick higher than my head, and have actually done so unsupported by furniture recently. (No guts, no glory.)

No, in that I haven’t posted as regularly to this blog as I intended, nor have I added any visuals. Yes, in that I have posted about more personal topics, and haven’t abandoned the blog. Also, I’ve linked to posts from my Facebook page, and shared posts directly with people I don’t even know, including real, live, published writers. Another yes: I attended WordCamp this fall.

No, in that I have not found a “real” job. Yes, in that I have, with the help of my friends, a new resume, and some ideas on what I would like to do next. Yes, in that I have applied to some interesting jobs, and made it to a phone interview once. I’ve joined a professional group in a field of interest. Yes, in that I am actually telling people I am looking for work.

Yes in that I am reaching out and developing new friendships. Yes in that I have pushed myself far out of my comfort zone by joining Toastmasters, and will be giving my “Icebreaker” speech on January 28th.

I plan to choose another Word of the Year for 2014. I was considering the following: Control, Connect, or Direction. I think now I prefer “Momentum.”

Recently, as I perused employment listings, I was delighted to see an addition to the usual generic job posting:

“Questions? Please contact:  job poster@prospectiveemployer.soandso”

I had questions.  I included them in a concise and courteous message, along with my resume. I said that I would be very appreciative of any feedback before filing my formal application electronically.

I told myself I would allow 48 hours for a response before just going ahead and filing my application.

Within 24 hours, I saw the email. Hooray! My effort was rewarded. I clicked in anticipation, and saw this:

“Dear Applicant,

We thank you for your interest in (prospective employer.)  Please ensure that you also make application to the ( position) listed on the (prospective employer) HR website.  We will be screening the applicant pool for those candidates who most closely match the job description.  Your resume and cover letter should reflect that you meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

Again, thank you for your interest,

(Person posting the job , direct phone line and email address)”

I’m still trying to decide whether or not to bother filing the application.



The worst thing about blogging and job hunting and blogging about job hunting (especially blogging about job hunting) is probably the complete lack of response that follows a given post or application.

I didn’t necessarily start this blog for an audience, and have, in fact been reluctant to draw much attention to it. I have to admit though, that a “like”, a comment or a “follow” can make my day. The problem is that now that I’ve had a taste, I want more, (There. I said it.) and I fret a bit when I don’t generate a reaction.

That’s nothing to how I feel after submitting an application. I am pathetically grateful for an automatic email response, or a chance to track my application online. Something truly is better than nothing.

The best thing about blogging and job hunting is that there is always another chance. All I have to do is write something else, and find another job that looks interesting. Practice may not make perfect, but it should make better. I can find a new topic, or refine my arguments that I am the best qualified applicant.

In the meantime, I remind myself that I do exist in the real world. My family and  friends, the people at my little job, and the folks at the Literacy Center, B.R. in particular, provide a warm-blooded context to counter the cold-blooded isolation that is writing and looking for work.

Tonight was the second to last meeting of the semester for my literacy student and me. We’ve had quite the year. Despite a number of personal challenges for both of us, we’ve persevered, and seen some high points:

When B.R. and I began our work, assessment tests were a huge source of stress for him. Things are different these days. In the last month or two, he has taken three tests. He did so well on the first one, he had to take another. And again. He took the third test last week, on the Wednesday we would normally have had our class.

Tonight, in response to my questions about the test, he said, “It was hard, but it was fun.” (This from a man who was so distressed by our first test that we had to stop before it was finished.) We found one of the Literacy Center staff members to get his results. They were great.

When he came to the Center in 2011, B.R. was at level two. At the end of last year, he tested at level three. This year, he is at level FIVE.  B.R. was astonished that he had been able to remember everything we’d worked on. I was delighted to be able to say, again, “It’s in there. You’ve got this.”

B.R. received a computer tablet as an early Christmas gift. He will be starting computer classes at the Center in January.  He is as confident and optimistic as I have ever seen him.

On Wednesday, we will wrap up our current section, and talk about what is ahead for us next year. I think both of us are a little more certain that we will be ready to tackle what’s next.

Wars may be too harsh; skirmishes, maybe. That Man I Married and I are in accord on most of the big issues in our lives together. Meals are sometimes a different matter. When, how, and what to eat are questions that plague us repeatedly. Take this morning:

I need to eat early, not immediately, but not long after a cup or two of coffee. TMIM has no such requirement, frequently making his first move in the direction of food sometime after 11:00. Despite my argument that science is on my side on the breakfast question, I haven’t been able to convince or cajole him to  join me.

Even if I can get him to accept food on my schedule, he steadfastly rejects my favorite cold weather breakfast: oatmeal.

