Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our alterna-eco evolving-as-it-goes along Christmas

Growing up, I never had a Christmas tree. Or colored lights. (The electric menorahs seemed like a joke next to houses lit up with Santa and a full set of reindeer.) I imagine I felt a tiny bit deprived, but mostly, I was excited to light the candles and spin the dreidel and get my share of presents. I liked to perpetuate the myth that Jewish kids got eight gifts, one for each night, to make myself feel like Chanukah was indeed a superior holiday.

Now I'm married to a man who isn't Jewish (he's Unitarian, which is kind of as close as Christian gets to Jewish) and he feels strongly that decorating for the holidays is a ritual worth pursuing. And I've discovered that hanging ornaments is a little like looking through old photo albums; you get glimpses of the child you used to be in the homemade painted macaroni ornaments. We  don't get a tree, but my husband cuts boughs from the yard, and we adorn them with lights and sparkly spheres. And then I wrapped our forlorn-looking pile of presents in glossy magazine photos. It gave the pile a pop! Have I started a new family Christmas tradition?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The perfect gifts for me--a rarity

I had dinner with a former colleague from SELF tonight and it made me a little teary. For one thing, she has been traveling (both of us are globe-trotting fiends) and she brought me back gifts from Italy.
But not just any gifts from Italy. She managed to find me just the type of things I would pick out for myself if I  happened to be wandering the streets of Roma. Delicate Italianate stationary, good Italian chocolate and a beautiful rustic wooden cheese board from the outdoor market in Florence, with rough-hewn sides and a smooth-yet-textured finish. It made me sad about the lack of a decade-long "work family" for the moment, though the wonderful thing about Good Housekeeping is that it has put me back in touch with colleagues I worked alongside in my 20s. But I am in the midst of a major life transition and I am trying to take all these comings and goings with a measure of slightly wary but optimistic adventure.

Ciao, belli!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fame, fortune and fun

One thing that's wonderful about a big life change (such as, um, getting laid off from a job you've been at for 11 years) is that everything is upended, you're vulnerable and you put yourself out there in the world in a new way. I've been seeing people I haven't seen in years, asking advice of  friends and former colleagues, getting different perspectives and basically gathering lots of information as I figure out how to shape this new phase of my working life. The best advice I've received in the last two months--or, at least, the advice that has resonated with me most--tells me a lot about what I need to do over the next year or so. Instead of giving in to my tendency to panic and fill up my time, I must make space for writing--for the time it takes to formulate good ideas, to sit quietly, to put words to proverbial paper, to pitch  ideas and stories. I have to turn down projects that, as one friend so wisely said tonight, don't fulfill at least two of the following three criteria: fame, fortune or fun. "By fame," she explained, "I mean writing for a venue that I'm excited to work at. Fortune is obvious. And fun is something I'm excited about."

Another friend put it this way: "I don't take on any project that doesn't meet my 80 percent rule: I have to be at least 80 percent excited about it. That seems like a reasonable bar to me. I have severance. I should use that cushion to give myself the luxury of reflecting on and choosing mindfully rather than reflexively saying yes to stuff because it will pay the bills.

I am grateful for smart women friends who speak frankly to me about life in the freelance world.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I miss the drama of an office

That is what I've just realized after Day 2 of my fill-in stint at Hearst's Good Housekeeping. (Soon to unveil a very chic redesign!) I feel more alive when I'm in an office full of people--efficient, like a real professional versus how I feel when I'm typing away in my bedroom dressed in not-so-clean yoga pants. I'm a people person, that annoying monicker, and I derive mental sustenance from watching the interplay of other human beings, figuring out the dynamics, the heirarchy, the systems. I like the mix of familiarity (I know how to edit in my bones; it's automatic) with the unfamiliarity (so I'm supposed to attach a purple sheet to the manuscript to indicate what? I also like the feeling of being the new girl yet also having to dive right in and just learn it. (After all, I'm getting paid by the day.) All of this is burnished by the amazing-ness of the Hearst Towers, the most beautiful office I've ever worked in (Worldwide Plaza was a close second, especially from the 37th floor), but the 28th floor isn't bad either. Today, I pulled my desk chair into a spot of sunlight in my office and read while stealing glimpses at the tips of skyscrapers below and the blue, blue sky. (And have I mentioned the sunsets?) I feel lucky right now.

Yes. I see this outside my office window. See the river at the upper righthand corner?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dipping back into the office life

Tomorrow I start a brand new gig at Good Housekeeping magazine, 3 days a week, until the beginning of January. With my gig, that means I'm fully employed past the holidays. The work is flowing in. My anxiety is abating. I am grateful for friends and colleagues who keep steering opportunities my way, and am working on having faith that they will keep on coming.

Very, very excited to have a light filled office and to be working with many people that I have crossed paths with over the years (magazine publishing is a very, very small world). After the dislocation of the past few months, a dose of familiarity will be comforting. The trick will be to figure out how to juggle the day jobs with the other work I've taken on (not to mention doing my own writing). But I am definitely not complaining. Busy is good. Juggling is good. The busier I am, the more I get done. And now, time to wrap up the day, shut down the computer and share a glass of wine with my honey, who is working in the next room. Another perk of the freelance life. No commuting to be close to the one I love.