I’ve tried to win him over by  re-branding my beloved oats:  “How about some breakfast risotto?”

“I hate the way it smells!”

I can fix that. I love cinnamon in my cereal, so rather than waiting until it’s ready to eat, I add a generous sprinkle right when the oats go in. Problem solved, or so I think.

This morning, later than usual, I made my oatmeal. But I had forgotten to add the cinnamon. Enter TMIM. “That smell!” Oops. I quickly grabbed the cinnamon bottle and shook away. Another opportunity to win hearts and mouths lost.

Oh well, more for me.

There is nothing like working retail during the holidays to remind you of your feet, and of the simple pleasure of a pedicure.

These days, there seems to be a nail salon on every block; not so in my girlish youth. In high school, perhaps inspired by the 1940s movie stars I admired, I painted my own toenails bright red.

At some point I stopped. From time to time I’d buy a new bottle of polish and treat my tootsies, but I didn’t have my first salon pedicure until I was in my 30s. Unaccustomed to that level of pampering, and feeling guiltily self-indulgent, I did not develop a habit, and don’t recall knowing anyone who did.

Around the time I moved back to the Bay Area in 2001, I noticed that extreme personal grooming seemed to have become a thing. I saw salons and spas everywhere. (To this day, I don’t know if it was geography or Zeitgeist, or whether I simply hadn’t been paying attention.)

Back to the salon I went, still feeling a little self-indulgent and self-conscious. Then I learned the secret (at least for me)  of truly enjoying the experience. Company.

Two of my fellow soccer moms and I decided to go for pedicures together. We did, and enjoyed it so well that it became a semi-regular event, often followed by lunch or a glass of wine. Suddenly, instead of an exercise in self-centeredness, it was a communal ritual. No longer a waste of productive time, it was an opportunity (or obligation) to relax and catch up with each other’s lives.

I gave up regular pedicures when I left my real job. Not too long ago, I indulged again, accompanied by two of my dearest friends, on the day of our high school reunion. The three of us sat in a row. One of my friends had never had a manicure or pedicure (we’d decided to go crazy that day, and get both) and she was mildly apprehensive. We put her in the middle.

The process began. The nail technicians greeted us, and we chose our colors. Our feet in warm water, our backs on massage chairs, our minds on each other, the three of us talked and laughed. I remember glancing out at the rest of the  salon a few times, noticing other patrons in other chairs. They were mostly women, and the happiest looking among them were with someone else.

I do not mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with a solo trip to a salon; I get my hair cut by myself. I am simply reminded that pleasure shared is pleasure multiplied.

My friends and I left our chairs that day feeling fresh and fancy, and pleased with ourselves and each other. The rookie among us said, “I want to do that again and again and again.”

Me too.

I’m not anti-holiday, I swear. I am all in favor of everyone else’s celebrations. I love to see happy people.

I’m not crazy about the unhappy ones, however, and this time of year, if you spend much time in a mall, you will see them. If, like I, you are employed in retail, you will not only see them, you will be obliged to make them less unhappy. This is not always possible. The only cure for the crowded parking lots, the lines at the register, and whatever else is aggravating these folks is mid-January.

But enough about them; let’s talk about me.

My attitude about the holidays, Christmas in particular, has fluctuated wildly throughout my life. I grew up with the same misty, romantic vision of Christmas as everyone else, and occasionally the Christmases of my early childhood met the ideal.

I’ve had good Christmases and bad, and I don’t intend to catalogue them all now. (although some of them may rate their own posts someday) I will mention, however, that I spent a Christmas alone at age 26, and found it quite pleasant. I read all day long. Alternatively, I’ve struggled (unsuccessfully) with attaining the “perfect” holiday, stressing over family dynamics,  cards, gifts, entertaining and everything else.

This Christmas is the one that counts. Due to my little job, I’ve had Christmas in my face (in a very tasteful way) since before Halloween. As much as I enjoy looking at the decorations at work, I can’t get too worked up about replicating them at home. There’s time- I may bust out a few trinkets between now and next weekend, but we’ll be passing on a tree. Time permitting, I may find an evergreen  wreath, just to get that gorgeous smell in the house. I will fill stockings for The Kid and Dr. T, and I can trust him to make a ridiculously great meal when the day comes.

And that’s about it. Anything else will be bonus.

Happy Holidays to all, and remember this:

1) Your holidays are YOUR holidays, to make as much or as little of as you choose.

2) Those people who are trying to help you as you do your shopping are doing their best; they don’t make much money, and their feet probably hurt. Try to be patient.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

Greggory Miller

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